Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Family angered by Marine's overdose death at naval hospital


Lance Cpl. Ezequiel Freire got out of Afghanistan alive, but a stateside hospital stay proved fatal.

The 20-year-old Marine's death from a prescription drug overdose at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center has left his family reeling, outraged and frustrated by what they see as an absence of accountability for those charged with his care.

Freire died of a toxic cocktail of powerful narcotics and sedatives as he was awaiting chemotherapy treatment for cancer. The case underscores the dangers inherent in the many potent painkillers on the market today, which have helped drive an alarming rise in overdoses.

Overdose deaths from prescription drugs now exceed those from illegal drugs.

The Freire case also leaves unanswered the question of what, if any, consequences there were for the doctors involved in his care.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Justin Haase Memorial

Dear Military People and Nonmilitary People:

What you are about to read is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, your family and any future person who is to ever join the military. I will try to keep this short, but must explain some things first so you know this is not a farce.

My name is Renee Thurlow. My husband is in the military and in October 2001 our son joined the USMC. Our son never finished. He died a horrible death in boot camp on December 23, 2001. We are NOT placing blame on the institution. We need a strong military. We need one with honorable people in it. That is why we are trying to make it a safer place. Through these last two years we have found that many military people and people in general are under the misconception of being able to sue the government and not being able to sue the government.

I am going to pass on what we have learned. There are thousands of others out there like us who have lost children going to serve this country and the government gives us no help. They fill everything full of lies and cover-ups. We are not taking this sitting down. I am not some freaked out mother who cannot deal with the loss of her son. I am a PROUD mother and wife of two of my guys who serve/served this country like you do.

This could happen to you or one day if your child or grandchild goes off into the military it could happen to them.  Those in our government will NOT help you. THIS IS ABOUT THE Feres doctrine.  IT IS A DOCTRINE THAT PREVENTS ANY MILITARY MEMBER FROM SUING THE GOVERNMENT not for simple negligence but for intentional, deliberate or grossly negligent acts.

If you go to a military hospital and they cut off the wrong foot, oh well! Tough is what you will be told basically. Many of us have been busting our humps trying to change this. We KNOW if there were an ACCOUNTABILITY factor there would be almost no deaths due to pure grossly negligent or criminal negligence.  Unfortunately, the only way to hold someone accountable for their individual wrongful acts if the government will not is through petitioning the federal court for redress of wrong.  All of us who have lost a child would rather have our children back, but that is not going to happen.  Many people out there have their children living with them because they were not taken care of medically (in a proper manner) in the military hospitals and these children cannot function on their own.  This could one day be you or someone you know. We have the greatest chance coming up to change this forever.

WE CANNOT do it without the entire United States joining us!

NO Senator as of this date has stepped forth to stop the abuses under the Feres doctrine!  This is unsatisfactory and they have their cushy jobs because of men and women who serve this country and they will not lift a finger to help protect you!

We want them to recognize that fact and care enough to make things safer for those serving this country. It is only right!  It could happen to your child.

Justin's story has been featured in People magazine December 15, 2003, issue and NBC Dateline is on the agenda.  The problem of Americans dying due to the gross negligence and or wrongful acts and omissions of federal employees in our military is alarming!  Since Justin died I know of at least 6 other deaths in boot camp alone and this does NOT include the ones who died at Camp Pendleton

 from Meningitis.

This is obscene that these kids are dying needlessly!

This is not just for those of us who have lost kids. It concerns the VA and the people who have served and have been thrown to the side. This is NOT a joke.

Just a FEW minutes of your time can help prevent the possibility of you or someone you love dying needlessly. Your voice can aid in changing the fact that abuses that are happening right here in our own country to our own men and women go unanswered and without any accountability to those who inflicted the injustice.

Our prayers and thanks go out to ALL of the military men and women who serve this country and to the families who know the deepest meaning of sacrifice and support.

Our prayers and thanks go to those who have been lost on the battlefield and to their families who know the truest meaning of loss.

Our prayers and hearts go to those especially who have been robbed of their family member through the abuses caused by an institution that promotes honor as one of their first attributes.

This is for you son - every tear and every heartbeat.
I love you with all of my heart.
"Until we meet at HIS feet."



Renee Thurlow

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rape Rampant in US Military

Statistics and soldiers' testimonies reveal a harrowing epidemic of sexual assault in the US military.

by Dahr Jamail

Sexual assault within the ranks of the military is not a new problem. It is a systemic problem that has necessitated that the military conduct its own annual reporting on the crisis.

read the entire story by clicking here.

This report includes the problem of the rapes of male military members, which, numerically, is even greater than the rapes of female military members.

Additional news stories on the subject:

Rape Victims Ask, Military Won't Tell on Assaults: Ann Woolner

Rise in Sexual Harassment at Military Academies

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mother of One Dead Soldier Suspects Sex Assault

Monday, December 20, 2010
At least 20 female soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in "noncombat" circumstances that their families find mysterious. The mother of one talks here about why she thinks sexual violence--not suicide--was her daughter's real killer.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Army Releases November Suicide Data

             The Army released suicide data today for the month of November.  Among active-duty soldiers, there were 11 potential suicides:  none have been confirmed as suicides, and 11 remain under investigation.  For October, the Army reported nine potential suicides among active-duty soldiers.  Since the release of that report, two have been confirmed as suicides, and seven remain under investigation.

             During November 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were five potential suicides:  none have been confirmed as suicides, and all five remain under investigation.  For October, among that same group, there were 17 potential suicides.  Of those, six were confirmed as suicides and 11 are pending determination of the manner of death.

             "The holiday season is a special time of year, as family and friends gather together and experience the activities, excitement and joy these celebrations offer.  Members of the Army family should recognize that it's easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed and even anxious.  For some, the holidays bring stress, angst and feelings of depression," said Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director, Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Task Force.

             "Coping with loneliness, deployment or the absence of friends or relatives can be upsetting and especially painful during the holiday season.  Leaders and first-line supervisors should be aware of the risk factors and be on the lookout for changes in the behavior of those around them and recognize that those who need care and support are typically the least likely to seek assistance. We must continue to watch out for each other and be aware of the potential risk factors and warning signs. Our battle buddies, families, friends and co-workers need our support and understanding. Don't be afraid to get involved.  Use the ACE (Ask-Care-Escort) model to provide assistance.  A visit or even a phone call can make an enormous difference," Philbrick said.

             Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK               1-800-273-TALK      (8255) or by visiting their website at .

             The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at .

               Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at .

             Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

             Information about Military OneSource is located at or by dialing the toll-free number:  1-800-342-9647 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-800-342-9647      end_of_the_skype_highlighting for those residing in the continental U.S.  Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource website for dialing instructions for their specific location.
             Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at .
             The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-866-966-1020      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, via electronic mail at and at .

             The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at .

             The website for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is and they can be reached at 1-800-959-TAPS1-800-959-TAPS     (8277).

Source:  DOD Announcement, verbatim

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Port St. Lucie academy leader starts award for non-combat military deaths

PORT ST. LUCIE — After last year's Memorial Day service, Col. Alan Weierman learned a local soldier killed by a peer at Fort Hood was not represented among the crosses erected to honor fallen servicemen and women.
Students, working from a list provided by Weierman, commanding officer of the Southeastern Military Academy in Port St. Lucie, placed the crosses draped with dog tags. Lt. Robert Fletcher, son of Ginny and Jack Luther of Jensen Beach, was not on that list because he had not been killed in combat by the enemy.
When that information was brought to his attention, Weierman decided to do something about it.

Read all about it by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Case of Sgt. Patrick Rust

Sgt. Patrick Rust was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division headquartered at Fort Drum, New York. He picked up a rifle and defended our way of life against the terrorists who want to destroy it. He was our soldier, his mom and dad's son, our friend and neighbor, central New York's very own defender. He survived deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, only to die mysteriously right here in his own country, not far from where he was born.

Patrick went missing from a bar - ironically named Clueless - in Watertown, New York on March 16, 2007. Six months later his remains were found in a farmer's field over seven miles from the bar and the apartment he was staying at in Watertown. It is unknown how he got to that location. He didn't have a car and it's doubtful he'd have walked there on a cold March night. He wasn't robbed and his remains showed no trauma. His cause and manner of death remain undetermined.

So what happened to Patrick Rust, our soldier, our son, our friend and neighbor? Did you see him that night? Do you know where he went after leaving the Clueless and who with? Do you know how he got to that farmer's field? Do you know somebody who does know?  

Please central New Yorkers, help us find out what happened to Patrick. He went to battle for us. Now we need to explain to his family how he died. They deserve answers. Don't we owe them that much?

Bill Sullivan, Forensic Consulting Specialties
Denny Griffin, Investigator

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Soldier killed by US friendly fire was a New Zealander in British army

A paratrooper killed when an American fighter fired on friendly forces in Afghanistan was a New Zealander serving with British forces.

 Private John 'Jack' Howard was serving with 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment in Nad 'Ali

7:00AM GMT 07 Dec 2010
He has been named as Private John "Jack" Howard, from Wellington.
It is understood Private Howard was hit by cannon fire from the American F18 jet during a firefight with the Taliban in poor weather conditions.
The troops from the specialist Brigade Reconnaissance Force called in close air support after they came under small arms fire from an insurgent ambush five miles west of the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

Friday, December 03, 2010

AOC Thomas R. Traylor, USN

The death anniversary of my late husband, AOC THOMAS R. TRAYLOR, USN,  is 03 December, he died in 1998, 11 years ago while on active duty at Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, CA – again another bogus suicide.   I will never give up until I get the truth.  Charolette

You can read his story by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Ft. Bragg Soldiers Charged With Killing Comrade In Iraq

Two Fort Bragg soldiers have been charged with fatally stabbing a combat medic while stationed in Iraq.
Spc. Nicholas Bailey and Spc. Tyler Cain are accused of stabbing Spc. Morganne McBeth on July 2, 2010.
Officials say McBeth died from a stab wound to the chest. In the original press release announcing the 19-year-old's death, DOD officials say she died as the result of a non combat incident that occured on July 1.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sgt. Thomas J. Sweet II

Sgt. Thomas J. Sweet II

Today is the Anniversary of Sgt. Sweet's Non-combat Death.  We extend our sympathy and empathy to his family.

You can read his story by clicking here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

101st Airborne soldier's death baffles dad

Staff Sgt. David Senft, 27, was found Nov. 15 in an SUV inside Kandahar Airfield with a single gunshot wound to the head.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Cover-Up Alleged In Probe Of Army Death (Armenia)

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Army Releases October Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of October. Among active-duty soldiers, there were nine potential suicides: two have been confirmed as suicides, and seven remain under investigation. For September, the Army reported 19 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, six have been confirmed as suicides, and 13 remain under investigation.

During October 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 16 potential suicides. For September, among that same group, there were 10 total suicides. Of those, four were confirmed as suicides and six are pending determination of the manner of death.

"Army efforts continue to focus on individuals who engage in high-risk behavior. Risk within the force cannot be mitigated by suicide prevention programs alone. Army leaders at every level have an enormous influence on helping to eliminate the stigma surrounding seeking behavioral health assistance, reducing high-risk behavior and reducing our unacceptable casualty rates," said Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director of the Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Task Force.

"Through the coordinated efforts of leaders, medical professionals, chaplains, families and other members of the Army team, we can provide holistic care for those who seek help, while acting positively to reduce the high-risk population," Philbrick said.

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at

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, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United. States. is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at

Suicide prevention training resources for Army Families can be accessed at Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

Suicide Prevention Resource Council:

Source: DoD Announcement, verbatim

Friday, November 12, 2010


Military now says area soldier who died in Iraq in July was murdered

Date published: 11/12/2010
By Rusty Dennen

The July death in Iraq of a decorated Army medic from the Fredericksburg area was murder, her parents say they have been told by military investigators.

The Army initially reported that Spc. Morganne McBeth, 19, a combat medic, died July 2 in a noncombat incident.

Read the whole story by clicking here.
Another story and video -- click here.

Monday, November 01, 2010

We Are the Flies in the Ointment -- Buzz On, Families, Buzz On!

The families of those fallen in non-combat deaths have gotten together in common cause several times in recent history.  We at Home of the Brave are the direct descendants of Until We Have Answers and MAMMA.  (See our website: for some history on this.) 

