The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


January 20, 2010

Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 1/20/10
Stationed in: a civilian military hospital in the U.S.
Milblog: From Our Perspective

Two to Iraq, seven to Afghanistan, four to Haiti; my coworkers are deploying in droves. Here on the home front, our capacity to handle the arrival of any large scale war wounded is impacted by staffing -- inadequate staffing, that is. Beds have been closed because we no longer have the staff to care for the patients who might otherwise occupy them. Our mission is simple; provide the best care we can with the personnel we have left.The world is focused on Haiti; it is forefront in the media. But even if wasn’t the prime topic of discussion, I wonder to what degree America would be focused on Iraq. On Afghanistan. There are many of us who count days until our friends and family return.

A friend arrived home last week after nine months in Afghanistan. She flew in on a commercial flight so the only cheering crowd she had at 0645 was her mom and me. Balloons in hand we waved a crazed "Welcome back!" I don’t think anyone else in the airport even noticed one of our war veterans returning home, safe and sound to American soil.

I check on the elderly parents of one of our war wounded, and they are anxiously looking for a traumatic brain injury rehab facility for their son. Told by the military there isn’t sufficient manpower to drive them to a rehab center, they attempt to go it alone. Their son will more than likely spend the rest of his life in a vegetative state. I’d like to be hopeful and think he will recover, but experience tells me otherwise. And the military cannot offer even the assistance of transportation.

How many times I hear “They gave me meds,” in response to the questions I ask when encountering a patient, coworker or other military friend struggling with PTSD and combat stress.  Medications -- those magic cure-all pills -- seem to be the quick fix of the mental health providers for our veterans. The VA prescribes them by the ton. Here, take this one for sleep, this one for anxiety, here’s another for depression. Oh, yes, don’t forget the ones for nightmares, flashbacks and rage!

In all honesty here's the simple truth; many of our veterans simply need someone willing to listen to them, psychological professionals willing to provide the nitty gritty therapy that does not involve prescription drugs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in antidepressants and other medications, but these meds have to go hand in hand with talk therapy, with group therapy and with support groups. Many times I see providers who are only handing out meds, when the problem will never be solved with drugs alone. It’s like putting a band aid on an amputation.

My thoughts are disjointed; I hardly know which issue to focus on when I write. Discouragement is
prominent. So many problems. Is there a solution to all these issues? Is there anyone willing to do
something, anything, about them?  I wonder.


So many people suffer from serving our country. From the soldiers, to their partents, to the spouses, children and friends. We are all affected greatly by this. To often we turn our heads to what is going on or we simply don't think about it. We really do need to do something more then what we are doing to help the soldiers recover from whatever it may be they are suffering from. I think that far to often people turn a blinds eye to post trumatic stress disorder and just don't realize how serious it is for everybody involved.

The sad truth is,no one wants to hear or see the experience of war in its full "glory". With so many soldiers (i.e. HEROES)coming through the mill, even the professionals can be near-sighted. The physical is easier to see the damage. The mind and the "Warrior Code" makes the mental harder to examine and attempt to mend.
You have a vocation that is a sometime rewarding, but often lonely. Nothing I say will help except to say "Thank you" for your service and your humanity.

The thorazine shuffle we called it. That was what happened when the Va got a hold of ya back during the Viet Nam tragedy. Sadly I'm seeing it again Clara. Often wondered what connection the VA has with the pharmaceutical industry. And, sadly, the vets of today's 'wars' don't or can't talk with us older guys. Bummer. Many of us are available to chat with. We just have to find a way to connect.
It's a a good day to Live.

Clara, you are a true angel on earth. Thank you for what you do for America's finest. Words completely fail to express the gratitude felt by so many.

Sorry to sound harsh but I would expect you, as a career nurse and soldier, to holdup better. Jeez, what would you have done in Korea or WWII where the casualties numbered in the thousands somedays?

Get a grip Nurse Clara, our soldiers deserve that.

It saddens me to see you compare Korea and WWII to what is happening today Frank. Glad you didn't include the Viet Nam tragedy. You have your opinion and I honor that. Please reconsider comparison of these times.
And, Clare is a good Nurse with feeling and emotions. Don't judge her.

I agree with your seniments on the meds we hand out to returning vets. If I was to go to the doctor with the same problmes I would be put in therpy with meds but its just cheaper or easier to hand out meds. All that medicine can't be good. Before you know it you need a med to sleep and med to get up and whats next.

Frank, Clara was one of my nurses after I was hit by an IED in Iraq. She's tough, believe me. She's also obviously thoughtful, reflective, and honest about what disturbs her about the care available to us. I wouldn't want it any other way. Thanks Clara.

Michael, no you don't get i t. It makes no difference whether it,s a cannon barrage in your foxhole in WWI, an aircraft bomb and strafing in WWII or a mass Chinese charge in Korea or a hidden trip flare explosive in Vietnam or a roadside bomb in the current wars. One is no different from the other and brave men die. Last post on this.

I completely agree with what you were saying in the blog about these veterans needing more personal conversation time. I personally have not had much experience veterans or people coming back from serving our country but I can't imagine how anyone would come back from fighting a war and not have some kind of personal problems. I can definately understand why they would need someone to talk to. And I can understand how many hospitals just do not have the staff to be able to spend an adequate amount of time with patients that are dealing with the stress of returning from a war.

Clara, I am sure there are many soldiers and their families that appreciate the hard work that you do. Thank you for being the kind and loving care these men and women need. I would hope that more attention is brought on the subject of our returning soldiers, I believe we owe them our care free lives; and for that they also deserve to return to their normal care free civilian lives too. I believe this deserves our media’s attention too. Keep posting, your voice needs to be heard!

That's why there's chocolate and vanilla, folks. Frank and Michael, the referee has directed both of you to your respective corners until cooler heads prevail.

I have a friend who works with wounded soldiers on learning new job skills, when their injuries prevent them from returning to previous careers. A heavy load for her should be 35 to 40 soldiers. Last time I spoke to her, she had 150 and her's was one of the lightest loads among her staff. It's shameful that we can't, as a nation, find the resources to properly honor and care for our returning veterans.

It is tough enough when you have a support staff around you. When that staff is deployed and you are left without the ones that know you and strengthen you it has to be discouraging. I know from one you cared for that you are tough. Sometime tough is not enough. And having someone who doesn't know your frustration within the system even if they have had their own experience with it; cannot advise you. You are in the fight 24/7. Almost everyone else, no matter their experiences, do not stay immersed as a caregiver or family member does. Do not give up. Victories, no matter how small, will still be won. Too many are counting on you and your contemporaries to snatch victory from the mouth of defeat. Platitudes, I know. Just know that there are still those who appreciate your service. None more that those you care for and their families. Without you too many would be lost without your knowledge of how to get what can be procured within the system that is so poorly administered.

No problem Robert,
I had already put self on time out! (and detached with Love)
The nice thing about America is we have freedom of speech, I shared mine, Frank S shared his.
Life goes on. I respect Frank for his sharing for it was or is what he feels.
Peace, Love & Happiness to all.

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