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October 1st, 2009 by Dr. Phil

The Wounded Warriors


Dr. Phil and Robin with Micaela Bensko, VP of the Iraq Star Foundation

I have not had the honor of serving in the military myself, but many of my family members have, and it has always been important to me to show my support for all of those who serve our country regardless of how popular or unpopular the war might be. Last year, we did a show  featuring 20-year-old Randy Gollinger, a veteran of the Iraq conflict who had lost a leg and an eye when his truck ran across an Improvised Explosive Device. He had been to a VA hospital, but had many medical issues yet unresolved. It seemed to me that the care provided by an over-worked, understaffed albeit well-meaning medical service had left him with an incomplete and “unfinished” feeling of being lost in life. Hope was fading.

I was deeply disturbed at what had happened to Randy. He seemed so defeated — utterly frustrated at what had happened to him and not sure where to turn. I believe American soldiers not only should be the best-equipped and best-trained soldiers in the world, but also should have the best support upon returning home. Even before the show, I asked my staff to start looking for resources to help Randy. Eventually, we hit on an organization called Iraq Star.

star2A former Air Force nurse named Maggie Lockridge created Iraq Star when she realized there were lots of wounded soldiers coming home and getting lost in the system. She began recruiting surgeons around the country who agreed to volunteer their time and their skills to help these veterans. When we contacted her about Randy, she set him up with Dr. Michael Groth of Beverly Hills, a specialist in ophthalmic surgery, who was delighted to help. He did two surgical procedures on Randy and fit him with a new prosthetic eye — completely for free.

I was dumbfounded by the impact of such an organization, and I told Maggie to just let me know what I could do to help her. She asked me to emcee their annual fundraiser, which took place last Saturday at the Universal Hilton in Los Angeles. The special guest of honor was actor Gary Sinise, who was honored for all he does for the USO and for Iraqi school kids. Jon Voight spoke, Dennis Miller did stand up, and the live auction featured an amazing, chrome-laden chopper motorcycle. The bike had a camouflage custom paint job and had been hand-built for the occasion by Paul Teutel and the crew of TLC’s American Chopper.

The real stars of the night, of course, were the wounded warriors who had been helped by Iraq Star. The overflow crowd gave one huge ovation after another as they were introduced. Among them was Tony, who had received an entire mouth reconstruction; Bobby, who had received skin grafting on 33 percent of his body; Marco, who had received two reconstructive surgeries after losing his left ear, left arm and left leg.


Dr. Phil smiles with a soldier

And then Randy was introduced. The change I noticed in him was remarkable. He was once again vibrant and so full of life — so focused on what he had left instead of what he had lost. At that moment, I realized Iraq Star had given this young man his life back. It was a moment that made me proud to be an American.

Because I wanted my viewers to share this experience with me, I had asked you to write in to me about why you wanted to be there. I was only able to pick 12 of you to sit at a special VIP table, but I want to say how grateful I am for all of your responses. I was so happy to meet you. You traveled to the event from all over Southern California, united by one thing — your appreciation for what soldiers sacrifice for us.

And this is an organization that I want us to continue to support. If you’re able, go here to contribute to Iraq Star. Even a small act of generosity will go a long way to helping those who put their lives on the line for us.

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23 Responses to “The Wounded Warriors”

  1. That is awesome! I do what I can on my site to support our troops because they deserve to be remembered, honored and taken care of for their service.
    Proud of our military. God Bless Iraq Star, Darla
    Thank you for showing your support Dr. Phil.

  2. Michelle says:

    I have donated to Iraq star, and it touches a special part in my heart, my husband is a soldier, and we are currently waiting to hear when he will be heading to Afghanistan. We have two young boys, and this will be a trial. But Dr. Phil, please continue doing what you always do. I have learned alot from you. There is many things on many different levels that the military needs to work on changing. There is one thing I know you have always said, if you dont like it,, change it. Well, that is what I am in the process of doing. My husband has been a reservist after serving fifteen active duty years in the army, and for the past four years in the reserves there has been nothing involving families where we live at. Well, I am starting to work to start our own family readiness group, even if I end up doing this myself. I think it will come to be very important. One question I have to you, if I have emailed your show repeatedly, is there a way to contact you for a brief five minutes. I have never ever done a deployment, we have two small boys, and I need to make sure they stay connected with dad while he is gone. But most of all my concern lies with my husband , previously he served in Iraq, and came home to a divorice, and an empty bank account, and house. There are many questions around this for me to make sure his mind stays safe while over there.
    Thanks Dr. Phil for all you do, and congrats on your news of having a grandchild.