It is always a pesky development when actual citizens get together to fight against the lies told by our very own government or to fight for the release of information which is somehow deemed to be the property of the government which we help fund with our tax payments.  I think that mothers and fathers, especially, find this attitude totally unacceptable when it comes to the children which we have borne and raised.  You really shouldn't underestimate our tenacity and determination.  We have the right to know the truth.

Since I've just read a book titled, A Chain of Events: The Government Cover-up of the Black Hawk Incident and the Friendly-Fire Death of Lt. Laura Piper, written by her mother, Joan L. Piper, I'd like to fill in some of the history of Families rallying for a common cause around non-combat deaths. 

The Black Hawk Family group formed in 1994 and existed for several years after.  It formed as a result of a "friendly fire" incident in which two US Black Hawk Helicopters flying over Iraq were blown up with missiles launched by two US F-15 fighter jets in a truly unexplainable event.  Twenty-six people were killed, fifteen of them Americans.  No guilt was ever assigned in a military court system. 

As usual, the incident wasn't clearly reported as "friendly fire" until it was impossible to suppress the information.  There were military and civilian persons aboard the helicopters from England, France, and Turkey.  They were on their way to a meeting in Turkey with the full knowledge of US Military Air Surveillance.  The foreign governments were outspoken in their condemnation of this senseless attack.  Eventually, the Pentagon gave the families of those foreign nationals monetary compensation to quiet them down. 

Monetary compensation was eventually given to the American victims as well through the efforts of the family group.  That forced official recognition of the wrongful deaths of fifteen American military personnel. 

They also fought for purple hearts posthumously and eventually got them.  The battle was hard-fought, however, in order to accomplish this.  The government argued that the victims were not killed in battle and so did not qualify.  The families argued that they were over a battle zone and certainly in danger when the Air Force pilots decided to strike at helicopters which they did not properly identify.  Ironically, if the Pentagon had managed to cover-up the truth and the attack was believed to have been an enemy attack, purple hearts would have been automatically awarded.

Add the fact that helicopters flying slowly and low to the ground in the No Fly Zone of any nation posed little threat to other planes flying at much higher altitudes.

The Black Hawk families acted as their own detectives, eked out hidden information about the personnel involved in the attack and about mistakes made by many which added to this tragedy.  They had letter writing campaigns to obtain help from their elected representatives.  They managed to get some public admissions of culpability although, in the end, according to Joan Piper, the Pentagon managed to keep high ranking officers from honoring subpoenas served by the Government Accountability Office which would have brought the culpability out in the open and forced legal accountability.

It was an "almost" victory from the families, who, of course would never be the same again after the deaths of their loved ones.

Nevertheless, their fight yielded results which could be produced only by a group effort.  They did not shy away from the controversy and did not accept lies in lieu of sad truths. 

I find inspiration from reading the story of this group of families and I hope that those of you out there in America who find yourselves fighting a similar battle will be similarly inspired.  Keep up the good fight.
Donna Janeczko

Our View:  Army Owes Family Some Clear Answers

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fort Drum soldier gets up to life for stabbing

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — A Fort Drum soldier who admitted stabbing two Army buddies to death at their apartment near their military post was sentenced Friday to 45 years to life in prison.

Spc. Joshua Hunter pleaded guilty last month to killing Waide James, 20, of Cocoa, Fla., and Diego Valbuena, 23, of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., in November at the duplex the three men shared near Fort Drum's main entrance.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Leaks Provide More Information about non-combat deaths

Leaked papers detail local war losses

The scene after a deadly attack on a Stryker left little hope that anyone would emerge from the obliterated infantry carrier

Read more:

More specific non-combat cases:  click here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Counting US Non-combat Deaths

Our website, Home of the Brave, at includes over 1,150 listings of military personnel killed from causes other than by enemy induced deaths in battle.  We have attempted to place each of these deaths into one of the following categories: 
·        Accident, including vehicle, helicopter, electrocution, etc.
·        Friendly Fire
·        Homicide
·        Natural causes, including illness, heat stroke, etc.
·        Self-inflicted, including suicide and presumed suicide
·        Under investigation
·        Generic “non-combat cause”
·        Non-hostile gunshot wound; non-combat weapons discharge
·        Overdose
There are many problems involved in creating and keeping such a list accurately.  The majority of the listings come from the official Department of Defense death announcements which come out shortly after the deaths occur.  We rely, initially, on the cause of death listed in these announcements as “non-combat related” or some similar designation.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these official announcements leave the cause as the generic “non-combat cause” and most are also stated to be “Under investigation.”  The DoD does not officially update their announcements once these investigations are completed, so it is a large task to go back to each listing looking for updates in the press in order to place them into a proper category.  I’ve spent a lot of time doing this, slowly updating causes of death and trying to make sure the sources are accurate.  In the past year or so, every single Marine death is announced as “died during combat operations”, which obviously skirts the cause of death.
I am quite aware that these listings are not all inclusive.  I often come across media reports of the deaths of active duty military personnel on domestic military bases or off-base which are carried only in the local media outlets.  These are added to the listings as I come across them.  Occasionally, there are wonderful people who email me listings to add or corrections of the existing lists.
Sometimes, like right now, I read books which enlighten me with historical accounts of battles in which long lists of friendly fire deaths are revealed.  I am reading Where Men Win Glory, by Jon Krakauer, a book ostensibly about Pat Tillman’s death by “friendly fire”, but packed with well-researched and documented accounts of the first days of the Iraq invasion.   I do not know why I have not been made aware of the large number of total screw ups from the day on which Jessica Lynch’s convoy mistakenly took a wrong turn to Nasiriyah prior to the first day of battle on March 23, 2003, when 29 Marines and other military personnel were killed – the majority by the horribly named, “friendly fire.” ( It would seem that we Americans are so self-reliant that we don’t need no stinkin’ enemy – we are perfectly capable of killing our own.)
The relationship of this knowledge with the problem of counting has directly to do with the misinformation fed to the media by our own government.  Initial reports of these battles, even a year later when the complete investigation was done, assigned none of the deaths to friendly fire, and yet troops on the ground were actually bombed by US planes and helicopters.  The fact that those killed were engaged in what they thought was battle with the enemy adds to the confusion in categorization.  Typically, both cockpit videotapes were mysteriously “lost” shortly after they were reviewed by officials.
An alternate story, which can still be found on some entries at the Washington Post site listing casualties is “Ambushed in Nasiriyah by Iraqi soldiers who pretended to surrender, then opened fire when the Marines approached.”  This, also, has been proven to be a fabrication.  These soldiers were also most likely killed by friendly fire.  A relatively small number of US Marines were actually killed by Iraqis on March 23, 2003.
I would remind the reader of the preposterous stories fed to the press about the Jessica Lynch “rescue” from an Iraqi hospital where she was reported to have been not only shot while shooting back, but also raped and tortured.  By now, all should be aware that this was a total fabrication.  Her own testimony in one of the Tillman hearings confirms that her weapon was jammed and that she did not fire a single round.  She was well treated in an Iraqi hospital and there was little resistance when US troops came for her.  Nevertheless, video was produced which would lead one to believe that this was a dangerous mission.
Then, there is the cover up of Pat Tillman’s death, with the various politically advantageous tall tales told before the Army was finally forced to admit that he was killed by members of his own platoon.  To this date, his family is still trying to get the whole truth.
The 1994 “friendly fire” attack of a Black Hawk Helicopter flying over Iraq killed Lt. Laura Piper and 25 other people.  Her mother has written a book, A Chain of Events, which exposes the cover up of the incident by the US Air Force.
Since my own son’s death included one of these totally fabricated stories by unnamed Military sources, this pattern of deception by our own government is particularly disturbing to me.
Still, the American public believes what it wants to believe, despite massive evidence proving that we are being lied to on a regular basis about how our military members are killed.
So, I am now confirming the names and causes of death of the military personnel named in Krakauer’s book.  There were also names and descriptions of soldiers killed in non-combat death situations in the book Black Hearts, by Jim Frederick which await confirmation and addition to our lists.  I am likely to come across other sources.
Homicides within the military have only recently begun to be reported publicly.  Suicides, which may in fact be murders staged to look like suicides, are usually not properly investigated, so although families dispute the official cause of death frequently, there is no way of accurately counting suicides vs. homicides in a military setting.
One of the additional problems with keeping this list, is that families are sometimes convinced that a non-combat death is somehow less honorable than a combat death.  I’ve heard people say that they wish their loved one had been killed in combat…  So, some causes of death are purposely not revealed for that reason.
We will probably never know the accurate, comprehensive number of non-combat deaths in the current conflicts, let alone domestically.  Our lists are only an attempt to get an idea of just how many of our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen are killed in non-combat incidents while on active duty.  There are others who have begun to investigate similar deaths occurring shortly after discharge from the military services which are coming up with alarming numbers.
Donna Janeczko 

