Friday, December 25, 2009

Navy Attempted Suicide Rate Nearly 3 Percent

From The Navy Times:

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Dec 24, 2009 8:47:14 EST

Sailors attempted to commit suicide at rates significantly higher than the other services in 2008, according to a recent Defense Department-sponsored survey of service members.

The Navy’s attempted suicide rate — at 2.8 percent, or roughly 1 in every 35 sailors — was three times higher than in the previous survey, conducted in 2005.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Picking up Patterns in Military “Investigations” of Non-combat Deaths: Part 5

In our group of 30 - 40 families, five of the non-combat deaths involved hanging. The two cases not mentioned as yet are those of MSSR Stephen Killian and Pfc. Jayson Coffman. Their tragic stories appear on our website, http://non-combat-death.org/.

You can click on the hyperlinks to read their stories, written by their grief-stricken mothers.

In the case of Stephen Killian, who was found hanged in Las Vegas, NV, it is ironic that in the home of the popular CIS, the civilian authorities refused to investigate because he was in the Navy. The also popular NCIS refused to investigate because he was found in a city distant from his base! If we are to believe from these television series that sensitive whiz-bang forensic technology is available to these giant entities, one wonders why the deaths of military personnel are not worthy of careful investigation to determine whether foul play was involved.

There is a large body of forensic information available to pathologists and coroners which has to do directly with the determination of hanging as a cause of death. Most of the families of these victims have done extensive research using these sources. It is possible to determine with certainty when a victim has been hung after death or a suicide has been staged.

Still, the families’ attempts to get answers are quashed.

Judy and Jeronimo Griego, parents of Ben Griego, wrote: “They showed us his room where they claimed he died. The CID wanted to close the case immediately, but because we had been given the copy of the DVD, and we were asking questions, the investigation was continued. Also our correspondence with the elected officials helped us in continuing the investigation.”

When they found missing pages in the investigation reports, they were told that they’d have to request them separately as the CID representative “didn’t know what had happened to them.”

Both Stephen and Jayson were labeled AWOL (absent without leave) when they were noticed to be missing. Jayson was found very close to his Army base, but the investigation was not particularly well done. His mother did not hear the details surrounding his death from official sources. This seems to be a common thread in all of these cases.

I often wonder why there is such poor investigation and the attempt to keep information from families. In most of these cases, the families have managed to determine that some of the “facts” they were told about the circumstances or crime scene, were not true.

Securing of Investigation Reports, Autopsy Reports, Crime Scene Photos, and the like are very hard for families. Most often, repeated requests and the intervention of Congressmen are the only way that families have been able to check the “facts” that they have been told.

In most of the cases I’ve discussed in this series, the young men were found with feet touching the ground. The Griegos wrote: “The closet bar was approximately 5’2” (high) and Ben was 6’ (tall).”

Their families had had recent contact with them; and they had been given no indication of problems serious enough to have caused them to commit suicide. In several of the cases there had been a phone call very close to the time of death. In a couple of the cases, the young man was due to be discharged shortly before death. In the majority of cases, forensic evidence was handled carelessly or destroyed before it could be analyzed.

Since hanging is neither a sure or painless method of suicide, it seems logical to assume that there is a likelihood of murder in all cases, which should have been ruled out by investigation.

Serious questions of logic and motivation go unaddressed in these cases. Discrepancies are ignored. In some cases, there is inaccurate information as simple as physical description, which appear in autopsy reports.

The military authorities are eager to close the cases and are not particularly curious about the possibility of murder by other military personnel. Do they feel that what goes on in the military should be kept as internal secrets? Is there no fear that murderers at large in the military would branch out to kill other military members, including officers?

Sometimes, the families are treated with disdain, even when notification of death is made. In the case of Nicholas Davis, his mother felt she was notified in a timely manner, but a relative overheard a police officer speaking to someone on the phone and as a result, she was the last of her immediate family to be informed of his death. The family was told that Nick’s death was “self-inflicted” before any investigation was done.

Kim Slapak said that the CID questioned her about Nick’s home life in order to draw possible reasons that he would be predisposed to suicide. This was a common thread in several of the cases. However, reports that groups of individuals had made threats against some of the victims doesn’t seem to have been investigated.

In Benjamin Griego’s case, his parents actually heard rumors of his death at an area Walmart long before they were formally notified!

During Ben’s videotaped “formal class on integrity”, he expressed some words which should be noted by the Military Services when dealing with families. Click on the arrow below on the short video clip to hear what he had to say.



video

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

LANNY L. DAVIS

I opened the mail one day a few years ago to find a letter from Lanny. Inside, was the feather of a hawk.

Lanny was at his home in Missouri and heard a commotion in his yard. He walked outside and saw a dove attacking a hawk. Apparently the dove had a nest nearby that the hawk had tried to disturb. The dove killed the hawk. The irony wasn't lost on Lanny that the dove, an eternal symbol of peace, had killed a hawk, an aggressive bird of prey. So, he plucked a couple of the hawk's feathers and sent one to me. I've kept it behind the sun visor in my car since the day I got it.

Lanny was a true “Missouri boy” as he always used to say. From a family of 10 brothers and sisters, he grew up on a farm in the Ozarks and deeply missed the green grass and lush trees. He was an irrepressible American and I think we all know how rare that is becoming in this world of political correctness that borders on the ridiculous.

Despite everything that happened to him he maintained that pride in this country; even when it came to the little things that are uniquely American. When he and I talked on the phone, he would sometimes pass the phone around to people and say “Here, talk to this lady, she is a genuine Georgia peach, just listen to that accent.”

He didn't apologize for his opinions and never tried to be something he was not. His dear friend Pat in St. Charles, recently told me that he knew something was terribly wrong when Lanny didn't return to Missouri in September as he had planned. “You could set your watch by Lanny's word” Pat said. “I knew it must be bad.” He was right about both.

Lanny Davis will be greatly missed. But even as I cry I know these are selfish tears. In reality, we should all be relieved that he is no longer suffering from painful cancer and the torturous grief that consumed him after Richard's murder. Most of all, we should try and rejoice that his soul is at long last reunited with his beloved son.

What a joyful reunion that must be.

Cilla McCain
--------------------------

Veteran who fought for murdered son, dies
Posted: Dec 14, 2009 6:19 PM EST
http://www.wtvm.com/global/story.asp?s=11676091

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Seeking Answers as to Why They Died

Stories of women killed in combat need to be told, Colonie vet says

To read the entire story, click here.

From the Albany Times Union

------------------
Link to Trailer for film about the death of Pvt. Lavena Johnson: The Silent Truth click here.

Is there an army cover up of the rape and murder of women soldiers?

Since the United States launched the Second Gulf War, ninety-four women in the Military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Of these deaths, some twenty occurred under extremely suspicious circumstances. The Department of Defense has characterized these deaths as “non-combat related injuries,” and maintained that many of them are “suicides”.

“The Silent Truth” tells the story of nineteen year-old U.S. Army Private LaVena Johnson, who was found dead on the military base in Balad, Iraq in July, 2005. The United States Army ruled her death as a suicide resulting from a self-inflicted M-16 rifle shot wound.

Through interviews with Ms. Johnson’s parents, Dr. John and Linda Johnson, this documentary tells the story of a family’s struggle to find the truth, and to secure justice for their daughter. Dr. Johnson has maintained that from the day his daughter's body was returned to him, he had grave suspicions about the circumstances surrounding her death.

Colonel (Ret.) Ann Wright, co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience, is serving as a consultant on the film. She describes additional cases where the truth about female troops’ deaths has been silenced by cover-up.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Army Releases November Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data for the month of November today. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides, all of which are pending determination of the manner of death. For October, the Army reported 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, three have been confirmed as suicides, and 13 remain under investigation.
There were 147 reported active duty Army suicides from January 2009 through November 2009. Of these, 102 have been confirmed, and 45 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 127 suicides among active-duty soldiers.

