Army Reserve Soldier faces court martial for seeking psychiatric care

Powell soldier faces court martial for seeking psychiatric care

6 News Reporter
February 8, 2005

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- An Army Reserve officer from Powell is a veteran of two wars in Iraq. Now, he's facing a battle on two fronts, personal nightmares and the Army he loves.

First Lt. Phillip Goodrum might go to jail for seeking psychiatric care or he might be dishonorably discharged.

Goodrum is a veteran of the first Gulf War. He returned from the latest war in Iraq a year and a half ago but his struggle with it isn't over. Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. is his temporary home. He's being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, a recognized combat injury.

photo caption:
First Lt. Phillip Goodrum claims there's inadequate treatment for psychologically injured soldiers.

When off-duty, Goodrum goes to the capitol seeking help from legislators as he battles for the rights of psychologically injured soldiers. He claims there's inadequate treatment.

AWOL Charge

Goodrum also faces a court martial for being absent without leave. Army legal records claim he was AWOL while in Knoxville. He was at St. Mary's Medical Center being treated for by a psychiatrist for post traumatic stress disorder.

"I thought I could handle the situations internally. It turned out I was wrong," Goodrum says. "I called it the beast that finally overwhelmed myself."

"When did the beast rear its head?" 6 News asks. "November 7, 2003 when I was denied medical treatment at Fort Knox," Goodrum says.

His story goes back 18 months to Fort Knox, Kentucky, home of the Army's armor school. He was sent there following a non-combat injury in Iraq. "Originally, Fort Knox was my treatment facility. Due to the large number of soldiers, I was unable to get a bed."

Medical directors at Fort Knox sent Goodrum to work temporarily at the Army Reserve Center in Knoxville.

When Goodrum returned to Fort Knox, he says records show he couldn't get the treatment he needed for anxiety and stress. "So I had a breakdown then. They told me they didn't care. I could use the VA after I was discharged. Their orders were clean and concise that I was not to be admitted to Fort Knox."

"So, you go to St. Mary's Hospital in Knoxville," 6 News says. "They're continuing to press a court marital on myself and they consider me AWOL during the time I was an in-patient," Goodrum says.

Problems in Iraq lead to problems stateside

In Iraq while serving with a transportation unit, Goodrum first complained of trouble to his superiors. "My concern was sending us out on convoy missions in Iraq, not being fully combat operational." Goodrum believes the Army is retaliating.

As a soldier of the year award from his old unit in Johnson City shows, Goodrum is not a trouble maker. Yet three months ago, he attended a hearing for a general court martial. Among the charges is desertion. Goodrum claims he followed Army procedures. "I didn't find out I was AWOL until I went to get a refill for my medication."

"And you're in Knoxville at that time?" 6 News asks. "Correct and the Army was aware of my location and my home, aware of my doctor. My doctor made contact with them," Goodrum says.

Counselor questions charges

Steve Robinson, director of the Gulf War Resource Center, says, "I see a soldier who served in two wars, who honorably served the military."

Robinson says he believes Goodrum is being punished for speaking out. "I see a military who came after him to crush him when he made these allegations public."

"It'll be over two years that I've been on active duty," Goodrum says, "I should've been home months ago."

Decision on soldier's fate

Lt. Goodrum's fate is in the hands of the commanding general of the Army's military district of Washington. He makes the final decision on whether Phillip Goodrum will be court-martialed.

"I'm one of many soldiers," Goodrum says. "If my current situation can change things for the proper treatment and proper care of soldiers, then not all is lost. I'll consider my victory a true victory."

The general recently asked for more information regarding Goodrum. The general's office told 6 News Tuesday he's asked to see more medical records before making a decision in the case.

Fort Knox says that medical hold patients, like Goodrum was, now receive priority care.

part two: military concerns

Military concerned over treatment for returning soldiers

February 8, 2005

One type of injury that's seldom reported for soldiers in Iraq is combat stress. An officer from Powell says the Army isn't ready to treat returning soldiers.

First Lt. Phillip Goodrum has been diagnosed with severe depression and post traumatic stress. He claims the Army wasn't ready to fully care for psychologically injured soldiers when he returned from Iraq.

"I was a threat to the medical system by speaking out and telling the truth about care that Reserve and Guards were being provided," he says.

Anti-anxiety pills are prescribed to ease the panic attacks for the 16-year veteran who's fought in both Iraq wars. "I'm just in total disbelief that at the level we're at now, that no one has stepped forward to say, no, this is wrong. Let's stop it."

Soldier seeks treatment

The Army is pursuing a court-martial against Goodrum for being AWOL while in Knoxville. He checked himself into St. Mary's Medical Center for psychiatric care.

Goodrum says he had no choice after the Army denied him treatment at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He claims this is documented in his medical records.

"The Army says it was a 'misunderstanding' that I was denied medical treatment. A misunderstanding that you deny a soldier medical treatment?"

Treatment for other soliders?

Over the last year, thousands of Tennessee guardsmen and Reservists went to Iraq and Afghanistan. It's the largest call up in over 50 years.

What psychological help will be available, if needed, for these soldiers and their families when they return? "The military recognizes post traumatic stress as an illness," 6 News asks and Lt. Col. Charles Woods answers, "Oh yes," adding, "since 1980."

Woods is part of the National Guard chaplain service at McGhee Tyson Airbase, preparing teams to assist soldiers and their families.

Three of the state's top-ranked chaplains say that while the vast majority of combat vets don't suffer from depression, they must be ready for those who do. "We're laying all of the foundations right now to be prepared for the surge," says Maj. Kevin Wilkinson.

According to Lt. Col. Joe Bando, "Eight-six percent of the military coming back have seen a traumatic event, been involved in a traumatic event. We're working very diligently to be ready for them in all phases: initial, reintegration and reunion."

"If we get the word out to families and to returning soldiers that there's no stigma with raising your hand and having the courage to say, I need to see someone with this problem," Woods says.

Vet center preparing

The VA vet center in Knoxville is a place where soldiers with readjustment issues have been coming for 25 years. Ron Coffin is one of three counselors ready to assist returning vets. His staff is helping soldiers with problems from other wars.

By the end of this year, some of the 4,000 Reservists and Guardsmen may need assistance when they come home. "What we're doing now is some planning so that we'll be in place to help all those returning veterans," Coffin says.

Questions remain for Goodrum

Tennessee's U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bill First have lent support to Lt. Goodrum's cause. In January, he went to Capitol hill seeking help from other senators. Now, he hopes the court-martial proceedings are dropped and he can go home.

"If it goes bad, what happens?" 6 News asks. "My life is ruined, basically," Goodrum says.

An Army study shows that one in seven returning Iraq war vets suffers from depression.

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