There was a sense that the rules on drug abuse were more lenient for combat-wounded Marines and Purple Heart recipients than for others, which set a “bad tone” within the barracks. One Warrior told the inspector general that he thought nothing was done to those caught with drugs “because no one wanted to be the guy that kicked out a Marine for drugs.”
To mitigate the problem, video cameras were installed in the barracks to deter thefts of prescription medication and illegal drugs. More recently, a new policy has established “proper medication accountability of each Marine,” according to a December 2011 letter to the inspector general from the battalion commander.
Keeping people busy between medical appointments was difficult. Making various programs mandatory — internships, reconditioning programs and other structured activities — left some Warriors feeling “they were being ‘messed with,’ which created some anxiety,” according to one person interviewed by the inspector general.
Another issue for the wounded Marines was the amount of time spent waiting for decisions about their futures. The disability evaluation system involves a medical evaluation board, a physical evaluation board, disability determinations, an appeals process and a final disposition. The process can take as long as two years. Just the medical evaluation process for a wounded Marine at Lejeune was taking 245 days, the inspector general said. On a broader basis, it found that for 22 percent of Wounded Warrior Marines, final decisions still were not final three years after their original injury.
Of 696 Marines who passed through the Camp Lejeune battalion between April 2007 and September 2010, only 36 returned to active duty. Another 324 were discharged to civilian life; six died; three were forced out of the service; eight reservists returned to their units, and two reservists were discharged.
Believe it or not, 317 were still in transition.
Those numbers give life to a quote from one Warrior: “Everyone seems so depressed, angry and stressed, and they just want to get out of here.”
Remember: This is just a small part of what has happened to the 1 million service personnel sent to war over the past decade.
For previous Fine Print columns, go to washingtonpost.com/fedpage