By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 22, 2008 - Wounded warrior care is becoming increasingly effective at helping servicemembers through their transition, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright toured wounded warrior barracks here and met with troops at Tripler Army Medical Center during a visit to U.S. Pacific Command. During his visit, Cartwright said he immediately noticed the low number of people.
"The first thing you notice is there's only about 10 people here, which is a good thing," the general said. "The population is down significantly. Hopefully it will stay that way. They've built the infrastructure here that probably was needed earlier. But we got it, and we're doing the right thing now to make sure they get the transition assistance they need, the medical assistance they need and the care they need."
He said the Marine Corps is taking care of wounded warriors, and they aren't "falling through the cracks" as different units deploy in and out of the island. "These guys are taken care of and watched after the entire time," Cartwright said.
"Their transitions are managed whether they're staying in the service or going back to civilian life. From everything that I've seen thus far, this is really a nice setup," he said.
The vice chairman said many different groups have come together to care for the wounded warriors. He said the people in charge of the barracks are doing a great job, but also added that the city and local area are committed to helping the warriors.
While visiting Tripler, the general said he was on a fact-finding mission to find out about the quality of wounded warrior health care.
"The key things for me are to take a look at the facility, to make sure the care that they're getting is full and adequate and to talk to the people to see what they think."
One theme the vice chairman said he got from visiting the troops is the desire to overcome their injuries and get back to their service.
"The desire is to get back, to contribute and to keep contributing," Cartwright said. "That's what brought them into the service in the first place, and they're just continuing to act that way. That's a wonderful part of American life and the American fighting person."
He said part of the success for getting the wounded warriors' spirits lifted is the caring atmosphere he noticed at both locations.
"You see that there is care about what happens," he said. "Somebody cares about you. Somebody cares about what you're doing and where you're going."
He said the servicemembers he met aren't going to be stopped by their injuries. "We call them 'wounded warriors,' but the reality is they're warriors," the general said. "They don't want to be wounded forever. They want to get through that part of their life and get on with it. These places help. The hospitals help. But it's that attitude of 'let me move on through this, because I want to contribute,' that's the important part."
The vice chairman said the quality of caring for these troops is increasingly getting better.
"We probably started slower than we wanted to, but where we are today, I don't think there's anything comparable in the world or has there ever been," Cartwright said.
He added that it's not just the quality of care, but the technology has been fantastic, something that has changed in his time in the service.
"There are people who are committed to it, and not just in the service, but private industry, in private hospitals and in universities," he said. "The outreach has been fantastic. For someone who grew up a part of the Vietnam era, this is so different. How we take care of people and how we do it from start to finish is so different, and it is so heartening for me as a person to see this."
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Staff Public Affairs Office.)