Weekly Columns

Congressional Delegation Trip To Afghanistan

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Washington, April 22, 2009 | comments
Last week I had the distinct honor of joining the Surgeons General of the Army and Navy and four other lawmakers on the Veterans Affairs’ Committee on a bipartisan oversight mission to Afghanistan. This was both an incredible experience and an eye opening endeavor in many respects.

As a veteran and someone who served in a medical battalion, I had a notion of what to expect in Kuwait and Afghanistan; however, what I saw exceeded my expectations. Our troops are doing an incredible job.

As I reflect on my trip, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride that I am an American because of the dedication and determination our incredible soldiers overseas portrayed. I was so impressed with the ‘can-do’ attitude and the determination of our soldiers to succeed in their mission. If there is a lack of success in Afghanistan, it won’t be because our troops have failed, but rather because politicians have messed it up along the way.

As we traveled around the area, I was very impacted by the poor conditions the Afghanis live in. Essentially, they had no water infrastructure and many of their homes were compiled of simply dirt-like materials or tents. This country has spent so much time and money fighting one another that the basic economic infrastructure needs have been put to the side – resulting in a country that is struggling to create jobs and grow economically.

The average life expectancy in Afghanistan is 43 years old and 190 babies out of 1,000 die at birth. For comparative purposes, the average life expectancy in the United States is 77 years of age. Most Afghanis live on about $1 per day.

While in Afghanistan, our team visited the Bagram Hospital, two outposts near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. As a physician, I know good care when I see it, and what I saw with our military was world class health care. When a soldier is wounded in the field, he or she has a 98.5% chance of survival if the wounds are not immediately fatal.

Additionally, our troops are better trained in basic First Aid, which has saved many lives in battlefield situations where physicians are not around.

Americans are unique. We have an impressive military that encompasses expert training on many levels and engenders a spirit of patriotism for our country. We’re competitive and that doesn’t stop with our military. We are also on the cutting edge in the medical field and that was made very clear to me as I visited military hospital facilities in this region.

I support the President’s efforts to use all elements of our national power to defeat Al-Qaeda, and to defend America, our allies, and all who seek a better future. My hope is that we continue to take aggressive action towards this goal. Visiting Afghanistan only further helped me understand the urgency to meet this objective.

I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of our soldiers. It is a privilege to represent them in Congress and to serve all of you on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
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