By Joel Warner
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2014 AT 11:50 A.M.
Sergeant First Class Emil Wojcik wasn’t the same after a rollover car crash at Fort Carson in March 2013 broke one of his cervical vertebrae. That, combined with the various times he’d been knocked unconscious during rough parachute landings, seemed to knock something permanently askew in his mind. He lost hearing in his right ear and begun stuttering when he spoke. Sleep became a problem. He’d sit upright in bed in the middle of the night and yell, “Stand up straight, the general is here!” — as if he were back on one of his secret missions. Or he’d sleepwalk, sometimes tumbling down the stairs of his Colorado Springs home. He started taking Ambien to help him sleep, but that plus the Oxycodone he was on for ongoing neck pain left him in a medicated stupor.
It didn’t help that Wojcik, who was born in Warsaw but had immigrated to Michigan when he was seven, had a lot on his mind. In 2012, his first marriage had ended in an ugly divorce and custody battle that resulted in his two children living 4,500 miles away, with their mother in her native Ireland. His second wife, Amber, had stage IV bone cancer that had spread to her lungs and lymph nodes, and the two were caught in exhausting cycles of chemotherapy treatments and remission. On top of that, a good friend of Wojcik’s, a Special Forces team sergeant at Fort Carson, had taken his pistol and killed himself while parked on the side of Interstate 25 in December 2011. “Nobody asked too many questions about it,” says Wojcik of the incident — but it stuck with him.
For Wojcik, everything came to a head one evening in July 2013.
Wojcik and his wife had been arguing about money. Eventually Amber went outside for a smoke, and when she came back inside, she found him lying on their bed, as if he were dozing. She put her hand on his stomach, and that’s when he snapped. He jumped up, spouting Polish, knocked her down and climbed on top of her, pinning her arms down with his knees. Then he began punching her in the face. After a few moments, though, he relented — and Amber ran downstairs to get away from him.
This wasn’t behavior anyone expected from Wojcik, normally a friendly, upbeat guy. He was a Special Forces soldier, also known as a Green Beret, a member of the 3,000-soldier 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson. That meant he was considered among the best of the best. Since he’d joined Special Forces in 2005, Wojcik had been involved in more than a dozen missions and deployments in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and even the United States — gathering intelligence, conducting surveillance, engaging in firefights and interrogating hostile prisoners. He’d received a Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding achievement, and his service record had been spotless — until recently. Read More