During November 2009, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were two potential suicides. Among that same group, from January 2009 through November 2009, there were 71 reported suicides. Of those, 41 were confirmed as suicides, and 30 remain under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 50 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.

In a media roundtable on Nov. 17, 2009, Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, confirmed that the total number of suicides in the Army during 2009 had exceeded the total for 2008.

"We conduct an exhaustive review of every suicide within the Army," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Suicide Prevention Task Force. "What we have learned is that there is no single or simple answer to preventing suicide. This tells us that we must continue to take a holistic approach to identifying and helping soldiers and families with issues such as behavioral health problems, substance abuse, and relationship failures."

Although operational tempo and frequent deployments are often cited as possible causes for the Army's increased suicide rate, data gathered through the Army's efforts has not shown a link between operational tempo and suicide.

"We have analyzed this part of the problem very closely," said Walter Morales, Army suicide prevention program manager. "So far, we just haven't found that repeated deployments and suicide are directly connected. Approximately 30 percent of suicides in the Army occur among those who have never deployed. Many others occur among those who have deployed once. This means we have to continue to reach the entire Army community with effective suicide prevention programs, for those who have deployed and those who haven't."

In addition to the Army's current campaign plan to improve the full spectrum of health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention programs, the Army is testing pilot programs in virtual behavioral health counseling, enhanced behavioral health counseling before and after deployment, and expanded privacy protections for soldiers seeking substance abuse counseling.

For example, the Army recently completed the Virtual Behavioral Health Pilot Program (VBHPP) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The VBHPP team is now analyzing the initial results to help the Army better determine whether the program should be expanded to additional units and locations. Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf .

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is http://www.militaryonesource.com . Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org , and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil .

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp .

More information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at http://www.army.mil/csf/ .

--verbatim, Official Department of Defense Announcement

Friday, December 04, 2009

DOD Task Force On Sexual Assault Submits Findings, Recommendations

The DoD Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services recently submitted its congressionally-mandated report to the secretary of defense. The report finds DoD has made progress in improving the response to victims' needs, but calls for DoD to do more to fully address the spectrum of sexual assault prevention and response.

"Our recommendations highlight the need for institutional change to more effectively prevent sexual assault and address related issues. Doing so is not only ethically and morally correct, but also essential to military readiness – all the more critical at this time," said Louis Iasiello, task force co-chairman.

The task force made a number of recommendations involving DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, including: temporarily elevating oversight of this office to the jurisdiction of the deputy secretary of defense until the program meets established institutional goals; changing the budgeting process to overcome inconsistent funding among the military services; strengthening the policy and oversight functions of the office; calling for collaboration with the military services and national experts in sexual assault prevention to develop a comprehensive prevention strategy and a plan to routinely evaluate it; and more rigorous oversight of military service training programs.

The task force found DoD has made demonstrable progress in providing assistance to victims of sexual assault by offering restricted reporting, which permits a victim to obtain immediate care and counseling without engaging law enforcement and command authority.

The task force did recommend, however, that Congress should, as a permanent measure, enact a comprehensive military justice privilege for communications between a victim advocate and a victim of sexual assault.

Among the other recommendations:

· Ensure service members who report they were sexually assaulted are afforded the assistance of a nationally certified victim advocate.

· Ensure victims understand their rights, including the opportunity to consult with legal counsel to minimize victim confusion during the investigative process.

· Improve medical care for victims of sexual assault, particularly those in deployed areas.

· Ensure gender-appropriate care for male victims.

· Inform victims and service members of disciplinary actions related to sexual assault.

The task force based its assessment on data collected over a 15-month period at 60 sites around the world. Task Force members spoke to more than 3,500 people, interviewing active duty and reserve component victims of sexual assault and other military personnel. During their assessment, they also interviewed general court-martial convening authorities, legal and investigative officials, senior policy officials, sexual assault response coordinators, and victim advocates.

A copy of the full report can be found at http://www.dtic.mil/dtfsams/reports.html . The secretary of defense has 90 days to review, comment on and submit the report to Congress.

For more information regarding this release, media may contact Col. Cora Jackson-Chandler, 703-325-6494.

--reprinted verbatim from official Department of Defense announcement from December 4, 2009.

From the Seattle Weekly

A story about the alleged murderer of Staff Sgt. Timothy Miller and Sgt. Randi Miller at Ft. Lewis: click here to read.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Soldier in suit over chemical is dead

reprinted from indystar.com

December 1, 2009

Guard commander said exposure to carcinogen in Iraq caused his cancer

By Jason Thomas
jason.thomas@indystar.com

A funeral is set today for a retired Indiana National Guard commander who testified in October that exposure to a lethal carcinogen in Iraq caused his cancer.

Lt. Col. James C. Gentry, 52, Williams, Ind., died of lung cancer Wednesday. His death is a poignant marker in a pending federal lawsuit; his life inspired a federal bill working its way through Congress.

Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, Indiana's top National Guard general, will attend the service at noon at Kraft Funeral Service in New Albany in Southern Indiana.

"He was a very good person who cared for his soldiers and his family," Lt. Col. Deedra Thombleson, the Indiana National Guard's public affairs officer, said of Gentry, who retired in February 2008 after 22 years of service. "He came forth and talked about the issues, hoping it would draw attention to what he and his soldiers had gone through."

Gentry, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, last spring joined a federal lawsuit filed in December 2008. It accuses Texas-based KBR and several related companies of concealing the risks faced by 136 Indiana National Guard soldiers potentially exposed to a cancer-causing agent, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The suit originally was filed on behalf of 16 Indiana soldiers but has grown to 47 plaintiffs, including the family of a soldier, David Moore, Dubois, Ind., who died of a lung disease in 2008.

Most of the plaintiffs served with a Tell City unit sent to Iraq with the Indiana National Guard's 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, based in Jasper. For three months beginning in May 2003, the unit provided security for KBR employees charged with rebuilding the Qarmat Ali water-pumping plant near Basra.

The lawsuit says sodium dichromate, an industrial chemical normally used to remove pipe corrosion, contained heavy doses of the toxin and had been spread around the site, possibly by fleeing loyalists of ousted President Saddam Hussein.

The carcinogen, hexavalent chromium, is known to heighten the risk for cancer of the lungs and respiratory tract and is one of the most dangerous carcinogens rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Mike Doyle, the Houston-based lead attorney on the lawsuit.

Gentry, who commanded more than 600 soldiers, did not smoke.

The Indiana lawsuit is one of five across the country involving several hundred soldiers potentially exposed to the carcinogen, according to Doyle. Lawsuits have been filed in Oregon, West Virginia and Pittsburgh. In all, more than 600 troops from Indiana and three other states could have been exposed, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Indiana suit claims many soldiers who served at the plant are developing rashes and other health problems.

"I don't know what kind of impact it will have on the lawsuit, but it's a terrible loss for his family and Indiana and the soldiers who served with him," Doyle said of Gentry's death.

The original complaint claims KBR had early indications of a chemical risk before the soldiers arrived.

"KBR's commitment to the safety and security of all employees, the troops and those we serve is the company's top priority," Heather L. Browne, the company's communications director, said in a statement. "KBR did not knowingly harm troops."

The last of Gentry's two depositions in the case came in October at his Southern Indiana home, where he had hoped to live out his retirement with his wife, LouAnn.

"His wife," Thombleson added, "does not want his death to be in vain."

A few weeks after the deposition, U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., spoke with Gentry on the phone. His story and that of his fellow soldiers stirred Bayh to write the Health Care for Veterans Exposed to Chemical Hazards Act of 2009, which is now with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The legislation would make affected soldiers eligible for medical examinations, laboratory tests, hospital care and nursing services. It also would recognize a veteran's own report of exposure and include it in a Department of Defense registry.