  3. Society seems to always forget or neglect the fact that the military is not a right but a privilege. Personally, our American troops deserve our utmost respect and gratefulness. Without the men and women that defend the United States of America, the sense of security, freedom, and calmness will vanish. Without these men and women our nations borders will be easy access to anybody and any country with good or bad intentions. These people risk their life everyday, they are away from their family everyday, they protect us everyday, and they get harmed on our behalf everyday. If they’re doing all this for us, Americans, the least we can do is make sure they get adequate medical care and are well taken care of.

    Thank you Dr. Phil for bring awareness to this routinely overlooked problem.
    -University of Florida student Justin H

  4. Ellie says:

    Being a military wife I am always happy when there is help for soldiers, wounded or still fighting. But what does make me… angry is that when anyone speaks of wounded soldiers it seems like the only way you are truly wounded is physically. The soldiers who are wounded mentally are just left out. That makes me so angry. President Obama came to visit a hospital in Germany and went straight to the psychical wounded soldiers… Never went near the mental ward! Do you know how ashamed these soldiers are of having PTSD, traumas or other mental issues triggered by the stress they under go? How many men go through life with these problems without ever saying a word because they are ashamed?? Where is the support for these soldiers who in differetn ways will never be the same again after going to war? (i mean no disrespect to anyone, just addressing an issue). Mental issues are a taboo in the military and it makes me so angry because living in this world and seeing these young (and older ofcourse) men (sometimes boys) come back from war completely traumatised breaks my heart.
    My husband will never be the same again and is currently on a medical post for mental issues and he is so ashamed of ‘not being strong enough’ and it breaks my heart because no one should see the things he has seen.
    Because he is not physically hurt the military will not support the family members as much. they take my husband away from me (after 15 months deployment) but will not finance my visit to him because he is not an inpatient. After another 6 months apart they have finally decided to reunite me with him and i couldnt be happier. I do have to say that he gets the help he needs right now and he is doing a lot better. Im just frustrated because i cant be there in person for him.
    I am happy that soldiers (wounded or not) get help, it is very expensive when you get wounded (permanent or temporary issues) (you need extra help, taxis to get places, family members visiting, special transportation, etc) and military pay doesnt cut it. Therefor i have supported Iraq star aswel as The yellow ribbon fund (pls look it up and support it!). Being on a medical base right now, it would be eyeopening if more people would see this. It is very touching to see what you see here… It goes from soldiers in wheelchairs, crutches, men so lost they are turning around in circles and talking to themselves, men that jump up because someone raises its voice all of a sudden… The touching part is that they actually get the help they need here… All the people that work here… civilian or military or veteran or volunteer… they are trully wanting to help these soldiers that gave life as they knew it for their country…They get support and dont feel like it was wrong to not ‘just suck it up’ and they see that they are not alone and people here dont think bad of them but see them as the heroes they are.
    Saying that im very proud of my husband!

  5. F.D says:

    Dr. Phil

    Im from Australia, but still apreciate the hard work every soldier has put in, from the smallest nation to the most powerful.

    I’m not big on war, human civilisation has come a long way and I believe in brain not braun, I would like to think there was better ways to utelise all that defence intelligence than putting soldiers on the frontline. However that what has and is still happening, in which case we all should support all soldiers, especially those in the front line, whom are putting there lives at risk. Not everyone would enlist to defend their country and the world.

    Not many Australian soldier come back home wounded, so we don’t have many if any organisation such as Iraq star. I think it should be mandatory for all countries, especially those that have many injured soldier, that organisation equivalent to iraq star be government run.

    We all know that President Obama was just award the noble peace prize, how about he now bring some peace to soldier who are wounded and are caught up in the system. From my educated guess I would assume that suicide amongst wounded soldiers is high, I wonder how much lose hope while tied up in the system.

  6. ArmyWife1014 says:

    Thank you for supporting Iraq Star. As an Army wife, and friend of many who are dealing with physical AND lingering mental war injuries, this really hits home. However, there is a program valled The Wounded Warrior Project which is what I though this post was going to be about, because of the title. It is another very helpful and appreciated organization working to help our veterans. I know that Cracker Barrel supports them by selling WWP t-shirts and other items. I highly recommend you check them out as well. Thanks again!

  7. ArmyWife1014 says:

    *called. Sorry for the typo. I’m working from my cell.

  8. So glad to read that your taking time for these cause.

    Coffee is on.

  9. Andrea says:

    THANK YOU, your family and staff for all you do to help Service members and our families. My husband has been in the ARMY for 22 years and deployed many times. Your dedication and support has been invaluable. Just knowing there are people out there who care helps those of us who are left behind.
    I would appreciate seeing a show giving spouses advice on the best ways to cope with deployment, moves, and the stress we face daily. We have amazing resources many never find, but I bet they watch your show!
    Thank you again for all you do!

