Court records have revealed that Jed Zillmer, a young Army veteran killed during an armed standoff last week with Spokane County Sheriff's deputies, had been denied benefits given to servicemen injured in combat.
Like so many of our servicemen fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, 23-year-old Jed Zillmer experienced some terrible things in combat. He was wounded in action, had part of one of his feet shot off, and received the Purple Heart. When it came time to collect $50,000 in insurance money given to wounded soldiers through the Serviceman's Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection, the U.S. Army rejected his claims.
After his honorable discharge from the Army, Zillmer used the GI Bill to attend classes at Spokane Falls Community College. Veterans Resource coordinator -- and fourth generation Marine -- Steven Ward described him as a smart and generous young man.
"Great sense of humor, always, always happy he was always smiling. He was loved by everybody down here. He didn't have a single person that looked at him negatively. He was a very positive, fun loving guy," Ward said.
Last week's fatal standoff with sheriff's deputies came as a complete surprise to the staff of the Falls Vet Center, where Zillmer worked with other young veterans helping them with paperwork.
"He came and joined our team just because he learned fast and got with the program. He knew a lot of the benefits that were available to the veterans and he just wanted to help share that," Ward said.
No one at the Falls knew the Army had denied Zillmer a $50,000 insurance claim for a bullet wound he suffered in Afghanistan. Friends say, like a lot of combat veterans, Zillmer never asked for help with the stresses he was feeling.
"When you are in a position to help others you tend to forget your own wounds. I think this is a great example. He was a very good kid and he really liked to help. He had great relationships and I think he used that like I know other veterans do the same, use their ability to help others as their own healing," Ward said.
Ward says if Zillmer had asked for help for the suicidal feelings he was suffering from he would have received it at the college's vet center.
Spokane's community colleges even offer resources to the families of student veterans so that parents and spouses of our servicemen can reach out for assistance even when the veterans coming home the battlefield won't do it themselves.