Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Death Memorial

My son’s name was Kenneth John Laga, he died on 31st August 2005, along with two other young soldiers in Gutersloh, Germany.

I had lost my oldest son (non military) 7 months earlier, so Kenneth’s death was unbearable, and also totally needless. The 3 boys were on a visit to the medical centre at another barracks.

Kenneth was with 26 Regiment, Royal Artillery. The regiment had to replace the original duty driver that morning, as he was on a course. The replacement driver, it transpired, had never driven a Land Rover Wolf alone, let alone on right hand drive roads (Germany), he should not have been given the full license to drive the vehicle as he should have undergone conversion training before being allowed to drive, this was his first driving duty!

He did not get his work ticket signed before setting off (the work ticket is the equivalent to the insurance document), he lost his way, took a gentle left hand bend too quickly for his ability and lost control of the vehicle and smashed into two trees. All the three boys died later that day of massive head and body injuries.

The front seat belts were torn apart as the roof ripped off the vehicle, it was left holding on by one screw. What happened after has been a disaster as far as I am concerned. My husband died 16 months later, he had a massive heart attack at the age of 53.

The only person who has faced any punishment was the driver, he was fined £1,000 at a court martial for careless driving, he appealed against this all the way to the House of Lords, all paid for by tax payers money. I have lost track of how many times I have asked about the Sgt who issued him with the full license, in fact he has been promoted now to Staff Sgt. He has not had a court martial or faced any internal discipline, he answered at the inquest that he had had an informal chat with his new commanding officer.

Elaine Laga, Mother of Kenneth Laga.

If you would like to contact Elaine Laga, please email us and we’ll put you in contact with her.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Military Suicide Prevention Task Force Report

Military Suicide Prevention Task Force Report
August 24, 2011

The Armed Services Suicide Prevention Task Force presented its final report. The report contained a number of finding and included recommendations to overhaul the Department of Defense's ability to react to increasing suicide .. Read More

View the C-Span Program here.

Armenian Military Probes Another Non-Combat Death

Military authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the non-combat death of yet another Armenian soldier, which highlighted their continuing failure to root out chronic abuses within the army ranks.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported at the weekend that Aghasi Abrahamian, an 18-year-old conscript serving in an army unit near Nagorno-Karabakh, died shortly after being hospitalized with serious injuries late on Friday.

A ministry statement said that military investigators are now trying to establish the causes of Abrahamian’s death. It said they opened a criminal case under a Criminal Code clause dealing with involuntary manslaughters caused by beatings.

The ministry’s Investigative Department reported no arrests among military personnel as of Monday evening.

Abrahamian’s grief-stricken relatives insisted, meanwhile, that the conscript was beaten to death and that the investigators should treat the case as a deliberate murder.

“My boy was brutally beaten to death,” his mother Gayane told RFE/RL’s Armenian service ( in her Yerevan apartment where Abrahamian lay in state on Monday.

“I sent a healthy boy [to the army] and I expected to get back a healthy boy, not a dead body,” she cried.
Read the entire story here.

Update: Two Arrested Over Armenian Serviceman's Death

Death Memorial

My son, Nolan Edward Stites, was an Army Reservist assigned to the 52nd Combat Engineer Battalion on Fort Carson, Colorado. He successfully completed nine months in the Army Reserve “delayed entry” program with the 52nd Engineers and received a promotion due to his excellent performance. In the summer of 2000 he reported to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for Basic Combat Training where he became ill with clinical depression shortly thereafter. Nolan sought help for his illness and was a patient under care of the U.S. Army when he died during his seventh week on the Missouri army post.
Nolan graduated from high school with honors, never got into trouble and was respected as mature by all adults that knew him. He was an active church member, did not smoke, drink, use drugs or have any history of mental or family problems. Nolan was a rugged and physically fit outdoorsman, expert marksman with all types of firearms and loved the military. He held high ideals and was very patriotic. Nolan’s many NCO and Officer friends familiar with his out-door skills and endurance considered Nolan potentially a model soldier.

