It’s estimated that 10 to 15 percent of active-duty service members have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, said Thursday during the groundbreaking ceremony for a facility to treat these injuries.
“That trauma and violence seen at a young age lasts a lifetime,” he said.
Milley recalled the “invisible wounds” of his father, a World War II veteran, who at 88 years old, continued to have nightmares of enemy invasions.
The new facility, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence Satellite Center at Fort Hood, is designed “specifically to address these issues,” he said. “It’s second to none. I’ve seen it work at other places.”
Gov. Rick Perry stood with Milley and Col. Ivan Speights, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center’s deputy commander for administration and chief of staff, to kick off construction of the 25,000-square-foot facility at the corner of Santa Fe Avenue and 58th Street.
“It’s really amazing,” Milley said. “The work being done in support of our wounded warriors and soldiers is tremendous.”
Funded through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, the center will treat service members diagnosed with TBI and PTSD. It will be under Darnall’s direction to allow coordination of care between the new center and those already at Fort Hood.
This is the fifth satellite center, with the most recent groundbreaking at Fort Bragg, N.C., earlier this year. Each is a joint venture between the government and the American people, said Arthur Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
“Why isn’t the government doing it?” Fisher asked the crowd. “We can build it in half the time, at half the cost and twice the quality. We can do things now with the troops that come home back to their bases. Not after they’ve left the service. ... That’s when we need to help.”
The Fort Hood center will mirror those already open and also conduct a fair amount of research, said David Winters, president of the fallen heroes fund. The facility will take at least a year to construct and he said it will open as soon as possible.
“Every day we don’t have the center here, is another day soldiers are not getting care,” he said, adding the facility can see about 1,000 patients each year.
Fisher emphasized that 100 percent of donations to the fund go toward the centers. The board picks up all administrative costs.
Once all nine of the planned facilities open, Winters said they can really start making a dent in helping the thousands of diagnosed service members Milley mentioned.
‘Plan of action’
Retired Staff Sgt. Spencer Milo was wounded in 2011 in Iraq, and spoke about his treatment at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Bethesda, Md.
He arrived there with two diagnosis — TBI and PTSD — from Fort Bragg and left with 27.
“For each diagnosis, I had a comprehensive plan of action,” he said. “We left with a lot of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Something he appreciated most about the care at the intrepid center was the family participation. His wife was at every appointment, Milo said. Not only did this help her understand what was happening, it also allowed her to hear treatment options first hand.
“I can’t explain how thankful I am Fort Hood will have this here,” Milo said. “When young men and women going to war are coming back with injuries not always visible ... a lot of people start to forget about it and they don’t get the treatment and care they really need. The centers give everybody the opportunity to get that help they need.”
Fisher asked people to understand that providing this care is not charity, but “the duty of Americans to provide this help for service members.”
“You in uniform do your duty to this country and we as citizens of this country have a duty to you,” he said. “We owe it to you and we are going to make sure that everything we can do to help you, we will.”
Perry said it was a “profound honor” to be a part of the ceremony. “(Service members) need to understand that in no uncertain terms we are going to be here for them,” he said. “Facilities like this are going to continue to be built across this country.”