Passage of the legislation would be a fitting tribute to a soldier who gave all, those who knew Gentry say.

"He was just a great people person and cared about his soldiers," Thombleson said. "His loyalty to his soldiers, even when he passed away, was still there."

Additional Facts
What's next
The Indiana lawsuit is set for trial Sept. 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Evansville.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fort Lewis soldier shot on U.S. base, say parents

Iraq: Daughter was shot in back of head, mother says

SCOTT FONTAINE; The News Tribune
Last updated: November 25th, 2009 01:59 AM (PST)

The parents of a Fort Lewis soldier killed in Iraq earlier this month say someone shot their daughter on an American military base near Kirkush.
Staff Sgt. Amy Tirador of Colonie, N.Y., died Nov. 4 in what the military called a noncombat incident. Her mother told The News Tribune on Tuesday that her 29-year-old daughter was shot execution-style, in the back of the head.

The military is investigating, a process that could take two or three months. Until then, officials are releasing few details.

“It was not a suicide,” said her mother, Colleen Murphy. “And it was not an accident. There are so many scenarios about what could have happened, and that’s why everyone is being so closed-mouthed about it.”

Tirador served as an Arabic-speaking interrogator in Diyala province with the 209th Military Intelligence Company, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. A spokesman for the American military unit overseeing operations throughout northern Iraq said investigators are still determining whether Tirador’s death was accidental, a suicide or a homicide.

“Here at Task Force Marne we will do our best to keep Staff Sgt. Tirador’s family informed as the investigation progresses,” Maj. Jeff Allen wrote in an e-mail. “There are no further details we can add right now.”

A 3rd Brigade spokesperson did not respond to an e-mail requesting more information.

Murphy also has enlisted the support of the offices of Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats.

“They’re behind us 100 percent,” Murphy said. “We’ll find the person or persons that did this, and we’ll find out the complete truth.”

Tirador’s father, Gerard Seyboth, could not be reached by The News Tribune. But he told WRGB-TV in Albany, N.Y., that his daughter’s work as an interrogator made her a “high-profile target.”

The soldier’s grandfather delivered a strong rebuke to the alleged gunman during Tirador’s funeral Nov. 17.

“Whoever did this crime, I hope they rot in hell,” Thomas Murphy said, according to the Albany Times-Union.

Tirador enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1999 and transferred to active duty in 2001. She deployed to Turkey in 2003 and to Iraq in 2004. She returned to Iraq in August with the 3rd Brigade.

She entered the military as a combat medic but began training to be a military intelligence collector in 2005. She arrived at Fort Lewis in January 2008.

Her husband, Mickey Tirador, was in Iraq on his third tour of duty when his wife was killed. The couple were married for three years and planned to start a family next year, according to the Times-Union

Her mother told the newspaper Tirador was “a female soldier in a man’s world” who tried to defy the stereotypes of women in the armed forces.

Tirador was the sixth woman from Fort Lewis to die in either Iraq or Afghanistan since the wars began, and the first since September 2006.

Scott Fontaine: 253-320-4758

scott.fontaine@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/military

Originally published: November 25th, 2009 12:44 AM (PST)

Monday, November 23, 2009

U.S. soldier found guilty of abusing subordinates in Iraq

By Joe Sterling, CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS:
Sgt. Jarrett Taylor was convicted at a special court martial
He was found guilty of making false statements, cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates
Charges stem from investigation of soldier's suicide

Iraq
(CNN) -- A U.S. military court demoted and jailed a soldier for mistreating troops in Iraq, behavior discovered during the investigation of another soldier's suicide.

Sgt. Jarrett Taylor, 23, of Edmond, Oklahoma, was convicted at a special court martial at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, that ended on Friday, the military said.

He was found guilty of making false official statements and cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates.

The soldier was reduced to the rank of private, sentenced to 180 days in confinement and ordered to forfeit $933 in pay for the next six months, the military said.

Taylor was among four Multi-National Division South soldiers who were charged with cruelty and maltreatment of soldiers in their platoon, Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, MNF-South spokesman in Basra, told CNN in an email Saturday. All were from the 13th Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Bliss, Texas.

The charges, filed August 19, stemmed from information discovered during an investigation of Pvt. Keiffer P. Wilhelm's suicide in August.

Olson said Taylor and the other three officers were in supervisory positions over Wilhelm, a 19-year-old from Plymouth, Ohio.

"It is unclear if Sgt. Taylor's actions contributed to Pvt. Wilhelm's decision to take his life," Olson said.

"As for morale, we believe that Sgt. Taylor's behavior was isolated to a single platoon. Sgt. Taylor was immediately removed from his supervisory duties as soon as the allegations were discovered during the initial investigation in Pvt. Wilhelm's death."

The charges stemmed from incidents that occurred at Forward Operating Base Hunter in Maysan Province in southern Iraq.

The other soldiers charged are Staff Sgt. Enoch Chatman, 30, of West Covina, California, and Staff Sgt. Bob Clements, 29, of Eastland, Texas. They are subject to a future court martial, the military said. Spc. Daniel Weber, 24, of Frankenmuth, Michigan, was discharged in lieu of a court martial, according to the statement.

Olson said in August that the soldiers were accused of engaging in "verbal abuse, physical punishment and ridicule of subordinates." He described the physical punishment as falling into the category of "undue calisthenics."


Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/11/21/iraq.soldier.convicted/index.html

Blog Editor's note:

Within our support group for families, we observe that this type of bullying and misuse of power is pervasive in U.S. Military Services and contributes to non-combat deaths in various ways.

In the U.K. and in other countries around the World, families have set up websites which directly address bullying by its name and document it in the Military.

Military hierarchy is the perfect milieu for bullies and lack of oversight allows it to be rampant. Enlisted military personnel have little recourse when victimized by superior officers and gangs of military personnel exercising group mentality in targeting individuals.

It is a positive development that the Army has addressed this in this case. It is also positive, in my opinion, that they have not covered up the investigation.

Braveheart

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Staff Sgt. Amy Tirador

From the Albany Times Union:

First published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday was the day, as Colleen Murphy so aptly put it, to honor the memory of her daughter, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Amy Seyboth Tirador of Colonie.

Even a cursory review of this young woman's life reveals achievement, commitment and purpose that are impressive by any standards. To think she did it all by just 29 -- accomplished Army interrogator; recipient of a Bronze Star, for saving another soldier's life; trained Arabic linguist -- is to marvel and, of course, to wonder about all the feats and challenges that might have awaited her.

Sadly, what Ms. Murphy called the day things begin, not end, brought mourning, accolades and then burial with military honors at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery. Staff Sgt. Tirador has the distinction of being the first woman from the Capital Region to die in the Iraq war. She was on her third wartime deployment.

What might begin today, then, is the dispatch of answers to all the questions that surround the death of Staff Sgt. Tirador. She leaves this earth with honor and demonstrated valor, certainly, yet the occasion lacks the finality that wartime deaths generally bring. The sense of loss is magnified by the confusion that persists, at least for now, over the nature of what the Army calls a noncombat death.

Ms. Murphy calls it an execution. Staff Sgt. Tirador apparently died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head. War, an ugly business under the most innocent of circumstances, hits home in an especially haunting way.

The loyal service of a dedicated soldier is a two-way commitment, of course. To truly respect the memory of Staff Sgt. Tirador and to even begin to ease the pain of her family -- notably her husband, Mickey Tirador, serving his third tour in the Iraq war -- her friends and contemporaries require an accounting of how she died, and how this particular loss of live might have been avoided.

"I thank you for allowing us to honor you." Ms. Murphy said as she eulogized her daughter at the Reach Out Fellowship church in Colonie. That noble task might well be an unending one. But it also might be easier and more complete with all the unpleasant mysteries resolved.

