A recent report released by a work group on interventions with combat injured families details the impact the war has had on the fabric of our country. 40,000 wounded veterans are coming to grips with a change not only in their job but in the core of who they are. Sometimes the injuries are disfiguring,leaving them injured on a psychological level. Their children may not know them because of the way they look. Wives are now handling an angry spouse, distraught children and the certainty of soon losing military benefits which may include the home in which they currently reside.
“The impact of a parental injury on a child is profound and potentially leads to longstanding consequences. Children must integrate the meaning of the injury within their own developmental understanding, possibly requiring the child to modify the internal image of the injured parent. Ultimately, a child must develop an integrated and reality based acceptance of those changes.” Says Dr.Stephen Cozza, Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress. The question is where can they get the help they need to do this? The military does not specialize in child psychiatry currently, so the community must step up. The report states "some 24,000 military children have been affected by serious combat related parental injuries. These numbers do not reflect the non-dependent children whose siblings have been injured, nor the parents of non-married and married soldiers, many of whom leave their communities and jobs to attend to their injured children in hospitals and rehabilitation centers across the country." That may double the number reported above. These children may be at risk for mental health and behavioral disturbances as a result. The community that exists must embrace the military families to help them make the transition from combat to combat vet in a way that serves their fierce sense of self sufficiency. I am privileged to reside in Military City USA and see veterans all over San Antonio. I have ample opportunity to observe the desire and need to be a part of the community in a vital way. There is no stronger, determined group of people that have given so much for so many that asks for so little. The conclusion in the executive summary of this report reads "The recovery of an injured service member’s family and children is a process and not an event. The injury experience itself is unique to the family and varies significantly depending upon the nature of the injury, the structure of the family, the developmental level of the children and the expected outcome, treatment,and rehabilitation process." That rehab process includes reducing barriers to care, both physical and psychological. It includes educational supports for the children. Military families are expected to be resilient and flexible. It is time the community becomes resilient and flexible in responding to the needs of those who serve. The entire report may be found @ http://gainscenter.samhsa.gov/html/eNews/eNews_5_09.htm