Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Man Guilty of Murder of Marine

SANTA ANA – A court-martialed Marine was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in the killing of a fellow Camp Pendleton Marine in a secluded area of San Clemente in a dispute over stolen drug money.

An Orange County jury of six men and six women deliberated a day and a half before convicting Christian William Carney, 25, of Manorville, N.Y., of murder, criminal threats and attempting to dissuade a witness.

Carney faces a possible 28 year and eight months to life in prison at his sentencing Jan. 20 by Superior Court Judge William Froeberg.

Jurors found a sentencing enhancement that Carney personally used a gun not to be true, a charge that would have added another 25 years to Carney's prison term.

Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh portrayed Carney as a liar during his closing arguments, asking jurors not to be fooled by the defendant's "crying on cue" and "acting" during his testimony, calling him a "vicious, cold-blooded killer."

The prosecutor said we should thank Carney for his military service, including a tour of duty in Iraq, but asked jurors not to give him a pass for the fatal shooting of Stephen Serrano, 20, on May 13, 2008.
Serrano's parents kissed after the verdicts were read. His wife wept. In another section of the courtroom gallery, Carney's mother, also in tears, called out to her son as he was taken away in handcuffs: "I love you Chris, and I know you didn't do this."

Serrano's relatives said afterward they were pleased with the outcome.

"It's a tragedy that ... their family also had to suffer with the loss of their son," said Serrano's mom Christl McKenney, who in her hand held her son's Marine boot camp graduation photo facing the jurors as the verdicts were read.

Baytieh zeroed in on the many lies he said the defendant told when he took the witness stand.
Carney was caught in the biggest one of them all, the prosecutor said, when he testified Serrano was fatally shot by another fellow Marine, earlier than the time he actually was killed.

The defendant testified he had no idea Alvin Reed Lovely, 24, of Dallas, then also a Pendleton Marine, would shoot Serrano, when the two confronted Serrano about stealing Carney's drug money.

"When you are a liar and a murderer, justice will catch up to you," said Baytieh after the verdicts were announced.

Most of the jurors left the courtroom without comment.

One juror, who did not identify himself, said the key factor pointing toward guilt was evidence that Carney knew Lovely had a gun when they walked Serrano up the isolated San Clemente hillside. The juror said it made sense that Carney knew something volatile could happen.

Defense attorney Jennifer Keller told jurors her client made a lot of bad choices but is hardly a killer.
The bottomline, she argued, was that Lovely, and not Carney, shot Serrano.

Keller expressed disappointment with the verdicts.

"We thought his testimony rang very true," she said of her client. "This was really a case of somebody picking the wrong companion, and he's going to suffer for the rest of his life for it."

Lovely will be tried later on charges of murder, criminal threats, plus using a gun. He faces 38 years to life if convicted.

"Hopefully, we get the same justice with Lovely," said Serrano's wife Sophia.

Carney has been tried and court-martialed for drug dealing at Camp Pendleton and is serving six years, according to testimony.

Baytieh ended his arguments with a photo of Serrano in a white suit and the numbers 2 and 1,310 displayed in bold yellow letters respectively to the left and right of the picture for the jury to see.
Two represented the number of days before Serrano was discovered face down and on his knees in a San Clemente drainage ditch, while 1,310, the prosecutor said, was the number of days that had passed since the victim died.

Read the entire story here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

First-ever audit of Arlington headstones finds errors

(Reuters) - More than 64,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C. may contain typos or other errors, according to a new government report.

The errors, which mar 25 percent of the 260,000 grave markers in what is arguably the nation's best-known military burial ground, include misspelled names and incorrect ranks, birth dates and death dates.

The report -- the first of its kind in Arlington's 147-year history -- was prompted by two studies from the Army's Inspector General that found "serious mismanagement and process failures" at the cemetery. It was published on Thursday.

The audit team spent a year counting gravesites in the cemetery, photographing the grave markers and then comparing the information on them with all available paper and electronic records.
Read the entire story here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Army: Recruiters not at fault in Vermilion man’s death

VERMILION — A U.S. Army Recruiting Command investigation found that recruiters were not at fault in the death of 20-year-old Army recruit Glenni “Glenn” Wilsey V, who died of a heart attack while dieting to enlist in the Army, but one recruiter admitted giving Wilsey a waist band against Army policy.

Wilsey’s mother, Lora Bailey, declined to discuss the report, saying she did not want to jeopardize other investigations into her son’s March 3 death.

However, in an email this week, Bailey indicated that she plans to meet in the “near future” with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, and Maj. Gen. David L. Mann, who ordered the investigation.

“I do believe the investigation was done with integrity and no bias on the part of Major General Mann and his staff,” Bailey wrote in the email. “The investigation has brought up several issues which need to be addressed before I am able to release anything.”

Read the entire story here.

submitted by Lora Bailey

Death 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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Linked by trauma, officer seeks recognition for soldier he never knew

WASHINGTON — Spc. Jacob Andrews and Maj. Andrew DeKever served in the same brigade in Afghanistan in 2009. Separated by rank, role and age, they never met, but both men returned from war with psychological wounds.

One sought help and recovered. The other was abandoned by the Army and hanged himself.

Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Army Charges 8 in Death of Fellow Soldier

Eight U.S. troops are facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, who was found dead of “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound” in a guard tower in Afghanistan in October, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Chen’s case became a major news story in New York after family members alleged he had been hazed before his death because of his Chinese ethnicity. An Army official told the family that Chen had been beaten by superiors and subjected to racially motivated taunts, according to an October story in The New York Times.

“After two months of agonizing over the loss, it is of some comfort and relief that the Army is taking this seriously,” Chen’s mother, Su Zhen, said through an interpreter at a news conference Wednesday in New York, according to an MSNBC report.

Last week, hundreds of supporters took to the streets of Lower Manhattan to demand that the Army take action, and news of the military charges quickly led the stories on the websites of most major New York City news organizations.

Of the eight soldiers charged, five face charges including negligent homicide and manslaughter, while three others face charges including making false statements or dereliction of duty.

ISAF spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Alan Davis said via email from Afghanistan that “the charges relate to conduct that occurred in the time leading up to [Chen’s] death.”

All eight soldiers charged served in the same unit as Chen: Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. They were assigned to Combat Outpost Palace in southern Afghanistan.

Read the entire updated story here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Quick Draw' Being Blamed For Soldier's Death

Army Sgt. Matthew Gallagher's Death Ruled Homicide

A game of "quick-draw" is being blamed for the homicide of a North Falmouth soldier.

According to the Cape Cod Times, an investigative hearing was held Saturday in Fort Hood, Texas, regarding the death of Army Sgt. Matthew R. Gallagher.

An Army Criminal Investigation Division special agent who testified at the hearing said Gallagher’s roommate, Army Sgt. Brent McBride, admitted to accidentally shooting Gallagher in the head by accident hours after the incident in the Wasit province of Iraq.

Cheryl Ruggiero, Gallagher’s mother, was first told by the Pentagon that her son died in combat on June 26, a week before his 23rd birthday.

