On the mend, but on hold.Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard
ALBANY - Oregon National Guard Staff Sgt. Sean Davis is the kind of guy you want on your side in a firefight fire·fight
An exchange of gunfire, as between infantry units. : calm, committed, former Army infantryman, knows his enemy, willing to get the job done.
If he hadn't gotten blown up in a June attack that smashed his wrist, broke his leg and spattered spat·ter
v. spat·tered, spat·ter·ing, spat·ters
1. To scatter (a liquid) in drops or small splashes.
2. To spot, splash, or soil.
3. shrapnel in his back, he'd be with his unit - Bravo Company of the 2nd Battalion 162nd Infantry, recently battling it out with insurgents Insurgents, in U.S. history, the Republican Senators and Representatives who in 1909–10 rose against the Republican standpatters controlling Congress, to oppose the Payne-Aldrich tariff and the dictatorial power of House speaker Joseph G. Cannon. in Najaf.
But Davis is home now, recuperating from his injuries and in the military limbo known as medical hold.
The up side of medical hold is that Guard soldiers remain on active duty status while they heal from injuries. That gives them access to the full range of medical care available to regular Army soldiers.
The down side: Some recuperating Guard members have gotten stuck on Army bases far from home and family.
That policy trapped 31-year-old Davis for almost a month at Fort Hood Fort Hood, U.S. army post, 209,000 acres (84,580 hectares), central Tex., near Killeen; est. 1942 on the site of old Fort Gates and named for Confederate Gen. John Hood. It is one of the army's largest installations and a major employer of the area. , Texas, far away from his wife and two kids in Albany. It took intervention from U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio Peter Anthony DeFazio (born May 27, 1947) is an American politician. He serves as a Democratic U.S. Representative from Oregon, representing the 4th Congressional District and is currently serving his 11th term. to get him and another Oregon National Guard member back home.
Here's the problem:
When regular Army soldiers get injured, they're sent back to their home base to recuperate re·cu·per·ate
To return to health or strength; recover. unless they need specialized care, such as that provided to amputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Walter Reed Army Medical Center, major hospital complex in Washington, D. C., and Forest Glen, Md.; est. 1923 and named for U.S. army surgeon Walter Reed. It is composed of seven units including a general hospital and a research institute. There are several thousand beds. in Washington, D.C. That poses few problems for Army soldiers, whose families often live on or near the base, say Guard spokesmen.
But injured National Guard soldiers often go to the base where they trained before going to war, such as Fort Lewis in Washington state and Fort Hood in Texas - far from family members. Several have languished there despite only sporadic medical care.
After complaints about the system, the Army has come up with a solution that gives some National Guard members the option of being treated by civilian doctors closer to home. But despite the policy change, problems remain.
Stuck in Fort Lewis
Last week, the Oregon National Guard's acting adjutant ADJUTANT. A military officer, attached to every battalion of a regiment. It is his duty to superintend, under his superiors, all matters relating to the ordinary routine of discipline in the regiment. general, Brig. Gen. Raymond Byrne, met with about a dozen Guard members still being treated at Fort Lewis' Madigan Army Medical Center Madigan Army Medical Center located in Fort Lewis, Washington, is one of the largest military hospitals on the West Coast of the USA.
The hospital was named in honor of Colonel Patrick S. Madigan, an assistant to the U.S. to hear more about the problems they face.
"There's a lot of frustration," said Maj. Arnold Strong, a spokesman for the Oregon National Guard. The biggest problem seems to be with the soldiers stuck in Fort Lewis who aren't hospitalized, scheduled for only a couple of appointments a month, but who would rather be home.
"The argument is, `Hey, I'm up here by myself and not feeling like I can get on with my life,' ' he said.
Currently, 55 Oregon Guard members are on medical hold. Of them, 29 received injuries in Iraq, the rest were hurt in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. in incidents that include on-the-job injuries and car accidents.
There are 26 soldiers receiving some kind of care through Fort Lewis. Other Oregon Guard members are scattered around the country at Walter Reed Noun 1. Walter Reed - United States physician who proved that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes (1851-1902)
Reed , Fort Bragg Fort Bragg, U.S. army base, 11,136 acres (4,507 hectares), E N.C., N of Fayetteville; est. 1918. Originally an artillery post, it is now the principal U.S. army airborne-training center and the site of the Special Warfare School. , Fort Hood and Fort Carson Fort Carson is a United States Army installation and a Census Designated Place located immediately south of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, United States and just north of Pueblo, Colorado in Pueblo County Colorado. . A couple are still being treated in Germany, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Oregon National Guard records.
Davis' odyssey began on June 13, when his Humvee blew up, the target of an improvised explosive device Noun 1. improvised explosive device - an explosive device that is improvised
explosive device - device that bursts with sudden violence from internal energy in Taji north of Baghdad.
