Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gold Star mother feels betrayed, not ready for the truth, so she waits

AKRON, Ohio — Peggy Buryj might be a phone call away from answering the great mystery of her life.

But she hesitates.

Buryj thinks she knows the name of an American soldier who killed her son, Jesse, in a friendly-fire incident in Iraq on May 5, 2004.

According to a soldier who was there, the bullet came from the gun of a man who is still in the U.S. Army and living in Italy.

But knowing that has not brought her comfort. Instead, the Canton woman has concluded there’s nothing she can do about it.

So the agony and the grieving continue after eight long years. She often feels lonely, even among other Gold Star mothers, because her circumstances and pain are unusual. She doesn’t even celebrate military holidays like other survivors.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Death Memorial

Family sues military, doctors in Marine’s boot camp death

DETROIT — Renee Thurlow knew her 18-year-old son was sick when she talked to him about two months after he left for boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.
 
“You sound awful,” she told Justin Haase over the phone about a week before Christmas 2001.
Haase, of Macomb County’s Chesterfield Township, promised to see a doctor, but didn’t mention how exhausted he was or the headaches that made him cry.
 
One week later, he died of bacterial meningitis.
 
Now, nearly two years after Haase’s death, his mother has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit against the Navy, two Marine sergeants, a Marine medic and a Navy doctor. The suit, filed last month, says an internal military report shows a series of medical mistakes hastened Haase’s death.
 
The lawsuit challenges a 54-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling that essentially says the military cannot be held responsible for the death or injury of active duty service members.
 
“That law has got to be changed,” Thurlow told the Detroit Free Press for a Tuesday story.
Maj. Ken White, a Parris Island spokesman, said a thorough investigation was conducted.
“We identified people who violated policy and we held them accountable for their actions,” White said.
 
Thurlow and her lawyers hope to show that a neglectful chain of events began when Haase arrived at Parris Island.
 
Haase missed the dose of antibiotics that recruits receive to ward off infections because he was allergic to penicillin. He should have received an alternative, but the Marines’ review found no evidence that he did.
 
Military doctors argue that the initial treatment would not have fought bacterial meningitis. The lawsuit claims Haase likely would not have become susceptible if treated upon arrival.
 
During a Dec. 22 training course that began at 6:30 a.m., Haase vomited and later began to cry.
A drill instructor took Haase to a military field medic who did not check his breathing, his pulse or temperature, records show.
 
Haase stayed in bed for most of the day. When he awoke that evening, he could barely keep his eyes open and was incoherent.
 
Just after 8 p.m., a senior drill instructor called 911 and said Haase had “taken a spill” during the training course. He was sent to Beaufort Naval Hospital.
 
A doctor initially focused on a possible head injury until a rectal temperature reading showed a 102-degree fever. A bacterial infection was suspected.
 
But Haase’s spinal fluid was not checked for more than another two hours. Healthy people have clear fluid. Haase’s looked like skim milk.
 
At 11:30 p.m., Justin received his first antibiotic treatment.
 
At 1:55 a.m. on Dec. 23, he was taken for a brain scan. Care for meningitis patients includes five methods to reduce or pre-empt brain swelling. None of those methods was used, medical records show.
 
Haase was again moved at 2:25 a.m. He spent the next several hours thrashing in bed and was put in restraints.
 
A nurse found Haase with fixed and dilated pupils at 5:30 a.m. He had suffered severe brain trauma.
Around 7 a.m. doctors prepared to fly him to Savannah Memorial Hospital in Georgia and called his family in Michigan.
 
Haase was pronounced brain dead at 3:16 p.m. on Dec. 23.
 
In early January, a one-page, unsigned letter from Parris Island arrived at the Thurlow house.
“What happened to your son,” the letter said, “was a freak accident that could have been prevented.”
Thurlow began her quest for answers.
 
