Veteran needs help, not jail | October 12, 2007 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - October 12, 2007

Veteran needs help, not jail

The sad case of former Army captain and Los Altos resident Sargent Binkley is a good example of how the military bureaucracy can unwittingly ruin a loyal soldier's life, even one who was wounded in the line of duty.

Binkley is a West Point graduate who became addicted to painkillers and confessed last year to robbing two drug stores, including one in Mountain View, to get the medication he craved. He now faces a 12-year minimum sentence for his crimes, which he says resulted from his effort to numb the pain from post traumatic stress disorder and a hairline hip fracture that went undiagnosed for three years by the Veterans Administration.

Binkley's story is remarkable, but probably not unique, especially as more and more soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan return to the States after near-lethal attacks in those troubled countries. Often they come home traumatized and needing months or years of therapy, which they may or may not receive from the country that called them to service.

Despite that growing tragedy, we doubt if many West Point alumni and former Army Rangers are facing long jail terms for committing robbery to obtain the prescription drugs that they needed to overcome the impact of PTSD and a fractured hip. And what makes Binkley's case even more compelling is that only after his parents paid for an additional MRI test did a private doctor find the hip fracture their son had cited all along as the reason for his unbearable pain.

Luckily for Binkley, some of his old football teammates from the Mountain View Marauders, a local Pop Warner football team, are lobbying for him. Better yet, his Los Altos family has the means to give him a good legal defense. (Binkley has duel trials going in both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.)

We hope VA officials will testify at his trials that there might have been a different outcome if Binkley had had the proper care, and if his hip fracture had been diagnosed earlier.

As Sargent Binkley's case demonstrates, the VA must redouble its efforts to make sure thousands of injured soldiers who come home needing treatment for debilitating injuries — both physical ones and emotional ones, like PTSD — are cared for before they return to civilian life.

If they are not helped, these men and women are likely to emerge later as our outcasts, much as happened following Vietnam, unable to overcome war's worst nightmares even after coming home.


Posted by Pat, a resident of The Crossings
on Jan 13, 2009 at 2:44 pm

And the enlightened jury agrees.

Posted by Army Officer, a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Your lumping of Blinkley into the plight of veterans is an insult to the many legitimate veterans of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Blinkley was a third-rate officer, immature, and a poor leader. Although he may indeed have problems, many are a result of his poor and weak character. His lawyers played the war hero card and won, even though he was never a war hero. What you fail to realize is that most veterans want acknowledgement and respect more than sympathy and a hand out.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 14, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Wounded in the line of duty? Didn't he fall into a hole on a beach running away from a guy whose girl he was chasing? Where do I sign up to get into your Army? What a joke.

Posted by Pat, a resident of The Crossings
on Jan 21, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Certainly those with "poor and weak character" are weeded out before admission to teh service academies. And; surely before commissioning. So when did these alleged defects manifest themselves? After service in Bosnia and Honduras.
The CO at Fort Riley piled it on and his failings will be the subject of another hearing before a different tribunal. Just compare his recitations to those in the medical records. These were admitted into evidence during the trial. Facts are facts.

Posted by Army Officer, a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Pat, you live in a fantasy world. Nothing qualifies as "surely" as you put it. Persons of poor and weak character do in fact make it by much of their lives until they are eventually exposed. Does Bernie Madoff ring a bell in your hollow head? I've done tours in most of Central America to include Honduras, then Kosovo, then Iraq. The situation in Honduras was almost vacation like. And most of that country's problems as of late have more to do with the repatriation of gang members from this country. If you want a cause, go out and find one. Better yet get out to the Palo Alto VA and volunteer to help real vets.