"While Mologne House [one of the places recuperating soldiers are housed] has a full bar, there is not one counselor or psychologist assigned there to assist soldiers and families in crisis -- an idea proposed by Walter Reed social workers but rejected by the military command that runs the post....
Annette puts on makeup every morning and does her hair, some semblance of normalcy, but her new job in life is watching Dell.
'I'm worried about how he's gonna fit into society,' she says one night, as Dell wanders down the hall to the laundry room.
The more immediate worry concerns his disability rating. Army doctors are disputing that Dell's head injury was the cause of his mental impairment. One report says that he was slow in high school and that his cognitive problems could be linked to his native intelligence rather than to his injury.
‘They said, 'Well, he was in Title I math,' like he was retarded,’ Annette says. ‘Well, y'all took him, didn't you?’
The same fight is being waged by their friends, who aren't the young warriors in Army posters but middle-age men who left factory jobs to deploy to Iraq with their Guard units. They were fit enough for war, but now they are facing teams of Army doctors scrutinizing their injuries for signs of preexisting conditions, lessening their chance for disability benefits.
Dell and Annette's closest friend at Mologne House is a 47-year-old Guard member who was driving an Army vehicle through the Iraqi night when a flash of light blinded him and he crashed into a ditch with an eight-foot drop. Among his many injuries was a broken foot that didn't heal properly. Army doctors decided that ‘late life atrophy’ was responsible for the foot, not the truck wreck in Iraq.
When Dell sees his medical records, he explodes. ‘Special ed is for the mentally retarded, and I'm not mentally retarded, right, babe?’ he asks Annette. ‘I graduated from high school. I did some college. I worked in a steel mill.’"
In her report on Dykstra, Col. Ana Parodi, head of Behavioral Health at Fort Stewart's Winn Army Hospital, writes that the soldier gives a clear description of PTSD symptoms but lays them out with such detail, it's "as if he had memorized the criteria." She concludes that Dykstra has personality disorder, not PTSD, though her report also notes that Dykstra has had "no previous psychiatric history" and that she confirmed the validity of his symptoms with the soldier's wife.
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