Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Death Anniversary


Pvt. Shauna Lin Ward
Pvt. Shauna Lin Ward

Shauna was held back in boot camp from stress fractures in both feet, she was in medical rehab for 6 months, on several prescriptions including Percocet. I believe this is where her addiction started.
Since that first phone call that came from an ex military girl who served with Shauna in Alaska, she called us before any military personnel contacted us. She told my husband that Shauna was dead from an overdose. He hung up on her and called my friend I worked with because my phone was not working, he gave me the devastating news, I did not believe him and broke down and screamed.
Everything that happened made no sense at all to us. We thought it was a sick joke that was being played on us. Weird thing was that my phone stopped working that morning, i was running errands and took my time since I was at the mall, still not realizing that my phone was not working. Shauna came home for my birthday in August, we were so happy, We went to Alaska to be with her on her 21st birthday in Alaska.

2 days after getting back from Phoenix, Shauna was given a drug test and failed due to her use of Percocet. Shauna admitted to her sgt. that she took Percocet, she was then sent immediately to Colorado for rehab.

She was sent back to Alaska after 30 days, and was sent there with several prescriptions. She cried on the phone to me, she was so afraid to go back to Alaska, but I was telling her she had to finish what she started. She desperately wanted out of the Army. She was to be home by October 31st. On an other than honorable discharge. Shauna gave her prescriptions to a fellow soldier and he would meet her twice a day to give her the correct dose. He had her back.

Two weeks later she was gone.

According to the CID. Shauna was with 2 soldiers and they claim they were watching movies, and about 2 am they left to go to bed. At 6 am Shauna failed to show up at formation and a soldier was sent to her room to get her.

When they got into the room, she was found in her bed not breathing. They tried to resuscitate her but she was gone. The CID said they were not sure why she passed away until they did the autopsy and they found several needle marks in both her arms. There were no signs of drugs found in her room, which means someone cleaned up!

The detective on her case said she was a first time user and it killed her because she was so clean from rehab. We were devastated, every person Shauna knew, said NO WAY!! That was a drug she would never take. Her bank account was also used at 4 am and we were told Shauna died between 2 and 4 am. When they tested her card for prints it was clean, NO prints at all not even Shauna’s. Also the ATM on the base we were told had no camera to see who took the money out of her account. No cameras on a military base!!! We were in a daze from the moment that call came from a civilian. On January 1st, 3 months after we buried Shauna, we received a phone call asking what we wanted to do with Shauna’s heart and brain. We were completely taken aback since NO ONE ever told us they were keeping her vital organs. Why!! We were told that they had to do testing to see if Shauna died from anything genetic, we were already told why she died, why keep her organs and not tell us. We were told it was a mistake, we should have been told in the paperwork but we were not!

We had to bury Shauna’s organs in an infant coffin placed on top of her coffin.

I don’t understand why this soldier who brought drugs into my daughter’s room was still in the military 2 months after she died.

They knew he was a dealer and user. He was questioned 12 hours later and the CID said all they smelled in his room was bleach, they were all told to clean their barracks! But why before checking them first??

This soldier, lawyered up and they said he refused to talk, they closed her case after a year. He was finally discharged, but should have been charged in connection with my daughter’s death. If anyone knows who the other soldier was that night or anyone knows what happened that night, please contact us by email through this website.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Death Anniversary

Sgt. Loren James Janeczko, Aug. 6, 1972 – Oct. 12, 2001

After Sept. 11, 2001, Loren Janeczko returned to active service in the Army.
On Oct. 12, 2001, one short month later, Sgt. Janeczko was killed in a “shoot out” with New Jersey Police. According to media reports, he was supposed to have “flipped out” and started shooting people, wounding two fellow soldiers on the Ft. Dix Army base, fleeing in a vehicle, and then wounding two New Jersey police officers, and taking a hostage before he was shot and killed by police.

According to the richly detailed story presented to the media in a press conference, the hostage got away when Loren’s gun jammed and Loren was then killed by a member of the New Jersey Police.
The Army claimed that there had been a “mental health hearing” the morning of his death, and that “two soldiers were accompanying him to clean out his locker” prior to discharge.
—————————————
It was a year after his death when the investigation reports, requested in October 2001 through the Federal Freedom of Information Act, were received. The reports are not complete. Much of the information is redacted. One brief report is from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The other, more voluminous in terms of paper, was from the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID).
In a brief sentence, within the Army CID report, it is revealed that NO HOSTAGE WAS EVER TAKEN. This was confirmed on the telephone by a CID officer. Why would such a story be fabricated and fed to the media? Why has this story never been corrected in the media? The hostage story was not a garbling of events. It was presented in a formal press conference given by the New Jersey State Police spokesperson a day or two after the incident. It was a deliberate dissemination of misinformation.

Both the FBI and CID reports refer to the fact that Loren made an allegation of sexual assault against soldiers in his sleeping quarters four days before he was killed. The reports state that the Department of Defense Police on Ft. Dix were investigating the matter. He was placed in a private room for his own safety and security. He wasn’t being escorted to his locker and there wasn’t any “mental health hearing” the morning of his death. The commander had decided to turn the tables on him, as is frequently done in the Army, and to accuse him of assault. This is how the Armed Services get rid of whistleblowers and people who “make waves” by expecting to be treated with respect.
On October 12, 2001, a commanding officer decided to interrogate him for what was described, by a DOD officer’s statement to the CID, as a prolonged period of time. He was not allowed to make any arguments in his own defense and became increasingly stressed, as he watched the accused soldiers walking freely near the office and speaking to one another.

At this point, according to the report, this commanding officer decided to search his room and locker. He was ordered to lay out his possessions on the bed. Reportedly, rolled up inside a “dirty T-shirt” was a gun and ammunition. Strangely, the ‘statement’ of the DOD Police Officer In Charge (OIC), for that day’s shift, states: “…had been searching Sgt. Janeczko’s wall locker and as he had removed some items, some ammunition had fallen on the table.” Note that the OIC made no mention of a GUN! In fact, Loren possessed no gun at Ft. Dix which used that caliber ammunition.
The commanding officer, by her own statement, corroborated by other statements, said, “Now we’ve got you, buddy! You are going to jail.” She then left Loren in the room with two other soldiers and events proceeded.
—————————-
When the DOD police were called and asked for a copy of their investigation into the allegation of sexual assault, their first response was that there was no report of any allegation or investigation. After the JAG and Inspector General were contacted, the chief of the DOD Police stated that there was, indeed, an investigation report. He supplied the case number and said that it would be supplied to the family. Two weeks after that conversation, a person in the DOD Police office stated that the report would be delayed because the “legal department” was reviewing the report. A month after the request was made, another fragmentary and incomplete report was received. The summary states that the matter would be handled by the Unit Commander, however, a DOD police officer’s statement claimed that the sexual assault investigation was ongoing at the time of the Commander’s “interrogation”.

The CID report also states that the death investigation was jointly handled with the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. They house exhibit 16, which includes the total summary of the investigation, all crime scene photos and evidence.

The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice states that they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and that they will not give up any or all of their investigation reports. New Jersey has an Open Records Act and a Government Records Council, which has the power to help people get such information. At present, all requests for investigation reports have been denied and appealed. It seems that in the “opposite speak” so prevalent in America today, the Act is actually a Closed Records Act, designed to protect the police from scrutiny by the public.
The autopsy report supplied by the New Jersey Medical Examiner’s Office contains no forensic information. There is no ballistics information. There is no powder burn analysis, even though it was noted that Loren’s hands were “bagged.” A letter to the ME resulted in a reply that requests for further information have been referred to the NJ Division. of Criminal Justice.

Update, 2007:

I have now received an unredacted (although still incomplete) Investigation Report from the State of NJ. I also requested and received photographs, audio and video tapes, and other evidence. This required hiring a lawyer and going to the NJ Superior Court Law Division. Common law, in most States, allows the family to have access to such records.
By cross-referencing information contained within the report, I know that other specific documents have been withheld. My next task is to find someone in the government who will listen to reason and will follow the law in regard to access.
This investigation report sheds a new light on the events immediately leading up to my son’s death. I will not publicly reveal these facts here, but the story told to the media by the police and the Army differs wildly from what actually happened.

