‘Veteran was a hero until he came home’

Dear editor,

My husband is a decorated war veteran and has retired from the United States Army as a staff sergeant.

Since moving back home to Rockdale he has been met with nothing but harassment and closed doors.

Twice now, in a parking lot of a large retail depar tment store in Rockdale, my husband has been approached about the stickers on his truck, stickers he earned during his tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During his last tour in Afghanistan he was injured so severely he has been medically retired from the Army after nearly eleven years of service.

In the first incident my husband had to take steps to protect me and his actions resulted in a criminal charge against him. Never once did the police department ask to speak to me as a credible witness.

The accuser has a known criminal record and due to the lack of a proper investigation by the Rockdale Police Department my husband must deal with this unjust charge.

L a st t ime I checked, d isplaying a bumper sticker is a First Amendment right. However, instigating an argument is harassment.

When the people instigating the argument then pursue legal action it becomes slander and defamation of character.

The second incident a woman approached my husband and told him he should remove the stickers from his vehicle because he did not earn them.

My husband explained to her he did in fact earn them, and without so much as an apology she walked away.

My husband is being treated like a pariah in his own community because he did what his country asked him to do.

When you see a soccer mom driving a minivan with a bumper sticker that says, “My son is serving in Iraq” do you challenge her?

I don’t, if I find the need to say any thing it’s, “ I hope he comes home safely, and soon.”

Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, “returning servicemembers are reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service (the long-standing ‘escalator’ principle), with the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority.”

However the facility my husband plans to work at is denying him of these rights. They offered him a position at the base pay as if he were a first-time employee, not as if he were an employee there accumulating raises, vacation time, bonuses, etc. for the last five years.

This is a law on the federal level to ensure all veterans have an income when they come home after putting their lives in danger for this country.

I understand that not everyone is in support of this war, but we should be in support of the men and women who give their lives for our freedom, whose job it is to wake up in a war zone every day.

There is a great deal of fear in these people that they are not allowed to show because they are protecting us. They are on the front lines to tell us everything is going to be okay.

They may have seen things that would break your heart, they may have been injured, they may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, they may have held friends in their arms as they drew their last breath, they may have been held captive, and they may have been beaten or otherwise abused by the enemy.

Don’t you think that these soldiers have fought enough? They don’t want to fight for their own rights and freedoms when they come home.

It is a shame that as a society we hold more parades for sports teams than for our wounded brothers and sisters returning home.

But still there are those who feel entitled enough to hassle war vets in parking lots, then say it’s their freedom of speech.

I f ind something absurdly w rong w ith this picture and it makes me ask you, are our soldiers only heroes until they come home?

Kirsten Johnson

Lov ing w ife to a wounded combat war veteran.

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2012-02-23 digital edition

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