S.C. rep. fights to expand vet cemetery
Posted : Saturday Dec 27, 2008 15:38:18 EST
BEAUFORT, S.C. — Rep. Joe Wilson has written two bills to expand Beaufort National Cemetery less than a year after he refused to support the effort as he fought earmarks.
The Republican backs buying a 5-acre apartment complex and studying what other land might be available to expand the Civil War era veterans cemetery, saying the purchase will assure the cemetery doesn’t run out of room until well after 2030.
“That cemetery is a national shrine. From what I understand, that property is for sale, but it’s only available for a certain period of time, so there is a sense of urgency here. Land is valuable everywhere, but it’s especially valuable in Beaufort. This property would enhance the aesthetics of the cemetery and square off the cemetery,” Wilson told The Beaufort Gazette.
A panel of retired military officials trying to figure out how to expand the cemetery, which currently has nearly 20,000 graves, recommend the federal government buy the apartment complex land for $3.2 million in March, but Wilson refused, citing a one-year moratorium on all earmark requests to his office.
At the time, Wilson said it wasn’t a rejection of the idea, but instead “a response to a wasteful system that does not reward merit and which puts well-deserving projects at a disadvantage.”
Wilson was re-elected to his fourth full term in November in his toughest race since winning the seat in a special election in 2001.
Even with Wilson’s backing, the cemetery will likely not get the money because it has expanded twice in recent years, said Bernie Bowse, director of the cemetery.
“If it’s between our cemetery, which has more than 20 to 30 years of burial space available, and another cemetery that only has another year of burial space, the VA will have to prioritize,” said Bowse, who added he appreciated Wilson’s efforts.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
S.C. rep. fights to expand vet cemetery
Friday, December 26, 2008
Closing brain injury center in Austin would be a mistake
If Veterans Affairs shuts down brain injury research project in Austin, it would be a setback for veterans with signature wound from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Without a clear explanation, Veterans Affairs bureaucrats are considering shutting down an Austin program to study brain injuries. In a letter that should be clear enough to even the most impervious of functionaries, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. R-Texas, calls the contemplated closure a mistake.
We not only agree but also call upon the VA to explain in detail why the action is contemplated in the first place.
Cornyn's letter, dated Thursday, was addressed to VA Secretary James Peake. The secretary got another letter on Friday from U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Michael McCaul, R-Austin; Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio; and John Carter, R-Round Rock, urging that the center, initiated in 2006, remain operational.
Closing the program, Cornyn wrote, "would represent a squandered opportunity to better understand (traumatic brain injury) a signature wound of our nation's military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and improve the lives of those who suffer from it."
The joint letter from the congressmen notes: "Without proper diagnosis and treatment, TBI can lead to increased risk of suicide, family problems, and often abuse and homelessness. Without question, these men and women need and deserve improved TBI diagnosis and treatment."
The Brain Imaging and Recovery Laboratory is a multimillion-dollar collaboration involving the University of Texas and the VA and was set up to investigate brain injuries. Beset with problems that prompted the agency's Office of Inspector General to issue a critical report, the center, housed at the University of Texas' J.J. Pickle Research Campus, has yet to deliver on its potential. The same can be said of the sluggish Veterans Affairs bureaucracy, but no right-thinking person would propose shutting the VA down.
The notion to close the center surfaced in a meeting with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, but a cogent explanation for why the center should be closed has yet to be disclosed.
There is a definite need for that kind of research, as Cornyn noted in his letter to Peake: "\u2026 an estimated 320,000 troops who have deployed to (Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001) — representing nearly one in five — have experienced a probable traumatic brain injury (TBI) during deployment, and the numbers continue to grow."
The research not only could benefit wounded veterans but anyone who suffered a brain injury.
The center has a legitimate purpose. If that purpose has been distorted or not properly executed, then by all means fix it. To shut the center down without proper justification would be, as the Texas lawmakers say, a colossal mistake.
It would be morally wrong to shut down this project at time when the nation is facing the tremendous amount of TBI injuries returning home from Iraq and the exposures to IEDs and the brain trauma caused over the past 5 years, because the management did not like what this doctor did, because of their inept management, so hurt the injured soldiers by closing down one of the projects that can help them in retaliation, who gets hurt, DR Bovin or the soldiers or both, how about hurting the management instead.
Obama with troops on Christmas
KAILUA, Hawaii — President-elect Barack Obama spent over an hour greeting service men and women as they ate Christmas dinner at the mess hall on a military base about ten minutes from the beachfront home where his family is vacationing over the holidays.
It was Obama’s first formal meet-and-greet with rank-and-file members of the military since winning the election. He thanked them for their service and wished them a Merry Christmas. Obama took his time shaking hands and making small talk with the diners, who represented seven Marine and Navy units.
“Good to see you man," Obama said to one.
"Thanks for your service," he said to another.
Wearing dark khaki slacks and a short-sleeve blue button-down shirt, Obama entered Anderson Hall on Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe Bay shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday.
Obama worked the left side of the room, where diners sat at about 25 tables with red or white table cloths, “Seasons Greetings” placemats and green napkins. They had already filled their plates at the buffet with traditional Christmas fare — turkey, roast beef, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and, adding a splash of local flavor, pineapple.
Some of them were joined by their families. Many appeared to be in their early 20s at most. Others were elderly, perhaps retired from the military.
The president-elect stopped to talk for as long as a minute at some tables. He nodded and placed both of his hands on his hips as he listened. He posed for photos.
"Hey guys," Obama said to a table. "Where are you from?"
ESPN's NFL highlights played in the background on about ten flat screen TVs hanging throughout the long, rectangular room.
As Obama approached another table of four young men, one of them had a newspaper clipping for him to sign. The president-elect appeared to inquire where each hailed from as well. "So this is the East Coast table," he said as he shook one of their hands.
Reporters were only allowed inside the mess hall for seven of the 68 minutes Obama spent greeting diners there. During that time they were clustered at a distance from the president-elect and could only hear bits and pieces of the conversations he was having at the tables.
But the service men and women seemed to enjoy having Obama crash their Christmas dinner — even though he didn’t eat.
Some seemed to be sending text messages from their cell phones when it became clear Obama was about to enter the room. They rose to their feet when Obama approached their tables and extended his hand.
"Congratulations," one of the service members said as Obama greeted his table.
One elderly woman with two orange leis hanging from her wrist stood up briefly when it seemed the president-elect was coming toward her table. But she sat back down when he went to a different one
Meanwhile, a crowd of about 50 people waited for the president-elect outside the mess hall, where a red sign on the wall listed holiday hours as 15:00 - 17:00.
Obama was speaking with two men in uniform as he left the hall around 5:15 p.m. He waved to the people who had gathered and said hello before heading back to his vacation home for his own family Christmas dinner.
He's not even the President yet, but he takes time out of his vacation to spend a few holiday moments with some troops and their families on Christmas, what an amazing man.
Lack of adequate funding has led to lack of adequate staffing which in turn has decreased the quality of care and level of services at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Roseburg. The Roseburg facility is labeled a hospital but has not been adequately funded. Last year the budget was about three quarters of a million short. I have been told that there is a much larger shortfall this year.
Working short staffed has led to significant problems. Numerous resignations have been occurring over the last several months. Many physicians have resigned their leadership positions and many nurses have left. The morale is quite low. A group of hospital employees formed an organization health committee which identified numerous areas of opportunity for change. But no significant results so far.
If you are a veteran in an ambulance, do not be surprised if your ambulance is told to go to Mercy Medical Center instead of the VA. Review of the last two months statistics from logs in the Emergency Department reveal an approximately 60 to 70 percent chance of diversion. Unfortunately you the veteran may be responsible for a significant portion of the bill due to this diversion.
Veterans deserve to be informed about the kind of care and the services available at the VA Roseburg. Surgical services have been diminished and gastroenterology coverage is at times sporadic. This has led to increased transfers. If you are hospitalized, your care during the day hours may be on par with the local community hospital. However, at night many of the services that are standard of care at community hospitals are significantly delayed at the Roseburg VA. For example, lab studies are drawn and sent to the Mercy lab at night. X-ray services are on call after day tour hours. Frequently there is only one physician at night providing care for the hospital, emergency department, psychiatric unit, and long term care unit. Many would argue that this is not safe.
There are a number of excellent physicians, nurses, and caring staff at the Roseburg VA. Employees have been frustrated in their attempts to make the VA Roseburg a better place. The combination of lack of funds and low employee morale significantly reduces effective recruiting efforts. Unfortunately, the VA regional leadership (VISN) is unwilling or unable to provide the funding required to adequately support this facility as a hospital.
If funding remains inadequate, maybe it is time to close the hospital aspects of VA Roseburg (inpatient beds, ICU, and Emergency Department) and convert to a completely ambulatory care center. The problem with this solution is that veterans would be more financially responsible for their hospital care unless they travel to Portland (which frequently is full). Maybe it is time to combine the VA hospitals with the private sector and have a system of universal health care coverage where everyone receives the same benefits as is the case with most every other industrialized country in the world.
Before more of these employees choose to work elsewhere, further reducing the quality of care … write your legislators or the VA director and let them know your thoughts. Veterans deserve better.
Charles S. Ross was director of the Emergency Department at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center from November 2007 to July 31, 2008. He has been a practicing physician in Oregon for 31 years and a Roseburg resident for 11 years. He is board certified in emergency medicine and family practice. He now provides locum tenens coverage at the Roseburg VA, Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass and Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay in addition to working part time at Evergreen Urgent Care in RoseburgGuest column: Veterans deserve better care
The really sad part is that this was wrote by a doctor that worked in the VA Emergency room in this VA Hospital, what is happening at other VA Hospitals across the nation that we are not hearing about? What about all that increased funding President Bush and his administration keep crowing about and his legacy. This is his real legacy inadequate funding for the veterans.