Staff Sgt. Tirador joins at least seven other soldiers with ties to the Capital Region to die in Iraq. The first was U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Robbins, originally from Delmar, in 2004. He, too, was buried at Saratoga National Cemetery, on what would have been his 28th birthday. Five years later, the war plays out in an eerily similar way.

To say farewell to Staff Sgt. Tirador is to recall those who were killed in Iraq before her, regardless of the circumstances. It's also to think of who might be next and who, finally, will be the last.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reflections on Nick's Death

Picking up Patterns in Military “Investigations” of Non-combat Deaths: Part 4:

Nick was a little above average in basic training in that he was the youngest in his platoon and he was very athletic. He thrived in basic training. When I went through 20 years ago, I was in agony and couldn’t wait for it to be over. It wasn’t like that for Nick; he wrote to me telling me he felt that God had him there for a reason. At that time in his life, his future looked very bright. The disciplined military life agreed with him.

Even after his injury in jump school, he was still excited about his future. He had no intentions of quitting or delaying his career. It is at this point that his innocence and our ignorance allowed the downward spiral.

In retrospect, I should have demanded to speak to someone about his orders to Alaska and Nick’s physical welfare concerning his foot. But I did not because my son wanted to go. He wanted to handle his own affairs. It was a transitioning time for him, changing from boy to man but it was not a time for him to deal with such affairs on his own. This is where we ran into the Feres Doctrine.

When Nicholas was in Alaska, we (his father, stepmother and myself) tried very hard to be involved in his medical care and decisions. We called his doctor’s office several times and were told (of course) that Nick would need to sign paperwork for information to be released to us, his parents. We asked Nick about it almost continually, and I don’t know who was responsible, but the papers were never signed.

Life was totally different for Nick when he arrived in Alaska. Prior to his injury, he experienced the brotherhood of the military; he was part of the whole, had a plan and a purpose. When he arrived in Alaska he was immediately ostracized; he was vulnerable and made more work for some in his unit who were assigned to assist him. From what I understand, his unit was preparing to deploy to Iraq and their new recruit was damaged goods. They took him out “with the guys” and left him, abandoned him, with no ride and he was unable to walk far because he was on crutches. And for goodness sake, it was Alaska!!

He was assigned to various detail work, which he really didn’t mind because he felt he was at least contributing. But it was in this time period that his fellow soldiers turned against him and he became an object of contempt and abuse. The brotherhood was no longer looking after him. Please remember that he was still only 18 years old.

I have read several cases where the details and circumstances are the same as my son’s; same story, different man. In synopsis, here is what I mean: Young serviceman is injured and placed in a medical hold facility where he is treated like a new recruit who has done something wrong. His basic privileges are limited; it is more like prison or a detention home rather than a place to heal. I had the feeling the people assigned to run these facilities did not like their assignments. They viewed the injured as weak. There were bizarre discipline procedures designed to humiliate and belittle the service member.

My son’s medical records show that they were habitually inconsistent in administering his medications. Records also show he was given drugs that were known to promote suicidal thoughts and they changed the type of medicine they gave to him almost daily. His body had no time to adjust, as there was no consistent care. Injury, depression, isolation, ridicule, physical and mental abuse, and a variety of medications would leave any person in a state of confusion and degradation. They take strong, viable young men and kick them when they’re down. It is not unlike a woman in an abusive relationship: it is a gradual breakdown of body and spirit, an atmosphere of control and abuse.

I have read multiple times of the patterns of abuse in these hold units, like wardens who abuse prisoners. But the soldiers in medical hold were not criminals, they were just injured, and most of them, young.

Another common thread is death by suicide. Suicide almost always came within days or hours of them being released to go home…they were so close to leaving the hell they were in. Although suicide rarely makes sense to the survivors, it is almost inconceivable that in a few hours my son was going to be home but he decided to kill himself?? His freedom was right there, and it is the same with so many young men who withstood ridicule and heart wrenching abuse, only to end their fight by hanging themselves in the latrine?? Again, my son is not the only one who “hung himself with his shoelace in the latrine”. COME ON!!!

Here is another thing: my son was an easy target because he was depressed. Near the end of his life, he was a mess because of the environment he was held in and the circumstances regarding his medical care. So it was easy to say “Look, he couldn’t take it anymore and took his life.” But I say no, he didn’t take his life, his life was just about to begin again. He was getting ready to start over. Remember the beginning of the story? He was thriving, strong and full of purpose.

These events took place over the period of 19 months. He was a young 19 year old boy when he died.


Kim Smith
Mother of Pvt Nicholas A. Davis
United States Army

Friday, November 13, 2009

Army Suicide Data for October 2009

The Army today released suicide data for the month of October. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 16 potential suicides, all of which are pending determination of the manner of death. For September, the Army reported seven potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, three have been confirmed as suicides, and four remain under investigation.

There were 133 reported active-duty Army suicides from January 2009 through October 2009. Of those, 90 have been confirmed, and 43 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 115 suicides among active-duty soldiers.

During October 2009, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were eight potential suicides. Among that same group, from January 2009 through October 2009, there were 69 reported suicides. Of those, 41 were confirmed as suicides, and 28 remain under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 47 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.

"Stigma continues to be one of the most difficult challenges we confront," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "The more we educate our Army community about the need to get help, the need to get it early, and that a full recovery is often possible, the less stigma we'll see."

In March, the Army chartered a multi-disciplinary suicide prevention task force to make rapid improvements across the full spectrum of health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention programs. Since its establishment, the task force has made more than 170 improvements to the Army's health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention policies and programs.

In addition to the Army's efforts to curb suicides, on October 1, Army leaders announced the formal beginning of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. This holistic program is designed to give the same emphasis to psychological, emotional, and mental strength that is given to physical strength.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness uses a balanced, multi-faceted approach and a life-long learning model that includes individual assessment, tailored virtual training, classroom training at all levels of Army education, and embedded resilience experts to provide soldiers the critical skills they need to face any and all of life's challenges. It is a true prevention model, aimed at the entire force.

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf .

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is http://www.militaryonesource.com. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org, and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil .

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp .

More information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at http://www.army.mil/csf/.

Source: Official Department of Defense Announcement

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

US marine slain by fellow soldier at N Carolina base

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 19:09:16 GMT


A US marine has been killed by a fellow soldier in Camp Lejeune, military investigators at the Marine base in North Carolina have found.

Private Jonathan Law, 21, "is in the custody of military authorities... for the alleged homicide of Corporal Joshua E. Hartzell, 22, early Friday morning," said Captain Timothy Patrick, base public affairs officer on Monday, reported AFP.

"The victim did not die from a gunshot wound," Patrick said. "But other than that, we don't have any other information."

Patrick said that Law was taken to a hospital for attempted suicide and was sent to the camp's jail after receiving treatment at a civilian hospital "for self-inflicted wounds."

Law, a supply administration clerk, enlisted in the Marines in August 2006 and served in Iraq between August 2007 and March 2008 and has won several awards, including the Iraqi Campaign Medal.

The victim was a maintenance technician specializing in fixing night vision equipment. He joined the Marines in September 2006 and has also won numerous awards, including the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

It was not immediately known whether the two soldiers knew each other before the incident.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dr. Baughman's Letter to the Editor

FRED A. BAUGHMAN, JR. M.D.*

NEUROLOGY AND CHILD NEUROLOGY (Board Certified)

FELLOW, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF NEUROLOGY
fredbaughmanmd@cox.net


Tim Lemmer, Editor, Letters

Wall Street Journal

To the Editor:

Re: Suicide Toll Fuels Worry That Army is Strained, by Yochi J. Dreazen, WSJ, November 3, 2009

There are frequent, sudden deaths occurring in the military due to its policy of reckless, anti-scientific, psychiatric drug, polypharmacy. I say "anti-scientific" because, in psychiatry, there are no actual physical abnormalities/diseases to make normal (e.g., insulin in diabetes, chemotherapy in cancer, antibiotics for infections)--only diabolically crafted, ‘big lie’ illusions of diseases. Although antipsychotics (Ray, et al, 2009), antidepressants (Whang, et al, 2009) and psychostimulants/amphetamines (Gould, et al, 2009).) have been proved to increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, they are routinely prescribed together, as if no such risk was known.

