LITTLETON, Colo. – An Army pilot paralyzed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan is facing new challenges in the U.S. with simply getting a driver’s license.
David Ortiz has been trying to get a Colorado driver’s license for the past two years. His current Texas license expires at the end of May.
“The timeline is growing ever shorter. It’s not my job. I’ve served my country. I’ve sacrificed enough,” he said.
Ortiz moved to Colorado after finishing his rehabilitation at Craig Hospital. He never imagined it would be so difficult to get a driver’s license.
The problem is his name. It is fairly common. And there is a hold on his name in New Jersey and New Mexico.
It turns out people named David Ortiz have traffic infractions to take care of, but the fact they have the same name as this decorated Army veteran is preventing him from getting a license.
“I cannot be the only person in the country that this happens to with a very common name. If you have the first and last name and there is a hold on the national data base, you have to resolve those issues,” he said.
Ortiz said he got a “no match” letter from New Jersey within a matter of weeks. But New Mexico wanted him to appear in person.
“I took time out of my busy schedule and spent my money to drive down there, get a hotel room. Got the court case thrown out. When I received the documents from the court, I was told this would be sufficient and remove the hold and get a driver’s license,” he said.
But when Ortiz presented the documents at the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles, he was denied once again.
“I am being punished for simply having the same name as these other individuals,” he said.
After months on the phone getting nowhere, he asked the KDVR to help and learned from the DMV he should call the Driver Services call center. They were initially shocked to hear Ortiz’s story.
The call taker told him, “Wow. That’s crazy. Let me see what I can do.”
They were not able to help.
Now, Ortiz is running out of patience, but he’s not giving up.
“Why me? I think I have the opportunity to shed light on this issue and make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said.
Sexual assaults across the US military increased by a rate of nearly 38% in 2018, according to a report released by the Pentagon on Thursday.
The report which surveyed both men and women from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines estimated that 20,500 members of those services experienced “unwanted sexual contact” in 2018, a significant increase from 14,900 when the military last conducted a similar survey in 2016.
Unwanted sexual contact was characterized in the report as running along a range of instances from groping to rape.
In a letter to senior officials across the Defense Department on Thursday, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced additional steps the Pentagon would take to try and actively reduce and attempt eliminate what has been a major issue for years.
“To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other. This is unacceptable,” Shanahan wrote in the letter. “We cannot shrink from facing the challenge head on. We must, and will, do better.”
“Collectively, we must do everything we can to eliminate sexual harassment and assault in the military,” Shanahan wrote “In doing so, we must provide the highest-quality response to service members and hold offenders appropriately accountable.”
According to the report, sexual assault rates for women in the active duty force increased significantly, with women between the ages of 17 to 24 being at the highest risk of sexual assault. The rates for men in the active duty force remained steady from the previous report in 2016.
The report also found the Marine Corps had the highest rate of estimated sexual assaults at nearly 11%, up from 7% in 2016, followed by the Navy, Army and Air Force respectively. Those services also had increases in their estimated rates of assaults.
“I have read the report regarding sexual assault statistics for 2018 and findings are unacceptable. Marines know that sexual assault is a crime,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a tweet Thursday. “Marines also know that alcohol abuse is a contributing factor to a significant number of these incidents and other aberrant behaviors. We must have frank and candid conversations about the implications of this report to us as Marines, our units, and our Corps. To be clear, we must treat each other with dignity and respect, and hold each other accountable for not doing so.”
62% of the most serious sexual assaults involved alcohol use by the victim and/or the alleged offender, and the vast majority of victims knew their assailant, the report said.
Approximately one in three service members who indicated they had been a victim of sexual assault reported it to a superior within the military, roughly the same rate as 2016, and military commanders had sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action against two-thirds of service members accused according to the report.
The Pentagon has established a sexual assault accountability task force that was assembled at the request of Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally in March.
In testimony before the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Shanahan said he was going to “criminalize” sexual harrassment in the military and was expected to issue a directive to the Defense Department making sexual harassment a stand-alone crime under military law, according to a US defense official.
“We’re going to criminalize certain activities in this next year to reflect the seriousness that we’re going to take on certain behaviors,” Shanahan said.
Overall, the rates of sexual assault in the military have trended downward since 2006 when over 34,000 service members reported some type of sexual assault, but the numbers have fluctuated up and down since then.
The Pentagon announced Thursday it will take additional steps to address the problem including launching a program that will allow service members making reports even greater confidentiality in their reporting as well as enhancing efforts in the recruiting process to assess the character of potential recruits.
SALT LAKE CITY — Several dozen veterans took off for Washington D.C. Thursday morning on an Honor Flight.
A band entertained veterans and their families during the ceremony and send-off.
During the next three days the 50 veterans will visit memorials in our nation’s capital.
The free trip for each veteran and a companion is paid for by Nate Wade Subaru of Salt Lake City.
“I appreciate all of the different things there,” Veteran Dale Kuntz said. “I’m sure I haven’t seen everything, but I’m glad to go on this Honor Flight to see things I haven’t seen before.”
Event organizer Stephanie Harmon said it feels good to be involved with such a meaningful outing.
“For me, watching these guys be able to see this memorials and get the thank you that so many of them didn’t get when they returned, is definitely emotional,” she said.
Right after the ceremony, once the veterans were on the bus, they got a special escort from the Patriot Guard Riders of Utah to the Salt Lake City International Airport.
They can expect another big celebration upon their return home, and you can be a part of it. The public is invited to attend the homecoming at the Utah National Guard Readiness Center at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The center is located at 1640 North 2200 West in Salt Lake City.