The Army, in the meantime, insists that they must suspend the re-investigation of the case and a DoD Hotline case, while individual civilian police sue the Army in the US District Court for money damages. Naturally, this makes no sense at all to the family. We have never threatened to sue the Army and we know that, in any case, we are precluded from doing that by the Feres Doctrine.
There will surely be an appeal if the tort case is dismissed, which will prolong the inactivity of the investigations. It is all a well-established method of withholding information. I maintain that there is no valid excuse for suspending and withholding new investigation material from an immediate family trying to understand what happened.

No forensics have been released by any of the three agencies involved. Repeated requests of the FBI have only resulted in FOIA denials so far.

I will press on.

Update, 2009:

The Department of Defense Hotline Inspector General, in a written report, has acknowledged that the Department of Defense Police on Ft. Dix did not meet their responsibility of investigating a reported sexual assault. They did no investigation at all, instead, turning the matter over to Command, as has been very common in the military services. (This is often the time when soldiers who have reported sexual assault by fellow service members will be punished for doing so.)
I have also obtained the depositions in the Civil Tort. This turned out to contain much valuable information about Loren’s death and the events leading up to it. There are also specific references to additional investigation material, including who possesses it. Some of this material was already requested in the Superior Court and declared “lost.”

The officer who has referred to herself as his Commander, was actually a Major and the Mobilization Commander, and had only met Loren the morning of his death. She set the day in motion and then proceeded to manage the media reporting from Ft. Dix. She also arrived at the scene of Loren’s death and identified his body at the Medical Examiner’s Office, referring to herself the whole time as “his Commander.” Her name appeared in the autopsy report incorrectly, either an inadvertent clerical error or a deliberate attempt to mislead. It was revealed in her testimony that she had previously worked in the NJ Attorney General’s Office and that the lead investigator in the death investigation was someone she referred to as her “buddy.”

There is much more to this story, but the Army is being given an opportunity to do the actual investigation of the events leading up to Loren’s death. It’s been eight years. I wonder how much longer they will take.
——————————-
Update, 2011:

I continue to ferret out information and documents, even though certain specific documents and evidence are being withheld without explanation by people who simply have the power to keep our family at bay.  I’m hoping that someone from the giant blue wall of silence (police) or the giant green wall of silence (Army) will want to unburden his/her conscience after ten years.  I’m not looking to sue, I just want to have the truth come out.
——————————–
I have serious concerns about the climate of our country in terms of the Media and of the inordinate power of Federal agencies to keep secrets.

The print and electronic media in this country is willing to publish whatever they are told by police without any independent verification. The “facts” published are fed by other unverified “facts” which appear to fit the pattern of whatever scenario has been presented. The media is now an entertainment business, which does not encourage actual investigative reporting with very few exceptions.

As we know from current events, the Federal Government now has usurped the power of the people in the United States. Expectations that public servants must respond to requests for information are ignored and the people have become the servants of the Government.

We can reverse these injustices, but only if each of us makes the personal effort to challenge the government, at any level, and insisting that government honors its responsibility to provide truthful information.

Donna Janeczko
If you have any information about this case, please contact me through this website.
Link to interview: Donna Janeczko/Dr. John Johnson

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Death Anniversary

Cornett


Our loving husband, father, son, and brother has become the latest victim of a routine surgery turned deadly due to medical negligence of hospital base staff. On September 19, 2013 Master Sergeant William D. Cornett went in for a routine tonsillectomy, following the surgery MSGT Cornett was released from the base hospital with discharge instructions. On September 22, 2013, 3 days post-op, MSGT Cornet returned to the base Urgent Care Clinic as instructed on the discharge instructions with chief complaints of fever, night sweats, and spitting up bright red blood.  His heart rate and blood pressure were significantly increased over his pre-op heart rate and blood pressure.   These are the very symptoms listed on the discharge instructions for him to report back to the hospital and should have been easily recognized by any licensed medical professional as suggestive of an acute process (i.e. active bleed/ hemorrhage and infection).  MSGT Cornett was sent home without having any blood work done and without being admitted for 24 hours as an inpatient with monitoring; little did he know what would happen next.

MSGT Cornett progressively got worse of the next few hours, a kind friend drove him back to the base hospital as his pregnant wife stayed home to care for their sick daughter, no one knew that would be the last time they would ever see MSGT up and walking.  Upon returning to the base hospital in a “critical state” the staff performed lab work revealing that our loving family member had an infection and was diagnosed with an active bleed. MSGT Cornett was taken in for emergency surgery, but when hospital staff failed numerous times to establish an airway, he hemorrhaged blood into his lungs and his heart stop. It took several minutes to regain a pulse; MSGT Cornett was then transported to an off-base hospital prior to being stabilized for more advanced care; however it was much too late. The off base hospital stabilized MSGT Cornett, but the damage was already done several test revealed that our loving husband, father, son, and brother had suffered severe brain damage as a result of the lack of oxygen to the brain. He died 18 days later after life support was turned down…

MSGT Cornett leaves behind a beautiful 4 year old daughter and a pregnant wife. He was an ideal Airmen serving as a mentor and leader to many Airmen. He was the kind of man we all hope our sons will grow up to be, the kind of father we want as children, and the kind of husband every woman deserves. He led an active healthy lifestyle and spent free time volunteering for local orphanages.  His death not only broke the hearts of his immediate family, but broke the hearts of hundreds.
Sadly, MSGT Cornett is not the first victim of military medical negligence and unless change is made he won’t be the last. Below are links to similar cases in which our soldiers died seeking medical care during non-combat, non-hostile, and peace-time conditions. There are multiple other cases, just see the comments left on this petition or search the internet.

These families and our family have been left broken and unable to pursue legal action due to the Feres Doctrine. This doctrine prevents soldiers and their families from suing for medical negligence. It prevents these “negligent” medical professionals from being held accountable for their actions even when they blatantly fail to follow the medical standards of care.

Until there is accountability for these military medical professionals equivalent to that of their civilian counterparts or in a criminal court of law; the incidences of these egregious deaths of our brave service members and their families will continue to increase.

Please help to protect our military families. Help us to Revoke the Feres Doctrine and hold military medical personnel accountable to the same standards as their civilian counterparts during non-hostile, non-combat, and peacetime operations/conditions.

From our family to yours,

Thank you.

Jennifer Hardin

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Death Anniversary

CPO Darrell Ray Jones
June 28, 1981 – October 7, 2003

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Death Anniversary

1st Lt. Phillip Kent
 
 
Who was Phillip?  …My only son, grandson, soldier, comrade, friend, and scholar who loved his country and was ready to fulfill his military duty with enthusiasm and determination.
Phillip was a Veteran (one of who fought in a war) of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He brought his men/equipment home safely but tragically he came home a broken man suffering from PTSD.
Upon returning he found his marriage broken, little or no debriefing from the Army….  As a parent, I contacted Army Chaplains.  ‘No help, no returned calls.
 
Phil was forced to resign his commission or face more harassment from fellow officers.  Phil left Fort Hood, Texas in November 2004.  He returned home to South Carolina, and succumbed to death by his own hand.
 
Each time I share my story I become a stronger human being.  I appreciate the many Care Organization that help bridge the gap that exists between soldier families, citizens and bureaucrats, who have never been there; who cope with their fears and inadequacies by avoidance and denial.
 
Laura Kent
Mother of 1st Lt. Phil Kent

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Death Anniversary


Pfc. Jayson David Coffman

The Torment Must End: Let the Truth Be Told

My son, Jayson David Coffman, my firstborn of five children was taken from me, brutally, violently and without justice, without the truth. Jayson was stationed at Ft. Story, Virginia, a U.S. Army post right on Virginia Beach. His life was taken at the young age of 20, without justifiable cause and without the benefit of support from his family or legal counsel. Jayson, like many military personnel, did not die in battle overseas, but on a military facility right here in the United States.
I will never forget the day I heard the news. It will ring in my mind for the rest of my life. I was told my son committed suicide and was hung in the woods just five minutes from his barracks. I was shocked beyond my wildest dreams and it was then that my life came crashing down around me. My head was spinning and my heart went numb. I lost all composure and at times I was a rock. I was angry, hurt, confused and shocked to the bone. I had just spoken to him only a few days beforehand. I heard a happy, well-adjusted voice over the phone announce to me that he had purchased a ring and was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him. We laughed, teased each other and both said, “I love you” before we hung up.

