You have a fax, Senator Levin!

You have a fax, Senator Levin!

June 12, 2010 -

Dear Senator Levin,

It has come to my attention that in response to an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, you have stated that you would expand a hearing on soldier suicides to include a more extensive discussion of the military’s handling of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It is a relief to know that you find the NPR and ProPublica reports concerning. If I may be so bold, I’d like to ask you to explain your plan to expand these hearings, how you will implement your plan in order to get the facts, and how soon you will get started with your efforts. You see, Senator Levin, I wrote to you last year, on November 23, 2009, to be exact, with my own concerns about the military’s handling of TBI and PTSD, and I’m still waiting for your response.

It was my hope that you, as the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will be truly concerned about the Active Duty Soldiers and Marines who are suffering with PTSD and TBI. I hope you will be even more concerned when your facts lead you to the realization that these troops are not receiving proper care. In fact, in some cases, these warriors are being mistreated. Senator Levin, please don’t make the mistake of including these individuals in the tens of thousands mentioned in the NPR report as currently ‘undiagnosed’. These men of whom I refer are a part of the 115,000 who have been identified, according to the NPR report.

Did I make myself clear, Senator? These men HAVE already been identified, and yet, in addition to the fact that they do not receive proper care, they are actually disciplined, demoted, and stripped of all dignity. I know you find this hard to believe. I felt the same way back in the beginning when I was first introduced to this problem personally. At first, I thought perhaps it was just that my Marine was going through a difficult time in his life. I trusted the Marine Corps and I trusted the infamous Wounded Warrior Battalion-East (WWBN-E). I had read many great things about the unit, and was initially pleased that my son had been transferred there from MarSOC. The longer my son was assigned to WWBN-E, however, the more he changed. The changes I saw were not good. In fact, at some point my son became almost unrecognizable.

Alarmed, I began to ask questions. I started with the family support coordinator. Next, I spoke to my son’s case manager. Over a period of time, I spoke with the Staff Sergeant, the Captain, different doctors, as well as other staff members assigned to my son’s care. Over the past several months, I’ve even had numerous conversations with the Commanding Officer of the battalion.

Because I still felt that no one was listening, I sought advice from retired commanding officers and medical professionals in my area, trying to learn as much as I could about my son’s diagnosis. I wanted to better understand what he was going through so I could be of some help to him. I even met with employees at our local VA Medical Center who work with veterans dealing with the same conditions. After months of searching for someone to help my son, I finally reached out to my congressman and my senators. In fact, Senator Levin, I reached out to you, as previously mentioned, in my letter of November 23, 2009, which I will attach for your convenience.

The Kentucky lawmakers (Senator Jim Bunning, Senator Mitch McConnell, and Congressman Ben Chandler)took enough interest to write a letter to initiate inquiries on my son’s behalf, but they, like everyone else, didn’t really seem to care enough to follow through with any sincere effort. I found this extremely disappointing with this being my first experience to exercise my right to reach out to my elected officials for help.

Congressman Joe Sestak also took the time to initiate an inquiry on my son’s behalf. Though he represents the state of Pennsylvania, his concern as a veteran was greatly appreciated by our family.

As the Personnel Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Jim Webb and his staff took interest and conducted a fact finding mission on systemic issues. I am not aware of the specific findings, though I am aware that there were some discrepancies found.  Senator Webb took action almost immediately when this situation was brought to his attention.

Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, has been 100% committed to helping not only my son, but all Marines who have been brought to his attention suffering with PTSD and TBI, including those who find themselves with the unfortunate assignment of Wounded Warrior Battlion-East.

If it were not for the efforts of Congressman Jones, our family would have lost hope a long time ago, and I’m confident that my son would be dead and buried. As it stands now, he is still breathing, but he is so changed that we really don’t recognize him anymore. His wounds have made life difficult for him, but it was the treatment that he received during his assignment at WWBN-E that actually destroyed him. Not a day goes by that I don’t mourn the loss of my son. It’s been eighteen months, but I still hang onto the hope that one day, he will return to us, for what we have now is merely a shell of the man who is struggling to survive.

