Here's possibly the best evidence yet that something very, very wrong is occurring at Fort Carson, the giant Army base in Colorado Springs:
A joint NPR and ProPublica investigation into how the military handles brain injuries has found that as many as 40 percent of Fort Carson soldiers had mild brain injuries missed by Army health screenings.
The sheer volume of mental-health problems plaguing Fort Caron's soldiers -- and the military's apparent inability to handle them -- have been fodder for media outlets around the country. Westword's coverage of the matter, including a feature on Army-punching-bag-turned-soldiers-advocate Andrew Pogany and on a veterans court programArmy-punching-bag-turned-soldiers-advocate Army-punching-bag-turned-soldiers-advocate, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Rolling Stone has delved into the frightening rash of murders associated with the base, and recently, the New York Times reported on how Fort Carson's Warrior Transition Battalion, a new unit designed to help soldiers with war trauma, isn't living up to expectations.
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Still, it seems that no matter the revelations coming out of the base, by and large the general public hasn't taken notice. Maybe the topic is too esoteric, maybe it's too amorphous. Here's hoping this latest discovery is finally shocking enough to make a difference. After all, it's hard to ignore reports that nearly half of all Fort Carson soldiers are coming back from war with some sort of brain damage -- and all the military stopgaps put in place to find them aren't working.
And this is just one of many, many disturbing tidbit uncovered by ProPublica's T. Christian Miller and NPR's Daniel Zwerdling over a four-month investigation into how the Army handles traumatic brain injuries, the invisible but often crippling impairments that have been labeled the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of brain injuries likely undiagnosed. Military mental-health screenings deemed as reliable as a coin flip. A top military adviser who blithely noted to a colleague, "What's the harm in missing the diagnosis of [mild traumatic brain injuries]?" The entire investigation is worth a delving into.
While there might be less investigative journalism these days than ever, reports like this one provide a striking reminder that there are still lots of troubling things going on, and they desperately need digging up.
The good news is that people and organizations are mobilizing to help wounded warriors falling through the cracks. Soldiers advocate Andrew Pogany and new veterans courts are just a few of the examples. Still, it's worth noting that these endeavors aren't associated with the military, and for the most part deal with soldiers who've already left or are in the process or leaving the Army. Until the real work needed to help traumatized soldiers starts happening from within at places like Fort Carson, the battle wounds will continue to fester for a long, long time.