Little did I know that my son would leave this earthly plane through such a vicious attack to his person. The information became known to me long after the investigation was over through military personnel who did not want to get into trouble for telling the truth, but had to get it off their chests.
My dear one, the one I held in my arms, formed in my body and cared for over twenty years of his life, was beaten by soldiers on his post for talking to a girlfriend of a fellow soldier. Alcohol was purchased for him by an NCO (non-commissioned officer) and he was then reported for drinking on the job. The NCO kept his job and was told to keep his mouth shut. When Jayson was counseled for the drinking, he was told that his Army career was over and that life as he knew it would never be the same.

He was reported missing on September 24, 1999 and was not “discovered” until three and a half weeks later. The military police told me they would not look for him.  The Marines found him hanging from a tree just within sight and walking distance from his barracks. The Army told me that two soldiers, the Captain and a Sergeant, looked for him daily. How could they have not seen him? The smell from rotting flesh was so strong that when the Marines found him, they could hardly stand it. He was found with his wallet, ID and a note to his girlfriend in his pocket, yet I was told that those things were found in his locker. He was not searched for because his things were thrown in a box marked AWOL (absent without leave). He was just left to hang there and rot for three and a half weeks so there would be no toxicology report in the autopsy. He was found with his knees on the ground, legs crossed; one arm was dislocated from his shoulder and found to the right of his body and on the ground. (No explanation for this was noted in the autopsy report.) Beer bottles were at the scene, yet the mother of the girlfriend called me to tell me that the autopsy report had shown no alcohol in his blood. The thing was, that the autopsy report had not yet come out and his body was too decomposed to even get a toxicology report. His girlfriend’s father was a Colonel in the Air Force and was notified of my son’s death three days before I was notified. My son was dead and discovered and I was not even told for three days! It took until the end of October to get his body back in California.

I was contacted by soldiers he worked with, and told that the Army killed my son. I believe them, they were present. They covered it up by allowing a great deal of time to pass by so no evidence could be found. They lied about his wallet and told me it was in his locker and then placed it on his body with his ID and a note to his girlfriend that they most likely got out of a box of letters that my son kept for his girlfriend. He wrote to her often and sometimes did not send the letters.
Jayson was drowned in alcohol; died from his own vomit and hung to make it look like a suicide. His things were all sent back to me at Christmastime all thrown in a box: dirty underwear and socks all mixed with now-broken items that had belonged to my son. His pillow was included and still had the stains from his tears on it.

He was supposedly on 24-hour suicide watch that night, but if he were, he would never have been able to get out alone unseen. The last time he was seen by his roommate, it was late at night and he was in his bed, asleep, yet his body was found fully dressed in his Army uniform. He was hung by his bedsheet, which was never reported missing from his room.

I had made a big deal about the fact that my son would never have left and gone AWOL without his wallet and personal items. I find it strange that his wallet and ID were then found on his body.
I was not sent the Criminal Investigation Report and autopsy until a year later. The report states that he died from suicide. We live with a lie and my son’s life looks just like a lie.

No family should have to go through this kind of pain. Every day after taking my kids to school, I would park in th garage in my car, turn off the engine and cry until my guts felt like they would fall out. Then I just went numb.

I was warned not to pursue investigation of the Army and their deeds because my fate may end up just like my son’s. This came from a dear friend who worked closely with my son and knew all of the truth. He was there. Many stories have emerged over the years and brought to my attention regarding military abuse of our enlisted soldiers. These are our husbands, wives, and children. Our kids, from the age of eighteen, are being told that the military will assist them to further their careers and give them pride. They enlist, as Jayson did, to make a better life for themselves. They just never are told about the humiliation, and the fact that they might just have to die at the hands of their fellow soldiers.

There are many stories that are coming out into the open and our purpose is to expose them all in order to enlighten the public as to what kind of behavior goes on in our U.S. Military. Don’t get me wrong, we love our country. It is the wrongdoing from our U.S. Forces and officials who turn a blind eye when it comes to military accountability. We desire justice for the sake of our kids. Our kids and loved ones deserve to have the truth be told concerning their deaths. No other family should have to endure what we have had to endure. The cover up and the murder and the reckless care of our military personnel must be stopped NOW.
 
10/28/11
Update on Story “The Torment Must End”
Murder of PFC Jayson David Coffman

As of September 24, 2011, it has been 12 years since my son Jayson had suffered brutality while enlisted in the US Army which led to his death. My four other children are still going through bouts of grief, confusion, and lack the full truth of their brothers death. We have moved forward but we still suffer great pain and our lives have never been the same. One of my daughters describes her experience as, “when Jayson died a part of me went with him”. We all feel this way.

As Jayson’s mother, I can say that not only has part of me left with him but also I grieve what “might have been”. We are robbed of my son’s future with us. I will never have a daughter- in law, grand children through him, holiday memories, his laughter in hard times, and so much more I could not even list them all. As survivors we not only grieve the loss of our loved ones presence but the losses of a life completely altered and changed forever. Even as a minister, my grief is often not comforted. I receive some strength and comfort from my faith, but there is no “healing” from love. Love is just love. Just because my son is now dead, does not mean I will ever love him less. My heart longs for him and although I know by faith where he is and that he is no longer suffering from this world, my “mother’s heart” will always ache for him.

We have recently received some updates on Jayson’s case through communication sent to us by an individual who worked with Jayson and knows some of his story. It has been confirmed once again through this person that Jayson’s wallet, and personal belongings were in his locker the morning it was discovered he was “missing”. The report we received from the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) clearly states that Jaysons wallet, dog tags, ID, and supposed suicide note was found on his body after he was discovered in the woods hanging from a tree three and a half weeks after he went missing. The individual who contacted me has also stated that he and his wife met with Jayson prior to his death and he seemed fine, even in light that there were issues going on concerning Jayson and the Army.

In my original account of our experience concerning Jayson’s murder, (called suicide by the US Army) I made mention that Jayson’s things were sent back to us in a huge mess and most of his belongings broken. Jayson’s captain had expressed to me that he personally packed Jayson’s things himself with the help of a newly stationed female soldier. This is contrary to the new information received in the email sent to us by the individual who worked with Jayson. His statement was that he and his wife packed his clothing, and things that were sent back to me, personally, and he assured me his things were in good order when they packed them. Strangely, there is no explanation as to the
reason a confederate flag was stuffed in the bag Jayson’s clothing was packed in. Continued attempts to connect and ask about this flag have now been met with no response. When Jayson was alive he told me in a phone conversation of this confederate towel which was purchased by his room mate for racial reasons because they had an African American soldier moved into their barracks with them. Jayson explained his room mate’s reason was to get the soldier to desire to be transferred to another room, and that clearly his room mate’s actions were racially motivated. Jayson said he had no problem with the latest soldier added to their room and stated he appeared to be a very nice guy.

Jayson had many friends prior to enlisting in the army and they were all of mixed races.  In fact, quite often Jayson was the only Caucasian person in his circle of friends.

Jayson also expressed a more intense desire to know his “nationality” and wondered in light of the fact his last name was Coffman if he was of any Jewish descent. I had to once again explain to him that Coffman was his given name because that was my last name at the time and that it was not that of his true father. Although Coffman is considered a name of Jewish descent, we have no Jewish lineage, and nor did Jayson. My next question was why he wanted to know all of this. In the past we had already discussed the fact that Jayson’s given name on his birth certificate was not that of his real father and it was done that way because his father was not in our lives and I wanted his name to match mine even though it was one of a different marriage.

I suppose my next concern on this matter is if the confederate flag which was packed in his bag was a hate message or even why it would be sent when it was not Jaysons. I did a search on racism and what the confederate flag stands for and I found a page explaining that it usually
stands for racism by white supremacists against those of African and Jewish descent. The symbolism is that if a “noose and cross”. Jayson “lost” his cross he always wore around his neck a month prior to his death and was hung on a tree by his bed sheet formed into a noose around his neck. I can’t help but feel that my son’s death had some form of racial hatred attached to it.

