In 2007, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, better known as BAMC opened the Center for the Intrepid, which has become the premiere rehabilitation facility for amputees and wounded troops from Iraq with salvaged limbs. Week in and week out, BAMC cares for hundreds of the most severely wounded troops returning from combat.
TIME spoke with Maj. Gen. Ted Wong, BAMC's commander, about the incredible trust that comes with caring for wounded warriors and what it will take for the nation to ensure their commitment to the evolving needs of the veterans in the coming decades.
You've spent nearly three decades in uniform; what are the biggest changes you've seen for how we care for our troops?
One of the biggest advancements has been the rehabilitative care for warriors that have experienced limb loss or limb function loss. There's been great innovations and great advancements in prosthetics to replace lost limbs. But really it's also about how to rehabilitate somebody, how to teach them to function without a natural leg or arm. How to use the prosthetic. And also how to mentally and emotionally deal with those problems.
Every war results in incredible medical advancements born out of caring for those who are wounded. What will be the medical legacy of this war?
The two key areas: amputee care-limb replacement, and behavioral health-PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. Those are some of the signature wounds of the war.
When a soldier's had a concussive event, you don't put him immediately back into action. You make him take a knee, and make sure he's okay before you put him back on the line. The return to duty rate is phenomenal.