Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wounded Warriors in Transition

In 2004, the US Army reformed the way it took care of its wounded soldiers. In the past, while medical treatments and resources were available, it was often left up to the soldier and his family to find and utilize them, not an easy task when the soldier is not well and is in unfamiliar duty station. The Warriors in Transition Program sought to change this by forming a team around the wounded soldier so that there is coordinated care from start to finish. This is known as the Army Wounded Warriors in Transition Program. (AW2)

AW2 is set up to "care for all wounded, ill, injured military members and veterans wherever they are located, regardless of military status, and for as long as it takes.” Wounded and ill soldiers are assigned to a Warrior in Transition Battalion (WTB) also called Warriors in Transition Unit (WTU) where they receive a triad of care consisting of a squad leader or platoon sergeant to lead the wounded soldiers, a case manager who coordinates the soldier’s care through its various phases and the primary care physician who coordinates complex multiple treatment modalities. There are over 100 Warriors in Transition Units all over the country. Each branch of the military sets up their own way of caring for the wounded warrior. The AW2 program takes care of members of the regular Army, the Army reserves and the Army National Guard. 

  For As Long As It Takes
        Link to video

AW2 is headed by Col Gregory D. Gadson, a highly decorated hero of several wars who in his 2007 deployment lost both legs and injured his right arm to an IED. In 2009, there were some 6,000 severely injured, wounded and ill soldiers in the AW2 program.
WASHINGTON - APRIL 29:  United State Air Force Major Gen. Keith Meurlin (L), director of the Office of Transition Policy and Care Coordination at the Defense Department, talks with USMC First Lieutenant Andrew Kinard (C) before testifying to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel April 29, 2009 in Washington, DC. Kinard lost his legs while serving in Iraq in 2006 and spent four months undergoing 60 surgical procedures to restore his normal body functions and the following year recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Key to success of the program is the case management provided by an advocate to the soldier and his family through the different phases of recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. During his time in the WTB, the soldier’s main job is to heal himself so that he can decide the best future for him between successful continued service in the active Army, Army reserves or successful transition to veteran service in the community. During this process the soldier also may undergo medical evaluation board (MEB) and/or physical evaluation board (PEB) to determine the percentage of disability. About 70 per cent of WTB soldiers are medically retired. Some soldiers return to their unit in deployment. Some remain as active duty soldiers in a different capacity. The advocate is there to assist in whatever decision the soldier makes.

Another important commitment of the Department of Defense is providing care for as long as it takes. Before a soldier is medically retired, the team ensures that he has improved as far as he can before he is transitioned to the veterans affairs system. Members of the AW2 triad of care are highly dedicated and committed to the soldiers they serve.The Wounded Warriors in Transition Program is one way America pays its debt to the American soldier.

I am a Warrior in Transition.
My job is to heal as I transition back to duty
or to continue serving my nation
as a veteran in the community.
This is not a status but a mission.
I will succeed in this mission
Because I am a Warrior
And I am Army Warrior strong.

Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline: 1-800-984-8523 or visit

First published in Qondio 

Contributor's Note A Veteran's Day tribute to those who keep the peace and guard our freedom.

External Links
Army Wounded Warrior Program |

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Audie Murphy: America’s Most Decorated World War II Hero

Before James Dean and Elvis Presley and my late husband, Felix, I loved Audie Murphy.  I saw some of his movies more than once. I even watched his autobiographical movie, To Hell and Back. (I know now he was not a very good actor but at the time, I was an enduring fan.)  I was sad and morose for a week when he died in a plane crash in 1971. So, imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw part of a wall in the d-fac (dining facility) of the army hospital I work in, dedicated to the memory of Audie Murphy.
Audie Leon Murphy was born into a poor sharecropper family in Texas.  One of nine children, he worked to help his parents feed his siblings.  He was said to have learned to be a sharp shooter with the rifle from hunting game for his family.  When World War II broke, 18 year old Murphy tried to enlist in the Marines and the Paratroopers, both of which turned him down for being too small.  At enlistment, he was 5’4” tall and weighed 110 pounds.  He persisted, was eventually signed into the US Army and was almost relegated to a clerk job when he fainted in his first week of basic training.
Murphy saw action in Europe where he earned his numerous medals in between hospitalizations for malaria and war injury.  He earned most of his rank promotions on the field from enlisted man to Major.  He led his troops to battle in North Africa, Italy, Germany and participated in the liberation of the south of France.  Murphy received every possible medal of valor awarded by the United States, among others, the highest US award, the Medal of Honor, 3 Purple Hearts, the French Legion of Honor, one of five awards bestowed by France and one from Belgium.  His autobiography, To Hell and Back, chronicled the war effort and his experiences, careful to emphasize the contributions of his soldiers and fallen comrades rather than placing the spot light on himself.
Murphy’s war hero status led him to Hollywood at the invitation of James Cagney.  He starred in several Western B movies and was a mediocre actor until he starred in John Houston’s Red Badge of Courage and when in 1955 he played himself in To Hell and Back.  This movie grossed ten million dollars in its first release, the highest box office grossing movie eventually topped only  by the movie, Jaws by Steven Spielberg in 1975.  Murphy was also a song writer and poet.
This war hero was plagued by the emotional ravages of war.  Like many soldiers returning from combat, adjusting to life in the civilian world was not easy.  Murphy was insomniac and beset by nightmares of scenes of war. He was hypervigilant and was said to sleep with a pistol under his pillow.  He became addicted to the sleeping pill, Placidyl.  When he realized this, he locked himself in a hotel room for days until he kicked the habit. At the time, little was known about post-traumatic stress disorder which was then called “battle fatigue.” Understanding his own experience, Murphy lobbied tirelessly for the better treatment of Vietnam veterans who came home to insensitive often disrespectful countrymen.
It is sad that Audie Murphy is no longer in our collective memory.  He fought for the freedom of Europe and the mandate of his country, doing his duty without question.  He is the American soldier.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, as he wished, in a no frills grave indistinguishable from other fallen soldiers. 
Arlington National Cemetery
 As a young girl, I was infatuated with his good looks and movie star status. As an old woman, I understand now why I loved him and I am grateful.
First published in Qondio
The Warrior Ethos/ The Warrior Creed

