Sgt. James Alford: They Finally Did the Right Thing!


Special Forces
Rest In Peace
Jul 16, 2008
Seattle, Puget Sound — PNW
Sgt. James Alford: They Finally Did the Right Thing!

Note: SGT Alford, Recently died of his Illness.

aff Sgt. James Alford received a Bronze Star for heroism in Afghanistan as a member of the 5th Special Forces Group. Apparently while he was in-country, he contracted either a form of Mad Cow Disease, or else a rare form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is a fatal brain disease similar to Mad Cow. Symptoms began to manifest themselves after his January arrival in Kuwait in preparation for the attack on Iraq. Apparently Alford knew something was wrong, and he masked his symptoms, concealing from his superiors that something seemed to be happening with him.

At first, it was simply forgetfulness, and Staff Sgt. Alford was counseled and told to carry around a notepad to keep track of orders and assigned tasks - a not unusual way many military people keep track of things. But it didn't stop there. By March, Alford was seriously neglecting the very things that had made him a hero only months before. He was cited for dereliction of duty, larceny and lying to superiors. And to add insult to injury, he lost his gas mask.

When Alford went back to Kuwait for more serious counseling, the Army physician who examined him concluded that he was faking it. That apparently was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Finally in April, Lt. Col. Christopher Conner of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group Headquarters in Kuwait, ordered Alford back to Fort Campbell to be court-martialed with the words: "Your conduct is inconsistent with the integrity and professionalism required by a Special Forces soldier."

Alford was busted to Sergeant, but - fortunately - before the Army could give him some kind of less-than-honorable discharge, doctors finally discovered that was really wrong with him. The Army cannot take credit for this, however. Alford's parents were alerted to an apparent problem by a neighbor, and they drove the 600- mile distance to discover their once heroic son in what appeared to be the final stages of dementia. They rushed him to the emergency room, and then through several doctors, where the correct diagnosis finally was made.

At first there was a certain amount of foot-shuffling and finger-pointing, especially by the Special Forces Group's command staff. Then Bill O'Reilly presented the case to the nation on his Fox News Channel program, "The O'Reilly Factor." Things happened quickly after that. On Monday evening, Dec. 8, Alford's father, retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Alford, reported to O'Reilly that Monday afternoon, his family was visited by eight senior Special Forces members, who apologized. Alford has had his full rank restored, with all back pay, all medical benefits, and all of the honor due a true American hero.

I suspect there was a significant amount of pressure from above, but I am certain that the men who visited the retired command sergeant major and his wife were there because they wanted to be there. When it is all said and done, the Army Special Forces takes care of their own. This was a case of terrible medical misdiagnosis, and a significant example of the poorest judgment. But in the end, it has worked out as it should.

Staff Sgt. Alford has his honor reinstated, and even if these unfortunate events had not happened, he still would be oblivious to them, because he will die soon, a victim of a rare, always fatal, incurable disorder that may or may not have been caused by something he ingested in Afghanistan. It wasn't his fault, nor the Special Forces', nor the Army's.

Civilian specialists have even come to the defense of the Army doctors who missed the original diagnosis. According to these experts, diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease usually takes eight or more months - just like it did here. The staff sergeant got a tough break, but his superiors made up for it, and the command sergeant major himself is satisfied that they finally did the right thing.,13190,Defensewatch_121103_Right,00.html


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I'm so glad they made this right. Can you imagine what a man of his caliber musta felt listening to those words: "Your conduct is inconsistent with the integrity and professionalism required by a Special Forces soldier."
I also recall that story when it first came out. I am so glad to hear the folks in charge did right by Sgt. Alford and his family...
Testament to the strength and courage of our SF soldiers.

... It had been six years since doctors told Staff Sgt. James Alford he had a few months to live, after tests revealed his strange behavior and disappearing acts were caused by a disease that was ravaging his brain...

... According to the Centers for Disease Control, 90 percent of people who have the disease die within a year. Not James...


RIP Staff Sergeant Alford. You will not be forgotten. Your sacrifice will be remembered.

Prayers out to all those who cared for you.

RIP Warrior

I'm especially glad to here they did the right thing by apoligizing to his parents in person for the mistakes that were made.
RIP, SSG Alford. Thank you for your service and heroism.

It truly is a sign of maturity for a man to admit when he is wrong. That the gentlemen of the 5th SFG would send a senior contingent to sincerely apologize to this soldier's family is another example of what really sets the Quiet Professionals apart from ordinary men.