By: Darrell Myers, Editor, The Observer
Today, a man who took pride in who he was and in his accomplishments has been lowered into near homelessness, and would be homeless if it wasn’t for the help of fellow Marines who stand by their comrades and a few others who have donated money. Fidel Granado, age 36, was about to drop into obscurity until his situation came to the attention of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Advocate, Christine Cook, who requested Marine Corps assistance for Granado in April 2010. Fidel became actively monitored and assisted by Sgt. Dean Sanchez, USMC WW DISC, and Sgt. Sanchez contacted Col. Bob Fischer (Ret). That is were this story begins.
The reasons any of us join the military are as varied as the imagination. Yes, we have those who want to follow in dear Pop’s shoes or those of their favorite uncle. Some join to learn a trade or earn the right to attend college later, or simply because of patriotism and love our country. Some even joined because a judge told them they had no choice but to go into the service.
And believe me, no one really cares why we joined; but, we joined the military knowing that the training we were going to go through was hard and dangerous and that we could get hurt, or killed, and that we could be sent into combat and become a causality or even lose our life. But heck, we were young and dumb and nothing was going to hurt us ‘cause we were invincible.
Fidel Granado probably had those same thoughts when he joined the Marine Corp in 1994 and began his career in the basic of basic jobs in the Corp, Infantry. As Fidel said, it was the “only way to go.” Stationed at Camp Pendleton California, with overseas tours in Ottawa, mainland Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and Australia where, according to Fidel, “he was able to enjoy himself and still behave.” Not sure what he meant by that statement – we all behaved ourselves; we had to – or that is what we tell our mothers.
The first time Fidel realized that his armor of invincibility was dented and his brain was not made of iron was at Camp Pendleton when an accident occurred during a training exercise. While Fidel was driving a FAV (fast attack vehicle), a piece of equipment based on the venerable M151 MUTT (Military Utility Tactical Truck) with a pedestal-mounted M60 machine gun, dust raised by the pickup truck he was following cut his vision to such a point that he did not see the turn he should have taken. Upon realizing his mistake, Fidel cut the steering wheel to make that turn, and in doing so lost control of the vehicle and began over correcting and rolled the jeep. For his mistake, Fidel got his bell rung!! Since Fidel’s Corporal could see no apparent injury to either him or the Jeep, they rolled the Jeep back on its wheels and went back into the training exercise. Fidel was not checked out by medical personal.
A side note: Even though the M151 FAV was dangerous – an accident waiting to happen if you over steered while trying to make corrections, and which caused many a death to troops driving or riding in them – this FAV stayed in use long after the fielding of the HMMWV, because the FAV could fit on Marine Corps helicopters, while the wider HMMWV could not.
In Australia, Fidel had another accident when he was in the turret of his HMMWV FAV and the driver of the vehicle hit a speed bump at a high rate of speed. Fidel was thrown out of the turret, hitting his head on the weapon as he flew out. Once again, Fidel got his bell run!! But this time, he was checked out by a corpsman, who had to stitch-up the wound.
In 1996, damage from those two brain injuries resulted in Fidel being prescribed medication for migraines by the military. He was later discharged from the Marines, and was given a 30% disability rating.
Since his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in 1998, Fidel has been employed as a certified welder. In 2000, Fidel was diagnosed with PTSD. He stated, “that he was getting along okay, with no problems, and that he was dealing with his migraines and PTSD just fine until December 2009.” That was when the VA Medical Center decided to change his medications. Shortly afterward, Fidel suffered a stroke, leaving him blind in one eye, with severe speech impediments and with balance issues.
Fidel went from a man who was very self-reliant and hard working, to unemployable and forced to beg for assistance. Fidel said that, “he is a little bit bitter about this, because the VA does not want to accept fault for causing his stroke.” He said, “when you are in the service, if you make a mistake, you take the consequences for your actions.”
But today, due to the efforts of Colonel Bob Fischer (Ret) and many other Marines, Fidel is being treated at the Rocky Mountain Hyperbaric Institute, located at 2300 Central Avenue in Boulder Colorado. For additional information on RMHABI you can go to their website at www.rockymountainhbot.com. This treatment is being done at no cost to him because of the Rocky Mountain Hyperbaric Association for Brain Injuries, a Non-profit patient service organization. For more information on this non-profit organization you can go to their website at www.rockymountainhyperbaricassociation.org. This assistance does not cover the cost of Fidel’s housing, meals and transportation; these costs have been covered by the generosity of a few people and organizations such as The American Legion, Department of Colorado, Arvada Legion Post 161 and the Tea PartyVets.org.
However, the funds are drying up fast. The number of treatments in this first go-around is 40. Help is needed to keep him housed and fed while he is undergoing treatments – treatments that will return him to a productive citizen and give him back his pride and dignity.
Fidel began his first treatment on Wednesday, November 3. During his treatment he is placed in a Hyperbaric chamber, where the atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled using the 1.5 ATA Harch Protocol and the patient is breathing 100% oxygen. The treatments last for one hour, and during that time Fidel can have as much as 15-times as much oxygen delivered to his brain tissue than by breathing regular room air at normal atmospheric pressure.
After six treatments he still has a stuttering problem, but according to Col. Fischer, “you can understand what he is saying now, because before these treatments began you could not.” Fidel says that he, “is feeling better, but the PTSD is flaring up and is getting worse.” That’s a problem caused by the Hyperbaric treatment – it occurs during the beginning of the treatments and will subside later, as the treatments continue.
Since the treatment started, Fidel is already feeling better about himself and the situation in which he has found himself. He wants to be able to work and provide for his family, just like in the past. We will visit with Fidel each week to see how he progresses.