Operation Recovery

The Fort Hood Testimony Report

Josue Gomez *

Active duty US Army, Infantry, two deployments

I’m going to talk about the way things have been going for people that are in the med platoon or getting out of the military. I know the army changes, but still, it doesn’t mean it’s okay for it to treat its soldiers like crap. Some people are hurt. And you already have issues within your own self, because you’ll get hurt you don’t want to do the job. You can’t do it.

Your medical reasons for it stress you out. On top of that, the NCOs make you out to look like a shitbag when you really are hurt. What you want to do is get all of your medical proceedings to get out. But it’s hard over here. It’s either that you’re stressed out, or the way they lump stuff together, the medications you are taking make you feel like crap and tired.

They make you do stuff at the unit that devalues your profile. It’s not like you always want to get out of the work. But you have to break your profile. Literally, it’s like 24/7.

They say to carry your profile with you, but sometimes it doesn’t even matter to have it on you. The reason why I’m on profile is for my lower back. I have chronic lower back pain. I have a bad left shoulder. I can only have certain movements in my left shoulder. Sleep disorder from some PTSD. They say it’s severe.

They said I have severe anxiety. Whatever the hell that meant. I’m doing this program for people that they want to say what problems are going on, but they can’t, either because they’re scared, or they’re scared that they’re going to get in trouble for saying what they have on their minds. Because of the way the NCOs treat them, or the way the Army is, or this unit is. One of the other reasons is the way they make you violate your profile—Especially me, because I have my bad back and stuff. They will make me crawl. They will make me work on vehicles. I’m not supposed to be jumping or crawling, or any of that stuff.

If because of everything that is happening to me, I were to get worse, I’m pretty sure they won’t help me. The Army is already saying they can’t help me. It’s kind of weird, because how in the hell are you going to say to me that you can’t help me, when I gave you all of my fricking youth?

They ask me to break my profile 24/7. Sometimes it’s at PT. Some people can’t do PT, so it’s either pick up trash and bend over a thousand times, or pick up cigarette butts and trash here and there. Whenever they want us to do PT, they want us to force ourselves to strain and do something we can’t do.

The NCOs order us to break profile. They just don’t give a shit. You’re hurt, but you want to do it just so you can get them off your back.

They’re aware of what’s wrong with me, oh yeah. They’re aware and they’ll call you names. Because you’ll tell them your reasons—that you have medical reasons—whatever it is that’s bothering you. You tell them, “Look, my back hurts.” And they’ll be like, “That’s bullshit. You know you can bend down and do this and that.” I was like, “Yeah, I could do it, but I’m not going to bend down a million times to pick up cigarette butts. I’m not even a smoker and I have to pick it up.” It’s ridiculous stuff like that. Or they’ll tell me, “Go to the depot and pick up pants that weigh 50 pounds,” when I’m not supposed to pick up more than 20 pounds.

I got my injuries in combat, in my first tour, 2004. I was in another unit. That was a hard tour. I guess over time, it took a toll on my body. My back started giving out. That was another reason we didn’t have enough manpower to do missions, and we were screwed. If you had something wrong with you, they told you to go to the sick call, but they gave you ibuprofen and some bullshit pain pills that didn’t help. And you still had to go on missions with a jacked up back and expect that hopefully you don’t get fricking ambushed or some shit like that.

Over the second tour with my unit here at Fort Hood, that definitely put the icing on the cake and my back just started going out. I put it on standby because I just I didn’t want to let my friends out there do all the work, because that’s just not me. When I came back, we were doing training in squad tactics. We did that for a week or so. That is when I started realizing that my back was giving out. I was trying to get up and my back was just screwed up.

I was like, I can’t do this no more. I’ve got to go to sick call. I found out that my back was really bad and I couldn’t do my job anymore.

I have chronic lower back pain. The discs, the fourth and fifth, are swollen. The part where the bone rests—that cushiony part is swollen. So that’s pushing the bone and it’s hitting the nerve, to the point where it’s now pinched my nerve. And it’s gotten worse, to where it’s spread down my leg and sometimes my leg goes numb. Sometimes I’ll pick up my kid and my back will go out. I have to tell my wife to massage my back.

Other soldiers get made to break their profiles constantly. When we have to go to the motor pool for some vehicle maintenance, sometimes we have to get inside the vehicle. We have to climb and jump and stuff like that. We can’t do that. Some people just can’t do that. It might seem like it’s easy, but some people just can’t do it, because that’s how serious some people’s medical problems are. Sometimes you say, “This is what’s wrong with me,” or, “I can’t do this,” and they just start calling you names. They just really don’t give a shit about you or what is wrong with you. They just want whatever they want to get done and if it doesn’t get done we can’t go home, so we have to break our profiles.

There’s stigma towards soldiers who go to sick call. I think that’s one of the reasons why I jacked myself up, because you always want to be strong. I think it’s an infantry thing or Army thing. You don’t want to be seen as a weak link, so you want to put off a lot of strains that are on your body, or any problems that might be going on with you. You blow it off. You put it on standby because you don’t want people to talk shit about you, you would be screwing yourself.

With the stigma in my unit, if I have a mental health problem…I’m not going to try and get help. They always have something for us to do. Sometimes we can’t even do the stuff that we have to do so that we can get the hell out of the Army—for medical reasons, appointments and stuff. Sometimes they won’t let us go to our appointments unless we have appointment slips. Sometimes we can’t get the appointment slips because it’s done by phone. And sometimes we have to cancel our appointments, and it just prolongs our stay in the army. It just makes us more pissed off, because we don’t want to be here.

I see this with a lot of soldiers, not going to sick call because of the shit they’ll get. Especially most of the new guys, because they don’t want to be seen as a weak link. People call somebody that’s hurt in the army a pussy or fucking shitbag. It puts a strain on soldiers’ minds, and makes you depressed on top of that, because you can’t do your job—the job that you came to do in the Army. I came to the Army to do infantry. I love my job and I can’t do it. It stresses me out, because most people are training and I’m here doing some bullshit details. It just doesn’t make sense sometimes. Sometimes I can’t do the stuff that I need to do to get through Med Board because I’m doing some detail.

With the sexual assault training, people don’t take it seriously. They see the Army hasn’t tried. They try to upgrade their videos and stuff like that. The way they give the classes, sometimes it’s funny because the videos are just so ridiculous, so the soldiers don’t take it seriously. And on top of that—they just do these classes at the wrong time. They do it when soldiers are not there, or they just say, out of the blue, “Oh, we have got a class right now.” And a shitload of soldiers are not even there, because they didn’t put out that we have this class at this time. Or you have to take somebody to an appointment or you have an appointment, and you try to come back to the class and they don’t let you in. It’s stressful.

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