Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs

Wisconsin National Guard News

Wisconsin shows support for wounded warriors

Date: March 17, 2010
By Staff Sgt. Emily J. Russell
Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs

Taking care of Soldiers and Airmen is the number one priority for Wisconsin National Guard leaders - evident by their recent trip to visit wounded warriors.

Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin and commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, and several members of his staff traveled to Fort Knox, Ky., Thursday [March 11] to visit approximately 30 Wisconsin Guard Soldiers at the Fort Knox Warrior Transition Units (WTU) to demonstrate that priority.

"These Soldiers are constantly in our thoughts and prayers," said Dunbar. "These are my Soldiers and I care passionately about them, it's not a burden for me to [visit], it's a privilege." While most Soldiers return home when they complete their active duty tours some - currently about 40 Wisconsin Guard members - need medical care and remain on duty at one of the nine WTUs located on Army installations throughout the U.S. Medical professionals and case managers dedicated to caring for wounded warriors are overseeing the care for these Soldiers, mostly from the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, with injuries ranging from broken bones and torn ligaments to back pain and mental health issues.

Wisconsin leaders make it a priority to visit all of them at least quarterly. Dunbar emphasized the importance of showing support and concern for Soldiers on a mission to get well, and ensuring they are receiving the care they need.

"It's easy to say to a Soldier, ‘I appreciate you,' when they leave for a combat zone and pat them on the back when they return," Dunbar explained. "It's equally important to realize that these Soldiers are on a mission to get well. It's a very serious mission and [they are] entitled to our full support. No matter what we say on a website or write in a letter to the Soldier doesn't replace the adjutant general, deputy adjutant general and [state] command sergeant major walking into the room and taking a day to say, 'we're here, what's on your mind?'"

After a year-long deployment, Soldiers are sometimes apprehensive about staying on active duty longer to take care of medical issues especially when while their fellow Guard members transition and return home. During their visit Guard leaders emphasize the importance of tending to their medical needs and continuing their healing process.

Click For High Resolution Photo

Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar (left), adjutant general of Wisconsin, meets with wounded warriors at Fort Knox, Ky., March 11, 2010. The Soldiers are receiving medical care at the Warrior Transition Unit following their year-long deployment to Iraq. Dunbar and other senior leaders visited the Soldiers to show support and let them know that their health and welfare is a priority. Wisconsin National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Emily J. Russell

Members of the Wisconsin National Guard senior leadership meet with Wisconsin Guard wounded warriors stationed in the Warrior Transition Unit, March 11, 2010 to show their support and address Soldiers' concerns. Wisconsin National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Emily J. Russell

Soldiers are also sometimes concerned with the old stigma of being a "broken Soldier" but leader's also address that falsehood and stress the importance of rehabilitation and the time they spend at the WTU is insignificant compared to the benefit they receive of returning home healed and ready for duty.

"It was a tough issue that I talked over with my wife,” said Sgt. Kent Milam, a member of the 32nd Military Police Company, who deployed with the 32nd IBCT. “We decided [WTU] was the only way to do it because I had to get fixed.”

Milam, who is a deputy sheriff for Racine County in his civilian job, suffered a shoulder injury which requires surgery. "By going back – not fixed – it would have been a burden to my family and I couldn't go back to work the way I was," Milam added.

"We were at Fort McCoy for the 32nd brigade demobilization and there were a lot of people who didn't want to go to Fort Knox to the WTU," said Staff Sgt. Tim Touchett, warrior transition liaison for the Wisconsin National Guard. "We talked a lot of Soldiers into doing it because once they realized how good the program is and the benefits of the program they thought, 'I'd be stupid not to take this.'

"You get six months of Tricare [insurance] after deployment but what happens if you're still broke? You're not getting paid anymore, and you can't go back to work,' Touchett added. "Regardless of the injury, the Soldier is treated with dignity and respect. That's the way it should be, that's the intent of the program."



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