Initially, the Department of Defense called his death non-combat related. But Ruggiero said she was informed in August that her son's death was a homicide.

Read more:

Read the entire article here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Army Releases November Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of November. Among active-duty soldiers, there were seven potential suicides: none have been confirmed as suicide and seven remain under investigation. For October 2011, the Army reported 17 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, four cases have been confirmed as suicide and 13 cases remain under investigation.

During November 2011, among Reserve Component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were eight potential suicides (eight Army National Guard and no Army Reserve): two have been confirmed as suicide and six remain under investigation. For October 2011, the Army reported 12 potential suicides among not-on-active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of 13 cases (five Army National Guard and eight Army Reserve). Four cases have been confirmed as suicide and nine cases remain under investigation.

As of Nov. 30, 2011, the Army has identified 260 potential soldier suicides for CY 2011. Of that total, 154 were active duty suicides: 100 have been confirmed as suicide and 54 remain under investigation; 106 were Reserve Component not on active duty suicides (73 Army National Guard and 33 Army Reserve): 84 have been confirmed as suicide and 22 remain under investigation. Compared to previous years, the Army had 305 in CY 2010 (159 active-duty and 146 not-on-active-duty) and 242 in CY 2009 (162 active-duty and 80 not-on-active-duty).

"Suicide continues to be a challenge for our Army Family," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III. "It is a devastating loss when one of our own, whether soldier, civilian or family member, dies by suicide."Chandler also said that overcoming this challenge will take the Army's collective efforts, dedication, support and understanding. "To that end, I am calling on all of our leaders, but especially the noncommissioned officers, the backbone of our great Army, to make a difference. We must cultivate a climate that encourages help-seeking behaviors and supports those who ask for help," said Chandler. "By standing shoulder to shoulder, we can ensure that no one stands alone!"

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

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

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located 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 for those residing in the continental United States. 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, 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 .

Source:  Official DOD Announcement

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

March & Vigil for Fallen Private Danny Chen on Thursday

The New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA-NY), a nonprofit civil rights organization for justice, is mobilizing later this week on behalf of Private Danny Chen. A nineteen-year-old son of Chinatown, Private Chen died from non-combat related injuries at an American Army base in Afghanistan in early October. The circumstances surrounding his death are somewhat suspicious, and many fear a cover-up reminiscent of Pat Tillman just a few years earlier.

Read the entire story here.

Chinatown Soldier's Death Prompts Meeting With Pentagon Officials

Read more:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mother of Marine killed after rape claim leads training sessions on sexual assault cases

MARY McCARTY  Dayton Daily News
First Posted: December 03, 2011 - 12:36 pm
Last Updated: December 03, 2011 - 3:09 pm

DAYTON, Ohio — Mary Lauterbach of Vandalia remains a powerful voice for her daughter, Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, nearly four years after she was murdered by fellow Marine Cesar Laurean.
On Nov. 16, Mary Lauterbach and her attorney, Merle Wilberding, attended the North Carolina Court of Appeals hearing in Raleigh, N.C., and listened as Laurean's attorneys argued that his first-degree murder conviction should be overturned because the judge did not allow jurors to consider a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

"We wanted to make our presence visible, and to remind them that Maria was a real person," Lauterbach said.

"We wanted to be a witness to justice," added Wilberding. "We're glad we went."

Laurean's state-appointed attorney, Ann Peterson, acknowledged that her client killed Lauterbach, but argued that the crime might not have been premeditated. Attorneys for the state countered that the fact that Laurean burned the body and buried Lauterbach in his backyard was proof of premeditation.
Lauterbach, 20, was eight months' pregnant at the time of her murder. Laurean is currently serving a life sentence without parole at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution, a high-security adult male prison in Elizabeth City, N.C.

"The trial court got it right," Wilberding said.

It was the second time in less than a month that Lauterbach, who now leads training sessions for the military, had been called upon to bear witness for her daughter.

On Oct. 28, three Department of Defense staffers flew to Dayton to brief Lauterbach on the Inspector General's report on the investigation of her daughter's sexual assault case. The scathing 46-page report concluded that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service criminal investigation was both "substantively and procedurally deficient" and that NCIS agents did not conduct the investigation "diligently, timely or completely, and logical investigative steps were not completed."

The report also noted that Camp Lejeune's Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Program officials violated policy in its response to Lauterbach's rape complaint. Consequently, the report concluded, Camp Lejeune's Sexual Assault Case Management Group, which is responsible for reviewing rape cases, was unable to "assure her safety, well-being and recovery after the sexual assault, principally because it did not know about it."

Lauterbach said the Inspector General's report is an important step toward accountability. The yearlong investigation revealed much she hadn't previously known about her daughter's sexual assault case. On May 11, 2007, Lauterbach reported she was raped by then-Cpl. Laurean, one of her supervisors. Laurean claimed he had consensual sex with her.

"The details of the investigation were even worse than we knew," Mary Lauterbach said. "Only three of the eight witnesses were interviewed before Maria died, and they weren't interviewed thoroughly. They didn't investigate the crime scene or check Laurean's alibis, or they would have found out that he was working on the day of the assault, as he claimed to be."

Read the entire story here.
--submitted by Bonnie Palecco

Monday, December 05, 2011

Semper Fi Screenings

The Camp Lejeune Documentary, Semper Fi: Always Faithful will screened in NY and California this month. If you are in the area, please take to the time to attend. Each screening will be followed by a brief question and answer session immediately after the film. Here are the dates and times for the next three screenings.


Rachel & Jerry will be at this screening

7:30 PM
Embarcadero Cinema
One Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 267-4893

Tony will be at this screening

7:30 PM

Jerry and Tony will be at this screening.

The film continues to generate a lot of attention, especially on Capitol Hill. Last week we learned that S-277, the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2011 is not dead yet and there is talk about moving the bill forward. We will keep everyone informed as new developments arise. If anyone has any questions, please post them on the bulletin board for our website, Unfortunately, we can not answer each email individually.

Have a blessed holiday season and Merry Christmas.

Mike Partain


Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Shameful Way the Military Handles Non-Combat Deaths

Little or no information is given to families

What drove 1st Lieutenant Debra Banaszak of the Missouri National Guard over the edge?
It is a question her family tried to answer for a year after she committed suicide in Kuwait in 2005. Her family simply could not believe this loving mother and police officer who also had served 17 years with the Army National Guard would take her own life.

The family tried to pry more information out of the military, but what they were getting in return did not give them closure.

To this day, the Missouri National Guard still offers a press release dated October 31, 2005 — which is just three days after Banaszak was found dead — as the only information they can provide regarding her death. The release simply states that Banaszak “died of a non-combat related injury” on Oct. 28 in Kuwait.

“I’ve given you all the information I can on this,” said Major Tamara Spicer, public affairs officer for the Missouri National Guard, just recently to this reporter.
When pressed for anything more concrete than the 2005 press release, she continues to repeat herself and says nothing more: “I’ve given you all the information I can on this.”
Because of the military’s lax response, the Banaszak family told this reporter they have had to put the death of Debra behind them, or continue to suffer.

