| The Hidden Toll of Invading Iraq Testimonials
Conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
|The Hidden Toll of Invading Iraq
From Early 2004
I am an Army Nurse Corps Captain stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington DC. I feel compelled to share with
anyone who will listen what I have seen. You see, when Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) troops are evacuated out of Germany, the huge
majority are brought here to WRAMC by Air Force flight nurses and docs. I do not have access to any of the numbers of how many
wounded and what types of injuries, etc., but I can honestly tell you that the OIF wounded occupy more than half of our two major
intensive care units at any given time.
At times, we get so full while expecting more to arrive, that we have to hound the docs to transfer somebody out of our unit to a ward
upstairs so we have beds for these soldiers. Most of these wounded soldiers come into our unit on a ventilator breathing for them, with
severe wounds caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or AK-47 gunshot wounds. Many, many soldiers have already lost limbs
or eyes before they even get to us, and many have received dozens of units of blood before they left Germany.
I am privileged to take care of these brave men and women. But it breaks my heart to realize that the incredible losses that they and their
loved ones will have to deal with for the rest of their lives seem to have not been for the good of our country. Rather, their pain and sorrow
have merely allowed a few greedy souls to make a power grab for more wealth and control. One of my dear friends has tried to convince
me that this is all part of God’s plan, and the death and pain is for some greater purpose that our leaders are not telling us yet.
I wish I could believe her. It would make my job and daily life much easier, but I cannot buy it. I apologize to the reader for my tangential
thought processes, but this never-ending situation is getting to many military nurses. Anyway, the following is my main point in reaching
out to you.
As you might be aware, the press is being tightly controlled and what is being reported from a medical standpoint is only a fraction of the
true reality. Yes, I do believe the daily number of killed that CNN and whoever report is accurate. What I am saying is that the walking
wounded are being sorely ignored.
Don’t believe me? Walter Reed is an open base, not a tightly controlled fort. Just have a valid ID and consent to a vehicle search. Then
park, and walk inside. You will see so many 20-something, mostly men, missing arms, legs, and eyes. The blinders covering your eyes
will be ripped away as you see the poor families making their daily walk from the Malogne house to the wards and units to see their
sons or husbands.
It is so sad to see a young wife or fiancée cry over her honey who was in Iraq less than one month before losing both legs, and who has
had several abdominal surgeries that leave his belly crisscrossed with staples, and now he is fighting for his life from the infection that
the injuries have caused. And that is just one example of what I saw this week. I will spare you any more wrenching true stories.
God help our men and women in uniform. Please do something to end this madness.
Kentwood Soldier Tells of Problems at Med Center
Thursday, March 08, 2007By Ted RoelofsThe Grand Rapids Press
The infamous Building 18 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is not far from Army Pfc. Luke Markham's outpatient home the past few
And while the former East Kentwood High School student has no complaints about moldy walls or foraging mice, he believes his care
after his return from Iraq has been less than what soldiers deserve.
"There are so many soldiers coming back from Iraq. They are just overwhelmed," Markham said. He was shipped to Walter Reed in
Washington, D.C., in late October, suffering from an eye infection and a shoulder injury.
Markham, 25, said he waited four months for shoulder surgery, told by military officials he would have to get in line.
In the meantime, Markham went to the emergency room 12 times when his unstable shoulder popped out of joint. While he waited, he
was so dependent on pain medication he had to be admitted to the hospital when he was taken off Valium.
Markham believes the system is overburdened by amputees, leaving other cases to languish for weeks or months.
"If you're not an amputee, you're not much of a priority to them," said Markham, who was headed back to West Michigan today for a 30-
day convalescent leave.
Markham's wife, Rebekah, 20, said she and her husband complained for two months about the lack of hot water in their military
apartment. Last Friday, she got a chance to take the problem up the chain of command when Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley showed up in the lobby
of their building to take questions. Kiley is the surgeon general of the Army and responsible for all Army medical facilities.
"An hour after I talked to him about the problem, we had hot water," she said.
Calls to the press office at Walter Reed were not returned.
Unsung Heroes of Walter Reed
Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said, "We let the soldiers down." They let the soldiers' families down, too.
I spent two weeks at Walter Reed in November 2005, after my son was medically evacuated from Iraq.
My husband had already been to the hospital and had tried to prepare me for what I was about to see.
Our son's immune system was compromised, and he needed to be in a sterile environment, to the point of having no fresh vegetables in
My husband had told me our son's room was filthy. Bloody bandages were everywhere, the door was often ajar, and fresh lettuce was on
my son's lunch tray.
Still, I was not prepared for what I found.
I was not prepared to see the sheer number of young men and women who were missing limbs, blinded or suffering head injuries.
As I got to know some of these young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, I became even more concerned.
When I told one young man my son was still hospitalized, he told me, "Don't let them put him on outpatient status. They'll forget about
When I first visited my son, he was wearing the same bloody T-shirt he had arrived in five days earlier. His sheets were bloody.
He refused to take a shower because the shower drain was disgusting. The thermostat in his room was stuck at 98 degrees, so the
windows and doors stayed open, even though it put him at risk for infection.
I got busy doing his laundry.
At first, I stayed in one of the older dormitory-style lodging facilities.
Yes, it was dirty. No, I am not accustomed to sharing a bathroom with a strange man.
And when my daughter arrived to spend a few days with me, it became a little cramped in the double bed.
We ate breakfast at the Mologne House, a beautiful, modern, hotel-style lodging facility with carpets, chandeliers and draperies.
But one mother told me, "They put them two to a room in there. In wheelchairs. Some of them are on the fourth floor. If there's ever a fire,
how are we going to get them all out?"
By "we," she meant the network of mothers, wives, sisters and girlfriends who took care of the patients because there just weren't
enough doctors or nurses or social workers to go around. (Yes, there were a few fathers and husbands, too, but as with much of life, the
brunt of the caretaking fell to women.)
These incredible women had picked up stakes in West Virginia, Kansas and Idaho and moved to Washington to live in dorms and hotel
Some had left jobs, spouses, elderly parents or other children. Some had been there 15 months or 18 months. Some had taken jobs on
the base or in the community.
They took buses to fetch groceries. They did laundry and cooked and changed bandages for their sons and daughters, and for other
soldiers who weren't so lucky as to have someone take care of them.
My daughter and I were fortunate to move into the newer of two Fisher Houses on post.
The Fisher House Foundation builds beautiful lodging near military hospitals so families can live in a homey atmosphere, similar to
Ronald McDonald Houses in the civilian world.
At Fisher House, I met a young Army major who had one leg amputated at the hip and the other amputated just below the knee.
She was beautiful. Her name was Tammy Duckworth. I never thought to tell her my husband was running for Congress, but three weeks
after I returned home, I found out she was running for Congress, too.
Neither was elected, which is too bad, because they both knew a lot more about what men and women endured at Walter Reed than
most government officials or journalists.
And apparently, they understood more than the military commanders who were supposed to be overseeing the conditions at Walter
About the author
Salette Latas is an Air Force veteran and Web designer in Oro Valley.