While Surgeon General of the Army Eric B. Schoomaker acknowledged a "series, a sequence" of deaths, in a February 7, 2008, Chicago Tribune interview, there has been no explanation of these deaths--only continued references to "suicides" and "accidental drug overdoses" --always adding that illegal drugs and substances were also involved.

Stan White (father of deceased veteran Andrew White) and I have "Googled" over a hundred such military deaths. Young men in their twenties do not suddenly die for no reason at all, to be "found" "in their barracks," “at their workstations," or “in their beds," but never, beforehand, seen semi-comatose, comatose, and never resuscitated, never making it to a hospital or ICU, and never surviving--all of which are common with the more usual central nervous system depressant drug overdose. In Atypical antyipsychotic drugs and the risk of Sudden Cardiac Death, Ray et al, NEJM 2009;360:225-35, wrote: “The study end point was SCD (sudden cardiac death) occurring in the community. SCD was defined as a sudden pulseless condition that was fatal, that was consistent with a ventricular tachyarrhythmia, and that occurred in the absence of a known noncardiac condition as the proximate cause of death. The end point excluded deaths of patients who had been admitted to the hospital, deaths that were not sudden, and deaths for which there was evidence of an extrinsic cause (e.g., drug overdose), a non-cardiac cause (e.g., pneumonia), or a cardiac cause that was not consistent with a ventricular tachyarrhythmia (e.g., heart failure).”

It is time for the truth about these deaths from the Surgeon General of the Army and from the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees.

It is time for an end to the for-profit, anti-scientific, psychiatric drugging, not just of the US military, but of the US public-at-large—the greatest health care fraud in history. Either the House, the Senate and White House find the will to say "no" to Big Pharma or we will all become, drugged, dependent, zombies.

-- re-printed with the permission of the author

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Case of PVT. Nicholas Davis: Another Hanging in the Barracks


Picking up Patterns in Military “Investigations” of Non-combat Deaths: Part 3:

This is the narration of events as written by Nicholas' mother, Kim Slapak Smith:

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.

"outspoken" women were a threat to the "integrity of the meeting."

Col. Ann Wright writes in Truthout:

My Daughter's Dream Became a Nightmare: The Murder of Military Women Continues

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mother Assesses 'Beasting' Review

From BBC News:

The mother of a soldier who died after an army punishment is considering a judicial review to overturn a decision not to court-martial those involved.

Private Gavin Williams, 22, Hengoed, Caerphilly, collapsed and died at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth in 2006.

His mother Debra said she was still waiting to hear whether the Army would take any measures over her son's death.

The Ministry of Justice said it could not comment until the outcome of any disciplinary action.

Pte Williams died after being made to carry out an informal punishment known as beasting for misbehaviour, and was put through an intense session of physical exercise on one of the hottest days of the year.

A trial was held where three soldiers were cleared of manslaughter. A subsequent inquiry has also decided that three other soldiers would not face a court-martial.

Sgt Russell Price, 45, Sgt Paul Blake, 37, and Cpl John Edwards, 42, were found not guilty of manslaughter by a jury at Winchester Crown Court last year.

After the acquittal, trial judge Mr Justice Royce attacked the Army for allowing beasting to take place.

He also criticised the fact that the three non-commissioned officers were placed in the dock while their commander, the adjutant Captain Mark Davis, who said he wanted Pte Williams brought to him "hot and sweaty", was in the process of being promoted to the rank of major.

Following the trial, the Royal Military Police carried out its own investigation and sent its findings to the Independent Services Prosecuting Authority, which announced this week three different soldiers would not face a court martial over Pte Williams' death.

The three could still face administrative action against them.

Ms Williams said: "It's just frustrating because sometimes you just hit a brick wall and you feel like you're not getting anywhere.

"I think in time something has got to happen and something has got to come of this because they know damn well what took place did take place and someone has got to be blamed."

Ms Williams now has to decide what to do.

She can wait and see if the Army takes any action, or she can challenge the decision not to hold a court martial in the High Court.

However it could take several years for the case to be heard and would also hold up an inquest and board of inquiry into her son's death.

If she lost the challenge, Mrs Williams could face legal bills of £25,000.

"Money shouldn't be an issue but it's a lot of money we're talking about.

"Time for me is nothing. I could manage another two years, three years, four years, it doesn't matter to me.

"I don't think I'll ever give it up because it's something which shouldn't have happened in the first place."

Ms Williams has set up a website, Stop Beastings in the Army (stopbeastingsinthearmy.com), and says soldiers have contacted her to say a form of beasting still exists in the Army.

On Friday she will meet other families who have lost relatives in non-combat situations to raise awareness of what has happened.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/10/29 07:19:58 GMT

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Parents of Soldier who Killed Himself in Iraq Speak Out

View the interview on video or read the transcript at Democracy Now!

Gregg and Jannett Keesling talk about the suicide of their son.

The Case of PFC Jason Pirro: Another Hanging in the Barracks

Picking up Patterns in Military “Investigations” of Non-combat Deaths: Part 2:

Here are the basic facts in the case of Jason Pirro in the words of his parents written in 2007:

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.

Gary and Vicki Van Horn
------------
If you would like to get an idea who Jason Pirro was through family photos, click on the arrow in the video below.
video

Friday, October 23, 2009

Class on Integrity at White Sands Missile Range

Picking up Patterns in Military “Investigations” of Non-combat Deaths: Part 1

I want to tell you about a DVD I received from one of our families.

I cannot simply post it in its entirety for reasons of privacy protection. So, I’ve decided to describe it and include a short clip.

This is video taken on June 21, 2007. It is taking place on the patio of a modest house on the White Sands base.

This will be a “formal” class on integrity, according to the Captain of Bravo Company, but there is a party atmosphere. Some of the soldiers are dressed in desert fatigues, some in shorts and T-shirts. Nearly everyone has a beer and some of the young men go inside before Sgt. Ben Griego begins the “class” to get more beer.

The Captain encourages everyone to get comfortable, and a clearly nervous Ben Griego comes out through the sliding screen patio door and rinses his head under the outside tap while the others arrange themselves around the patio.

He asks the Captain if her daughter must videotape the event and is told that things can be cut out of the video later if he wants.

The First Sergeant is seated in the middle of the patio with the others standing.

The Captain has electric clippers in her hands, and Ben asks if she has a one guard on it. Some of the lower ranking soldiers suggest that she use no guard when shaving Ben’s head.

Although there is some nervous laughter, to me the scene seems edgy, with trainees obviously delighting in the humiliation to come.

Ben is twenty six years old, a good-natured, clean cut young man who was caught lying about where he was one morning when he didn’t show up for work. He was stationed at Sante Fe, NM and taught a Warrior Transition class at White Sands one to three weeks per month.

He is taking this thing seriously even though he is smiling and trying to maintain some dignity.

The Captain, who appears amused throughout the video, asks, “Do you need a beer or something so you can start giving the class?” Ben says, “No.”

The Captain tells the group who have gone into the house to get more beer to turn the music down so the class can begin. Ben asks, “This is a formal class, isn’t it?” The Captain confirms that it is a formal class.

