Moe Sparkman said he shipped off to Iraq for his first tour of duty just six months after his basic training.
Sparkman, a former U.S. Army specialist, said he escorted contractors in the war zone surrounding Baghdad. He showed ABC Action News his commendation medal and the announcement for his Combat Action Badge.
“I was extremely proud to do it,” said Sparkman about his first tour of duty from 2003 to 2004.
Sparkman returned to Iraq again in 2006 for a second tour of duty, but months later, he said his then-wife suffered what he calls a nervous breakdown.
Sparkman said the U.S. Army granted him a 10-day leave to return home. He filed a formal request to transfer to a base stateside to care for his wife, but commanders denied his request.
It was at that point Sparkman said he was forced to choose family over country.
“It was a decision that was incredibly difficult for me,” said Sparkman, who told us he “very much loved being part of the military.”
Now – 12 years after deserting his post – the 36-year-old father finds himself staring down a death sentence. In March, doctors diagnosed him with ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative disease.
His case is more aggressive than most. In a matter of months, he found himself no longer able to walk and confined to a wheelchair.
Once again, Sparkman found himself asking the military to help his family.
Sparkman applied for VA medical benefits in March and was still waiting for an answer when we first met him last month.
But just weeks ago, Veterans Affairs approved his request for medical treatment through something called a “character of service determination” – based on his service during his first tour of duty.
Sparkman still faces a military arrest warrant. To resolve it, he would have to turn himself in and undergo a discharge process that could take weeks – something that might not be possible due to his illness.
For now, Sparkman said he’s happy to have the care provided by the VA health system.
“It feels absolutely amazing to have this opportunity for medical care,” said Sparkman.
To donate to Sparkman, go to his GoFundMe page .