A Veteran’s Fight: Vietnam war hero slips through the cracks of health care system

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(WHNT) - Ron Buis was only 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Marines. That was in 1967, and the Vietnam War was raging.  Alpha Company, First Battalion, First Marines saw plenty of action.  Twice wounded, Buis was one of only about two dozen men in his unit to make it home.

"He just bowed his head and said 'I was 19 years old baby, it was hell.  I didn't talk about it,'" said Kay Sewell.  The two dated in their teenage years and recently reconnected.

But a few years ago, Ron did begin to talk, in front of his friends, and it scared them.

"He would talk to the voices and acknowledge the voices, and he would sit with a laser light.  He'd shine it on the wall and like, do you see 'em, do you see 'em? I'm shining it right in their eyes and they don't like that," said Samantha Terrien.

Buis told his friends he was getting treatment from the VA but said the appointments were hard for him to get and were often canceled or rescheduled.  The VA tells us they have no record of canceled appointments.  Buis eventually began shooting at the voices in his head, the bullets hitting his truck outside and the trailers on each side of his own.  He was put in jail.  That was 18 months ago.

"It's frustrating.   You feel really helpless, you know, somebody you love, and they're suffering," said Sewell.

Wednesday night, WHNT News 19's Al Whitaker digs deeper into Ron Buis' story and ordered treatment that just didn't happen for whatever reason.  We talk with the VA as well as the company assigned to manage health care at the jail.  We also look at possible solutions, including a local judge's Veterans Court, that could offer help.

Watch our special report, A Veteran's Fight, Wednesday, February 25 on WHNT News 19 at 10:00 p.m.