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DEFEND OUR TROOPS
________________________________________________________

Outrageous cruelty:
Soldier denied PTSD treatment
while awaiting day in court

10 December 2007

Sgt. Evan Vela, of the 501st Infantry Regiment, sits tonight in a military prison in Kuwait. Confined since July 1, Vela is one of three Army snipers charged with murder for an incident near Iskandariyah, Iraq.

Two squadmates involved in the incident, Sgt. Hensley and Spc. Sandoval, were exonerated of murder charges in courts martial this past fall.

As a soldier, Sgt. Vela was pushed beyond the limits of human endurance, going days without sleep in pursuit of our enemy in Iraq. While in confinement, Vela was diagnosed with moderate to severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Despite this diagnosis by a military psychiatrist, the government has been unwilling to allow the sergeant the treatment he needs before he stands trial.

Now the government has a chance to make amends.

Dr. Rosemary Carr-Malone has petitioned authorities to transfer Sgt. Vela to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Dr Carr-Malone is Assistant Director of the Mental Health Directorate at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. As forensic psychiatrist for the defense, she has coordinated for Sgt. Vela to be received at Walter Reed to be treated for his PTSD and tested and evaluated for possible Traumatic Brain Injury.

Chances seem slim that the government will grant the request. So far, authorities have stacked the deck against Sgt. Vela--as only the government can. His government-appointed military counsel was ineffective, and had the sergeant sign a waiver of his right to a judicial investigation (known as an Article 32 hearing). Additionally, exculpatory witnesses have been blocked from testifying on Sgt Vela’s behalf. The government has also been unwilling to move his trial (which may take place in February) to the States despite the near-impossible financial burden a trial overseas has placed on Sgt. Vela's family.  

It’s unclear why the government is going out of its way to see Sgt Vela convicted of a crime he likely never committed. Perhaps there’s pressure to show the Iraqi government that the United States punishes its own.

As a supporter of the troops and their mission in Iraq, I have a suggestion for our government. Give Iraqi leaders a tour of Walter Reed. Take a line from a Spielberg movie and tell them, “Earn this.” And, for God’s sake, allow Sgt Vela to get the treatment he deserves.

David Allender
Defend Our
Troops

Above: Sgt. Evan is the only man smiling in this picture of his unit in Iraq.

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