Jayson loved rap singing and was quite good at it. I did not always approve of the lyrics but he definitely had a talent for rapping. I was told by a soldier’s wife that Jayson and another soldier had rap “competitions” between them and that other soldier was a black man. My son was a young man who was persecuted all of his life but he had an acceptance of all people. He had his enemies, but he found it to be a continual battle and not something he wanted in his life.

Another area of concern is that the military police commented to me that Jayson was not being looked for even though he was missing. This was confirmed by the message I have recently received in the statement that many of the soldiers wanted to immediately go and look for him.
They were told that if they did they would be disciplined. In light of the fact that my son’s body was found about 5 minutes from the army barracks, this is inexcusable! He would have been found for sure and it is obvious to me that the intent was that he not be found. In fact he was found by Marines who were doing training in the woods on Army property.

My question in mind at this point, is “Why won’t these people come forward who know facts regarding my son’s murder, and as a group, present these facts to the criminal investigation department so that we might have a resolution? Can the US military intimidate others so much that they can get away with murder untouched? I know there are many families who really would like to know the answer to this question. No one should have to live with the pain my family lives with and the lack of closure. No soldier should have to live with the guilt of knowing the truth about a crime but feel intimidated into keeping silent.  This can’t help but eat at someone’s guts. I am reminded by the truth of my Christian faith. To know sin and do nothing about it is to be a part of it. So therefore those who know things and do not come forward are just as guilty of the crime as those who committed it. This is not a comment I want to say but it is the truth so I have to say it. Even in civilian investigations those who know about a crime and keep silent are considered an accomplice to the crime itself. It is standing in the way of justice and also allowing others to be subject to those who obviously got away with murder. My plea, and that of my family, is please come forward so we can all have the truth.

In light of all that has happened we still love our county, the freedoms our military soldiers stood for and still fight for today. We are forgiving people. We only want closure, justice, and truth.

 Jenine Marie Mason

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Death Anniversary

My son’s name was Kenneth John Laga, he died on 31st August 2005, along with two other young soldiers in Gutersloh, Germany.
 
I had lost my oldest son (non military) 7 months earlier, so Kenneth’s death was unbearable, and also totally needless.  The 3 boys were on a visit to the medical centre at another barracks.
Kenneth was with 26 Regiment, Royal Artillery.  The regiment had to replace the original duty driver that morning, as he was on a course.  The replacement driver, it transpired, had never driven a Land Rover Wolf alone, let alone on right hand drive roads (Germany), he should not have been given the full license to drive the vehicle as he should have undergone conversion training before being allowed to drive, this was his first driving duty!
 
 He did not get his work ticket signed before setting off (the work ticket is the equivalent to the insurance document), he lost his way, took a gentle left hand bend too quickly for his ability and lost control of the vehicle and smashed into two trees.  All the three boys died later that day of massive head and body injuries.
 
The front seat belts were torn apart as the roof ripped off the vehicle, it was left holding on by one screw.  What happened after has been a disaster as far as I am concerned.  My husband died  16 months later, he had a massive heart attack at the age of 53.
 
The only person who has faced any punishment was the driver, he was fined £1,000 at a court martial for careless driving, he appealed against this all the way to the House of Lords, all paid for by  tax payers money.  I have lost track of how many times I have asked about the Sgt who issued him with the full license, in fact he has been promoted now to Staff Sgt.  He has not had a  court martial or faced any internal discipline, he answered at the inquest that he had had an informal chat with his new commanding officer.
 
Elaine Laga, Mother of Kenneth Laga.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Death Anniversary

PV2 NOLAN EDWARD STITES, (August 31,1981-August 29, 2000)
 
My son, Nolan Edward Stites, was an Army Reservist assigned to the 52nd Combat Engineer Battalion on Fort Carson, Colorado. He successfully completed nine months in the Army Reserve “delayed entry” program with the 52nd Engineers and received a promotion due to his excellent performance. In the summer of 2000 he reported to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for Basic Combat Training where he became ill with clinical depression shortly thereafter. Nolan sought help for his illness and was a patient under care of the U.S. Army when he died during his seventh week on the Missouri army post.
 
Nolan graduated from high school with honors, never got into trouble and was respected as mature by all adults that knew him. He was an active church member, did not smoke, drink, use drugs or have any history of mental or family problems. Nolan was a rugged and physically fit outdoorsman, expert marksman with all types of firearms and loved the military. He held high ideals and was very patriotic. Nolan’s many NCO and Officer friends familiar with his out-door skills and endurance considered Nolan potentially a model soldier.

During his second week at Fort Leonard Wood, Nolan complained of the heat and humidity and said his forehead was severely sunburned and swollen. Nolan, a native of Colorado, was not used to Missouri’s climate in July. Two weeks later he called home and reported leg cramps, insomnia, loss of appetite and cognitive problems with reading, writing and understanding what was being said to him. I, as his father, unwittingly made the mistake of responding with a letter, advising him to seek medical care on post, a recruit’s only source of  help. Nolan, being one not to complain, tried to tough it out and continued training until his ailments progressed to bladder control problems, making it impossible to go on. He went to his roommates, drill sergeants and finally the Brigade Chaplain for assistance.

Nolan told the Chaplain he was depressed and had suicidal thoughts, a common symptom of depression. The Chaplain recognized Nolan needed to be seen by a mental health professional and, as required in this type of case, reported his findings to the Company Commander.  The Company Commander immediately removed Nolan from training and put him on  “Suicide or Unit Watch,” the Standard Operational Procedure in use on Fort Leonard Wood at that time. According to the Captain, Nolan ranked in the top 10% of the company when he placed my son on unit watch.

Unit watch is a disciplinary program of humiliation and ostracism used by the military to deter manipulative recruits from claiming mental problems to get out of the service.  They removed Nolan from all training but not the unit; made him sleep in the War Room, using tired, resentful, and untrained teenagers to guard him at night. Without any medical treatment, Nolan was forced to parade around in front of his peers for fifteen days, minus belt and bootlaces. Ostracized from training and humiliated as a marked man, Nolan was so distraught over his situation he told a roommate he was considering ending his life by jumping from the third story window. The worried roommates got together and wrote their drill sergeant a note expressing their concerns to no avail; their note was ignored!

On the fifth day of his ordeal, Nolan saw an Army social worker that misdiagnosed him as “a Special Ed. student that never got help” and “unfit for service.” (Nolan had just graduated from high school with a grade point average above 3.5.) The social worker returned Nolan to the barracks on full “Unit Watch” without further follow-up for the last ten days of his life. On unit watch, Nolan was subjected to sleep deprivation, humiliation, and embarrassment. In front of the entire platoon, Nolan’s drill sergeant challenged him to jump and kill himself, even offered to open the window. (This kind of mental abuse is devastating to a patient suffering from clinical depression.) Nolan wrote his drill sergeant a note pleading for help, “nobody will help now but I need emergency help to live, my parents want me to live and so do I.” The platoon sergeant in charge never took appropriate action with the note.

After two weeks of unit watch my son called me about his desperate situation. I then called the Red Cross for help and they misspelled Nolan’s last name so bad they had difficulty in locating him on Fort Leonard Wood. Over the telephone, eight hundred miles away, I told the drill sergeants to take Nolan to the hospital. After examining Nolan, the ER doctor gave him an I.V. for dehydration, set up an appointment with the mental health service for the next day and returned Nolan back to the barracks for more “unit watch.” The platoon sergeant placed Nolan next to a window on the third floor. Nolan saw no hope for help and wrote a farewell letter to his family stating, he didn’t know how to get help, there was only one place left for him to go, and “God could never forgive me for disgracing my country and my family.” Stripped of self-esteem and with “no light at the end of the tunnel,” my son, PV2 Stites, did as his sergeant suggested, jumped to his death!

A year later I received a pathetically flawed CID investigation report through FOIA. It did not explain the pencil point size puncture wound to my son’s abdomen, inconsistent with injuries sustained from landing on his back.  The CID agent in charge of the investigation photographed another recruit’s ID tag at the death scene and identified it as Nolan’s without reading it. The broken chain from the tag was in blood, two inches from my son’s right ear. Nolan was right handed and his body position was face up. The other boy’s ID tag was sent to us in my son’s personal possessions. Based on my research about unit watch, I suspect my son was being hazed but because of the Feres Doctrine I cannot sue and subpoena witnesses to find out the truth.