During his second week at Fort Leonard Wood, Nolan complained of the heat and humidity and said his forehead was severely sunburned and swollen. Nolan, a native of Colorado, was not used to Missouri’s climate in July. Two weeks later he called home and reported leg cramps, insomnia, loss of appetite and cognitive problems with reading, writing and understanding what was being said to him.

I, as his father, unwittingly made the mistake of responding with a letter, advising him to seek medical care on post, a recruit’s only source of help. Nolan, being one not to complain, tried to tough it out and continued training until his ailments progressed to bladder control problems, making it impossible to go on. He went to his roommates, drill sergeants and finally the Brigade Chaplain for assistance.

Nolan told the Chaplain he was depressed and had suicidal thoughts, a common symptom of depression. The Chaplain recognized Nolan needed to be seen by a mental health professional and, as required in this type of case, reported his findings to the Company Commander. The Company Commander immediately removed Nolan from training and put him on “Suicide or Unit Watch,” the Standard Operational Procedure in use on Fort Leonard Wood at that time. According to the Captain, Nolan ranked in the top 10% of the company when he placed my son on unit watch.

Unit watch is a disciplinary program of humiliation and ostracism used by the military to deter
manipulative recruits from claiming mental problems to get out of the service. They removed Nolan from all training but not the unit; made him sleep in the War Room, using tired, resentful, and untrained teenagers to guard him at night. Without any medical treatment, Nolan was forced to parade around in front of his peers for fifteen days, minus belt and bootlaces. Ostracized from training and
humiliated as a marked man, Nolan was so distraught over his situation he told a roommate he was considering ending his life by jumping from the third story window. The worried roommates got together and wrote their drill sergeant a note expressing their concerns to no avail; their note was ignored!

On the fifth day of his ordeal, Nolan saw an Army social worker that misdiagnosed him as “a Special Ed. student that never got help” and “unfit for service.” (Nolan had just graduated from high school with a grade point average above 3.5.) The social worker returned Nolan to the barracks on full “Unit Watch” without further follow-up for the last ten days of his life. On unit watch, Nolan was subjected to sleep deprivation, humiliation, and embarrassment. In front of the entire platoon, Nolan’s drill sergeant challenged him to jump and kill himself, even offered to open the window. (This kind of mental abuse is devastating to a patient suffering from clinical depression.) Nolan wrote his drill sergeant a note pleading for help, “nobody will help now but I need emergency help to live, my parents want me to live and so do I.” The platoon sergeant in charge never took appropriate action with the note.

After two weeks of unit watch my son called me about his desperate situation. I then called the Red Cross for help and they misspelled Nolan’s last name so bad they had difficulty in locating him on Fort Leonard Wood. Over the telephone, eight hundred miles away, I told the drill sergeants to take Nolan to the hospital. After examining Nolan, the ER doctor gave him an I.V. for dehydration, set up an appointment with the mental health service for the next day and returned Nolan back to the barracks
for more “unit watch.” The platoon sergeant placed Nolan next to a window on the third floor. Nolan saw no hope for help and wrote a farewell letter to his family stating, he didn’t know how to get help, there was only one place left for him to go, and “God could never forgive me for disgracing my country and my family.” Stripped of self-esteem and with “no light at the end of the tunnel,” my son, PV2 Stites, did as his sergeant suggested, jumped to his death!

A year later I received a pathetically flawed CID investigation report through FOIA. It did not explain the pencil point size puncture wound to my son’s abdomen, inconsistent with injuries sustained from landing on his back. The CID agent in charge of the investigation photographed another recruit’s ID
tag at the death scene and identified it as Nolan’s without reading it. The broken chain from the tag was in blood, two inches from my son’s right ear. Nolan was right handed and his body position was face up. The other boy’s ID tag was sent to us in my son’s personal possessions. Based on my research about unit

watch, I suspect my son was being hazed but because of the Feres Doctrine I cannot sue and subpoena witnesses to find out the truth.

