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Lawmakers react to Gazette investigation on wounded soldiers

May 22, 2013 Updated: May 22, 2013 at 9:55 am
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photo - Jerry Jensen gets "Cold Blood" tattooed on his neck to pay homage to the unit he served with in Afghanistan at The Summit Tattoo in Castle Rock Saturday, March 2, 2013. Tattoo artist Martin Bee modeled the tattoo after a patch from the unit. This tattoo compliments the purple heart tattoo Jensen recently got on the other side of his neck. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Jerry Jensen gets "Cold Blood" tattooed on his neck to pay homage to the unit he served with in Afghanistan at The Summit Tattoo in Castle Rock Saturday, March 2, 2013. Tattoo artist Martin Bee modeled the tattoo after a patch from the unit. This tattoo compliments the purple heart tattoo Jensen recently got on the other side of his neck. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

Jessica Santiago couldn't believe it when she opened The Gazette this week to find an investigation showing that an increasing number of soldiers, including wounded combat veterans, are being kicked out of the military for misconduct.

"This is the EXACT same experience my husband and family is going through at Fort Carson right now," Santiago wrote to the paper.

Santiago was among the more than 40,000 people across the country who viewed the Gazette's three-part series at Gazette.com/soldiers this week, according to Google Analytics.

Colorado lawmakers in Washington also expressed concern and called for possible reform.

"Congress, the Pentagon and the VA can and must do more to ensure that soldiers with brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorders are diagnosed and properly treated," U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn said in a statement. "We must never abandon our active duty military or our veterans."

Lamborn serves on the House Armed Services Committee and House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, echoed Lamborn's sentiments in a statement, saying, "The Gazette's series is a sobering reminder of the sacrifices of our soldiers and the consequences that follow the decision to go to war. I will continue to work with our leaders in Colorado and at the Pentagon to ensure that every troop who fights for our country is treated fairly and consistently."

And U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said in a statement: "We need to invest more into research, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, TBI and other mental health injuries resulting from combat. We still have so much to learn about mental health injuries from war and how those conditions manifest when our veterans return home to civilian life. When our veterans are losing earned benefits and access to critical medical care we aren't doing them or our communities any favors - there has to be a better way to continue to support our troops through transition to civilian life while maintaining the high standards of military conduct."

Santiago was one of many who wrote The Gazette or posted comments expressing concern about the current practices.

"My husband has served as a mortician in the Army for the past 11 years. He has deployed three times and went to (Hurricane) Katrina to collect remains and help out. During his deployments he has seen and collected more than 500 remains of dead soldiers and civilians. After his last deployment he came back a different person. He is suffering from extreme PTSD."

She then added the Army plans to give her husband, Alexis Santiago, an other-than-honorable discharge for using spice, a synthetic marijuana.

"It made us both feel like we are not alone in this," she said. "They just dropped him like he was 'disposable.' It feels good to know that somebody out here is fighting for the same cause."

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