  10. I commend Iraq Star and all the doctors who help, Maggie, you, Robin etc. and especially all our soldiers who have ever served and are serving.


    J. R. Martinez of All My Children, on ABC, I think said on twitter that he went to “A Night of Honour” sponsored by Iraq Star: http://twitter.com/Knowjr J.R. Martinez is a positive role model to stay positive and never, never, never give up.

    Below, along with Iraq Star Foundation link above are a few helpful links for veterans to request assistance. Often requires seeking assistance from State Senator or Your Local Representative. So, if at first denied, stand up for yourself, friend or family member. Lots of benefits exist yet often requires researching and appealing if request denied. For instance, I suggested a veteran who went to Presbyterian ER to write Senator or Representative in House when VA didn’t pay and FINALLY months later did thanks to Pete Sessions. Phil Gramm, Lloyd Benson helped my dad and former President Clinton and Tom Cole helped my mother and I’m just average person who wrote or called in needing help for my parents on various issues I ran into bureaucratic road blocks on.


    Since my first ballet recital, when 8, that my mother arranged for veterans to see at church by veterans annex in my home town and since my parents so patriotic… I’m patriotic too. At 8, my mom was called by every mom to cancel their daughters coming to my mom’s first Bluebird meeting “since my father a disabled veteran.” Well, let’s just say, discrimination isn’t just a pigment issue so I’m behind soldiers 100% because I know how much it hurts to be discriminated against.

    I know how it feels to go without medical care so I’m glad I was able to suggest to a former Green Beret Medic with one silver and two bronze stars, who was laid off, to go to VA Hospital. Care there better than his HMO was in many ways except doesn’t include dental and vision care although may still for disabled veterans. Since, at least, 1984, prescription refills mailed through the mail which is very helpful.

    When people use to make fun of us since my dad a disabled veteran I’d think, “Well maybe if I saw us through their eyes I wouldn’t understand. Yet I’m so glad I see through mine because I love my dad.” When everyone canceled coming to my mom’s 1st Bluebird meeting “since my dad a disabled veteran” I was more worried about my parents than myself. (Parents like their children to be proud of them too.)

    Helped my disabled veteran dad until 38 working through maze of red tape to find benefits he qualified for. Have donated clothes etc. to veterans. Sent a box of Dr. Phil, Jay and Robin’s books to Fort Sill library this year, 2009.

    Sent my autographed book of “Inside My Heart” from Dallas book signing to a wife of a soldier fellow Dr. Phil Website member there: Fort Sill Library was kind enough to let her pick up at base library (in 2007, I think). Sent her a Mezuzah too since she was saddened no places for her and her husband to worship in Lawton. I hope she and her husband are okay as I lost contact after her visit back to their home State just before he was to be deployed. She did receive Robin’s book etc. and was thankful as not available at base library. In 2007, too, in separate box I sent a few other books & hand-made bear for base Children’s library.

    Like y’all and my dad if I see a veteran in need I’ll give the shirt off my back like when a veteran in a wheelchair outside a 7-11 store said to himself as I walked out, “I wish I had a pair of glasses”. I took mine out of my pocket and said, “Can you see out of these.” You would have thought it was Christmas and his face beamed as he said, “Yes! Now I can read my Bible.”