If a soldier is suicidal he doesn’t belong in the unit, if he is not suicidal, why take away his belt and bootlaces to mark and humiliate him in front of his peers? That defines what unit watch is all about, punishment for saying you are ill. Nolan’s death did not result from an accidental slip of a surgeon’s knife but 15 days of deliberate abuse. I consider his death a “psychological homicide.” The culprit
in this case was not any one individual but the government of the United States for allowing this sadistic and abusive program to exist!

Five weeks earlier, another recruit, PVT Gary Moore from our state of Colorado, also killed himself on Fort Leonard Wood after suffering three weeks of abuse and being made fun of on “Unit Watch.” Both families were denied redress when we filed Tort claims for gross negligence and medical malpractice, resulting in death. The government using the Feres Doctrine responded with a letter denying our claims stating, “The United States is not liable to service members under the FTCA for injuries that arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service.”

No one was held accountable or punished; the sergeant that told Nolan to kill himself was promoted.

Our and Gary Moore’s family discovered, like many other families of deceased active duty soldiers, the Federal government is above the law and you can’t do anything about it.

Richard R. Stites, AKA, “Singe”
Father of the late PV2 Nolan Edward Stites

If you have any information about this case, please contact me through this website

Friday, August 26, 2011

3 Hawaii Marines charged in Afghanistan hazing case

By William Cole

Three Hawaii Marines have been charged with multiple offenses ranging from assault and maltreatment to violation of orders and dereliction of duty for alleged hazing leading up to the April 3 death of fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew in Afghanistan, officials said today.

Lew, 21, committed suicide April 3 after being hazed by two other Marine lance corporals, the Marine Corps Times said, citing an investigation into the death.

Read the entire story here.
Marine suicide tied to hazing in Afghanistan

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Facing Ninth Deployment, Ranger Kills Himself

Husband's suicide was to avoid ninth deployment, widow says

Provide resources to address Army suicides

Bereaved parents urge Armenian president to solve army murders

All around the world, there are families grieving the loss of soldiers who have been murdered by fellow service members or who have died otherwise, usually at a young age, in uninvestigated non-combat deaths.  This story is from Armenia, where the families have come together to fight for justice.

"The chief military prosecutor admits that many crimes have been committed by inspectors in connection with the criminal cases into our sons' deaths. However, no one has yet been punished. You have upset us. Moreover, murders in the army will continue as indifference and illegality rule there,” the letter says.
Read the entire story here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sgt Patrick Rust - His Last Known Journey

Posted on August 20th, 2011
Several weeks ago I was introduced to the strange case of Sgt. Patrick Rust by Denny Griffin of Crimewire. It is a cold case, 2007 although the events only happened five years ago, it has long since entered the dusty file section for the investigators. You can read a basic synopsis of the case on The story that Denny Griffin told me was a very disturbing one. Denny and his Crimewire team only take on cases that have a ’solvable factor’.
The Patrick Rust case has that factor. I invited Denny Griffin and his fellow Crimewire investigator Bill Sullivan to join us on The Sunday Afternoon Murder Club radio program. You can listen to the recording here.

There are a number of aspects to this case that really bother me. I just want to look at one. Maybe it is taken out of context, maybe I am off the mark.
Read the entire story, with visuals, here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Military Training Accidents

Link to radio discussion of training accidents.

Senator slams DoD on suicide prevention efforts

By Andrew Tilghman - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Aug 18, 2011 17:15:00 EDT

It’s been a year since a blue-ribbon commission on military suicide prevention issued its final report and a list of recommendations for major changes at the Pentagon. But many of its key recommendations — including the creation of a Pentagon-level office to coordinate the roughly 900 suicide prevention programs across the force — have not been implemented.

Now a U.S. senator is ratcheting up pressure on the Defense Department to set those proposed changes in motion. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., fired off a letter Wednesday after the Army reported that suicides among soldiers had reached a new all-time high.

Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Upsurge of suicides at Lewis-McChord, Army-wide

Seattle Times staff reporter

Since the first of July, five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have died in apparent suicides, part of an Army-wide upsurge in such deaths despite stepped-up prevention efforts.

Their memorial services came so close together that one bereaved mother, at a hotel in DuPont where the Army had her stay, encountered another couple struggling with the loss of their son.

"This is just too much in too short a time," said Karrie Champion, whose 21-year-old son, Spc. Jonathon Gilbert, died July 28. "This is just not right."

In recent weeks, commanders have met with soldiers stricken by grief over the passing of their comrades, and a recent directive at the base put a heightened focus on an Army-wide effort to reduce suicides.

Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Documentary on Friendly Fire Deaths to Premiere

ASKATD Long Trailer from 5414Productions on Vimeo.

In the works for over two years, A Second Knock at the Door offers a rare glimpse into the lives of military families dealing with the loss of loved ones to friendly fire. Through interviews and investigative reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, this documentary explores several key incidents in which the families of the fallen were forced to embark on a quest for the truth after the Army attempted to bury the true cause of death within the "fog of war."

Unwilling to allow these soldiers to be defined by their death, A Second Knock at the Door thoroughly explores these men outside of the uniform through the eyes of their community where they were known simply as sons, husbands, fathers, fianc├ęs, and friends.

A Second Knock at the Door is a portrait of strength and sacrifice, faith and honor, and an undying belief in the goodness of the men and women who give their lives for their country.

Read the entire story here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

No solace for family of soldier who took own life

By Bill Murphy Jr.
Published: August 12, 2011

Every day now it seems there’s another bit of unfinished business in the life of Army veteran Jacob Andrews, who committed suicide in April.

A few days ago, it was a notice that the state of Missouri wants to collect the cost of a surgery Andrews had as a 10-year-old when he was on Medicaid. Last week, it was a notice from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs certifying---without mentioning his death---that Andrews was eligible for the post-9/11 GI Bill.

Between the two came another VA letter, this one in response to an inquiry from the office of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), denying responsibility for having erroneously told Andrews in November that he was ineligible for the GI Bill despite the year he spent fighting in Afghanistan.
Read the entire story here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Army Released July Suicide Data

Army Released July Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of July. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 22 potential suicides: three have been confirmed as suicide and 19 remain under investigation. For June 2011, the Army reported nine potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, three cases have been confirmed as suicide, and six cases remain under investigation.

During July 2011, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 10 potential suicides: none have been confirmed as suicide and 10 remain under investigation. For June 2011, the Army reported five potential suicides among not-on-active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of six cases. Four cases have been confirmed as suicide, and two cases remain under investigation.

"Every suicide represents a tragic loss to our Army and the nation. While the high number of potential suicides in July is discouraging, we are confident our efforts aimed at increasing individuals' resiliency, while reducing incidence of at-risk and high-risk behavior across the force, are having a positive impact," Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, stated. "We absolutely recognize there is much work to be done and remain committed to ensuring our people are cared for and have ready access to the best possible programs and services."

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 .

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

Source:  DOD Announcement, verbatim

Army reports record suicide numbers for July       

South Korea military faces 'barracks culture'

Read the entire story here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

US soldier gets life for slaying sergeants in Iraq

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- An Army sergeant based at Fort Stewart was sentenced Wednesday to life in a military prison without parole for shooting and killing his infantry squad leader and another U.S. soldier in Iraq after they criticized him for poor performance.

The military jury's sentence also calls for Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich, 41, of Minneapolis to be demoted in rank to private and to receive a dishonorable discharge. The same court-martial convicted him of premeditated murder May 25 in the slayings of Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson of Pensacola, Fla., and Sgt. Wesley Durbin of Dallas at a small patrol base outside Baghdad on Sept. 14, 2008.

Read the entire story here.