Haase’s father, Don Haase, though angry and grieving, said it is difficult to blame the Marines.
“Clearly things could have been done differently,” Don Haase said. “At any point, they could have done something to save him and maybe the outcome would have been different.
 
“But at what point in time was it too late?”
 
Field medics at Parris Island now must consult a doctor by two-way radio when recruits are sick or injured. Drill instructors are educated about warning signs of infectious disease.
 
But Thurlow, who wears Haase’s dog tags around her neck, says the lawsuit remains necessary.
“It’s about stopping this before it ever happens again,” she said.
 
–From the Wednesday, August 20, 2003 online
edition of the Augusta Chronicle
AN OPEN
LETTER FROM RENEE THURLOW
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.”

PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW. MILITARY AND NON MILITARY. THANKS AND GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES

Gratefully,
Renee Thurlow

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What the Danny Chen Case Has Accomplished Through the OCA


Nineteen year old Army Private Danny Chen died on October 3, 2011.  He was found shot to death and it has been assumed that the gunshot was self-inflicted.  I do not know how thorough the forensic examinations were.  The Army is typically reluctant to reveal detail on their investigations.  There is always the possibility, without proof to the contrary, that he was murdered.  We will probably never know for sure.  That is the result of the unreasonable secrecy which the US Military holds to in cases of non-combat deaths.  I hope that someday they will reexamine this policy.
Because of the extraordinary aid of the OCA, the Organization of Chinese Americans, this case received extensive media coverage and excellent legal representation.  The soldiers involved in the racial and physical harassment of Private Chen were prosecuted.  As of December 2012, all the trials were completed. 

The Chen family has recently stated that they feel no sense of closure and Elizabeth OuYang, the spokesperson for the OCA has expressed similar disappointment that justice was not done in the case.
I understand their sentiments and agree with them to an extent. 

To the Chen family, I want to say that from my experience they will never feel a sense of closure.  I’m sorry, but that’s the way I see it.  They have lost a loved son to injustice.  They will mourn for the rest of their lives.  They will long for the son they have lost.  But they will learn to live with it.  I send them my sympathy, and, more importantly, my empathy, as I have similarly lost a soldier son to injustice. Unfortunately, there are thousands of families in the US who have had this experience. 
Here is what I want to say on the positive outcome of the Chen case.  Yes, I think there was a positive outcome and I think that the OCA is to be congratulated and praised for their proactive role in this outcome.

It is just slightly more than one year since Danny’s death.  The Army has publicly acknowledged that egregious  injustice was done which caused Danny to commit suicide.  The resolution of this case is much more unusual than you might expect.  Most of the families of non-combat death victims have never received any acknowledgement of wrongdoing by any of the Military Services, either of individual servicemembers or by command.  The OCA will continue to work to eliminate hazing and harassment of Military members.  The public has been made aware.  This is a big accomplishment with a positive result.
Eight soldiers were tried and found guilty of various offenses in just over a year.  The Chen family and OCA should know that this is extraordinarily rare!  True, the charge of negligent homicide was dropped in each case, but they had to know that this serious charge was a long shot to prove.  Each defendant got some sort of punishment.  This is also exceedingly uncommon, and further acknowledgement of wrongdoing within the ranks.

It is a start.  Some justice was done. 
Typically, families are on their own in seeking justice for their children and spouses.  They spend inordinate amounts of money on lawyers and bring cases which drag on for years and yield little justice.  This is common even in the case of provable homicide.  They receive little cooperation from the Military and/or civilian police when it comes to investigation.  The perpetrators are rarely prosecuted.  Within our group of families, there are many who are still trying to obtain information about their loved ones deaths after decades without much success.  They can find no ombudsmen or affordable legal counsel.  They cannot break through the barrier of secrecy and bureaucracy which protects the Military.  We need more groups like the OCA in America. 

