Wounded soldiers are stabilized here, and sent on their way as soon as it a plane is available and it is safe to fly home. Over the past decade, most of these patients have spent time in Germany as a secondary triage point on their way to the states. The majority of their recoveries, however, have been in the States, and usually, in DC or San Antonio. Wounded warrior rehabilitation takes place for months after amputation and wound healing are complete.
With this in mind, the time that most of these individuals spend in our hospital is a blur. They remember images, pain, confusion, but have no tacit string of memories. And this is what they have told me first hand when they return. To help soldiers deal with the psychological damage they endure with war injuries, Operation Proper Exit, the brainchild of soldiers themselves, and now executed by Rick Kell and his relief organization Troops First, brings wounded OIF soldiers back to the theater in order to provide these men and women an opportunity for closure and emotional healing. One of their stops is our hospital, and I have had the opportunity to meet these people who are 2-5 years down the road from their injuries. All 16 of the last group to come through walked into the ICU, but 15/16 had prostheses, and a few had 3 artificial limbs hidden by their baggy uniform.
The project is designed for the soliders who were injuried, but has the unexpected, and welcome benefit of adding to the care of our current soldiers who are still dealing with the acute aspects of the injury. Most of the more ill patients are not in a position to greet these physically-righted, as best as possible, returning soldiers, but most are, and seem to appreciate them. A brotherhood within a brotherhood, are the injured from war.