After spending time with Pinehurst resident Rich Stayskal and his wife Megan, I left their home with several impressions.

First, I was humbled from witnessing the courage of this young couple and grateful for the opportunity to tell their story. Moreover, both Rich and his wife made it very clear how much Rich loves the military and his country.

If I was experiencing what Rich and Megan have gone through, I am not sure I would feel the same.

Originally from San Jose, CA, 37-year-old Rich Stayskal enlisted in the Marines in 2001. In 2004 while serving in Iraq, he was shot by a sniper, a bullet lodged in his lung.

Discharged in 2005, he was awarded a Purple Heart for his service. In 2006, Rich reenlisted in the U.S Army, and to this day, he is still active duty.

He and Megan were married in 2006, and they have two daughters, Carly, 10 and Addisyn, 12.

The Stayskals have been living in Pinehurst since 2015. Despite giving the appearance of looking in perfect health, Rich is currently fighting for his life, living with Stage 4 lung cancer.


Contributed photo from Rich Stayskal.

Rich’s Story

In January 2017, Rich underwent a routine CT scan performed as part of a required physical necessary before entering dive school in the Army. After his exam, Rich was cleared by a military doctor at Womack Medical Center,located at Fort Bragg, to enter dive school.

Just a few months later, Rich began to experience physical symptoms which included difficulty breathing and coughing up blood. His attempts to seek medical treatment at Womack were not expedited, and at one point, several months after his initial CT scan was done, Rich was told he had pneumonia.

This investigative report, done by Fox46 Charlotte was one of the first articles to highlight Rich’s story.


Contributed photo from Rich Stayskal.

It wasn’t until June of 2017 that Rich was finally given clearance to see a civilian doctor. After an exam and biopsy, the diagnosis came back for stage 3A lung cancer.

According to Rich, six months earlier, the military physician who first gave Rich clearance to enter dive school, did not disclose to the Pinehurst resident a sizable mass on his lung that was visible in the routine CT scan Rich underwent in January 2017.

According to the Stayskals, a mass was noted in his medical record at the time and had grown substantially by the time it was detected by a civilian doctor—six months later.

If Rich were a civilian, seeking legal remedy by filing a lawsuit for medical malpractice would be a normal and customary option to pursue. But since Rich is active duty military, the right to make a claim for compensation has been eliminated.

The Feres Doctrine – A Barrier for Justice

A little-known legal statute called “The Feres Doctrine,” is proving to be the barrier for justice for Rich Stayskal and his family.

According to the Feres Doctrine, originally passed in 1950, those on active duty are prohibited from suing the government for injuries sustained during military service.

While the intent of the law is to prevent soldiers that were wounded in battle from suing for their injuries—is it a fair and just interpretation of the Feres Doctrine to apply it for Rich’s case of alleged medical malpractice?


Contributed photo from Rich Stayskal.

Rich and his wife have retained legal representation and have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Stayskals against the U.S. government.

Both Rich and Megan indicated they are not seeking to abolish the Feres Doctrine. What they are seeking is a revision or update, which would eliminate what Megan calls, “taking out a lot of the gray areas and making it very black and white.”

Megan used the following example – “That, yes, Feres should apply when you’re in combat, and yes, it applies when you’re in training, but it does not apply when you’re in civilian clothes going to a routine physical.”

On Active Duty While Receiving Treatment

Rich emphasized to me that while undergoing his cancer treatments while on active duty that “My command has been super-supportive and actually just, downright amazing. They told me my job is to go to the hospital or doctor appointments and get better.”

Rich also voiced concerns to me that his legal fight could reflect negatively on the military or his command.

“This is not supposed to be a circus, not a mockery of the system,” said Rich. “I am not here to degrade our military, nor my country. This is just an issue that needs to be addressed and fixed. That is very important to me.”

Rich and Megan have spent time meeting with lawmakers; frequently flying to Washington D.C. meeting with members of Congress and their staff.  This includes Representative Richard Hudson (NC-08).

Representative Richard Hudson(left) and Rich Stayskal(right). Photo courtesy of Rep. Hudson’s office.

I reached out to Representative Hudson’s office for an update on Rich’s case and received the following response –

“I’m continuing to review this issue with my colleagues to determine how we can make a meaningful impact. My first priority is making sure our service members and their families receive the support and top-notch health care they were promised.”

Sandhills Sentinel also reached out to North Carolina Senators Thom Tilllis and Richard Burr for comment on Rich’s case, as well as to Womack Medical Center.

So far, we have not received comment back from Senators Tillis, Burr, or Womack Medical Center concerning Rich Stayskal’s case.

How You Can Help

I asked Rich what the community can do to support him and his family. While he did not provide any specifics, Rich is open to hearing from members of the public as to what they think they can do to help.

Contacting lawmakers and continuing to request action be taken on this case is one way to support Rich and his family. Rich mentioned that he was particularly interested in hearing back from Senator Tillis.

Sandhills Sentinel has provided contact details for our legislators at the end of this article, for readers interesting in voicing their support for Rich Stayskal.

Staying Up-to-Date

Rich does want to educate people that any military family has the potential to be negatively impacted by the Feres Doctrine, as it is currently written.

Educate yourself on the Feres Doctrine, and learn how this law has the potential to impact you personally, if you or your spouse is active duty military.

Additional information, updates to Rich Stayskal’s case, and a link to an online petition can be found at www.feresdoctrine.comTruPatriot is another resource that contains links and information on how you can help support the Stayskal family. Click here to learn more. 

If you wish to contact any of our local lawmakers to voice support for Rich Stayskal, below is their contact information.

Senator Richard Burr
336 631-5125
Email Senator Burr
200 W 1st Street #508
Winstom-Salem, NC 27104

Senator Thom Tillis
919 856-4630
Email Senator Tillis
310 New Bern Avenue
Suite 122
Raleigh, NC 27601

Rep. Richard Hudson
910 977-2070
Email Rep. Hudson
202 Green Street, Suite 202
Fayetteville, NC 28301

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Maggie Sergio.

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