Donna Janeczko

Recent articles on the Chen case:
http://www.stripes.com/news/last-of-accused-in-pvt-danny-chen-s-death-to-be-removed-from-army-1.201082
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/danny-chen-hazing-trial-mother_n_2324247.html
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/danny_chen/index.html

Comments from some of our members:
Well said. I know how disappointed they must be. I know they expected more, we can all relate to that. A friend of mine told me that Liz Ou Yang was on the news last week expressing her disappointment in the outcome. I don't think that they realize what they actually were able to accomplish.
Bonnie Palecco

 I agree, well said. I have nothing but respect and admiration for this family, unfortunately the loss of a child can overshadow any positive actions they have accomplished. Just getting the military to even acknowledge anything is a miracle, as most of us already know! In a very short time, This family has created great change for the future of others!! We know how crippling grief can be, The mourning process involves a great deal of anger and pain, which is very difficult to see past at times! I pray given time, the family will be able to see more clearly the good they have done for this world, and the hope they have given to others to keep going in our own battle for justice!!! And yes , as we all know they will mourn, always!!
Lora Bailey

Well said! Thanks for posting it. After 21 years we have less.
Congratulations to the family for making this much progress.
Kirk would have been 45 on the 28th!
Lois Vanderbur

 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Last of accused in Pvt. Danny Chen's death to be removed from Army

Pvt. Danny Chen's platoon leader will be booted from the Army after being punished outside of a court-martial.

First Lt. Daniel L. Schwartz was the last of eight soldiers from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, to be punished in Chen's death.

Chen, 19, was a Chinese-American soldier from New York who committed suicide in Afghanistan in October 2011.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Carson sgt. convicted in murder of spc.

FORT CARSON, Colo. — A soldier was found guilty of unpremeditated murder in the killing of a fellow Fort Carson colleague on Thursday.

A military panel reached the verdict against Sgt. Vincinte Jackson after several hours of deliberation. The panel of eight Army officers and enlisted soldiers — the equivalent of a jury in a civilian trial — also found Jackson not guilty of premeditated murder. A conviction on that charge could have carried a sentence of up to life in prison without parole.

The sentencing phase began soon after the verdict was read.

During Jackson’s court-martial, his lawyers conceded he killed 28-year-old Spc. Brandy Fonteneaux of Houston but argued that the slaying was so brutal and random that it couldn’t have been premeditated.

Read the entire story here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Army Releases November Suicide Data

 

The Army released suicide data today for the month of November. During November, among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as a suicide and 11 remain under investigation. For October, the Army reported 20 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers; since the release of that report, one case has been removed for a total of 19 cases: nine have been confirmed as suicides and 10 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 177 potential active-duty suicides: 113 have been confirmed as suicides and 64 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

During November, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 15 potential suicides (12 Army National Guard and three Army Reserve): two have been confirmed as suicide and 13 remain under investigation. For October, among that same group, the Army reported 13 potential suicides; since the release of that report, one case has been removed for a total of 12 cases (eight Army National Guard and four Army Reserve); six have been confirmed as suicides and six remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 126 potential not on active-duty suicides (84 Army National Guard and 42 Army Reserve): 97 have been confirmed as suicides and 29 remain under investigation. Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

"As part of the Army's team-based and holistic approach to suicide prevention and stigma reduction, Army chaplains remain committed to fostering a resilient and ready force by enhancing strength, reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking behaviors," said the Army's Maj. Gen. Donald L. Rutherford, Chief of Chaplains. "Our soldiers, families and civilians are our most precious resource, and the chaplaincy embodies the best of our Army values when it proclaims hope, embraces community, and stands with those who feel they stand 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 http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org .

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf .

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.preventsuicide.army.mil .

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

Information about Military OneSource is located at http://www.militaryonesource.com 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 http://www.army.mil/csf/ .
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 Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil .
The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is http://www.afsp.org/ and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at http://www.sprc.org/index.asp .

