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Date: June 12, 2008 5:28:19 PM CDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: [vfp-all] URGENT!! Help Get Justice for PFC James Burmeister!!
Reply-To:
vfp-all-owner@yahoogroups.com

PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO YOUR FRIENDS AND LISTS


You may remember an email I sent a couple months ago asking for donations for trainfare home for an AWOL soldier and veteran of Iraq who left the Army because his severe PTSD. Many of you responded generously, the full fare was raised--but PFC James Burmeister has not been able to use it. He turned himself in at Ft. Knox around the same time, and at first it appeared that he would be discharged within the week, this was what was expected. Then he was given the opportunity to receive a medical discharge--James has PTSD as well as a brain injury from an IED attack-- which is preferable, and he has been waiting patiently at Ft. Knox, sometimes medical discharges take some time. Then suddenly, last week, the Army filed charges against James for missing movement and intends to court martial him, meaning that he would face jail time.

I am attaching a message from Sonia, a good friend of James that he met while he was in Canada, it explains more about his situation and also what kind of person he is.

Your help is urgently needed. Next week, members of James' family are traveling to Ft. Knox, and plan to visit the base along with veterans and families of veterans and soldiers. James' mother is also scheduled to speak with the media next week. They would like people to send letters of support, letters asking that James be given an Other Than Honorable discharge immediately and not face a court martial. You can send letters and postcards to James at the address below. Depending on what the Army decides to do, there may be a need for phone calls to the base next week, details about this to follow if this seems necessary.

THESE LETTERS ARE VERY IMPORTANT. If people start sending letters now, they will begin arriving early next week to coincide with the visits to the base of family members and veterans. Please ask others to also send letters or postcards.


PFC James Burmeister
HHC Bldg 298
Gold Vault Rd
Fort Knox, KY 40121


Depending on events next week, there may be some sort of action planned at Ft. Knox in support of James. Right now, James' family and friends and other veterans and family members intend to go to Ft. Knox daily next week. Others are welcome to join them, particularly combat veterans who can attest to the effects of PTSD themselves. If you think you have the time and the means to join them at Ft. Knox at any time next week, please contact Anita Dennis, mother of Iraq veteran and war resister Darrell Anderson, at 859-948-4274, or if you can't reach Anita, who will be going to Ft. Knox, you can call me at 405-606-9598 for details. Things are right now up in the air, further actions will depend on the Army's response, but if you think you can make it to Ft. Knox let one of us know.

Jeri

Sonia's message about PFC James Burmeister

I thought I would send you a few bits of info on James to give you an idea of his story.
As you may be aware already, James Burmeister is being held at Fort Knox, KY. James voluntarily turned himself in to the military on March 4th, 2008 after having been AWOL from the U.S. Army since May 4, 2007. His reason for having gone AWOL is untreated PTSD and wanting to get back to his family in Oregon which lives with hardship (mother has MS; sister has just undergone serious hip surgery and has diabetes, they are very poor)
James is an Iraq combat veteran. He manned machine guns on top of humvees and spent 6 months in the line of gunfire. He survived three IED explosions, the last of which knocked him unconscious.

James has been at Fort Knox for 101 days and counting.

James has chronic PTSD. He has gone largely without treatment since his arrival. He seems to be exhibiting signs of depression. He needs a full medical and mental evaluation. A cocktail of powerful drugs was prescribed but no effort has been made to help James get the important cognitive therapy he needs. Doping him up on meds is not what he needs. As it stands, James has high blood pressure and cannot sleep without taking sleeping pills. His pay has been largely withheld and of very irregular sums with no clear explanations. His last pay cheque was in the amount of 54$ for 2 weeks of service. Not enough to even cover food or phone calls to his family.

I first met James back in May 2007 upon his arrival in Canada. Over the months that followed, I had the privilege of getting to know James not only as an AWOL soldier, but as a visiting U.S. citizen who behaved in an exemplary fashion while in Canada. In the short time James spent in my country, his true character and strong moral sense emerged numerous times. James saved the life of a man who was having a heart attack only days upon his arrival. He acted as a brother, friend and father figure to a number of other younger AWOL soldiers who sought asylum, friendship and guidance while in Ottawa. He took part in countless fundraisers and educational activities to raise awareness of the plight of fellow soldiers and to share the knowledge he gained first-hand from his experiences with war.

James helped me, personally, to deal with the loss of a close family member, and he even managed to rescue (and adopt) a young puppy who had been put out on the highway to get hit by passing cars. I could go on and on, Mr. DeFazio. I think what emerges most clearly from these few examples are James' sense of duty and responsibility towards others. Never does James forget to give with one hand, a portion of what he is receiving with the other. Indeed, the very little James managed to live off of while he was in Canada, he usually split with anyone else whom he may have found to be in need, even complete strangers. James does this without hesitation. I understand that James' strong moral sense was useful to his fellow soldiers as well when he was stationed in Iraq. James always behaved with a sense of duty and responsibility, even in battle.

Originally, I understand that James truly wanted to serve in the military as a proud American. He also thought he was serving in an Army that would take care of him when it came time for him to need help. Never did James think his army would end up treating him so inhumanely after he made the ultimate sacrifice of facing battle everyday while he was in Iraq.
James is a combat veteran who needs help. You cannot have an army send out young boys and young women out into battle and then drop them after that when they are forced to carry the anguish of war with them everyday of the rest of their lives. There are more US soldiers coming back with PTSD and committing suicide for lack of treatment than there actually are soldiers dying at war in Iraq.

While in Canada, James called home to speak with his sister and parents almost daily. His homesickness and his sense of responsibility to his family were always apparent. I lived with James for over six months and saw first hand how he struggled with symptoms of PTSD: spontaneous nose bleeds due to high blood pressure and circulatory problems, eye twitches and arm twitches on one side of his body, petit mal seizures, traumatic and disturbed sleep.
Most of the time, James was too concerned with others' well being to pay attention to his own condition. This is still the case today on the base at Fort Knox. In the daytime, he focuses on others, and at night, while visited by ghosts from his experiences in battle, James largely suffers alone. On February 11th, I had to bring him in to the Emergency department of our General Hospital. His seizures had taken to a new level and for the first time, I felt completely powerless and incapable of helping James.

Is the military waiting for James to kill himself???? Would that take the burden off their shoulders? PTSD is the killer that sneaks into the suitcases of our servicemen and servicewomen abroad. Like a parasite, it enters their system and slowly gets the best of them unless treatment and help is provided in a quick, pro-active, consistent way. James is a brave young man who deserves to be immediately out-processed from the military so that he can finally begin to heal in the company of his family back home in Oregon. James has already given the military 101 days and they are threatening to imprison him and ruin him more than they have. Let him go, he is no good to you anymore as a soldier, that is what I want to tell the army: let James go, his soul is broken, he will never shoot for you again.

The community, his family and his friends from around the continent are asking that he be given an OTH (Other Than Honorable discharge) in lieu of a court martial. No amount of jail time, none whatsoever will be deemed acceptable. Anymore confinement than he has already done will take James further away from his recovery and treatment for PTSD.

Sonia

PFC James Burmeister
HHC Bldg 298
Gold Vault Rd
Fort Knox, KY 40121

 

 

 

 
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