Now that I am aware of the concerns brought to your attention by the powerful entities of NPR and ProPublica,it is my hope that you will also listen to those of us who have no power and no name, those of us with voices, screaming and unheard. I cry out as a mother who raised a son willing to serve his nation. I beg you, Senator Levin, to listen carefully to what I have to say. There are many who are assigned to Wounded Warrior Battalions and Warrior Transition Units who are hanging on, barely breathing, with hope that someone will take notice of the deplorable care they are receiving.

The very men and women who have fought to ensure that we can live in a free nation, are themselves, living as prisoners of war, held hostage by their own. You will be told that nothing is wrong when you speak to the commanders. Given the opportunity to speak directly to the Wounded Warriors, the staff will be sure to schedule a time for you to speak with someone that fits within the unit’s chosen archetype. Just know that you won’t get the truth from these Marines. They are hand picked because they will tell you what the command wants you to hear. The sad reality, Sir, is that even if you have the opportunity to speak with those who are being mistreated, you will not get the truth from them either. You see, they are too frightened to speak out and tell the truth. No one is willing to take the fall, for they have seen what happens to those who have taken a stand. They don’t want to end up with the same life sentence.

The commanders will tell you that stigma no longer exists, and they will tell you there is an open door policy. Don’t believe them, Sir! You will never be able to accomplish anything with the expanded hearings you have scheduled at the end of the month if you don’t listen to someone who has nothing to lose by telling the truth.

I’ve spent months thinking about this situation, Senator Levin. I believe I have some ideas that need to be heard. I have ideas that range from issues such as gaining accurate responses to climate surveys all the way to suggestions for legislation that would generate advocates for those being served by the Wounded Warrior units across the nation. You may see me simply as a mother of a Marine, but I believe I play another role of importance.

I started a nonprofit organization, Military Missions Inc., several years ago in an effort to rally support for our troops amongst the civilian community. At first, the organization simply sent care packages. Before long we saw a need and began to offer support for military family members. Becoming more involved in the community of military families, we saw the need to reach out to encourage and support our Veteran community. As well, our eyes were opened to the urgency to provide support for those suffering with PTSD and TBI.(www.fellednot.com) I work on these issues twelve to fourteen hours a day, and I don’t get paid a dime. I don’t want recognition, nor do I want a pat on the back. I want to be a voice for those who don’t have one. It is the least I can do for those who were willing to lay down their lives for Americans like myself.

Senator, I research the issues. I talk to care givers, experts, and most importantly, I listen to those who are suffering. They trust me, knowing that I truly care about them and will do anything I can to get the attention of our nation’s leaders so that improvements can be made.

I’m tired of turning on the news and hearing the endless discussions about about the oil spill. I’m annoyed when I must listen to the endless bickering with regard to health care reform. I’m distressed and agitated because I am forced to listen to current leaders blame the last administration for the economy, the war, and the issue of illegal immigration. All of these issues are important, but instead of solving the problems, people just keep pointing the fingers of blame. Meanwhile, wounded warriors are wasting away in despair, lives are being lost to suicide, families are falling apart, and most of our lawmakers don’t even seem to notice. Can’t we all stop for just a moment and take care of those who sacrificed for the rest of us? I don’t think I’m asking too much.

Senator Levin, I would greatly appreciate it if you would contact me so that I can share with you some valuable information. If you truly want to ensure that our wounded warriors get the care they need, please dig deep. Look past the top commanders, for their main concern is their career path. Look past the troops stuck wasting away in units for Wounded Warriors, for they are far too frightened to speak the truth. Find the family members who bear the burden, for they know what’s really going on. Listen to them, for they are the ones tho know their warrior better than anyone. They are the ones who will stop at nothing to make sure that their warrior receives proper care.

I know it will seem overwhelming at first, Sir, but don’t make the same mistake that almost everyone else has already made. Don’t ignore the evidence. Don’t bury it because you prefer a quick fix to this enormous problem. Acknowledge what you find, admit you found it, apologize if you find cause to do so, move forward, and get the situation resolved. Don’t be just one more person jumping in with everyone else to cover things up. Be one who has the courage to expose the truth, no matter how ugly and brutal it becomes.

Very respectfully submitted,

Proud Mother of a Marine Sergeant

Originally published by the author on fellednot.com

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