Where do the protectors turn when they are the ones who need help?

The warrior class is a group unlike any other in society.  Warriors stand ready to give their all in the blink of an eye for complete strangers in an effort to preserve the greater good that most take for granted.  They are the first to act when called upon, and all too often the last to ask for help when they need saving themselves.  I got to sit down with one of those warriors today, and he desperately needs your help, America.

While scrolling through Facebook I came across a post that started with two pictures.  One was a man in a decorated Army uniform, and the next was the same man in a St. Louis Metropolitan Police uniform.
As I continued to scroll, I saw it was a mother’s cry for help.  The man is her son Tim, who is in desperate need of a back surgery but has been denied by the insurance company Anthem.

According to them it is not “medically necessary” because he could just spend his life taking pain medication instead.  The VA is not an option because he was told it is not service connected and they will not help because he has insurance.

It just so happened this post was shared by a copper who had worked at a neighboring department to me in St. Louis County, so I messaged him and I received a phone call a short time later from Tim.  We chatted for a bit and agreed to meet.

I was met with a strong handshake and a quiet hello as Tim walked through the door of the cigar shop we had agreed upon two days prior.  We pulled up some chairs and immediately after sitting down Tim begins asking about my background.  Even when he knew the purpose of this was so we could get his story out, he still wanted to know what I was all about.  It didn’t take long before we both realized we had chewed a lot of the same dirt as police officers.

We moved to an area away from everyone else in the shop and that was when Tim began to open up.  Born and raised in St. Louis, Tim went into the Army where he proudly served in the infantry on multiple deployments with the 82nd Airborne, and 101st Infantry.  He ran more than 200 combat missions and dozens of airborne jumps.

After leaving the Army, Tim felt a calling to law enforcement.  He got a job with the St. Louis City Sheriff’s Department and finally with the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department.  After completing the academy, he was assigned to North Patrol Division, which has the highest crime rate in the city.  While assigned to North Patrol he was awarded the Medal of Valor for saving the life of a young man by pulling him from a burning building, and was named Officer of the year in both 2016 and 2017.

One shift in particular Tim was involved in a foot pursuit with a suspect, and injured his neck during the struggle.  He was able to have surgery to correct the neck injury, but unbeknownst to him it had also aggravated an old back injury that he had been receiving treatment for since 2012.  Tim’s condition progressively worsened and his doctors recommended a surgery similar to the one performed on his neck.  Tim began making preparations to have the surgery because he has great insurance through the police department – or so he thought.  Tim was recently informed his claim was denied because the surgery isn’t “medically necessary” and the VA is no help because the injury isn’t service connected and he has insurance.

There is absolutely zero reason that an American who has served his country, is currently serving his community, and paying the astronomical amount for good insurance is denied for a surgery that can restore some quality of life.  Here is a warrior who knows his days of chasing the bad guy and physically fighting the enemy are over.  The one thing he kept telling me is how he just wants to be able to do things with his sons and be the best father he can.  As of the time of this writing Tim has contacted people at every level of government that he could reach to no avail, and is still trying to appeal Anthem’s decision.  The bottom line here is it shouldn’t have to be this way.

I am left to wonder who protects the protectors?  I believe it is our responsibility to be there when they need us whether they ask for it or not.  Do you ever wonder why suicide rates among veterans and law enforcement are so high?  This is one of several reasons.  When the warrior finally asks for help they are often told to suck it up because that’s what warriors do.  And unfortunately most of them try to do just that and it costs so much more in the long run.

Now it’s up to you, America.  Will you do something as simple as click that share button, or will you just scroll on by?
Editor Note: With the blessing of The Whiskey Patriots, the author of this article took it upon himself to capture the story of this hero in a special, self-produced episode of Behind the Uniforms.  Enjoy.

Brandon Smithley is a military veteran and former emergency responder with more than 14 years of experience in law enforcement and fire service.  He currently handles business development for U.S. Veterans Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps veterans enjoy the outdoors through hunting and fishing trips.