As Ben asks the group to “listen up” so that he can deliver his confession, without excuses, something extraordinary happens. Clearly audible from the group of soldiers on the patio:

“SALUD, CAVRON!” (Translated not literally, but in the vernacular slang by his father: “Hey, bitch“)

“DAM GUERO FROM TEXAS!” (“Dam gringo from Texas!”)

“PINCHE CAVRON” (“F___ing bitch!”)

I see the momentary look on Ben’s face showing that he hears the totally inappropriate remarks, yet he does not reply to the insults. Most of the group is Hispanic and they all, including the Captain and First Sergeant, understand what is being said. The video clip appears below. Click on the arrow to play:

video

There is no admonition from either the Captain or the First Sergeant, although this would appear to be a more grievous offense than what Ben is being punished for. These soldiers are insulting an NCO during a formal class on integrity.

Ben went on to tell what happened to merit his punishment with plenty of interruptions and comments from the group. Ben completes his presentation by saying, “All right. That’s the reason I’m getting my head shaved. Are there any questions?”

“I GOT A QUESTION. YOU GOT WITNESSES, DID YOU GET BUM RUSHED EARLIER?” comes from a soldier who earlier insulted him.

Ben says, “Yes.”

The soldier then says, “EXCUSE ME, WHEN DID YOU GET BUM RUSHED?”

The Captain says, “I heard that was round two…”, addressing the soldier.

The soldier replies, “No, no, we already got round three out of the way already”, addressing the Captain.

Who won?”, asked the Captain.

He did, puss, we rolled down bar and then come in guillotine…”

Note that he has just called the Captain “puss” and there is no reaction from her or from the First Sergeant.

So, you’re weak!” the Captain replies.

There is some banter about her remark. They then go back to the matter of the clipper guard.

At the end of the video, the soldier who has just asked about “bum rushing” comes up to Ben and says, “HEY, THE ONLY BAD THING, HEY, THE ONLY BAD THING NOW…YOU’RE REALLY GONNA FIND OUT WHO YOUR "MAN BOYS" ARE. THEY’RE NOT GONNA FIND THE FINGERPRINTS IN THE BACK OF YOUR GRAVE.”
---------------------

Three weeks later, on July, 13, 2007, Sgt. Benjamin Griego was found dead in his quarters by his roommate. His death was ruled suicide by hanging, even though there was evidence that his hands and feet were bound.

-----------------------

His mother and father have explained to me that the soldier who made the threat on the video was obsessed with fighting Ben to show that he was tougher. He never won and Ben was getting tired of the constant challenges.

There were three or four confrontations with this soldier the week of Ben’s death. The group must have been involved in the “bum rushing” incidents. Was there some sort of power struggle for leadership in the unit? Did the Iraq Veterans resent the young combat instructor?

The Captain and First Sergeant were clearly aware of the situation. Why did they do nothing to stop it?

Ben had the habit of calling various family members several times a day. He never expressed any emotions or problems which would have made them think that he would commit suicide.

His father pointed out that he had a .40 Glock in a desk drawer along with ammunition. Why would he choose hanging if he had decided to kill himself?
----------------------

I won’t pretend to be an expert on Military culture or rules, but I find the entire “Integrity Class” incident strange and troubling. Perhaps I have some unrealistic and stereotypical ideas about what constitutes Army Discipline, Integrity, and Army Values, not to mention "formal class."

The video does not prove that members of this unit were responsible for Ben’s death, however I think there should have been interviews of all members and that those interviews would be available to the family -- who absolutely do not accept suicide as a cause of death.

Ben’s father described the extreme nervousness of members of the unit at Ben’s funeral, where they served as the Honor Guard.

The hyoid bone was removed at Ben’s autopsy and requests for it have been denied. The condition of the hyoid bone is useful in determining details about a hanging death.

The clothing he was wearing when found were requested unwashed so that they could be forensically analyzed, but were sent from Ft. Bliss freshly laundered and still wet.

The Army CID declared the death self-inflicted and the case was closed in 2008. Documents the family has requested have been routinely denied without reason.

Braveheart

Monday, October 12, 2009

Marines see sharp increase in suicides

By Mark Abramson, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, October 9, 2009

Recently released figures show Marines are taking their own lives at alarmingly high rates, and deployments appear to be taking a toll.

Through September, the Marines have recorded 38 confirmed or suspected suicides in 2009. Should the pace continue through the end of the year, the Marines would be facing a 20 percent increase from 2008 figures. Suicides also rose 27 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Ten suspected suicides this year remain under investigation, but those are classified as suicides because there is strong evidence to suggest that those Marines took their own lives, said Navy Cmdr. Aaron Werbel, suicide prevention program manager for the Marine Corps.

And while a recent Marine Corps report indicates that fewer than 42 percent of Marines who have committed suicide since 2001 had a deployment history, 56 of the 80 Marines who have taken their lives in the last two years have been to the war zones. That 70 percent figure is higher than Army figures for 2008, during which 61 percent of those who committed suicide were either deployed or had a deployment history.

Marine officials said they could not pinpoint an exact cause for the increase.

But, Werbel said, "A significant contributing factor is the operational tempo."

Dan Reidenberg, a psychologist and executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, or SAVE, said he believes deployments are a factor in servicemembers’ suicides.

"I think current people (in the military) have been deployed multiple times and that is creating stress," Reidenberg said. "I think it is the constant ongoing battle within as well as the battle outside those men and women (in the military) are fighting."

SAVE, a nonprofit organization based in Bloomington, Minn., was created about 20 years ago to raise awareness about suicide and to help prevent it. Reidenberg spoke to 5,000 Marines about suicide prevention at a base in North Carolina in May, he said.

The Marines are taking aim at the problem with a new top-down program called NCO Suicide Prevention Training.

The program requires Marine leaders from every base to select three noncommissioned officers to attend weeklong suicide prevention training in Quantico, Va. Navy corpsmen and other Navy personnel assigned to the Corps are included in the training.

"NCOs are being trained to look out for changes in personality, distress, and changes in sleeping patterns [to spot possible signs that a person is suicidal]," Werbel said.

"We are telling NCOs, you have to know your Marines … so you can see changes in behavior."

Those enlisted leaders will then give three days of training to NCOs at the battalion level, who will in turn give a half-day of training to all other Marine NCOs.

Taking a page from the Army suicide prevent program, the Marine training includes a video presentation. In the videos, Marines who attempted suicide and family members of those who have committed suicide share their experiences.

Other parts of the program feature people acting out various situations.

"I think it can be very effective," Reidenberg said about the Marines program.

The program should have an impact, especially with the "very real" videos in this age of technology, he said. Reidenberg also praised the Marines’ top-down approach.

The Marines started to develop the suicide prevention program before this year’s figures came to light.

"The reason we started doing it is our numbers were higher for 2008 compared to 2007," said Bryan Driver, spokesman for the Personal and Family Readiness Division at the Marines Headquarters.

The Marines will have a pretty good idea if the program is working if the suicide rate drops, Reidenberg said.

"You can’t ever say for sure that it was the program, but you can definitely say there was an impact."

Like the Marine Corps suicide prevention program, the Army videos also highlight spotting signs that indicate a person may be suicidal and situations where a soldier may have to deal with a suicidal buddy.

It also trains some soldiers to be facilitators. Facilitators may not be qualified to train other soldiers in suicide prevention, but they would learn how to talk informally to other troops about the issue, said Army spokesman Wayne Hall.

"The real important thing here is to get people talking," Hall said about the Army’s program.

In addition to programs such as NCO Suicide Prevention training, the Marines — like the Army — are addressing the issue by trying to help troops get over the stigma of seeking help.

"We are really trying to bust through that stigma. This isn’t a career-ender," Werbel said.

"The career ender could be not getting help."

