From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Have Written To Mrs. Obama on Behalf of the Needs of a Soldier

The difficulties facing our Veterans, particularly those of the present conflict continue to perplex me.  So much of it is unnecessary.  So much of it appears to me, and to many of them, to be either attempts by our government to discourage their seeking benefits, or either a problem with those persons working for the VA which causes them to participate in power mongering at the expense of Soldiers.

Mrs Obama has been an advocate  for the military and their families, and a particular situation has come to my attention that has left a Soldier and his family frustrated as they seek care for what has to be a TBI injury.  A person doesn't go through 7 IED explosions, which are direct hits on the vehicle he is riding in, with one of those explosions rolling an up-armored vehicle without sustaining TBI.  The repercussion alone would create such an injury.  For well over a year, possibly two, this young husband and father has been seeking help for this injury and the migraine head aches that plague him.  Well, as you read my letter to Mrs. Obama, you will come to understand the difficulties he has encountered, and you will be able to understand the frustration that follows the rejection of his claim.  He needs treatment now rather than later, and the respect this country owes him in the face of this injury.  He and his family have sacrificed much for us all, and I am asking Mrs. Obama to use her influence as a true supporter of the military and their families to  intervene on his behalf.  He has exhausted the regular channels, and suffered indignation as he did so.  I will mail the letter this evening, and post here the response I receive.  Of course I have removed his name, not that he would not allow me to use it if I made that request, as he is indeed a courageous hero of this nation, always willing to make a stand.  The letter reads as follows:

Dear Mrs. Obama,

My name is Debra LeCompte, my husband served in the United States Army for 30 years, and retired last June as a colonel.  He grew up in very difficult circumstances in New Orleans. He joined his high school ROTC, unit and he credits the accomplishments of his life to the blessing God brought in an appointment to West Point.  When he arrived at West Point and began his education, he realized that even though he had graduated as Valedictorian of his class in New Orleans, he did not have the education of other freshmen entering West Point.  He knew that the appointment to West Point was the single greatest opportunity he would ever be presented with, and determined no matter what it took, he would excel and not waste one of this country’s greatest honors at being nominated.  He did well, graduating in the top five percent of his class.   President Ronald Reagan was serving in the presidency at the time and presented him with his diploma. 

The education and examples of exemplary living that he found at West Point, along with his faith in God, have been the guidance of a life so well lived.  His last assignments were in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served as the Deputy Program Director for LOGCAP during the surge.  He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his service in Afghanistan and a Meritorious Honor Award from DOS for his service in Iraq.  He was deployed for two straight years in theater, came home in early April of last year, and returned to Iraq with the State Department to continue his work in transitioning contractor services from the military to the Department of State.  In June he received a Legion of Merit for his 30 years of exemplary and honorable service upon his retirement.

The purpose of my letter is not to honor my husband, but to borrow his credentials to tell you of a situation with a young Soldier who has given so much, and that needs help.  When we bought our home place here in Texas, we were aware, because of his service and my work with the Family Readiness Group, that there are so many Soldiers suffering from PTSD and TBI.  All the military and their families are laboring under the longest war our country has ever known.  It is a great burden borne on behalf of so many, by so few.  We saw in this property that it offered such a peaceful rural setting, and the community where it is situated seems to step back in time to a much more simple and earnest environment.  We decided to develop a small retreat for the military and their families and I have spent the years my husband Randy has been deployed doing that.  We have had many Soldiers and their families here to stay in the little cabins we placed on the property, and the horses and other animals, wildlife, pond, and woods do indeed seem to strike some cord which has the ability to restore Soldiers’ confidence.

We have had experience with Soldiers who committed suicide, and with the families they have left behind, and the statistics of the suicide rate among our military breaks our hearts.  As I said, one young Soldier, who can no longer serve because of his PTSD and other physical disabilities, is the subject of my letter.  His name is ________.  He participated in well over 400 combat missions in two separate deployments to Iraq, the kind where the Soldier carries a gun and kicks in doors, the most difficult and dangerous type of service.   My husband and I sat on our couch while my husband was home on leave on New Year’s Eve of 2010 and ____ began telling us the story of his service at 10p.m.  He stopped at 4a.m. too exhausted to go on.  I know of all the wonderful programs that exist to assist Soldiers, but for some reason, Soldiers cannot or will not readily tell the paid professionals the story of what happened to them in war.  They will to an old colonel sitting in his den in worn out blue jeans and a T-shirt, or the wife, who is also a mother of a Soldier.  They seem to wish to hide from their own family members the horrors of their experiences, and I have heard so many that my soul groans with the weight of the information, but someone they trust must listen.  One of our two son-in-laws who have served was blown off a recon vehicle he was refueling by mortar fire in Iraq in 2003, and then wounded in his left shoulder by rifle fire as he lay on the ground.  He went through a long recovery at Ft. Sam Houston, but never told his mother he had been wounded, to spare her.  That is the thinking of a lot of Soldiers.  To this day she does not know he was ever wounded.

