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Marine Betrayed by the VA

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Author'’s note: [Since May 20, 1950, every third Saturday in May has been observed as Armed Forces Day, an occasion to salute the men and women in all branches of the service who protect our country.

This piece quotes heavily from a letter written by Mr. Mark W. Anderson in April 2007 to his current VA primary care clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada. Anderson contacted me some two weeks ago after reading about the VA and a US Atty's jailing of a Vietnam-era veteran, Keith Roberts, on fraud charges. "We gotta get Roberts out of there," said Anderson. Below is Mark Anderson's story of a Marine betrayed.]

Among the most unpleasant places that one can occupy in this world is the space between a US Marine and his objective.

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No joke, if you want a job done, the iconic American advice to “Send in the Marines” endures.

Mark W. Anderson

Cpl Mark W. Anderson was an exemplary Marine infantryman with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marines Division from 1995 to 1999, who left for boot camp two days after he graduated from high school in Lakeville, Minnesota.

Anderson won’t talk about the praise he earned for his service. So I’ll cite some here.

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“(Cpl Anderson’s) character has earned him the respect of seniors and peers alike. I would actively seek to serve with a Marine of his caliber in any capacity.”
- First Sergeant Carlos R. Rios; May 17, 1999

“Cpl Anderson’s strong points are his powerful drive and dedication. … He is a proven, top quality organizer, administrator, and manager whose potential for increased responsibility and authority is boundless.”
- Gunnery Sergeant V. Higgins; May 17, 1999

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

But after his honorable discharge from active duty in 1999, this man of drive and dedication did not foresee the treatment he was about to be accorded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“I have never suffered such indignities as I have courtesy of the VA. Not even during boot camp in the Marine Corps have I been made to feel so horrible,” wrote Anderson.


Anderson severely injured his shoulder in August of 1997 at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, but he “did the Marine thing and sucked it up.”

But the shoulder became worse over the next two years, and right before he left the Marines he underwent his first surgery in March 1999.

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Over the next 10 years, the shoulder became a chronic condition, easily aggravated, and Anderson had to actually physically hold his shoulder in place to keep it from grotesquely dislocating; it's held together artificially.

But neither his service nor his injured shoulder brought him much respect when Anderson complained to the VA about his reaction to a mandatory Anthrax vaccine, and what Anderson came to assert was his use as a human guinea pig.

Anthrax Vaccine

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Michael Leon is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. His writing has appeared nationally in The Progressive, In These Times, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at maleon64@yahoo.com.

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