  11. Chari Mercier says:

    Hey, Dr. Phil! I am a huge supporter of all of our USA military personnel of all branches of the military, inclucing the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines, as well as a huge supporter of the war against terrorism. I would like for you to try your hardest and best to get the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (can’t remember his name right now), and just start grilling him with the hard questions of why the VA medical system is not keeping up with the care that all of the vets need to have (from WWII thru this war against terrorism), why the system keeps breaking down, why the VA hospitals are not as well equipped and staffed as they should be, and why so many veterans with health problems are always sent to civilian hospital ERs when they should be cared for at the VA emergency rooms. Also, ask him why so many vets have to sit for soooooo long for their medical appointments and why their appointments are always 1-3 months in advance when they really need to see their doctors within a week or two. Then, there are the vets who walk in to see the doctor in the ERs and have to sit and wait for up to 4 hours, and most of them are senior citizens! Look back at what we did to the Vietnam Veterans who were shunned when they got home, and the ones that were injured did not get the total medical and psychological care and treatments that they deserved back then. And, that’s the other thing that is lacking at VA medical centers–a full service psychological/psychiactric facility to serve, care, and treat these veterans for every emotional and psychological problems that they are experiencing, such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, suicide threats and preventions, and others. This VA Secretary needs to be questioned hard about all of these problems that I have mentioned on this comment.
    My husband is a 6 year veteran of the US Navy, and fortunately, he is getting some amount of good care and treatment at our VA facility here in Pinellas County, Florida–VA Bay Pines Medical Center. This VA center has a huge hospital, outpatient clinics, a brand new ER, a new exercise/nutrition program called MOVE for vets that need help in their nutrition and weight loss, a smoking cessation clinic, and the wait times have decreased a significant amount over the last couple of years or so. There is a problem with their psychology/psychiatry department in that they still do not have very good qualified therapists/doctors there that will try to help my husband get a true diagnosis for his anger problems, depression, and other emotional issues that have been stemming from his childhood and early adult years. We are still trying to get that resolved so that the verbal abuse that me and my son have been experiencing from him will stop. My hubby still needs some serious help in that area.
    Well, I gave you some great suggestions for your upcoming program about our US veterans. Hope you will use them! Thanks for supporting out military personnel, Phil! We need more people like you that will continue to do what you are doing to keep our vets going strong!
    GO USA!!!!!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  12. Chari Mercier says:

    Oh yeah, Phil! I forgot to mention that the VA also has a very nice, huge dorm for alot of VA veterans that need to be close to the clinics and hospital due to their severe medical problems; it’s like an ALF there. And, they do have Fisher House available for families of veterans living out of town to stay at while the vets receive their treatments at Bay Pines. There are plans for more buildings to be built in the next few years. A new psychological/psychiactric facility, and 3 more buildings for other procedures, treatments, and care that I can’t think of right now. They are in another building boom, and I think the stimulus money that the VA has received is helping with the building projects.
    Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be watching your programs!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  13. Chari Mercier says:

    One more thing, Dr. Phil! PLEASE ask the VA Secretary about why the veterans that deserve VA benefits for their disabilities have to wait for a year, 2 years, or even up to 5 years to get their money, and why so many that do deserve the benefits are constantly denied those benefits! That’s where alot of the suicide rates among veterans are centered at–those vets that are waiting for their VA disability money so tha they can live their lives and pay their bills! Grill him on that one as well!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  14. Linda RH says:

    Thank you for passing along the link, Dr Phil. I know the organization will get a wider exposure due to your participation. Our servicemen and -women need all of the support and attention we are able to give.

  15. Tsukihime says:

    I think the way America treats it’s veterans is sad. They do not get the medical care they deserve and our government should be ashamed of that treatment. I am not a vet but I do see the sub-standard treatment they receive at the place I work for, many vets have to depend on not-for-profit organizations because they can not afford anything else and they are not being taken care of in the manner they should be entitled to for protecting our freedoms and helping other countries.

  16. Linda says:

    That sounds like a good thing. I agree that you should show support even if the war was unpopular. It must be really hard beeing a 20 year old veteran who has lost a leg and an eye. So young and life will never be the same again.

  17. Linda says:

    I think you are probably not the type of person who saw Michael Moores movie Fahrenheit 9/11. But if you ever do, whatever you think of the movie, there is a woman in it called Lila Lipscomb who lost her son and I have really been wondering how she is doing now.

  18. Amanda Sperling says:

    I am lucky enough to live in Virginia and have the opportunity to go to Walter Reed Medical Center. It is such a moving experience every time I go, to hear the stories and offer up encouragement to these men and women who serve our country. Thank you so much for recognizing such an amazing group who offers help to these soliders. Sometimes we forget that they are off fighting while we are busy living our “everday” lives. We can not thank these people enough for all of the freedoms that they fight for, for us. God Bless our Soilders.

  19. Ann says:

    My Mother, Father, both of my Brothers, 3 uncles and 2 cousins are veterans. I have a nephew and a close neighbor’s son in the military right now. I may not support the war but I do support the troops that go in harm’s way. The military should take care of the troops that go where they are sent. These young men and women volunteer to join the military to protect us and others. It is time that the government that sends them takes care of them.

  20. Pat says:

    Dr. Phil,
    I am married to a disabled veteran (Vietnam) who is 100% permanent and total in his disability for PTSD. I also have worked for the VA going on 18 years. As part of my work with the VA I have had the privilege to process new patients into the VA when they are establishing their care for the first time or transfering their care from another VA. I would receive between 75-100 requests a week from those waiting to be seen in the VA. It was my job to make sure these veterans were scheduled within 30 days of their request after our admissions staff downloaded them into the computer system.