Read the entire story here.

Death Anniversary


By Charolette Traylor

On December 6th, a week after Thanksgiving 1998, AOC Thomas Richard Traylor, USN, age 36, was found dead, in rural Inyokern, CA, from a gunshot wound to the chest. The cause of death was listed as suicide. He had been missing for two days. Traylor was a Navy Aviation Ordinance Chief on active duty stationed at the Weapons Testing Squadron, Naval Station, China Lake, CA.

On that morning of Dec 6th, Traylor’s neighbors, Larry Seymour & Joanie Hanson, found Traylor. They became alarmed when Traylor’s vehicle set on a dirt road for two days, only a quarter of a mile from Traylor’s home. They drove to the scene and found Traylor dead sitting behind the steering wheel of his vehicle. They immediately returned home and called the authorities.

The Inyokern County Fire Department was the first to arrive on the scene. Next was the County Reserve Deputy Roger Clark and Reserve County Coroner Ron Lunsford. The Liberty Ambulance Service arrived but did not transport. The remains went to the Kern County Morgue, Bakersfield, CA.

Mrs. Traylor had been in San Francisco for a couple of months making arrangements to place an elderly aunt into a rest home. She last spoke to Traylor on Thursday evening, Dec 03, 1998, around 6:00 P.M. from (SF). At that time Traylor was on his way out to a squadron get-together and promised to call her the following morning – which would be then Friday, Dec 04, 1998. When Mrs. Traylor did not receive the promised phone call from her husband the following morning she immediately contacted Traylor’s Gunner, CWO2 Vince Howell, at the Weapons Testing Squadron and was told Traylor had not been heard from or seen since the previous day which had been Thursday.

Mrs. Traylor continued to try and contact Traylor by phone through Saturday. Alarmed because this was not Traylor’s pattern of behavior by not calling his work, Mrs. Traylor drove home to Inyokern. When she left SF on Sunday, Dec 06, at 9:30 A.M. she gave specific instructions to contact her by cell phone immediately if her husband was located. After seven hours of driving she arrived home at 4:30 P.M. Mrs. Traylor’s neighbor, Joanie Hanson then went to the Traylor home and informed Mrs. Traylor she was a “widow.”

Around 5:30 P.M. Deputy N. Dancy and Deputy J. Dancy arrived at the Traylor home – they had had a shift change at the Sheriff’s Dept and had no details on Traylor’s death. In shock, Mrs. Traylor called the Coroner’s Office, Bakersfield, CA and spoke to the Homicide Officer Glenn Johnson, who informed Mrs. Traylor her husband had committed suicide. Mrs. Traylor protested and told Homicide Officer Johnson her husband had never been suicidal and that Traylor detested anyone who considered such a cowardly act!

The China Lake Weapons Testing Squadron personnel arrived after Mrs. Traylor’s son-in-law, CAPT T. Glick, USMC, Cherry Point, NC called the China Lake Command – they were LCDR Severson, CDR J. L. Budnick, MMCM(SS)B. Stone, and The Gunner, CWO2 V. Howell. They had no further information on the death.

China Lake is located in a remote area, 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles, CA, between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Death Valley, away from the public eye. Traylor was attached to VX-31, Hanger-3, at China Lake. Traylor supervised the Avionics/Armament Division of the Naval Weapons Testing Squadron and overlooking the Explosive Safety Inspections. He was instrumental in the squadron’s preparedness for the rigorous maintenance, and loading/downloading of conventional weapons on FA-18s. Traylor’s technical knowledge of missile and bomb launching well qualified him in the training of weapons personnel and he often made trips to Point Mugu, CA and Puerto Rico, Cuba. He was extremely conscientious in the sensitive information surrounding his work. The China Lake Bombing Range covers 20,000 square miles of restricted air space where the famous Sidewinder and Tomahawk missiles were developed.

Traylor was written-up by his command for been absent from work that Friday, Dec 04, 1998.
Traylor was buried on December 10, 1998, Mrs. Traylor spent the remainder of December 98 with her parents in Missoula, MT.

In January 1999, when Mrs. Traylor returned to Inyokern she went to the Sheriff’s Branch Office, Ridgecrest, CA, and learned her husband’s case had been closed. Not accepting her husband’s death as a suicide she started her own investigation as follows.

When Mrs. Traylor took her case to Traylor’s Squadron Commanding Officer, Commander R. Rutherford he stated “Well, you and your husband were having marital problems, you were separated and he killed himself”. This was a shock to Mrs. Traylor she expected the Commanding Officer to support her in a further investigation.

Prior to Mrs. Traylor going to SF she had been counseling with a Mr. Richard Rohrlick, the China Lake Base counselor, concerning her husband’s increased drinking; she also spoke to her husband’s Gunner concerning this same matter.

Mrs. Traylor last visited her husband at Inyokern on Nov 19,1998, two weeks earlier, to celebrate their wedding anniversary. At that time Traylor seemed jumpy and paranoid in public (which was not like him) and then cried when she left to return to SF.

She spoke to her husband weekly and it was during one of the last conversations he told her “he didn’t think he was going to live long,” when the remark alarmed her he changed the subject.
Below is a list of things Mrs. Traylor noted at her home on her arrival on that fatal Sunday, Dec 06, 1998:  Traylor’s uniform for work was folded and lying on the bed in preparation to wear Friday, Dec 04, 1998.

On the couch was clean unfolded laundry.

Traylor had his stair-master in front of the TV for exercising in preparation of his annual physical.
The master bathroom window was open, the screen lying on the lawn, and a towel lain over the windowsill. Someone had broken into the house by crawled through the window.

Traylor had just purchased a $350.00 pipe corral for his horses and was assembling it in the yard.
All the small animals at the Traylor home were locked in the house the two days Traylor was missing: three cats, two dogs, and outside were three horses, starving. Traylor would never have left his beloved animals without first making arrangements for their care and feeding.

Back tracking Traylor’s days leading up to his death:
Dec 02-Wed: Neighbor, Joanie Hanson noticed Traylor was outdoors cleaning the horse corral and later with his friend, The Gunner outside working on Traylor’s motorcycle.

Dec 03-Thur: At 3:00 P.M. Traylor left his work on base to kept his appointment with Richard Rohrlick, the base counselor, to discuss rehabilitation for himself.

At 9:00 P.M. Traylor was seen by a female bartender, Mickey at Tommy T’s, a local sports bar in Ridgecrest. Later it was verified there had been a military get-together on that evening Dec 03, 98, the last night Traylor spoke to his wife and was seen alive.

TRAYLOR’S Planned Schedule for 4,5,6 Dec 1998:
DEC04-Fri: Traylor had a Squadron promotion ceremony to conduct.

DEC05-Sat: Traylor was to attend a farewell party for his First Class John Barfield, Traylor never missed a party but he was a no show.

