PINEHURST, N.C. (WJZY) – Even on Christmas, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal continues to press for accountability in the Armed Services.
“It’s starting to become what feels like an insult,” said Stayskal from his home in Pinehurst. “But I’m trying not to feel that way.”
The terminally ill Fort Bragg Green Beret and Purple Heart Recipient is still fighting for equal healthcare protections for active-duty soldiers. His story of botched medical care, first reported by WJZY, led to a landmark law giving soldiers the right to file malpractice claims against the government for the first time.
More than a year after President Trump signed the bipartisan bill into law, bearing Stayskal’s name, the Department of Defense has not processed a single one and missed its own deadline to release a structure to do so by three months.
“It’s adding insult to injury that the compensation’s not there to help them out especially at a time like this,” said Stayskal. “It’s also frustrating when service members are sick or could be potentially passing away.”
Stayskal and his attorney plan to keep pushing for answers. Congressman Richard Hudson (R-Concord) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) both recently wrote letters to Defense officials asking for an explanation.
As for his health, Stayskal says the treatment he is receiving at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. is helping. In 2017, doctors at Womack Army Medical Center misdiagnosed his lung cancer as pneumonia. He is now stage 4 terminal.
“I mean I feel OK. Still doing the same treatment, had some complications in the last few months, some internal side effects,” he said. “I’m still stage 4 terminally ill but it’s stable right now.”
He says scans show no evidence of disease – a hopeful sign.
Stayskal spoke with WJZY investigative reporter Matt Grant on Christmas as he celebrated with his family.
“It’s one more that I got to have,” said Stayskal. “One more holiday that I got to spend with my family. So it’s very special to me.”
This Christmas, the community is giving him a gift. Hundreds of heart shaped notes with hand-written messages of love and encouragement were stapled to what will be the Stayskal’s new house, a gift from the military non-profit Operation Finally Home. Many of the notes are from young kids.
“I love everybody’s but especially it’s the kids that get me. I like those the most,” said Stayskal. “To know that you’re having an effect on them and they know that you’re out there working hard for their safety and, you know, protecting the country, it’s a good feeling.”
WJZY was there for the groundbreaking of the new home. It is expected to be finished in mid to late spring.
“It’s a big deal to know that my family’s going to be taken care of, in that sense, with no mortgage in a house for them,” said Stayskal. “It’s just a great feeling. It takes a lot off my shoulders.”
Inside the home, which is still under construction, Stayskal took a moment on Christmas to read some of the messages left for him.
“Thank you for your service and sacrifices,” he said, reading one note left by a child. “I have my freedom because of you we are all forever grateful.”
The messages, he says, means a lot.
“I just really want to say thank you to everybody and Merry Christmas to everybody,” said Stayskal. “I appreciate all the support everybody’s given.”
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