In 2004, Army Sergeant First Class, Charles Frenzel was deployed to Iraq to do what all soldiers do, fight for their country. Except he's returned from his tour of duty and is still fighting....for his health. His DOE civilian job has been abolished, his full retirement pay has been whittled away, nearly wiping him out financially. And all because, he served his country....
When SFC Frenzel was deployed to Iraq in September 2004 he was stationed at Camp Caldwell in Kirkush. Where the blue skies were replaced by endless clouds of black smoke from a nearby brick factory (pictured above). The factory's 150-foot tall smoke stacks billowed a hazardous environmental cocktail of smoke laced with crude oil.
By July 2005 10 months into his tour, SFC Frenzel began experiencing memory loss and sinus problems. The vision in his right eye regressed and he became partially blind, compounded by the loss of motor control nerves and his balance off kilter. (pictured below)
SFC Frenzel was medEvac to the Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where a CT Scan would uncover in the right rear section of his brain a monstrous sheet size tumor (8.5 cm x 4.5 cm) pressing on the left lobe. By spreading itself into SFC Frenzel's brain cavity it effected his memory and limited his ability to eat and walk. He was then transferred to WRAMC where he underwent numerous surgeries.
SFC Frenzel said upon returning home after six months at WRAMC,
"The American public will come up to you and shake your hand and say thank you. But they are unaware of what the soldiers coming home and their families are going through -- they're completely out of touch to what real life is for us. And expect someone to do the fighting for them. One lady said to me, 'You signed the enlistment, you knew what could happen.' America is the original land of scams -- they look around for a fool to go to the fights. That's what they're expecting, someone who is stupid enough to go and fight for them."
There have been other soldiers returning to their civilian jobs at the DOE site where SFC Frenzel was employed. They were assisted in finding equal paying positions, or have been transferred to desk jobs. But because SFC Frenzel was due to retire in 2006, they gave him an ultimatum; accept a position that pays $40,000 less per year or be fired. In fear the contractor would forfeit his retirement, in 2005 SFC Frenzel took it early. His union contract guaranteed him six months short-term disability and two years long-term disability, both of which were denied. And the 1,500 hours of sick leave he accumulated during his 27-year position -- has vanished.
After serving in Iraq, this new vet felt disposable. At a time when a soldier supposed to be receiving care while integrating back into civilian life, OIF Vet's appear to be abandoned, similar to the vet's before them of the Vietnam War. The lack of support from the country they fought for. The abandon from the military they laid down their life for...only to have both turn on their heels. Makes the American flag that's embossed on their shoulder seem empty. As each star and every stripe seems to evaporate when a soldier comes home. Returning as a vet to a life that's no longer the same. In a body that no longer looks the same. With a mind that no longer thinks the same. And a heart that no longer feels the same. Damaged by the spoils of war. Abandoned by the yellow ribbons that once comforted. And neglected by the uniform that once wrapped their soul.
Our liberty hangs on a flagpole blowing in the wind, while the invisible veterans are rewarded with monuments erected in their honor, by a military that's chosen to ignore them. These are the skeletons that will follow them long after they have left the battlefield. For it is a shameful secret draped in camouflage at the expense of courageous soldiers. Whose memory will hang at half-mast blowing in the wind. And it is them that has made this.....'the land of the free.'
This apathetic tone towards returning soldiers seems to be the status quo of a majority of Americans who have forfeited their backbone for the comforts of ignorance. Where, I ask you, is the upheaval and rage for soldiers exposed to our military uses of depleted uranium and are returning from Iraq with cancer? Where's the uprising that Bush has raped and pillaged this country for eight years? There's more solidarity and enforcement from Mother's Against Drunk Drivers than with what's happening to American's in this political climate.
How has our unrest with the government and corporate America evaporated in 45 years? When did we become such pacifists that we don't question anything? Where's the discontent over gas prices and fuel costs? Where's the intolerance over wages that don't reflect cost of living increases? Where's the anguish over mandatory vaccines causing illness in our children and pets? Where's the rumbling with the overmedication of the elderly who have become invisible and have lost their voice? What happened to the hostility over our food supply being irradiated?
I ask where's the outrage that tons of garbage is being dumped into our oceans? Where's the uproar over American jobs being outsourced? When did we as a society become so numbed to the mistreatment of ourselves, our children and our world. Are we so intoxicated by the silky appeal of possessions that we ourselves have become a commodity. Our health, our lives, our environment bought, sold and traded on Wall St.
So strung-out are we on the most marketed drug: commercialism, that as consumers even of the government -- we have lost our conviction for what's right and wrong. And in the shadows lurk our desecrated constitution in which we used to stand. If our spine buckles over depleted Uranium/radiation effecting our troops -- then be prepared, because we're next. As they'll be serving it to us in our breakfast cereal.