Combat stress victims should not be punished by Army

A U.S. Army sergeant received good news Thursday when Army officials informed him that charges against, along with the court-martial for “cowardice in the line of duty,” against him were being dropped. However, according to a news release Thursday afternoon from Fort Carson officials, Sgt. Georg-Andreas Pogany is now being charged with dereliction of duty.

The Army made a good decision to drop the court martial order against Pogany, but has undone that by charging him with dereliction of duty, a charge that could result in a loss of pay or reduction in rank.

According to the Associated Press, Pogany was attached to a team of Green Berets in late September. On the night of Sept. 29, Pogany suffered a panic attack when he came across the body of an Iraqi man who had been killed by an Army machine gun and horrifically disfigured. He later told AP, “It was incomprehensible; I couldn’t believe that had once been a person.” After the incident, Pogany, who had started to suffer from dizzy spells and vomiting, went to Army Special Forces and requested counseling. He was told he was “wasting their time.” Pogany was evaluated by psychologist Capt. Marc Houck, who established that Pogany was indeed showing signs of a combat stress reaction. Houck recommended that the sergeant be granted a brief rest before returning to duty. Six weeks later, Pogany was sent to Fort Carson to stand Court Martial on the charges of “cowardly conduct as a result of fear.”

AP reports that no serviceman has been convicted of cowardice, an offense punishable by death, since Vietnam. According to The New York Times, Scott Sillman, a military justice expert and former Air Force prosecutor, believes that this case against Pogany should not be pursued. Sillman said: “I think it’s the wrong signal to send. Right now, a lot of people have questions about this war.” Pogany defends himself against the dereliction charge by saying, “I got sick. I asked for help. But I never said I wouldn’t do my job. I requested to stay and work through my problem.”

History shows the crippling effects that war can have on a man’s mind. From shell shock to post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks, many people’s minds seem poorly suited to endure the horrors of war. After experiencing these horrors, Pogany’s mind broke down, yet he never refused to do his job and simply sought time to recover. For all that he has sacrificed and endured for this country, he should not punished for being unable to deal with the ordeal that he has been through.