Army Releases September Suicide Data

            The Army released suicide data today for the month of September.  Among active-duty soldiers, there were 18 potential suicides:  none have been confirmed as suicides, and all 18 remain under investigation.  For August, the Army reported 13 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers.  Since the release of that report, seven have been confirmed as suicides, and six remain under investigation.

            During September 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were eight potential suicides.  For August, among that same group, there were 11 total suicides.  Of those, four were confirmed as suicides and seven are pending determination of the manner of death.

           To read the entire Department of Defense release, click here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

War’s Hidden Death Toll: After Service, Veteran Deaths & Suicides Surge

Link to the article in The New York Times Click here

Combat Stress Driving Up Army Crime, Drug Abuse, Suicides

by David Wood
Chief Military Correspondent
Politics Daily

The U.S. Army, under the accumulating stress of nine years at war, is suffering an alarming spurt of drug abuse, crime and suicide that is going unchecked, according to an internal study that depicts an Army in crisis.

A small but growing number of soldiers who perform credibly in combat turn to high-risk behavior, including drug abuse, drunken driving, motorcycle street-racing, petty crime and domestic violence, once they return home.

As a result, more soldiers are dying by drug overdose, accident, murder and suicide than in combat. Suicide is now the third-leading cause of death for soldiers.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

--submitted by Bonnie Palecco

Friday, October 15, 2010

Seven Arrested In Army Death Inquiry

Irina Hovannisian

One officer and six soldiers have been arrested in connection with the latest non-combat death in the Armenian army ranks, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

A ministry statement said they are suspected of systematically beating and humiliating Samvel Khachatrian, a 18-year-old army conscript who was founded hanged in the basement of his military unit on October 3. It added that they are facing criminal charges that carry between three and eight years’ imprisonment.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Are We Giving Our Soldiers Drugs That May Make Them Kill Themselves?

More soldiers than ever are on drugs that have been linked to suicide and violent behavior.
In 2009 there were 160 active duty suicides, 239 suicides within the total Army including the Reserves, 146 active duty deaths from drug overdoses and high risk behavior and 1,713 suicide attempts. In addition to suicide, other out-of-character behavior like domestic violence is known to erupt from the drugs.
Read the entire story by clicking here.

--submitted by Lois Vanderbur

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Soldier Suicides And The Dumbing Down Of Military Mental Health Care

by Scott Mendelson, M.D.

Another sad story in the press. There have been four more suicides at Fort Hood, Texas. Military suicide numbers keep climbing. The rates of depression, PTSD and suicide are reaching startling proportions among soldiers and veterans. New programs begun by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration are said to be designed to expand mental health care, and to make it more effective, palatable, and accessible to soldiers and veterans. They don't. As a psychiatrist employed by the VA who sees these broken soldiers on a daily basis, I find it infuriating and heartbreaking.

The new Mental Health programs, referred to by the Department of Defense as the acronym RESPECT-mil, and by the Veterans Administration as TIDES, are based on the Hamburger Helper model of health care. That is, if real care is too expensive, then dilute it with cheap care, fluff it up, advertise it well and make it look there is more there than there actually is. This brilliant new idea of the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense is intended to direct the psychiatric care of patients away from the people actually trained to provide this care, i.e., psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and psychiatric nurse practitioners, and to place their care in the hands of less expensive people with weeks rather than years of training in mental health. This perspective includes the notion that mental health care is best provided away from stigma in the primary care setting, and that soldiers can be managed by primary care doctors helped by nurses with eight weekends of training to become what are called, "Champions."

To read the rest of the story, click here.
Source: The Huffington Post

Monday, October 04, 2010

Former San Antonio XO opts for court-martial

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Oct 1, 2010 10:00:38 EDT

NORFOLK, Va. — The former second-in-command aboard a Norfolk-based amphibious transport dock ship is seeking a court-martial on a charge he was negligent in the death of a sailor.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that an attorney for Lt. Cmdr. Sean D. Kearns has signaled his intention to put on trial a problem-plagued ship for the Feb. 4, 2009, death.

