"In 2000 ... [military] health care was about $19 billion," said Mullen. "This year it's $51 billion. In three or four years it's going to be $64 billion. That's not sustainable. We're going to have to figure out how to contain that."
Caregivers say the costs of ignoring invisible injuries such as PTSD and TBI is even greater.
"We have a model of what we did wrong after Vietnam. This is like turning the Titanic before the storm," said military wife and advocate Kristina Kaufmann, who has known at least three military wives who have committed suicide themselves due to the stresses of war. "It's pay now or pay later."
Dr. Kimberly RyAnne Noss, military wife of a severely wounded veteran, said the play hit home for her, too, especially the scene in which a military wife says she never cries in front of others -- always alone in the bathroom.
"Our civilian counterparts are finally getting it," Noss said. "They're finally getting what we're going through."
"Re-Entry" has been perfomed at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center; the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va.; and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C., where the command made attendance by its 750 Marines mandatory. In September, the play will run at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Sanchez says that will be the real test for the play, since Marines there have served the most deployments to Afghanistan. Sanchez herself is the youngest of 12 children, with five brothers who served in the military.
Sanchez says that so far, military audiences have been supportive -- "lots of huahs, hoots and hollers." The play has received standing ovations at all but one base. She said that although generals have attended the performances, the most important audience members were the service members who were dealing with the very things in the play. Sanchez said one retired Marine brought his family, because he couldn't directly discuss the issues with them.
"I always believed that theater could have a restorative role in society. I just never imagined it would be this literal," said Sanchez.
The play will return to the Washington, D.C. area in October, to the Roundhouse Theater in Bethesda.