First published on November 6, 2011 – theredlens.com
An article posted today, on The Bellingham Herald website, discusses the Marine Corps’ hiring of athletic trainers to aid those injured during the grueling thirteen-week boot camp. Coincidentally, earlier this week I sat down with Steven Blazekovich, or “Blaze” as he is known, to talk about his Marine Corps experience and the injury that has prevented him from serving as he wish he could.
It’s a common image when thinking of boot camp, soldiers marching or running with heavy loads on their backs. For Blaze, this was the very action at boot camp in San Diego that resulted in broken arches in his feet and stress fractures throughout his legs. Doctors haven’t been able to directly pinpoint why this happened to him, and he’s endured four years of pain and inadequate treatment.
Blaze’s Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is helicopter mechanic; however, his leg injuries are preventing him from being allowed to work those helicopters. He’s been moved to a safer, yet boring, position in the squadron’s tool room.
Fellow mechanic, Matt Haverluk, says of Blaze’s situation: “Steve was a top-notch mechanic when he was in the shop. Losing him out of the flight line due to his injuries was not only bad for our shop, but also bad for his morale. To watch him get messed around for a few years is even more disheartening.”
With plans to go back to college for a computer graphics degree, Blaze had worried about losing his GI Bill benefits with an “other than honorable” discharge. He’s spoken with his squadron Commanding Officer and submitted the results to all of his medical tests, so he remains in good standing. Now, it’s a matter of dealing with the exit process, red tape, and not knowing exactly when they’ll honorably discharge him, causing a couple different delays in his college enrollment.
Budding Marines know going into boot camp it isn’t easy, and they aren’t quick to ever complain.
Blaze was of the same mindset, never saying anything about the pain until after boot camp, when his mechanic school instructor noticed red blotches on his legs during a training run. Though Blaze’s experience isn’t very common, it has apparently happened enough in the past few years that the Marine Corps has noticed and is doing something about it now.