I am an American soldier.
I am a warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States and live the Army values.
       I will always place the mission first.
       I will never accept defeat.
       I will never quit.
       I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and a professional.
I am an American soldier.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kidney Walk: Walking for Felix

The National Kidney Foundation- Kansas City holds its annual kidney walk in October every year.  My husband, Felix, died of kidney failure last year and my family and I joined the kidney walk last year and again this year.  This event is a fundraiser meant to bring awareness to the early detection and prevention of kidney disease and to promote organ donation. There are some 100 centers across the United States holding kidney walks.

This year’s walk was held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus.  It started out as a cool day which gradually got too warm.  The UMKC campus with its hilly terrain was perfect for the walk ,giving everyone a good work-out.  Teams of walkers fall into different groups, those who walk in memory of a loved one, those who are kidney disease sufferers and transplant recipients, and those who care for these patients. There were more walkers this year and there was entertainment for all from music and dancing to hot dogs and chips to face painting for the children.  The kidney walk is a celebration of life.

Felix developed end stage renal disease, (known as ESRD, a condition where kidney function falls to 10% or less) due to diabetes complications, one of the most common causes of kidney disease.  Other causes include high blood pressure, birth defects such as polycystic kidney, auto-immune disease such as lupus erythematosus, kidney infections, glomerulonephritis, injury or trauma, drugs and toxic substances, and other kidney disease.  Stubborn man that Felix was, he ignored symptoms, doctor’s advice and family’s (of which there are six physicians and four nurses)pleas to get his diabetes under control until it was too late.  Twenty six million Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease. More are at risk.

Once ESRD sets in, the patient must undergo kidney dialysis three times a week in a dialysis center or daily in their home otherwise, he dies because the body cannot get rid of toxins and excess fluids.  One of 355.000 Americans  who rely on dialysis for their life, Felix underwent dialysis for seven years.  When I was a medical student in the Philippines in the 60’s, all we had available was peritoneal dialysis (dialysis done through the lining of the abdomen) with its constant risk of infection called peritonitis.  Technology has so improved that this risk is much lower for those who opt for peritoneal dialysis and those who have hemodialysis (exchange of fluids through a fistula on the arm where a vein and an artery are connected and rerouted) can even do it themselves.  The whole process still takes about 4 hours each time.  Felix used to call it his second job because he went to dialysis after work.  Dialysis allows the person with ESRD to live as normal a life as possible such as having a full time job or homemaking.  There are reciprocal dialysis centers in the US and all around the globe allowing the individual to travel for work or pleasure.  When our extended family went on an Alaskan cruise one year, we chose a sailing that had dialysis on board.  The staff of these dialysis centers is exceptionally committed and treats their patients like family.  I am very grateful for how they prolonged my husband’s life.
Felix got a kidney transplant towards the end of his life.  Some 104,000 Americans are still waiting for a kidney transplant.  One day, while recuperating from his transplant surgery, we watched a documentary about people waiting on a kidney transplant. I recall seeing my husband, a grown stoic man, weep for the staggering numbers of people waiting and the realization of the enormity of the gift he had been given.

And so our family will walk next year again.  We will walk for Felix and for the many people with ESRD waiting for a second chance.

Seen on the back of a Tee shirt of one of the team walkers:

What Kidney Disease Cannot Do
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot destroy peace.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot suppress memories.
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot steal eternal life.
It cannot conquer the spirit.
Team Quiason

Sign the organ donation line on your driver's license. "Heaven knows your organs are better needed on earth."

This article first posted on Qondio:


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