Veteran deserve treatment not Prison after being denied service at Hampt VA Medical Center

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On November 6, 1999, I Samuel E. Harris, (Sam) went to the Hampton VA Medical Center seeking help. I was sick and tired of using drugs. The cycle of "use-stop-relapse-use again", had taken its toll on me. I never imagine in a million years that I would be homeless and would have lost my wife, daughter, and my will to live to this deadly addiction. I'm currently in my 18th year of a 60 year sentence. At the time of the crimes being committed, I was 30 years old, desperate and had basically given up on life. First and foremost, I would like to start off by saying that in no way am I attempting to diminish the severity of the crimes for which I committed and pled guilty. I pled guilty because in fact I was guilty. there's not a day that has gone by that I haven't felt remorse and regret. So many people were affected by my selfish decisions. I do understand that there's a price to pay when you break the law. I'm not a career or violent criminal; it was only after I experimented with cocaine in 1995; that I eventually started committing crimes to support my drug addiction. The events leading up to the day that the event occurred as well as other mitigating facts, hopefully will shed light on my situation. I graduated from Suffolk High, with the ambition of joining the Army, traveling the world. My goal was to serve 20 years than retire. My first duty station was Ft. Wainwright Alaska. I never realized or imagined that I would be stationed in Alaska, I really wanted to go to Germany. I arrived in Alaska in March 1988. I became homesick, especially having to leave behind my family. Also having to deal with the 24 hours of darkness as well as the freezing temperature of negative 50 to negative 70 degrees. I oftentimes was very lonely and depressed. On August 10, 1988 during a training exercise, I was involved in an accident, near drowning. An individual was swimming laps and noticed me laying on the bottom of the pool. He pull me to the top and placed me on the side of the pool. He attempted to give me mouth to mouth resuscitation. When the local paramedic responded to this accident, I was unresponsive and several mouth to.mouth resuscitation were administered, and I was revived. I was than transported to Bassett Medical Hospital, on Ft. Wainwright Alaska. I was placed in the intensive care unit, and several days later I was transferred to a regular room, than I was released after 6 days. I subsequently experienced problems with my breathing and went to sick call, specifically on February 1989. I felt like the doctors basically just made me deal with my conditions. it was stated by the attending flight surgeon that my conditions were the effects of the near drowning; however no instructions, medication or follow up procedures were given. This accident left me with breathing difficulties as well as psychological problems. In April 1989, I went home on convalescent leave, at which time me and my high school sweetheart eloped. The residual effects from this unfortunate accident, near drowning, along with being homesick, led to my discharge from the Army. I was discharged from the Army on June 12, 1989, and I was never advised or given information. concerning the Veteran Administration or any medical assistance that was available. I was given a one way ticket from Alaska to Virginia on June 12, 1989. When I arrived home, I often felt distant, alone and depressed. I succumbed to alcohol. I was involved in an automobile accident from the result of drinking and driving in August 1989, I suffered a head trauma, which required hopspitization. I worked several jobs, until i realized that I had been gifted to sell cars. I became a salesman in 1992 and continued to sale cars until I was incarcerated. while selling cars I was quite good, receiving numerous salesman of the month awards. As well as being named a Senior Sales Executive with the Colonial Auto Group. However I always felt hollow and it was like I was missing something. I normally felt like a failure, especially since I didn't complete my Army obligation. It was February 1995, a Saturday, when I first experimented with cocaine. I thought I had found the cure. than in September 1995 I experimented with crack cocaine, attempting to ease the pain. And less than 6 months later I was addicted to crack. Never would I thought that I would become addicted to drugs. I had never used drugs, I smoked marijuana twice, prior to this. I wanted to stop using, no addict starts using, thinking that they would become addicted. I sought help at a local hospital, than in July 1997, I was arrested for grand larceny, (odtaining money from a credit union under false pretense). I pled guilty and was sentenced to prison from July 1997 to February 1999. After my release from prison I worked for 3 months, selling furniture.However I began to become depressed and started using again. Being depressed seemed normal to me. I went to the community service board requesting help, and they helped me to get into Serenity House, a residential rehabilitation center. I completed the 28 day program. While there, I was told by another veteran about the VA