Christmas Day at the VA Hospital
Christmas Day at the VA
Last Edited: Friday, 26 Dec 2008, 9:44 AM EST
Created On: Friday, 26 Dec 2008, 9:44 AM EST
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - They fought for our freedom with great sacrifice and today, Veterans at Buffalo's VA Hospital were not forgotten. As senior correspondent Rich Newberg reports, Servicemen and Women of Christmas present paid a visit to our heroes of the past.
The spirit of Christmas swept through the halls of the VA Hospital where some Veterans may have otherwise spent the day in relative silence.
"A lot of these fellas don't have any relatives or friends who live in this area, so consequently they have no one to visit them on Christmas Day," said Bob Payton of the 82nd Airborne Association.
The 82nd Airborne Niagara Frontier Chapter has been bringing a little joy to Veterans here for 14 years, and they get a lot in return.
"To me it gives me a feeling of what christmas is all about," added Payton.
Old soldiers know about the spirit of giving and with every patient at the VA there is a story.
Joe McCoy is one example, who as a young soldier, was deployed to Japan after the atomic bomb was dropped. He saw the ravages of war in a defeated nation, first hand.
Joe explains, "These people didn't have clothes, didn't have food, didn't have shelter" so Joe diverted food from the 'mess hall' in a program that ended up feeding thousands.
"I could call the 'mess' Sergeant, that's the guy who controls the cook, and say, 'Send a truck down with all the food you want to throw out, come on down here and we feed these people'."
In the next room over Wesley Fuqua gave people back their lives. People from all over Europe who had become slave laborers in Germany. He arranged for transportation that would take them home again. He can still feel their pain.
"You don't realize when you're in a situation like this, how lonesome you can get, you know, how completely... nothing's gonna matter any more. You're just there and you're at the mercy of what's going on. You have no control over it, you know. It's a terrible thing." said Fuqua.
So bringing a little Christmas cheer to our veterans is a nice way of saying thank you; of saying, we know, that of all people, you know something about the spirit of Christmas.
There is also a nice video at the link from the newsroom
Lynn man allegedly posed as veterans' foundation rep
December 26, 2008 11:29 AM By Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff
A 44-year-old Lynn man was arraigned this morning at Woburn District Court on charges that he posed as a representative of a veterans’ group to collect a container of money for himself at a Woburn supermarket.
Paul K. Guilmain Jr. was soliciting money on Christmas Eve at the Elm Street store, police said. An officer who responded to a complaint about Guilmain found him seated by the front entrance of the store, holding a sign, a round plastic container stuffed with cash, and a clipboard bearing the logo of the National Veterans Foundation, according to a police report.
Guilmain had collected more than $150. He had a history of falsely claiming to represent the foundation, police learned after checking with foundation officials, the report said.
Guilmain appeared in court in handcuffs, wearing a black T-shirt and the green camouflage cargo pants he was wearing when arrested.
Prosecutor Amanda Rowan asked the judge to set bail at $1,000, saying Guilmain’s record included the use of three different aliases and 22 prior convictions of a variety of offenses, larceny and receiving stolen property.
Guilmain’s court-appointed lawyer, David Singer, said his client was not a flight risk and that every matter in his record was closed, save for one. Singer also said Guilmain had the permission of the supermarket manager.
Guilmain pleaded not guilty to charges of larceny under $250 by false pretense and falsely using an association name. The judge set bail at $500.
Lynn man allegedly posed as veterans' foundation rep
I hope the Judge throws the book at the man, in this time of economic turmoil we don't need frauds making it harder for real veterans groups to raise funds legitimately give him the max his record shows he needs some tough love
Fodor Farm May be Future Site of Housing For the Brave
By David Hennessey
Posted: 12/26/2008 11:34:28 AM EST
The city's decision on a land bid from Bridgeport-based Applied Behavioral Rehabilitation Institute could have female military veterans living at Norwalk's own Fodor Farm.
If the bid is accepted, two homes on the Fodor Farm property would comprise the first such exclusive female veteran rehabilitation center in the state of Connecticut.
According to information provided by the Norwalk Purchasing Department, ABRI has bid $75,000 on the 322 Flax Hill Road property and $37,500 on the 25 Pogany St. property, both of which make up the 7.7-acre historic Fodor Farm property. Other bids on the land include $41,000 by Douglas Peoples on the 25 Pogany St. property and $110,000 on the 322 Flax Hill Road property.
Shalini S. Madaras, president of the Kick for Nick Foundation, told the Norwalk Citizen-News that ABRI would renovate the property and buildings to house "between 12 and 15 women," and the women would remain on site for up to two years while they reintegrate into the community after duty.
Madaras' son, Nicholas Madaras, was killed in Iraq on Sept. 3, 2006, before he had the opportunity to fulfill his wish to give some children in Iraq the chance to play soccer with a real ball. To honor her son's wish for hope, Madaras created the Kick for Nick Foundation. Through her involvement with the military, Madaras became aware of the large number of female soldiers currently in combat zones, as well as a program entitled Homes for the Brave - a transitional supportive housing program for male veterans operated by ABRI.
Now, Kick for Nick has teamed up with ABRI to begin to address the needs of some 1.8 million female veterans who are serving, or have served, the United States.
"There isn't anything else in Connecticut like [what we would be doing at Fodor Farm], which surprised me completely. There's nothing dedicated to women veterans," Madaras said.
Madaras explained that, in conjunction with ABRI, she looked at different possible locations for the center in Fairfield, Stratford and Milford. Fodor Farm, she said, was the best fit for their vision.
"This would be the absolute ideal location. It offers peace, serenity, a historic location the right kind of accommodations for the women. We like the idea of the historic houses .It all works very well for the program and what we are trying to develop."
Madaras went on to say that support for the program has already been overwhelmingly positive, and that it has been met with little resistance thus far. She also said she would like the community to become involved in the project.
"I think a lot of people would be really proud to see something like this happen," she said. "There has not been one person who has stepped forward and said one thing negative."
Madaras expected total refurbishment costs for both properties to run between $800,000 and $900,000. City officials said a decision on ABRI's bid is expected by the end of January.
"This is something my son would want to do," Madaras said.
There is a great need nationwide for women veterans facilities build more of them
FSU program helps disabled vets find jobs
Andrew Wyatt had a passion for entrepreneurship.
The 29-year old North Carolina State graduate had long envisioned the career ahead of him but, while serving as an infantry platoon leader in Northern Iraq in early 2008, Wyatt’s dreams were put on hold.
An Improvised Explosive Device went off. The blast crushed the nerves in Wyatt’s upper neck. He was medevaced, first to Germany, then to Walter Reid Army Hospital, where he remains.
But over the summer, a Florida State University professor helped put Wyatt’s dreams back on the map.
Wyatt was one of 15 disabled veterans to attend an entrepreneurship boot camp for veterans with disabilities held on the FSU campus.
“I heard about this program at morning formation and thought, ‘that’s for me,’” said Wyatt, who, with help from friends at John Hopkins University, is building a medical spa which would provide non-invasive surgery. Wyatt credits his success to FSU.
The program at FSU was actually born at Syracuse University where a colleague of FSU professor Randy Blass works.
“I went up there and they had this amazing program so when I came back I asked the dean of business if we could do something like that here at FSU. He said, ‘sure, if you can fund it,’” said Blass, who teaches in FSU’s college of business and retired from the Air Force.
Not only did Blass raise enough money to fund the program, he raised enough to do it in style. The veterans were flown in free of charge, treated to steak dinners and carted around by limousine.
“We could have shoved them all in a dorm room but we wanted to treat them like we would an entrepreneur. These people have made sacrifices and we wanted to be able to give a little bit back,” said Blass.
“It’s not an easy transition from the military to the civilian world and for those with disabilities, it’s even tougher.”
The program, which is open to all military veterans who have sustained service connected disabilities dating back to Sept. 11, 2001, begins with three weeks of online tutorship and culminates with a nine-day intensive, on-campus workshop during which time guest speakers from around the country give lessons on entrepreneurship.
The program, which has now expanded to other universities, offers the added benefit of teaching undergraduate FSU students about what Blass calls, “social entrepreneurship.”
FSU undergraduates get the chance to assist in every aspect of the program, from booking plane tickets to helping the veterans through courses.
“It lets them know that there’s more to business than just making money. That you can help people too.”
Fund raising for the 2009 disabled veterans entrepreneurship boot camp is ongoing. According to Blass they are about halfway to their goal. Anyone interested in pledging support can contact Dr. Randy Blass at, firstname.lastname@example.org or at 850-644-7859.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I chose to take the day off from posting any news today, even I take a day off now and then to reflect on life. This year I had a reach from the past, due to my step brothers annual e mail that Patrick and his wife Joan sent out, a niece named Michele from my older brothers family (Melvin) located me. I have not seen her since my mothers funeral in March 1996.
I have PTSD and I have withdrawn from family involvement, and with the death of my parents, there has been little reason for me to travel to California since my mother passed, she is buried with my step father Dale (NMN) Jennings TSGT, Retired Air Force, at Riverside National Cemetary near their old home in Riverside. This is the area we went to school from 1963 until my brothers and I all joined the Army, Melvin in 1972, I in 1973 and Marvin in 1978.
Michele explained to me that she and her husband and son live in LA, and she works for the Coast Guard as a civilian and still serves in the reserves. I first went into the Coast Guard in April 1973, but due to my eyesight and a hernia, I and the Coast Guard parted company within ten days. I went back to Riverside and because Dale was retired AF and I was a dependent I was in March AFB Hospital having the hernia surgery when they filled the hospital with POWs from Vietnam on their way back to either civilian life or back to duty. It was an interesting time in life to say the least. A relatively unknown Air Force Sergeant had opened a Martial Arts studio near the base, to teach kids and anyone else who would pay him for lessons, Chuck Norris.