If a soldier is suicidal he doesn’t belong in the unit, if he is not suicidal, why take away his belt and bootlaces to mark and humiliate him in front of his peers? That defines what unit watch is all about, punishment for saying you are ill. Nolan’s death did not result from an accidental slip of a surgeon’s knife but 15 days of deliberate abuse. I consider his death a “psychological homicide.” The culprit in this case was not any one individual but the government of the United States for allowing this sadistic and abusive program to exist!

Five weeks earlier, another recruit, PVT Gary Moore from our state of Colorado, also killed himself on Fort Leonard Wood after suffering three weeks of abuse and being made fun of on “Unit Watch.” Both families were denied redress when we filed Tort claims for gross negligence and medical malpractice, resulting in death. The government using the Feres Doctrine responded with a letter denying our claims.

 stating, “The United States is not liable to service members under the FTCA for injuries that arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service.” No one was held accountable or punished; the sergeant that told Nolan to kill himself was promoted.

Our and Gary Moore’s family discovered, like many other families of deceased active duty soldiers, the Federal government is above the law and you can’t do anything about it.

Richard R. Stites, AKA, “Singe”
Father of the late PV2 Nolan Edward Stites

Monday, July 21, 2014

Death Anniversary

Daniel Ruf with his mother, Audrey

Daniel Ruf died at age 22 on July 21, 2009 in San Francisco’s Pacific Medical Center after working out with Marine Corps recruiters at In-Shape Gym on Tracy Boulevard to lose weight.
I was truly happy for the first time in my life at the age of 19, the day Danny was born. I raised Danny on my own. I guess in many ways we grew up together. We went through our share of life’s ups and downs but together we always could make it to the other end no matter what the struggle and we even managed to come out stronger and closer.

 The 22 years we had together were the best days of my life. He was so much fun. He grew up to be an amazing young man, a best friend to all who knew him and even those who did not… He truly cared about people and wanted to do what he could to help anyone who needed it. Danny was an amazing young man and the best kid a mom could wish for.

 Danny put himself through college by working 2 jobs; he even took the bus to college an hour away until we could get him a car. Danny never complained.  He made the most of every situation by enjoying the moment and time with friends. By the time Danny was 21 he was a GM Certified Mechanic and had his Associates Degree. This is quite an achievement for a boy raised by a single mom who can barely figure out where to put the oil. The economy caused the dealership to close down and Danny became unemployed for the first time, he was scared and not sure what to do. I pushed him to find work and I regret it with all my heart because he met a marine recruiter and was dead in 3 months at the age of 22.

 Danny signed up for the marines on May 1, 2009 with a boot camp date of July 13. Danny was a very muscular man weighing 215 pounds at 5ft9. The marines wanted him to weigh 190. They suggested water pills, laxatives, sauna suit in the sauna and while exercising under a sweat suit and a water only diet. He tried but 190 was an unachievable weight for Danny’s body type. If they had used the neck waist ratio to determine if he was over-weight Danny would not have been required to lose any weight. I found a receipt dated 3/7/09 filled out by the tailor at Jims Formal Wear’s for a tux showing Danny was 5 ft 9 with a weight of 220 over-arm of 57 inches, a waist of 36 inches and a 17 inch neck. This was at his heaviest weight…

 Danny became frustrated because he could not get his weight down even though he was dieting and working out and decided not to join the marines but did not want to let the recruiter down. Finally on July 6, 2009 Danny went in and told them he could not lose the weight and wanted to quit. They were angry and they told him that he had a tremendous opportunity to be “recon” which Danny loved …. and they gave him a new weight requirement of 199 and said they would check into an opening for July 27. So Danny said he would give it one more try.

 The next day they told Danny the 27th was full so he would need to be the 199lbs by July 20th (16lbs in 13 days). On July 14, Danny was 211lbs and the recruiter said that was not good enough and instructed Danny to report the next morning to the recruiter’s gym as his guest for one-on- one training and time in the sauna with the sauna suit under a sweat suit. The day before Danny and a friend had gone to buy movie tickets and the friend wanted to buy Danny a Subway sandwich. Danny did not want to eat but finally agreed and the recruiter actually came out of the recruiting office to the Subway and demanded to know what Danny was doing, reminding him he is on a no food water only diet until he makes weight.

 Danny came in my room on July 14 2009 and said, “Mom I don’t want to wear the sauna suit.”  I told him if the recruiter told him to do it he should listen because they know what will be best for him. I will never ever forget my words. I could have saved my son. He said, “Okay, mom,” and went to bed.

 The next morning we texted back and forth because he said he was not sure if the marines were right for him. He did not know if he could lose the weight and was worried about the 4 year commitment. He told me he was going to try his hardest and if he makes weight he will go and if not then we would just make a new plan, but he hates to fail. Danny said he was at 209lbs after breakfast that morning.
 I texted him, ”How was the sauna?” but never heard back.  The next call I received was from the local hospital telling me they found my number in his phone under “mom” and needed to know if I was Danny’s mom.  They said there was an accident and I needed to get there. I said I was coming from a city away. The lady said, “You need to leave right now.”  I knew then it was bad. I got to the hospital and they would not let me see Danny.  I had to go into a room and they explained that Danny was brain damaged but they did not know the extent because he was unconscious and on life support. I prayed, “Please God, I don’t care how brain damaged he is; please don’t take him from me. “  I know that was selfish but he was the best thing that ever happened to me and I could not imagine life without him.

 Danny had followed the recruiter’s instructions. They told Danny to go into the dry sauna then exercise. After about 40 minutes Danny told the recruiter he did not feel well and they told him to sit down and drink some water. Danny slipped into a coma and when the EMT’s arrived Danny’s temperature was 108 degrees.

 Danny had a heavy sweat suit complete with zip up hoody  jacket with the sauna suit underneath and the only thing the recruiters did was throw water on Danny… they did not remove or unzip any of Danny’s clothes. The recruiter later admitted he had no medical training yet he instructed my son to follow these radical weight loss methods. They should have told my son the loss was impossible and instead of pushing,  ultimately killing my son to make their numbers. The recruiter knew he was wrong, he disposed of the sauna suit and Danny’s pants rather than returning them with Danny’s other things. The other missing item was the guest day pass from the gym. The EMT report did state that they removed a non breathable sauna suit.

 Each day Danny got more and more yellow and swollen. Danny was transported to another hospital in San Francisco where he was to have better care and we were hoping to get him a liver transplant. I have never known anyone who died so I had no idea that he was not going home with me. On the 6th day they came and told me that his organs are all shutting down and there is nothing further they could do. I called my parents and they told me “Well,  why would you care?  You were going to let him go to Afghanistan.”  He never regained consciousness.  I asked that he have pain medicine so he would not feel the life support stopping they said he did and we stopped the blood pressure first and he kept it beating and then after about 2 hours I said, “Okay, stop the breathing machine,” which was the only other life support and he continued for a total of 6 hours. He lived until I called my parents and put the phone to his ear and he heard them and then died seconds after the phone was hung up on July 21, 2009. The cause of death was multi-organ system failure, hyperthermia with dehydration, exercise with occlusive gear, mild cardiomegaly with myocycte hypertrophy.
 When I left the hospital it was all surreal. I still sometimes can’t believe this is my life now.  I wish I could be with him. I find it so hard to find reason to go on with my life. It is so empty. I know we will be together again one day so I try to focus on helping people and making sure to remind people to enjoy what they have because no one knows what the future holds.

 My son was not only strong physically but also had strength of mind. He had the determination, persistence and loyalty to his instructing recruiter to continue to working out as he was instructed by that recruiter (even after telling me the night before he was uncomfortable wearing the sauna suit the recruiter instructed him to wear) all the way to the point of collapse. Danny felt confident that the recruiter was committed to helping him succeed safely by passing on his knowledge and training one-on-one so in return Danny gave him every bit of strength he had.

