February 14, 2018
At 20 years old, Thomas Burke sat on an Afghan riverbank with the barrel of his rifle in his mouth. By then, he had experienced the tragedies of war — he had seen children blow up in an attempt to help American forces and had been left to pick up their remains and place them in the back of trailer — but his deployment wouldn’t end for another three months.
File photo. Veterans who receive other-than-honorable discharge are barred from accessing state benefits and programs accessible to other veterans. (Richard Messina, Hartford Courant)
Burke, now 28, a native of Bethel and a soon-to-be Yale University graduate, was saved by a fellow marine “who followed me out to nowhere” and embraced him in a hug.
After experiencing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Burke returned home with substance-abuse disorders and combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder. In an effort to get help, Burke took an other-than-honorable discharge in exchange for rehabilitation, he said.
In Connecticut, though, his other-than-honorable discharge barred him from accessing vital state benefits available to more than 200,000 other veterans.
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