VANCOUVER, Wash. - Signs of patriotism are everywhere at Paul Sluznis’s Vancouver, Wash. home. An American flag flies on the flag pole and a window sticker tells of his time serving in the infantry.
“Heck yeah, I love my country,” Sluznis proudly said.
He served for 20 years, most recently with the Oregon National Guard. He’s been around the globe – in Japan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sinai, Iraq and Afghanistan.
But while his unit served in Afghanistan, all of his personal information, along with dozens of others of personnel files, were taken from the Gresham Armory and stored in a garage at a private house.
A woman named Jennifer found the files while cleaning her home. She didn’t want her last name used to protect her identity.
“We had picked up a box and it broke,” she said. “As they spilled out you could see all kinds of documents.”
Jennifer called the armory, two recruiting centers and the National Guard headquarters in Salem.
“I was simply trying to get the records returned to the people that should have them,” she said. “Nobody seemed to care.”
Frustrated that the military did not own up to the fact these records were found in a private home, she called KATU.
All told, there were about 100 personnel records in the garage. Inside were copies of birth certificates, medical records, social security cards, driver’s licenses, pay stubs and direct deposit forms with bank routing numbers.
“I’m shocked,” said Sluznis. “I can’t believe those records got out there. That’s crazy.”
They got out because a former sergeant in charge of the Gresham Armory took them out.
Stephen Hansen said he used to live at the house where the records were found. He said it was “no big deal” they were there and that his former company commander ordered him to take the files there and burn them.
An Oregon National Guard spokesman said that doesn’t make sense.
“There are shredders at the armory,” said Captain Stephen Bomar. “That’s why we have contacted the federal authorities and the local authorities and we are also doing our own internal investigation on this.”
Within a few hours after KATU notified the Captain Bomar that the records existed, two soldiers came and picked them up.
That left Jennifer to ask why her original calls were ignored.
“They didn’t care and wouldn’t do any kind of follow-up until we got the news involved,” she said.
So far it does not appear that any of the personal information was used by identity thieves, but Paul Sluznis wondered what might still happen.
“The government is liable for this,” he said. “They sent us to get shot at. They should be taking care of us.”
The National Guard plans on mailing notices to all soldiers whose files were in those boxes to let them know their personal information was compromised.