May 22-24, 2009
Falling Through the Cracks of the Army's Duty of Care
By TED NEWCOMEN
It was just another tragic headline in a Florida newspaper, "Area woman killed in Iraq – Father confirms his daughter is third casualty in past three months". The article went on to describe how Army SPC Oprah Nestling, aged 24, (for reasons of confidentiality - not her real name or age), had been killed in combat overseas in January 2006. She was the third service member from the newspaper’s catchment area to become a fatality in as many months. No details were provided by the Department of Defense and her father declined to make any further comment.
Nestling’s name also briefly appeared as one of sixty-two service fatalities listed during the month of January 2006 on the website of the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (www.icasualty.org), along with the names of a number of marines who had been killed in the same IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack.
However, a few days later her name was removed from the casualty list altogether and no further information appeared in the local paper. In the months that followed there was desultory 'chatter' on the internet speculating that there had been some sort of army cover-up. At the time lurid rumors were widespread about unexplained deaths of female military personnel both overseas and on bases in the US. Further investigation revealed that SPC Nestling had not been killed on active service in Iraq but was supposedly found slumped dead on the floor of a barrack room (not her own) at Ft.Bragg, North Carolina.
Delay & obfuscation by military authorities
Fast forward a year and a half and the Army was still refusing to make available any information about Nestling’s death following requests submitted thru the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The reason given was that an active investigation of the case was still in progress.
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