Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Denying veterans treatment

Between tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, Sgt. Jason Greenlees broke his left leg. He recovered. But after wearing 60 pounds of body armor daily for 10 months while guarding convoys in Iraq, the Oregon Army National Guard soldier's leg swells and pain wakes him. It "hurts like hell," he says, just to walk.
Army doctors say Greenlees needs surgery. So when Army staff at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington told him to return to Portland and his own doctor earlier this month, Greenlees refused.
Greenlees says the Army is wrongly forcing as many as 185 injured soldiers from the 41st Infantry Brigade Team off active duty. He says they accused some troops of feigning injuries to extend their active-duty paychecks, which can be thousands of dollars more than their Guard pay. At least 40 injured Oregon soldiers remain at Lewis-McChord, weeks after their units demobilized after 10 months in Iraq.

The above is from Julie Sullivan's "Just returned from war, Oregon Guard soldiers demand medical care, respect" (Oregonian) which ran in Tuesday's paper. The issue is why we don't whore for anyone unless we're whores. is a brothel. In 2004, they lied for Bush and savaged John Kerry who was correct about the rising costs and the rising number of veterans. When you don't deal with reality (Kerry attempted to have the needed conversation), you don't fund adequately and you send a message that it doesn't really matter. Had not been intent on carrying the water for Bush, had they given a damn about the issue, it might have been addressed sometime ago. Had not whored, Bush might not have occupied the White House for four more years. And where the hell did anyone get the idea that anything Annenberg was worthy of trust? Tricky Dick's ass-kissing buddy? That trashy family threw around a few bills and impressed the (always starving) press corps but editors and publishers should have damn well known better -- certainly what's left of polite society knew better. Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reports, "In complaints to Oregon's congressional delegation, some said they were told to 'suck it up' and leave the base, in an effort to make room for injured active-duty soldiers who would soon be returning home. Others complained they were being unfairly targeted as feigning injuries for financial gain." Kris Sherman (News Tribune) adds, "Five Army generals promised a thorough investigation Tuesday into complaints that National Guard troops returning from Iraq got second-class treatment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to make way for the base’s active-duty brigades coming home from war this summer."

Senator Ron Wyden's office released the following Monday:

Wyden, Schrader Ask DOD/GAO to Investigate “Institutionalized discrimination against Guard and Reserve Forces”

Evidence suggests that Fort Lewis had a policy of treating returning National Guard and Reservists as "second-class soldiers"

Monday, May 17, 2010

Washington, D.C. '' Responding to concerns that National Guard soldiers are not receiving proper medical care and are being released from active duty too early, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader (D- Ore.) are calling for an investigation into the Army’s programs for providing medical treatment to National Guard troops prior to and after combat deployment Iraq. Their request to the Department of Defense Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office follows evidence that Joint Base Lewis McChord had instituted a dual track process for handling the medical needs that treated active duty soldiers differently from National Guard and reservists returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Included in the request is a Power Point presentation in which staff at the base referred to activity duty National Guard soldiers as “weekend warriors.”

"We can't just chalk this up as the actions of one rogue office, rather my concern is that this is a symptom of a culture that views National Guard and reservists as second-class soldiers," Wyden said. "While there may have been a time where being in the reserve or national guard required just a weekend a month, today these brave men and women are standing shoulder to shoulder with active duty soldiers in harm's way. They make many of the same sacrifices. They dodge the same bullets and they deserve the same respect, which includes the benefits that they have earned."

"Oregon's National Guard troops have been in Iraq doing the same work and deserve the same respect and care as our active duty soldiers," said Schrader. "I am committed to ensuring our Guardsmen receive the respect and care they have earned. I am outraged after hearing troubling reports about the disrespectful and inequitable treatment received by Oregon Guardsmen. I have asked the Secretary of the Army to personally ensure their proper care and treatment and I am demanding that all soldiers' cases be reviewed. Some of our Guardsmen have already been released without receiving appropriate medical treatment. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed as soon as possible."

In a letter to the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, Wyden and Schrader asked for several concerns to be investigated including reports that the Soldier Readiness Center is overturning medical decisions made by doctors in order to quickly "clear out" Oregon National Guard members and Reservists to make room for the pending return of the 2nd Infantry Division. These decisions, which are made on an administrative rather than medical basis, can have a negative impact on a service member’s treatment.

Wyden and Schrader have also heard reports of service members being advised to seek care from the Veterans Administration or through TRICARE for wounds suffered during active duty as well as soldiers being denied second opinions afforded them through Army regulations and chronic care being automatically being sent home if they cannot be treated within 90 days. Reports suggest that soldiers who have questioned these improper practices have been threatened with serious disciplinary action.

The full list of complaints is available in the letter sent to Secretary McHugh. Also linked below are the letters sent to Army Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell and Government Accountability Office Acting Comptroller General, Gene Dodaro requesting the investigation as well as the Power Point presentation referenced above.