Source:  DOD Announcement, verbatim

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let military question GIs about private guns

When we lost a servicemember, for whatever reason, it was a heart-wrenching experience. But it was worse in the case of those who took their own lives. Suicides have been a challenge for the U.S. military for a long time — and the problem is getting more severe. Suicides began rising in the middle of the 2000s, leveled off briefly in 2010 and 2011 and resumed climbing again this year, reaching a record high.

In fact, suicides have become an epidemic. This year, more soldiers, seamen, airmen and Marines died by their own hand than died in battle. Suicide was the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. troops. More than two-thirds of suicides involved firearms, and nearly three-quarters of those cases involved personal weapons, not military weapons.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Soldier's slaying in US is bitter irony for family

DENVER -- Army Spc. Brandy Fonteneaux's death came not on a battlefield in Afghanistan but on an infantry post in Colorado - allegedly at the hand of a fellow soldier - and that makes the pain even worse for her family.

The 28-year-old from Houston had been stabbed 74 times when she was found in her room in a Fort Carson barracks on Jan. 8, Army investigators said. Officials said she had also been choked.

"We could have taken this much better if Brandy had been killed in war," said Fonteneaux's aunt, Bevenley Thomas, who raised her from infancy. "But to be murdered here in the U.S. in your barracks in your sleep is just not right."

Read the entire story here.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Death Memorial


THOMAS TRAYLOR MURDER – ANOTHER MILITARY TRAGEDY

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

THEORY
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.
QUESTION:
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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In suicide epidemic, military wrestles with prosecuting troops

WASHINGTON — Marine Corps Pvt. Lazzaric T. Caldwell slit his wrists and spurred a legal debate that’s consuming the Pentagon, as well as the nation’s top military appeals court.

On Tuesday, the court wrestled with the wisdom of prosecuting Caldwell after his January 2010 suicide attempt. Though Caldwell pleaded guilty, he and his attorneys now question his original plea and the broader military law that makes “self-injury” a potential criminal offense.

The questions resonate amid what Pentagon leaders have called an “epidemic” of military suicides.

Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Death Memorial

Sgt. Thomas Sweet
 
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.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Military suicides ‘out of control’

 

By Randal Yakey - The News Herald via AP
Posted : Sunday Nov 25, 2012 11:16:31 EST


CALLAWAY, Fla. — Libby Busbee pounded on the window of her son’s maroon Dodge Charger as he sat in the driveway of their home earlier this year. Locked inside his car, Army Spc. William Busbee sat with a .45-caliber gun pointed to the side of his head.

“Look at me,” his mother cried out as she tried to get her son’s attention. “Look at me.”

He wouldn’t look.

Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Seventh Soldier Found Guilty in Suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen

A seventh soldier has been found guilty in connection with the suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen.

Jurors in the court-martial of Staff Sgt. Andrew Van Bockel, 27, found him guilty of hazing, as well as dereliction of duty and maltreatment.

The latter charges specifically pertained to racist nicknames for Chen and orders that the 19-year-old speak Chinese.

Liz OuYang, who has served as a spokeswoman for Chen’s parents, said that Van Bockel argued in court that his treatment of Chen was “corrective training” intended to make the greenhorn a better soldier.

“This verdict shows it was not corrective training, it was torture,” OuYang said.
The jury will deliberate on the sentence Wednesday.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/seventh-soldier-found-guilty-connection-suicide-pvt-chen-article-1.1205562#ixzz2CrK2hBs7

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Death Memorial

Spc. James Pizzo, Jr.
 