Again this letter is about the struggles of ___________.  During his missions, vehicles he was riding in hit IEDs on 7 occasions.  On one of those occasions, the up-armored vehicle he was riding in rolled.  In recent situations the response of the military has been better, but at the time _____ was serving, the medic looked at the Soldiers, found no bleeding or broken bones, and sent them back to duty.  The harsh realities of TBI were not known at that time.  Another tragic piece of the situation with _____ is that the Army lost his entire file for the year of service he had when he experienced the roll over.  All he has is the journal he kept, and some photos, which the VA has pronounced inadequate, “anyone can write up a journal.”   This young man has suffered the unseen wounds of the battle field so harshly that he was hospitalized at the Temple VA for four months in the psych unit trying to get a grasp on the PTSD that tortured him.  He has had to have back surgery, I believe he is only 28 or 29 years old, but the surgery has not brought much relief.  He suffers from extreme migraines, and when he went to the VA to have this evaluated and treatment for TBI, he was told of the lost records, and that he would have to prove that the IEDs and the roll over happened, thus qualifying his injury as service related.  This absolutely slays me.  I am certain there are payroll records, showing him deployed during the time frame he speaks of.  He was told he could get sworn statements from the other six Soldiers who were riding in the vehicle with him when the roll over occurred.  He tracked down their last known addresses and phone numbers and began trying to contact them and request the sworn statements.  He found that 3 of them had later been killed in Iraq at various times.  The other Soldier he was able to locate, with whom he was the closest, hung up the phone on him.  He had lost his family after coming home and suffering from PTSD, and  no longer has visitation rights with his daughters.  Searching for Soldiers to provide sworn statements by _____ ended with that call.  It was just too painful to pursue. 

I realize the urgency of the battlefield, but it is unforgivable that records of each injury or incident, each trip to a medic, are not recorded to become a permanent part of a Soldier’s record.  Certainly there is no excuse for losing an entire year’s record of service.  These young men are part of a “band of brothers,” and they will push on when they shouldn’t and don’t even realize that they have sustained injury.  _____ was wounded in each of those explosions; that is why he had to have back surgery.  Also it is why at less than 30 years old, he suffers as he does.  Just recently after moving from Ft. Polk, Louisiana to Georgia, (his wife just left active duty military service with the Army, this family has just given all they have to give,) he went to the VA to have his medications he takes for PTSD refilled.  They were prescribed by the physicians of the VA in Texas.  The physician he saw in Georgia said he would refill them for 30 days, but that he did not want to, as he felt the dosages were too high.  ______ had been on these medications for at least two years, with them providing relief from the darkest of his symptoms.  He was hospitalized under the close supervision of a team of health care professionals when he was put on these medications.  In my opinion, the VA in Georgia should respect the professionals of the VA in Texas.  It is difficult on these Soldiers when there is refusal like this, and disagreement on prescribed therapies.  It just doesn’t inspire confidence in those professionals paid to provide care for our military veterans.  He now is seeing a private physician who recognizes this fact and prescribes the medications the VA will no longer provide, based on the opinion of a VA doctor who has seen him one time.  When a Soldier suffers from the wounds of battle, and is always chasing paper work in an exhausting and often futile effort, there is a sense they are not believed, and many simply give up. It appears to them that is what the government is really after, because all of the care of the wounded is expensive.  It feels like our government is being difficult and demanding in order to wear them out, and make them give up their claims, and many do, unable or unwilling to battle the country they have served.

When Soldiers and their families come to our little retreat, they stay at our hospitality; the only charge is they must tell me a story of their service.  For some that is very easy, for others, even though they long to tell, it is too difficult, and I tell them, “well next time you have to tell me a service story.”  It was that way with ______, he explained he had never told anyone the things that he had seen, done, and had happened to him.  There exists a stigma, which can attach to these young heroes among Americans who are not familiar with just what war costs those who do the fighting, when they are told the real details of war. 

I finally arrive at the purpose of this letter, but I guess it is difficult for me as well, and I am careful who I tell what I know too, just as the Soldiers are.  _____ deserves, and must have treatment for the wounds he sustained in those explosions.  Any person with any education at all knows that when a person is in the center of an explosion, such as produced by IEDs on the battlefield in Iraq, they sustain internal injuries. The brain is shaken like a yolk inside an egg by the repercussion.  Seven explosions with one roll over in an up-armored vehicle is like being inside a cement truck with the barrel rolling.  This country must not neglect or ignore what this young man has given.  There is so much more to his story, suffering in every area of his life.   He lost his first wife because of his service and deployment; many young women just cannot handle the stresses of military life.  I am asking that you bring your influence to bear on his case.  That you ask the proper authorities to accurately evaluate his claim, to find the records he was in no position to keep while he carried a gun, kicked open doors, routed out the enemy, and ran over IEDs.   Also this bureaucracy must live up to the responsibilities that this government and the people of this country owe those willing to stand in the gap. 