Government Accountability Office Letter (.pdf-374 kb)

Department of Defense Letter (.pdf- 282 kb)

Letter to Secretary McHugh (.pdf- 985 kb)

Power Point Presentation (.pdf- 3.1 mb)


Meanwhile Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues.
The US military issued the following press release
by John Crosby (who also took the photos -- and if Crosby takes offense to "press release," take it up with the Army, it is marked "press release" in the e-mail from the US Army):

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. (May 17, 2010) -- Iraq combat veteran Troy Yocum is walking 7,000 miles across the nation, banging his drum, gathering followers and trying to meet his goal of raising $5 million for U.S. veterans and their families in need.

His 16-month journey, dubbed "The Drum Hike," began April 17 at the Kentucky Derby "Thunder Over Louisville" celebration. So far, he has traveled more than 400 miles, stopping to gain support at military installations, small towns and big cities.

Yokum returned to Louisville, Ky., for the Kentucky Derby. From there he has pushed north into Indiana, stopping at Camp Atterbury. He also participated in the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in downtown Indianapolis May 8.

It wasn't by chance that Yocum chose to serve in the military. His family has a long line of Army veterans, including his uncle who served in the Vietnam War, as well as his grandfather and four great uncles who served in World War II.

Yokum decided to join the Indiana National Guard as an infantryman and enlisted on Aug. 21, 2001, just 22 days before the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

"It felt really great to follow in the footsteps of my family members," said Yocum. "I wanted to prove myself."

Yocum said he feels an obligation to help his fellow servicemembers after serving two years with the Indiana National Guard's 151st Infantry Regiment and deploying to Iraq and Kuwait November 2008 through August 2009.

Inspired by his World War II veteran grandfather who took his own life, and a close military friend who lost his home after returning from deployment, Yocum decided to make it his personal mission to find ways to help struggling veterans.

He was honorably discharged from the military on Jan. 5, but his service carried on.

"After my contract was up, I signed a new one," said Yocum. "I signed up for a 16-month, 7,000-mile hike across America to help military families. Now, I am a Soldier for the Soldiers."

He began planning his hike while deployed to Iraq. "Some played video games to pass the time," said Yocum. "Some read, some wrote. I looked for ways to raise money for charities."

Yocum has raised the money necessary to fund the walk through sponsors like Soldier's Angels, and many other organizations and businesses.

With the money donated by sponsors, he was able to acquire a recreational vehicle to trail him along his hike, providing him shelter when needed, medical supplies inside and food and water.

Armed with the bare essentials for the estimated 50 million steps it will take to walk across the country, Yocum's plan to return his gratitude to servicemembers is slowly becoming a reality.

"The momentum is growing every single day," said Yocum. "The support has been amazing. Our Facebook [support] page is growing 400 to 800 people a day. I really want to succeed in earning the $5 million."

Raising funds for the troops is not the only goal in Yocum's mission. Additionally, he and Soldier's Angels are working to create a new nationally recognized holiday for deployed Soldiers.

During his hike he carries a Louisville Slugger baseball bat, donated by Louisville Slugger, his first sponsor. His bat doubles as a petition, which he has had signed by governors, congressmen and military officials along his hike. Yocum plans to bring the petition bat to Congress as he walks through Washington, D.C.

"You can file away a piece of paper and forget about it," said Yocum smiling. "I figure they can't file away a baseball bat."

During his trek through Indiana, his bat gained several signatures including Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams, as well as Indianapolis Mayor Gregory A. Ballard and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels at the mini-marathon in Indianapolis, May 8.

In addition to politicians, Yocum will be visiting with veteran support groups, wounded warriors and families of servicemembers who've made the ultimate sacrifice overseas.

He isn't making this trip alone. He is accompanied by his new wife Mareike whom he married May 2, about 256 miles into the hike.

"I care about these families that are struggling," said Mareike. "I feel very honored that I could be a part of this. It's amazing how many great people we meet every day, how many comments we get on Facebook every day. At times it brings tears to my eyes. We want to help these people as much as we can."

His best friend Terry Carmickle is also making the trip. Carmickle has 10 year's experience as an emergency medical technician and will provide medical aide during the 16-month adventure.

"When he asked me to come along, I instantly knew the answer," said Carmickle. "Of course it was yes. It's a dream come true traveling the country and helping people."

Also providing support and walking beside Yocum is his dog Emmie, a Japanese Shiba Inu. Emmie is a working therapy dog certified by the Penny's From Heaven Foundation to provide companionship to those in need.

Additionally, Vietnam War veteran and "Purple Heart Parachutist" Dallas Wittgenfeld drops in on the hike. Wittgenfeld served during the Vietnam War years in the same battalion as Yocum, the 151st Infantry "War Hawks." Showing his support for Yocum, he plans on parachuting into events along the Drum Hike route, waving his giant American Flag.

Wittgenfeld donated a very special gift to Yocum's cause. He gave Yocum his Vietnam War-era Army ammunition can. Wittgenfeld personally used the can to help collect the first million dollars donated to build the Vietnam War Memorial. He stood on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with Jan Scruggs, founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, and collected the first donations. Yocum now uses the ammunition can to collect donations for his cause while on the road.

