The email came from a woman in New Zealand, referred from another attorney.
The writer was clearly flustered, shocked that her beloved American servicemember was being treated so badly by the Army he served for more than 10 years.
The woman, middle-aged by admission, needed to find a lawyer to help her fiance’. He, Captain Billy Ray Hotchkins*, served in Afghanistan for the past year but faced discipline when he stood-up for his soldiers in the face of command tyranny. Captain Billy is not only a great man, but a great soldier and leader. He loved his soldiers, but, more important to her, he loved her unconditionally.
They’d never met in person, but she knew he was the one. After all, he found her on an online dating site. He was handsome, sending pictures of himself in a well-tailored uniform and sporting a chiseled jaw. Of all the women on the internet, he chose her. She was smitten, and in love. Her days were spent waiting for his intoxicating emails. He was the prince of whom she’d dreamt.
Now, her prince was in trouble.
After facing punishment, her Captain suffered administrative discharge (being fired from the Army). Then, he was kicked out of Afghanistan without passport or means to return to the United States, or, as was her preference, New Zealand. He told her that the State Department refused to help because of his military discharge.
She’d wired money. It got him to Amsterdam. She wired more, and it got him to Libya. As quickly as she could untie her savings, she’d wire whatever she could afford.
In over two decades of association with the military, I’d never heard of such overwhelming maltreatment. Such a miscarriage of justice. Such blatant disregard for due process, regulations, and law. In the second order, the poor fiance’ was forced to pine for hours and days as her beloved suffered as a wandering refugee. A man without a country.
Can you imagine military commanders, drunk on their real and perceived power, casting a fellow soldier out of the Army to wander from international airport to international airport without proof of citizenship? It is a travesty. It is a shame. To make matters worse, the State Department joined in this conspiracy against one of our nation’s heroes.
Billy and his fiance’ needed an attorney to expose the government for this atrocity and fight for his rights. She did, however, confide that Billy was none too happy about her seeking the help of a lawyer in the United States. He wanted to fix this himself, the ruggedly-individualistic American that he is. He just needed a bit more cash.
My response was very brief.
“Ma’am, you are the victim of an internet scam. Please report this to your local authorities. I’ve included a link to an article that addresses this type of fraud.”
I then included one more sentence.
“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that your soldier is not real.”
*With apologies to anyone actually named Billy Ray Hotchkins.