I lost my brother SPC James Pizzo Jr on Nov. 20, 2011. He was found dead in his barracks at Ft. Riley, Kansas in the warrior transition battalion. He joined the army in February 2008. He survived boot camp and graduated in May of 2008, and by September 2008, He was boarding a plane to Iraq. He spent about 14 months in war before he came back to US soil. While overseas, he hit an IED with his Hum V that flipped causing him to have a neck injury resulting in two separate disk surgeries. He was ready and willing to sign up for his 2nd deployment but his neck injury prohibited his return and he continued working on base. My brother also suffered from PTSD. My brother suffered physically and mentally with pain from his neck, and many nights of panic attacks, and flashbacks. He was supposed to be medically discharged April 2012. The Last my mother spoke with him was Thursday November 17, 2011. He sounded good, was excited to come home for the holidays and spend time with his children.
His autopsy was ruled “Acute Bronchial Pneumonia”. My brother smoked, had sometimes a smoker’s cough, but being a 31 year old otherwise healthy man just does not make sense that he would die from Acute Bronchial Pneumonia overnight.
There are so many questions that need to be answered. We were told when he was found that his door was already kicked in, the man who found him was released from the army two days after my brother’s death. Several weeks later, he confirmed that my brother’s door was already kicked in, and then told me to “stop digging, you may not like what you find and you are only going to make things worse.” How can things be any worse? My brother is already dead..He has not responded to me since then. We were told that his room was ransacked and the evidence was compromised, but the army did not think it was foul play. His heart was kept for further testing which we had to then bury separately three months after his body, but yet, he died of Pneumonia. Why wouldn’t they keep his lungs for testing? The autopsy report makes note of bruising on his abdomen, back and chest, and yet, the medical examiner says “The bruising is not his cause of death.” We have now found out that my brother was on numerous anti psychotics (11 out of 12 prescriptions to be exact) to treat for his PTSD, insomnia, and depression.
We are still fighting for records, information, and seem to not be getting far..but i am hopeful that finding this amazing group, and reading all of the accomplishments thus far, i feel I am in the right place to find some justice.
Thank you for giving me a chance to tell some of my brother’s story.
If you have information about this case, contact Melanie Pizzo through this website.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Army Releases October Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of October. During October, among active-duty soldiers, there were 20 potential suicides: five have been confirmed as suicides, and 15 remain under investigation. For September, the Army reported 15 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers: four have been confirmed as suicides, and 11 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 166 potential active-duty suicides: 105 have been confirmed as suicides, and 61 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides, and no cases under investigation.

During October, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 13 potential suicides (nine Army National Guard and four Army Reserve): three have been confirmed as suicides, and 10 remain under investigation. For September, among that same group, the Army reported 16 potential suicides. Since the release of that report one case was added for a total of 17 cases (13 Army National Guard and 4 Army Reserve); five have been confirmed as suicides, and 12 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 114 potential not on active-duty suicides (75 Army National Guard and 39 Army Reserve): 83 have been confirmed as suicides, and 31 remain under investigation. Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides, and no cases under investigation.

"Suicide is preventable, and its prevention is a shared responsibility among all members of the Army family," said Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command. Rodriguez said that everyone is empowered to intervene and save lives, "effective intervention requires leadership involvement and support, an environment that promotes help-seeking for hidden wounds like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress and prior knowledge of available local and national resources. We all must take the time to do a self-inventory to assess the presence and impact of stressors in our lives. Of equal importance is the awareness of the needs of others around us. There are no bystanders in our Army family."

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 http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org .

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf .

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.preventsuicide.army.mil .

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

Information about Military OneSource is located at http://www.militaryonesource.com 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 http://www.army.mil/csf/ .

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 Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil .

The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is http://www.afsp.org/ and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at http://www.sprc.org/index.asp .

Source:  DOD Announcement, verbatim

Monday, November 12, 2012

Death Memorial

MSG Sean M. Mocabee
 
MSG Sean M. Mocabee died by suicide on 12 November 2008. He served his country for twenty-three years. Served two tours in Iraq and one or two in Afghanistan plus various other places around the world. He was a medic for eighteen of those years receiving two Bronze Stars for his service in this area. The second Bronze Star was given posthumously.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Death Memorial


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

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Two Soldiers Prescribed 54 Drugs: Military Mental Health “Treatment” Becomes Frankenpharmacy


The devastating adverse effects mind-altering psychiatric drugs may be having on the nation’s military troops are best summed up by Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, writing “nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

Just as the fictional character, Dr. Frankenstein, turned to experiments in the laboratory to create life with fantastically horrific results, the psychiatric community, along with its pharmaceutical sidekicks, has turned to modern day chemical concoctions to alter the human mind. The result is what many believe is a growing number of equally hideous results culminating in senseless deaths, tormented lives and grief-stricken families.

