When he heard that a swimmer was in distress last summer, Sgt. 1st Class Tim Brumit dove into the water to try to help. The Green Beret broke his neck and was paralyzed.
Because of alcohol and trace amounts of cocaine in his system when he dove into the ocean, the Army has deemed his actions reckless and grounds for an other-than-honorable discharge.
But Brumit, a soldier with eight combat deployments and a Bronze Star under his belt, has decided to fight back.
The soldier has acknowledged his substance abuse issues, but said they did not factor into the decision that left him paralyzed. Additionally, in a Sept. 6 letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Brumit said that he had begged for help for his addictions, as well as help for post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. He said his command denied he had any serious issues, despite apparent warning signs. He describes his unit's investigation into his July 24, 2015, incident as "vindictive and fraudulent."
Sgt. 1st Class Tim Brumit with his father Randy Brumit, while serving in Iraq together in 2007.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Randy Brumit
U.S. Army Special Operations Command is sympathetic to Brumit's injury, said USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Bockholt. He said USASOC commander, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, is weighing whether to support Brumit's request for reconsideration. However, Human Resources Command will have the final say.
The day of the incident, Brumit reportedly saw a girl in distress in a storm while boating near Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Misjudging the depth of the shallow water in the wavy, choppy sea, he dove in and broke his neck. The 13-year-old girl, about 400-500 meters away when Brumit jumped in, managed to safely return to shore.
Initial reports lauded the 33-year-old as a hero. But according to the Daily Beast, he now has three weeks to fight the adverse nature of the discharge. He told the Daily Beast he has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and coping with war as well as a divorce, resulting in physical fights with teammates and substance abuse.
"I acknowledge that I have struggled, I have sought help and the Army failed me in that pursuit," Brumit wrote in his letter to Hunter. "I still struggle and sometimes fail to cope with the aftermath of war. Through my unit's vindictive and fraudulent investigation they have denied me the medical care required for my current injuries, as well as my PTSD, TBI, and secondary issues."
The Daily Beast said Army officials acquired Brumit's toxicology report without his permission, leading to a year-long legal fight. An other-than-honorable discharge could cost Brumit his military health benefits, which could prove immensely costly given his condition.
Hunter has written to Army Secretary Eric Fanning on Brumit's behalf and asked him to personally evaluate the case. The frequent advocate for troops facing adverse administrative action criticized the Army's neglect to provide Brumit support he clearly needed. A spokesperson for Fanning said in a statement that the Secretary "has asked his staff to look into the matter and will respond appropriately."
"[F]or years, he struggled with undiagnosed (PTSD and TBI). During the time symptoms were evident, the Army continued to utilize Brumit for combat deployment without proper diagnosis," Hunter wrote. "It is my belief that there is more than sufficient grounds for reconsideration of the Army's decision."
Hunter said the Army failed to assist Brumit despite "his continuous calls for help." Brumit had voluntarily entered a drug and alcohol program (Air Force Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment), but he was repeatedly pulled out of the ADAPT program by his sergeant major, according to the Daily Beast. The Daily Beast said it had acquired emails from Brumit and his father (a former Green Beret himself) "begging his commanding officers for more than a year" to help Brumit find a different coping mechanism. His commanders' responses denied he had a problem, the article alleges.
That cost Brumit a chance at diagnosis and treatment according to Hunter, and now an unfavorable discharge would constitute a "failure to support one of its top-rate warriors."
Sgt. 1st Class Tim Brumit is fighting an other-than-honorable discharge.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Randy Brumit