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, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/08/24/99612/task-force-military-suicide-prevention.html.

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.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Former Marine convicted in North Carolina of killing female colleague

By the CNN Wire Staff
August 23, 2010 6:47 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Former U.S. Marine Cesar Laurean was convicted in North Carolina on Monday of first degree murder in the 2007 death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was eight months pregnant when she died.

An autopsy showed that Lauterbach, 20, died of blunt force trauma to the head. Police unearthed her charred body from beneath a barbecue pit in Laurean's backyard in January 2008. She had disappeared the month before.

Laurean, who was dressed in black slacks and wore a white shirt and black tie, did not show any emotion as the judge read his sentence. He either said or mouthed something to someone in the audience of the courtroom before he was led out in handcuffs, video showed.

Laurean and Lauterbach were stationed together at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

North Carolina prosecutors alleged Laurean killed Lauterbach on December 14 and used her ATM card 10 days later before fleeing to Mexico.Laurean was arrested there in April 2008. He holds dual citizenship in the United States and Mexico.

Before her death, Lauterbach told the Marines that Laurean had raped her. Laurean denied it, and disappeared just a few weeks before a scheduled rape hearing at Camp LeJeune.

The DNA of Lauterbach's unborn child did not match that of Laurean, according to law enforcement personnel.

Authorities found Lauterbach's body after Laurean's wife, Christina, produced a note her husband had written claiming the 20-year-old woman slit her own throat during an argument, according to officials.

Although a gaping 4-inch wound was found on the left side of Lauterbach's neck, autopsy results indicated that the wound itself would not have been fatal and may have occurred after death.

Asked by a Mexican reporter at the time of his arrest whether he killed Lauterbach, Laurean replied, "I loved her."

Laurean's lawyer said his client would appeal the decision

Sunday, August 22, 2010

KBR Must Defend Green Beret Electrocution Case

August 19, 2010, 3:29 PM EDT

By David Voreacos and Tony Capaccio

Updates in second paragraph with description of accident.)

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- KBR Inc., the largest contractor in Iraq, must defend a wrongful-death lawsuit by the parents of a Green Beret who was electrocuted while showering in a building that the company maintained, a federal appeals court ruled.

KBR, based in Houston, asked the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss a case over the accidental death on Jan. 2, 2008, of Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth. The Pentagon inspector general reported last year that KBR was partly to blame because the shower’s electrical pump wasn’t properly installed.

KBR’s appeal, after a judge declined to dismiss in March 2009, raises “interesting and important questions” about whether it invokes political issues that shouldn’t go before a judge, and whether KBR is immune from suit under a “combatant activities” exception, the court said.
“We do not reach these questions now, however, because they are not properly before us,” a panel of the Philadelphia- based court said Aug. 17. “We must dismiss this premature appeal for lack of jurisdiction.”

The panel sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Nora Fisher in Pittsburgh for more pretrial gathering of evidence. The appeal was premature because Fisher did not “conclusively determine” whether KBR could cite the political-question doctrine or combatant activities exception, the panel ruled.

A KBR spokeswoman, Heather Browne, said the company disagrees with the ruling. It was not responsible for Maseth’s death and will defend the case, she said.

Important Questions

“The court recognized that this case raises important questions of law, but ruled the appeal was premature,” Browne said in an e-mail. “The court found only that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the merits of KBR’s arguments at this time.”

Maseth, of Shaler, Pennsylvania, a member of the 5th Special Forces Group, was in his second tour of duty in Iraq. He died of cardiac arrest caused by electric shock, according to the complaint by his mother, Cheryl Harris, and his father, Douglas Maseth.

They allege that the electrical problems at the building where Maseth died were well-known, that KBR negligently failed to repair them, and that the negligence caused his death.

Maseth died in a shower at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Iraq in part because the pump wasn’t properly grounded when installed less than two years earlier, according to the inspector general’s report. The report examined the electrocution of 18 U.S. soldiers and contractors in Iraq.

‘Catastrophic Result’

The inspector general criticized the Army’s oversight of Maseth’s compound, saying his death “was the catastrophic result of the failure of multiple systems exposing U.S. personnel to unnecessary risk.”