 The reward for Danny’s devotion was a marine recruiter who came to the hospital to accuse Danny of taking drugs.  He wanted me to know that they may be called for court martial.  Meanwhile, I was at the hospital with my son on life support, who had not come out of a coma for days and had an unspecified amount of definite brain damage. The ultimate betrayal was when the recruiter denied everything under oath. What happened to the few, the proud, the marines?   I guess Danny was not a marine yet so they did not have to show him honor, truthfulness or respect. They did a toxicology test for 150 drugs using the blood from his first day in the hospital and there were no drugs or alcohol in his system other than what they EMT’s gave him. I knew he was not on any drugs. Danny hated drugs and did not want to be around anyone who did them.

 The other recruiter did return to the hospital ICU and told two of my friends that he was sorry for what happened to Danny and that he believed that the marines and Danny were both responsible for pushing too hard. He said Danny was a great kid and that he wanted to take them all out on his quad. I do respect that he had the integrity to come and own up to what happened.  Although later he could not recall making that statement.

 My life is forever changed. Now my days just change one to the next with no real anticipation or happiness. Danny meant everything, to me he was my reason to live. He was my whole world. He truly was my best friend and my family all rolled in one.

 Danny was not the kid who decided to use unsafe methods to quickly lose weight and join the marines like they would like people to believe.  Danny is another recruit killed by military negligence.  I want to make sure that no other mother ever has to go through what I have been through.  I want everyone to know that the recruiters are not all honest and they are not all trained to give the advice they give and you can die from extreme dieting, sauna suits, saunas and exercise.

Audrey Ruf

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Death Anniversary


Richard Thomas Davis

“He was murdered on July 15 2003 upon return from Iraq.  He had witnessed His Battalion Commander murder two Iraq prisoners that he was watching. They had my son murdered to keep him quiet.  After all they didn’t want Bush, Chaney and Rumsfield to get embarrassed about a war crime.”

 Lanny Davis, father 

Death Anniversary


PFC Jason Pirro

PFC Jason Pirro Our son, PFC Jason Pirro, wanted to provide a better life for his wife and daughter. He wanted to honor his Country. He wanted to be a Marine. Jason joined the Marines in November of 2003 and left for boot camp at Parris Island, SC in January of 2004. Shortly thereafter, he found out that his wife was pregnant with their second child. Our son finished basic training and completed his Crucibles with a broken foot.

In May 2004, Jason went to Camp Geiger’s School of Infantry in North Carolina. On July 9, 2004, Jason called home to ask about an old car we had and said that even if he had to work two jobs, he couldn’t wait to get out of “this hell hole.” On the 14th of July at approximately 10 p.m., Jason talked to his wife, Christina. He told her that he loved her and would call in a couple of days to let her know what was going on. Jason had also talked to a couple of his friends and had several jobs waiting for him when he got home.

On July 15, 2004, three Marines came to our door. They told us that Jason was found hanging in the barracks. They would not answer any of our questions. They told us that there would be an investigation into his death. We were told that upon the completion of the investigation, someone from the Military would sit down with us and go over the findings of the investigation. That never happened.

On July 18, 2004, the Marines had a memorial service for Jason at Camp Geiger. During the service, the clergy stated that PFC Jason Pirro committed suicide. Our family was not notified of any press release, nor were we notified when the investigation was completed. We have not seen any member of the Marines or other Military personnel since the initial interview with NCIS in October 2004. We have never been officially notified that the investigation into my son’s death was closed. As of this date, we have not received his “dog tags.”

Over the last two and a half years, I have not had much cooperation from the Military. We have tracked down several Marines who knew Jason and agree that he did not commit suicide. A couple of Jason’s fellow Marines believe, as we do, that he was murdered. We have been requesting as much information as we can from the Military under the Freedom of Information Act.

 Although we did receive some information, there are a lot of missing documents and photographs. We have been in touch with our representatives in Congress for help in getting the investigation reopened. As of this date, we have heard nothing.

We are being ignored by our Military and our Government. The Military says our son committed suicide. We strongly disagree with their opinion, but they will not take the time or effort to meet with us or even talk to us.

The documents that we have received and the photographs of the death scene (which arrived on Mother’s Day weekend in May 2006) show enough discrepancies to back our belief that PFC Jason Pirro was murdered while stationed at Camp Geiger, NC.

PFC Jason Pirro loved his family. His daughters have been deprived of a loving and caring father. His wife has lost her best friend, companion and the man she loved. We have lost our son. PFC Jason Pirro has lost his future. We want the Marines who did this to our son to be brought to justice and to take responsibility for their actions.

We want justice for PFC Jason Pirro. Are you willing to help us? If you can help us right this wrong, please contact us through this website.

Gary and Vicki Van Horn

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Death Anniversary

PVT Nicholas Davis, 1986 – 2005
 
Nicholas signed up for the Army on June 24, 2003 through the Delayed Entry Program when he was 17 years old. On January 20, 2004, in the middle of his senior year, he left for basic training. He was the youngest one in his platoon; (Ruff Ryder, A. Co. 1 – 19th INF, ITB, 9075 Holcomb Dr., Ft. Benning, GA 31905) he excelled at PT and was asked to help those soldiers who couldn’t keep up. Nicholas entered Jump School at Ft. Benning on May 10th. On May 25th his parachute failed and he fell 1250 feet. Amazingly, he did not die; however, his left ankle was severely injured, resulting in surgery and permanent  damage.
 
Ironically, his parachute and gear were missing when his father inquired about it the next day.
Despite his injured status, Nick was sent to Fort Wainwright, Alaska in July 2004. We, as parents, wondered who ordered that? How did he pass a physical to go? What was the plan for him when he got there? Nicholas was just 18 years and one month old at the time and had no counseling regarding the parachute accident and possible post traumatic stress.
 
When Nick arrived in Alaska he was in an air-cast and on crutches. It is my belief that this is when he began enduring abuse from his sergeants and others in his platoon. This unit was preparing to deploy to Iraq and Nick, who was still holding a Ranger status, was not fit for battle or even for regular duty. He held odd jobs within his unit for a while and then with the permission of someone on Ft. Wainwright, enrolled in The University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
 
His reassignment of barracks seemed fishy to me. They moved him across base where he would have to travel to get to the mess hall. I remember him talking about how hard it was for him to get around, how those who were assigned to give him rides and help him out were not doing well by him. I remember talking about for us (me, Nick’s father and his Aunt Becky in the Navy) the military was like a family; we took care of each other. But it wasn’t like that for Nick.
 
The sergeants and fellow soldiers in A Co., 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, Ft. Wainwright, AK began tormenting and threatening one of  their own. A portion of his unit even paid a visit to one of Nick’s friends from college, threatening to beat him up if he did not stop associating with Nick. He was an injured, isolated soldier who wanted to serve his country however he could. He would have done anything in his power to remain one of the elite. But he was no good to his unit and they saw him as an easy target. He feared for his life several times. It became hell for him and Nicholas saw no way to survive other than to leave.
 
Nick went AWOL for the month of February 2005. He was set up by an acquaintance and caught by his company commander and the MP’s. It was reported to me that he was not taken in easily. The MP’s turned their backs while the unit beat him up. It was soon after this that Nicholas attempted suicide. I’ve been told that the mental ward was where my son felt safe. After a couple of weeks he was returned to his unit. In April he left again, this time flying to his home town in West Virginia. He stayed with some friends, got a job and enrolled in college. But Nick was a patriot and knew the commitment he had made. He decided to return to the Army, hoping that he would not be sent back to his unit in Alaska.
 
He was taken to the US Army Personnel Control Facility (PCF), US Army Armor Center, Ft. Knox, KY. The day he arrived. near the end of May, he signed paperwork for a dishonorable discharge in lieu of a court martial.  Somehow, the abuse he suffered in Alaska found him at Ft. Knox. On June 15th he was admitted to a hospital in Radcliff, KY for another suicide attempt. Again, he chose the safety of the mental ward. On June 27th his discharge was approved. Nick was released from the hospital on July 12th. He made arrangements to go home on the 14th but he never made it. Nicholas was murdered in the latrine and hung on the back of a latrine door in the 7pm hour of July 13, 2005.
 
My son was a young soldier who should have been protected and mentored by anyone his senior. He was an eager learner with desires to help people. After the parachute accident he somehow slipped through the cracks of the system and all of a sudden no one knew what to do with him. One commander after another let him slide through without concern for his well-being.