The $1.8 billion San Antonio was in the Gulf of Aden when three sailors fell into the water off the coast of Africa while an inflatable vessel was being lowered from the ship. Two sailors were rescued, but the body of a 34-year-old engineman first class was never found.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Joint Chiefs chairman warns of rise in military suicides

By Bryan Bender
Globe Staff / September 30, 2010

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top military officer said yesterday that he expects suicides by service members, already alarmingly high, and other family crises to increase in the coming months as large numbers of troops return to their bases after years of multiple deployments.

“I think we are going to see a significant increase in the challenges that we have in terms of our families,’’ Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

To read the rest of the story, click here.
--submitted by Dominic Baragona

Thursday, September 30, 2010

National Guard and Reserve suicide rates climbing

McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- Suicides among Army and Air National Guard and Reserve troops have spiked this year, and the military is at a loss to explain why.

Sixty-five members of the Guard and Reserve took their own lives during the first six months of 2010, compared with 42 for the same period in 2009. The grim tally is further evidence that suicides continue to plague the military even though it's stepped up prevention efforts through counseling and mental health awareness programs.

"Suicides among military personnel and veterans are at an epidemic rate, and it's getting worse," said Tim Embree, a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq and is now a legislative associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group.

The Army recently announced that 32 soldiers, including 11 in the Guard and Reserve, took their own lives in June, a rate of one a day and a level not seen since the Vietnam War, according to the military.

Seven of the suicides occurred in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The worrisome trend is reflected in Missouri, where the state Army and Air National Guards have suffered six suicides so far this year, their highest total in a decade.

They account for nearly a quarter of the 27 suicides experienced since the Missouri Guard started keeping records in 2001.

"We're all devastated," said Col. Gary Gilmore, joint force chaplain for the Missouri Guard. "From their battle buddy right next to them all the way up the chain, each one has a tremendous personal impact and sense of loss."

Read more.

-- submitted by Patti Woodard

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rash of Suicides at Ft. Hood

FORT HOOD - Fort Hood officials are investigating a rash of suicides in recent days, including the apparent murder-suicide of a soldier and his wife.

The incidents come as the central Texas Army post reports a record number of soldiers taking their own lives. According to figures released Tuesday, 14 suicides and six more suspected suicides have been reported so far this year among soldiers stationed at Fort Hood. Fort Hood reported 11 suicides in all of 2009.

"It is frustrating that so many Fort Hood Soldiers have decided to take their own lives," Maj. Gen. William Grimsley, Fort Hood senior commander, said. "Leaders at all levels remain deeply concerned about this trend and are looking for innovative ways to better support Soldiers and their families to reverse this pattern. Too many of our Soldiers are seeking a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

To read the rest of the story, click here.
--submitted by Perry Monroe

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

US Soldier Held In Iraq Over Colleagues' Deaths

(RTTNews) - A U.S. soldier has been detained in connection with the death of two of his colleagues in a non-combat shooting incident in Iraq last week, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

According to the U.S. military command in Baghdad, Spc. Neftaly Platero is currently under "pre-trial confinement" in connection with the deaths of his comrades in a shooting incident that took place last Thursday in Fallujah, some 40 miles west of the Iraqi capital.

The killed soldiers were identified as Spc. John Carrillo Jr., 20, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Gebrah P. Noonan, 26, of Watertown, Connecticut. Both died on Friday due to injuries sustained in the shooting incident.

To read the entire story, click here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Family wants GI’s suicide re-examined

By Jerry Mitchell - The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger
Posted : Sunday Sep 19, 2010 14:22:59 EDT

JACKSON, Miss. — Jared Hillman had been back from Iraq only a few weeks when his family found him dead in the woods, a .40-caliber pistol still in his hands.

Authorities chalked up the death on Aug. 9, 2009, of this 23-year-old Army specialist in Hickory as one of 309 military suicides last year.

But the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is now investigating whether foul play was involved.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Soldier's father: Army was warned of murder plot

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 9, 2010; 8:02 PM

SEATTLE -- The father of a U.S. soldier serving in Afghanistan says he tried nearly a half dozen times to pass an urgent message from his son to the Army: Troops in his unit had murdered an Afghan civilian, planned more killings and threatened him to keep quiet about it.

By the time officials arrested suspects months later, two more Afghans were dead.

And much to Christopher Winfield's horror, his son Adam was among the five Fort Lewis-based soldiers charged in the killings.

Read the entire story in The Washington Post by clicking here.

Editor's note: I can confirm that some of us parents have had similar experiences with the DOD Hotline and CIC as those related in the body of the article.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Army Releases August Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of August 2010. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 13 potential suicides: none have been confirmed as suicides, and all 13 remain under investigation. For July, the Army reported 12 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, five have been confirmed as suicides, and seven remain under investigation.

During August, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 10 potential suicides. For July, among that same group, there were 16 total suicides. Of those, eight were confirmed as suicides and eight are pending determination of the manner of death.

"With the release of the Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Report in July, the Army has transitioned suicide prevention efforts to the Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Council and Task Force. These two elements will help analyze, shape and implement the more than 240 additional changes to Army policy, procedure and processes recommended in the report," said Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director of the Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Council and Task Force.

"Our efforts continue to evolve as we learn more about the multiple factors contributing to suicides and high-risk behavior within our Army family. The end state remains the ability to provide our soldiers, civilians and families with the quality care and support they need and deserve," Philbrick said.

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, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is . Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at .

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at .

Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

The DCoE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at .

Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at .

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: .

Suicide Prevention Resource Council: .

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Soldier who Killed Herself After Refusing to Take Part in Torture

by Greg Mitchell in the Huffington Post

With each revelation, or court decision, on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo -- or the airing this month of The Tillman Story and Lawrence Wright's My Trip to Al-Qaeda -- I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who died seven years ago today. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what most would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, on September 15, 2003.

Read the story by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Drum soldier admits killing 2 roommates

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — A Fort Drum military policeman admitted stabbing to death two Army buddies at their apartment near the northern New York military post and will be sentenced to 45 years to life in prison.