KBR, Army commanders, and Army contracting command that provided oversight were “responsible for the use and physical condition” of the facility, it said.

Starting in February 2006, “KBR did not ground equipment during installation or report improperly grounded equipment identified during routine maintenance” at the facility, according to the report.

KBR installed the pump on the roof that contributed to the electrocution of Maseth, said the report.

“The pump that failed leading to the electrocution was not grounded during installation,” it said. “Safe and proper installation required grounding.”

In February, the Army’s Rock Island Contracting Center informed KBR it was being docked all potential fees of $24.1 million for January through April 2008.

‘Failures to Perform’

An Army contracting official, James Loehrl, told KBR in a letter the action followed “failures to perform at a level deserving” of a fee.

The deficiencies included “KBR’s failure to document the poor conditions of the electrical systems” at the complex, its “failure to provide notice of unsafe life, health and safety conditions and KBR’s failure to employ qualified personnel to provide electrical services.”

In a March 9 rebuttal, KBR Vice President Douglas Horn disputed Loehrl’s claims as “contrary to fact and conflict with findings previously made by multiple government entities.”

Horn disputed what he called the implication that KBR bore responsibility for the deaths of Maseth and others.

“There is no evidence this is true,” Horn said. “The Army knew that buildings” in the complex and elsewhere “had deficient electrical systems” and “the Army chose to house individuals in these buildings” or “not to authorize rewiring or other upgrade work.”

The company is “exploring options and remedies” for recovering the $24.1 million from the Army, Horn wrote in a response to the letter denying the fees.

The case is Harris v. Kellogg Brown & Root Services Inc., 08-cv-563, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh).

--Editors: Charles Carter, Fred Strasser

To contact the reporters on this story: David Voreacos in Newark, New Jersey, at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net; Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

--submitted by Patti Woodard

Friday, August 20, 2010

Army Releases July Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of July. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides: three were confirmed as suicides, and nine remain under investigation. For June, the Army reported 21 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, 10 have been confirmed as suicides, and 11 remain under investigation.

During July 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 15 potential suicides. For June, among that same group, there were 11 suicides. Of those, five were confirmed as suicides and six are pending determination of the manner of death.

"Suicide prevention is much more than thwarting that last final act of desperation. It is increasing awareness and education in order to preclude members of the Army family from ever getting to the point where suicide might be considered an alternative to asking for help," said Col. Chris Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force.

"The Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Report released last month is the result of a 15-month effort to better understand high-risk behavior and suicides in the Army. The report is intended to inform and educate on the importance of recognizing and reducing high-risk behavior related to suicide and accidental death, and reducing the stigma associated with seeking behavioral health treatment," 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, seven 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 http://www.militaryonesource.com . 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 http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp .

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 .

Suicide prevention training resources for Army Families can be accessed at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=20. (Requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials.)

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 .

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

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: http://www.afsp.org .

Suicide Prevention Resource Council: http://www.sprc.org/index.asp .

--Source: DOD Announcement, verbatim

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Discharges for adjustment disorder soar

Source: Stars and Stripes
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Aug 14, 2010 12:34:17 EDT

Two years ago, under congressional pressure, the military changed its policy on separating troops dealing with combat stress for pre-existing personality disorders — an administrative discharge that left those veterans without medical care or other benefits.

Now, veterans advocates say, the personality-disorder discharges have been replaced with similar discharges for “adjustment disorder.” And once again, Congress seems poised to jump in.

Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., plans to send a letter to President Obama asking that the military provide detailed data showing how many people have been discharged for adjustment disorders. In the meantime, Bond’s staff has been gathering more general data that shows discharges for “other designated physical or mental conditions not amounting to disability” — a broad category that includes adjustment disorder — have increased from 1,453 in 2006 to 3,844 last year, an increase of 165 percent.

Over the same time, discharges for personality disorder dropped from 1,072 in 2006 to 260 last year.

