For Soldiers, Sperm Banking Could Be the New Flack Jacket

Soldiers arriving home with missing or mutilated genitals have drown attention to the lack of government support for in vitro fertilization

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An upsurge of genital injuries amongst Afghanistan vets is becoming the new “signature wound” of the war. But soldiers arriving home with these injuries have drawn attention to the lack of government support for in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination using donated sperm, which costs up to $7,000 per procedure.

A new policy highlights these grievances, as reported by the Huffington Post:

The policy authorizes payment for some reproductive procedures for the first time, including limited in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination. But it also specifically excludes covering males who cannot produce sperm. “Third-party donations and surrogacy are not covered benefits,” the policy states firmly.

The average age of soldiers with genital wounds is 24, and the majority of them are married.

Since 2005, at least 1,875 American troops have suffered genital wounds, including 51 so far this year. They are among the 34,440 American battle casualties caused by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, a grim toll that includes over 3,000 dead and 31,394 wounded through May, according to the most recent Defense Department data.

Some soldiers who returned from war with missing or damaged genitals regret not freezing some of their sperm before being deployed, and think the practice should be made mandatory or at least discussed for those going to war, as one veteran told author Bob Drury.

“Nobody wants to talk about it, but the who have been deployed to Afghanistan are telling others about to be deployed to store their sperm. That thought had never occurred to me. But I tell my friends going on their second or third deployments, ‘Hey, store some in case.’ I wish I had. I wish the army had made me.”

In the worst case scenario, freezing sperm also ensures that a grieving widow still has the option of having children with her dead husband.

As NPR notes, for those who do lose their genitals, the psychological consequences are often equally if not more serious than their lost capacity to produce sperm.

One of the things reported back is that soldiers and Marines are signing do-not-resuscitate pacts — in the event that they lose their genitals, they don’t want to live. … It does reflect a deep fear among many troops that they, in essence, lose their manhood.

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