What are the benefits of American veterans

He went to war as a hero, and returned as a cripple. He has had twenty operations behind him. And the doctors say that there will be no more life without pain for him. Scars burn purple on the arms and legs.

Screws hold the right foot together, he needs a cane to walk. He has deep edges under his water-blue eyes, he does not sleep well. Terry Petersen, 24 years old, is one of more than 10,000 seriously wounded US soldiers from the war in Iraq. And he's one of those who feel like he's been abandoned. "I love my country," says the young man, "but I hate the army."

The outrage was great in America when the first reports surfaced a few weeks ago about the fate of the war invalids, whom the US Army provides first-class immediately after their wounding, but then lets them go to waste. Most of them in a hospital in the capital Washington, just five miles from the White House.

Mice in the hospital room

The president regularly praises his soldiers as "America's finest", the best the country has to offer. But conditions are pitiful at the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, where the seriously wounded are being treated.

Mice dart through the sickroom. Mold crawls up the walls. And nobody really shows responsibility for the soldiers, who are mutilated in body and soul. As the Washington Post Having brought the grievances to light now, the public outcry was so powerful that the chief of the hospital, the army doctor-general, and even the army minister had to leave. It was too obvious that America's army welcomes the handicapped with a system of cruel indifference and pays them disdain for their service.

Terry Petersen was also at Walter Reed. He was brought there just before Christmas 2005. A bomb had exploded next to his Humvee, the large off-road vehicle, on December 8 at around 10:30 in the morning in Baghdad.

He remembers the bang, "so loud, it doesn't happen in civilian life" and the thick black smoke. And then the blood pumping out of his left arm, and then the pain. Back then, in the first few hours and days, the army's rescue system worked with admirable precision.

Help from the neighbors

The lieutenant, who was near bleeding to death, was in the Baghdad Hospital within minutes. He was flown to Landstuhl in the Palatinate and two days later to Washington. His left hand was sewn to his hip for three weeks and was supplied with blood from there. In this way, the doctors prevented the hand from being amputated.

Only hours after the explosion, the army notified his mother. Even Terry's commander in Baghdad called them. She was informed when he would arrive in Washington. Everything worked.

Only afterwards did she realize that the chain of negligence had already begun: Somehow no one had found it necessary to tell her that she could have flown to Washington at the expense of the US Army. Certainly a small thing.

But caring for their wounded children or spouses costs their relatives dearly anyway: flights, hotels, meals, loss of earnings at home. Terry's mother Petra, 50 years old, an insurance clerk and quite an energetic woman, took unpaid leave to help her son during the first few weeks.