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A Vietnam Veteran Reflects On A Coma-Induced Adventure To The Brink Of Death
On Nov. 10, 2017 I was in an induced coma and not expected to live.
My disease was endocarditis. This was my third go-round with endocarditis since 2006, now involving an infected heart valve. This, however, looked like the end. My heart valve was inoperable. No surgeon would even try given the likelihood of my death on the operating table. My system was too weak to survive open heart surgery to replace the valve.
Courtesy of Jan Scruggs
Family and friends came to pay their last respects. I was on life support. My hands were often tied to the bed since I had been pulling out the needles in my arms. Meanwhile, the hospital staff kept on a television 24 hours a day, perhaps giving some company and stimulation.
Amazingly I later woke up, and within six months was playing golf. I suffered no brain damage. I am lucky. I have escaped death several times, including when wounded fighting in Vietnam. Jimmy Buffett made a song played for me hundreds of times by my wife ending in the words, "Hang in there, Jan.”
Courtesy of Jan Scruggs
But a year ago I needed a Christmas miracle.
What do you think happens in a coma? Some folks remember nothing. Others have dreams about awful things.
While on life support, I had wild escapades in my mind of traveling the world, stopping a takeover of Oregon, saving a vice president, and helping Judge Judy restore churches in Jerusalem. This was a wild tapestry of strange and poignant dreams.
My insane coma journey began in Oregon where I arrived by aircraft extremely ill.
Upon arriving, Spike Lee had just announced the creation of a new nation. Oregon, British Columbia and New Zealand would be part of a confederation. This socialist paradise had free everything from a well-off government. They would save millions by abolishing their military with the US and Canadian Armed forces providing military protection instead. The entire government would be funded by sale of Pinto Noir Wine at rock bottom prices.
Since I had some sort of status as founder of the nation’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I appeared on television denouncing the idea. “We learned in 1861 through 1865 that states must remain in the union. We are a nation of laws and we cannot have celebrities setting up private kingdoms for their entertainment."
I was persuasive on TV and got national attention. My journey was beginning.
President Donald J. Trump smiles after a joke during a roundtable discussion with cabinet members, congressmen, and defense industry leaders Oct. 19, 2018, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The discussion lasted about an hour and covered topics including defense contracts, Arizona military contributions, and the F-35.U.S. Air Force photo / Senior Airman Ridge Shan.
This sudden notoriety brought about a meeting with President Trump. He agreed with me and set up a meeting in the White House. Trump had an idea for a Commemorative Plaque honoring Native Americans which would retail for $299 with a profit of nearly $200 per plaque. We discussed marketing and his ideas on the profits which would go back to the tribes.
Though he was thoughtful and sharp, I said, “Mr. President, if we sell 50,000 plaques there would be $10 million in profits. So that is five bucks a piece for two million Indians."
Trump responded, "let's not rush into this. This will create blowback with the media. It screams fake news." The odd aspect of this was that it was found, after my meeting, that the Trump Empire also included leasing luxury house trailers which were appearing on major Indian reservations. This revelation dulled my enthusiasm for the President’s Native American Plaque idea.
From the White House I was somehow transported to Tel Aviv.
I was deathly ill in a Four Seasons Hotel where flirtatious and charming Russian women gave me sponge baths twice a day. My stay was short, but led to another adventure in the Middle East.
Judge Judy was on the Board of an Orthodox Christian group which provided repairs to Christian Churches in Israel. The people managing the money were very small with tiny heads and long noses. Judy was very serious and began pressing me hard, “I want you on this Board, Jan. I need people with status. You also need to help me with something. The small Christians have a gambling problem among their leaders. Some money is missing.”
Judge Judy was flattering and had turned on the charm. I assured her I would look at the financial reports, but felt this would not be a good use of my time.
The time horizon now slipped back to 2012. In my Coma Journey, I was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial tackling a man reaching for a pistol as Vice President Joe Biden took the stage. The Secret Service had been to our offices earlier to meet with an employee convinced that a Narco from Waldorf, Maryland would attempt an attack during the historic ceremony.
I was the MC. The Narco was obese and having problems fitting his finger through the trigger guard of a small revolver. I knocked him down and let the Secret Service do the handcuffing. Biden was impressed at how I leapt from the stage to subdue the bad guy.
"Jan, that was the bravest act I have ever witnessed," he said. I laughed and said, "Mr. Vice President, I got him from behind when his ring finger was stuck in his gun. He was trying to shoot at you, not me!”
We both laughed.
Jan in Vietnamjan in hospital
Next I arrived at a secret hospital near Camp David. It was hidden in a shopping mall in case of casualties from terrorists attacking the VIP's at the presidential retreat. In my coma dream I was doing some skiing.
As the day wound down I drove to the secret hospital. I was offered a room, but was required to put on the same exact restraints which were on my arms at the Annapolis hospital. I slipped a small Swiss Army knife into the restraints. I cut through the restraints and escaped. In my coma journey I was fighting a male nurse who was putting me in restraints. That was also literally happening at the hospital. Reality and the dreams sometimes coincided.
