At least, not in the Army. They might just take you up on your offer.
Joe (do I really have to tell you that this isn’t even close to the guy’s real name?) had problems with his left leg after 2 deployments to Iraq and multiple exposures to high-velocity trauma. Lots of problems, shall we say. The leg often doesn’t work much at all. Sometimes, this overwhelming feeling of burning pain spreads from his mid shin up to his knee and then pulses up into his thigh for hours.
But what’s debilitating leg pain got to do with being in the Army? At least, that’s how Joe sees it. Unlike most soldiers in the WTU, Joe is determined to stay in the military. He wants to be sent “down range” (deployed) again. Tomorrow, if possible. He loves his unit and enjoys the excitement of his job.
Joe does not understand that a soldier who can’t walk probably isn’t going to do well in a war zone.
Actually, Joe is quite smart. He understands perfectly well that a debilitated soldier can’t perform a required in a combat situation. But he doesn’t care. He loves the Army. Lives for the Army. So he has worked with a lawyer for over a year now to keep himself in the Army. The WTU doc before me has worked to this end – admittedly with some bemusement – for the past few months as well.
Recently, Joe met with a special review board comprised of high-ranking commanders. They evaluated his chart, looked over the reports of his injuries, and then interviewed him personally. I think this occurred at Walter Reed Hospital, in Washington D.C. in – the Mecca of Army Medicine. As you might imagine, this was a big deal.
I don’t know the exact specifics of that interview, but here’s my reenactment:
“Soldier, you’ve served your country well. We thank you for your sacrifice and heroism. After thorough review of your file, we have determined that you are no longer qualified for active duty and will therefore be separated from the military with full medical coverage and benefits. You will be given an honorable discharge and should have no problems entering civilian life.”
“Sir, it’s the leg, right? That’s the problem?” Says Joe.
“What if the leg wasn’t a problem? What then, sir?”
“Why, you’d stay in the military, Son! Send you down range week after next. Get you back in the fiiigght, boy!”
“Then cut it off! Just cut the damn thing off! I can run on a prosthetic. There’s less to clean up if I get crosswise of an IED (roadside bomb) again, right? Just send me down there with a couple of extra legs in my pack and I’m all good.”
This – honest to God – is a relatively faithful reenactment of this soldier’s conversation with his Army superiors. Admiring his courage and commitment, I was more surprised to find that, following this meeting, our doctors in the WTU received this order from on high:
****de, de, d, d, deeeee —Official communication from High Command: SGT Joe to be referred to surgery for evaluation of chronic leg dysfunction and pain. Consider surgical correction. Amputation a viable option.——-de, d, d, deeee,