To read the story, click here.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

US Soldiers 'Killed Afghan Civilians for Sport and Collected Fingers as Trophies'

Published on Thursday, September 9, 2010 by The Guardian/UK
Soldiers face charges over secret 'kill team' which allegedly murdered at random and collected fingers as trophies of war
by Chris McGreal

Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

To read the entire story, click here.
Editor's note: I've reprinted this story for those who find it hard to believe that soldiers are capable of murder and for those who find it hard to believe that soldiers would beat up (and possibly murder) another soldier who has reported wrongdoing. My own son was killed after being beaten up and harassed repeatedly for reporting illegal activity in the Army. The cover up in his case continues. This story allows the light of day to shine in on this rotten little secret kept by the Military Services for some twisted reason.

Rx for Death: Troop Deaths Soar with Prescriptions for War Wounded

Source: The Military Times
By Andrew Tilghman and Brendan McGarry - Staff writers
Posted : Tuesday Sep 7, 2010 15:57:18 EDT

It happens on average once every five days — an active-duty service member is found dead from an accidental drug or alcohol overdose.

And the number has roughly tripled since 2001, a Military Times investigation has found.

The fatalities, mostly involving prescription medications, come at a time when military prescription drug use is soaring. Many troops are taking multiple drugs simultaneously. Orders for common pain and psychiatric medications nearly doubled from 2001 through 2009, according to Defense Logistics Agency data. And the Army on July 29 reported that the amount of stimulants prescribed to soldiers more than doubled from fiscal 2006 through 2009.

Death records show the military reported at least 68 accidental drug deaths in 2009, up from 24 in 2001. In total, at least 430 troops have died from drug use — or, in a small number of cases, alcohol use - during the past decade.

Read the story by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Armenia: Army Non-Combat Deaths Prompt Calls for Reform

September 7, 2010 - 2:55pm, by Gayane Abrahamyan

After the deaths of seven soldiers this summer in non-combat-related shootings, public pressure for reform is coming to bear on one of Armenia’s most closed institutions -- its armed forces.

Reports of physical abuse and suicides in the Armenian army are not new. Such incidents are in part connected to a tradition of hazing, known as dedovshchina, which was practiced in the Soviet Army before Armenia regained independence in 1991. But Armenia’s army in the past month-and-a-half has undergone a greater number of non-combat-related shooting deaths than at any time since the Soviet Union’s collapse. The shootings have focused public attention on the military abuse issue.

On July 28, a conscript stationed in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh shot dead two lieutenants and three privates before killing himself. Less than a month later, on August 17, the process repeated itself when 26-year-old Junior Sergeant Haroutiun Vardanian shot dead a fellow non-commissioned officer, 44-year-old Junior Sergeant Arsen Chobanian. Vardanian was arrested and charged with premeditated murder.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

First US "Non-combat" Troops Killed in Combat Since "End of Combat Operations" Declared in Iraq

Published on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 by Agence France Presse

Two US troops gunned down by Iraqi comrade after sports row

BAGHDAD – Two American soldiers were killed on Tuesday when an Iraqi army comrade opened fire after an argument over a sports match, the first US deaths since Washington declared an end to combat operations here.

The shooting, which also left nine American soldiers wounded, happened at the Iraq's Al-Saadiq Air Base near the city of Tuz Khurmatu in Salaheddin province while a US army company was visiting local security forces.

"Iraqi soldiers and American military advisers were playing sports when a quarrel broke out between an Iraqi soldier and an American," defence ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari told AFP.

"The Iraqi soldier opened fire on them," Askari said, naming the gunman as Soran Rahman Saleh Wali.

"The American soldiers killed the Iraqi soldier. We have opened a high-level investigation into this issue."

A US military statement said: "Eleven US soldiers were engaged with small arms fire, killing two and wounding nine, inside an Iraqi army commando compound."

The gunman was a member of one of the army's elite special forces units, said Colonel Hussein Bayati, police commander for Tuz Khurmatu, north of Baghdad.

There were no details on what set off the argument or on the Iraqi soldier's possible motives.

However, Bayati said that on Monday, US and Iraqi forces "began searching houses in the neighbourhood where this soldier was from because they suspected Ansar al-Sunna (insurgent) fighters were hiding there."

It was unclear whether Wali might have already been under surveillance or if the sweep had angered him.

The shooter's family declined to speak to AFP.

US forces said the incident occurred at around 3:50 pm (1250 GMT), and that the condition of the wounded, who were evacuated to Joint Base Balad north of Baghdad, could not be confirmed.

It said the names of the killed would be released after their families were informed.

Under the terms of a bilateral security pact, American soldiers are allowed to return fire in self-defence, and take part in operations if requested by their Iraqi counterparts.

The deaths were the first American military fatalities in Iraq since the US declared an end to its combat mission in Iraq on September 1, transforming its role to what it has described as "advise and assist" operations

"This is a tragic and cowardly act, which I firmly believe was an isolated incident and is certainly not reflective of the Iraqi security forces in Salaheddin," said Major General Tony Cuculo, US commander in northern Iraq.

Tuesday's violence brought to 4,418 the total number of US soldiers who have died in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, according to an AFP tally based on independent website

The shooting comes just two days after American troops helped repel a coordinated suicide attack on an Iraqi army complex in Baghdad by providing "suppressive fire" to give cover to local forces as they stormed a building in which the insurgents had hidden.

The attack, which killed 12 people, occurred in the morning at Rusafa military command headquarters, in the centre of the capital, when six suicide bombers assaulted the compound in a minibus.

Nearly 50,000 US troops remain stationed in Iraq. Last week, US Vice President Joe Biden launched the new mission while visiting Baghdad, opening a fresh phase in a seven-year deployment.

© 2010 Agence France Presse

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

H.R. 1478 - Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act of 2009

To read about this bill, which would create legal accountability for Military Doctors and Hospitals, click here.

To read one story which illustrates the need for this bill to be made into law, click here.

-- submitted by Lisa Parris

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Justice For PFC Pirro

I have created a blog in an effort to seek justice in the murder of my nephew and Godson, PFC Jason L. Pirro.

I never knew how much physical, mental and verbal abuse people endured at the hands of our military. I come from a family that has proudly served our country ever since our ancestors came to the United States in the early 1600's.

