17 January 2005

Will & Terry Fitzpatrick

Here's an example how the Bush Administration takes care of our veterans and their families, how they honour their agreements...


Ex-soldier Appeals Recall to Army; Son Needs Constant Care

MILTON, Fla. - Small, frail but rambunctious, 16-month-old Will Fitzpatrick suffers from multiple birth defects. He'll need a second open-heart operation within six months and a transplant if he makes it into his teens.
His parents, Terry and Susan Fitzpatrick, have juggled their work schedules to provide the constant care Will needs - daily medication, supplemental feedings through a gastric tube and regular sessions with his doctors and physical therapists.
Now the Fitzpatricks are facing a new crisis: The Army has ordered Terry, who was honorably discharged in 2000, back into uniform for duty in Iraq.
Terry, a 26-year-old carpenter who was an Army mechanic, is appealing for a hardship exemption but so far all he has received is an extension of his reporting date from Nov. 18 until Jan. 30.
"I just want them to make a decision," Susan Fitzpatrick said. "My husband's really stressed out."
4,400 have been recalled
He is among more than 4,400 members of the Individual Ready Reserve who have been ordered back into the Army although they have completed their enlistments and are not required to attend Reserve drills and meetings.
The Army says it needs them to fill gaps in its ranks for the war in Iraq and other overseas commitments.
The Fitzpatricks take turns caring for Will, with Terry working days and Susan mostly nights. Susan works up to 60 hours a week, meaning Terry is Will's primary caregiver.
"We would be at risk to lose some things," Terry said at the couple's home in the Florida Panhandle. "It would be a huge hardship. You'd lose your house, your vehicles and your livelihood, your life-style."
Susan, 25, also is an Army veteran - the couple met at Fort Stewart, Ga. - and fears she, too, may be recalled. Although Susan is the family's main breadwinner, she said she would have to quit her job as a restaurant manager to care for Will if her husband is sent to Iraq.
The Army Human Resources Command's Reserve center in St. Louis had not acted on Terry's appeal as of Friday. If denied, he plans to make a final appeal to Maj. Gen. Dorian T. Anderson, who heads the command.
The Army had approved 1,258 delays and exemptions out of 1,919 requests and denied only 85 as of Dec. 28, said Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon. She said the others were awaiting a decision.
An eight-year commitment
Most exemptions and delays were granted for medical reasons followed by family care and financial hardships, Hart said.
"The military does ensure that the family members are taken care of, but at the same time we are a nation at war," she said.
Susan was discharged after two years in 1999, and Terry was discharged after three, but all soldiers have a combined eight-year commitment including the Ready Reserve.
Their son was born with a constellation of birth defects. His heart had only three chambers instead of four. Holes in the heart that normally close as a fetus develops remained open and there was a gap between his esophagus and stomach. He is a happy and lively child and suffers no pain, but he weighs only 18 pounds, cannot yet walk and lags intellectually.
A U.S. flag flies from the front of the couple's home. Terry is resigned to returning to the Army if all appeals fail.
"I'm an all-American guy and I enjoyed being in the military when I was in," he said. "I'm not going AWOL."


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