"I haven't worn my uniform since the Vietnam War," said Wittgenfeld, "I've never wanted to. I'm wearing it today for the Drum Hiker. I want to spread the word and support for him because we never had that when I served."

Wittgenfeld drove his van from his home near Daytona, Fla., back to Indiana "War Hawks" country with his 288-square-foot American Flag waving from his rear bumper to link up with Yocum and show his support.

Yocum said he was floored when Wittgenfeld contacted him about parachuting into the cities as he hiked.

"I started reading about Dallas and realized this man has been through a lot. He understands the plight of American military families," said Yocum.

More than $40,000 has been donated to the Drum Hike's cause in less than three weeks since the beginning of the walk. Yocum said the momentum continues to build as more people become aware of the cause. He believes his early success is due to the support of his loved ones around him.

"Quite honestly, I never thought that thousands of people would be following this story and we're in just the birth of the hike," said Yocum. "It's amazing how many thousands of people that have come out to walk with us, shake my hand, tell me thank you."

Carmickle agreed.

"It's overwhelming, but in a good sense," said Carmickle. "I'm grateful to so many people like Dallas here, Vietnam veterans, Korean War veterans, that we can raise these funds and awareness to give them the respect and honor that they didn't get when they got home. It's such a good thing to know that people actually appreciate what we're doing and that gives us the motivation to continue on with our goal."

Yocum said that he didn't expect anyone to join him on his mission of walking 7,000 miles. He feels blessed to have the support of his wife and friends.

"I'm lucky enough to have a best friend to come with me. I'm lucky enough to have found a girl that loves me enough to marry me and come out on the road with me and I'm lucky enough to link up with good people like Dallas here that have been helpful in so many ways."

Along with the support from loved ones, veterans and citizens, Yocum has also felt the flipside to that coin; however, he believes it's all relative.

"I've had people yell at me as I'm walking down the road, flip me off and cuss me out," said Yocum. "I've had negative things written about me and my cause. You're gonna get that when dealing in something like this. But for every time something like that happens, there are a hundred people that shake my hand and thank me."

"As long as I accomplish my goal of raising the $5 million, I don't care about any of that. Every day that I'm out there walking, getting sunburned, rained on, yelled at or almost hit by cars, the thought of our veterans and American military families gives me the drive to take the next step and make it over that next hill."

After departing Indiana, Yocum and his team will head to Chicago, then south to St. Louis, west to Los Angeles, back east through Washington, D.C. , to Boston and finally make their way back home, all the while, stopping through several other major cities along the way. The hike is scheduled to come to an end in August of 2011 in Louisville.

Soldier's Angels are working on a "text to donate" program for the cause. Yocum's website is and his Facebook site at tracks his progress, whereabouts and upcoming events.

(John Crosby serves with Camp Atterbury Public Affairs.)


Barack plans to give a commencement at West Point May 22nd. Scott Horton discussed it with World Can't Wait's Debra Sweet on Antiwar Radio:

Scott Horton: Well, you know, Ehren Watada said, "I will not lead men into battle to commit war crimes. I will not do it, put me in prison. I will not --" Well, he tried to stay out of prison, but he said I would rather go to prison and it wasn't just I don't want to commit War Crimes. It was, "Look, I'm an officer. I'm responsible for the men under me. How can I give them illegal orders to invade and murder people in their own country? I will not do it. And [yet] this is what Barack Obama's asking of these young officers graduating from West Point: To bring young men into battle and order them to commit atrocities.

Debra Sweet: You're right. And we're going to be out at the gate with hundreds of people. Not thousands and not tens of thousands but hundreds who, I'm sure, are going to be giving a counter message to this. This is an immoral, unjust, it's an illegitimate occupation. It has to stop. And we are going to be reading the names of the civilians in Afghanistan killed and also the US military killed. We want their to be an accounting.

And we'll close with this from Debra Sweet's "Obama Readies Troops: Protest Needed Now!" (World Can't Wait):

Saturday, May 22: President Obama speaks at West Point. Anti-war Protest 10:00 am Memorial Park in Highland Falls, NY. Rally and march to the West Point Gate. Call 866 973 4463
Help publish Crimes are Crimes - No Matter Who Does Them again, in another national publication.
Listen to former C.I.A. analyst Ray McGovern, advisor to War Criminals Watch, on the history of U.S. government assasination, and Obama's order to kill al-Awlaki.
ACLU Letter Urges President Obama To Reject Targeted Killings Outside Conflict Zones
May 13, the New York Times front page: U.S. Decision to Approve Killing of Cleric Causes Unease
This is exactly the moment are voices are needed! Please take a moment to circulate this statement, and ask your friends to sign it!
Cindy Sheehan's Peace of the Action announces a Sizzlin' Summer Protest in Washington DC July 4-17. Join in!
4th of July in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 1pm to pass out Peace Literature to the people who flock to DC for the Nation's Birthday.
The Wars Drone On and On Monday, July 5th -- Friday, July 9th
Hands off our Kids! Monday, July 12 to Friday, July 16

The e-mail address for this site is