This morning as I was speaking with a Soldier friend he related his “frustration of the day.” I call it that, because he is in the process of getting his permanent medical profile as he makes his temporary leave from service permanent. He has been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury.) At this point the following should be noted: As I write this blog this morning I am having to discipline myself not to veer off in a ranting tirade, and these things aren’t even happening to me, I can barely cope as I write. Before I finish telling this “story,” I pose the question I am again going to ask after I finish telling the facts. WHAT CAN BE DONE, BY WHOM, RIGHT NOW, AND HOW DID THIS SITUATION OCCUR IN THE FIRST PLACE.
I am going to post two “reply to the question” boxes on the blog, one for responses from those serving, or who have served, with the military, and one for those of us, the protected. I am asking everyone I know to read this, and to pass it on. Please post a link on every military site you know of. Please pass it on to each individual Soldier or Service Person from any branch you know or are acquainted with. Someone, somewhere, needs to intervene, not only in this situation, but in the tangled process that a Soldier and his family must go through in order to out process from the military. Accountability must be built in to the process so that all the different individuals, units, and institutions that are required to input information, can not, put off, lose on their desk, fail to file, or otherwise be the hold up or what causes the paperwork to be kicked back. This process is incredibly difficult and stressful, and in some cases without precedents and or responsible handling of records by the military. Many times in frustration a Soldier will just give up rights and benefits due them to have the process over with. The Army is always doing a study to figure out how best to problem solve. I realize the Army is the largest employer in the world, and by that definition, has the largest statistical and information storing problems of any employer. However, the nature of the impact of being employed by the Army, to conduct war, makes it critical that the Army do this flawlessly. That is not the case as you will see from the following.
As this young family man, whose wife is currently serving Active Duty Army, cares for their two small and energetic children at home, his day is filled with calls to different entities within the Army, as he begs for the documents required for his medical board. Each day there is a new difficulty. He has told me of completely discharging a fully charged phone before the end of the day as he is shuffled from person to person seeking the records. That does not take into account the times he doesn’t reach a person, only voice mail where he leaves a message, many of which he never receives a return call.
This Soldier served as a “gunner.” He participated in 455 combat missions. I need to type that again… my heart and mind demand it… 455 combat missions. Seven times his vehicle was hit by an IED, yet by the casual outward appearance, he is young, healthy, and strong. A very recent physical exam as he sought treatment for his migraine head-aches, which have been assumed caused by the seven IEDs, may in fact be the result of a neck injury. This injury, the physician speculates, was sustained in a roll over of the humvee he was riding in, caused by one of the IEDs in 2004. The Soldier tells me he saw the medic, who did a physical exam, and pronounced him fit to return to duty, and he did. No X-rays or hospital visit was made at the time of the incident… he just went “back to work.”
Paper work was filled out and turned in, and the Soldier went on about the business of conducting war against the enemy. Now, all these years later, he had to request the report on this incident… I know you military guys are already ahead of me here… absolutely no record exists of this incident anywhere…
Not to worry the Army says, all the Soldier has to do is get sworn statements from those in the vehicle at the time… Three are dead, later casualties of the war. The Soldier called one man, “he has some issues,” and he hung up on the Soldier saying, “I don’t want to talk about these things.” Later he did make contact again and the man indicated he would consider it. This other Soldier well remembers and admits to remembering the incident, it is just so difficult for him to allow the memories to the forefront of his mind. He lost his family when he came home, because he suffers from PTSD, and that issue was used against him in court, and he is denied visitation rights to his daughters. I don’t know about your mind… but mine is screaming right now… about what I am not even sure. I just know something is terribly, terribly, wrong here.
As the Soldier this is happening to, explained all this to me, his voice was calm, but he told me, “you can’t imagine how frustrating all this is.” He really does put forth effort diligent effort daily, and is blessed to have a case worker who is a stand up kind of ex-Soldier, doing her very best at every avenue to help him and his family. The Soldier is wrong about one thing… I can imagine for frustrating this must be… I just can’t figure out ho I would deal with what my imagination tells me, were it I who was involved in this struggle.
That even one Soldier struggles in this manner causes a feeling to sweep over me of great personal shame. I am not a part of the system that causes this Soldier and his family this burden, but I am an American who “sleeps soundly in my bed” each night because of men and women like this Soldier. Therefore, I consider it my sacred duty to seek assistance in this situation, and I offer the problem to the military community, and Americans everywhere for help in problem solving. I offer it as well, to remind the Army, all the military, all Americans, and all the world, what so few are sacrificing for so many of us. Humanity, and its’ existence, continues because the mad tyrants and radicals of the world are held at bay by these few.
Since his physician is certain that this incident is in all likelihood what caused his neck injury, and the migraines he suffers from now, he must have records, and the Army has failed to maintain those records. So, again I ask, what would each of you suggest as the solution for this young Soldier to obtain the needed proof the Army requires, that in 2004, while serving with the United States Army in Iraq, his humvee hit an IED, and rolled? Also, what can be done to ensure that another young Soldier never again faces having to replace documentation that should have been maintained by the United States Army, especially under circumstances such as these.