DEC06-Sun: Traylor had committed himself to drive to San Diego, CA to move shipmate, Todd Roger and wife who were transferring to China Lake, a 3-1/2 hour drive one-way.

Traylor’s Military Identification card had been on him when he was found and the Officer-of-the-Day, at Weapons Test Squadron, LT Neviou and AO2 Hall were notified, but Mrs. Traylor was never called.

A resident of Inyokern saw Traylor’s truck sitting on the dirt road near the Traylor home on Friday and Saturday, Dec 04, 05, 1998.

A neighbor told Mrs. Traylor how her husband had been parking his vehicle in the desert in the evenings for a couple of weeks before his death. From where Traylor parked he had a clear view of his home without being seen himself.

Traylor’s AO1 “Shorty” Wellington and AME3 Gerry Sims claimed to have driven to the Traylor home on Saturday, Dec 05, 1998, searching for Traylor but did not see Traylor’s vehicle sitting near the Traylor home.

AO2 Phil Kamp’s wife, Brenda stated that Traylor started to act strange, no longer would he let anyone drive him home after he had had to much to drink; instead Traylor would leave the social gatherings when no one was aware, this was just prior to his death.

During Mrs. Traylor’s investigating she was told her husband often expressed his love for her and looked forward to her return from SF at Christmas permanently; and how he expected a visit then from their first grandchild.

Mrs. Traylor had to harass the Naval Crime Investigator Service’s (NCIS) for their results, it was a duplicate of the Sheriff’s Report. NCIS reasoning behind the lack of a JAG investigation was because Traylor was found off the base and it was Kern County’s responsibility to investigate. The Navy was tossing the case back to the County.

After six-months of waiting Mrs. Traylor received Coroner D. Brown’s report. The report was vague and assumptions were made about the Traylor’s separation supporting suicide. No internal autopsy had been performed to validate the gun and shells found in Traylor vehicle with him were the weapons that killed him. There were no X-rays. No tape recording of the external autopsy or diagram. No resin testing of the hands – proving Traylor held the gun. Last, no time of death was established through eye testing or did the report state if rigor had set-in yet, how long had Traylor been dead? A Toxicology Test was done showing an alcohol level of 0.28 but no urine test to back it.

In June 1999, Mrs. Traylor met with Kern County Coroner M. Kaiser at Bakersfield, in protest of the suicide theory and present the true facts. Coroner Kaiser agreed there was not enough evidence to justify a suicide. She changed the death certificate to “undetermined” and amended the Coroner’s Report – still the case was not reopened by the county.

Mrs. Traylor was not able to obtain an appointment with the China Lake Base Commanding Officer CAPT C. H. Johnston, to present the new death certificate and to again request a reinvestigation. Nor would the California Congressman William Thomas pursue the case. The FBI stated they saw no crime committed.

Traylor’s best friend, “The Gunner” avoided Mrs. Traylor for a year after the death. When she was finally able to corner him he told her “All you want to do is talk about Traylor, I want to believe it was a suicide,” and avoided Mrs. Traylor from then on.

The Summer of 1999, Mrs. Traylor drove her husband’s vehicle to the base gas station and while inside paying she noticed CDR Budnick, the Squadron Test Pilot, standing frozen in shock staring at Traylor’s vehicle like he’d just seen a ghost until he saw Mrs. Traylor and regained his composure.
In November 1999, Mrs. Traylor obtained the photographs of the scene of death from the County Technical Laboratory. The photos revealed the following:

Traylor is shown sitting behind the steering wheel of his vehicle with his cap on his head and his glasses in his right hand.

A shotgun is pointing at Traylor from the floorboard of the passenger’s side of the vehicle with the barrel propped against the side of the console, a card, and a “Bud Light” beer can.

Blood is shown running straight down Traylor’s right-thigh verifying he died where he was found.
Mrs. Traylor can verify the blood location and pattern in the vehicle, because on Monday, Dec 07, 1998, the day after Traylor was found Mrs. Traylor reclaimed her husband’s vehicle. The vehicle has not been impounded in a police lot but towed to a business garage in Inyokern on Dec 06.

Blood was found on the front of the console and the cup-holders in that area – the console divided the bucket-seats. Blood was found near the gas peddle and the seat part of the driver’s buck-seat and blood dripped to the floorboard. But, the largest splattering of blood is on the drive-shaft.

A box of shells (birdshot) was on the passenger seat with opened mail.

When Mrs. Traylor presented these photos to Kern County Homicide Officer Johnson for answers and a reinvestigation he became angry and escorted her out of his office.

After AO1 Wellington viewed the photos he stated “the Squadron never thought Traylor committed suicide”. Unfortunately, the Squadron couldn’t help – they had been given a “Gag Order” not to speak to Mrs. Traylor; they feared for their own lives if they talked.


The investigation was shut down because the Navy had Kern County close the case immediately without an investigation through their “Good Old Boys Connect”, call the death a suicide and lay blame on the wife.

So, it wasn’t necessary to notify or even contact Mrs. Traylor for questioning as a suspect of murder. That is why Homicide Officer Johnson so bluntly informed Mrs. Traylor her husband had committed suicide, nine hours after Traylor had been found.

To strengthen their suicide theory, there was a letter found in the vehicle addressed to Traylor asking him to sign a waiver. This was assumed to be leading towards divorce papers in the first Coroner’s Report. The letter actually concerned Mr. Traylor’s release from Mrs. Traylor retirement money. Mrs. Traylor of course, was never questioned about the letter.

Traylor, himself was an extremely private individual and more so about his personal life. The only two people that had information on the Traylor’s marriage were The Gunner, (CWO2 V. Howell), and Mr. Richard Rohrlick, the base counselor. One of these two people gave the background for the theory of suicide.

The vehicle was moved and never sealed-off because again there wasn’t going to be an investigation. The Coroner’s Report lacked vital information, as stated previously. The Sheriff’s Report excluded fingerprints, footprints, or tire prints from the scene. Photos: show Traylor’s hands and arms had no blood or blow-back from skin on them. Traylor didn’t drink Bud Light beer as the photos show from inside the vehicle; and he didn’t take his glasses off and hold them after he shot himself. The photos were staged.

When Traylor made the statement to his wife “he didn’t think he was going to live long” that was a tip-off his life was in danger. He tried to avoid his death by hiding in the desert. But Traylor was ordered to the Thursday night military get-together; here he was gotten drunk, followed, stopped just short of his home, and killed. Traylor’s shotgun was obtained from his home by gaining entrance through the bathroom window – so identification was not necessary. The squadron get-together may have occurred at the Sierra Club, Inyokern, CA a mile from the Traylor home.

The China Lake Base is a highly secured installation due to warfare weapons developed there. Traylor was military property for fifteen years, there should have been a JAG investigation by the Navy.
In 2000, Mrs. Traylor again tried to re-open the case by contacting Kern County and she received a reply from Sheriff Sparks threatening to reverse the cause of death “Undetermined back to suicide” if she continued to pursue the matter.