Hundreds of suspicious deaths occur within our military branches each year. Our military kills their own soldiers to satisfy their needs.
 
Be careful: if you see too much,
they’ll kill you.
If you struggle with something,
they will kill you.
If you ask the
wrong questions,
they’ll kill you.
If you are in the wrong
place…
even simply by chance…
they will kill you.
You are not protected by the government you serve. The people who “stand behind you” are the ones who will stab you in the back. They will give the order to have you killed.
 
Kim Slapak-Smith
If you have any information about this case, please contact me through this website.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Death Anniversary

Sgt. Benjamin Thomas Griego
 
As we heard of our son’s death:
 
Our 26 year old son, Sgt. Benjamin Thomas Griego, was found dead in Army housing at White Sands Missile Range on July 13, 2007.  He was serving our country as Cadre, on his second term enlistment, representing the New Mexico Army National Guard. His duty involved training military branches of service for transition to a Warrior Transition course previously transferred to Dona Ana Range from Ft. Knox, Kentucky.

When we first heard of our son’s death, there was no official report released from the Army National Guard to his wife or to us, his parents.  The information we received early that morning on July 13th, was that our son had died.  The information was received from the public through their phone calls and visits of sympathy and condolences.

As we tried to make sense of this, we brushed it off as gossip since the rumor had come from a Wal-Mart employee.  Later, we learned that it had been channeled down from a sergeant on post at White Sands Missile Range to a family member employed at the local Wal-Mart in Clovis, NM.  That in itself was devastating and shocking to find this out in this manner.  We were on the phone early that morning frantically trying to make contact with someone from the White Sands Missile Range and the Army National Guard in Santa Fe, NM who would put these rumors to rest.  But to my disbelief, we were notified hours later that the worst had turned out to be true, our beloved son was gone.
Jeronimo, Ben’s father, was the last person to speak to Ben just hours before his death. He had made his father promise that he would call him while he was on the range the next day. We had made plans with Ben to pick up his father at the airport in El Paso, TX Monday, July 16th after duty. His itemized phone statement showed two phone calls were made to housing on base that evening.  We believe that he was trying to make accommodations for his father’s visit.

Ben was 26 years old, and the youngest of my three sons.  He kept close contact with us.  We spoke to him every day, we knew our son, and nothing was out of the ordinary the day prior. Everything was going well for him, except for altercations he had been having with three unit members who had recently returned from Iraq.  A DVD was given to us by his commander on the night of the Rosary, July 19th , which clearly demonstrates that problems existed.

My son presented a formal class on “Integrity”, ordered by the commander.  The commander,  first sergeant, and unit members were present.  The class was recorded on a DVD.  Some of the unit members admitted to “bum rushing” Ben before he presented the class.  On the same DVD, a death threat was made.  This was three weeks prior to his death.  The unit members admitted to bum rushing him and the commanding officer, the highest commanding officer present, asked if it was “round two”.  She was well aware what was going on.

Criminal Investigation Division

Our experience with the CID is that they were quick to close his case, claiming self-infliction and filling  in the blanks without thoroughly investigating claims.  We, his family, had real concerns and questions and presented concrete evidence.  The CID Senior Agent from El Paso, Texas seemed too bothered to return phone calls and delayed and rescheduled meeting after meeting.  That went on for months.  The CID Agent scheduled a meeting in November, 2007 and finally met with us in March, 2008.

We could not and do not understand why the CID did not keep or know the whereabouts of Ben’s blood stained clothes he wore the night of his death.  They were not aware that the Ft. Bliss Casualty office had picked up and washed the clothes, and made sure to destroy evidence in an on-going investigation.  Even to this day some blood stains still remain.

We discovered, through emails from a NM Representative (now Senator) in February 2009, that the CID closed my son’s case in October 12, 2008.   No official notification was given to the family about the case being closed.  How do they not think that this does not warrant personal and public outrage?  We are still in contact with the state representatives and senators in the hope of getting some support from them.

Autopsy Report

The original autopsy report was written exactly the way we heard  it from the men in his unit.  These were the men who were with him the night he died; the men with whom our son had altercations; the men who admitted to bum rushing Ben on the DVD; the men who had threatened him, as recorded on
the DVD, and the men who served as honor guards in burying our son.  They made our son sound like he was a drunk, pulling pranks, and that he premeditated his death by giving a key to his roommate that night, but in fact the roommate had a key months prior to his death.
The original autopsy report, which had erroneous entries of  race and weight, and another report with
testimony from the members who we suspected of killing him, became final legal documents.  We question why they would make these entries when the final report of the investigation had not been completed or finalized.

In the original autopsy report, physical evidence was noted:  a singed eyebrow, cut index finger, split
lip, and the examiner claimed his hyoid bone was intact.  After having an independent second autopsy report completed, we are told that his hyoid bone is missing. We, Ben’s family, request to have the hyoid bone returned; this clearly belongs with my son’s remains.  Why would the Army Examiner remove my son’s hyoid bone, and keep it without notifying the family?  According the Pathologist from the Department of the Army, they kept it for evidence.  The family asks,  “evidence of what?  Is it broken and the cause of death strangulation?”

Lastly

Every day we feel the void that my family experiences in their daily lives, as I see it in them and they
see it in us.

We have read many other stories of other soldiers’ questionable deaths and it saddens us that we share the same grief, emptiness, and alienation from what has taken place with our children in the military.  My thoughts and prayers go out to you.  God Bless.

Judy & Jeronimo
Griego
Link to interview:  Even More Suspicious Non-combat Deaths

Friday, July 11, 2014

Death Memorial

SSgt. Justin Lee Garza, June 1, 1981 – July 11, 2009
Justin Garza was born June 1, 1981 in Taft, Texas.  He was the youngest of four boys born to Teri Garza (currently Teri Smith).


Justin was called Jon by his family and close friends.  As the youngest, Jon had to learn how to be tough at a very young age, which, of course, he did and excelled at.  Jon was a truly intelligent boy.  As he grew up we knew he had an intelligence all his own.  He assisted his older brothers with their homework.  His outstanding intelligence caused him to get bored with what was handed him while he was going to school.  He was never truly challenged enough.  That is why he did homework for his older brothers.  Jon decided school was not for him and he got in trouble for disrespect and was suspended a few times.  I had to change his school.  At this time Jon was about sixteen.  Jon and I decided to remove him from public school when he was in his teens.  Jon could not figure out what to do with himself, so being a single mother at the time, I decided what I thought was best for him.  I sent him to a type of boot camp in Aberdeen, Maryland.  I believe he lasted three days and decided it was not for him.  As this was a voluntary school, I was called to come and pick him up.  Once home, Jon found a full-time job and enrolled at our local college and received his G.E.D.


Jon joined he Army at the age of twenty.  Once he completed basic and AIT, he was stationed in Ansbach, Germany for, I believe, about three years.  During this time, he was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom at the age of twenty-one.  While there, Jon earned an AAM.  This deployment turned out to be very difficult for Jon in more ways than I will ever know.  Jon had to kill his first person.  It was kill or be killed.  To this day, I do not believe Jon ever got over this and suffered deeply within himself.  He thought of himself as a monster.


Jon returned to Iraq again in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  During this deployment he was injured, not seriously, but enough to leave another scar on such a young man.  I was never informed that he was injured and when we finally talked about it all, Jon told me that I was not to be notified when he was injured, only when he died (which, of course, is another story in itself).  All in all, Jon was deployed six times in seven years — too much for such a young person.
Jon earned the following awards/medals while enlisted in the Army:
  • two Army Achievement Medals
  • two Army Commendation Medals
  • two Army Good Conduct Medals
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Army Service Ribbon
  • Overseas Service Ribbon (a few)
  • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  • Iraqi Campaign Medal
  • Driver’s Badge
  • He attended the Preliminary Leadership Development Course and the Basic Non Commissioned Officer Course
  • Two foreign awards
  • Polish Award
  • Award from Holland for his 100 mile march in uniform and 45lb rucksack
  • Competed in the German marksman competition
  • Received the German sportsman badge
  • Operation Victory Strike
As you can tell, my son worked hard for the Army (Alpha Braves) and gave all he had to give.  He gave the Alpha Braves his blood, sweat, tears.  He gave his all for them.


