Friday, December 5, 2014

Our Bio

Michael (Mikey) Howard re-enlisted in the US Army after bugging Robin for a few years before she conceded, thinking he was too old for the Army to take him. He was tired of us watching the news and not doing anything beyond fundraisers, bumper stickers and charity gigs. 
Ft Riley, KS 1985
During the late 1980's he served as an Infantryman in the US Army and left the Army because at the time his color blindness kept him from being a medic. He was planning on Infantry again and was delighted to find he could be a Combat Medic this time. He left in April 2008 and retrained at both Fort Sill, OK and White Sands Missile Range, NM. From there he went to AIT (advanced individual training) where he got his training to be a Combat Medic. He was stationed at Fort Hood, TX as a part of TaskForce ODIN IV in March 2009. Robin left Minnesota to make their home together. Mikey got his orders to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom within a month of being stationed there. He would leave in July for a 1 year tour and returned in July 2010. While in Iraq he requested to be attached to another unit that would be deploying soon. As soon as he returned he was put into 215th BSB, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry unit. They were already deploying. He was not allowed to deploy because there is mandatory dwell time (time they are required to be at home) and they didn't want him leaving so soon. In December a meeting was called with the soldiers that remained. They wanted volunteers to go because they didn't have high enough "numbers." Mikey was the only one that raised his hand. (He was on crutches at the time.) He reassured them that he was alright with giving up his time at home, he hadn't re enlisted to sit at home and do nothing and Robin was also okay with the decision. He left for Iraq again on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2011 in support of Operation New Dawn.
July 2009, leaving to Iraq
Back home Robin stayed involved with the Family Readiness Groups and just supporting any military family that might have needed help. She also spent a great deal of time sending as many as 10-12 care packages a week to Mikey and Charlie Medical Company.
Mikey driving one of the MRAP's - Last Convoy out of Iraq at Kuwait border
Mikey left Iraq on December 18, 2011. He was a driver for his Company Commander on the very last convoy out of Iraq. He arrived home to Fort Hood on Christmas Eve. During that deployment he was promoted twice because he was holding a job as an Emergency Care Sergeant while there. First to Corporal and then to Sergeant. His plans upon returning home were to get enough college credits to enter the Army's IPAP program where he would become a Physician's Assistant.
Military Ball Spring 2012
Within months of arriving home he wasn't feeling well. In May he knew something was very wrong and sought medical attention because he felt something was wrong with his brain. He was having problems remembering details and even getting lost on his way to work. Because of his behavioral changes and a new command that did not know who he was and how loyal, dedicated and hard working he was he began getting negative counseling statements. Robin began to be very vocal about all soldiers needing referrals to mental health and neurology upon return from deployment. He was not referred to mental health for 7 months, not until he had a gun to his head to end his pain. Meanwhile his rank was stripped from him and he went back to Specialist Howard. His health continued to deteriorate but most issues were noticed only at home because he did everything he could to hide what he was going through.

In January 2012 he was diagnosed with severe PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder. Mikey disagreed with that diagnosis from the start. After Robin learned all there was to know about PTSD she also disagreed. She began to press harder for an appointment to neurology going so far as to suggest that she thought Mikey had dementia. Their requests were ignored. Robin took Mikey to work every day and stayed with him as much as possible within the limits of protocol. Mikey continued to see Psychologists, Psychiatrists and counselors. He was making no progress in recovery. Robin continued to fight for better care for soldiers suffering invisible wounds as well as provide around the clock care for Mikey. She continuously requested referrals to a neurologist. In March 2012, the psychiatrist told Mikey he was not getting any better and he needed to start the Medical Evaluation Board. We had also requested a transfer into the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) where he could concentrate on recovery. Mikey was still hoping he would get past whatever was wrong with his brain and return to regular duty to continue his career with the Army he was so loyal to.

He entered into the WTU in July 2013 expecting life to get a little less stressful and be able to work on recovery. What they both found was a system that was broken. Leadership that did not follow the medical advice given to a soldier, several formations a day, stacks of paperwork and more appointments to keep up with than ever before. Still they kept pushing forward looking for answers. At one appointment Robin requested that a sleep study be done. She knew he was having more than PTSD dreams and needed answers. He got the appointment for August 2013. The Doctor for the sleep study told Robin that whatever was going on might partly be psychological but he had something wrong neurologically and needed a neurologist right away. They also found that he was getting 0% sleep. An EEG would later verify that. In December an appointment was made for Mikey to see a neurologist in January 2014.

At that appointment he was told his symptoms pointed to PTSD and not likely dementia because of his age, but he was going to run some tests and would see Mikey back in 3 months. One of those tests was an MRI. Less than one week after the MRI their phone rang. It was the neurologist. Their suspicions had been correct. He had left hippocampal atrophy. Progressive dementia.


Many doctors and tests later all confirmed that he had Lewy Body Dementia. A type of dementia that also has Parkinson's symptoms. The WTU leadership continued to fight against what medical providers were saying and tests were proving. Robin continued to fight back working with people in Washington at both the Pentagon and the Office of the Surgeon General as well as the Southern Regional Medical Command. She never backed down from fighting for what was right for wounded soldiers and continues her fight still. Mikey continued to face punishments for his behavior issues until he medically retired on July 27, 2014. Robin has also started the process to get Mikey's rank reinstated since it was shown to be taken from issues stemming from his disease.
December 1, 2014 Family from Florida visited.
The disease is terminal. There is no cure. There is no treatment. Mikey's health declines steadily while Robin holds on with all she has. Mikey is now under the care of hospice, just a few short months after retirement. Mikey's last wish to get Robin home to Minnesota in his own words, “Ya'll, if it's literally the last good thing I do I will get her back home to you. You have my word.” Robin promises to not let his life be in vain and started “The Warrior Spouse” for other military spouses that may be facing the same caregiving struggles she did. Together they fight for what is right and compassionate for our future wounded soldiers. Today they have seen some of the wrongs they faced corrected. 



Receiving a challenge coin
2011

To find out more please continue to browse the previous posts. 

More on Task Force Odin IV:
Task Force ODIN III was replaced by Task Force ODIN IV, comprised of select individuals selected from across the active Army, Reserves and National Guard to fill slots as pilots, analysts and support operations personnel. Task Force ODIN IV was attached to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.

On 24 March 2011, by order of the Secretary of the Army, a Meritorious Unit Commendation was awarded to the US Army Composite Aerial Operations Activity and the US Army Reserve Company, US Army Composite Aerial Operations Activity, for the period from 14 August 2009 to 15 July 2010.

215th BSB:

Meritorious Unit Commendation
Period of service: 8 February 2011 to 18 December 2011
Authority: AR 600-8-22, paragraph 7-15
10 January 2012
Reason: For exceptionally meritorious service. During the period 8 February 2011 to 18 December 2011, Headquarters, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and its subordinate units displayed exceptionally meritorious service in support of Operation New Dawn. The Brigade superbly accomplished its mission to conduct stability and support operations to strengthen the Iraqi Security Forces, set the conditions for planned military and civil transition throughout the four Southern Providences and assisted in the establishment of the Consulate in Basrah. The unit truly exemplified its "disciplined, vigilant, and professional" motto. Headquarters, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and its subordinate units' outstanding service and dedication to mission accomplishment are in keeping with the finest traditions and reflect distinct credit upon the unit, United States Division-Center, United States Forces-Iraq and the United States Army.

No comments:

Swidget 1.0