Friday, October 09, 2009

September Suicide Statistics from DoD

The Army today released suicide data for the month of September. Among active-duty soldiers, there were seven potential suicides. One has been confirmed as a suicide, and six are pending determination of the manner of death. For August, the Army reported 11 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, four have been confirmed as suicides and seven remain under investigation.

There were 117 reported active-duty Army suicides from January 2009 through September 2009. Of those, 81 have been confirmed, and 36 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 103 suicides among active-duty soldiers.

During September 2009, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were seven potential suicides. Among that same group, from January 2009 through September 2009, there were 35 confirmed suicides. Twenty-five potential suicides are currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 40 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.

Over the past year, the Army has engaged in a sustained effort to reduce the rate of suicide within its ranks. This effort has included an Army-wide suicide prevention stand-down and chain teach for every soldier; the implementation of the Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention; the establishment of both a Suicide Prevention Task Force and Suicide Prevention Council; a long-term partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health to carry out the largest ever study of suicide and behavioral health among military personnel; and more than 160 specific improvements to Army suicide prevention policies, doctrine, training and resources.

"Whether it's additional resources, improved training or ensuring those in our Army community can readily identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior, all our efforts often come down to one soldier caring enough about another soldier to step in when they see something wrong, " said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, Director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "Soldiers will be willing to do that if they know help is available, if they believe there is no stigma attached to asking for that help, and if they are certain that Army leaders remain absolutely committed to the resiliency of our entire Army Family."

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647, their Web site address is http://www.militaryonesource.com.

Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil .

The Army's most current suicide prevention information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp .

--------
verbatim: Department of Defense Announcement

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Navy Report Ignores Sailor's Suicide

Youth Radio reports on the 2007 death of Chief Petty Officer, Jennifer Valdivia.

Click here to read the article.

NPR summary of the hazing/abuse case which resulted in Valdivia's suicide.

Follow-up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Army Suicide Data for August 2009

The Army released suicide data for the month of August today. Among active duty soldiers, there were 11 potential suicides, all of which are pending determination of the manner of death. In July, the Army reported no confirmed suicides and eight potential suicides among active duty soldiers. However, since the release of the July report, an additional four potential suicides have been reported, each of which is pending determination of the manner of death. As a result, for the month of July, there were 12 potential suicides. Two of those have been confirmed as suicides and ten remain under investigation.

There were 110 reported active duty Army suicides from January 2009 through August 2009. Of those, 71 have been confirmed, and 39 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 89 suicides among active duty soldiers.

During August 2009, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were six potential suicides. Among that same group, from January 2009 through August 2009, there were 20 confirmed suicides. Thirty-four potential suicides are currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 36 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.

"Effective suicide prevention programs and resources that are accessible to our soldiers and families are a crucial part of our effort, and we're making progress in these areas," said General Peter W. Chiarelli, Army Vice Chief of Staff. "We recognize that the crucial link in preventing suicides is caring, concerned, and decisive small-unit leadership. There will never be a substitute for noncommissioned officers who know their soldiers, know when a soldier is suffering, and have the moral courage to act and get that soldier the help that they need."

Since publishing the Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention on April 16, 2009, the Army has implemented numerous improvements to its suicide prevention programs. Among those improvements are Army-wide guidance for delivering health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention programs and services directly to soldiers and their families at the installation level.

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance should contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States is 1-800-342-9647, and their Web site address is http://www.militaryoncesource.com/ . Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location. The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at http://Resources@DCoEOutreach.org , and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil/ .


The Army's most current suicide prevention information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp.

--verbatim DOD bulletin

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Krakauer Explores Pat Tillman's Death And Cover-Up : NPR

Krakauer Explores Pat Tillman's Death And Cover-Up : NPR

To access the story, click here.

Listen to the Story
All Things Considered

[7 min 32 sec]

--submitted by Patti Woodard

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Corpsman pleads guilty to role in deadly game

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Sep 13, 2009 10:38:31 EDT

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A Navy corpsman pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges he pointed a loaded gun at a Marine in his unit while playing a dangerous game called “Trust.”

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Spencer Hamer, 23, was sitting in the back of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle in Iraq in November 2008 when he aimed his 9mm at Lance Cpl. Emerson Boutin and asked “Do you trust me?” The game was popular with members of their unit, 2nd section, Scout Platoon, 2nd Tank Battalion, and ultimately resulted in the death of another Marine from their battalion, military investigators say.

A military judge sentenced Hamer to two months in the brig and reduction in rank to hospitalman. During his special court-martial at Camp Lejeune, where 2nd Tanks is based, he pleaded not guilty to additional charges of dereliction of duty and failure to report.

Hamer is at least the third member of his section to be punished for playing Trust.

Lance Cpl. Patrick Malone died in Iraq on March 10, investigators say, after Cpl. Mathew Nelson allegedly shot him during a game of Trust. Nelson is expected to plea guilty Thursday to involuntary manslaughter and several counts of reckless endangerment, Marine officials say.

The Trust game was typically instigated by a noncommissioned officer who would partially insert a magazine into his M9 and pretend to rack the slide so it would appear a round was in the chamber, Marines in the unit told investigators after Malone’s death. The Marine holding the gun would then ask a junior Marine, “Do you trust me?” before either pulling the trigger or lowering the gun and clearing it.

----------------
Additional articles about this incident:

From the AP

Can deadly trust game be stopped?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs announced today the names of 14 members who will serve on the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces.

The congressionally directed task force will address trends and causal factors, methods to update prevention and education programs, suicide assessment by occupation, suicide incident investigations, and protective measures for confidential information derived from investigations for the department.

"One service member suicide is too many and DoD is taking a proactive and comprehensive approach towards prevention, with efforts to address the stigma of psychological health issues, reduce barriers to care and research best practices," said Ellen Embrey, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "The members of this task force have significant and varied experience in national suicide prevention, research, policy and clinical care that will play a critical role in guiding the Department of Defense in addressing this very serious issue."

The task force will operate within the Federal Advisory Committee Act guidelines as a subcommittee of the Defense Health Board, responsible to the Secretary of Defense, through the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Membership consists of, DoD and non-DoD experts, including at least one representative each from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and one family member with a background in working with military families.

The task force will present their findings and recommendations to the secretary of defense within twelve months. Following review by the secretary, the task force's report and recommendations will be sent to Congress.

The names and biographies of the task force members are available on the Military Health Care Web site at http://www.health.mil/dhb/subcommittees-tfpsmaf.cfm .

--verbatim Department of Defense release

Editor's Comment: May I respectfully request that the Department of Defense set up a murder prevention task force for members of the Armed Forces and a serious investigation team to make sure that suicides are not murders? That would go a long way to insure that members of the Armed Forces are not giving up their dignity as human beings and allowing themselves to be the victims of bullies and gangs within the Armed Forces.

It would also go a long way in giving comfort to the grieving families of Armed Forces' members who have been "suicided" or conveniently labeled suicides. Take the examples of Lavena Johnson or Kirk Vanderbur, where a finding of suicide was not only ludicrous, but also insulted the intelligence of those who care...

If the DOD and Congress are serious about addressing these problems, cases designated "suicide" where the families have reason to think otherwise should be reopened for serious re-investigation. Unfortunately, in many of these cases forensic evidence has been destroyed or was never properly collected in the first place.

Were I a member of the Armed Forces, this would be of great concern.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Father of soldier who committed suicide is on a quest for answers

From the El Paso Times:

'There's no way he could do what he did without being pushed to the limit'
By Ramon Bracamontes and Chris Roberts / El Paso Times
Posted: 08/31/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT


Pvt. Keiffer P. Wilhelm EL PASO -- Adrian Wilhelm, the father of a 19-year-old Fort Bliss private who killed himself four weeks ago in Iraq, is fueled by anger.