Now let’s talk about why I am writing this:  My son committed suicide on July 11, 2009.  I feel that the Army let my son down and that when he needed them the most, they were not there for him.  All I can do is lay out the facts as I know them and hope that I save one soldier, one mother from going through the awful pain and grieving that Jon’s three brothers, extended family, friends, and I are going through.


I need to take us all back a few years and try to begin the story of Jon’s ending.  As stated earlier, Jon’s first deployment to Iraq was when he was twenty-one.  How traumatic could that have been?  Not only did he see what he saw and went through what he went through — he actually had to decide to kill another person, which is totally against all he knew.  When Jon came home from Iraq, he came straight home to see me.  I can say that he had no  counseling.  He was just sent home and sent on leave to deal the best way he could.  I can tell you it had an impact on my son.  It took him quite awhile to readjust to live in the States.  He did not talk much about this experience as he knew I could never relate to what he saw or went through.  I spent about a week or so with my son and could tell that he was different, but I had no idea how to talk to him or how to help him through this.
Jon deployed numerous times while in Germany.  He supported Operation Victory Strike II in Poland.  While there he was the American liaison to the Polish Army.  He deployed to Normandy, France, to host the 60th Anniversary of D-Day and also went to Holland to compete in a 100 mile, four-day rucksack march.


During the years, Jon would talk about how he wanted to volunteer to go back overseas.  He said he felt more comfortable there and I believed him.  It was hard for him here in the States, trying to defend all that was going on and yet not being able to discuss it with his friends or family.  Soon, the only friends he had were his Army buddies.  Yes, we still talked and emailed, but it was never the same as before his first deployment to Iraq.  He started coming home to visit less and less, always saying he was bus and had to be there for his unit.  At that time, I know I lost my baby and did not know how to get him back, how to be close to him like we were before.  He did come home for a few holidays, special occasions, and a family vacation, but it would be few and far between.  We did get him home for, I believe, two Christmas’ in a row.  It think it was easier for him to talk to us on the phone and email than to see us face to face, as we could then see his depression and desperation.
Please excuse the long background.  I want everyone to know who my son was before the Army and while in the Army.  He loved the Army and excelled in all that he did for the Army.  I have reviewed all the military records I have and can tell you my son got written up for the excellence and motivation he showed in his work and all that he brought out in his soldiers as well.  He felt most at home with the Alpha Braves; he loved them and worked as hard as he could to be worthy of them.
My son got reassigned to Ft. Gordon, Georgia in March of 2009.  He, for whatever reason, could not settle in.  He felt alone and abandoned there.  He felt like he just did not fit in, but during this time he again gave 100% to his training and to Ft. Gordon.  For whatever reason, looking at all his letters, emails, and talking to his buddies, I believe this was the beginning of the end for my son.  I truly believe he had PTSD and will explain a little later.


The downhill started for my son in May 2009.  On or around May 15, 2009, my son used his web cam and emailed and talked with a friend of his.  During this conversation, he had letters strewn all over the floor and was talking about being a monster and wanting to stop the pain and commit suicide.  His friend talked him out of it at that time, or at least so we thought.  On May 22, 2009, my son wrecked his car in a suicide attempt and again he survived.  At some point in June 2009 (the Army will not provide dates to me) my son went AWOL.  He was tracked by his credit card receipts.  He was headed to Texas and along the way he bought a shot gun and some alcohol and was in a hotel.  Family and some of his Army buddies tried calling him all day, but he would not answer his phone.  When one of his closest Army buddies got ahold of him, he told my son he would come to him.  Instead, one of his superiors found him and took him to Metroplex Hospital in Killeen, Texas.  From the records I found in my son’s car after his death, it looks like he only spent a few days at Metroplex and then was transferred to Darnall Army Hospital on the 19th of June.  He hated Darnall (which he told his Uncle, Gary Garza.)  It seemed Metroplex did more for him.  He was in Darnall Army Hospital for about ten days.  When Darnall released him, they released him with specific instructions, as follows:


24 hour adult supervision
Safeguard the home:  make sure there is not access to any weapons, knives, medications, guns, or any other items that can be used in a harmful manner.
Discharge level:  Acute Psychiatric


He was discharged on June 30, 2009 with adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotion and conduct.  Depressed mood.


His first follow-up visit was scheduled for July 9, 2009.  I have a message on his phone stating that there is a backup/mix up with counselors and if he does not hear anything by Monday the 14th to give a call.  Well, he committed suicide on the 11th.  There were also messages from a chaplain.
Okay, who was the “24 hour adult supervision” for my son?  Who went to his house with him to ensure there were no weapons?  He shot himself in the head.  All his appointments were listed as “pending.”  Again, why a delay in counseling and why no 24 hour supervision?  When he was discharged from Darnall, Ft. Gordon did not want him.  They realized he needed to back with the Alpha Braves.  Well, Fort Hood had not processed him in, so again he was alone without a Unit, not able to be in formation or on base, so he was alone in an apartment all day with his thoughts.  He was not receiving pay, as the Army still had him listed as AWOL.  He could not pay his bills and had to borrow money from his Uncle Gary.


I was never informed of any of the above –  that my son had an accident, that he was AWOL, or that he was suicidal.  If I would have known, I wold have flown to be with him.  The Army robbed me of a life with my son and at the very least a chance to see him again and tell him that I loved him.  I did not get to say goodbye.  My son filled out all the required paperwork and questionnaires tat Darnall Hospital gave him and knew the answers they were looking for.  Why would you have someone counsel him who had never been through what my young son had gone through?  How could they understand what he was feeling and how did they miss the PTSD?  Hell, I could have counseled him!  I, at least, knew my son and who he is/was and knew that he was pulling the wool over these people’s eyes.


Once we got the news of my son’s death (By the way, I was never formally notified that he passed away) we headed to Texas.  We had to go through my son’s storage shed and car.  In his car, I found numerous letters addressed to himself, to me, to his Unit, and to a friend.  These letters were dated May 15, 2009 and he died on July 11, 2009.  What the hell!  Someone had to have noticed the change in him.  My son was dating a girl and she was in Texas and my son’s best friend was a friend of hers.  I have a very disturbing letter that he wrote and you can tell that PTSD had hit him strong.  I am willing to share most of each one of these letters so that the Army and the general public can see how my son slipped through the cracks.


Believe it or not, this is just a general overview of all that took place.  If you are interested in my son’s story, please contact me.  My son asked in the letter to me and the letter he left on his laptop and to his best friend that his story be told.  If this even saves one soldier and one mother from going through what I went through, then telling his story will be worth it.  I will be my son’s voice for as long as I can and to whoever will listen to me.


Teri J. Smith, mother of SSgt. Justin Lee Garza
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You can contact Teri Smith through this website by clicking here.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Panel member: Military sex assault response hard to fix

From Stars and Stripes:


NORFOLK, Virginia — Harvey Bryant hoped the panel he was appointed to last year would bring a sea of change to the military's handling of sexual assaults. Instead, Virginia Beach's former top prosecutor says the group's recommendations are little more than "a wading pool."


He was one of nine members on a panel that examined the handling of military sexual assault and made recommendations for improving the process. The group submitted a 284-page report to Congress on June 27.

Bryant, who served for 13 years as Virginia Beach commonwealth's attorney before retiring last year, said his biggest disappointment was the panel's support for keeping authority over the judicial process in the hands of military commanders.


Read the entire story here.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

In Military Care, a Pattern of Errors but Not Scrutiny

From the NY Times:


FORT SILL, Okla. — Jessica Zeppa, five months pregnant, the wife of a soldier, showed up four times at Reynolds Army Community Hospital here in pain, weak, barely able to swallow and fighting a fever. The last time, she declared that she was not leaving until she could get warm.

Without reviewing her file, nurses sent her home anyway, with an appointment to see an oral surgeon to extract her wisdom teeth.

Mrs. Zeppa returned the next day, in an ambulance. She was airlifted to a civilian hospital, where despite relentless efforts to save her and her baby, she suffered a miscarriage and died on Oct. 22, 2010, of complications from severe sepsis, a bodywide infection. Medical experts hired by her family said later that because she was young and otherwise healthy, she most likely would have survived had the medical staff at Reynolds properly diagnosed and treated her.


Read the entire article here.