In the summer I enlisted in the Army and with medical waivers the Army took me in October 1973 and sent me off to basic training. The rest they say is history. Michele never knew of my use in the human experiments at Edgewood, she read the Texas Kos post last night, and she was shocked to say the least
Wow, Uncle Mike! That shit is unfreaking real! I remember you having a heart attack when you were really young. I was told something like you had scar tissue from scarlet fever when you were a kid that caused it. Have you had media exposure?
She doesn't understand the media doesn't care about a bunch of old disabled veterans from the Cold War era, even if the experiments were morally wrong, and eventually the government learned that 75% of the men are either prematurely dead or disabled. It is not a story that can be explained in 2 minutes or less, so it is not "news". It's just old history.
I did not know until 2002 that the National Security Agreements that we had signed were no longer valid, that the Army could not prosecute us for talking about the experiments any longer and we would NOT go to Leavenworth for the promised 25 years.
Doctor James Ketchum one of the Army pyschiatrists that worked at Edgewood Arsenal for most of his military career wrote a book about his experience about two years ago, that is the book that President Clinton was photographed signing on Dec 17,2007 that is at the bottom of this blog. His book talked at length about the test program and opened more windows into what occurred at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland from 1955 thru 1975, but it is not all of the information, he denies knowing about the CIA involvement of DR Sidney Gottlieb and the funding by the CIA for much of the research that occurred on the agencies behalf, and history shows that DR Gottlieb destroyed much of the documentation that had the answers to the questions about the links between the civilians of Edgewood and the agency. With the death of all involved and the destruction of the paper records, all we will have is questions and no definitive answers. DR Gottlieb died without ever revealing all of the secrets surrounding the agencies experiments and all they involved.
I am past wanting to blame anyone for anything, the 7120 men that "volunteered" for the medical research from 1955 thru 1975 did so because we thought what we were doing was important for the Army, for future equipment that soldiers would possibly use on the battlefields of the future, that it may save lives. We laso "volunteered" because we thought it was "sham duty" for a few months and would expemt us from guard duty, KP, company duty rosters etc, I and the 9 other men from Fort Lewis in the summer of 1974, all wanted out of field excercises, at Fort Lewis, the 9th Infantry Division spent all the summer months in the field. Then they said we could take our cars, and get paid for driving them there 9 days there and 9 days back at 35 dollars a day per diem and 2 dollars a day TDY pay, by the time it was all said and done, it amounted to about 4,000 dollars per man. This was at a time we were making about 398 a month. This was like a small fortune to us low ranking soldiers.
Like most things in life, there is nothing for free. The "volunteers" have paid dearly for raising their hands, 3098 men are prematurely dead, some died in Vietnam, some in helicopter crashed, others shot in combat, but an excessive number have died from heart attacks at early ages, lung disorders, and other unknown maladies that the IOM has not released. The last health survey in FY 2000 showed that 40% of the men could not be found, this was using IRS, SS and VA databases, so if the men were alive the company would have found them, there is only one conclusion, they are dead.
Of the 4022 men they did locate and contact, 54% of them or 2300 men reported some sort of disability, DR William Page neglected to note what they were in the report, as they were not part of the Department of defense contract that the IOM had been awarded. He also neglected to pay any attention to previously published health studies on chemical weapon exposures from the National Institute of Health published in Jan 1994 and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)written by a German Doctor Karl Heinz Lohs based on more than 30 years of treating Wermacht soldiers that worked in the chemical weapons program of the Third Reich.
The Department of Defense as of April 2008 according to a GAO report still had NOT notified more than half of the veterans or the widows about their exposures or the possibility that they may have claims for compensation if their husbands deaths could be linked to the exposures either intentional as part of the experiments or even thru environmental exposures in the drinking water or soil of Edgewood, the EPA superfund site shows 77 toxic substances in the water wells and soil of Edgewood Arsenal now known as the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
I have hopes like many Americans, that the new Obama Administration, and the new Secretary of the VA General Eric Shinseki will give the "benefit of the doubt" to these 7120 veterans and or their widows and finally put an end to the denials of claims because we the veterans can not "prove" exposures that the government claims we can't prove that these exposures caused our problems.
I can't remember exact dates, or the names of all the people present at each experiment or each date in the labs at Edgewood, now more than 30 years, the VA regional Office in Columbia asked me twice for this information. I can't remember it, they have a copy of the "volunteer file" that I have that was obtained thru a "Freedom Of Information Act" or better known as a FOIA request that I received in Feb 2004.
Most veterans can tell you the VA's game plan is to keep denying the claims until the veteran either dies, or gives up in frustration. Like most veterans I just want the "PROMISE" that was made to us when we enlisted or in some cases drafted. If we are either harmed or killed while on active duty that the government will care for us and or our families.
We do NOT want any classified data revealed or state secrets violated, we just want the government to accept the financial responsibility for us, that they promised us, and to care for our families when we die. Due to my medical problems I can no longer but life insurance, mortgage insurance, and the 10,000 dollar life insurance the VA gave me free after I was service connected at 100% P&T is enough to bury me, but what about paying off the house, help my wife and son make it, until she turns 60 and qualifies for my SSD checks?
I have hope that the President elect and his wife will help correct some of the issues of the past, President Clinton apologized for the human experiments in 1995 after The President directed ACHRE to uncover the truth, recommend steps to right past wrongs, and propose ways to prevent unethical human subjects research from occurring in the future. The Committee published its findings and recommendations in October 1995.
"Our greatness is measured not only in how we . . . do right but also [in] how we act when we know we've done the wrong thing; how we confront our mistakes, make our apologies, and take action."
--President Clinton October 3, 1995
I hope it is time for the government with a "new" President will take the opportunity to "take action" we veterans and the widows are still waiting even 13 more years later.
Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to my "lost family members" and to my fellow veterans. Thank you Pat and Joan.Sphere: Related Content
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The World According to Cheney
The World According to Cheney
Published: December 22, 2008
Vice President Dick Cheney has a parting message for Americans: They should quit whining about all the things he and President Bush did to undermine the rule of law, erode the balance of powers between the White House and Congress, abuse prisoners and spy illegally on Americans. After all, he said, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln did worse than that.
So Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush managed to stop short of repeating two of the most outrageous abuses of power in American history — Roosevelt’s decision to force Japanese-Americans into camps and Lincoln’s declaration of martial law to silence his critics? That’s not exactly a lofty standard of behavior.
Then again, it must be exhausting to rewrite history as much as Mr. Cheney has done in a series of exit interviews where he has made those comments. It seems as if everything went just great in the Bush years.
The invasion of Iraq was exactly the right thing to do, not an unnecessary war that required misleading Americans. The postinvasion period was not bungled to the point where Americans got shot up by an insurgency that the Bush team failed to see building.
The horrors at Abu Ghraib were not the result of the Pentagon’s decision to authorize abusive and illegal interrogation techniques, which Mr. Cheney endorsed. And only three men were subjected to waterboarding. (Future truth commissions take note.)
In Mr. Cheney’s reality, the crippling budget deficit was caused mainly by fighting two wars and by essential programs like “enhancing the security of our shipping container business.”
Well, no. The Bush team’s program to scan cargo for nuclear materials at air, land and sea ports has been mired in delays, cost overruns and questions about effectiveness. As for the deficit, the Congressional Budget Office has said the Bush-Cheney tax cuts for the wealthy were the biggest reason that the budget went into the red.
Some of Mr. Cheney’s comments were self-serving spin (as when The Washington Times helpfully prodded him to reveal that even though the world might have seen Mr. Bush as insensitive to the casualties of war, Mr. Cheney himself made a “secret” mission to comfort the families of the dead.)
Mr. Cheney was simply dishonest about Mr. Bush’s decision to authorize spying on Americans’ international calls without a warrant. He claimed the White House kept the Democratic and Republican Congressional leadership fully briefed on the program starting in late 2001. He said he personally ran a meeting at which “they were unanimous, Republican and Democrat alike” that the program was essential and did not require further Congressional involvement.
But in a July 17, 2003, letter to Mr. Cheney, Senator John Rockefeller IV, then vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wanted to “reiterate” the concerns he expressed in “the meeting today.” He said “the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues” and created “concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology and surveillance.”
Mr. Cheney mocked Vice President-elect Joseph Biden for saying that he does not intend to have his own “shadow government” in the White House. Mr. Cheney said it was up to Mr. Biden to decide if he wants “to diminish the office of vice president.”
Based on Mr. Cheney’s record and his standards for measuring these things, we’re certain a little diminishing of that office would be good for the country.
More Articles in Opinion » A version of this article appeared in print on December 23, 2008, on page A28 of the New York edition.
I have my own persoanl opinions of VP Cheney and Sec Rumsfeld, they did war crimes in 1974 and 1975 they were never held accountable on American soldiers, so why anyone is surprised by the crimes committed in the past 8 years baffles me. If they knew they did criminal acts in the mid 70s why return them to power in the first Bush 41 administration and then elect them to office in 2001 and again in 2005 you got what you voted for, war criminals.
August 6 2006
4300 Men killed or disabled! No questions asked.
Sun Aug 06, 2006 at 09:35:33 AM CDT
(Very important diary - please read. Our soldiers should not be guinea pigs. - promoted by krazypuppy)
I am posting this for Testvet, a Kossack. He contacted me last night with this story and, while I should have been writing a different diary, I helped him instead. Crossposted
I am a TEST VET.
