Beating The Odds

I didn’t meet SSgt. RD at a biker rally, elk hunt, gun club or Hooters restaurant. Mostly because I don’t ride, hunt, shoot or want that kind of burger combo. He didn’t meet me in any of my worlds either. Our paths crossed through Cup of Joe, where a civilian can buy a deployed troop a cup of coffee.

I appreciated his service. It meant something to him that I cared. Other than that, we had nothing in common. What are the chances we’d became good friends? Well, I learned that beating the odds was his theme. I learned other things too from “fun” animal facts to something very important. It’s knowledge that may make you want to take action at the end of this post.

Never ask about elk hunting

This should be number two on your list right after, “never cut the blue wire.” Apparently, procuring fresh elk-meat is more hands-on than my online grocery order. As RD described in detail the prepping and dividing of elk amongst the group of men gathered under a large tree, I had visions of an Amish hit squad.

“Gina, you eat hamburgers. Where do you think they come from?”

“My hamburgers are magically formed from cows who die a sudden, natural, painless death in a lush meadow while baby bunnies frolic nearby.”  

Why soldiers fight

When Osama bin Laden was killed, RD made a list of his fallen brothers and put a bottle of Jim Beam on the table. He wanted to do one shot for each buddy. He drained the bottle and passed out before he got halfway down the list.

Whenever RD walks through airport security he lights up like a Christmas tree from the four bullets that couldn’t be removed, the confetti of shrapnel plus the metal rods in his shoulder and spine.

This is a picture of the interior of a vehicle he was riding in. That hole was made by an enemy sniper. RD felt the air around the bullet as it flew just in front of his face.

Interior of MRAP vehicle my soldier was riding in when an enemy sniper's bullet hole.  It just missed him.

He also has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Once, after a difficult period, he begged his wife to leave him because he thought she could have a better life without him.  She refused.

One day I asked him why he puts his body, heart and mind through all this. Why does he fight?

“You have to understand….we don’t love war, we fight because we love what we left behind…  We do it for our wives and kids, for our friends and family and for their kids, we do it for the guys next to us and their wives and kids… we do it for you Gina.  It’s what’s behind us… is why we fight so hard.

The battle now

No troop I’ve met ever wants to talk about his medals. But I asked RD to please tell me. Among his awards are 2 Purple Hearts, 2 Bronze Stars, and 2 Army Commendations. Now this decorated and dedicated soldier is facing what may be his last battle. He may be forced to retire on medical grounds.

RD loves the Army. With passion and resilience he wants to use his hard-earned knowledge any way he can to benefit his brothers and sisters-in-arms. I don’t know what the odds are once you get to a medical review board. I know he’s doing all he can to continue to be allowed to make a difference as a soldier.

This post is my way of fighting for him. I know the chances are small that one civilian and some blog readers can sway the United States Army. If you would like to fight for RD too, if you want to keep brave soldiers with passion and resilience in our Army, please say so in the comments. As a taxpayer, if you don’t want all that hard-earned knowledge just walking out the door, leave a comment. This way he can share it with the review board. And maybe, just maybe, we can beat the odds together.

*UPDATE- Click here for the update to this story:  When Uncle Sam Breaks Up With You. I  posted on September 18, 2013. Yes, it took that long.

© Gina left the mall, 2012

12 thoughts on “Beating The Odds

  1. The army should be happy that this hero wants to continue to serve his country and should do their best to find the right position so RD can continue to make a difference. Be it a desk job, as a teacher, or any other way he can continue to contribute and still feel that he is doing something worthwhile for our country.

  2. This Soldier has been through more than his share. He has endured physical and mental anguish most of us couldn’t even imagine. After sacrificing so much, he only asks to continue to serve and give the Army whatever he may have left with no regrets. I say “Thank You” to this soldier. I would be proud to serve beside him and hope the board will agree.

  3. Who better to provide an example to up-and-coming soldiers than this brave man who has seen it all and still wants the military to be his life’s work? He knows the customs, the culture and what it takes to beat the odds more than anyone else. He would be a great instructor, which is a far more valuable contribution in terms of the number of quality soldiers on the ground, than that of any individual contributor on the front lines. If an other company on the planet tried to get rid of such a valuable asset, it would be considered misuse of company resources by the stockholders. As taxpayers and citizens, we are the stockholders, and it is our duty to speak up to conserve the resources for our most important mission: the protection our freedom!

  4. It is a shame that the Army would even consider forcing retirement on RD. After everything he has done, the least they could do is find him a desk job or a teaching/training position. Please send my appreciation and gratitude to him for all that he has done!

