As an active-duty Green Beret for the past 19 years, Richard Stayskal of North Carolina is an expert at military warfare. But for the past four years, Richard and his wife Megan have been fighting a different type of
In 2017, a military hospital missed a tumor in Richard’s right lung that was later identified as advanced lung cancer by a civilian doctor. The military hospital’s diagnostic error allowed Richard’s cancer to grow for months without treatment, resulting in a diagnosis of terminal cancer. But a 70-year-old case law called the Feres Doctrine prevented him from holding the military hospital accountable for its mistake or receiving compensation for the error.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, Richard and Megan traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for a change to this law. After a year of this tireless advocacy work, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed by President Trump in December 2019. The Act includes a provision that allows military personnel to seek compensation for medical mistakes in military hospitals that lawmakers credit to Richard and Megan’s activism.
After winning the hard-fought battle, an Operation Healing Forces retreat in December 2020 gave the pair a chance to unwind and reconnect. The entire retreat experience was a wonderful surprise, says Megan. “We’ve been approached by so many non-profit organizations since Rich was diagnosed, and I’d heard about other marriage retreats, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.”
Swimming with dolphins was a highlight from a week that also included parasailing, SCUBA diving, gourmet dinners, and new friendships with other Special Operations couples. “We can’t thank Operation Healing Forces and its donors enough,” says Megan. “It truly does mean a lot to my family that there are people out there that care that
much who are willing to financially donate and make this happen, not only for my family, but for so many others.”