Photo: Ft. Leavenworth
Wounds and injuries have always been on the minds of troops in combat and their loved ones back home.But American servicemembers must live with the constant spectre of one of the most horrifying injuries conceivable: Explosive castration.
Severing the possibility of having kids, and a normal sex life, in one single unexpected blast — it’s a gut-wrenching reality for the thousands of troops deployed in war zones. In a word, it’s heartbreaking.
After years of never-before-seen frequency of this exact scenario during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs have finally announced that they will pay $50,000 to victims of traumatic genitourinary damage sustained during service in the military.
This type of injury has never been so common.
Historically, rates of traumatic genital injury — major damage to the penis, testicles, vulva or ovaries — has ranged from 2 to 5%. In 2010, that rate stood at 12.7% of all wounded.
What’s causing this?
Warfare tactics have changed. The widespread presence of concealed Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) has led to catastrophic injury from the waist down being the norm, not the exception.
The devices — often implanted in the ground and designed to explode upward — cause damage in a manner which conventional military body armour, designed to protect the torso, is incapable of mitigating.
The result is a massive upswing in traumatic injuries to lower limbs and genitalia — injuries which are survivable, but so hard to live with.
“In past wars, guys didn’t live if they got injured as badly as me, but we’ve gotten so good at the medevac process now that guys who are catastrophically wounded are surviving,” Marine 1st Lieutenant James Byler related to the Huffington Post.
“Now you have all these further complications — like, you know, what’s going to happen with my genital wounds?” The young lieutenant’s groin was severely destroyed by an explosive blast. He’s 26.
The psychological impact of these injuries is difficult to overstate. These are soldiers who, 10 years ago, would have died from the wounds. Now they have to live with them.
We’ve heard stories of comrades who made pacts to just let one another bleed out in case of genital destruction. The betrayal felt by soldiers who made these pacts and survived only compounds the pain.
Michael Bailey, a former combat medic and regular BI contributor, related that he had been asked by some of the men he served to not save them if they lose their genitals.
“If my nuts do get shot off, I don’t want you to save me,” one soldier told Bailey. Repeatedly.
Bailey could empathise. “‘Truth be told,” he told us, “if I were that badly injured, I’m not sure I would want to live either.”
Many of those survivors have completely lost the use of their genitals. There’s never been a widespread need to develop the science to fix destroyed genitals until now.
And the impact on families, loved ones, and future plans is massive. Sometimes, the strain is enough to destroy a relationship.
In one case, a woman stood by her wounded boyfriend, a Marine Staff Sergent who lost most of his penis in Iraq, through 42 surgeries according to the Huffington Post.
One day the Marine returned back to his hospital room in Walter Reed Medical centre, only to find a note reading “I can’t take this any more. I’m outta here.”
Despite how common this injury is, these veterans don’t even have a support group. Other combat-induced disabilities such as blindness or loss of limb have always been pervasive. This one is new.
Now, the Traumatic Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) has responded to the new wounded by creating a new class of injuries covered in the program.
Genital injury will receive similar compensation to limb loss: $50,000.
The new policy applies to both male and female servicemembers, and is also retroactive to 2001.
The VA finally took notice.
The Department of defence has also tried to respond to the new threats from below by developing new body armour, called ballistic boxers or “combat diapers”, designed to armour the vulnerable groin region.
Hopefully it works.
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