  5. Please share with him that he is not alone. They need to drop the “D” from PTS…it isn’t a disorder. It is a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances. The value this man holds for training the new recruits is priceless! If we have someone called to continue their service, who can save the lives of younger, inexperienced soldiers, they ought to pay him to share his knowledge. Of course they cannot tell us what their objections may be…”confidentiality”, and his family may want the opportunity to have him with them, which would certainly not be selfish on their parts. They have sacrificed as much as he has. I cannot imagine the pain they live with, missing him, and the fear of losing him. Our gratitude goes out to him and all of the others like him, Gina. Make sure you tell him that.

  6. RD and his wife truly appreciate these thoughtful comments and support. No matter what winds up happening, this means a lot to them.

    RD wants the Army to keep him based on what he still has to offer and not solely on what he’s already done. He thinks he can excel at the position he seeks and is hoping for the chance to do so. It will take a little while for this to work through the Army process. I will post an update when he gets the final answer.

  7. There are legitimate times when a med board is the best option. My neighbor would love to stay in the Army, but he has an inoperaperable tumor on his spine, discovered during his last deployment. This has an effect on his ability to walk at times and thus any mission he performs would be compromised before it started. My friend’s husband is facing a med board because of a sleep condition. Sometimes there are reasons for it. However, it sounds like “RD” has the ability to continue to serve his country, if in another capacity. I truly hope he gets the opportunity to do so. I can’t see the reason behind not letting him continue except for the forced draw-down from the current administration. When you remove funding and force the defense department to cut the number of troops in service, sometimes good soldiers have to be forced out to meet the new requirements. It’s a really bad time for our military, right now. It’s unfortunate, but that’s politics. I wish him and his family all the best and HOOAH!

    • I totally get that sometimes a med board is the best option. I appreciate you sharing why that’s true for those that might not be aware. I was so focused on RD that I forgot to cover that aspect. I hope the troops you spoke of will be okay.

      You are correct that RD has the physical ability to serve in other ways. What he really wants to do now is be a recruiter. And if you want someone who is going to be honest about what you’re signing up for, he’s the guy. The fact that he loves the Army so much, even after all he’s been through, says a lot. He’s also been an instructor in the past so I hope they consider that route as well.

      I hear you about the funding and politics. That’s why I think it’s more important than ever that civilian and military understand each other as much as possible. Ultimately, we’re all in this together. HOOAH!!

      • I completely agree. People outside the military really don’t know what it’s like. I hear all the time “Why are we still there?” and “Bring our troops home.” from people who don’t realize or care that my husband is in Afghanistan right now. There is such a disconnect that most people don’t understand how cutting defense budgets means our troops could get paid less, it means the contractors have to cut jobs and that there are troops in combat zones right now doing the same job as two or three soldiers did a few years ago. Many don’t understand that our President has agreed to aid Afghanistan for another ten years, both financially and with boots on the ground. It’s positively shameful the way some people can be so ignorant of issues that their tax dollars pay for. If they had to write the check each month for their taxes (instead of automatic withdraw), I bet they’d care more where that money was going.

        I hope RD does get to be a recruiter. My husband’s recruiter was an awesome guy who really worked to help my husband get in shape before leaving for Basic Training. A good recruiter can do wonders for the family of a soon-to-be soldier!

  8. I have no idea what the smartest, safest and best timing for getting out of Afghanistan is. (If I had that answer, I’d share it!) But I do know that one soldier doing the job of 2 or 3 puts that soldier and by extension, all of us, at greater risk. I also know that 1% of our population serves and that many people don’t know anyone in the military. So they just don’t know what our troops’ service really entails. Until I started this journey, I sure didn’t. My hope for this blog is to help close the divide between the two worlds. When you know someone, that opens the opportunity to care about them. Or at the very least, understand the impact your decisions (tax dollars or otherwise) will make.

    Please tell your husband that I thank him for his service. I know the family also serves and I thank you for that as well. Great to hear that your husband had an awesome recruiter. Hopefully someone will say the same thing about RD one day.

  9. Reblogged this on Melancholy Bluez! and commented:
    We recently re-blogged “When Uncle Sam Breaks Up With You” by Gina {website: “Gina Left The Mall” ~ http://ginaleftthemall.com} about “SSgt RD”.
    “Beating The Odds” is Gina’s earlier post about this courageous solider ~ a patriot who has served his country honorably & wanted nothing more than to continue to wear his uniform & serve.
    Gina says: “No troop I’ve met ever wants to talk about his medals. But I asked RD to please tell me. Among his awards are 2 Purple Hearts, 2 Bronze Stars, and 2 Army Commendations. Now this decorated and dedicated soldier is facing what may be his last battle. He may be forced to retire on medical grounds.”
    “RD” is a national treasure & a hero ~ who has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome {PTSD}. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam has chosen to “Break Up” with this hero. In my mind, this is a great loss, RD could help train & teach ~ he has so much experience, expertise & wisdom to share with future generations. It is our loss & our country’s loss…
    Thank you, Gina & “RD” for sharing this journey with your readers!

  10. Pingback: When Uncle Sam Breaks Up With You | Melancholy Bluez!

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