In what would make any physician, especially a military one, roll over in his grave, would be to see the way the military and by extension, the VA, treat our soldiers and Veterans when they think America isn’t looking or paying attention. This just in from a number of you but the first was Frank.
Imagine yourself somewhere in the hierarchy of the administration at Walter Reed. You’re a shavetail O-4 or O-5 light bird and you get some garbled communication to quit subsidizing the local lunch counter and informal “Feeb’s internet watering hole” called the Warrior Cafe. This emanates from above and with little guidance on what, exactly, to do. Wanting to make a good first impression and show your budding innovative, leadership abilities, you show you can handle the pressure.
The cafe is beginning to be a political hot potato and was never designed to be anything more than a stopgap measure and a sop to the severely disabled “problem children” of the military-those who were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the “boom” moment. A burger and fries joint fast approaching a political time bomb. Unsupervised thinking. Idle fingers and the Devil’s workshop. Pissed off wives. Pissed off future Veterans with remodeled bodies and PTSD. A witch’s cauldron of discontent. What to do? Why, make the free food expensive. Make them vote with their wallets and their feet. .
Stir in a soupçon of Fox News and voila! The army is forced to trot out poor Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson down at the Fort Fumble PR Office tasked with saying it was all a horrible misunderstanding. Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s a rather tall order that probably hasn’t been issued just yet. It’s still in verbal format.
Seems the patients in Building 62 (the Feeble Ward) with no arms, eyes and legs were told their Electronic Benefits Cards were no longer going to be accepted at the Warrior. In order to eat, they would be required to assemble in formation and stumble, roll or crawl half a mile to a temporary Roach Coach on the other side of the sprawling medical campus for their three squares a day. On it’s face, this seems like a reasonable accommodation as three birds can be killed with one stone here. Sustenance, money saved and Physical Therapy sounds like a marriage made in Heaven to Walter Reed’s middle management.
Now remember, these fellows are all still in the military and the UCMJ applies. You don’t just throw down the prosthesis and say “Hell, no. We won’t go!” On the flip side, it’s always fun to pick these things apart on Monday morning and try to follow the train of thought that led to this disastrous decision. Only the government or a military officer could screw it up this badly.
Somewhere, somehow, a commissioned officer had to decide the Warrior Cafe was getting to be too unprofessional, too “controversial” or too political. I’m sure it came to the attention of someone that to have this sanctioned inside a military building was akin to having a Vietnam Veterans Against the War Info desk in the front hallway with Jane and John seated behind it. This is usually what provokes such ham-handed tactics.
At any rate, the ramifications of having to armor up for a half-mile jaunt to Un café sur Roues (fine French dining experience- try our fries) were never thought through. Squelching the Warrior Cafe by forcing penniless soldiers to eat free elsewhere in a more controlled environment certainly seemed apropos. Alpha 6 Actual calls it “What my point reports”. Sometimes the disparity in reality can be frightening. We in the enlisted ranks (and apparently Fox News) call this predicament “eyes on the ground”.
Now magnify this story one hundredfold and add in the poor pregnant wife (Paige Wetzel) trying to balance her now-legless husband (Sgt. Josh) and his host of medical problems and dining dilemmas against having a baby on Monday the 19th. So much for all those Lamaze birthing classes together. Josh is going to need all the wheelchair stamina he has just to get to his food-let alone the Maternity Ward.
In spite of all the mea culpas issuing forth from the Puzzle Palace, nothing has changed at the Warrior Cafe. Hours have been reduced and the EBTs are still slated for the circular file. In God We trust. All others pay cash. No more foodstamps accepted.
In addition to the weekend closure, the base also decided to reduce the cafe’s hours from 60 to 50 a week. Instead of closing at 8 p.m. it now closes at 6 p.m., making it difficult for those getting occupational therapy to get there in time.
Brilliant. Does the Army have a REMF medal for that? Legion of Merit? Commendation Medal ? Outstanding Unit Citation with a Combat “V” device for Vindictiveness? Were I a descendent of Walter’s, I might blow an ass gasket and ask that his name be removed. They ought to hire a five star chef from a nice restaurant and set him up with a first-rate kitchen for these heros. Dinner should be served to them on fine china rather than a cattle drive to the feed trough. We know that will never happen but it’s fun to dream about what it would be like to be a politician.
Here’s a last blast from the article:
Adding insult to injury, there are only two handicap-accessible tables in the (faraway) trailer, and neither the bathroom nor the exit doors has push-button access.
“It’s quote unquote handicap accessible, but for guys who have serious mobility injuries — like they can’t use their hands that well — you know it is tough for them,” Josh Wetzel said.
A warm round of applause for a news organization (FOX) who was not willing to ignore our troops and actually bothered to investigate. I only hope the email I sent our President has the same profound effect on Independent Living Program policy. Which causes me concern. It’s been a week or more since I sent that…