In The News
Texas Soldier who Faced Retaliation After Speaking Up Against Superiors Awarded Medals
He served his country in the National Guard, helping thousands of people in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina
By MICHELLE REESE
He served his country in the National Guard, helping thousands of people in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. But, when he questioned the conduct of his superiors, records of his service simply vanished. As CBS 19's Michele Reese reports, Friday, things were finally made right.
Former Private Trey Battaglia was in Dallas in 2005, when he got his orders to report to West Monroe, Louisiana for duty. He says when he left that base for New Orleans, he could never have imagined what the future would hold.
"I reported to the Superdome two days before Katrina hit."
For several weeks after the storm blew through New Orleans, Battaglia served as a National Guardsman.
"I just started witnessing all the pandemonium, all the crazy stuff that happened down there."
Perhaps the most disturbing behavior Battaglia witnessed was that of his superiors.
"Some of my superiors had done some looting, and we were down there trying to help people."
Battaglia says he could only watch as his superiors looted guns and tools from some of the many stores they were assigned to protect. As soon as he could, Battaglia spoke up.
It put his own life in jeopardy, he says, and he became the target of retaliation.
"I believe I was in danger...my paperwork actually went missing showing that I was even in Hurricane Katrina."
And without those papers, he did not qualify for medical benefits, or any other benefits associated with serving in the military.
"It was my DD-214. The VA hospital won't acknowledge me for being a veteran."
After his pleas for help fell on the deaf ears of several elected officials, Battaglia found an ally in Texas State Rep. Louie Gohmert.
"When you see someone who's been beat up when they were just trying to help, you really want to help them, and that's the case with Trey Battaglia," said Rep. Gohmert.
Rep. Gohmert found Battaglia's papers, and Friday morning, he decorated the veteran with medals.
"We have [the] National Defense Service medal, the Humanitarian Service medal and an Army Service ribbon."
It was a day five years in the making.
"After going so long not being recognized for being there, to be actually recognized for what I did down there was really, really great."
Battaglia got his day, but says two men who spoke up with him never will. He says the ordeal was simply too much for them to cope with, and they both committed suicide.
Battalgia is no longer serving in the military. He currently works in the private sector.