He's angry at the army. He's angry at Fort Bliss and at the 1st Armored Cavalry.

Most of all, he is enraged at the four soldiers who are charged with abusing his son, Pvt. Keiffer P. Wilhelm, through excessive physical training. It is this abuse, Adrian Wilhelm said, that probably caused his son to kill himself Aug. 4.

A Navy veteran, the elder Wilhelm said he wants to make sure nothing like this ever happens again to a U.S. soldier.

Adrian Wilhelm is publicly talking about his son, but the Army is not. And Adrian Wilhelm is trying to piece together exactly what happened in Iraq, as his son had only been there four days.

"The Army has sealed everything and stopped all communication," Wilhelm, 40, said from his home in Plymouth, Ohio. "I just can't understand what happened. I can't comprehend that these guys in a unit, as friends, go over there and beat on their own. I am fueled by anger and I'm not going to let this go."

Pvt. Wilhelm joined the Army in December and was assigned to a unit at Fort Bliss. He killed himself in southern Iraq, his father said. The army's official statement said he died of injuries from "a noncombat-related incident."

Two weeks after his death, on Aug. 20, four other Fort Bliss soldiers were charged with cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates. One of the subordinates was Keiffer Wilhelm.

Army says there is no direct evidence that the soldiers' alleged misconduct caused Wilhelm's death.
The four soldiers remain overseas and are awaiting a military hearing, which will be in Iraq. They were not arrested or detained, but were put on "present for duty" status and moved to a different base. They have been assigned military legal counsel.

Maj. Myles B. Caggins, public affairs officer for the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said no date for a hearing has been set because the Pvt. Keiffer P. Wilhelm investigation continues.

Wilhem and the four accused of abusing him were with the 2nd Battalion, 13th Cavalry Regiment. Approximately 200 soldiers were in the unit.

Adrian Wilhelm is trying to figure out why his son was targeted.

"I just don't understand how my son could be so happy one day and ready to deploy with his friends to Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers, and then this happens. It is still surprising."

Keiffer Wilhelm possessed a strong personality, his father said. Keiffer, a wrestler in high school, had survived boot camp and had lost weight.

"If he had any quirks it is that he was a nice guy and he would not stop making you laugh," Adrian Wilhelm said. "Somehow, no matter what, there was always another joke ready to come from him."

The last time Adrian Wilhelm saw Keiffer alive was on May 7 during a family wedding in Arizona. Keiffer seemed happy, excited to be deploying. He was talking about buying a car in El Paso and an iPhone, his father said.

"There's no way he could do what he did without being pushed to the limit," Adrian Wilhelm said. "There has to be a way to stop this from ever happening again."

According to the Army, suicides among soldiers are on the rise and have surpassed the suicide rates for civilians, when compared on a per capita basis. The Army confirmed 128 suicides last year and an additional 15 suspected suicides among active-duty soldiers and the National Guard.

The rate of suicides is 20.2 per 100,000 in the Army. The suicide rate for civilians is 11 per 100,000 people.

In 2008, Fort Bliss had six confirmed suicides.

One of them was Spc. Manny Zavala, 26, who hanged himself Dec. 3 at his El Paso apartment.

"He spoke in a letter he left that he had this pain and he didn't know how to take care of it and he was sorry for what he was going to do," said the soldier's mother, Rosario Zavala. Her son was a Fort Bliss combat medic who had never deployed.

Manny Zavala had talked to the Fort Bliss medical staff about his problems.

"Three months prior, he had gone to get help and they gave him tranquilizers," his mother said.

She could see his pain.

"I would say, 'Hijo, let's get some help.' But he would say 'No mom, I'm all right.'"

She thought things would be all right because her son had received a new assignment at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and was planning to live with his parents at home in Yuma.

"We fixed his room up," she said, her voice thickening with emotion. "But when he came home we had to bury him."

Army officials will only say that suicides are a problem they are trying to lessen. At Fort Campbell, Ky., all regular activity at the end of May was suspended to focus on suicide-prevention training. Fort Campbell, with 11 confirmed suicides, led the Army at that point. From January to March, the installation averaged a suicide per week.

Fort Bliss has had one confirmed suicide in 2009, officials said. Keiffer Wilhelm would be the second.

Ramon Bracamontes may be reached at rbracamontes@elpasotimes; 546-6142.

Chris Roberts may be reached at croberts@elpasotimes.com; 546-6135.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dead soldier's family reacts to Iraq cruelty probe

By MEGHAN BARR, The Associated Press | Posted: Monday, August 24, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Adrian Wilhelm learned that his son committed suicide just four days into his deployment in Iraq, he knew right away that the facts didn't add up.

His son, 19-year-old Pvt. Keiffer Wilhelm, had been excited and upbeat just weeks earlier as he prepared to ship overseas. He was planning to buy a new car. He was exercising diligently, shedding at least 20 pounds in time for boot camp.

Then, suddenly, he was dead. Now his family is struggling to process the stunning news that four of Wilhelm's fellow soldiers stand accused of abusing him and other soldiers in his platoon with excessive physical fitness and cruelty before his death.

"They just acted like they were a bunch of street hoods," Adrian Wilhelm said from his home in Plymouth, Ohio. "They thought they were above the law."

The soldiers have been charged with cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates, among other charges. The military says there is no direct evidence that the soldiers' alleged misconduct caused Wilhelm's death, which remains under investigation.

Wilhelm died Aug. 4 of a gunshot wound to the head in Maysan province in southern Iraq. His unit is part of the first brigade to deploy to Iraq for the new U.S. mission to train Iraqi security forces.

"There's no way he could do what he did without being pushed to the limit," Adrian Wilhelm said.

In recent days, Wilhelm's family has watched as unconfirmed reports of the abuse leaked out in the media. Adrian Wilhelm says he's read that his son was forced to crawl in the dirt until his legs bled, and that he was harassed about his weight.

"We found all that out on the news," he said. "That was information that no one truly knew."

A portrait of a young, idealistic soldier devoted to the Army began to emerge from interviews with family and friends in the small northern Ohio town where Wilhelm grew up. A high school wrestler who battled weight issues, Wilhelm worked hard to get in shape before his deployment, said Linda Walker, a close family friend who encouraged him to enlist in the Army in December.

"Keiffer was the most non-threatening person you would ever want to meet," she said. "I just don't think he was ready for the brutality from his own troops."

Wilhelm had a boisterous laugh and was affectionate with everyone, his father said.

"He always gave everyone hugs, that was his thing," his father said. "He'd squeeze you until your back cracked. He'd pick you up off the ground."

The last time Adrian Wilhelm saw Keiffer alive was in early May, when the family gathered in Arizona for the wedding of his eldest son. He seemed happy, excited to begin a new chapter of his life, his father said.

The military identified the four accused soldiers as Sgt. Enoch Chatman, Staff Sgt. Bob Clements, Sgt. Jarrett Taylor and Spc. Daniel Weber of B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 13th Calvary Regiment from Fort Bliss, Texas.

Chatman, of West Covina, Calif., was charged with four counts of cruelty and maltreatment, one count of making a false statement and one count of reckless endangerment.

Clements, of Eastland, Texas, faces four counts of cruelty and maltreatment, three counts of making a false statement, one count of impeding an investigation and one count of reckless endangerment.

Taylor, of Edmond, Okla., was charged with two counts of cruelty and maltreatment, one count of making false statement and one count of reckless endangerment.

Weber, of Frankenmuth, Mich., has been charged with three counts of cruelty and maltreatment, one count of reckless endangerment and one count of impeding an investigation.

The allegations of abuse prompted the family to go public about what happened to their son, Adrian Wilhelm said.

"I felt like I couldn't protect him over there," he said. "I at least want to try and make things right here for him, somehow."

--submitted by Lois Vanderbur