Karnack Soldier Fighting For His Life And Dignity - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/8/04-Karnack

Karnack Soldier Fighting For His Life And Dignity

Army specialist James Alford just celebrated his 26th birthday. That is a milestone for the former Green Beret from Karnack who suffers from a rare and fatal brain disease.

We first brought you his story last year as his family fought the Army to reverse his dishonorable discharge. The family has embarked on another fight with the Army, while celebrating the miracle that James is still with them.

Today Jamie, as he is called, is cared for by a part-time nurse while his dog Tramp keeps a watchful eye.

"I feel like it comforts Jamie. It gives him a sense of security," says his mom Gail. "She senses when something is not right with Jamie."

Jamie is thought to be suffering from a form of Creutzfeldt- Jakob's disease, similar to mad cow. His family believes he contracted it by eating sheep's brains while stationed overseas in the country of Oman. "One of the honors that they bestow on you is the present you with the head of the animal that they have prepared. They picked Jamie for this honor," says his dad John.

When Jamie began to act strangely the Army didn't realize he was sick and gave him a dishonorable discharge. That was the fight the family was embattled in when we visited them one year ago. "They sent him home to be court marshaled and have his Green Beret tab removed and discharge him from the service for bad conduct," said John one year ago.

Since that story aired the Army has reinstated Jamie, but the family's battle with the Army is not over. Now officials are trying to retire Jamie.

"They say that the reason they want to retire him is because death is no longer iminent," says John.

Jamie's parents want him to remain on active duty. "He is a wounded soldier and death is eminent," says John. "It's a matter of honor and dignity."

The fact that Jamie is still alive is a miracle. His ability to walk is gone, along with his ability to talk. Jamie's parents are watching him slowly die. "He didn't take a bullet to the brain. What he got was much, much worse," says John.

Doctors do not expect Jamie to see this Christmas, but his parent's are not giving up hope. "If it's two days, or if it's two months, or two years. Whatever time I have with Jamie we will fight it together," says Gail.

Jamie has been taking an experimental medication which has helped slow the progression of C.J.D.

One other note, when we first brought you this story Jamie's wife Amber was helping care for him. Amber is also in the Army and is now back at her base in Kentucky. She calls home often to tell Jamie she loves him.

Amy Tatum, reporting. atatum@kltv.com

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