I ended up at the new Hyatt Hospice in Washington which was a place for the wealthy to die in style. While the person was dying his friends would gather. There was piano music and cocktails; a festive atmosphere. I was visiting a dying South African Trapeze Artist who was involved with a wealthy friend in Virginia. The Hyatt Hospice was a pleasant atmosphere with small, but lively crowds saying their goodbyes to rich Americans over Martinis.
Meanwhile my medical condition was not improving.
The decision was being made on when to end life support. The consensus was that it be done before Christmas. An attractive Indian doctor, Kambayanda Chengappa, would not give up. She was determined to find the right antibiotics. Friends were praying in the room, seemingly to no avail.
But then I opened my eyes and, being on life support, saluted a doctor to communicate. He asked me to move my left foot. Then my right foot. I was unable to walk or even stand and still groggy from the drug-induced coma.
In Jan. 2018 I was transferred to John Hopkins Hospital and learned to walk again. By the end of the month I stopped using a cane or walker in the house. In June I was playing golf and walking a couple of miles daily. I was preparing for open heart surgery, but the staph bacteria was no longer in my mitral valve thanks to retired Army Special Forces Col. John Fenzel. He noted that the drink of Vikings was Mead made with honey which could attack bacteria.
It seemed to work.
My military training and experiences as a rifleman in Vietnam gave me an edge.
My best friend is my wife, Becky, who took a real chance when she married me in 1974. Her stress level was high as she watched me with little hope of recovery. Senator Hagel and others kept her spirits up. My funeral would have been nicely done in Arlington.
Now I have a new lease on life, planning ski trips and vacations. I am thankful to God, who perhaps decided to bring me back from the dead to complete another mission or two. It wasn’t like he could exactly ignore all those who were praying for me.
That would be rude.
Jan Scruggs is a former Army infantryman and Purple Heart recipient best known for leading the effort to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. He has a law degree from the University of Maryland, and has written numerous articles on subjects ranging from the American Civil War to post-traumatic stress disorder.
13 Marines at Camp Pendleton charged with crimes related to smuggling of undocumented immigrants from Mexico
Thirteen Marines have been formally charged for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring, according to a press release from 1st Marine Division released on Friday.
The Marines face military court proceedings on various charges, from "alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants" to larceny, perjury, distribution of drugs, and failure to obey an order. "They remain innocent until proven guilty," said spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz.
The recruiting commercials for the Army Reserve proclaim "one weekend each month," but the real-life Army Reserve might as well say "hold my beer."
That's because the weekend "recruiting hook" — as it's called in a leaked document compiled by Army personnel for the new chief of staff — reveal that it's, well, kinda bullshit.
When they're not activated or deployed, most reservists and guardsmen spend one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year training, according to the Army recruiting website. But that claim doesn't seem to square with reality.
"The Army Reserve is cashing in on uncompensated sacrifices of its Soldiers on a scale that must be in the tens of millions of dollars, and that is a violation of trust, stewardship, and the Army Values," one Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, who also complained that his battalion commander "demanded" that he be available at all times, told members of an Army Transition Team earlier this year.
According to an internal Army document, soldiers feel that the service's overwhelming focus on readiness is wearing down the force, and leading some unit leaders to fudge the truth on their unit's readiness.
"Soldiers in all three Army Components assess themselves and their unit as less ready to perform their wartime mission, despite an increased focus on readiness," reads the document, which was put together by the Army Transition Team for new Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and obtained by Task & Purpose. "The drive to attain the highest levels of readiness has led some unit leaders to inaccurately report readiness."
Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, who served as the director of the transition team, said in the document's opening that though the surveys conducted are not scientific, the feedback "is honest and emblematic of the force as a whole taken from seven installations and over 400 respondents."
Those surveyed were asked to weigh in on four questions — one of which being what the Army isn't doing right. One of the themes that emerged from the answers is that "[r]eadiness demands are breaking the force."
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If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention in the last few years, you know that the Pentagon has been zeroing in on the threat that China and Russia pose, and the future battles it anticipates.
The Army has followed suit, pushing to modernize its force to be ready for whatever comes its way. As part of its modernization, the Army adopted the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, which serves as the Army's main war-fighting doctrine and lays the groundwork for how the force will fight near-peer threats like Russia and China across land, air, sea, cyber, and space.
But in an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army Transition Team for the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, argues that China poses a more immediate threat than Russia, so the Army needs make the Asia-Pacific region its priority while deploying "minimal current conventional forces" in Europe to deter Russia.
In leaked documents, Army family reports waiting weeks to have gas line and roof leaks fixed in on-base housing
As the saying goes, you recruit the soldier, but you retain the family.
And according to internal documents obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army still has substantial work to do in addressing families' concerns.