    With all that said I would like to bring to light things about the VA system that so many don’t know and are never told. In a comment above a poster wrote that our veterans have to wait months to be seen in a clinic. That was true of the past and may still be true in some VA’s but we are all mandated to get our veterans scheduled within 30 days of the submission of a “consult” requesting an appointment in whichever clinics they need to be seen. I know many VA’s go above and beyond to make this happen and the problem each VA has is the shortage of staff, space, funds, and equipment to met everyone’s needs. We are adding an average of 400-500 veterans each month to every VA and as wonderful as that is we are not adding staff or rooms to make sure they are seen within an adequate amount of time. Staff was working overtime to keep up with the backlog but that was cut because funds were not available.

    I totally support and encourage the work IraqStar is doing and believe me they are making strides where other groups have not been able to in the past but I would like to offer a suggestion so they do not spend funds on something the veteran can get through the VA. Every VA hospital is affiliated with a teaching hospital close to them. Staff from the teaching hospital are usually on staff as well at the VA Hospital. Many VA hosptials specialize in certain specialties such as transplants, blind center, PTSD, etc. The veteran could be worked up for a neurology issue and the VA doing the workup may feel he would benefit for treatment at a VA that specializes in their findings and the VA Social Worker will contact the other VA to coordinate a temporary transfer of care to the other VA.

    As for how can a veteran afford this care? Each veteran falls under a specific category priority level from 1-8. Prior to being seen at the VA they can ask to speak with the VA billing department to have potential bills outlined for them. This could provide great relief to the veteran and their family to have an understanding up front. There are so many things our veterans do not know or are not told about the VA and often the veteran has applied for care later in life only to learn that they have been eligible for many years. One important area that veterans lack in knowledge is that a veteran who is a receipient of the purple heart only receives a co-pay for medications. All medical care received at the VA is at no cost to them. This includes eye care (exam and glasses) and hearing care (test and hearing aides).

    Recently the VA opened up the category under priority 8 to veterans previously turned down for care at the VA because they made to much money. By doing this opportunities for many veterans unable to receive care was now made available to them.

    All of these changes are outstanding so we can care for our veterans better but at what cost to the limited resources and staff at the VA. Funding given to the VA for FY2009-2010 is significantly better than what was given in the past but the hoops the veteran has to jump through to get through the federal bureaucracy are the same hoops the VA Human Resources has to jump through to get new positions added. Oh, and please remember the VA does hire veterans first (including disabled veterans)!!!

    This posting can go on forever because the information is neverending and the system in getting set up at the VA is not user friendly. If I can stress one thing it is ask questions every step of the way. Go to the Patient Administration of the VA if you don’t know what something means or how it applies to your veteran and situation. Establish yourself with a VA Social Worker to assist the veteran and their family with their needs. Just please – don’t ever give up!!

  21. Krista Lewis says:

    I just wanted to show my deep respect and appreciation to Dr. Phil for covering this issue on the show and getting involved to help the cause. I am a wife of a Marine, and am so fortunate to have him healthy and alive. Even though my husband may be lucky, we know many people who have not been as lucky as us. We have friends who have been discharged after being injured in Iraq, we hear about Marines (or other military members) who are injured while at war and are sent home and discharged after 16 years of committed service. They are given $16,000 and sent on their way.
    The get lost in the system at the VA clinics. They fall through the cracks and are seen as a burden to many workers at the clinics. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!! They served our country and were injured (if not killed) while fighting our war and we throw them away.
    I am 28 years old and had gone to school for nursing and worked in the field for multiple years. After learning more about all this going on I went back to school. I no longer am interested in nursing, I decided to go to pursue my PhD in Psychology to counsel military members with PTSD in a group or individual setting, for free.
    Because of your show last year, I am going to do everything in my ability to help the situation. I am sure, and very much hope, your show affected many more to do the same.
    Thank you! Great topic!

  22. Marrit says:

    Hello dr. Phil,

    Why are you and the rest of America still keeping up appearances.
    I live in the Netherlands and it makes me very angry that people are still denying the only one benefitting from this war, are the big moneymakers. You are destroying an ancient culture, distroying homes of people who were allready very poor. You might think your god is with you, but god doesn’t live in Iraq. Allah’s the boss over there. The worst thing about it I think, is that because America can manipulate Europe with our many depts, we are also forced to send troops. We have nothing to do with your stupid war and there is NOTHING that America can be proud of. America is a joke, build on air.
    I can understand the shame is too big to ever admit you’re wrong. But respect, especialy for veterans and soldiers, is the very last thing you can exspect from anyone but yourselves.
    But it’s never too late to make things better.


  23. Joy Morrw says:

    Thank you to all who serve our country. You are the unsung heros.

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