In Aug 2003, Prof. J. Starrs, Dr. J. Frost, and team from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., performed the internal autopsy on Traylor. It was found that the angle of the shot was from the upper right side of the chest to the lower left side of the media. The angle of the shot was not possible inside the confinement of the cab of the vehicle.


The shot came from outside of the passenger’s side of the vehicle when Traylor leaned over and opened the passenger’s door. The impact forced Traylor’s body back into the area of the console and the drive-shaft of the vehicle where the majority of the blood was located. There was no blood on the dashboard, steering wheel, windshield, driver’s door, or the roof of the vehicle. According to the autopsy Traylor’s heart stopped immediately. Traylor’s body was set back into the seat, glasses placed in his hand and cap put on his head. Some item was removed from Traylor’s right thigh that left a square pattern clear of blood. There was no blood on the beer can or the card that supported the gun pointing at Traylor. Again Mrs. Traylor can verify the location of the blood splatter. Last, Traylor’s wristwatch was not on any of the photos from the scene but returned to Mrs. Traylor with the personal effects.

The whole concept of suicide is an insult to Thomas R. Traylor’s integrity.


Why wasn’t Mrs Traylor notified that Sunday? It wasn’t necessary. Her name and SF phone number were written on an envelope next to the Traylor’s kitchen phone.

Why was it not necessary to identify the shotgun as being owned by Traylor? (The gun had never been registered nor had a hunting license been bought. Traylor had not used any of his number of guns in years nor in the thirteen months he had been at China Lake and his only acquaintances were military. Traylor also owned a handgun – which would have been easier to use in the vehicle).

Traylor grew-up outside of El Paso, TX, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1983, a Navy career-man retiring in five years. He was a kind-hearted, soft-spoken man with no enemies.

If you have information about this case, or would like to contact Mrs. Traylor, email us and we’ll forward your message to her.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A final request from Iraq vet who took own life

By Chris Bieri

Grand Forks, N.D.,--Sean Alexander Dacus, a veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote out a final request Tuesday morning before fatally shooting himself in the chest outside the emergency room at Altru Health System.

According to police, the 31-year-old Grand Forks resident walked into the Altru Clinic just before 11:30 a.m. and borrowed a marker at the coffee shop.

He wrote on his arm "Do not resuscitate" and below that, "Donate organs please," a police source said. To the right of those lines, he wrote "A-," which police believe was his blood type.

Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Tribute to the Brave

Frozen tears of the Dark Woods
by Isaiah Robinson

50 men entered the dark woods
50 men understood
The 50 men, they saw in their eyes
Those 50 men wouldn't survive
But 50 men young and brave
Knew not of the end that would happen that day
But still they traveled in the dark woods.

50 men entered the dark woods
40 men still understood
Those 50 men they saw in their eyes
10 of them didn't survive
That journey into the dark woods
But still the 40 men
Knew all 40 wouldn't reach the end
But still they traveled into the dark woods

50 men entered the dark woods
Only 20 men still stood
Those 50 men they saw in their eyes
30 of them had already died
They journey brought pain and sorrow
And fear of not seeing tomorrow
But they continued those 20 men
Into the dark woods.

50 men entered the dark woods
1 man still stood
At the end of those dark woods
Frozen tears filled his eyes
Of the 49 men who didn't survive
The journey into the dark woods.
Isaiah is the 15 yr. old nephew of the late Col. Rocky Baragona

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Death Anniversary

Our son TJ was on the promotions list to get his Sgts promotion. On the day of his death he was threatened that he was being removed from the promotions list. He was pronounced dead at 7:19AM Iraq time and at 2:30PM was posthumously awarded his Sgt. stripes. What they withheld from him in life, they gave to him in death.

His death was deemed a suicide by his commander before the CID investigation was completed and before the autopsy was completed. In their circular thinking, we have been told that the suicide determination was made based on the CID report, but CID says it was based on the autopsy.

On the day of our son’s death, as I said, he was pronounced dead at 7:19AM Iraq time, CID was not notified until 10:00AM of his death and CID did not arrive until 2:00PM. Before they arrived, someone in the chain of command ordered the area to be cleaned. As a result there was nothing for CID to look at when they did arrive.

A ballistics expert, who looked at the CID report and autopsy for us, says that the wound described in the autopsy could not have been made by the weapon our son was carrying, less than 12-18 inches from his head.

As he told us, “Your son’s arms were not long enough to have held the weapon that far from his head and pulled the trigger.” He shared that without a doubt, “Your son did not take his own life.”
The investigation done by CID was ordered reopened by the Army Office of the Inspector General. Their findings were that there had been procedural errors made in the investigation, but they did not comment on the outcome.

My husband, who is a Viet Nam vet says we will never know what really happened that morning.
Liz Sweet

If you have any information on this case, contact Liz Sweet through this website.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

FBI Says Gangs Infiltrating the US Military

The U.S. military is facing a "significant criminal threat" from gangs, including prison and biker gangs, whose members have found their way into the ranks, according to an FBI-led investigation.
Some gang members get into the military to escape the streets, but then end up reconnecting once in, while others target the services specifically for the combat and weapons training, the National Gang Intelligence Center says in a just-released 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment/Emerging Trends.

Whatever the reasons, it's a bad mix.

""Gang members with military training pose a unique threat to law enforcement personnel because of their distinctive weapons and combat training skills and their ability to transfer these skills to fellow gang members," the report states. Gang members have been reported in every branch of the armed forces, though a large proportion of them have been affiliated with the Army, the Army Reserves or Army National Guard, it says.

Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fort Hood shooting victims, families seek $750 million

In what could be the first step toward a massive federal lawsuit, 83 people —victims of the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood and family members of those killed in the attack — have filed administrative claims against the U.S. government alleging willful negligence and seeking about $750 million in damages.

The claimants include family members of eight of the 13 people killed during the rampage, the worst shooting ever on an American military installation.

The claims allege that the federal agencies bowed to "political correctness" in ignoring warning signs regarding Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist facing 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the shooting. Witnesses have said Hasan, who was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan shortly after the shooting, shouted "Allahu Akbar" — an Arabic refrain meaning "God is greatest" and something of a war cry for Muslim terrorists — before opening fire inside Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center, killing 12 soldiers and one civilian and wounding more than 30.

Read the entire article here.

Article submitted by Richard Stites

Monday, November 21, 2011

Army limiting use of anti-malaria drug

LOS ANGELES — Almost four decades after inventing a potent anti-malarial drug, the Army has pushed it to the back of its medicine cabinet.

The dramatic about-face follows years of complaints and concerns that mefloquine caused psychiatric and physical side effects even as it was used around the globe as a front-line defense against the mosquito-borne disease that kills about 800,000 people a year.

“Mefloquine is a zombie drug. It’s dangerous, and it should have been killed off years ago,” said Dr. Remington Nevin, an epidemiologist and Army major who has published research that he said showed the drug can be potentially toxic to the brain. He believes the drop in prescriptions is a tacit acknowledgement of the drug’s serious problems.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Army Releases October Suicide Data

Army Releases October Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of October. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 17 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide and 16 remain under investigation. For September 2011, the Army reported 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of 17 cases. Three cases have been confirmed as suicide and 14 cases remain under investigation.

