As we enter the second decade of a war on terrorism, with the war in Afghanistan coming to an end, now is a good time to have a candid discussion of how we will continue to address the future needs of those who have served in harm’s way—particularly our combat wounded and their families—and what lies ahead. Advances in medical practice, battlefield medicine, and complex casualty care have saved many who in earlier conflicts would have died of their wounds. Survival rates from combat-related injuries are the highest in history. That said, George Washington had it right: Our ability to attract and retain a quality volunteer force in the future depends, in part, on how well it is perceived we treat the current force, especially the combat wounded.
With more than 49,000 Americans wounded in combat in the past ten-plus years, what can we do to ensure the best possible future for those veterans? We should ask three questions:
• What future do we, as a nation, envision for combat wounded and their families?
• What is our national strategy to attain that future?
• What is the role of government?