We took an oath of secrecy. Honorable men keep their oaths. But there is no honor in protecting the predators who used us and then abandoned us. It is time for the TEST VETS to speak out.
On August 25th, I will be 51 years old. I have had a stroke, 7 heart attacks, a failed triple bypass, heart ejection fraction of 25%, COPD, skin abnormalities, foot fungus and rashes. This all started in 1992 when I was 36. I am in contact with 11 other "test vets" and we all have heart problems and multiple health issues. We are all ignored by the VA
Why the Fuck won't anyone ask Cheney and Rumsfeld about their Chemical Weapons and drug experiments in 1974 and 1975? While they were in the Ford Administration, Cheney and Rumsfeld, violated the Nuremberg Codes of 1947 by using enlisted men as human test subjects for chemical warfare. From 1952 thru 1975, they used 7120 enlisted men in these experiments
TXsharon :: 4300 Men killed or disabled! No questions asked.
The health study contacted the participants in 2000 and found that 75% of them were either dead or disabled.
INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES wrote the following report:
Long-Term Health Effects of Exposure to Sarin and Other Anticholinesterase Chemical Warfare Agents
During the period from 1955-1975, the U.S. Army conducted a series of experiments at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland in which military volunteers were exposed to various kinds of substances, including chemical warfare agents such as sarin and other anticholinesterases. This is the second survey done to examine the adverse long-term effects of known exposure in the volunteers from the Edgewood experiments.
In this current study, the Medical Follow-up Agency of the Institute of Medicine conducted a telephone survey of 4,022 military volunteers to compare the current health of those exposed to anticholinesterase agents with the health of men in two other control groups: those who had been exposed to other substances and those who had been exposed to no active agents. The telephone survey asked about general health, but was mostly focused on neurological and psychological health problems. This is because there is some evidence that exposure to pesticides-which chemically resemble anticholinesterase agents and thus might be expected to produce similar health effects from exposure-can cause neurological and psychological health problems.
This study was funded by Army grant DAMD17-99-1-9485 and appears in Military Medicine: International Journal of AMSUS, Volume 168(3): 239, March 2003.
All this time the DOD and the VA have been claiming Gulf War Syndrome is a mental problem when they have known for years that exposure to sarin and mustard agents causes serious health problems, circulatory (heart) pulmonary, gastrointestinal and neurological.
The British also experimented on enlisted men and just last week, they released a report on Porton Down. Symptoms, ill-health and quality of life in a support group of Porton Down veterans
The United States used chemical weapons and DRUGS on their own soldiers three decades ago without their full knowledge and consent. 4300 men were either killed or disabled. Some of the deceased men left behind widows who are not receiving their husband’s veterans benefits.
[Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite (1993)
Institute of Medicine http://www.nap.edu/b...]
By the time the war ended, over 60,000 U.S. servicemen had been used as human subjects in this chemical defense research program. At least 4,000 of these subjects had participated in tests conducted with high concentrations of mustard agents or Lewisite in gas chambers or in field exercises over contaminated ground areas. The human subjects had experienced a wide range of exposures to mustard agents or Lewisite, from mild (a drop of agent on the arm in "patch" tests) to quite severe (repeated gas chamber trials, sometimes without protective clothing). All of the men in the chamber and field tests, and some of the men in the patch tests, were told at the time that they should never reveal the nature of the experiments. Almost to a man, they kept this secret for the next 40 or more years.
The levels of exposure to mustard agents or Lewisite experienced by the human subjects may have been much higher than inferred in the summaries of the gas chamber and field tests.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Recurrent corneal ulcerative disease (Includes corneal opacities; acute severe injuries to eye from Lewisite will also persist.)
Delayed recurrent keratitis of the eye
Bone marrow depression and (resulting) immunosuppression (An acute effect that may result in greater susceptibility to serious infections with secondary permanent damage to vital organ systems.)
Anxiety disorders (including post-traumatic stress disorder)
Other traumatic stress disorder responses (These may result from traumatic or stressful features of the exposure experience, not a toxic effect of the agents themselves.)
Sexual dysfunction (Scrotal and penile scarring may prevent or inhibit normal sexual performance or activity.)
The evidence found suggested a causal relationship between exposure and the following health conditions:
Leukemia (acute nonlymphocytic type, sulfur mustard)
Reproductive dysfunction (genotoxicity, mutagenicity, etc.; mustard agents)
There was insufficient evidence found to demonstrate a causal relationship between exposure and the following health conditions:
Reproductive dysfunction (Lewisite)
Cardiovascular diseases (Except for those that may result from serious infections shortly following exposure—heart disease resulting from rheumatic fever, for example.)
There are large gaps in all areas of the knowledge base about the long-term health risks associated with exposure to mustard agents and Lewisite. For example, very little is known about the long-term effects on specific organ systems from studies in animals. The data from human studies lack precise information about the exposure levels in occupational settings. After consideration of these gaps in light of the commit-
The committee recommends that the VA and DoD publicly announce and widely advertise that personnel exposed to mustard agents or Lewisite during their service are released from any oath of secrecy taken at the time. In addition, professional educational materials should be prepared by the VA or DoD, or both, and made available for physicians who may be treating affected individuals. These materials should incorporate the latest information regarding the long-term health effects of exposure to mustard agents and Lewisite.
There is no doubt that the long-term health consequences of exposure to mustard agents or Lewisite can be serious and, in some cases, devastating. This report has demonstrated that complete knowledge of these long-term consequences has been and still is sorely lacking, resulting in great costs to some of those exposed in WWII.
The Edgewood Arsenal test are described on pages 17-20 of the Veterans Administration manual on the Cold War tests. There are 2 pages in the book that claim there are NO KNOWN tests to see if anyone was exposed to either chemical weapons or pesticides months later, let alone decades later.
This GAO report from FY 2004 shows that DOD told them, they would not be able to find the 7120 veterans of the Edgewood Chemical Weapons tests until 2009. They have the names and addresses of all the men still alive and probably of the widows because the year before that the IOM released the Sarin Report paid for by the DOD. Rick Edrtman of the IOM at 202-734-1925 has said as soon as DOD authorizes him to give the VA the names and addresses he will. The DOD won't do it. Why?
These two documents show that Congressmen Lane Evans and Ted Strickland tried to get the VA to contact us themselves and keep DOD out of it. They sent VA Secretary James Nicholson the lists of the 2300 men of Fort Detricks Biological tests and the 7120 names of the Edgewood Arsenal test veterans, his reply shows how he buried the lists at DOD for Rumsfeld and Cheney.
April 28, 2005
Honorable R. James Nicholson
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Mr. Secretary:
In the past, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sent letters to veterans identified as being previously exposed to hazardous chemical, biological or radiological environments while on active duty and who have the potential for presumptive or related, service-connected conditions. We have previously expressed our interest in VA providing veterans with notice of such exposure and of the potential service-connection of conditions related to that exposure. VA has sometimes been unable to provide veterans with individual notice because of difficulties collecting lists of participants exposed to the hazardous condition. We understand that VA is generally dependent on the Department of Defense (DoD) for providing such lists.
Enclosed are sealed sets of lists of names of individuals who were exposed to potentially hazardous materials while participating in tests or programs at Fort Detrick, Maryland, or Edgewood, Maryland, for the period 1954 through the present. In many cases, the lists provide specifics regarding the exposure associated with the individual’s name and service number. We ask VA to provide written notice to the living veterans named on these lists who may have an illness or injury related to their participation in the programs or tests managed at the two DoD facilities listed above.
Mr. Secretary, the limiting factor in VA’s due diligence in this arena has been its ability to secure lists of participants from the DoD. Our proactive approach to this issue quickly yielded the enclosed lists, which we understand contain approximately 10,000 names. We expect that you should be able to
determine address information on the living veterans through VA health and insurance records and by using VA’s authority to cross match data with the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration.
We ask that you provide us with a timetable for sending notice, as appropriate, to the listed individuals who you are able to determine are still alive. I am requesting this be done no later than May, 27, 2005, and to complete the mailing of all notices no later than 120 days after that date. Democratic Committee staff point of contact is Mr. Len Sistek, 202-225-9756.
LANE EVANS TED STRICKLAND
Ranking Democratic Member
Subcommittee on Oversight and investigations
Enclosures as stated
Response from VA blowing Congressman Evan off (pdf)
The only conclusion I can come to is that to "find" these men and their widows now would cause these very "honored and high ranking officials", a lot of embarrassment and generate a lot of questions about their their treatment of their own soldiers.
[VA ACCUSED OF FOOT-DRAGGING IN NOTIFYING "TEST VETS" -- VETERANS
EXPOSED TO CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL AGENTS ARE STILL WAITING FOR
NOTIFICATION FROM THE VA -- WHY IS THIS? -- ONE VET SAYS: "THEY
REALLY DON'T WANT TO DO IT...IF YOU WAIT LONG ENOUGH,
WE'LL ALL BE DEAD." http://www.vawatchdo...]
By Lisa Friedman, From our Washington bureau
WASHINGTON — Thousands of former servicemen who volunteered for chemical and biological tests in the 1960s and 70s might have been exposed to highly toxic substances that could jeopardize their health, and the U.S. government is scrambling to locate them.
The new list of nearly 7,000 names provided last year to the Department of Veterans Affairs servicemen who allowed themselves to be exposed to a range of agents, from nerve gases to Tularemia significantly increases the number of veterans who could become eligible for disability benefits.
"When you sign on the dotted line, you sign up for a broad spectrum of risks. But just because you were a volunteer does not mean America doesn't have a duty to you."
2098 dead and 2200 disabled
Who is going to help these widows and vets?