During October 2011, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 12 potential suicides: none have been confirmed as suicide and 12 remain under investigation. For September 2011, the Army reported six potential suicides among not-on-active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, two cases have been added for a total of eight cases. Three cases have been confirmed as suicide and five cases remain under investigation.

Maj. Gen. David E. Quantock, director of the Army Health Promotion and Risk Reduction Task Force, knows how the tragedy of suicide affects our soldiers, civilians, and families. He joins the task force as the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. “Our people are the Army and their health and well-being are top priorities. This is very important work and I can assure you that the Army team is fully engaged and is totally committed to it,” said Quantock.

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

The Army’s comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located 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 for those residing in the continental United States. 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, 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 .

Saturday, November 19, 2011

McCaskill Calls for Greater Accountability for Contractors - Nov 17,2011 - McCaskill calls for greater accountability for contractors

Following new report from federal watchdog, Senator calls again for suspending federal work with bad contractors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Citing the case of a private contractor that was never held accountable for negligence in the death of a U.S. servicemember, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill used a Senate hearing to renew her call for the federal government to stop doing business with contractors responsible for wrongdoing.

Read the entire story here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lawmaker: Commands shouldn't investigate military rape cases

The concerted campaign by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, aims to remove military sex crimes investigations and prosecutions from the standard chain of command. Even if it falls short, the campaign already is a case study in how 21st century political momentum is built.

"This silent epidemic is over," Speier said of military sexual assault Thursday.

This week, Speier introduced a bill that would assign all military sexual assault cases to a new Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office. Another new Pentagon office would oversee all sexual assault-related prosecutions.

Speier says the new bureaucracy is necessary for sexual assault-related cases because the current system is "woefully inadequate" and overly influenced by the chain of command.

Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Azerbaijan: Non-Combat Deaths Put Military Reforms in Spotlight

A coalition of several Azerbaijani human rights groups has been tracking non-combat deaths and notes a disturbing upward trend. Based on Defense Ministry information not released to the public, the Group of Monitoring Compliance with Human Rights in the Army (GMCHRA) has recorded the deaths of 76 soldiers to date in non-combat incidents for 2011, and the injury of 91 others. That compares with 62 non-combat deaths and 71 cases of injury in 2010. Possible reasons for the increase were not identified.

“Civil society cannot stand aside from these problems,” commented Arzu Abdullayeva, one of GMCHRA’s founders and the head of Azerbaijan’s National Committee of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly.

In general, the Azerbaijani public has remained passive on this issue. In 2009, several anonymously posted videos on social networking websites depicted soldiers beating, as well as the humiliation of fresh draftees – a practice known as dedovshchina during the Soviet era. The videos prompted prosecutions and prison terms for the accused. But this case has proven the exception, rather than the rule.

Read the entire story, from by clicking here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

We remember

For the families of the fallen, every day is Veteran’s Day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remains of war dead dumped in landfill

The Dover Air Force Base mortuary for years disposed of portions of troops’ remains by cremating them and dumping the ashes in a Virginia landfill, a practice that officials have since abandoned in favor of burial at sea.

The Dover, Del., mortuary, the main point of entry for the nation’s war dead and the target of federal investigations of alleged mishandling of remains, engaged in the practice from 2003 to 2008, according to Air Force officials. The manner of disposal was not disclosed to relatives of fallen service members.

Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Hotline for Families


The Air Force has set up a toll-free number for families of fallen service members with questions about the Office of Special Counsel investigation or Air Force mortuary operations. That number is 1-855-637-2583, and the service will also answer questions through

Semper Fi Screenings in North Carolina

This weekend there will be two screenings of the Camp Lejeune Documentary, "Semper Fi: Always Faithful" in North Carolina. This is the first time the film has been seen in the state.

The first screening will be held Saturday, November 12th at 4PM in Wilmington NC. This screening is part of the Cucalorus Film Festival. For tickets and more information, please visit the film's website.

The second screening will be held on Sunday, November 13th in Jacksonville. NC at 3PM. This screening is free to the public and will be held at the Jacksonville Northside High School.

Jerry Ensminger and the film's producers will attend both screenings and participate in a post viewing question and answer session. This is your opportunity to see for yourselves how this fight has evolved and support our cause.

Mike Partain

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Air Force morgue lost body parts from war dead

Tue, 08 Nov 2011 17:47:45 -0500
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Dover military mortuary entrusted with the solemn duty of receiving and caring for America's war dead twice lost body parts of remains shipped home from Afghanistan, the Air Force revealed Tuesday.

Three mortuary supervisors have been punished, but no one was fired in a grisly case reminiscent of the scandalous mishandling and misidentifying of remains at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Air Force, which runs the mortuary at Dover, Del., acknowledged failures while insisting it made the right decision in not informing families linked to the missing body parts until last weekend — months after it completed a probe of 14 sets of allegations lodged by three members of the mortuary staff.

Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, told a Pentagon news conference he and the service's top civilian, Michael Donley, are ultimately responsible for what happens at Dover and for its mistakes.

"There's no escaping it," Schwartz said.

Read the entire story here.

Air Force Officials Disciplined Over Handling of Human Remains

Mishandling of remains sparks anger

Air Force Investigates and Improves Mortuary Operation

The Air Force announced today that it has completed a year-long investigation of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations (AFMAO) at Dover Air Force Base, Dover, Del., and the point of entry for U.S. service members who are killed or die overseas. The service implemented multiple corrective actions and took action regarding three senior mortuary officials responsible for operations at AFMAO after some employees complained about the handling of certain cases.
The Air Force Inspector General began its investigation in June 2010. The investigation focused primarily on the handling of remains of four service members. The Air Force inspector general’s investigation was conducted in coordination with other federal offices and included nearly 50 interviews and an extensive review of mortuary operating procedures. Investigators found no evidence anyone intentionally mishandled remains, but concluded the mortuary staff failed to maintain accountability while processing portions of remains for three service members. While it is likely that disposition of remains was by an appropriate method, it could not be shown that it was in accordance with the families’ directions.

Each family received remains of their service member for interment; the staff, however, was not able to ensure additional portions of remains were handled in a manner consistent with the families’ instructions.

The Air Force determined senior AFMAO officials failed to provide proper management and corrective actions when they did not respond appropriately to indications that procedures were inadequate to prevent problems related to the tracking of portions of human remains.

Additionally, the Air Force investigation determined the mortuary staff could have communicated more clearly with the representatives of a sister service about restorative actions taken to prepare the remains of a service member, killed by an improvised explosive device, whose family requested to view him in uniform. In addition, the investigation found that while there were some deficiencies in administrative procedures, documentation, and electronic record keeping, the processes to which they related were appropriately conducted. Public health was not endangered.

