Operation Recovery

The Fort Hood Testimony Report

Cody DeSousa *

Active Duty US Army, Systems Specialist, three years

 

Editor’s note: Cody is an active duty systems specialist who did not identify his race. He has been in the Army for three years and is on profile for a knee injury.

 

I’m a systems specialist, which is a communications job. I’ve been in for three years, and for two of those years I’ve been on profile for an injury that doesn’t hinder me at all. I ran an 8-minute 2-mile and got a 3:46 on the PT test last time I took it. They came down and told me that I had runner’s knee, which is over-exertion of the kneecap. I went in almost 60 times, being diagnosed with the same thing and getting different answers on what was wrong with me—some said runner’s knee, some said patellofemoral syndrome, others said I was perfectly fine. So I didn’t really know what the case was with my knee.

A few months back I got in a car crash. My knee hit the dash, and right after I had an MRI. That’s what really started up the knee pain. I got put back on profile for my knee again. I was still able to do PT and still able to do work, but this time it was a “dead man” profile, just because the doctors felt that’s what I needed to be on. I was supposed to deploy two days prior to that incident, and even though my knee was perfectly fine, they decided to take me off and throw me into an MEB status.

Once you’re in the MEB all the doctors give you the go-around. Some said surgery, some said nothing, you’re fine. So when I was able to get my hands on my MRIs and x-rays, I sent them home to my mom, who is an orthopedic surgeon. She said that I have no ligaments connecting my kneecap to my hip, I have insane amounts of fluid built up in my kneecap, and my kneecap is completely shifted off balance. None of this was told to me by any of the military doctors. Once I got that information, I passed it on to my doctors, asking for surgery.

Once again, it was denied to me, and of course they decided to put me on another permanent profile. I’m not able to do shit, and my unit is telling me that I’m malingering and that I’m fucking around and I’m a worthless piece of shit even though I did my job for three years.

They ask me to break my profile almost every day. And it’s happening to other people, too. I remember one time just going down to the motor pool, and just randomly deciding to count how many times I’d break my profile. I broke my profile seven times in five minutes.

Before getting the permanent profile, I would get shit from my NCOs all the time for going to sick call. I would be told I was a shitbag for going and was told that I wasn’t doing my job just because of the injury. One time I even fell on PT during a run. They made me run because I didn’t have my profile that one day and my knee just completely gave out on me. They said that I was faking it, so I had to get up and walk around and get back in the run according to the NCOs. Obviously the next day my knee was completely swollen and purple, so I had to go in to sick call again, where all they gave me was pain medication and sent me on my way, saying no it was fine and would be fixed in a couple of days.

I’ve been on every pain medication, from Tylenol to ibuprofen to steroids. So yeah, they denied my surgeries, but gave me narcotics. They would give me any type of pain medication, from just regular old pain medication to arthritis pain medication. But while they were giving me this pain medication, they would also tell me that I was perfectly fine and there was absolutely nothing wrong with me.

When I went to a civilian doctor, they told me otherwise.

What happened to me, where I didn’t have a copy of my profile on me, so the leader ignores it, that happens all the time. The NCOs will give you crap about going to sick call—I’ve always just gone anyway, but other soldiers probably get deterred from going. They’re afraid of the way that the NCOs look at them, afraid of being called a shitbag, of being worthless to the platoon, as an NCO would put it. Soldiers—we’re pawns. That’s really all we are.

Sometimes soldiers get crap from NCOs about going to mental health too. Depends on who you’re talking to. A lot of the NCOs in this battalion don’t really know what’s going on with people, and when you try to bring an issue to them they play it off, thinking it’s not a big deal or thinking that it doesn’t really matter. But they don’t really know what’s wrong with that person.

If I had something I needed mental health for, it wouldn’t deter me from talking to somebody, but from the NCO standpoint I don’t know if they’d actually understand what I’d be trying to tell them. And they would almost definitely play it off like it wasn’t that big of a deal or like I was just exaggerating.

Because of the draw-down, the Army is definitely trying to chapter people out for this stuff. Just a couple days ago they took me out of the MEB process without even telling me. They called me into the office one day and my commander looked at me and said, “You’re out of the MEB, you’re fit for duty. Are you deploying?” The next day, one of my buddies got called into a commander’s office and got thrown into the MEB process without even knowing. He was scheduled to have surgery and wanted to be found fit for duty. They denied him that surgery after already verifying that he was going to have the surgery. They did that just to fill a number. With this battalion all it is is a numbers game. If they feel that they need you out, they’re gonna kick you out. If they feel they can get a little bit more work into you, it doesn’t matter what your case may be, it doesn’t matter how injured you may be, they’re going to work you until you’re fully broken.

All the trainings for these issues, for PTSD, TBI, sexual assault, everybody just sees them as a joke, even the NCOs that give the classes. It’s supposed to be a serious subject, but the soldiers and NCOs in this unit don’t really think it’s going to happen to them, so they just play it off. There are a lot of jokes going around the table as we’re going through slides, a lot of off-the-wall stuff said, and you don’t really get the essence of the training.

And I haven’t had any training on how to recognize the symptoms of PTSD, or TBI.

So since I’m no longer in MEB now, I’m set to deploy soon. My knee is in better shape than it has been. It’s not perfect—I still can’t run, I still can’t jump, or anything like that but they’re still trying to deploy me. I have a permanent profile that says I can’t run, jump, or squat. But according to them, they can send me because I can wear gear and live in an austere environment.
Editor’s note: Cody is an active duty systems specialist who did not identify his race. He has been in the Army for three years and is on profile for a knee injury.