The nation’s military troops are taking their lives at record numbers and seemingly healthy soldiers are dying from sudden unexplained deaths. That’s a fact. The data are clear, yet, despite growing evidence pointing to the enemy among us, the monstrous psycho-pharmacological experiment continues (see Part 1: Psychiatric Drugs and War: A Suicide Mission).

Read the entire story here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Death Memorials


PFC Christopher Klassen
December 13, 1986 — October 25, 2008

 
Christopher Monroe
December 3, 1985 — October 25, 2005
 
When Chris turned 17, he got his mother to sign the papers so he could join the Army Reserves. Part of the reason he joined was the educational benefits that he could use when he graduated from high school. The other reason was the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. He went to his basic training at Fort Jackson the summer of 2003. He would wear his uniform to high school twice a week during his senior year.
 
After he graduated from high school he was interested in going to Indiana University and he met the love of his life. Angela is a good hearted girl who was just a few months older than Chris but that made no difference to him. He had asked her to marry him about six months after they had met and her family had adopted him like he was their son.
 
In 2004 his reserve unit in Indiana said that a unit in Michigan needs a few people to go on a deployment to Iraq starting in the summer of 2005. Without hesitation he volunteered for this deployment and was transferred to the Michigan reserve unit. He was looking into buying a house so
that when he married Angela they had a place of their own. He wanted to get married before he went to Iraq but Angela said that they should wait because they would have plenty of time after he got back from Iraq for that.
 
On October 25, 2005, Chris was driving a 5 ton truck pulling an armed HUMV that was going to have maintenance work done on it. They were just outside of Basra, Iraq on a 6 lane highway with a gravel median separating the 3 lanes. Chris was driving the number two vehicle in the convoy when on the other side of the road they saw a civilian BMW flip over. The NCO with him yelled IED! but they discovered it was not an Improvised Explosive Device. The convoy from Chris on back stopped to help the civilian driver. The senior officer on site ordered Chris to pull his 5 ton across the road so the weapon on the HUMV could provide defense in front of the convoy. Everyone was to get out and provide security while the medics helped out the Iraqi civilian driver. Chris was standing on the left front side of his 5 ton with his weapon at the ready, providing a secure perimeter when it happened.
Unknown to the convoy the rear check point had let a 3 SUV British security detail enter the convoy’s perimeter. It was 850 meters from the rear check point to where Chris was standing.
 
The next morning around 10:30am, an Army Chaplain and a Sergeant First Class were at my door. This is where the real story about Chris begins. I was told that Chris had been killed in an accident the night before and was handed a business card to the Fort Hood Casualty Affairs Office. They told me to call them and they would give me more information. I called them and they told me as much as what I had already been told. My family was dealing with the Casualty Affairs Office at Fort Knox my father gave me the phone number to that office so I gave them a call as well. They said they did not have a copy of the divorce decree and needed to see it so I faxed it to them. It was at this point I was asked as the primary next of kin what I wanted to have done with the body. We had planned to have him sent back home to Indiana to go with what had already been planned. It was about this time they discovered I had served in the military and all information about Chris was only volunteered if I asked, and then it was limited.
 
Even though by Army regulation I was the primary next of kin, that was removed from me. On the Friday after he was killed I asked what the time frame was for him getting back home. I was told that when he got to Dover they would have to do an autopsy and then embalm him that this would take about 72 hours. That Friday he had not left Iraq yet but they would let me know anything when it happened. Over the weekend and Monday no one called me about Chris so Tuesday I called Fort Knox. When I asked the first thing out of the mouth of the Casualty Affairs Officer was, “Uh Oh, they have already sent an escort.” I asked what that meant because I had never had this happen before. They said Chris had arrived from Iraq Sunday night and that Chris was going to be coming in to Indianapolis the next night. I had to go to Fort Hood and get my airplane tickets to leave the next day. I got to Indiana a few hours before Chris did.
 