“The investigation concluded that the mission was always conducted with reverence, dignity, honor and respect for all served through the facility,” said Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff.

“However, the standard is 100 percent accountability in every instance of this important mission. We can, and will, do better and as a result of the allegations and investigation; our ability to care for our fallen warriors is now stronger,” Schwartz said. “In fact, throughout the past year new processes have been put in place to ensure the exacting standards are met every time.”

The Air Force has contacted family designated representatives of the four families directly affected and discussed these matters with them personally.

“It is the AFMAO staff’s mission and obligation to fulfill the nation’s commitment to caring for our fallen service members while also serving and supporting the families of these heroes,” said Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley. “The employees who brought forth their concerns gave the Air Force an opportunity to make the operation of AFMAO better and stronger. Their initiative allowed us to correct procedures and make long-term improvements to management of Air Force mortuary operations.”

The Air Force has requested, and the Secretary of Defense has directed, an independent assessment of the current overall operations of the Port Mortuary.

An independent panel of the Defense Health Board will evaluate current operations to ensure continued effectiveness of the Port Mortuary. In addition, the review panel will identify whether the Air Force should be considering or taking any further actions to enhance these operations.

“I want to reassure our men and women in uniform, and the American public, that the Air Force mortuary standards they expect for our fallen heroes are being met,” Schwartz said.

The Dover mortuary’s staff consists of members of all branches of the military, including civilians and reservists. The staff includes mortuary affairs specialists, morticians and other technical experts. The staff operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and regularly responds to the trauma of war as staff members prepare the remains of fallen warriors under often-difficult circumstances. Since 2003, the mortuary center has prepared more than 6,300 deceased individuals for return to their loved ones.

Families of fallen service members may contact the Air Force toll free at 1-855-637-2583 or e-mail at if they have questions about this investigation or Air Force mortuary operations.

For additional information, media should contact Air Force Public Affairs at 703-695-0640 or after hours at 202-528-4929.


Monday, November 07, 2011

Kin recall Hood victims on 2-year anniversary

WASHINGTON — Two grieving families walked through endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery on a cool autumn day to pay their respects to two soldiers they never met.

But they are forever linked to Maj. Libardo Eduardo Careveo and Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, bound by tragedy. Their relatives and both soldiers were among 13 people gunned down in a Fort Hood, Texas, shooting rampage two years ago today that left more than two dozen others wounded.

Staying connected with the other victims’ families has helped in the grieving process, although they may never truly heal, they said.

Read the entire story here.

Multiple missteps led to drone killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan

"Hey now, wait. Standby on these," the pilot cautioned. "They could be animals in the field." Seconds later, tiny white flashes appeared by the figures -- the heat signature of gunfire. "There they are," he said, now sure he was looking at the enemy.

At an Air National Guard base in Terre Haute, Ind., an intelligence analyst whose job it was to monitor the video to help prevent mistakes on the mission also observed the muzzle flashes -- but noticed that they were firing away from the embattled Marines.

Marines at Patrol Base Alcatraz, 12 miles from the firefight, watched their screens too, as they kept in contact with both the drone crew and the platoon members, who had set out from the base just an hour earlier. It would be their decision whether to call in a missile strike.

Thirty-one seconds after the pilot reported muzzle flashes, the Marines at Alcatraz ordered that the Predator be prepared to strike if the shooters could be confirmed as hostile. At 8:49 a.m., 29 minutes after the ambush began, they authorized the pilot to fire.
In minutes, two Americans would be dead.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Local DJ dedicates portion of radio show to read the names of war casualties

Fred Boenig, also known by his radio name DJ Chance Austin, experienced every parent’s worst nightmare in May 2010.

Military cars pulled up to his house and informed him that his 19-year-old son, Airman 1st Class Austin Harper Gates Benson, 19, of Hellertown, had died in Torkham, Khyber, Afghanistan.
Benson was a 2008 graduate of Saucon Valley High School where he was voted “Most Likely to Change the World” by peers, according to his father.

Boenig would soon find out that his son wasn’t killed in combat, but from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Read the entire story here.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Non-hostile Deaths

American Society in Crisis: Non-Hostile Deaths Overtaking Veterans


Death Anniversary

Statement of Stefanie E. Pelkey
before the Committee on Veterans Affairs
House of Representatives
27 July 2005

My name is Stefanie Pelkey and I am a former Captain in the U.S. Army. This testimony is on behalf of my husband, CPT Michael Jon Pelkey, who died on November 5, 2004. Although he was a brave veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he did not die in battle, at least not in Iraq. He died in a battle of his heart and mind. He passed away in our home at Fort Sill, Oklahoma from a gunshot wound to the chest. My Michael was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) only one week before his death by a licensed therapist authorized by Tricare.

The official ruling by the Department of Defense is suicide, however, many people, including myself; believe it was a horrible accident. We also believe that he would not have been sleeping with a loaded pistol if it weren’t for the PTSD.

When I met my husband, we were both officers in a Field Artillery unit in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. Michael was working as the assistant Operations Officer for the unit. He was responsible and hard-working. He loved life, traveling, and having fun. He hailed from Wolcott, Connecticut and was one of six siblings. He received his commission from the University of Connecticut. Being a soldier was a childhood dream.

We were married in November 2001 and our journey as a military family began. Michael deployed for Iraq with the 1st Armored Division in March 2003, three weeks after our son, Benjamin, was born. He left a happy and proud father. He returned in late July of 2003. It seemed upon his return that our family was complete and we had made it through our first real world deployment. Aside from his lack of appetite and a brief adjustment period, he seemed so happy to be home.

He noted several concerns on his DD Form 2796, post-deployment health assessment, to include diarrhea, frequent indigestion, ringing in the ears, feeling tired after sleeping, headaches, and strange rashes. He also noted on this form that he had felt that he was in great danger of being killed while in Iraq and he witnessed the killings or dead coalition and civilians during this time. However, the most worrisome notation on this form was the admission of feeling down, depressed, and sometimes hopeless. He also noted that he was constantly on guard, and easily startled after returning from his deployment. 

A few days after returning to Germany, he reported to his primary care physician on July 28, 2003, as a part of a post-deployment health assessment. He expressed concerns to his primary care physician that he was worried about having serious conflicts with his spouse and close friends. The physician referred him to see a counselor, however, the mental health staff on our post was severely understaffed with only one or two psychiatrists. Michael was unable to get an appointment before we moved from our post in Germany to Fort Sill, Oklahoma only five days later.

There was no time for therapy and doctors’ visits, as we were packing our home and taking care of our then six-month-old son. When we got to Fort Sill, we both settled into our assignments. Everything seemed normal for a while. Michael was in the Officers Advanced Course for Field Artillery and I was a Chemical Officer for a Brigade. We settled into our home and about six months later, the symptoms of PTSD started to surface, only, we did not know enough about PTSD to connect the dots.