“We request your assistance to ensure that a new loophole has not been created that abuses the administrative discharge system by erroneously discharging members of the armed forces who are experiencing symptoms of PTSD and/or TBI, rather than providing them with compassionate medical care worthy of their service and sacrifice,” states a draft copy of Bond’s letter.

The letter asks that the military provide the number of adjustment disorder discharges, by rank, with deployment information.

Shana Marchio, Bond’s spokesperson, said the issue initially was brought to the senator’s attention by Steve Robinson, a former Army ranger who has been active in veterans issues and now works as a veterans advocate.

“We’re hoping to create another good, bipartisan coalition to address this issue,” Marchio said. “The good news is that the Pentagon has moved away from personality disorders, but we feel this could be another piece of the same problem.”

Marchio expects the letter to go out after Labor Day.

She said the biggest issue is that these troops don’t get the treatment they need for post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

According to the psychiatric manual used to diagnose mental health issues, the DSM-IV, adjustment disorder occurs when someone has difficulty dealing with a life event, such as a new job or a divorce, or after someone has been exposed to a traumatic event. The symptoms can be the same as for post-traumatic stress disorder: flashbacks, nightmares, sleeplessness, irritability, anger and avoidance.

According to military and Veterans Affairs Department policy, if those symptoms last longer than six months, the diagnosis should be changed to PTSD. With a PTSD diagnosis, a person may be medically retired with an honorable discharge, a disability rating of at least 50 percent, and medical care.

“This is a case of inappropriate discharges,” Robinson said. “There are no medical benefits for these guys, and there are hundreds of cases.”

Pentagon officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story, but Marchio said Army representatives talked to congressional staff members about the issue last week.

“While this was a positive step, our office didn’t hear the answers we needed to hear about the rise of the discharges and has asked for additional information,” she said. “The Army has since assured Senator Bond’s office that they will provide, no later than the day after Labor Day, our office the data needed to evaluate the rapid rise in the use of these discharges.”

‘Tools to self-destruct’
During his 2008 deployment to Iraq, Army Pfc. Michael Nahas, 22, said he lived through two roadside bomb explosions and one rocket-propelled grenade attack, and watched people die in another explosion in Mosul, where he served with the 4th Infantry Division.

Two months after he returned home to Fort Carson, Colo., he said he began feeling anxious and guilty about people who he believed had died needlessly.

He went to the post mental health clinic for help. Over the course of three weeks, he had three appointments — and a lot of medication, including 14 milligrams of Xanax a day, he said.

“I was drooling on myself,” he said. “I could barely function.”

His mother and veterans’ advocates verified his doses.

After enlisted supervisors in his chain of command found out he was going to behavioral health, Nahas said they made fun of him, including calling him “crazy” and telling him daily to kill himself so he’d no longer be a problem to the unit.

A division spokesman declined to address Nahas’s account in detail.

“The allegations made by Mr. Nahas were thoroughly investigated,” said Army Lt. Col. Steve Wollman. “Some of the allegations were unsubstantiated and some of them were substantiated. Appropriate corrective actions were made and the investigation is closed. Due to the nature of individual cases we do not talk specifics out of respect for the privacy of the soldier.”

Nahas said the stress and a subsequent reaction to his medication led him to attempt suicide in February by jabbing IV needles into his arms to bleed out.

“I tried to kill myself,” he said. “I was so out of it I was drawing pictures on the wall with my own blood.”

In a photo of the aftermath provided by his family, blood fills a bathtub and a red smiley face gazes down from the tile.

His wife found him curled up on the floor and called for help, and Nahas survived.

After his suicide attempt, he spent time in an inpatient clinic where he was diagnosed with PTSD, and then went back to his unit. But rather than beginning the medical evaluation and retirement process for PTSD, his battalion chain of command gave him an administrative discharge for adjustment disorder at the end of April, and sent him back to civilian life.

“I don’t understand it,” Nahas said. “I was told I had PTSD, and then I was told I didn’t. I always tried — I was a good soldier. I mean, they told me that.”

His mother, Mary Nahas, said her son is now being treated at a VA center, and will undergo testing for traumatic brain injury in August.

