Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Making Peace with his war experience

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 17, 2010

Pentagon honor helps civilian wounded in Iraq find closure

VERMILLION – Long after the chaos, after the tearing flesh, the searing pain, the agonizing days of rehab and the tortured, sleepless nights, Tate Mallory finally understands.

He is a hero.

That confirmation came four weeks ago, in a ceremony in suburban Washington, D.C., in which this former South Dakota sheriff was awarded the Defense of Freedom medal – a Pentagon citation that is the civilian equivalent to the military’s Purple Heart.

Mallory received it because, having gone overseas as a civilian contractor in July 2006 to recruit and train Iraqi policemen, he almost died after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

In fact, the Iraq War tried to kill Mallory twice – when that grenade punched a hole through his gut and damaged nerves in his right leg, and in the months afterward when post-traumatic stress disorder convinced him that his future in law enforcement was over and his life wasn’t worth living anymore.

“He came back so depressed,” his fiancee, Kari Swartos, said as the pair sat in the kitchen of their rural Vermillion home. “He kept dwelling on the injury. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do now?’ It was like a ‘I-failed-my-family-I-failed-my-kids-I-failed-you’ attitude.”

Contractors play ‘a critical role’

Unfortunately, civilian contractors come home to little fanfare or attention. The Labor Department, which tracks injuries to contract workers abroad, estimates that since 2001, more than 1,700 civilian contractors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and almost 40,000 have been reported injured.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said the work Mallory and other contractors did to recruit and train 135,000 Iraqi policemen and security forces is a significant reason why America is closer to winding down its presence there now.

“This is absolutely a critical role,” Thune said of civilian contractors such as Mallory. “And the area he was involved in was essential to our ultimate success there.”

In July 2006, the White River native and former Mellette County sheriff took 14 years of South Dakota law enforcement experience with him to work for a Virginia-based company called DynCorp.

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