Demanding the world hold Saddam accountable for his actions, seems a tad bit hypocritical now doesn't it?
Denmark Is Not The Only Place Where There Is Something Rotten
By Dave Culmer Posted on December 17, 2008 by gm
The spike in deodorant sales in Brentwood is due, at least in part, to the smell of some of it’s residents who have been attempting to steal VA Hospital land for there own personal aggrandizement while increasing nearby property values.
For 20 years, Sue Young has been the lead dog of the pack that’s been hot on the trail of VA land. The land that was donated by three families in 1888 to be used specifically for Veterans.
The old name of the pack was the, “Brentwood Home Owners Association”, the new name, which comes with smoke and mirrors, in order to reflect alignment with the VA is, “The Veterans Park Conversancy.”
With the past two Westwood VA Medical Center Directors, Chuck Dorman, and Phil Thomas, who were both replaced by the VA Secretary for theft, which is called misappropriation, when you’re a federal employee and the amount you steal exceeds $100K, the dog team was able to steal 16 acres on the VA grounds in a lease deal for no cash payment, at least no cash that was in sight.
This deal was made during the roughly 10 years of the past two Medical Center Directors, Chuck Dorman and Phil Thomas, that stole from veterans, and were simply and quietly transferred to another position within the VA Medical Center system.
Now THAT, is really a deterrent to anyone else thinking of misappropriating VA funds.
It’s like in May of ’08 when Norma J. Perez, a supervisor at a Texas VA Hospital told her therapists to classify PTSD as an adjustment disorder rather than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in order to save the VA money by not having to pay service related benefits to deserving and entitled Veterans.
Unlike Elvis, she has never left the VA Building.
Obama, Obama, Where For Art Thou.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Culmer is a retired career Marine and Vietnam War combat veteran with over 20 years of Military Service. He has worked in direct service to veterans for close to 30 years within the VA system and various Veteran Service Organizations.
Opinion: Denmark Is Not The Only Place Where There Is Something Rotten
Soldier Dies After Off-duty March
December 16, 2008
The Arizona Daily Star
Grief counselors are on duty at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., after a 29-year-Soldier collapsed during a predawn march on Sunday and died a short time later.
Pfc. Moneeka Mayo, a trainee with Fort Huachuca's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion, died during an off-duty competition for a prestigious German military badge, officials said.
Mayo, of Wyoming, Mich., hadn't been a full-time Soldier long. She enlisted in late July and arrived at Fort Huachuca a few months later for her first assignment as a student in the unmanned aircraft training unit.
On Sunday, she was one of nine Soldiers who embarked before sunup on a lengthy road march in hopes of qualifying for a German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency.
Representatives of Germany's army, and those of several other allied militaries, are stationed at Fort Huachuca and it's not unusual for American troops to try to earn foreign military badges such as the one Mayo was competing for, said Tanja Linton, a spokeswoman for the fort.
"It's a friendship-building thing," Linton said.
The German merit badge has rigorous requirements. To earn it, a Soldier must perform a high jump and long jump, sprinting and swimming events and other feats. In Mayo's case, that included marching in uniform for about 10 miles while carrying a backpack that weighs about 22 pounds.
Mayo collapsed during the road march at 6:18 a.m. Sunday. Emergency personnel came to her aid, then took her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead just after 7:30 a.m.
Linton said Army chaplains were providing grief counseling to members of Mayo's unit.
The Soldier's commander issued a statement of condolence. "We extend our sincere and cordial sympathy to the family of Pfc. Mayo. Our hearts and prayers are with them," said Lt. Col. Patrick Sullivan.
Linton said the cause of death is under investigation.
A memorial service for Mayo will be held at Fort Huachuca's main post chapel at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
I hope the Germans gave her the award posthumously she earned it
Despite uproar, officials say all well at WTU
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Dec 23, 2008 13:23:15 EST
At a recent gathering in a small auditorium at Fort Lee, Va., wounded soldiers listened as everyone in their chain of command up to a full colonel reassured them that life in the post’s Warrior Transition Unit remained good.
Capt. David Payne, their company commander, reminded them that Fort Lee had ranked in the top five of 35 WTUs for 15 straight months, according to monthly online polls. The barracks are “rated the top in the Army.” Three members of the cadre are former wounded soldiers themselves.
Lt. Col. Robert Lather told them the hospital is being revamped, with more space dedicated to active-duty soldiers so they don’t have to wait in long lines with troops going through Advanced Individual Training.
“Your mission is to heal,” said Col. Donna Diamond, head of Fort Lee’s Kenner Army Health Clinic. “We’re here to make sure your needs are addressed.”
In the back of the room, Sgt. Loyd Sawyer shook his head.
“We’re having another dog-and-pony show,” he said.
Before the meeting, troops were told their attendance was mandatory, and they needed a doctor’s note to get out of going. After the meeting, soldiers seen talking to reporters — or even surreptitiously passing notes with phone numbers — said they were called in by their chain of command and asked about what they had said.
“The town hall meetings are never like that,” said 1st Lt. Rebecca Ludwick, one of about 70 injured soldiers assigned to the WTU. “I’ve never seen all those officers there.”
The disparities didn’t end there. As officers from the unit explained that they were fully staffed, that the cadre is well-trained and cares, and that the troops consider their chain of command friends, the soldiers offered a different story: They can’t get appointments; they are forced to perform 24-hour duty while on sleeping medications; they say they are treated as whiners trying to get over on the system; they say training injuries are treated as less important than combat injuries, even though by law, both require the same medical care.
Two said they sought off-post counseling to help them deal with the stress of being in the WTU. One with severe post-traumatic stress disorder went back to the hospital as an inpatient after a cadre member yelled at him for playing with his unit patch.
One said she was named the executive officer of the unit, even though she injured herself during initial training and had no command experience. Another faced an Article 15 for oversleeping — even as he was going through a sleep study that eventually diagnosed him with narcolepsy.
They say that when they ask for help — through an ombudsman, the Wounded Warrior hotline or through the Inspector General office — they are admonished for violating the chain of command.
The Army created Warrior Transition Units after the scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., in early 2007 after investigations showed that soldiers working their ways through the military medical retirement system had to fight through a thick bureaucracy of lost paperwork, incorrect documents, untrained lawyers and counselors, and unfair ratings that left them with a lifetime of injuries and little or no compensation.
It was revealed that sick and injured soldiers served as platoon sergeants and squad leaders even as they took medications or dealt with mental health issues. Some spent months — even years — in medical hold units. Ultimately, many signed whatever they were handed so they could go home.
The 35 Warrior Transition Units, formed about a year and a half ago, include professional cadre pulled in to provide stability; nurse case managers assigned to monitor soldiers’ progress and appointments; a doctor just for the soldiers in the unit; and family resources. They have ombudsmen and case managers. Everyone, officials say, has been trained in the special needs for soldiers with PTSD or traumatic brain injury.
But in recent months, the Army realized it does not have the manpower to staff the units, the rules changed about who would be allowed in, and the focus shifted to those with combat injuries rather than those who injure themselves preparing to deploy. Those who don’t go to a Warrior Transition Unit remain in their home units, where unfit soldiers fill deployable slots — leaving line units understaffed as they prepare for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.
The offshoot, Fort Lee soldiers say, is that those without combat injuries are treated as if they are a waste of resources.
Payne disagreed. “They’re treated the same,” he said. “From what I understand, everyone’s treated exactly the same.”
Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, director of the Army’s Warrior Care and Transition Office, told a meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in October that “our focus is on soldiers with complex medical needs.”
‘I’m sick of being hassled’
Retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker, who has worked as an advocate for wounded soldiers by helping them through the medical retirement process, said he sees the same recurring issues in the Army’s WTUs. “Fort Lee’s probably one of the worst of the bunch, but it’s happening all over the place,” he said.
He and other veterans’ advocates say they see errors in medical retirement paperwork, incorrect information about what benefits soldiers are eligible for, and soldiers being forced out for pre-existing mental health conditions and disciplinary problems that directly relate to their military service.
Some of Parker’s concerns surfaced at the Fort Lee town hall meeting.
Ludwick asked why all of her medical conditions were not properly documented on her medical form. Lather explained that he had called for guidance and been told that only medically unacceptable conditions should be on the form, and that the Physical Evaluation Board at Walter Reed was kicking back packets that listed all conditions.
That’s wrong, Parker said, after talking with board officials. All conditions should be listed.
Sgt. Stanley Craig stood up at the meeting to ask why he was given 24-hour staff duty when he was on sleeping medication.
“Many people ... function on the same medications you take,” Lather replied. Payne told him to talk with a platoon sergeant.
Diamond said her staff is doing a good job. “I’ve not heard any complaints on the cadre at all,” she said. “I think people understand they genuinely care.”
Payne is a former patient who broke his leg after stepping in a gopher hole at Fort Riley, Kan. A Medical Evaluation Board found him fit for duty. He had two surgeries to repair the leg.
“When I got here, I was still dealing with my own issues,” he said. “I didn’t really have specific Warrior Transition training.”
He did have his cadre train online, and had substance abuse and mental health counselors give classes.
Because the WTU is not a typical unit — no arms room, no motor pool — he feels his role is more akin to that of a parent.
And the soldiers say they often do, in fact, feel like children.
One soldier who asked not to be named said he had a meltdown one day because of his PTSD and asked his nurse case manager to make him a mental health appointment.
But she didn’t. Rather, she had him committed to the Veterans Affairs mental health clinic at Portsmouth, Va., where he was immediately released, he said, because the doctors said there was no need for him to be committed.
He began seeing a counselor, but was told he couldn’t go to his second appointment because he had made the appointment himself, rather than having his case manager do it.
