Thomas Burke, Connecticut, VA discussed on All Things Considered

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

I failed children Burke served in the Marine Corps in two thousand eight he lost a close friend in Iraq and came home, troubled. He thought about suicide but better still another combat deployment within the same year. He was in Afghanistan because then if you die your hero. Past sins and transgressions are wiped away because the only thing that you remembered for is that you gave your life in service to your country Burke was a good marine he'd been sent to learn Pashto before he deployed to southern Afghanistan. He was living close to civilians and he connected with them. And one of the things that the local kids. I'm not sure if showed you this picture in the photo lurk is twenty years old in combat gear. But smiling clearly at home playing with fifteen laughing Afghan boys on a dusty road. He says loved them one of the other things they did was they would either tell us where ideas were or they would bring them to us. They would actually bring us bombs on one of those occasions. They were actually praying us in RPG and ended up exploding on them eight of the kids from that photo were dead because they were trying to help him, and we add to go clean it up. And we did Burke went into a spiral. He says the local hashish was plentiful and many soldiers used it Burke got caught and suddenly. A promising young marine was getting kicked out. He was flown home to his home base in Hawaii where a mix of prescriptions and street drugs made things worse took a plane to Connecticut and slit, my wrists and a state park veterans with an other than honorable discharge have higher rates of suicide there at higher risk of homelessness mental health. Issues snowball with economic ones employers ask about discharge status. So it's hard to find a good job PTSD or traumatic brain injury those need specialized treatment, very expensive without a job or VA healthcare VA estimates. There are about five hundred thousand vets with other than honorable discharges. Thomas. Assadi is Connecticut's Commissioner for veterans affairs. These individuals up till now denied clinical support services and other programs and benefits, and in many cases may have resulted in a worsening of their condition. Saudi says these vets need to be helped before a crisis. And that might now happen. In part because of the efforts of veterans like Thomas Burke, after his failed suicide attempt the VA made a rare exception, and he was able to get services Burke started down a different path to become a pastor, and he joined a push to change the law around other than honorable discharge. He found allies in the state legislature. Republican Representative Brian older also combat vet when we testified before the veterans affairs committee hem, and I were sitting right next to each other. And I said the only difference between Thomas is a piece of paper one that says honorable discharge and the other that says other than honorable it took years of lobbying, but as of last month, Connecticut veterans whose other than honorable discharge is linked to PTSD or brain injury or sexual assault. They will qualify for state healthcare and benefits. I hope that Connecticut can be the standard bearer for New England and certainly the nation. It already is Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy pushed through legislation this year that makes VA mental. Healthcare available nationwide to veterans with other than honorable discharges. Though. It has been slow to roll out for pastor Thomas Burke, it's been part of his recovery to the point where he can work with the youth choir. Having the opportunity to work with children fills me with the spirit and life. Enjoy because it also makes me recognize how far I've come from the person who got back from war. Lawrence NPR, news, Northfield, Connecticut..

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