Recently, I was sharing with a friend and veteran about my efforts to get the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office to look into ongoing problems at Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, Camp Lejeune, NC.
I explained my frustration with the length of time it had been as we awaited the release of the report, and my wonder if that report would ever be released. I told him of the struggle I went through to be heard, all the blockades I had faced and seemingly conquered, and the anger and fear that we had experienced as a family in standing up against the broken system in hopes that we could get some help for our wounded Marines who were not getting the treatment and care they deserved.
I simply couldn’t understand why the Inspector General’s team could spend three days at my home, hearing what I had to say with what I would describe as genuine concern, and then head to Camp Lejeune for a two week assessment period, only to allow nineteen months to pass before a report was released. Many of the Marines were in what I would call “urgent” situations. It was an immediate response for which I was looking.
My veteran friend looked at me with all seriousness and said, “They got you to shut up, didn’t they?”
You could have knocked me over with a feather. I sat there, paralyzed, realizing that was exactly what had happened. I spent just over a year of my life, dedicated full time to working to fight for my son’s rights, as well as his life, and the lives of the other Marines living the nightmare. When the IG team walked out the door that day, they thanked me for my tenacity, courage, and determination to make a difference. I figured I had come to the end of my leg in the race. I handed the baton to the next runner and stopped talking.
I, once again, made the mistake of trusting the system. I shut my mouth and began what was supposed to be a probable five month wait for the release of the report. Being hopeful and naive, I started looking for the report’s release within a couple of months. I checked every single day…..for what turned out to be nineteen long months.
I remained quiet, knowing that when the report of truth came out, I would finally be able to freely speak out and claim the truth without fear. Having lived with the terror of repercussions that might befall my son for almost two years, I was confident that I would finally see something done to fix the broken system before too many other lives were destroyed.
But now, with the release of the report nineteen months later, I have to ask if anyone really cares? Many of the Marines who were there at the time are no longer assigned to the battalion. The battalion command and staff has changed. Many were moved out prior to the IG visit. I have learned that this is one typical way to avoid accountability. Just claim the problem has been solved….blame it on the guy that just got transferred.
There has been little attention to the report in the media. It’s just not that interesting because everyone is buying the excuse that it was all in the past. I’ve read the report very carefully. I see the same lame excuses given now that were given back then. People seem to be jumping on the bandwagon to point fingers of blame at everyone else, focusing on blaming nonprofits and drug dealers just to name a few. I might mention that the Marine Corps is thrilled with this response.
I can read between the lines, because I know what lies there. I only wish others could do the same.
As much as I want to spend countless hours pointing out the truth, I have to wonder if it’s worth my time and if anyone really cares.
I’m really disappointed that there isn’t more concern for the care of our wounded warriors. Unless you are directly affected, I guess you don’t think you have a reason to care. That is exactly what our government wants you to do. Go ahead. Keep your head in the sand. Ignore the problem. Better yet, why not buy into the idea that they are just a bunch of people with personality disorders, drug addictions, and homicidal ideations. Just keep your distance and mind your own business. You are tired of the war. You may not have ever agreed we should have been involved. You just want to keep living your American Dream. Besides, it’s too painful to think about the fact that someone you don’t even know was willing to stand up and fight for you while you stayed at home and went to the mall.
We have thousands of troops who have been to war over the past ten years. A high percentage of them have undiagnosed PTSD and TBI. The system stigmatizes those who ask for help. Don’t let them tell you they don’t because it’s a lie. Most who ask for help are drugged with multiple prescriptions, demoralized, and kicked to the curb.
You may not think it’s your problem, but I’m here to tell you that it IS your problem. These combat veterans are returning to our communities. They are misunderstood, stigmatized, ignored, and many have been denied by their own. Many will become estranged from their families, find themselves homeless, or commit suicide. Others will struggle to make it, but they will do so in isolation.
Family and friends will be dramatically affected and we won’t be able to count the number of people who will become casualties of this war. I know this because I am one of them.
We owe it to our wounded warriors and veterans to get involved by demanding they get better health care. We owe it to them to speak up when we see injustice. We owe it to them to fight the system, no matter how impossible the battle seems to be.
I now know “they” think they pulled another fast one on me. They shut me up for nineteen months, but I didn’t fight long and hard to just walk away now. If you aren’t treating our troops and veterans in the way in which deserve to be treated, I’m going to call you out every single time it comes to my attention. Realizing it takes only a few apples to spoil the whole bunch, if you are one of the spoilers, I don’t care how many stars and stripes you wear, or once wore, on your uniform. Your job and your life are not more important than that of any other person wearing the uniform, especially if you aren’t doing right by our troops and veterans.
Sometimes supporting our troops means standing up and saying the words that everyone else is afraid to utter. I’m putting on my Kevlar and I’m going back out into the fight.