Living in the shadows of the ongoing war on terror are 1,715 American military people who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan. A few of those brave folks lost all four limbs when bombs blew apart their bodies. In addition, there are now at least 20 new amputee victims because of the brutal terror bombing in Boston.
When reality sinks in and the injured realize how dependent they are without all of their limbs, often there are severe psychological consequences. Many of the soldiers and Marines who lost limbs were self-reliant achievers who lived life on their own terms.
The bombs changed all that.
When I visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., I am struck by the determination of the amputees to put their lives back together. But the rehab process is exceedingly difficult for them and their families. Sometimes the wounded warrior feels guilty that his or her condition is bringing emotional pain to friends and family. You can see that in their eyes. They don’t feel sorry for themselves so much, but they are sad for those who love them.
The United States is a great country, but we do have our failings. Providing for the severely wounded should be a top priority, but it is not. Responding to a lack of urgency on the part of the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs, a private organization called The Independence Fund was started in 2007 to provide support for amputees. And now something amazing has happened.
A small company in Michigan has invented the Action TrackChair, an all-terrain wheelchair that can literally go anywhere — on sand, in the forest, through shallow streams, you name it. The chairs are a high-tech marvel. Small switches give physically challenged folks almost full mobility and an acute sense of independence — thus the name of the fund.
The chairs cost about $15,000 each, and therein lies the problem.
The federal government is broke after wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on misguided overseas nation-building projects, social justice boondoggles here at home and failed green energy investments like Solyndra. Just this week, The New York Times reported that the CIA is giving millions of dollars in cash to Hamid Karzai, the corrupt leader of Afghanistan. Karzai is a guy who would make Al Capone blush. If you took just 20 percent of the Karzai payoff money, you could buy every American military amputee a TrackChair.
But that’s a pipedream. Not gonna happen. So we the people have to help our wounded warriors regain a semblance of control over their lives, because the federal government will not.
I hope you check out the website independencefund.org. We all need to right this wrong. The technology is available to help amputees, and there is no reason on Earth why every single person who needs a TrackChair shouldn’t have one.
So let’s make this happen, people! We are Americans. We owe it to those who sacrificed their bodies for our country to do everything we can to help them.
Finally, I’ve discussed the situation with President Obama and believe that in the weeks to come a national effort will be launched to help the grievously wounded and their families. That story: still developing.
Veteran TV news anchor Bill O’Reilly is host of the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor” and author of the book “Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama.”