Army Sgt. Maj. Brent Jurgersen reflected on the importance of the Defense Department's designation of November as Warrior Care Month, which he said allowed the program to inform soldiers and their families about programs and services available to wounded warriors.
The program uses the motto "As long as it takes" to show its support of wounded soldiers from the date of the injury for the rest of their lives, he told "Dot Mil Docs" listeners.
"Even when a soldier or family may be out there after several years and they say, 'We got it. We don't need your services any more. We are doing good," ... we are still there with that soldier and family," Jurgersen said. "So, if they ever need any assistance at any point, they know that they can reach out to us and that we will help them."
Jurgersen added that the motto is especially reassuring to seriously wounded soldiers because 75 percent of them are medically retired. "The real transition" begins at the time of their retirement, he said.
"For the first time, their military support structure is gone, and they are another veteran," he said. "To me, as a wounded warrior myself, it's about their 'new normal.' It's about getting their life back together. It's not about being in the hospital, ... but it's about establishing their life and strengthening their lives ... and ensuring they have received their full benefits."
Jurgersen said he identifies with other wounded warriors because he is one of them. He said his fellow soldiers call him "The Rock" because he survived severe combat injuries in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 that included a gunshot wound to the face, a traumatic brain injury, amputation of his left leg, severe damage to his right knee and a compound fracture to his right hand.
"I try to present the image and try to lead with the fact that their first sergeant was always there for them -- that regardless of what happened, he was going to be there to back them up and pick them up and personally bring them home," he said.
In an effort to aid more wounded, ill and injured soldiers, Jurgersen added, program leaders announced in October expanded criteria to better serve the needs of soldiers and their families.
"Originally, support was to the most severely wounded soldiers from the global war on terrorism who have or are expected to receive an Army disability rating of 30 percent or greater in one or more specific categories," Jurgersen said. "Under the expanded criteria, the Army Wounded Warrior Program supports soldiers who have received a combined disability rating of 50 percent or greater for conditions that are the result of combat or are combat-related."
For other combat-related conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, Jurgersen said, he believes the Army has done a lot to treat soldiers, but must continue to press forward to make changes.
"For the first time this year, the number of soldiers with severe PTSD exceeded the number of amputations, making that population of soldiers the largest group" in the program, Jurgersen said. "[What] we take out of this [is] that PTSD is real, and we have all seen the effects of this in our soldiers and the effects it can have on [them] and their families. I am really excited about the way ahead as far as what we are doing and what our country and our military is doing to address PTSD."
Jurgersen encouraged people to continue to support not only those soldiers who are severely injured, but also all soldiers who continue to serve around the world, as well as their families.
Cragg serves in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity