Monday, April 07, 2008

Army silent on deaths of soldiers

By MARTIN J. KIDSTON - Independent Record - 04/03/08

The March death of a U.S. Army soldier with ties in Hardin remains under investigation, officials said Wednesday, bringing to two the number of Montana soldiers whose cause of death has not been released by the military.

Staff Sgt. Shawn Gillespie, who was born in Wyoming and grew up in Montana, died in King George, Va., on March 24. The cause of death has not been released by investigators.

“They’re not telling us,” said Col. Garth Scott, public relations officer for the Montana National Guard. “It’s under investigation. The cause of death is pending.”

Gillespie was not a Montana Guard soldier, but military protocol calls for Guard officials to answer media questions about the death of soldiers in their state, placing Scott in the difficult position of fielding media calls surrounding the case.

The 28-year-old soldier was stationed at Fort Meyer, Ga., headquarters for the U.S. Army.

Gillespie becomes the second soldier whose death is under investigation. On Dec. 13, Pvt. Daren Smith died in Baghdad from non-combat related injuries. Military investigators have yet to say what actually caused Smith’s death.

Smith served with a light infantry unit based out of Fort Polk, La. He lived in Butte before moving to Helena, where he graduated from high school in 2006 before joining the service in March the following year.

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command in Washington, D.C., did not return calls by the Independent Record Wednesday regarding the two soldiers’ deaths.

On Wednesday, Gov. Brian Schweitzer ordered both the national flag and state flag flown at half-staff starting today on Gillespie’s behalf.

“Out of respect for their family, we made the determination,” said Sarah Elliott, the governor’s press secretary.

Gillespie’s 28th birthday would have been today.

Reporter Martin Kidston: 447-4086 or

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