[ OUR OPINION ]
Air Force worsened
military couple’s plight
THE Air Force's bureaucratic mishandling has turned one military family's tragedy into a nightmare. The deplorable conduct caused financial problems leading to the husband's death, making insurmountable the problems of the grieving young widow in trying to cope with her own cancer. This is a disastrous example of support for the troops.
The Air Force is reconsidering whether to discharge without medical coverage an airman whose cancer was detected several weeks after she enlisted.
At the last minute, the Air Force has suspended the order that Airman Courtney Linde, who grew up in Hawaii Kai, be discharged and deprived of medical care provided by the military. The initial order should be overturned and the Air Force should accept fully its responsibility.
Courtney Linde was given and passed a full physical examination before enlisting in the Air Force soon after her July 2002 marriage to 10-year Marine veteran John Linde Jr. of Washington, Mo. Late in basic training, she experienced leg pains. She was diagnosed with cancer three weeks into technical training, following boot camp. A year ago, she underwent chemotherapy and surgery to replace her right femur and knee with a titanium rod and knee.
The Air Force paid for the chemotherapy and surgery but told her she would be discharged because her illness made her "unfit" for military service. Air Force officials came to the outrageous conclusion that Airman Linde's cancer existed before she enlisted, although there was no evidence that, even if true, she or anyone else was aware of it.
The Air Force's decision threw the young couple into a financial crisis. John Linde, the 30-year-old son of a retired Marine who fought in Vietnam, decided to leave the Corps and, to help pay for his wife's future medical bills, went to work for DynCorp, a company contracted by the State Department to provide security for U.S. Embassy officials in Tel Aviv.
The job paid well -- reportedly almost $130,000 for nine months' work -- but it was dangerous. On Oct. 15, John Linde was among three DynCorp employees killed when a terrorist bomb blew up their van while they were escorting a U.S. diplomat to an interview with Palestinian applicants for Fulbright scholarships.
Courtney Linde, 21, had been told she would be discharged yesterday, with her medical coverage cut off by the Air Force. "To be honest, I'm really scared myself," she told Gary Kubota, the Star-Bulletin's Maui correspondent, soon after her husband's death. Her mother, Lyn Brown of Wailea, Maui, added, "We don't think it's right."
Neither did Rep. Neil Abercrombie after reading Kubota's account of the family's adversity two days after John Linde's death. At the Hawaii congressman's request, Air Force Secretary James Roche has suspended Airman Linde's discharge "pending reconsideration of the case." In the absence of any proof that Linde concealed her cancerous condition while enlisting in the Air Force, Roche should ensure her continued medical care at government expense.