“They give them the tools to self destruct,” she said of the Army. “He’s broken. He joined to become something.”

Retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker, a veterans’ advocate who specializes in the military disability process, said he has seen several cases of PTSD being called “adjustment disorder” or “chronic adjustment disorder.”

“The problem is when you see people having adjustment disorders because they’re adjusting after combat,” Parker said. “That should be called PTSD.”

Geor-Andreas Pogany, a former soldier who was medically discharged for a brain injury, said he is working with five service members with combat experience who are in the process of being discharged for adjustment disorders.

One of them is Spc. Daniel Upshaw, who served in Rustimiya, Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment as a Bradley mechanic in 2008.

Upshaw said that for about a month after he came home to Fort Carson, everything seemed fine.

“Then it started,” he said. He had nightmares and problems sleeping, and he started drinking a bottle of booze every night. “I’d drink until I knocked myself out. One night, I finished a bottle and then went to sleep with a loaded gun in my hand, hoping I’d shoot myself in my sleep.”

He sought help, and his chain of command sent him to behavioral health. At an inpatient clinic, he was diagnosed with PTSD by a psychiatrist. Then, he said, a counselor at behavioral health changed his diagnosis to adjustment disorder and recommended an administrative discharge.

His case manager and Pogany fought that decision, and Upshaw is now waiting for a medical discharge at Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Unit, and a 90-day treatment program through VA.

“The whole thing was extremely stressful,” he said. “They want to know why the suicide rate is so high. I can tell them.”

Jason Perry, a former Army JAG who helps people with their medical retirement cases, said he has seen “dozens” of similar cases.

“It’s very common,” he said, “and it’s completely illegal.”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pat Tillman's Father to Army Investigator: "F--- you and yours"

Read the entire story on the Huffington Post Blog by clicking here.

Pat Tillman's family hopes to get truth in own way
Read the entire story from the Associated Press by clicking here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Eight Armenian Army Officers Discharged Over Soldier Deaths

Artak Nazarian
August 09, 2010

YEREVAN -- Eight Armenian officers have been discharged from the army and more than a dozen others demoted following seven noncombat shooting deaths last month, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

In a statement released today, the Defense Ministry clarified that they include commanders, deputy commanders, and other senior officers, but did not identify them.

Television images showed that there was one colonel and at least two lieutenant colonels among them. According to the statement, 13 other "commanders and service chiefs" were relieved of their duties and will be demoted. Another 20 officers got off with formal reprimands.

The punitive measures were triggered by incidents at two frontline army detachments on July 27-28. In one of those units stationed in the northern Tavush region, a 30-year-old lieutenant, Artak Nazarian, was found dead in still unclear circumstances. His relatives believe he was killed by fellow servicemen.

Military investigators say, however, that Nazarian committed suicide after being badly ill-treated by a deputy commander of his battalion and three soldiers. All four men are under arrest pending investigation.

Nazarian's death was followed by the fatal shooting of one officer and five soldiers at another unit deployed in the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian confirmed during a meeting with senior officers on August 6 that military investigators believe one of those soldiers, Karo Ayvazian, went on a shooting spree and killed himself after a bitter dispute with the officer.

Also during that meeting, two men apparently arrested in connection with other deadly incidents were brought in. Armenian Public Television described one of them as a conscript who shot one of his officers, and the other as an officer who beat to death a sergeant.

Source: Radio Free Europe

Monday, August 09, 2010

Pat Tillman's mother on Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal: I told you so

Mary Tillman speaks on Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his role in covering up the truth about her son's death.

August 08, 2010By Mary Tillman

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was forced to retire because of remarks he made to a Rolling Stone reporter. Having read the article that led to his departure, I feel strangely validated. "The Runaway General" described by journalist Michael Hastings is exactly the arrogant individual I believed him to be.

McChrystal was in charge of Joint Special Operations Command in 2004, when my son, Pat, was killed in Afghanistan. But I didn't become aware of him until March 2007. That's when someone anonymously sent an Associated Press reporter a copy of a high-priority correspondence. The memo was written on April 29, 2004, by McChrystal and sent to Gen. John P. Abizaid, Gen. Bryan Douglas Brown and Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr. Its purpose was to warn President George W. Bush and other officials to avoid making public comments about Pat's heroic death at the hands of the enemy, because it was beginning to seem "highly possible that Corporal Tillman was killed by friendly fire."