Throughout every war in our American history we had ancestors who served in each and every one of them. Five of my six brothers were in the military, my brothers-in-law were in the military and some of them served in Vietnam. I have always been proud to be an American, and I love my Freedom of Speech and the right to vote. But the way the military abuses its own has truly disgusted me. We are not allowed to abuse our children and if we do-we get arrested. We cannot go outside and walk up to someone that we dislike and hit them, because if we do, we'll get arrested for assault.

Yet the people who are training our children in the military, can verbally, mentally and physically do whatever they want to the enlisted and no one is ever held accountable and they act as if they don't have to answer to anyone. It's like they are a government all by themself.

That needs to change. There are 2 young girls, my great-nieces who will grow up without seeing their Daddy and that isn't right. Jason was a loving son, father, husband, nephew, cousin and friend. He had the biggest and warmest heart and you could feel the warmth in his hugs. I have to remember that, because we will never feel those hugs again. His death never should've happened.

To the military, Jason was a rank, a serial number and a piece of property, but to us he was everything. He was the sweetest person you'd ever meet. When they took his life, they changed our lives FOREVER! And now we will begin the journey to seek justice and to right the wrongs of the military.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

In Tillman's Story, Echoes of a Daughter's Pain

By Karen Spears Zacharias, Special to CNN
August 27, 2010 7:52 p.m. EDT

Editor's note: Karen Spears Zacharias is author of After the Flag has been Folded and Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?

Hermiston, Oregon (CNN) -- In war, one family's story echoes the pain of another. I was reminded of that while watching Larry King interview Pat Tillman's parents last week.

Spc. Pat Tillman, who forfeited a multimillion-dollar football contract to serve his country, died in Afghanistan in 2004.

Many may consider this couple's relentless pursuit for truth futile -- it won't resurrect their son -- but I understand it. It took me eight years to discover what really happened the day my father died in Vietnam's Ia Drang Valley.

They say the man who killed my father went nuts. I don't know if that's true or not -- he was dead by the time I got around to looking for him. I wonder sometimes if he took his own life. I could find that out easily enough if I really wanted to know, but I don't.

The men who were there in 1966 know how hard Sgt. C. took it. He and Daddy were good buddies. Our families often gathered for weekend barbecues and fishing along on Oahu's North Shore before the 25th Infantry, stationed there, shipped out.

They say that Sgt. C. drank too much. There's some that say his drinking is the cause of the fratricide -- that's what the Army calls it when one of your buddies kills you.

After Daddy died, Sgt. C. sent Mama a rambling letter about how he wished he could marry her. That's the sort of crazy thing a fellow says when he's talking out of his head. The sentiment doesn't offend me. It shows me how much heart he had, sober or not.

When his widow learned that I was writing a book about what happened to my father, she hired a lawyer, who sent me a snarky letter by certified mail. The widow threatened a lawsuit if I quoted from her husband's letter. She didn't have any legal grounds to stand on: You can't slander a dead man. I could tell you his name and quote from the letter if I wanted, but hurting others has never been the point.

They say when Sgt. C. returned from Vietnam he didn't go home to Alabama. Instead he went to a head hospital in Texas. They say he spent months there, trying to forget everything he remembered. How that blast from Sgt. C's 105-howitzer pushed my father's guts straight out into Daddy's hands. Sgt. C likely overheard, the way others there that day did, my father pleading with the young doctor, "Please don't let me die."

These things happen in war, everyone says so, even Mama. She didn't really understand why I needed to know the truth: "It won't bring your father back," she warned. I wasn't trying to bring Daddy back -- I was trying make sense of a world gone mad.

I didn't know when I started my search that my father was killed by his buddy. I wasn't aware that there were two official Army reports -- the first one the truth and the second one a lie meant to protect Sgt. C. and, if you believe military officials (and I don't), to "protect the family."

Pat Tillman's family doesn't feel protected. They feel betrayed. His parents are in the news again, telling us, this time in a documentary, what they've been telling us for the last six years: That their son was killed by men in his own platoon and that the military knowingly and willingly participated in covering up the truth to protect, not the family, but their own sorry asses. (Excuse my potty mouth but there are times when behinney is the inappropriate word).

All this reminds me of a quote I read: "The central defect of evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it" (Dr. M. Scott Peck, "People of the Lie").

The military only needs to practice the integrity they preach. Instead they do the blame-shift thing. In an interview with ESPN's Mike Fish, the Army officer who directed the first inquiry, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, admitted officials knew which shooter killed Tillman but he saw no value in going there.

"I don't think it really matters," Kauzlarich said.

The point, he said, isn't who really killed Tillman but rather his parents' lack of faith:

"There [have] been numerous unfortunate cases of fratricide and the parents have basically said, 'OK, it was an unfortunate accident.' And they let it go. These people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs."

He went on to say:

"When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more -- that is pretty hard to get your head around that."

You may recall that at Pat Tillman's funeral, his younger brother Rich chided the crowd for their false piety:

"Pat's not with God. He's f***ing dead. He's not religious. So, thanks for your thoughts but he's f***ing dead."

It's painful to see a brother come undone that way, in front of God and everybody. But given the propensity we Americans have to manipulate God for our own patriotic, and particularly militaristic purposes, I appreciate the pain that propels the Tillman family.

Kauzlrich ought to take a lesson from the General in Isak Dinesen's tale, "Babette's Feast":

"Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another."

If Lt. Col. Kauzlrich, and others charged with handling the Tillman investigation, had only been as relentless in their pursuit of truth as they were in covering it up, it would have been a grace to the Tillman family.

A grace that may have helped them make sense of a world gone mad.

A grace that surely would have enabled them to put their son rest and perhaps, restore to them, in some small measure, a glimpse of the God of mercy and truth.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karen Spears Zacharias.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

DOD Task Force for the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces

Dear Friends,

The Dept of Defense Task Force for the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces has completed a one year study and released their report two days ago. I haven't had time to completely study the report but it appears my April 12th testimony and supporting documents influenced their 'Findings and Recommendations.' There were other people beside myself who registered complaints about unit watch with the Task Force.

Please note recommendations, 12, 22 and 55 in the Executive Summary. These are recommendations I have fought for ever since my son died. In the final report more detail about Recommendation 12 is found on page 59, Recommendation 22 on pages 66-67 and Recommendation 55 on pages 89-90. Recommendation 55 refutes the promotion of unit watch as acceptable alternate care that I've run into so often.

