When I spoke about goals on New Year’s Day, I must have tempted fate. But, wait, I did not mention patience. Or needing to learn to let go of control. But, perhaps the Universe or the Goddess in Her infinite wisdom, decided on that lesson plan. I have served in the military for over 17 years, the last 10 being Army Reserve. My proudest moment was obtaining my social work commission. I still remember my goal was to help enlisted make the most out of their service. I wanted to mentor in addition to my work as a clinical social worker helping soldiers and families. Little did I know that decision to get a commission would blow up in my face.
When I was first injured, my only thought was towards my unit. The Warrior Ethos, “I will never quit” and the Army Values of Loyalty and Duty drove me. My unit was deploying in 2012. I was going to be with them. I did everything the doctors recommended and then some. I ran until I vomited. My commanding officer pulled me out of OBLC (Officer Basic Leadership Course) or I would have gone and tried my damnedest to pass. Even two months before they deployed, my goal was to recover enough to be a “replacement” mid-tour. Then, my goal was to deploy with another unit in 2014. See the pattern? It was only last month that I finally accepted, grudgingly, that my military service is over. It’s not that I want to fight and kill anyone. I wanted to deploy, first, to be with my Soldiers and, secondly, to help soldiers in country. I wanted to be a social worker. If I could prevent one service member from getting PTSD or committing suicide, it was worth a year of my time. For myself, I wanted the experience. I know that sounds strange.
How messed up is the journey? I was passed over twice for captain. That usually means an administrative discharge. Only, I am also medically unfit. Unfortunately, in order to qualify for medical retirement, I have to state that I am not medically unfit, thus triggering a medical board. The medical board then finds me unfit and medically retires me. Army logic. I can’t just accept the findings and request retirement. That would make sense. The medical board has to convene before the administrative board takes action on my non-selection. Now, here my unit comes in.
At first, my unit was supportive. Then, I got two letters today. Well, honestly, I hadn’t checked my mail in 10 days, so I probably got at least one of them earlier. According to my unit, I now have 8 unexcused absences from drill, for November and December 2012. True, I did not attend drill. I am medically unable to drive or ride 170 miles or so one way to my unit. Even if I get there, I am very limited in what I am able to do. For example, I do work a full 8 hours due to fatigue. I also can’t fire a weapon and I get migraines under florescent lights. Prior to this, my drill have been excused and my rehab has been counted towards drill time. Before I received the letters, my commanding officer left a voice mail. I returned her call four times in the past month, leaving voice mails. My medical provider has also called her. She never returned the calls. I also emailed the unit administrator twice and called and left messages twice (before letters). Can you hear the crickets chirping? I can. So, if I get one more unexcused absence, I can be reduced in rank and receive an other than honorable discharge. Guess what is this weekend? You got it! The letters have no email, phone, or fax contacts, just an address. I have my medical providers writing letters to the commander, but after this weekend, I may face the military equivalent of criminal charges. For having a brain injury and being medically unfit. Oh! And I need a signature on a form by the unit in order to start the medical board!
I’m calling a JAG tomorrow. He’s actually a civilian lawyer and a JAG with the Army Guard. I’ll be paying him out of pocket to represent me. I will not be dishonorably discharged out of stupidity.
Yes, I think the Goddess decided I needed a lesson in trust.
Another one of the Warrior Ethos, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” My unit not only left me. They kicked me down the hill and under the bus.