Note: This is the sanitized version of an e-mail that I received last night from a OIF 05 and OIF 07 Veteran Army Officer who has been awarded two Bronze Star Medals for his service in Iraq and was Medivac’d out of Iraq during his second tour when he was diagnosed with an exceptionally rare incurable and eventually fatal lung disorder that he contracted in Iraq with two separate Brigade Combat Teams. Since then he has developed other medical conditions brought on by his lack of pulmonary function. He is in process of being medically boarded out of the Army and is despairing to the point of having suicidal thoughts and ideations, wondering if it would be better for him to die on active duty so his wife and child would have a better financial support than if he waited to die a few years from now as a medical retiree. I was able to contact this officer to listen to him at length this morning and afternoon. He has agreed to get help for these thoughts and I have given him the means to contact me any time and he has contracted with me to get help, I suggested a trip to his local medical facility Emergency Room. He has given me permission to share this as he no longer feels protected enough by the Army to say it on his blog. Please pray for this man and take care of the Combat Veterans, active duty, disabled or retired that you know. His letter follows.
Dear Padre Steve,
This is why I am not posting on line…(I would say things like the following…)
I really do not know how much more I can take! I am beaten down, first by my own body and the diseases that are exacting a high price; second by the fight waged to receive some kind of medical care; third by the callus medical care provided; fourth by the institution of the Army attitude and treatment of “broken” people; by how the institution seeks to downplay and disregard the sacrifices of those who have sacrificed so much–by trivializing the toll of the disease–especially when not clearly visible.
Without a thirteen round prize fight the Army will throw me off the back of metaphoric 5-ton and act like they are doing me a favor by slowing down to 55 mph! “Look, you worthless scum-bag, we are doing you a favor by slowing down. Don’t, worry, you should be OK…we will try and get you off to the side so the tank does not role over you…”
The system, and the people within it, constantly questions your “worthiness” of any consideration. Then if you insist on getting help for things that you know are wrong with you they double and triple question as if there is no way you could be telling the truth.
It is easy to say that I am at my wits end with all of what is going on in my life lately. The constant fight to receive what is necessary right is darning. I have been dealing with this callused indifference since being Medivac’d in the middle of my second Iraq tour. The system seems to be designed to wear you down so that rather than continuing to fight for the care that you need, just take what little the Army is willing to give. I found out this week that after I am med-boarded out of the service that I will have to fight the Army all over again to be able to keep my Army benefits when I apply to the VA. This is happening despite the fact that the Congress recently allowed for this compensation for veterans.
Will justice EVER be given? At what price?
Does the “Army” GIVE A DAMN!? The short answer is NO! There may be some individuals who do. What is experienced is the Teflon affect. Not many, if any, are willing to get dirty and fight for or on behalf on another. People end up getting treated as paper and numbers–not the individual they are, or for the sacrifices they have made. The individual is trivialized through the bureaucratic process that most involved in processing hide behind to separate them from the reality and often pain experienced by those suffering in the system.
I have recently started trying to get help from my PTSD. A board certified Army physician that I wrote a consult for me to see someone. I was contacted and told that the people who run the program here no longer take appointments or consults and that I would have to be “triaged” by a medical or psych tech to get an appointment that might be 3 months from now? I might be dead by then. I don’t feel safe.
People may listen, but they usual will not, cannot, or do not know what to do. So trying to get help is like trying to find a particular molecule of water in the ocean.
This process SUCKS. It is worse than my first, very trauma filled, combat tour in Iraq (OIF 05-07). It is demoralizing. I squarely wish I had lost my legs them the lung function that I have lost!
I am an officer with TWO BRONZE STARS for my Iraq service. I gave all that I had and my honesty, integrity and faith in the Army that I joined is being called into question. If it is happening to me, what is happening to junior personnel? Who is their advocate? Is it any wonder that soldiers are committing suicide and unheard of rates? Shit I have even counted up the money and figured that my family would be better off if I died on active duty than after my medical retirement. What the hell is up with that? Why should I have to die for the Army to take care of my family?
What do I have to do to be heard? Does God even care? I’m just asking. Thanks for listening.
Joe Smith (a pseudonym)