When my husband returned from Iraq, there were no debriefings for family members, service members, or forced evaluations from Army Mental Health in Germany. As a soldier and wife, I never received any preparation on what to expect upon my husband’s return. If only the military community had reached out to family members in some manner to prepare them for and make them aware of the symptoms of PTSD, my family’s tragedy could have been averted. I believe that it is crucial that spouses be informed about the symptoms and make a point in telling them that PTSD can happen long after what psychiatrists call an adjustment period. Spouses are sometimes the only ones who will encourage a soldier to seek help. Most soldiers I know will not willingly seek help at any military mental facility for fear of repercussions from commanders and even jibes from fellow soldiers. My husband worked around many high ranking officers and was most likely embarrassed about seeking help. What would they think of an officer having nightmares, being forgetful, and having to take anti-depressants?

Months after arriving in Oklahoma, there were several instances in which I found a fully loaded 9mm pistol under Michael’s pillow or under his side of the bed. I would yell at him and tell him that the baby could find it and get hurt. Then I would find it under the mattress or in his nightstand. I could not seem to get through to him that having this weapon was not necessary and it posed a danger. These episodes alone started to cause marital tension. Finally, after about two months of haggling over the issue of this weapon, Michael finally agreed to put his pistols away. I thought the situation was resolved. As a soldier myself, I could understand that having a weapon after being in a war might be somewhat habitual for him. Little by little, other symptoms started to arise, including forgetfulness.

Michael would not even remember to mail a bill or pick-up his own prescriptions. This became a great problem for him. How could a Captain in the US Army forget to mail bills and miss appointments? He was not like this before his deployment. One of the greatest tests PTSD posed to our marriage was that Michael began to suffer from erectile dysfunction, which would cause him to break into tears. He did not understand what was happening. I did not know what was happening.

On other occasions, he would over-react to simple things. One night, we heard something in the garage around 8 pm. It was still fairly light outside and it could have simply been a child or an animal. We lived in a small town with very little crime. Michael proceeded to run outside with a fully loaded weapon and almost fired at a neighbor’s cat. These over-reactions occurred on several occasions.

The symptoms would come and go to a point that they didn’t seem like a problem at the time. We would later laugh about them and make jokes about the little scares we had. He would always make excuses and tell me that we needed to be careful, so I let it go. There were times that everything seemed just right in our home and he seemed capable enough. He was succeeding in his career as the only Captain in a research and development unit at Fort Sill. It was a job in which he was entrusted with researching and contributing to the Army’s latest in targeting developments.

We soon bought a new house and he was so proud of it. We were finally getting settled. Then the high-blood pressure and severe chest pains surfaced along with erectile dysfunction. Finally, the nightmares began. This would be the last symptom of PTSD to arise and it was the one symptom that I feel ultimately contributed to my husband’s death. These nightmares were so disturbing that Michael would sometimes kick me in his sleep or wake up running to turn on the lights. He would wake up covered in sweat and I would hold him until he went back to sleep. He was almost child-like in these moments. In the morning, he would joke around and tell me the boogie man was going to get him and sadly, we both laughed it off.

However, at this time, I do want to point out that Michael was seeking help for all of the symptoms I have discussed. He was put on high blood pressure medication. He also complained of chest pains and was seen on three occasions in the month preceding his death. He even sought a prescription for Viagra to ease marital tensions. However, no military physician Michael ever saw could give him any answers. No doctor ever asked him about depression or linked his symptoms to the war.

Michael tried to seek help from the Fort Sill Mental Health facility but, was discouraged that the appointments he was given were sometimes a month away. So, he called Tricare and was told that he could receive outside therapy, if it was “Family Therapy” so, we took it. Family therapy, marital counseling, or whatever they wanted to call it, we were desperate to save our marriage. After all, the symptoms of PTSD were causing most of our heartaches. In the two weeks prior to his death, we saw a therapist authorized by Tricare as a couple and individually. This therapist told Michael that he had PTSD and that she would recommend to his primary care physician that he be put on medication. She also told him that she had a method of treating PTSD and she felt she could help him because he was open to receiving help. He was so excited and finally expressed to me that he could see a light at the end of the tunnel. He finally had an answer to all of his problems and some of our marital troubles. It was an exciting day for us. Not to mention, two weeks before his death, he interviewed for a position in which he would be running the staff of a General Officer. He was so proud that he was given the job after speaking with the General for only fifteen minutes. He was beaming with pride and so excited about his new job. Things were looking up for him.

He met with the therapist on a Monday. Tuesday, we celebrated our third wedding anniversary. It was a happy time. I felt hope and relief with the recent positive events. Michael must have felt something else. Friday my parents were visiting. I was at a church function and my father returned from playing golf to find Michael. He looked as if he were sleeping peacefully, except for the wet spot on his chest. His pain was finally over and his battle with PTSD was won. No, he wasn’t in Iraq but, in his mind he was there day in and day out. Although Michael would never discuss the details of his experiences in Iraq, I know he saw casualties, children suffering, dead civilians, and soldiers perish. For my soft-hearted Michael, that was enough. Every man’s heart is different. For my Michael it may not have taken much, but, it changed his heart and mind forever.

There were no indications of suicide but, plenty of signs to indicate PTSD. He suffered greatly from the classic symptoms of PTSD. It’s plain to see in retrospect. His weapon became a great source of comfort for him. He endured sleepless nights due to nightmares and images of suffering that only Michael knew.

My husband served the Army and his country with honor. He was a hard worker, wonderful husband and father. He leaves behind a 28-month-old son, Benjamin. One day I would like to tell my son what a hero his father was. He went to war and came back with an illness. Although PTSD is evident in his medical records and in my experiences with Michael, the Army has chosen to rule Michael’s death a suicide without documenting this serious illness. I have been told by the investigator that any PTSD diagnosis must be documented by an Army Mental Health Psychiatrist to be considered valid. At the time Michael sought help, he knew it was an urgent matter and was not willing to wait a month or even a few days. He knew it was time. Michael sought the help Tricare offered us and took it. Due to the fact that we were in family therapy and the fact that it was coded as family therapy, Michael is not going to get the credit he deserves. He is a casualty of war. I have heard this spoken from the mouth’s of two Generals. He came home from war with an injured mind and to let him become just a “suicide” is an injustice to someone who served their country so bravely. He loved being a soldier and he put his heart into it. I will be submitting petitions to have the PTSD officially documented and to have my husband put on the Official Operation Iraqi Freedom Casualty of War list. There are many soldiers who have committed suicide due to PTSD in Iraq and received full honors and benefits. Army Master Sergeant James C. Coons of Katy, Texas committed suicide and was found dead in his room at a hotel for outpatients being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical. Although Coons died outside a combat zone, his family’s petition to have him counted as a casualty of combat was approved. Michael deserves the same honors.

There are so many soldiers suffering from this disorder and so many families suffering the aftermath. I don’t want my Michael to have died in vain. He had a purpose in this life and that was to watch over his soldiers. I intend to keep helping him do so by spreading our story.

My husband died of wounds sustained in battle. That is the bottom line. The war does not end when they come home.

Stefanie Pelkey