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Ex-soldier deals with post military problems


The Army was going to be a second career for Gary Connellis.Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., he followed his father's footsteps and joined the New York City Police Department. He spent 17 years there.Connellis, 39, who now lives in Leavenworth, lost some friends in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Despite his desire to join the Army immediately, his wife was about to have a baby. He waited until his daughter was 5 before enlisting."It took a lot of running and getting back into shape," Connellis said.His Army career turned out to be a short one though, the aftermath of which he will be dealing with the rest of his life.While on special assignment in 2006, Connellis was wounded by a roadside bomb. He can't say what that assignment was or where he was, but he does say he was not in Iraq or Afghanistan.He joined the Army in 2005. He was honorably discharged with disabilities in July 2007. He has a long list of injuries - physical and mental - stemming from that explosion. After filing for disability payments from the U.S. Deptartment of Veterans Affairs, Connellis was determined to be suffering a 30 percent disability: The lower the percentage the lower his disability payments.Since he initially filed some of his claims Connellis found information in his Army medical records that he didn't know about and which were not passed on to the VA. That includes one record showing he had a herniated disk in his lower back. The Army never treated him for that, despite frequent trips to Army doctors about the back pain, he said. He also found out he has asthma, something else the Army never told him about or treated him for, he said.Connellis has appealed and is seeking a 100 percent disability declaration from the VA. The appeals were filed months ago and he is still awaiting a ruling.During the appeals process Connellis has had to deal with severe back pain. He walks with a cane when he can walk at all. Next month he will finally see a surgeon about his back. He is getting treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There have been multiple frustrations in dealing with the VA and military bureaucracies, he said. Not all of it had to do with the injuries.In future blogs we will go into more detail about what Connellis has gone through and post updates about his condition and experiences. He has had help along the way from a representative of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., and recently enlisted the help of U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan."It's ridiculous," Connellis said. "I know there are others going through this. I know I have to be patient."Here is the list of injuries and medical problems that have plagued Connellis since the explosion: a herniated disk and compressed nerve in his back; bursitis in his right knee; two types of arthritis including one in his spinal cord; multiple stress fractures in his right shin, ankle and both feet; PTSD, anxiety attacks; and periodic skin and staph infections.We want to know about people in the military from the Douglas County area. Where are they deployed? When will they be coming back? What are their experiences? If you are currently in the military from this area and want to communicate with us, that's fine, too. Please [send me an e-mail.][1] [1]: http://www2.ljworld.com/staff/mike_belt/contact/


Jean1183 9 years, 8 months ago

Thank you to Mr. Connellis and to Curious2's husband! I appreciate your service and am sorry about the sacrifices you've had to make.My son is an OIF/OEF vet. He was deployed end of 2003 til beginning of 2005.

curious2 9 years, 8 months ago

I have checked on this blog throughout the day while caring for my children and I am dismayed by the lack of response from our public...

monkeywrench1969 9 years, 8 months ago

Is this the same guy? When did he join the military?http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-14697891.htmlHighland adjusts to new police chief From: St. Joseph News-Press Date: May 18, 2005 More results for: Chief Gary Connellis | Copyright information Copyright 2005 St. Joseph News-Press. Provided by ProQuest LLC. HIGHLAND, Kan. - New Highland Police Chief Gary Connellis has a goal of reshaping local law enforcement, but other problems - including the future of his job status - are taking up most of his attention. Mr. Connellis currently is the only officer on staff and he's facing some opposition from some who are opposed to the way he's running the department. Mr. Connellis became the city's police chief in late February, beating out about 10 other candidates. He has since tried to occupy himself with writing a new policy manual, developing relations with Highland Community College administration and students, and simply hoofing the downtown beat to introduce himself. However, his job status may be ... http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1P2-14698817.htmlResignation effective immediately From: St. Joseph News-Press | Date: May 20, 2005 | Copyright 2005 St. Joseph News-Press. Provided by ProQuest LLC.Copyright information HIGHLAND, Kan. - Police Chief Gary Connellis has submitted his resignation, effective immediately, according to a statement released Thursday afternoon by City Attorney Ted Collins.Mr. Connellis joined the department in late February, but encountered resistance from some sectors of the community to his style of law enforcement. Earlier in the week, he announced plans to resign as chief within two weeks out of concern for his personal and family's safety. He said he would leave the pos...Read all of this article with a FREE trial to HighBeam Research

curious2 9 years, 8 months ago

My significant other served in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003 he was there for a total of nine months before he was injured in a road side bomb. The experience left him wounded both physically and mentally. Although the physical wounds have healed he nearly lost his life...I wont go into detail about who did lose there life in that vehicle and who was left without an arm, I will tel you that my s/o continues to struggle mentally, this has taken a tole on our family, periodically he checks himself in to the Topeka V.A.... I am left to care for our kids, our son is 3 years and our daughter is 13 weeks...I have had to read up on P.T.S.D...I have met with his social worker...taken our family to the V.A, to visit there dad, I have been waiting sometime for a support group for families here in Lawrence as he has waited for a local support group for veterans here... needless to say with gas prices, there is much reluctance with driving to Topeka to attend these groups, I always found it hard to believe there was not much of an interest for a support group in Lawrence... I would gladly like to meet families who face similar struggles as this experience has often made me feel alone, my family and his are as supportive as the can be looking in on the situation...I would love even more for my s/o to meet with local veterans to establish some sort of support, he needs this...desperately... For what its worth, my s/o did come home with a purple heart and a bronze star...for what its worth...

disabledveterangvcptsd 9 years, 8 months ago

Hello and thank you very much for your inputs. Any help and positive suggestions would help. I have a wife and 7 year old. I was in combat. I would join the Military over and over. I was a Police Chief in Highland and the St.Joseph news media were brave and professional to put this story out. I was a police officer in New York for over 17 years and also a Kansas Police Officer for approx. 4 yrs. I was vested in the pension system already and I wanted to join the fight against terrorism. It was time to move on from Police work and step up to the plate for our country. Now, I am fighting the VA and this is proving to be one of the toughest battles yet. To the lady who answered this blog first. YOUR HUSBAND IS A HERO AND DEFENDED ALL THE OPPRESSED PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD, I FOR ONE AM PROUD OF HIM AND I THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT. My wife is struggling also and a support group would be excellent. I myself am getting therapy in the OIF/OEF program.

disabledveterangvcptsd 9 years, 8 months ago

Jean1183 and Curious2 you are truly Patriots and do not get yourself to upset,because this is new and we need to spread this sight out to all of our friends and family. This is going to be a weekly thing.

Mulliken 9 years, 8 months ago

Gary, I'm behind you 100% as I am with all disabled vets. I'm glad you have this venue to express your ideas.

disabledveterangvcptsd 9 years, 8 months ago

Thank you for all of your wonderful comments and taking time out of your day to read this. I am very grateful there is a reporter like Mike Belt out there who is willing to take his time and get the Disabled Veteran message out there. One day I would be able to say exactly where I was wounded but as a sworn soldier there are things that I can not say and will not say. I am proud to have served my country and I performed my duties the best I could. I would do it over and over again. I am proud to say ---- I AM AN AMERICAN SOLDIER.

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