You’ll notice I don’t say much — anything, really — about the war here. Many reasons for this. The smoke curling out of my ears stinks up the room, for one. Unwillingness to become a so-called warblogger, which requires flights of self-deception I don’t really feel up to at the moment (or at any moment, I devoutly hope).
But I saw this story in my hometown’s other paper yesterday, and, well.
Guy gets called up as a reservist. Like lots of soldiers from this unit in Fort Wayne, he doesn’t go to Iraq, but instead to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to guard prisoners there. And he suffered an injury:
McElroy will never know whether his problem was the result of a fighting prisoner or a simple scratch he got on his leg somewhere else. But sometime last summer the scar from an old injury on his right leg cracked open. He developed an infection.
It was a staph infection. But wait, it gets better:
Whatever the cause, doctors there said they couldn’t treat it. He had to get out of Guantanamo Bay to a regular Army hospital. That was in mid-July.
Because of complicated security procedures and the military’s hurry-up-and-wait attitude, it was September before McElroy was shipped out, and then it was to a naval base in Jacksonville, Fla. Doctors there gave him drugs and stopped constant bleeding from the wound, but treatment stopped there. This was a naval base, they said. He was Army. He’d have to go to an Army hospital.
After a week he was shipped back to Camp Atterbury in Indiana, where a doctor transferred him to Fort Knox.
By this time, the infection had been eating away at his leg for two months. McElroy said he was fed up and wanted a civilian doctor. So the Army, he says, put him on antibiotics, started discharge procedures and two weeks later sent him home to Fort Wayne.
Within 24 hours of arriving in Fort Wayne, he had seen a doctor and had his first surgery to clean up the staph infection, which by now had entered his bone. He had two more operations to try to control the infection, but it was too late. On Dec. 23, McElroy lost his leg.
Yep. Lost his leg, to an untreated infection. Not in a war zone. Not from a land mine or homemade explosive. From a goddamn infection, which was allowed to fester and get worse because of goddamn stupid military turf battles. Guy goes into the reserve, serves thousands of miles away from the fighting and comes back without a leg, without even seeing the war zone. From a goddamn untreated infection in a military that apparently is more interested in protecting the patient-base integrity of its various hospitals than in helping one poor soldier keep his leg.
There are so many things about this story that make me want to smash crockery — the flat affect of the storyteller, a columnist who aims more frownie faces at Mike Rowe than at evil idiots in the military and administration who cost a good man his leg; at the column’s conclusion, which identifies the problem as apathetic Americans who “don’t care enough” about the maimed, as opposed to the glorious dead; even at the soldier’s own lack of righteous anger, although I suspect that will come in time.
But mostly I just want to go to bed with a headache and rekindle my all-but-dead belief in God, so I can imagine an afterlife in which a furious angel clubs George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and Condie Rice and everyone else with the remains of this guy’s leg for all eternity, screaming “Weapons of (thump!) mass (thump!) destruction?! (thump!)