Military Medical Facilities, I pray my children never need them

By Steven A. Castleton

   
   
   
   

Life Insurance is something we all never wish to use, but one day our family is thankful we had it. The same can be said about Brooke Army Medical Center. I have two sons in the U.S. Army, both of whom were deployed, and pray every single night for their safety and that they never have need of the facilities at Brooke.

Over the last few years we have all seen photos and heard horror stories about the Veterans Administration and Military Medical facilities. We have heard about the mold, rodent droppings, outdated equipment and more. We have also heard many political figures blame the VA and our military leaders for their shortcomings. We are led to believe it is like this everywhere. Well, after visiting Brooke Army Medical Center, I came away with the fervent hope that neither of my sons will ever have to use their facilities.

Let me tell you that I, a citizen and more important, the father to two Army sons and a Navy step-son, wanted to see all that was wrong with the medical care afforded the heroes who gallantly defend our freedoms.

What I found was astonishing.

Brooke Army Medical Center, located on Fort Sam Houston, Texas, plays a critical role in patient care, Graduate Medical Education and Research, as well as taking care of Warriors in Transition from the Global War on Terrorism.

The hospital staff provides inpatient care in a 224-bed, 1.5 million square foot, state-of-the-art facility that has the expansion capability of 450 beds.

As the Army's only certified Level 1 Trauma Center, BAMC receives more than 4000 emergency room visits each month.

BAMC is one of only 15 hospitals in the United States that holds both Level 1 Trauma certification and accreditation from the American Burn Association.

Forty beds are devoted to the Army Institute of Surgical Research, which operates the renowned "Army Burn Center” – the only Department of Defense Burn Center.

The hospital has cared for more than 3,756 service members including Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen who were injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

At the same time BAMC has deployed a total of 1,472 Soldiers in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Since the Global War on Terrorism officially began in 2003, the Burn Team has made 73 trips to Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center in Germany, transporting 337 patients back to BAMC for care.

The Burn Center has treated a total of 680 military personnel injured in the Global War on Terrorism. A second burn intensive care unit was opened in December 2004 to accommodate the increased patient care requirements.

In January of 2005, BAMC opened the Department of Defense’s second center for amputee care. To date, providers at BAMC have cared for over 231 service members who have sustained traumatic amputation.

A ground breaking ceremony for the multi-million dollar state-of-the-art out-patient rehabilitation center named the “Center for the Intrepid” (CFI) occurred on September 22, 2005. This world-class facility, conceived by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and built by the donations of over 600,000 Americans, opened on January 29, 2007. By the way, in case you are wondering, how did this world-class facility opened only a scant 16 months after groundbreaking? How did this happen so fast, and under budget? Private financing, and public management of construction. The CFI is part of BAMC and its day-to-day operations are funded by the Army.

This four-story 65,000 square foot facility includes clinical, research, and administrative space, a gait lab, a computer assisted rehabilitation environment, a pool, an indoor running track, a two-story climbing wall, and a prosthetic fabrication lab. The CFI will provide service members with severe extremity injuries, burns, and amputations the opportunity to maximize their ability to live and work productively.  

Opened at the same time and adjacent to the CFI are two new 21-room handicapped accessible Fisher Houses to house Warriors in Transition and their family members.

BAMC's 58-outpatient specialty clinics record a million patient visits each year. The hospital sustains over 60 accredited educational programs that include 25 Graduate Medical Education Programs, eight Nursing Programs, 18 Enlisted Allied Health and Medic Phase II training programs along with additional programs in Administration and Allied Health specialties.

While our political leaders are busy complaining about the care afforded our heroes, let them first explain why they approved:

• $460,752 by for hops research requested by two representatives and four senators. 

• $172,782 for the National Wild Turkey Federation in Edgefield, S.C. 

• $742,764 by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) for olive fruit fly research.  Part of this money, $211,509, is to be spent in Paris, France.

• $2,691,030 for four projects by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), including:  $1,843,008 for the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Geographic Information System; $368,403 for the Red Cliff Tribal Hatchery; and $294,921 for potato pest management. 

• $3,737,652 for six projects by Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee member Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), including:  $1,646,394 for the McDowell Grove Dam Rood Plain/Wetlands Restoration Project in DuPage County; $107,244 for wildlife habitat improvement; and $36,741 for conservation science at Lincoln Park Zoo. 

• $1,950,000 by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) for a library and archives at the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at The City College of New York. 

• Or the $74,000,000.00 (yes $74 million…) the 2007 so-called U.S. Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act gave to peanut farmers. (talk about a peanut allergy)

I hate to wonder how many heroes’ lives could have been saved with better use of the $83,754,980.00 above.

President-Elect Obama, for all military families, I pray you mean what you say about eliminating all but one earmark. The one earmark that you must leave in the budget is one that will ensure that all members of the Armed Forces, both active and retired, have the best Medical care in the world at their disposal. Anything less, is unacceptable.

The streets of Heaven may be crowded with Angels, but I am here to tell you some of them are right here at Brooke Army Medical Center. They are disguised as doctors, nurses and support staff. This Band of Brothers is truly the unknown and overlooked heroes. On behalf of Military parents everywhere, I pray to God my child never needs your expertise, but I thank God you are there. You are truly Heaven’s Gate Keepers whose passion, dedication and desire is to keep the Gates of Heaven closed so all of our Heroes can stay right here where we need them and where they belong.

Steven A. Castleton is a frequent contributor to GOPUSA. He can be reached at: scastlet@optonline.net