When he arrived at Fort Lee from another unit, he said it took 6½ weeks to restart his physical therapy, and then a month to get an appointment for an MRI.
Then, he said, his nurse case manager told him she was too busy and that he needed to make his own appointments for anything not related to his medical retirement case.
“They’re blaming me for prolonging my medical care,” he said. “I’m ready to go home. I’m sick of being hassled. I can’t stop shaking.”
Craig arrived at the WTU after serving two tours at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., as a mortuary affairs specialist. He blew out his knee on an obstacle course 2½ years ago. Then, in October 2007, while training to deploy, he fell off a truck and suffered multiple herniated discs. Doctors realized immediately he was not deployable.
At Fort Lee, he said he hasn’t seen his nurse case manager for more than a month, but was told he can’t make his own appointments.
When he stepped in a hole Labor Day weekend and broke a bone in his ankle, he received a referral for a doctor’s appointment from the unit’s primary care physician. He gave it to his nurse case manager, who told him to make the appointment himself, he said. He finally got the appointment in mid-November.
The paperwork related to his Medical Evaluation Board was a disaster, he said, and when he tried to explain it to the cadre, they didn’t understand what he was talking about.
His original separation date was August. He’s been extended until Dec. 30 because of his medical retirement case. He just received his final paperwork for his medical evaluation board. He was rated at 10 percent for his knee and 10 percent for his back, which his paperwork states he hurt picking up a footlocker several years ago — a noncombat-related injury. His training injury that caused the herniated discs had been left off.
“I specifically remember falling out of a truck,” Craig said sarcastically. “I’m so fed up with this place.”
He said he just signed the paperwork to get it over with.
‘They want you to give up’
Sawyer’s wife, Andrea, begged for her husband to be admitted to the hospital when he didn’t get the help he needed for his severe PTSD. He had been at Joint Base Balad in Iraq on the day a Turkish airliner crashed and killed 45 people about 1,000 yards from the mortuary where he worked. The staff spent hours cataloging belongings and lining up bodies in the parking lot.
“Some of them were still hot and burned through the bags,” he said. “I saw a lot of that. That was a rough three days.”
When he returned home, he couldn’t sleep, dealt with anger issues, jumped at noises and spent hours on the living room floor crying with his dogs. He spent three weeks as an inpatient in a psychiatric ward, and then was transferred to the Fort Lee WTU. On his third day there, Sawyer was playing with his new unit patch when his platoon sergeant began yelling.
“I ended up with a sergeant first class in my face yelling at me for disrespecting the people who died for that patch,” Sawyer said. “He didn’t know me from Adam. He’s lucky that morning I was very heavily medicated.”
Andrea Sawyer said the platoon sergeant made her husband “write a five-page paper on the importance of the patch.”
“Loyd went back to the psychiatric ward because he couldn’t deal with the people at the WTU,” she said. “That was his third day at the WTU.”
He was supposed to see his nurse case manager weekly, but didn’t. “They billed me for appointments when I wasn’t even there, just to pad the books,” he said. “They had me down one day for an 8 a.m. appointment at Portsmouth, a 9:30 a.m. appointment at Fort Lee and a 10 a.m. back at Portsmouth.”
He said it took three months after he received a referral to get an orthopedics appointment. “The only thing you get is what you fight tooth and nail for. They want you to give up so they can just process you out or wait for you to screw up so they can get you gone immediately.”
When an inspector general visit was scheduled, soldiers spent five hours cleaning their rooms, Sawyer said. “God knows they’re not allowed to say anything,” he said of soldiers in the WTU.
He said the soldiers were told to speak only if asked questions. If they spoke up on their own, the “retribution is s--- duty,” he said.
Spc. Elizabeth Sartain had PTSD after serving as a mortuary affairs specialist in Kuwait. “Anyone who dies in Iraq, those bodies come through Kuwait,” she said.
When she got home, she tried to commit suicide. She poured pots of boiling oil over her arms and legs to try to match what she felt inside with what she felt outside.
“I was devastated,” she said. “I wasn’t getting the help I needed.”
After spending time as an inpatient at a psychiatric ward, she transferred to the WTU. She immediately began working eight hours a day as Payne’s orderly room clerk.
“It was overwhelming,” she said. “It was too hard to recover and be his secretary.”
She said she wasn’t allowed to make her own appointments, but did anyway because she needed help. “The case manager says she’ll call you back, but never does,” she said. “Weeks would go by. I’d check in, and it hadn’t been done. They’ve told us they’re overwhelmed.”
She said she also was berated for jumping the chain of command — for talking to the WTU ombudsman.
Ultimately, she received a disability rating of 50 percent for PTSD and was discharged.
Pvt. Aaron Howard began his tour at the WTU as a sergeant. In Iraq, he had his big toe shot off by another soldier who reacted poorly when an Iraqi family didn’t stop at a checkpoint. He also suffers from PTSD.
Before his injury, he had hoped to start law school and become an officer. But at the WTU, he said he was demoted for missing too many formations.
He said he received one Article 15 while he was waiting for results of a study that showed he has sleep apnea, narcolepsy and hypersombulance (excessive daytime sleepiness).
“I had eight alarm clocks, but I could not wake up,” he said.
He received another Article 15 when he missed an appointment because he got the time wrong. He said his chain of command told him he “made up” his ailments.
“I’m getting counseling statements every 15 minutes,” he said. “I made E-5 in six years, no troubles. I come to Fort Lee and I’m the biggest turd in the Army.”
Recently, he said he was told he could get out administratively on a psychiatric discharge. That would end his time in the WTU — but he would leave with no medical benefits or retirement pay. He said his chain of command also tried to get him out for “continued misconduct.”
Ludwick said her biggest surprise came when she arrived at the WTU as a patient and was assigned duty as the unit’s executive officer. She was injured in February 2007 during a land navigation course when she fell down a hill in full battle rattle. She said she was told to “suck it up — you’re an officer.”
She did — and received her commission — but “there were days when I could barely walk,” she said.
Still, she continued her training, going to Fort Sill, Okla., for her officer leadership course. In her first week, she reinjured herself in combatives training.
“The other person yanked my leg up over her shoulder,” Ludwick explained. “She dropped me because she could hear it rip.”
Ludwick ended up in a leg immobilizer, and the second part of her training was waived. She went to Fort Lee for her officer basic course, but no one cut her formal orders for that. When she arrived in December 2007, she received orders attaching her as the WTU’s executive officer.
“They said, ‘We’re going to make you the XO,’” she said. “I can’t even walk. The cadre were like, ‘You need to be a patient.’”
So instead of performing XO duties, she worked at the post museum, leaving the XO slot empty. She remained in the museum position until October.
The first time she saw an orthopedic specialist since her injuries was at Fort Lee. “The surgeon at Portsmouth wouldn’t help me because it had been too long since the injury,” she said.
She discovered she had three herniated discs, a torn muscle in her back, stress fractures and nerve damage on one side of her body, and a broken ankle.
When it came time to do her paperwork for her medical retirement, only the herniated disc was put on it, even though she was using a wheelchair.
Her disability rating came back at 20 percent.
“It was a total joke,” she said. “They said, ‘Here’s $8,000 in severance pay — good luck.’”
She filed an IG complaint, which declared that everything had been done properly, she said.
Then she sent a letter to her congressman, after which she said she was told she could no longer talk with her Physical Evaluation Board liaison officer.
“They told me I was causing trouble,” she said.
Ludwick said she sank into depression and stayed away from the unit. She sought outside mental health help to deal with the panic attacks she said were caused by the people at the WTU.
She also talked to the Military Officer Association of America, who recommended that Parker look at her case. With his help, she appealed her case and ended up with a disability rating of 50 percent.
“My case is horrible, but when people come into the WTU, they’re all horrible,” she said. “I’m sure people are busy, but that’s the whole reason this unit was put in place. I’ve never been so much as asked if I need anything.”
Ludwick said she often sees people sign their paperwork without appealing it — or without understanding that they need to because their cases were handled improperly.
“People just get so frustrated,” Ludwick said. “They just sign and get out. I don’t have the luxury to just go out and get a job — I can barely walk.”
‘We’re at 100 percent’
Diamond said she has an open-door policy, but has had only three soldiers come through that door in the past few months.
She receives weekly updates from commanders and the ombudsman, and her office is in the clinic where soldiers go for appointments.
Diamond insisted staffing is not an issue. “We’re at 100 percent,” she said, adding that the unit has four case managers, though one is out on maternity leave.
“In the beginning, I think everyone was having problems,” she said. “I think we were overwhelmed. That should not be an issue so much today.”
She said the command keeps a timeline noting when appointments have been activated, and she hasn’t seen any problems with the timeline.
Diamond seemed unclear on some of the WTU’s policies.
“We have not used patients to oversee other patients,” she said, adding that privacy laws would prevent that. “They’ve got their own medical care to see to — that’s kind of a conflict.”
But Payne said some patients are given “leadership roles.”
“I expect them to lead,” he said.
Army WTU regulations state that patients will not be placed in roles overseeing other soldiers, but Payne said he ensures the wounded soldiers who fill squad leader positions do not write counseling statements or conduct UCMJ actions, and they are not rated for those duties. But he said only three noncommissioned officers were willing to perform those duties without being rated — two as team leaders and one as a squad leader.
“We’re not going to push them to do that,” Payne said.
When Craig was asked to fill such a role, he declined. “As an NCO, you’re supposed to know where your soldiers are at,” he said. “When the cadre’s gone, the team leader becomes a squad leader. There is nothing I can do for a wounded soldier for support. What are we actually going to do as patients for other patients?”
