The federal government will pay $400,000 to former U.S. Border Patrol agent Anthony Gazvoda, who claims an assignment along the Texan frontier triggered post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by military service.
Gazvoda, a Michigan native and member of the National Guard, initially asked for a posting along the U.S.-Canada border. The government rejected his request, sending him instead to an outpost near Laredo, Texas.
In 2015, Gazvoda sued the government, arguing that an accommodation wasn’t unreasonable.
For nine months, wrote the Detroit Free Press in 2016, Gazvoda ‘had the grittiest of gritty jobs: drawing out the enemy in Afghanistan.’ The former Army sergeant’s suit notes that he’d been in 34 firefights, shot at ‘hundreds of times,’ and was once ‘blown up’ by an improvised explosive device.
Gazvoda says he asked for a change in assignment because the harsh, hot landscape of southern Texas reminded him too much of the time he’d spent and survived in Afghanistan.
In 2016, a federal judge sided with the veteran, ruling that the Department of Homeland Security couldn’t force Gazvoda back to Laredo—a city he’d served in until being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Instead, the courts issued a temporary injunction, requesting the government to see whether a more appropriate posting was available in Michigan.
“All I want is to be able to continue serving my country,” said Gazvoda, midway through litigation. “I just can’t do it in a place that constantly reminds me of where I was repeatedly shot at. I’m sorry about that—I really am—but I just can’t be here.”
The Department of Homeland Security initially fought against Gazvoda’s request, much to attorney Jason Turkish’s bewilderment.
“This young man has done everything his country asked him to do. He went to war. He risked his life… Now, he is asking for the most basic of accommodations,” said Turkish, who represented Gazvoda against the government.
Turkish, while still fighting the Department of Homeland Security, said the case was especially perplexing because his client didn’t want disability or pay or damages.
“He has said, ‘I just want to continue to serve.’ It’s incredible. There’s nothing more noble. And for the government to challenge that—it’s just laughable,” said Turkish.
After spending several months training for the Border Patrol in Texas, Gazvoda began having panic attacks and experiencing difficulty sleeping. While on an unpaid leave in Michigan, physicians diagnosed him with PTSD, recommending that he be transferred to another state. Doctors said that the landscape—along with an abundance of non-English speakers—brought back memories of Afghanistan, threatening Gazvoda’s mental health.
Turkish said on Tuesday that the suit was settled early in June, only weeks before it was scheduled to move to trial.