No one beyond the Chaplain and the SFC came to see me before I left for Indiana. That night my ex-wife and I met with the Casualty Affairs Officer from the reserve unit in Indiana. We went to the Indianapolis airport with a hearse to pick up Chris. The next time I saw Chris was the Flag draped coffin on the loading dock at the freight section at the airport. The Casualty Affairs officer did not bring enough people to put Chris into the hearse. The Casualty Affairs Officer, his driver, the escort, two police officers, Angela’s aunt, and I. put Chris in the hearse. At the funeral home I asked the funeral director if an autopsy had been done on Chris. He said he could not see that one had been done. Even when I got to Indiana no one from the military came to see me to offer their condolences. The Casualty Affairs Officer spent all of his time with my ex-wife even though his driver had been assigned to be her escort. Even though Chris was at his battle station with his weapon loaded ready to return fire if fired upon, he did not receive the Purple Heart. so before we buried him I gave him mine that I had received when I was in the Marines when I was in Beirut, Lebanon.
Angela had been named as the beneficiary of Chris’ SGLI and had a power of attorney to deal with Chris’ affairs before he was killed. At a meeting Angela had with the Casualty Affairs Officer. he gave her copies of the interim casualty report. When I asked for a copy of the documents I was told I would have to file a freedom of information act request to get them. When the media reported about Chris’ funeral on TV all of his family and Angela were mentioned but I was not. It was a sad joke that we made that I was nobody, just his father.
 
When I got back to Fort Hood and told them what had happened they could not believe it. The woman at Fort Hood that I was dealing with I had known when I was in the Army gave me the documents I could not get in Indiana.
It took about 4 months for the Army to send me the reports about the events of Chris’ death. One of the first documents I received was the autopsy results. The cause of death was blunt force trauma, they claimed. A few days later I received a copy of the final casualty report stating the cause of death was blast force trauma. It was when I got the final report from the Army investigator I had more questions than they answered. The first lie was the conditions at the time of the accident. In the report they said it was pitch black outside at 6:30pm but I had been over there and knew this is not right. I have a program for star watching that allows me to program in day, time, and place. When I put in the day, time and as close to the place of the events there was almost 2 hours of daylight when it happened.
 
The blame for the accident was placed on several American soldiers. rather than the driver of the SUV that had hit him. The investigator said because the British security detail driver was allowed to enter the convoys perimeter he was not at fault. I contacted the British government about this accident but they informed me they knew nothing about it. It was not a British SUV like the Army investigator said. I found out that Chris was fully conscious from the moment he was hit to the moment he died. One of the things that got me was that the onsite medical personnel took 15 minutes to determine that a traumatic surgical amputation of his right leg was urgent and he needed to be Medevaced out.
 
It was during the flight to the hospital that Chris died. The death certificate lists cause of death as traumatic amputation of the right leg but the autopsy does not list amputation at all. Many of the injuries listed in the autopsy were not evident on Chris. On the autopsy report the cause of death was blunt force trauma but the final casualty report the cause of death was blast force trauma. That is not a misspelling that is a mistake. All reports are screened to be sure they are accurate.
The driver of the SUV, a British citizen, works for a company called Erinys which is a South African company with its home office in London. This company serves one propose and that is to supply mercenaries to hot spots world wide. The driver a British citizen was one of these mercenaries. The director of operation in Iraq for this company is a good friend of Dick Cheney and was supposed to become the Prime Minister of Iraq but things did not work out the way they had planned. Erinys has a web site that states they have an office in Houston, Texas, but when you go to the address it is nothing but a post office box. The company states it has a manager of operation at this office but they have failed to register this office with our government. Failing to register their office is a violation of federal law. Neither the mercenary company nor the driver of the SUV is not being held accountable for the wrongful death of SGT Christopher Monroe. I was told that because the Army investigator blamed U.S. soldiers for letting the SUV pass they were the cause of death. There is a belief that the investigator was paid off by the mercenary company to put the blame on our soldiers because of the flaws in statements and documents.
 