During the day, the soldiers are expected to attend 6:30 a.m. formations, work four hours minimum, and then attend a 1 p.m. formation. They may miss work for appointments, and Payne said supervisors know what medications they’re on.
But Craig said the rules can and do change, and they’re not always clear. As of mid-October, he said he was told his four-hour day has been switched to an eight-hour day, to be used for warrior tasks and drills.
“If I wanted to go do battle drills and reinjure myself, I’d go back to my old unit,” he said.
But the rules sometimes do differ from soldier to soldier. For example, while most have to appear for formation every day, some don’t. Staff Sgt. Jimmie Fedrick, one of the soldiers Payne offered for an interview to Military Times, was injured in Baghdad July 29, 2007, by a roadside bomb. It ripped apart 75 percent of his muscle in his back and leg, and he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
“I’m always in pain,” he said. “I’m always depressed. Always. I don’t come in that often. When I call here, there’s always someone to help.”
No one forces him to attend the 6:30 a.m. formations, and he said cadre and commander are willing to spend time with him when he needs it. “If I don’t come in, they call to ask if I’m OK.”
When Payne and Diamond were asked if Fort Lee should have a WTU, both paused for a long time.
“It’s served its purpose, given the mission that it had,” Diamond finally said. “I think the overall sense is that we’re doing a good job. I think there’s always going to be some conflicts, and if it doesn’t come up the chain, it’s hard to address.”
Cheek said the WTU situation has improved across the Army, and compared the WTU barracks to the “best hotels.”
However, he also said it’s “very likely” that some of the smaller WTUs will be consolidated. He said the biggest complaint for soldiers is the amount of time and bureaucracy they still must endure to get through the process, but that those delays “are really in the best interest of the soldier.”
“It’s not perfect,” he said, but added: “I have great confidence that we take good care of our soldiers.”
Dog and Pony Shows gawd how I remember them, I have a funny feeling that the Warrior Transition Units started out as a great idea, but then the Army got involved with it and found a way to screw up a decent system meant to help the wounded. It's amazing how NCOs are great troops and get rapidly promoted but once they get wounded, they seem to become screw ups and get demoted faster than they got promoted, and then get told it is from a personality disorder they hid from the Army until after they went to combat and got hurt. It's amazing how many soldiers did that to the Army, it's not like the symptoms of PDO would not have shown up in basic training or AIT or in a regular unit, it only shows up after they go to combat and get injured, sure seems strange to me. But then I am an old Infantry Staff Sergeant with PTSD what would I know about anything, like screwing troops over.
This holiday season, the grassroots movement you helped build can make a big difference for those in need.
I hope you will join me in supporting your favorite charity or contributing to causes that are especially meaningful to me and my family.
While many of us will spend the holidays counting our blessings and sharing dinner with loved ones, millions of people around the country won't be so fortunate. Donating to your local food bank will help provide a holiday meal to people in your community who can't afford one.
Talking with the families of deployed troops was one of the most rewarding experiences I had during the campaign. Giving to Operation USO Care Package is a great way to send members of our military stationed around the world a reminder that someone back home is thinking of them.
This is a time to celebrate our blessings, the new year, and a new era for our country. But it's also a time to come together on behalf of those who need our help.
Do what you can to help today by locating your local food bank and giving your support:
Or send a care package to an American in uniform:
Thank you for all that you do and have a very happy holiday season,
British Army Losing Battle With Booze
December 22, 2008
Scotland on Sunday
MoD reveals six in 10 soldiers may be alcoholics
Nearly six out of 10 British soldiers drink so much they could be classified as alcoholics, according to a shocking internal report by the Ministry of Defence.
The findings, contained in a document analysing the drinking and drug-taking habits of Army recruits, found that the majority of soldiers are drinking at levels considered to be hazardous to health.
Of the group analysed in the paper, 58 per cent were "considered possibly dependent on alcohol".
Soldiers blame the heavy drinking culture on the Army which, they said, encourages regular binges and drinking to excess.
The Ministry of Defence last night insisted it had now put in place support programmes, particularly for when soldiers are known to drink the most, after tours of duty.
The insight into the hard-drinking habits of soldiers comes as the armed forces face claims of being overstretched as they attempt to cope with the demands of serving on two fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Soldiers are not helped by the fact that the Army is so overstretched," said Clive Fairweather, a former commanding officer in the SAS. "When you've been on a hard exercise or hard operations, you reach out for alcohol. It can help with bonding and a lot of good can come from alcohol in the military.
"But there is a down-side. The problem is trying to achieve the right balance, and these figures sound as if it is getting out of kilter. But an Army bereft of alcohol would not be able to do its job - it would be too brittle."
The findings were uncovered in interviews with more than 100 soldiers at three locations in Britain: Redford Barracks in Edinburgh, Longmoor Camp in Hampshire and Larkhill Camp in Wiltshire. The report, conducted in November 2007, was placed in the House of Commons library last week.
It declared: "The majority of soldiers were regularly drinking at levels considered to be hazardous to health."
Among the civilian population, figures show that around 6 per cent of people drink at levels which indicate dependency. However, measured on that standard, the report concluded that the Army figure was 10 times higher.
It also found that more than half of all the soldiers interviewed admitted that their drinking had increased after they joined the Army. The excessive drinking was a factor in drug-taking as well, the report found. "Many felt that they probably would not have taken drugs if they had not been drunk."
One soldier, quoted anonymously, said: "I didn't really think I'd change at all in drinking, because I didn't like the taste of alcohol really. But then I joined Army life and they take you out on the piss and I got my first taste for Jack Daniel's. And then I was spending near enough most of my wages because I was going out two nights a week drinking."
The report's main conclusion was that the Army needed to conduct an "immediate investigation into the medical and disciplinary context within which alcohol issues are treated in the Army".
The Ministry of Defence last night insisted it had put in place comprehensive support systems to try to persuade soldiers to ease back on drinking.
A spokesman said: "All three services run robust programmes designed to raise awareness and promote the message of sensible drinking. The sale of alcohol and individual consumption limits are strictly regulated, particularly when personnel are serving operationally."
He added: "Individuals identified as being at risk receive counselling and welfare support including attendance on preventative early intervention programmes."
Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Those at the top must commit to changing this harmful culture."
The authors of the report asked interviewees how much they drank when they went out. A total of 64 per cent said they had six or more drinks in any one session. One in five admitted they were unable to stop drinking once they started.
A third of the interviewees also admitted they had injured themselves or someone else as a result of drinking in the last year.
This has been a problem of Armies since time began, we use to say if a soldier wouldn't drink and fight, could you really trust them to fight, when they were sober?
Then you also have the drinking to forget the mental images of the battles you have already fought in the past, you try and drink your demons away. Trouble is it never has worked
A soldier's story: War affects whole family
A soldier's story: War affects whole family
Parents feel their son's stress disorder
Tim Kahlor comforted his son, Ryan, during a Las Vegas Veterans Day parade. Ryan's experience with post-traumatic stress disorder has turned his father into an antiwar activist. (Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times)
By David Zucchino
Los Angeles Times / December 21, 2008
TEMECULA, Calif. - When Army Sergeant Ryan Kahlor returned from two combat tours in Iraq last year, he was a walking billboard for virtually every affliction suffered by today's veterans. He had a detached retina, a ruptured disk, vertigo, headaches, memory lapses, and numbness in his arms. Fluid seeped from his ears.
He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury. He was violent and suicidal. He carried a loaded handgun everywhere. He drank until he passed out. He cut himself. He burned his skin with cigarettes. He bit through his tongue just to watch himself bleed.
Kahlor, 24, admits he came back not caring about anyone - the military, his friends, his family, or himself. But, pushed hard by his parents, he slowly accepted and then embraced counseling and treatment. Today, he has begun to recover.
His parents are still trying.
The Kahlors - a college employee and a nurse - have fought through a series of transformations unfamiliar to most military families.
Tim Kahlor says he and his wife, Laura, have been left with what he calls, only half in jest, "secondary PTSD." He says his doctor prescribed antidepressants to help him cope with his son's ordeal. And both parents, haunted by their son's physical and emotional breakdown, are fiercely opposed to the war.
Tim Kahlor, 50, who had felt a patriotic surge after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, turned against the war after Ryan complained during his first tour about ineffective body armor and poorly armored vehicles. Laura Kahlor, 53, blames the war for her son's psychological and physical torment. Although she is now grateful for the treatment he belatedly received, she - like her husband - wishes they had never let Ryan enlist.
They are still bitter over the several months that their son drifted while they pleaded with both Ryan and the military for effective PTSD treatment. Ryan survived several roadside bomb attacks in Iraq but was traumatized by the violence he saw.
"I was so naive. I was this kid from the Bible Belt who thought our country would take care of our soldiers," Tim Kahlor said. "I have guilt for helping him get into this."
A year after the terrorists struck America, Tim Kahlor drove Ryan, then 18, to the local Army recruiting office to sign up. Although the Kahlors would have preferred that Ryan attend college, they were proud of his determination to serve his country.
When Ryan wrote about equipment shortages, Tim telephoned and wrote to the Pentagon and Congress. Laura sent Ryan a hand-held GPS device after he complained that military devices kept failing.
Tim Kahlor joined Military Families Speak Out, a group opposed to the Iraq war. He marched in protests behind caskets, lined up boots outside the Capitol to represent the war's dead. He put up a sign outside his home: "Support Our Troops - Let 'em Come Home."Continued...
He confronted military recruiters. He intercepted young men outside recruiting offices, warning them: "You have no idea what you're getting into." He read to them from Ryan's journal - including descriptions of collecting the gear of a close friend killed by a sniper:
"My stomach soured. . . . His gear was soaked with blood. My hands could still feel the moisture of his sweat. I felt like something was missing in me."
