The picture painted in yesterday’s posting about the shabby treatment by the U.S. Army of our reservists and national guard members who have been called up and deployed to Iraq, is possibly even grimmer for our career military personnel. In the current issue of The Nation, Joshua Kors tells the story of Army specialist Jon Town and how he and other career soldiers have been duped, lied to and shafted by the Army after committing their lives and their livelihood to the Army.
The nightmare began for Town while deployed in Ramadi, Iraq in 2004, as described by Kors,
He (Town) was standing in the doorway of his battalion’s headquarters when a 107-millimeter rocket struck two feet above his head. The impact punched a piano-sized hole in the concrete facade, sparked a huge fireball and tossed the 25-year-old Army specialist to the floor, where he lay blacked out among the rubble.
Kors goes on to report,
Eventually the rocket shrapnel was removed from Town’s neck and his ears stopped leaking blood. But his hearing never really recovered, and in many ways, neither has his life. A soldier honored twelve times during his seven years in uniform, Town has spent the last three struggling with deafness, memory failure and depression. By September 2006 he and the Army agreed he was no longer combat-ready.
Seems reasonable that at this point Town could not be combat ready which would logically result with an end to his military career, but what is unreasonable, what is unconscionable, what is possibly criminally fraudulent is how the Army has railroaded this soldier in order to replace him with another warm body, on the cheap.
Kors’ article goes on to tell readers,
…instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town’s wounds were actually caused by a “personality disorder.” Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits.
Not only would specialist Town never receive disability or medical benefits from the Army, he would not receive any retirement benefit, and he would not be eligible for medical care provided by the Veteran’s Administration because the Army doctor handling his case conned Town in to accepting what is known as a “5-13” discharge (which according to the Army seperations manual is Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13: “Separation Because of Personality Disorder.” ). On top of everything else, the Army demanded, according to seperation rules, that Town return $3,000 of the $15,000 re-enlistment bonus he had previously received, because he was unable to fulfill his contract.
A man permanently disabled, quite possibly with brain damage, is discarded like used waste material by the Army and left to put his life back together or not, without a second thought. The article by Kors goes on to report that this seems to be a systematic and widely practiced strategy of unit commanding officers in cahoots with medical officers throughout the Army. The reason behind it, reducing monetary expenses, as apparently the Army is strapped (no surprise here, after four years of depleting the bulk of our Army resources in a war that we “won” and then subsequently lost), it has been estimated that through this 5-13 process the military will avoid $8 billion in disability pay and $4.5 billion in medical expenses, by cashiering out its wounded manpower.
Obviously distressed and depressed by how he has been mistreated, Town made a failed attempt at suicide in May of 2006, which resulted in the Army sending him to a psych ward for a short time, and then busting him down from corporal to specialist. Town’s story is not unique, Kors’ article describes other soldiers in other commands treated the same way, and at least one of them, Chris Mosier of Des Moines, Iowa, eventually was a successful suicide, after being railroaded out of the Army by the same doctor who discharged Jon Town. Mosier never got over the trauma of being in a convoy in Iraq when a roadside bomb blew up the truck in front of his, seeing and hearing his buddies screams as they lie dying from their wounds and being on fire; and then having to collect the miscellaneous chopped, shredded, bloody, burned body parts of his dead comrades so they could be returned home. Scenes like this are not unique in Iraq and not unique in any war, the effects on soldiers used to be called “shell shock”, and for many years there was little or no treatment available to those suffering from this, except maybe the most severe cases either being warehoused in VA facilities, or left to wander the streets.
At a certain point, after the Vietnam war the medical establishment identified and began developing treatments for “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD), and not only military personnel, but civilians in public service roles and civilian victims of natural disasters were able to seek treatment, recognition and respect. Apparently our current military commanders prefer to put their heads down in sand in terms of accepting the reality and doing the moral, honorable thing in terms of taking care of those soliders who marched, unequivocably, upon their command. It seems that for the mid-level careerists in the military officer corps making their numbers, in terms of holding down expenses and providing warm bodies to their commander-in-chief is more important, than doing what is morally and ethically right.
Shame on these people, and shame on the American people for continuing to tolerate the lies, misrepresentation and mis-management of the current Administration.
Added 30-Nov-2007: Please visit my advocacy site FIGHT-PTSD.ORG.