The memo went on to caution against "unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public."

We knew nothing about this memo at the time it was written. In fact, we did not learn until weeks after Pat's memorial service that it was even possible he was killed by friendly fire.

The memo makes it clear there was no intention of telling the truth unless circumstances made it absolutely necessary. Much later, during Brig. Gen. Gary Jones' investigation of Pat's death, McChrystal was asked why we were kept in the dark.

"Question: Once you became aware that this was a possible fratricide, was there a conscious decision made not to tell the family of the possibility?"

"Witness: There was a conscious decision on who we told about the potential because we did not know all the facts. I did tell the senior leadership [long redaction] about the possibility prior to the memorial ceremony, because I felt they needed to know that before the ceremony. I believe that we did not tell the family of the possibility because we didn't want to give them a half-baked finding."

McChrystal says they didn't want to give us a half-baked finding. Yet that is exactly what they did. Rather than being told there were questions about Pat's death, we were presented with a contrived story, an absolute lie about how he had been killed by enemy fire.

What many people don't realize is that Pat's autopsy and field hospital report were very suspicious from the start. The autopsy gives a description of Pat's body that led us to later question if the autopsy was even his, and the field hospital report contains language that suggests he was alive when he was brought back to the field hospital at Forward Operating Base Salerno. Yet soldiers' statements indicated Pat was decapitated by the barrage of bullets, and he was deemed killed in action by the medic on the scene.

These horrifying discrepancies raised dire questions. Even the medical examiner called for a criminal investigation, but the adjutant general prevented it from going forward. By covering up the circumstances of Pat's death, McChrystal and the rest of the chain of command may have, knowingly or unknowingly, covered up a crime.

McChrystal's actions should have been grounds for firing him back then. That is why it was so disturbing to us when President Obama instead promoted McChrystal to the position of top commander in Afghanistan last year. At the time, I sent the president an e-mail and a letter reminding him of McChrystal's involvement in Pat's coverup. In the letter, I suggested McChrystal be "scrutinized very carefully" by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Pat's father and I both gave statements to the media reiterating that McChrystal should be properly vetted. We had real knowledge of McChrystal's questionable behavior, of actions that should perhaps have disqualified him from this position, and we felt it would be negligent not to do something. Our entreaties fell on deaf ears.

After McChrystal was forced to step down in June, I was contacted by several reporters and asked to give my thoughts about McChrystal, but I declined to comment. I hadn't read the piece in its entirety, so it seemed inappropriate to respond. Now, though, I have read and thought about the article. Obama clearly had no choice but to relieve McChrystal of his command. But how sad that the president and Congress didn't properly scrutinize the general a year ago.

People have asked, "Why is Pat so special that so much attention is given to his death"? I understand that question. Thousands of soldiers and Marines have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of their families have also been lied to, yet those deaths have not received the attention Pat's did. And Pat's death continues to be in the news.

Pat's story initially became news because he was well known for having played in the NFL. The government used his fame to create propaganda for the war. Pat is not more important or special than any of the others who have fought in these wars, but the truth of what happened to Pat — and to every soldier who has died — is important. The truth shines a light on systematic corruption, incompetence and lack of accountability in the military and in government.

Over the last five years, the Pentagon and Congress have had numerous opportunities to hold accountable those responsible for the coverup of Pat's death. Each time they've failed. The government didn't just lie to us; it lied to a nation.

Mary Tillman is the author of "Boots on the Ground by Dusk: Searching for Answers in the Death of Pat Tillman." A documentary featuring her and other family and friends will open in theaters Aug. 20.

Click here to read the entire story in the LA Times.

-- submitted by Patti Woodard

Monday, August 02, 2010

Army Report Finds Rising Suicide Rate Among Troops

From National Public Radio: Listen or Read the entire story by clicking here.

-- submitted by Dominic Baragona