Tim was thrown out of a political fund-raiser for railing against the war. He approached motorists in cars with yellow ribbons, demanding to know exactly how they supported the troops.
Some days, Tim wears a button to his job as a payroll coordinator at the University of California, San Diego. It features an updated number of the war's dead and a question: "How Many More?"
When Ryan returned in early 2007, "he came back a stranger to me," his father said. Tim focused on his son's deteriorating mental and physical condition. He described delays in treatment as Ryan was put on desk duty, unable to perform simple tasks because of his brain injuries and prone to violent outbursts.
"I was either going to die by my own hand - or someone else's," Ryan said.
But through it all, he said, "my dad fought tooth and nail for me, knowing people in the military can't speak for themselves always. My dad pushed me to get help. He doesn't let me cut corners, and he's always on my butt."
In November 2007, Ryan was sent to be treated at San Diego's Naval Medical Center. His therapists say he is making remarkable progress after months of physical and speech therapy and mental health counseling.
"We look at Ryan and we say, 'Thank God, we got a good one here,' " said Colleen Leners, a nurse practitioner who is his primary care manager. "Ryan wanted to get better."
To treat his PTSD, Ryan was referred in May to the National Center for PTSD in Palo Alto, Calif., run by the Veterans Administration. He completed an intensive 65-day group program with veterans from wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.
There, Ryan said, he learned to recognize his "stuff points" - traumatic experiences in Iraq he was afraid to confront.
"There's no time to grieve in combat, so you just stuff it," he said. "You see your friend die and then you go back to work."
Without treatment, Ryan said, "I'd be sitting in a dark room somewhere - or dead."
Ryan said he suffers from survivor's guilt and intends to seek more counseling. He is still being treated for vertigo, for speech and memory difficulties, and for fluid and ringing in his ears.
The military has provided him a hand-held organizer to help him organize his life and remember appointments. He draws maps to help him locate his parked car. "As many times as I've been hit in the head, a lot of stuff that seems simple on a daily basis becomes difficult," Ryan said.
Even so, he chose a challenging subject - the Russian invasion of Georgia - for a speaking exercise in group speech therapy.
Laura Kahlor considers her son a newly minted person, just as she considered the tormented young man who returned from Iraq a different person from the son she sent off to war - the one who had "Duty, Honor, Country" tattooed on his leg.
"He came back so violent," she said, recalling the images of bloody Iraqi corpses Ryan brought home on his laptop. "I was afraid he'd use his gun on himself."
Today the gun is locked in a drawer, and Ryan is evolving into the caring, gentle son his parents remember. At the request of a counselor, he often talks to other soldiers with PTSD, encouraging them to seek treatment.
Ryan does not publicly discuss his father's activism or his own feelings about the war. He says only: "That's what we're fighting for - for people's rights to speak out."
When his enlistment ends in March, Ryan plans to leave the Army. He is shopping for a new house and intends to enroll at a community college. He wants to become a history teacher or physical therapist.
After all that has befallen him, would he enlist again?
"Probably not," Ryan said. "But since I did it, I'm glad. It's matured me. It's made me stronger, more confident."
His mother said that although she's grateful for Ryan's counseling and for the travel and educational benefits the military has provided, "it still wasn't worth it."
Tim Kahlor, sitting in his living room at dusk, flanked by his wife and his tall, strapping son in Army fatigues, reflected on his family's six-year ordeal. He paused and said, finally, "I wish he had never gone in."
PTSD is a family and community problem it is not just the veterans it affects everyone around the veteran family and friends and neighbors....
4 recruiter suicides at one unit lead to probe
Widow blames pressure to sign up soldiers, husband's earlier tour of duty
Herb Nygren Jr / AP
Amanda Henderson holds a photo of her late husband, Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Henderson, at her home in Henderson, Texas.
Each week in ‘The Daily Nightly,’ NBC's John Rutherford pays tribute to the men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
updated 3:54 p.m. ET, Mon., Dec. 22, 2008
HENDERSON, Texas - Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Henderson, a strapping Iraq combat veteran, spent the last, miserable months of his life as an Army recruiter, cold-calling dozens of people a day from his strip-mall office and sitting in strangers' living rooms, trying to sign up their sons and daughters for an unpopular war.
He put in 13-hour days, six days a week, often encountering abuse from young people or their parents. When he and other recruiters would gripe about the pressure to meet their quotas, their superiors would snarl that they ought to be grateful they were not in Iraq, according to his widow.
Less than a year into the job, Henderson — afflicted by flashbacks and sleeplessness after his tour of battle in Iraq — went into his backyard shed, slid the chain lock in place, and hanged himself with a dog chain.
He became, at age 35, the fourth member of the Army's Houston Recruiting Battalion to commit suicide in the past three years — something Henderson's widow and others blame on the psychological scars of combat, combined with the pressure-cooker job of trying to sell the war.
"Over there in Iraq, you're doing this high-intensive job you are recognized for. Then, you come back here, and one month you're a hero, one month you're a loser because you didn't put anyone in," said Staff Sgt. Amanda Henderson, herself an Iraq veteran and a former recruiter in the battalion.
The Army has 38 recruiting battalions in the United States. Patrick Henderson's is the only one to report more than one suicide in the past six years.
Senator pushed for inquiry
The Army began an investigation after being prodded by Amanda Henderson and Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Cornyn, a Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he will press for Senate hearings.
"We need to get to the bottom of this as soon as we can," he said.
The all-volunteer military is under heavy pressure to sign up recruits and retain soldiers while it wages two wars.
Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command, acknowledged that recruiting is a demanding job but said counseling and other support are available.
"I don't have an answer to why these suicides in Houston Recruiting Battalion occurred, but perhaps the investigation that is under way may shed some light on that question," he said.
In all, 15 of the Army's 8,400 recruiters have committed suicide since 2003. During that period, more than 540 of the Army's half-million active-duty soldiers killed themselves.
The 266-member Houston battalion covers a huge swath of East Texas, from Houston to the Arkansas line. Henderson committed suicide Sept. 20. Another battalion member, Staff Sgt. Larry Flores Jr., hanged himself in August at age 26; Sgt. Nils "Aron" Andersson, 25, shot himself to death in March 2007; and in 2005, a captain at battalion headquarters took his life, though the military has not disclosed any details. All served combat tours before their recruiting assignments.
Charlotte Porter, Andersson's mother, said her son — who served two tours in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne and earned a Bronze Star — couldn't lie to recruits about the war and felt an enormous burden to ensure they could become the kind of soldiers he would want watching his back.
"He wasn't a complainer. He just said it really sucked," said his 51-year-old mother, who is from Eugene, Ore. "He felt like a failure."
Cold calls were part of job
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said recruiting these days "is arguably the toughest job in the military."
"They're under incredible stress. You can see it on their faces," he said.
In Iraq, Henderson helped lead other infantrymen on risky "snatch-and-grab" missions and saw several buddies die.
He had been stationed in Germany before going to Iraq. After his tour was up, he was assigned to recruiting. He didn't particularly want to leave the infantry, but going to recruiting allowed him to move back to the U.S., his widow said.
Like most recruiters, he began his day with paperwork, followed by cold calls to high school graduates and college students. He spent lunches trying to chat up high schoolers outside the cafeteria, and then, more phone calls — often 150 a day, according to his widow.
He spent evenings on the living room sofas or at the dining room tables of the few interested young people, trying to sell them and their families on the Army's opportunities while easing their fears. Some recruits' parents were hostile.
"They are completely outright nasty to you. That's stressful to you right then and there because you have some mother or father just ripping you apart," Amanda Henderson said.
Pressure from above alleged
She said her husband also found himself under crushing pressure from above. He and other recruiters in the battalion were required to account for every minute of every day in planners and logs, his widow said.
When Henderson took some time to recover from knee surgery, his bosses acted as if he was lazy and threatened to have him thrown out of recruiting and reassigned far from his wife, Amanda Henderson said.
He lived in constant fear of failing to sign up enough people, something that can result in an all-day audit by a recruiter's superiors and thwart a soldier's chances of a promotion, Amanda Henderson said.
Story continues below ↓
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As much as Henderson hated recruiting, he did the job well, his widow said. But Flores, who killed himself a few weeks before Henderson, "was getting chewed up one side and down the other" at work in the days before he died, Amanda Henderson said. Flores was her boss.
Smith, the Army spokesman, would not comment on Henderson's job performance. Asked about the demands put on recruiters by their superiors, he said recruiting duty "often does entail long hours during the week and on weekends." But he added: "There are other duty assignments in the Army that entail long hours, such as being deployed."
Most recruiters are assigned
Some recruiters volunteer for the job, but most are assigned. They must have a recent evaluation showing no record of mental instability. But Amanda Henderson said her husband, like other combat veterans, rushed through his assessment, insisting he was fine.
Patrick Henderson had been out of Iraq a little less than a year when he began recruiting, and after several months on the job, his sleeplessness and flashbacks became evident, according to his wife. She said she stayed up one night watching him apparently flash between nightmares of combat and of illegally signing up a recruit.
He suffered a breakdown in the weeks before his suicide, his wife said. Because he was hundreds of miles from the nearest Army post, he went to a local counselor recommended by the military after an initial visit with an Army doctor. But the counselor had never worked with a combat veteran and couldn't decipher the military jargon in his medical records, Amanda Henderson said.
One morning in September, she woke up alone, panicked and went out to look for her husband. The chain was on the door to the shed, but she could see him inside. She pried the window open, and screamed. "He was gone," she said, her voice breaking.
"I don't want anybody to feel this pain that I have," she said, her eyes welling with tears. "It's too much for one person. They need help."
More on Military suicides
I see that recruiting duty hasn't changed in 40 years.......