San Diego Community Comes Together to Care for Wounded Warriors

This Veterans Day, Americans can celebrate that more wounded warriors are surviving than at any point in our history, and many are returning to us as decorated heroes with full lives ahead. However, the damage inflicted upon these service members is far more severe than in previous combat eras, overwhelming existing care facilities and devastate their families.

On the North County Times, a San Diego newspaper, veteran James A. Johnson writes:

"As a retired Navy surgeon who began his service treating fallen Marines in Vietnam, and as an active civilian surgeon with a local practice, I have seen the “killed in action” rate drop from over 20 percent when I joined the Navy in 1966 to 8 percent now. High-tech helmets and body armor have lowered the number of fatalities from head and torso wounds. But they do not shield extremities or ward off brain trauma. In the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, wounded warriors are quickly transported to full-service medical stations, and once stabilized, for the first time ever they are sent stateside in a matter of days. From then on, traumatic brain injuries and amputations require long-term treatment from a network of specialists, including reconstructive surgeons, prosthetists, neurologists, urologists, and psychiatrists. And these crippling conditions necessitate intensive 24/7 care that quickly engulfs spouses, parents and siblings."

According to Johnson, San Diego county is the region in the US with the largest population of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, and is leading the way with homegrown 21st-century coordinated care for wounded veterans. A new regional facility called "Invictus San Diego" is being formed by a coalition of military, health care, and business leaders to address a wide range of medical and rehabilitate needs. Johnson hopes to see Invictus become a cornerstone of biotech innovations and a big boost to the local economy.

Hopefully, the Invictus idea will spread, so that more veterans nationwide can receive local help with social services, employment counseling, and educational programs. Invictus San Diego is leading the way to more compassionate, community caregiving of our veterans.