The complete 233 page final report is accessible as a pdf. file,

I must commend the Task Force for the excellent job they did. Their report lays out solid guidelines that, if followed, will reduce military suicide. It exceeds my personal concerns and based on my research and experience of working with many bereaved families, the "postvention" recommendations in dealing with surviving family members of suicide are excellent! This report is far superior to the HP/RR/SP Report 2010 the Army released 29 July which I feel provides little to reduce suicide.

Sunday is the tenth year anniversary of Nolan's death and it's still is difficult to accept what happened to him.

Singe (Richard Stites)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mother Wants Justice in Son's Death

25 August 2010
By Alexander Bratersky

It's been more than seven years since the border guards, a unit of the Federal Security Service, returned Alma Bukharbayeva's teenage son in a sealed casket.

Marat Burtubayev, 18, was serving with his unit in the Khabarovsk region, near the Chinese border, for his required two years of military service. He was eight months into his service when commanders said the young recruit hanged himself in January 2003.

But what they did not explain — and what Bukharbayeva has been trying to learn ever since — is what happened to her son's internal organs.

The FSB returned Burtubayev's body to his family in the Omsk region of West Siberia shortly after his death so he could be buried in accordance with Muslim traditions. But when the family's imam examined the body, he found that most of the vital organs were missing and that his torso had been crudely resewn.

“The bridge of his nose was broken and there were stitches running up his body,” Bukharbayeva, a nurse by profession, said in a video appeal for justice posted on YouTube last year.

She also said her son's neck showed no evidence of the rope he allegedly used to hang himself. Her suspicion that the border guards were trying to hide something only grew after she received another letter from the commanding officer saying her son “tragically died in the line of service.”

An official examination of the body was not conducted. A military court in the Khabarovsk region later convicted private Ruslan Belonogov, who was just arriving to begin his service, of hazing Burtubayev and sentenced him to two years in prison.

But Bukharbayeva believes that Belonogov was innocent and has since said ultimate responsibility lies with Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhayev and even then-President Vladimir Putin.

On Tuesday, an Omsk city court sided with Polezhayev — regional boss since 1995 — in a civil defamation suit. Bukharbayeva was ordered to retract allegations she made during a rally outside the city's main recruitment office in June.

Joined by a group of mothers, Bukharbayeva had carried a sign reading: "Putin, Polezhayev are killers of our children. Kill us, mothers."

Polezhayev's office was not immediately available to comment on the ruling. But a spokesman for the governor, Roman Onopriyenko, told The Moscow Times on the eve of the decision that the suit was filed "only because incorrect information was widely distributed.”

The civil suit "was made as delicate as possible, since the governor understands the mother's grief,” Onopriyenko said. Polezhayev sued as a private citizen and was seeking only a retraction, he said.

The governor cannot be blamed for the death, as it happened in another region, Onopriyenko said.

But Bukharbayeva said Polezhayev — as chairman of the local draft commission — was responsible for soldiers drafted into the military or security services from the region.

“By suing, he didn't shame me, he just shamed himself,” she told The Moscow Times by telephone from Omsk, following the court's ruling.

Bukharbayeva, who said she planned to appeal, was joined in court by two other women who lost their sons in the same FSB border guard garrison.

Galina Bereluk, mother-in-law of Omsk native Roman Suslov, said she did not believe that her son hanged himself in May.

"He wasn't afraid to serve. He wanted to serve," she said by telephone.

Suslov's body contained the same stitch as Burtubayev's, she said, and the family believes that he was killed so his organs could be harvested.

An investigation into Suslov's death is ongoing, but chief military prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky has told reporters that investigators are not looking into the alleged organ theft.

According to Pamyat, an Omsk-based soldiers' mothers group, seven border guard recruits have died in the Khabarovsk region since 2003.

Valentina Aparina — whose son Alexei was also reported to have committed suicide after a year and a half of service in the same unit — said officials told her to be satisfied with financial compensation and a tomb to honor her son.

“They said to us, 'What else do you need?' But we just want to find the truth,” Aparina said by telephone from Omsk.

Khabarovsk regional prosecutors opened an investigation in 2004 amid allegations that a local hospital — in a district not far from the FSB garrison — had taken organs from patients without their approval.

More than 100 kidneys were taken from patients over several years, Interfax reported at the time, citing prosecutors.

But the case never reached court. A spokesman for the Khabarovsk regional branch of the Investigative Committee said Tuesday that the relevant materials had been archived and he could not immediately comment. The border guard service could not be reached for comment.

Presidential human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin made an appeal in the case in May 2006, asking Fridinsky, the military prosecutor, to conduct a probe into the investigation of Burtubayev's death.

Fridinsky's office said Belonogov's conviction for hazing — ultimately leading to the alleged suicide — was justified. The official response, based on photographs of the body, said there was no evidence that organs had been removed from Burtubayev's body.

“The traces on the body, believed to be damage, were post-mortem changes of the soft tissue,” Fridinsky wrote in a letter published by Novaya Gazeta in 2006.

Mother's Right, a group helping parents of soldiers who die noncombat deaths, has seen other cases where murky deaths have been presented as suicides. Violent deaths, including from hazing, are common in the military, which has since cut its mandatory service to one year.

"The key is having an independent medical evaluation, which would justify the parents' allegations," said Veronika Marchenko, the group's head.

Marchenko said her organization does not have any proven evidence that organs have been harvested from soldiers.

But the practice is not unheard of in nearby China. United Nations human rights officials have regularly investigated cases of alleged organ theft there, particularly from practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Burtubayev's grandmother, Mariam Kunanbayeva, told The Moscow Times that she also did not believe that her grandson would have hanged himself.

A week before the death, Burtubayev was preparing to celebrate the New Year, she said. “He wrote a letter to me to send him some money to buy sweets for the holiday. I sent him 100 rubles," or about $3, she said.

Finding justice may be an uphill battle for the family, which is struggling to survive on Bukharbayeva's monthly salary of 14,000 rubles ($450) since her husband's death last year. The family lives in a three-room apartment on the outskirts of Omsk, leased from the city.

Despite Tuesday's setback, Bukharbayeva said she was ready to fight on for her son — and to help other mothers find justice.

"I've gone through hell and high water. No matter what, I'll take it to Strasbourg," she said, referring to the European Court of Human Rights.