I MADE A MISTAKE

I know the last month has been a difficult time for our community and that's why I'm here today. The Forum first broke the tragic story regarding the details surrounding the death of long time suffering Vietnam Combat Veteran Mark Holt. Marks death is very personal to me as he often sought my assistance as well as many others in the community to help him access the resources to deal with his horrifying illnesses. I have grieved deeply (this is not a poor me message) and in some cases took my sorrow out on the wrong persons. It's only been within the last few days that I have been able to see through my own sorrow and guilt just enough to understand I accused some persons unfairly.

I've always said that people should stand up and admit their mistakes and if they need to say they're sorry to do that. I've also said when we know we've made a mistake we need to admit to it and change the way we act and the words we say. It's not often that I will ever admit to being really stupid but it is a fact in this case.

I regret my comments regarding the commissioners who I've come to learn have been working diligently to learn how our community failed to protect one of our most vulnerable citizens and are in fact looking to improve the very programs about which I was complaining. I especially want to express my regret to Commissioner Little who took the brunt of my stupidity and he carried it with dignity. Although I hold myself and our entire community to account for the circumstances of Mark's ongoing struggle and inhumane death, my anger was unfairly directed at Robert and I regret the grief I may have caused him and his family.

Moving on, there's a lot of misinformation out there and as the day's move forward the forum will share important facts with our readers. I appreciate all the emails and documents and plan on sharing them as soon as we can put some sort of order to all the facts. The first thing everyone should consider is, contrary to our Veterans Service Office report, Mark's most significant illness was not alcoholism or a failure to help himself or even being an asshole. Mark's most severe and life threatening illnesses were a nightmare combination of paranoid schizophrenia, depression and combat related PTSD. It was because Mark was denied access to his medication (notice I did not say IMO) for these very dangerous illnesses and he used alcohol to medicate himself to help him fight off his hallucinations and fears. Most citizens know that Vietnam Veterans are especially prone to depression and PTSD and that they use alcohol to help them cope when medications aren't available. How could our Veterans Service Officer ignore something so obvious and most important violate Federal Law that governs VSO's? A VSO does not have the right to deny any veteran any service.

VSO Devito and his staff admit denying Mark assistance because he wouldn't first "dry out" or get help for his alcoholism. But, by denying Mark his legal right to medical treatment the VSO endangered not just Mark's life but members of the community as well. Violent outbursts, uncontrolled emotions and inability to function in reality, combined with paranoid delusions and hallucinations are not symptoms of "assholism"; they are symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. A desire to hurt one's self or commit suicide is a primary symptom of depression (BTW 22 veterans kill themselves each and every day). Self destructive behavior like drinking, being aggressive and picking fights, being easily frightened or confused, angry outbursts and flashbacks are all symptoms of combat related PTSD. Remember Mark was a Marine combat veteran.

Neither VSO Devito nor his staff had the legal right to deny Mark access to needed care and medications for these serious problems just because they didn't like it that he drank or that he argued. VSO's are legally and ethically obligated to provide assistance to all veterans especially the most vulnerable like Mark. Assistance should not have been denied because they "didn't like his attitude." Finally, we have to ask, why did the VSO take medical decisions away from the VA doctors? The law says physicians practice medicine and you need a license. Has anyone seen a medical license in the VSO's office?

Devito has stated in a clandestine video that he did not know Mark was homeless but other "facts" show he damn well knew different. . According to our VSO "The correct punishment for being a veteran, alcoholism, assholishness and mental illness is freezing to death or dying the way Mark Holt died?"

We intend to sort out the lies from fact so that elected officials can finally take whatever actions that are needed to prevent this type of intentional cruelty and misconduct in the future. More facts, documents and information on the VSO's illegal and unethical conduct will continue to be presented in the coming weeks?


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