It Ain’t Right!

I’m going to relay a story to you that involves a Military “It Ain’t Right.”  

For more than 19 years, James H. was a proud soldier of the United States Army.  His dedication to the service of our country was—and is—unwavering, and he was a good soldier.  He exhibited a true commitment from the heart of a soldier.americanpride

Not only did James take pride in a job well done for the 10th Signal Division, but he was most fulfilled when motivating other soldiers, teaching, guiding, and advising less senior officers.  His performance evaluations were exemplary, and he was continually recommended for more responsible jobs, given the highest marks in honesty, truthfulness, honor and conduct.  Written on James’ NCO Evaluation Report by his supervisor were these words:  “Loyalty, above all, is to the Army.”  James was respected; he was depended upon; and he was content in his life as a soldier and a patriot.  It is no understatement that James literally lived to serve his country. 

armyjeepThen, in October, 1989, James  H. was absolutely crushed when told that his urinalysis had tested positive for THC.  In reviewing all the documentation related to the urinalysis performed, there is a notable error which I believe indicates human error in the test administration.  You see, James is listed toward the top of the list of personnel being tested and again toward the bottom of the list.  In other words, he was listed twice on the same list.  The first entry for his name was scribbled over (but is still quite easily legible).  Let’s assume for a moment that the number beside the name entry was the number given the urine sample; which would result in the mix-up of all urine samples for military personnel listed between those two entries.  In other words, James’ sample may well have been tested as the sample for the next person on the list.  It could be a simple human error, certainly, but one which ended the promising military career of a soldier who loved serving his country.

Improper Urinalysis Robbed James of His Career

In the months that followed, despite his constant denial that he had ever—in his entire life—used marijuana, his United States Army career ended, despite his protests and appeals.  James requested a second urinalysis be performed, and this was done.  However, THEY RETESTED THE SAME SAMPLE.  Now, common sense will tell you that the evaporation of the sample would increase the level of THC in that sample.  A retest SHOULD have consisted of obtaining from Mr. H. another sample and performing the urinalysis on THAT sample.  In such case, there would be no incidence of human error and the test would be accurate. 

In truth, James fought hard to remain a soldier.  To this day, James still denies any use of illegal substances. 

Since James’ discharge from the Army on November 8, 1990, he spent 8 years as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.  Additionally, he has for a number of years worked as a civil contract employee for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Each of these positions was one of service for his country, and each required that he take random drug tests. 

Where Did Common Sense Go?

In more than 19 years of active military service, James never failed a drug test; in the 23 years since his discharge from the service, James never failed a drug test.  Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Does it make sense that James would fail a drug screen after 19 years of military service when he was mere months from retirement?  And then,
  2. Does it make sense that upon his discharge from the Army for a failed urinalysis, that he would continue to PASS drug tests for the next 20+ years if, indeed, he were guilty of drug use?

Fellow Soldiers’ Testimony:

There were six soldiers—including James’ supervisor—who testified on his behalf before an administrative hearing prior to his discharge.  Following is a table of a summary of their testimony:

Name/Rank

Summary

Do you think Sergeant H. Should be Retained on Active Duty?

Captain Paul J. Parish, Company Commander, HHC 10th Signal Battalion, Fort Drum, NY. H. is knowledgeable, volunteers for overtime as mission requires it, doesn’t complain, has high morale and good attitude toward the Army, is a dependable soldier.He said, “I can look him in the eye and say I can trust him as one of my NCOIC’s in one of my sections in my company.  I’d still go to war with him …”

Yes

First Sergeant Glen Alvin Porter, Company A, 10th Signal Battalion H.’s performance was excellent, he was very professional, never had a problem with him and no disciplinary problems whatsoever.“Sergeant H. showed me nothing that he would, you know, even deal with drugs whatsoever.  The whole time I dealt with him, the whole time I’ve known him, you know, … just everything is military based.  He’s a soldier.  I think it would be a great loss to the United States Army…”

Yes

Chief Warrant Officer Paul Edward Souza, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Signal Battalion Did not feel that H. had smoked marijuana because it would have affected his performance.  H.’s performance was ALWAYS excellent.  “You can’t conceal that.  Something is going to change.  There’s no way that you can perform outstandingly all the time and still be doing it.” “I’d fight in his foxhole any day, sir.”

“Sir, I feel he’s one of the best NCO’s I’ve ever worked with.  He’s taught me an awful lot to help out myself and the battalion a great deal.”

Yes

Sergeant First Class Frederick S. Fuoco Did not believe H. would smoke marijuana, he is outstanding and a good person to be around.“No, as a professional senior noncommissioned officer, and his job performance and everything, and the training he has, it would be to the benefit of the Government to retain him for his knowledge, in his primary MOS, sir.”

Yes

Charles Everett Nathan, Sergeant First Class A good friend of H., Mr. Nathan stated, “Sir, he’s an outstanding NCO.  I’ve learned a lot from him.  He’s the best NCO we have in the 10th Signal.”“As much as I’ve been with Sergeant H., I’ve never seen him do anything… smoke, smoke marijuana.  Let alone, that would be the last thing that he’d do.  We go out a lot, we drink.  It’s not in him to mess with drugs, sir.  You know, as much as I be with him, I don’t see how he can do it, you know being around me.  He wouldn’t do it.  We’d sit up and talk about people we see riding around .. and stuff.  No, Sergeant H. didn’t smoke marijuana.”

Yes

Richard F. Monczynski, Captain He did an outstanding job for me.  He was a motivator.  He kept the troops, pushed the troops well and basically got the job done.  Did not feel that H. had smoked marijuana.“I base that on his character… from him working with me for that amount of time and spending a lot of time in the field.  You pick something up from a person.  You get to know him a little better and the individual has got this amount of time in the service.  I can’t imagine him screwing himself over by doing something like that and I believe his story.”“If I was making the decision, I would let him remain on active duty to fulfill his current obligation.”

Yes

I believe that James’ urine sample—though human error—was misplaced, that there was some mix-up due to lack of control.  I believe that a follow-up test would have exonerated James, but instead of taking a second urine sample, the retest was simply performed on the sample already submitted.  In such case, human error would not be discoverable, as retesting the same sample would only lead to the same results.

Even in 2014, with the controls that have since been put into place within the hospital and medical facilities, human error continues to occur.  I have no doubt that a mix-up in 1989 resulted in James’ discharge from the Army and a career he loved. 

James should have his discharge status changed from “General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions” to an “Honorable Discharge.”  James took—and takes—a great deal of pride in serving his country, even now.  If there’s anything that can be done to help James, please contact me. 

The bottom line for James is this:  IT AIN’T RIGHT.