When my husband was again home right after his discharge, he gave a speech on Memorial Day at the local American Legion, and _____ and his family had driven in from Ft. Polk for another visit.  My husband had asked ______ if he ever received his purple heart.  ______ told him that as far as the Army was concerned, he suffered no wounds in the war zone.  My husband fulfilled a very critical role in Afghanistan and Iraq during his deployments there, and many grateful officers presented him with coins.  He received well over 70, and among his collection was a wooden coin given out by a CSM that had a purple heart on it.  My husband had become very close to this Soldier, a colonel always appreciates a good Command Sergeant Major, and they are the backbone of the military in his opinion.  My husband called _____ to the podium in front of an audience of about 200 local citizens and presented the wooden coin to him, there wasn’t a dry eye there as the old cliche goes.   ______carries that coin in his wallet.  We would very much like to see this young man presented with the real Purple Heart his service deserves.  If there is any paperwork that needs to be filled out, my husband is a man of outstanding honor, and he will gladly do the work to research and correctly complete all documentation.

About a year into the first deployment of my husband, I began to write poetry.  I had to find my own outlet for the stories and images of war.  In June of 2010 I attended a Commander’s Conference at Rock Island Arsenal, and as a part of the educational information provided for spouses, two women spoke to us.  One was the wife of a fallen Soldier and one was the mother of a fallen Soldier.  The wife told of her love for her husband, how happy they were, how she loved the military life and her own role of a Soldier’s wife.  She also told of how about two weeks before her husband was killed, she knew he going to die.  She said she tried to brush it off, chalk it up as stress, but kept watching out her window for the “green suiter and the chaplain.”  On the plane back to Texas I wrote my first poem, “The News.”  I am sharing these words with you because you have shown such support for the families of the military.  You have been for me the colonel who sat on his couch far into the night listening to the difficulties of this service.  As I have watched you serve as the First Lady, I have been somewhat aware of your own sacrifices for this country.  I know how strong of a woman it takes, and I would like to offer you some of the words of my heart as well, as evidence that I have great personal understanding of your life, and I am very appreciative of your willingness to assume the role you have.  Military families everywhere are so grateful to you.  So in sincerity and great respect I offer you poetry on war written by a Soldier’s wife.

With Deep Regards,



Debra LeCompte


 
The News

Oh Woman, Woman, why do you wait?
There stands no person at your gate.

Oh Woman, Woman, why is the tear in your eye?
He promised he’d be home, bye and bye,

Oh Woman, Woman, why do you turn your ear?
What soft voice is it that you hear?

Oh Woman, Woman, why does your heart lurch?
It is only a man coming from the church.

Oh Woman, Woman, now I see there are two.
One in a green uniform with something sad he must do.

Oh Woman, Woman, now I definitely know,
How hard will be the way that you must go.

Oh Woman, Woman, surely you remember,
That he promised love like yours is forever tender.

Oh Woman, Woman, the wait is so short.
He’s only gone before you for heaven’s report.


 
If


If there stood before me 1000 men,

Each of whose lives I had observed again and again.


If I had watched them closely at command,

Of Soldiers, equipment, and resources try to meet war’s great demands.


If I knew their lives, credentials, and previous work,

 How they handled things, and I were privy to each little quirk.


If the fate of personal liberty, the freedom of us all, 

Hung in the balance, and without the right leadership would forever fall.


If there would be before us, only one chance, 

To meet in battle some terrible foe, and the art of war to dance.


If by the wisdom and expertise of only one man,

The defenses of our country would fail or stand.


If you, my love, stood among those men in their rows,

The one whom no other I have ever loved so.


If somehow it were my duty the right decision to deliver,

My mind could easily make the choice, but my heart would quiver.


If I knew the man I chose would never come home,

Could I give what it cost, the most valuable thing I own?


If in my decision, would the moral courage by which I have watched you live,

Empower me to do the right thing, and the sacrifice to give?


If as I considered all that lay in the balance, to me you would clearly state,

What your own choice would be and how you would face your fate. 


If, as I know would happen, I knew who stood above the rest.

Could I, in selfishness, select the one who was second best?


If there stood before me 1000 men,

This I pray before God, that I never will know how it ends 


Please pray that Mrs. Obama will read my words and be moved to action on 

behalf of this young man, sending a message to all who serve them, that 

the American people will not stand idly by while the needs of those who have 

served go unmet.