The driver makes the point in his statement that at the time of the accident he was told it was not his fault. There is no way anyone could make that statement without an investigation. The SUV was destroyed that night burned in place because they said it could not be recovered but when the investigator went to the accident site later the burned our SUV was gone. That was the way of destroying any evidence.
 
The Casualty Affairs Officer when he received the personal effects of my son by regulation he was to hold them for 40 days so that any legal action could be made in dividing them between the mother, father, and fiancée. The Casualty Affairs Officer, who was a Captain, was advised by an Inspector General Officer of the rank of Colonel. He told the Captain to follow regulations. The Captain told the Colonel what he could do with the regulation and immediately gave all of the personal effects to the mother who said she would return things to the father and fiancée.
 
When I was in the military, regulation was the heart of the operations of the military. You can add to the regulation but you could never take away from the regulation. I have a JAG lawyer and Inspector General Officer who agree that by regulation I should have been the primary next of kin and the one to receive the personal effects, but the Army refuses to agree with their own regulations. I have even gone to my congressional representative and senator in getting things corrected but they have not done a thing. One of the things I was promised was photographs taken by the unit photographer of Chris in his casket at the funeral home. The Army refused to answer all requests made of them.
 
Perry Monroe
If you have any information about this case, please contact me through this website.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Army Releases September Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of September. During September, among active-duty soldiers, there were 15 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide and 14 remain under investigation. For August, the Army reported 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, one case was removed for a total of 15 cases: five have been confirmed as suicides and 10 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 146 potential active-duty suicides: 91 have been confirmed as suicides and 55 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.
During September, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 16 potential suicides (13 Army National Guard and three Army Reserve): one has been confirmed as suicide and 15 remain under investigation. For August, among that same group, the Army reported nine potential suicides. Since the release of that report two cases were added for a total of 11 cases (seven Army National Guard and four Army Reserve): five have been confirmed as suicides and six remain under investigation.

For 2012, there have been 101 potential not on active-duty suicides (67 Army National Guard and 34 Army Reserve): 67 have been confirmed as suicides and 34 remain under investigation. Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

"Every suicide in our ranks is a tragic loss for the Army family, adversely affecting the readiness of our Army," said Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel. "I am asking soldiers, family members, department of the Army civilians, neighbors, and friends to look out for each other and reach out and embrace those who may be struggling. Recognize the warning signs such as substance abuse, relationship problems, and withdrawal from friends and activities and use available resources to help yourself or others. Our actions can save lives."

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 http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org .

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf .

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.preventsuicide.army.mil .

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

Information about Military OneSource is located at http://www.militaryonesource.com 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 http://www.army.mil/csf/ .

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 Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil .

The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is http://www.afsp.org/ and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at http://www.sprc.org/index.asp .

Source:  http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=15634

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday, October 05, 2012

Monday, October 01, 2012

Anniversary of Chen's Death to be Observed

NEW YORK — Supporters of Pvt. Danny Chen are planning to commemorate the one-year anniversary of his death with a series of actions seeking justice for the 19-year-old from New York.

On Oct. 3, 2011, Chen was found dead in Afghanistan after being hazed by six superiors while serving with C Co., 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Eight have been charged in connection with his death and have been or will be court-martialed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas, Sgt. Adam Holcomb, Spc. Thomas Curtis, Spc. Ryan Offutt and Sgt. Travis Carden have been convicted and sentenced for charges of dereliction of duty, hazing, maltreatment, including racial taunting, and assault. Charges of involuntary manslaughter were dropped. Three more will be tried:

Read the entire story here.