Kansas National Guard Staff Sgt. Derron Lindsey hustled around the nose of a churning UH-60 Black Hawk to help guide a group of Australian dignitaries out of the aircraft in Iraq.
It was a routine task he’d executed hundreds of times without incident. But the events of Feb. 27, 2007, would transform Lindsey’s life. The emotional and physical harm flight surgeon Mark Wisner inflicted upon him that day reflected the perversion that would lead to Wisner’s conviction for molesting patients at a Kansas veterans’ hospital.
Lindsey’s personal torment began when he slipped off the helicopter’s tire and fell backward onto an asphalt lot. An armor plate designed to protect his back from bullets distributed the impact through his torso like a lightning bolt. An adrenaline rush initially covered the stabbing pain of broken ribs. He was able to climb into the chopper next to his gun turret as the pilot lifted off for a long return flight to Camp Anaconda.
He sought help for the pain at a clinic staffed with personnel from the Kansas Guard’s 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment, that deployed with him from Topeka to the airbase in Balad, Iraq.
Inside the clinic, Capt. Wisner responded to Lindsey’s agony with a bizarre proposal — a rectal exam.
The incident in Iraq occurred long before Wisner was exposed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Leavenworth County District Attorney’s office as a sexual predator who abused patients at Eisenhower Veterans Administration Medical Center. State and federal court records, including claims made in about 80 lawsuits, indicate Wisner frequently subjected patients to needless anal and penile examinations.
A few months after Lindsey’s encounter with Wisner in 2007, Wisner published a dispatch from Iraq in a newsletter distributed to members of his extended family.
Wisner described his duties in the Kansas Guard and insisted soldiers received the finest care.
The torrent of lawsuits against Wisner and the VA allege the government was aware or should have been aware Wisner was a danger to patients. U.S. Department of Justice attorneys filed responses to a portion of the lawsuits, claiming the government wasn’t liable for actions of Wisner outside the scope of his employment.
In a pending suit brought by a U.S. Army veteran, the plaintiff alleged Wisner told patients his medical advice should be unquestioned because they were all combat veterans. Wisner had deployed to Iraq with the Kansas Guard while the plaintiff served in Iraq and other combat areas. At the VA hospital, the plaintiff was assigned to Wisner in 2011 for treatment of cardiac issues and knee pain.
In August, Wisner was convicted in Leavenworth County District Court on felony counts of aggravated criminal sodomy and aggravated sexual battery, as well as three counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. The charges were drawn from Wisner’s improper treatment of VA patients from 2012 to 2014.
Earlier this month, a Leavenworth County District Court judge sentenced Wisner to 15 years in prison.