hospital in Hampton. I went to the VA hospital on several accession attempting to get help, specifically on August6, 1999. I experienced so much red tape, after waiting for hours and hours, just to be seen. I became frustrated and left. I eventually just gave up. (page 2 of 2 ) There wasn't a follow up procedure administered to see the outcome of my visit to the VA hospital. On the night of November 10, 1999, being totally exhausted from using, and at my wits end. I went to the local blood bank, donated some blood. I took $11.00 of the $25.00, and brought a bus ticket to the Hampton VA Medical Center. I was initially denied admittance, but I told the attending nurse that if I wasn't admitted, and had to return to the streets, that I would harm myself. I was admitted to the psychiatric ward for observation, I was also prescribed the antidepressant "ativan". During this time I was informed about a treatment program offered by the VA, DAP ( Drug Abuse Program). I applied for this program , I felt a little relief because I assumed that I would be accepted into this program. I honestly felt like I had found something to help me get better. the next morning I was called to the benefits office, there I was informed that I didn't qualify for the DAP program, reason being I wasn't honorably discharge. I had received a general discharged upon my seperation from the Army. I would later find out that they made a mistake, because a general discharged does qualify. they assumed I was dishonorably discharge, they never ask me about this. I was subsequently discharged from the VA hospital. I actually felt worse, i was not only having withdrawal from the cocaine, but also from the ativan that the VA had prescribed. And within 24 hours I found myself smoking crack cocaine again. And I basically gave up on life. I went on a 2 week binge, where I was getting high everyday. To support this, I broke into places. On the morning of November 30, 1999, I walked around looking for a way to get some money to buy more crack. I walk up to this house, rang the doorbell. After noticing that no one was home I broke into this home. My intention were to steal a few items. Unbeknownst to me, this home was full of guns, so I proceeded to take a few guns. In the profess of doing this, the occupants of the home return. I totally panic, I walked into the room were they where, and i told them that I wasn't going to hurt them. At that time I ask the women for her purse and car keys, and I ask the gentleman to kneel down. I was really nervous. I exited the house got in their car and left. I was noticed by a detective, a high speed chase began, however I pulled over, I placed the handgun that I had stolen from the residence, in my mouth. after a few seconds I surrendered. I was charged with numerous crimes. During the judicial process I was seen by a psychiatrist, and I was prescribed the anti depressant "trazodone", which I was taking daily. On August 12, 2000, my attorney advised me that I was offered a plea agreement, to plead guilty and be sentenced within my sentencing guidelines, which were 22 years 2 months to 34 years 4 months, a mid point of 29 years 7 months. He stated that I could be sentenced to 20 years. I initially refused the plea, but after speaking with my sister, we decided that 20 years was better than having to serve a life sentence, for which one of the charges carried. So I pled guilty. On November 9, 2000, I was sentenced well beyond my sentencing guidelines, to 60 years. This is basically a life sentenced for me. The sentence imposed was unfair, unjust, and essentially a life sentence. My projected release date is May 2052. I've attempted several post conviction methods to no avail. On November 14, 2014 I was examined by the VA, here at the prison. In January 2015, I was notified by the VA that I had finally been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Which was service connected and had been established as directly related to military service. The effect of the near drowning that occurred on August 10, 1988, 26 years later. This disease went undiagnosed and untreated for 26 years. If the VA had examined me earlier, a lot of mishaps and misfortunes in my life could have been prevented. I attempted to inform the courts of this newly discovered evidense of PTSD, to no avail. Now in light of everything that's going on with the VA, they really need to help me. Yes I received limited compensation, but not treatment. I'm begging the VA, "please don't forget me", . I volunteered to protect and defend this country. Why do i have to fight for benefits and services that I earned and deserved. If you want to help Sam in spreading his story, please pass this along, and he is willing to correspond with anyone who would like to assist him. He can be contacted at Lawrenceville Correctional Center 1607 Planters Rd. Lawrenceville, Va. 23868. He can also be reached by email at: Samuel E. Harris #1026738. He is currently in the process of petitioning the incoming governor of Virginia; Ralph Northam, for an executive pardon. its his desire to be pardoned to the VA hospital for treatment. Also you can contact his attorney: Ms. Gail Ball by phone at 757-486-5148 or email at

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