I wish to express my concern over the front-page headline in the March 13 Augusta Chronicle, which stated under the banner “Afghanistan Shootings”: “Suspect suffered injury to head.” This scurrilous statement, true or not, leaves the distinct impression that a head injury of any type leads to criminal violence.
First, the anonymous source of this unsubstantiated medical information about a head injury is violating the privacy of the suspect and is setting a precedent that is totally lacking in credibility. There is no evidence that this possible head injury is related in any way to the violent events that followed.
This information plants the message that the signature injury of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, namely traumatic brain injuries from improvised explosive devices, leads to violence. There is no such evidence to support this statement, but journalists did not check the facts about the long-term effects of various types of traumatic brain injuries. But jumping to unfounded conclusions makes for interesting headlines, I guess.
Even more distressing is the dishonor you bring to the thousands of soldiers and Marines who have served honorably and sustained traumatic brain injuries and who return to duty or their civilian lives without any indication they are dangerous to anyone.
It seems that as the public understandably grows weary of this long period of conflict and we enter an election year, the media in particular and manipulators of political expediency raise speculation that our servicemen and women with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder are dangerous. The deaths of civilians in Afghanistan are indeed a horrible tragedy and the suspect, if guilty, must answer for this crime. But this is not a reason for the media to make unfounded and sinister statements that indict our wounded warriors.
I am a board-certified neurosurgeon and a psychiatrist, and I proudly served as a physician in the U.S. military in the Vietnam era, and was witness then to the same type of invective that was loaded on our veterans. It is now my honor and privilege as a civilian to serve and care for our soldiers. In their time of need, I have their backs and will protect then from unfounded accusations.
This type of reporting does them a disservice, and they deserve our thanks for their honorable service. Please – before information is published about this story or any story about our soldiers, check the facts. There are very well-informed professionals who can help you do your job properly.
Patrick L. Lillard, M.D.