Kristofer Goldsmith

Kristofer Goldsmith in the Russell Senate Office Building. Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

Kristofer Goldsmith in the Russell Senate Office Building. Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

 

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Founder and President of High Ground Veterans Advocacy

Kristofer Goldsmith was born and raised in Bellmore, New York, and from a young age dreamed of serving in the United States military. On September 11th, 2001, that dream became an even stronger calling — he could see the plume of smoke from his hometown in Long Island as the Twin Towers fell. After graduating from Mepham High School in 2003, Kristofer joined the U.S. Army as a Forward Observer, training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 2004.

After graduating from One Station Unit Training at Fort Sill, Kristofer was assigned to Alpha Company of the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment with the Third Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia. His unit deployed in January 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was assigned to Camp Hope, just outside of Sadr City, Baghdad. There he served as an on-the-ground intelligence reporter for 3rd Platoon of Alpha Company, participating in over two hundred foot patrols through August 2005.

In Sadr City, Kristofer was responsible for documenting the state of the local infrastructure, concerns of the local populace, and the activities of the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army. He worked daily with the platoon leader and the platoon’s interpreter, Sandy, to interact with religious and political leaders and to support local hospitals and Red Crescent clinics. Kristofer created a detailed map of Sadr City’s industrial zone, creating a catalog of machinery among the hundreds of workshops which could potentially be used to create Improvised Explosive Devices. Working closely with battalion Headquarters, Kristofer was also responsible for tracking down the insurgent known as “The Father of the Snake,” who had been responsible for the battalion’s only KIA in 2005, Private First Class Lee A. Lewis. As a result of Kristofer’s intelligence gathering, the insurgent was detained by 3rd Platoon during a raid in August of 2005.

Kristofer’s intelligence reporting also included the photo-documentation of his platoon’s discovery of Iraqi victims of sectarian violence, including the exhumation of a mass grave filled with the bodies of men who had recently been tortured before being murdered. In late August 2005, Alpha Company was reassigned to support the 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment at Camp Liberty, near Baghdad International Airport.

Kristofer returned to the United States just before New Year’s Day 2006. This is when he began experiencing the classic symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, first triggered by unexpected celebratory fireworks just hours after landing. Without understanding of how his experiences in Iraq had impacted him psychologically, he began self-medicating by binge-drinking and engaging in other risky behavior. Despite these symptoms, he continued to excel in his position and was promoted to Sergeant in 2006, with just over two years of time in service. After his unit’s return to Fort Stewart, Kristofer also became the company’s Communications Sergeant.

Without a diagnosis or treatment, Kristofer’s PTSD symptoms continued to worsen — as he battled severe depression, alcoholism and suicidal thoughts. In January 2007 he experienced a panic attack, and after evaluation at Winn Army Community Hospital he was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder and Depression. Later that month President Bush announced the Troop Surge into Iraq, and Stop-Loss orders were issued to the Third Infantry Division in anticipation of an deployment date that would be moved to an earlier date: May 2007, the same month that Kristofer’s active duty contract had been expected to expire.

On the weekend of Memorial Day 2007, Kristofer entered Soldier’s Walk at Fort Stewart, a field where a tree is planted for every soldier killed in action from the Third Infantry Division. There he attempted suicide, overwhelmed by his untreated PTSD and the sense of dread from an unexpected deployment.

Steve Acheson, having served alongside Kristofer since basic training had become his best friend and roommate, recognized that something was dreadfully wrong when Kristofer went missing and alerted police. Thankfully, they found Kristofer unconscious but were able to treat him for an overdose of painkillers and alcohol. Kristofer was hospitalized at Winn Army Community’s “Ward 3” mental health unit, where he was told by an Army psychiatrist that if his symptoms didn’t go away he’d remain isolated as long as the Army deemed necessary. Feeling threatened TKTKTKTKTK

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co-founder of High Ground Veterans Advocacy separating in 2007 at the rank of Sergeant. He . Kristofer has since become an advocate for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and those with less-than-honorable discharges.

Kristofer Goldsmith is the chief investigator and associate director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, a congressionally-chartered veterans service organization. There he has been leading efforts to study the targeting of troops and veterans online for the purposes of fraud and disinformation campaigns by foreign entities. Kris's policy portfolio at VVA centers around "New Veterans," covering a broad range of issues from healthcare to education, and military personnel policy to post-service employment opportunities for veterans.

He is the founder of High Ground Veterans Advocacy, a small nonprofit organization which trains veterans to engage successfully with government on policy changes meant to improve the lives of servicemembers, veterans and their families. Kris is currently a full-time student at Columbia University in the City of New York, and spends his summers living in DC engaging with policy makers on Capitol Hill between semesters.

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