Monday, September 17, 2007

Father Investigates Son's Non-combat Death

TOPEKA, Kan. — It has been seven weeks since his son died in Iraq, and David Finch is still trying to find out what happened.

Kansas Army National Guard Sgt. Courtney D. Finch, 27, of Leavenworth, died July 24 of unknown causes. The Department of Defense reported only that Finch died of “injuries sustained from a noncombat-related incident.”

Finch’s father, David Finch, said he was told he would receive a cause of death within six weeks. Seven weeks later, he is upset at what he sees as the slow progress.

“What’s the holdup?” he said. “I’ve had no word from anyone.”

Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas National Guard, said she couldn’t comment because the military is still investigating the death. She also said there’s no word on when a cause of death might be determined.

Meanwhile, David Finch has hired a private investigator and has started calling his son’s fellow soldiers.

People who were close to Courtney Finch say he was found dead in his room. They also say his death was a surprise.

“All my indications were that he was fine,” Maj. Paul Gonzales, Finch’s company commander in Iraq, said.

David Finch said he has learned that after returning from patrol on July 24, members of his son’s platoon each took two IVs of saline solution and drank a gallon of water. Finch said he also has heard that his son hadn’t urinated in the two days before his death.

“His kidneys were probably shutting down and you don’t force IVs to someone like that,” Finch said.

Gonzales said he didn’t know anything about the IVs, but that it wasn’t uncommon for soldiers to use them after spending time inside a Humvee, where temperatures can reach 140 degrees.

Sgt. 1st Class Bill Witzke, another soldier in Courtney Finch’s company, said Finch had been sick with the flu, but he didn’t know anything about Finch’s lack of urination or the IVs.

Finch was a member of the guard’s 714th Security Force in Topeka. He had more than six years of military service and previously had served in Kosovo and the Baklans.

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