Veteran finally to undergo back surgery

On Tuesday, nearly three years after he was injured in an explosion during the war on terror, Army veteran Gary Connellis will undergo back surgery.

It has been a long, painful wait for someone with a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. And those are just the problems with his back.

Periodically during the past several months The Front Lines has outlined some of the bureaucratic problems Connellis has experienced in dealing with the Army after he was injured and honorably discharged with disabilities, and especially with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Connellis, a former police officer in New York City, Lawrence and a couple of other Kansas towns, was almost evicted last October from his Leavenworth apartment, where he lives with his wife and daughter, because he didn’t have enough money for rent. Family members and friends came to his rescue, and he continues to receive financial help from them.

Connellis also has post traumatic stress disorder. He said he is now seeing his fifth VA counselor in about a year’s time. Most of them left for jobs outside the VA, he said.

The Kansas National Guard a couple of weeks ago announced that it was sending 180 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 137th Infantry Regiment to Saudi Arabia for a joint exercise with the Saudis. About 50 of those soldiers are from the company based in Lawrence.