May I have a moment, Admiral Mullen?

May I have a moment, Admiral Mullen?

June 2, 2010

Dear Admiral Mullen,

It has just been brought to my attention that you are visiting Fort Bragg today. I understand that you will include a visit to the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) while you are on base. I am very pleased to hear that you are taking the time to visit this unit and I would like to make a few suggestions, if I may be so bold.

As the mother of a Marine who has been assigned to Wounded Warrior Battalion East, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for over a year, I have become extremely concerned about the care and treatment being given to our Wounded Warriors across the nation. I have spent the better part of the last year attempting to ensure that my own Marine receive proper care, but I have run into countless brick walls. I began at the source, and moved my way up until I have found myself in a place where I have exercised all of my options with the exception of coming directly to you, Sir.

With the recent news of the problems at Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Unit, and the tragic suicide of Sgt. Thomas Bagosy, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, I have decided that the only possible way to have my voice heard is to use the media as my microphone.

Admiral Mullen, I do not want attention drawn to myself or my son. In fact, it is because of my concern for his health that I have waited this long to speak out. After spending the past year expecting the Marine Corps to fix the problems drawn to their attention, and yet experiencing nothing but denial and cover ups, I am afraid that I must sacrifice my private life to help our troops suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries.

It has been brought to my attention that there are many others suffering in silence, without advocates. I must represent them, for they cannot represent themselves. They are trapped in a system only concerned with the order and discipline of the unit, where “conduct trumps medical”. Their cries for help have been silenced and I have become their voice. If I could have mustered up the courage to take this step three a half weeks ago, perhaps Sgt. Thomas Bagosy would still be alive. I’m not willing to let another warrior come to the same conclusion about his options in life.

Knowing full well that the Marine Corps will stop at nothing to keep their reputation intact, I am prepared for the deluge of propaganda and the likelihood that my son, my family, and the nonprofit organization I started six years ago could be in danger of being dragged through the proverbial mud watered daily by the media. I am prepared to withstand the impending storm because I our wounded warriors deserve to be heard.

These brave souls volunteered to stand in the gap for my freedom. These warriors were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for me. They were spared a physical death, but for those affected by PTSD and TBI, they did pay the ultimate price for they are the walking dead among us. I’ve been mourning the loss of my own son for over a year. He is still breathing, but the 17 year old boy that stepped off the bus at Parris Island in 2004 is gone forever. He has been replaced by an empty shell, wandering aimlessly in a sea of pain and rejection by his “Always Faithful” Corps. He asked for help. He was stamped with stigma. The invisible wounds of PTSD and TBI are deep, but the wound that cuts him to his core, Admiral Mullen, is the one that was plunged in deeply and deliberately by the United States Marine Corps. Each time I hear someone in leadership say that stigma does not exist I feel as if I have been slapped in my face! With all due respect, Sir, the leaders need to step down from their ivory towers and take a trip down to the basement where real life is happening!

From the moment he was old enough to know of its existence, my son wanted to be a part of the Corps. I signed on the dotted line the day he turned 17, so he could enter the USMC through the Delayed Entry program. I trusted you Admiral Mullen, to take care of my first born son. He served three combat tours for our nation. He reenlisted to continue his service for our nation. He chose to train and serve in MarSOC, one of the most demanding units in the Corps, for our nation.

Since the New York Times broke the story about the WTU at Fort Carson, you have been speaking out about your desire to see our wounded receiving proper care. You said we need to “….get it right for those who’ve sacrificed so much.” I am in complete agreement. Let’s stop talking about it and do something!

Recently, Admiral Mullen, you addressed the graduating class of 2010 from the United States Air Force Academy. I was very impressed with your speech. You spoke to these future leaders of their duty to lead with loyalty. You told these men and women that their loyalty must be demonstrated. You said good leaders have the moral courage to question the direction in which an organization is headed. Leadership requires integrity, you told the graduates.

Specifically you stated, “You may, at times, prove better than your word, but you will rarely prove better than your actions. The high standards by which you measure your own personal behavior and that of others, say more about you and your potential than any statements you make or guidance you give. You should strive to conduct yourself always in such a manner that it can never be said that you demanded less of yourself or of the men and women in your charge than that which is expected of you by your families or your countrymen.”

Sir, I was especially impressed with your advice on problem solving when you said, “Leaders today must likewise think creatively. They should be able to place themselves outside the problems immediately before them and look at them from a fresh perspective. While great decisions can be made in the heat of battle, great ideas are usually born in the ease of quiet. You must find the quiet to let your imaginations soar. And that brings me to your final duty — to listen. You must listen to yourselves, to your instincts. You must also prove capable of listening to others, of trying to see problems through the perspectives of our allies, our partners, and our friends all over the world. No one military, no one nation, can do it alone anymore…..”

Sir, I find no fault whatsoever with your words of wisdom for our future military leaders. It disappoints me greatly to know that there are many leaders who likely started out with the intent to serve in the way you have described, and yet, they have somehow been caught in a system that needs much improvement. With time, they are worn down and become leaders who seem to lose their integrity, lack needed wisdom, and who have compromised their standards for the next promotion, or the fear of being cast out for daring to actually solve a problem from a fresh perspective.

By law, you are the highest ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces. You are the principal military advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you have authority over personnel assignments and oversight over resources and personnel allocated to the combatant commands within their respective services.

Admiral Mullen, I believe that you must be a very busy man. There is no doubt in my mind that you have many responsibilities, but I am also aware that you have the entire body of military personnel available to you to ensure that you can get the job done.

Our wounded warriors are in crisis! Their families are in crisis! Lives are at stake! You, Sir, have been appointed to take care of our military. You have the resources and the manpower to get started on the solutions. Please, Sir, I beg you to heed your own advice. Listen! Prove yourself capable of listening to others…..not others in uniform, but others like me, who have seen the real problems with the health care system for wounded warriors. You don’t decide if I get paid so I am not afraid to tell you the truth.

The system of care is only as good as what it produces. My son is a living, breathing casualty of war. My family members are living, breathing casualties of war. Sgt. Bagosy’s family members are living, breathing casualties of war.

Look at the problems through the perspectives of your allies, partners, and friends. I am your ally, Sir. I am a faithful American. I am your partner, Admiral Mullen. I bore the child that serves in your Armed Forces. I am your friend. I want you to be successful in making changes that will truly change lives and not just the news story that will lead on tonight’s prime time news show.

I thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you so that we can address this crisis before one more of our nation’s warriors feels compelled to take his life.

Very sincerely,

A Proud Mother of a United States Marine Corps Sergeant

Originally published by the author on