Army Wounded Warriors Project: One soldier makes his way through the system
Richard W Smith, First Sergeant, United States Army (Retired)
Janie Smith, Founder, Author of HOPE Beyond Trauma;
OHIO Regional Leader, HirePatriots.com
This will be the first in a series.
The Army touts how well they are doing, how well they are committed to taking care of the soldiers who have suffered during the past 10 years of warfare. A General Officer comes forward and says that he suffers from PTSD and that the Army is going to be making changes. All kinds of programs are developed and are put in place.
Well, as usual, the Army strikes again…so much for Wounded Warriors. One soldier, a Staff Sergeant with 16 years of service has six, count ‘em six combat tours, five in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
In April 2004, during his second deployment, he was hit by an IED. They put band aids on his wounds gave him a Purple Heart and put him back to duty…but they forgot to give him his Combat Action Badge as it could not be verified that he was in combat…even though he got a Purple Heart.
In 2006, when he returned from his 4th deployment, he sought help at Ft Hood, TX and was diagnosed with PTSD. They held him back for a year gave him medications and some counseling but then transferred him to the 4th Infantry Division in time to deploy for another year tour, his fifth tour in Iraq. Two doctors stated that he should not go, they are over ruled. He is given medications and sent yet again into combat.
He comes home from deployment and is transferred to Ft Carson, CO. He was told it would be a two year stabilized tour. He is there for four months and is told the unit is deploying. This time, he is being sent to Afghanistan for a year. While there, he was awarded a Bronze Star.
When he returns from his sixth tour, he knows his issues are worsening and seeks help. He calls Military One Source and they tell him they cannot help him since he had a previous PTSD diagnosis. He is assigned to Hawaii at Schofield Barracks and told this is a non-deployable unit. He reports in and is immediately informed that in the following year the unit is deploying to Guam for a year tour.
The good news is that they won’t be shooting back at him, the bad news is that he will be not be able to get the counseling he desperately needs. He sees a therapist in Hawaii; this therapist says that it may not be PTSD but a personality disorder. Personality disorder diagnosis is currently popular with the Army as a good way of discharging soldiers and cutting their forces to meet the draw-down mandate.
Who is to be believed, the original therapist who diagnosed the problem as PTSD? They needed soldiers NOW so forget two doctor’s recommendations that he should not go. Or the current therapist who comes up with the possible diagnosis of personality disorder so that he can be booted from the Army after 16 years of honorable service to our country. He didn’t have a personality disorder for 16 years of service.
Amazing isn’t it, he was good for combat…but not so now they need to get rid of a thousands of soldiers, 80,000 to be exact. What a GREAT way to thank our men and women for their service and keeping our country safe.
How many soldiers are “fine” after six combat tours or after one or two combat tours? It’s time to stand up for them and take care of them. When they call for help, they need help NOW. The process of asking for help is not an easy process. By the time the soldier gets the courage to ask for help, he has needed help for a very long time.
The sad point here, it’s not only this soldier that needs help, there are many others like him that need assistance. Asking for help is an extremely hard step due to the attached stigma. Once they have asked for assistance, the process should be made easy for them to navigate. We should be helping them every step of the way. They shouldn’t have to fight a bureaucracy that is often way too difficult for most people to travel.
This war has been carried on the shoulders of only 1% of our country’s population. 1% has answered the call. Too many of our military men and women are committing suicide daily, landing in jail or prison, divorce rates are extremely high, cannot find a good job today because they cannot get the help they need when they need it.
What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with the greatest nation on earth that our country cannot serve our veterans and their families in their darkest and most needed hour?
I will keep all posted. I appreciate your comments, both positive and negative. Thanks. See you in a week.