The blast threw the Humvee 6 feet in the air, killing gunner Eric McKinley and injuring driver Matthew Zedwick and Davis. Zedwick's injuries were minor and he returned to his unit, but Davis was rushed to a Baghdad hospital with arm and leg fractures, burns and shrapnel in his back.
The broken leg wasn't bad, but bone jutted through the skin in a compound fracture compound fracture
See open fracture.
A fracture in which the broken end or ends of the bone have torn through the skin. of Davis' right wrist. He was stabilized and sent to Germany before being transferred back to the United States.
Davis figured he was headed for Fort Lewis, just like one of the other injured men from his unit, Cpl. Shane Ward, who was shot in the fighting that followed the explosion. But Ward got sent to Fort Lewis and Davis ended up in Texas, where his unit was stationed before being deployed.
After a week of treatment there, he was sent home to convalesce con·va·lesce
To return to health and strength after illness; recuperate. in Albany with his family, but a month later he was ordered back to Fort Hood to sign papers ending his convalescent con·va·les·cent
Relating to convalescence.
A person who is recovering from an illness, an injury, or a surgical operation.
1. pertaining to or characterized by convalescence.
Army officials told him they couldn't fax him the paperwork. "They said it would just take three or four days," he said.
He had to pay for his flight back to the base, but the day after he arrived, Fort Hood officials froze all transfers, and Davis found himself stuck in Texas without recourse A phrase used by an endorser (a signer other than the original maker) of a negotiable instrument (for example, a check or promissory note) to mean that if payment of the instrument is refused, the endorser will not be responsible. .
His barracks bar·rack 1
tr.v. bar·racked, bar·rack·ing, bar·racks
To house (soldiers, for example) in quarters.
1. A building or group of buildings used to house military personnel. was next to a shooting range where mortars went off every night. Having just returned from a combat zone, where his camp underwent nightly mortar fire, Davis was a little jumpy. He didn't have a uniform - all his gear had been left behind in Iraq - and he was stuck wearing Army sweats known as PTs - a kind of attire that normally excludes a soldier from eating at the mess hall or seeing doctors. Davis had to keep explaining himself to fellow soldiers who confronted him.
A "Catch 22" situation
Davis, who enlisted in the Guard on Sept. 12, 2001, isn't a complainer. "I don't want people to have a negative view of the Army," he said. But he does smile when he recalls how he kept himself busy during those weeks - reading the quintessential World War II novel of Army life paradoxes, "Catch 22" by Joseph Heller.
His situation improved when his wife, Jennifer, finally called DeFazio's office for help.
DeFazio's staff has intervened on behalf of two National Guard soldiers on medical hold by contacting the Army's Sacramento-based Community Health Care Initiative, specifically created to deal with such medical issues, said DeFazio spokeswoman Penny Dodge.
"It hadn't been set up yet for Oregon and Washington," when Davis first arrived at Fort Hood, she said. "Since it's been set up we haven't heard from anybody else."
But the kinks in the system remain, Strong said.
The Army won't release soldiers for treatment in their home towns if they can't get equivalent care there, he said. Madigan Hospital at Fort Lewis is considered the West Coast equivalent of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he said. A soldier in Corvallis is unlikely to find the same specialized treatment that he'd get at Madigan, Strong said. And unless soldiers are willing to sign a treatment waiver, they're bound to receive the care that the Army stipulates.
New Guard procedures
To help soldiers who can't get home, the Oregon National Guard has begun two new efforts, Strong said. From now on, unit representatives will routinely check on Guard members who are on medical hold, Strong said.
"If you came from Bravo Company's 52nd Engineers, then a Bravo representative ought to be checking on you routinely," he said.
And Guard family support coordinators in other states will also check in with injured Oregon Guard members and contact their families here to keep them in the loop, Strong said.
Davis is now seeing a Portland physical therapist through the Veterans Administration hospital for help and has about 10 percent of the use of his right hand. He may require further surgery to remove a plate inserted to hold his wrist bones together.
As he heals, he spends his days working at the Armory in Corvallis. Although happy to be home with his wife and kids, he feels torn whenever he goes online and finds pictures of Bravo Company in the thick of the fight. Several were recently posted on Yahoo's news site.
"I see these pictures," he said, "and I just want to be there. I don't want to be shot at, but I do want to be with these guys."
Oregon National Guard Family Program: Contact Diane Gooding at Diane.Gooding@or.ngb.army.mil or call (503) 584-3543, toll free (800) 452-7500
Staff Sgt. Sean Davis is one of 55 Oregon National Guard members who are on medical hold. He is recovering from a June attack on his Humvee in Iraq that shattered his wrist, broke his leg and sent shrapnel into his back. Kevin Clark / The Register-Guard Davis says he feels torn whenever he goes online and finds pictures of Bravo Company. "I just want to be there," he says.