I’m a systems specialist, which is a communications job. I’ve been in for three years, and for two of those years I’ve been on profile for an injury that doesn’t hinder me at all. I ran an 8-minute 2-mile and got a 3:46 on the PT test last time I took it. They came down and told me that I had runner’s knee, which is over-exertion of the kneecap. I went in almost 60 times, being diagnosed with the same thing and getting different answers on what was wrong with me—some said runner’s knee, some said patellofemoral syndrome, others said I was perfectly fine. So I didn’t really know what the case was with my knee.

A few months back I got in a car crash. My knee hit the dash, and right after I had an MRI. That’s what really started up the knee pain. I got put back on profile for my knee again. I was still able to do PT and still able to do work, but this time it was a “dead man” profile, just because the doctors felt that’s what I needed to be on. I was supposed to deploy two days prior to that incident, and even though my knee was perfectly fine, they decided to take me off and throw me into an MEB status.

Once you’re in the MEB all the doctors give you the go-around. Some said surgery, some said nothing, you’re fine. So when I was able to get my hands on my MRIs and x-rays, I sent them home to my mom, who is an orthopedic surgeon. She said that I have no ligaments connecting my kneecap to my hip, I have insane amounts of fluid built up in my kneecap, and my kneecap is completely shifted off balance. None of this was told to me by any of the military doctors. Once I got that information, I passed it on to my doctors, asking for surgery.

Once again, it was denied to me, and of course they decided to put me on another permanent profile. I’m not able to do shit, and my unit is telling me that I’m malingering and that I’m fucking around and I’m a worthless piece of shit even though I did my job for three years.

They ask me to break my profile almost every day. And it’s happening to other people, too. I remember one time just going down to the motor pool, and just randomly deciding to count how many times I’d break my profile. I broke my profile seven times in five minutes.

Before getting the permanent profile, I would get shit from my NCOs all the time for going to sick call. I would be told I was a shitbag for going and was told that I wasn’t doing my job just because of the injury. One time I even fell on PT during a run. They made me run because I didn’t have my profile that one day and my knee just completely gave out on me. They said that I was faking it, so I had to get up and walk around and get back in the run according to the NCOs. Obviously the next day my knee was completely swollen and purple, so I had to go in to sick call again, where all they gave me was pain medication and sent me on my way, saying no it was fine and would be fixed in a couple of days.

I’ve been on every pain medication, from Tylenol to ibuprofen to steroids. So yeah, they denied my surgeries, but gave me narcotics. They would give me any type of pain medication, from just regular old pain medication to arthritis pain medication. But while they were giving me this pain medication, they would also tell me that I was perfectly fine and there was absolutely nothing wrong with me.

When I went to a civilian doctor, they told me otherwise.

What happened to me, where I didn’t have a copy of my profile on me, so the leader ignores it, that happens all the time. The NCOs will give you crap about going to sick call—I’ve always just gone anyway, but other soldiers probably get deterred from going. They’re afraid of the way that the NCOs look at them, afraid of being called a shitbag, of being worthless to the platoon, as an NCO would put it. Soldiers—we’re pawns. That’s really all we are.

Sometimes soldiers get crap from NCOs about going to mental health too. Depends on who you’re talking to. A lot of the NCOs in this battalion don’t really know what’s going on with people, and when you try to bring an issue to them they play it off, thinking it’s not a big deal or thinking that it doesn’t really matter. But they don’t really know what’s wrong with that person.

If I had something I needed mental health for, it wouldn’t deter me from talking to somebody, but from the NCO standpoint I don’t know if they’d actually understand what I’d be trying to tell them. And they would almost definitely play it off like it wasn’t that big of a deal or like I was just exaggerating.

Because of the draw-down, the Army is definitely trying to chapter people out for this stuff. Just a couple days ago they took me out of the MEB process without even telling me. They called me into the office one day and my commander looked at me and said, “You’re out of the MEB, you’re fit for duty. Are you deploying?” The next day, one of my buddies got called into a commander’s office and got thrown into the MEB process without even knowing. He was scheduled to have surgery and wanted to be found fit for duty. They denied him that surgery after already verifying that he was going to have the surgery. They did that just to fill a number. With this battalion all it is is a numbers game. If they feel that they need you out, they’re gonna kick you out. If they feel they can get a little bit more work into you, it doesn’t matter what your case may be, it doesn’t matter how injured you may be, they’re going to work you until you’re fully broken.

All the trainings for these issues, for PTSD, TBI, sexual assault, everybody just sees them as a joke, even the NCOs that give the classes. It’s supposed to be a serious subject, but the soldiers and NCOs in this unit don’t really think it’s going to happen to them, so they just play it off. There are a lot of jokes going around the table as we’re going through slides, a lot of off-the-wall stuff said, and you don’t really get the essence of the training.

And I haven’t had any training on how to recognize the symptoms of PTSD, or TBI.

So since I’m no longer in MEB now, I’m set to deploy soon. My knee is in better shape than it has been. It’s not perfect—I still can’t run, I still can’t jump, or anything like that but they’re still trying to deploy me. I have a permanent profile that says I can’t run, jump, or squat. But according to them, they can send me because I can wear gear and live in an austere environment.

But I can’t move with this gear on.

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