Chris Graham: The other side of the bargain

I always thought that the deal was – the men and women in our nation’s military put their lives on hold and on the line to protect ours, so when they return from the battlefield, no matter what their situation was, we got their back.

And then you read about how it’s been getting tougher and tougher for veterans back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to deal with the overburdened Veterans Administration, and you realize – we’re not doing our part.

Chuck Layman didn’t think he’d be a statistic when he signed up for the U.S. Army out of high school. He didn’t think twice about joining the military. The only question going in was, Which branch?

Looking back on a military career that took him to Afghanistan and left him physically broken, Layman still doesn’t have any regrets on the decision to serve his country, to my utter amazement, having heard his story in detail.

But Layman also makes it clear that he feels his country hasn’t held up its end of the deal, and I tend to agree with him.

“It’s an everyday fight,” said Layman, 32, who suffered a debilitating knee injury while serving in Afghanistan, and has been dealing with injuries to his other knee and back that came about after the initial incident.

The pain from the collection of injuries was such that he was on morphine for a long spell recently. The mental anguish of post-traumatic stress disorder has gone largely unchecked, and certainly isn’t helped out by the constant back-and-forth he has to engage in with the Veterans Administration.

“I try to be nice and diplomatic, but it seems like dealing with the VA, if you’re going to be nice and let things go, they’re going to continue to give you hurdles to jump through. I’ve just gotten tired of it,” said Layman, who served in the Army and the Virginia National Guard for seven years.

He’s lost three jobs – “two really good jobs,” he said – since being discharged in 2006. Now Layman is behind on his child support to the point where his ex-wife could, he said, push the issue and have him jailed.

“She’s been somewhat lenient,” said Layman, who worries about his continued ability to put a roof over his head and food on his table given his current situation.

Layman isn’t perfect, by any means, but none of us are. He’s also been through an awful lot in his young life, and whether he volunteered for it or not, we had a deal, remember? They go fight our battles over there, and when they come back, we fight their battles for them here if they need us to.

Well, Chuck Layman needs us to fight a couple of pretty important battles for him now.

 


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