Numbers of Combat and Non-combat Deaths

The problem of counting non-combat deaths is tackled by a reporter and this is her summary, based on goverment statistics:

Q&A on the News

By Lori Johnston
For the AJC
Q: How many deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq were due to combat and how many are non-combat related? — Don Haller, Douglasville

A: As of Aug. 9, there had been 4,408 U.S. military and 13 Department of Defense civilian deaths in Operation Iraqi Freedom, for a total of 4,421 according to the DOD. Of those, 3,489 were the result of combat, meaning 932 were non-hostile. There have been 1,619 U.S. military deaths and two DOD civilians deaths in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan only), of which 270 were non-hostile. Operation Enduring Freedom also includes U.S. military forces in 15 other countries: Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yemen. There have been 100 deaths in those countries, 89 of which were non-hostile. The numbers of fatalities can be found at

Read story here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Army settles malpractice claim for $2.15 million

An Army soldier who filed a lawsuit over the treatment of his wife’s cancer at a military hospital at Fort Campbell, Ky., has reached a settlement with the federal government for $2.15 million, The Associated Press reported.

A Nashville judge on Friday approved the settlement of the medical malpractice claim made by Staff Sgt. Adam Cloer on behalf of his wife Melodee Cloer, who died last year at age 53 after being diagnosed with rectal cancer. The settlement is subject to final approval by the U.S. Attorney General.

Read the entire story here.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Link to Radio Discussion of Suicide

Richard Stites talks with Pam Baragona on The Truth Has Changed Radio Program.

Listen here.

Witness: Soldier hit over 200 times in initiation

By Steve Mraz

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Pvt. Terrance Norman and Sgt. Rodney Howell each punched Sgt. Juwan Johnson 20 or more times in the face, chest and back during a July 3, 2005, initiation into the Gangster Disciples in which Johnson suffered more than 200 blows in six minutes, a witness testified Tuesday.

Pfc. Latisha Ellis, who attended the “jumping in” ceremony, provided details on Johnson’s beating and details about the activities and structure of the Gangster Disciples in Kaiserslautern. Johnson, 25, of the 66th Transportation Company, died from multiple blunt-force injuries on July 4, 2005.

Ellis’ testimony came during the second day of a joint Article 32 hearing for Norman and Howell, who face several charges in Johnson’s death, including involuntary manslaughter.

Read the entire story here.

Sergeant set for Article 32 in 2009 killings at Camp Liberty

ByMegan McCloskey
Stars and Stripes
Published: August 5, 2011
WASHINGTON — The soldier accused of carrying out the deadliest case of fratricide in the Iraq War will be in court Monday for the military’s version of a grand jury.

In May 2009, Army Sgt. John Russell allegedly stole a gun, barged into a combat stress clinic in Baghdad and opened fire, killing five servicemembers and wounding two others. He is charged with five counts of premeditated murder, two counts of premeditated attempted murder and one count of assault.

Read the entire story here.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Recovering From My Service to Our Nation

This is an account of an airman whose military career was ruined by a rape by a "fellow" member of the Air Force. 

Read the entire story here.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Link to Radio Discussion

To listen to last week's discussion on The Truth Has Changed radio show, "Defending the Fallen - How Do We Effect Change?", click here.

Army wants to rid top ranks of toxic leaders

By Michelle Tan and Joe Gould - Staff writers
Posted : Sunday Jul 31, 2011 8:25:09 EDT

The Army is working to flush toxic leaders from its ranks. A survey of more than 22,630 soldiers from the rank of E-5 through O-6 and Army civilians showed that roughly one in five sees his or her superior as “toxic and unethical,” while only 27 percent believe that their organization allows the frank and free flow of ideas.

“You could look at this and say 82 percent of Army leaders are doing good and great things, but our nature isn’t going to be congratulatory,” said Col. Thomas Guthrie, director of the Center for Army Leadership, which has conducted the Annual Survey of Army Leadership since 2005. “Eighteen percent is too high even if it is perceived. It’s trying to change those climates out there, those individual behaviors, that’s taking some time. We do have to invoke some change, and we have to look internally for that.”

Read the rest of the story here.

This relates to our discussions about bullying in the military.