Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kadena airman enters guilty plea in death of fellow servicemember

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A Kadena airman admitted in court Monday that he plotted with the wife of a fellow servicemember to murder her husband months before cutting his throat with a hunting knife in an off-base apartment last year.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Cron, 26, of the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, premeditated murder and obstruction of justice during the opening day of his court-martial for the Feb. 6, 2011, stabbing death of Tech. Sgt. Curtis Eccleston, 30.
Read the entire story here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nimitz LDO dies trying to help crash victim

Lt. Cmdr. Regina Mills left the safety of her car early Monday morning and stepped onto a icy Washington road to help a state trooper with a motorcyclist who had been struck by a vehicle.
But a pickup truck slid out of control and into her car, which struck her and the others, killing the naval officer.

For the past two years, Mills, 44, worked as the aircraft handling officer aboard the carrier Nimitz, bringing order to a busy floating airport and meeting the demands of scores of people tending and moving dozens of aircraft. In her final act, she did what she knew best: Coordinating and directing the mission at hand by helping someone in need.

Read the entire story here.

Confusion, anger surround report of soldier's rabies death

HEIDELBERG, Germany — A soldier who died in August from rabies received none of the treatment that would have saved him, an Army investigation has found, because he did not seek medical care after a dog bit him in Afghanistan last January or report it to his company command.

Spc. Kevin Shumaker did mention the dog bite to a veterinarian he met in March and on a post-deployment health form in April, according to the Army investigation.

Neither the vet nor medical officers who reviewed Shumaker’s form took any action, the investigation found, to ensure that Shumaker was treated for the virus. Rabies is completely curable if treated before symptoms occur, but invariably fatal once symptoms emerge.

Read the entire story here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Army Releases December & Calendar Year 2011 Suicide Data

Army Releases December & Calendar Year 2011 Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of December and calendar year (CY) 2011. During December, among active-duty soldiers, there were 11 potential suicides: two have been confirmed as suicide, and nine remain under investigation. For November, the Army reported seven potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, five have been confirmed as a suicide, and two remain under investigation. For CY 2011 there were 164 potential active-duty suicides of which 140 have been confirmed as suicides, and 24 remain under investigation.

During December, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were five potential suicides (four Army National Guard and one Army Reserve): three have been confirmed as suicide and two remain under investigation. For November, among that same group, there were eight potential suicides. Since the release of that report, three cases have been added for a total of 11 cases (11 Army National Guard and no Army Reserve). Of those, nine were confirmed as suicides and two remain under investigation. For CY 2011, there were 114 potential not on active duty suicides (80 National Guard and 34 Army Reserve): 102 have been confirmed as suicide, and 12 remain under investigation.

A report released today, “Army 2020 Generating the Health and Discipline of the Force,” referred to as the “Army Gold Book,” represents the next phase in Army health and disciplinary promotion efforts. The report assesses progress made, as well as identifies and addresses remaining gaps in policy, programs and procedures relating to soldier health and discipline since the release of the “Army Red Book” in July 2010. It also underscores the importance of ongoing leader education, tireless commitment and open communication at all levels in assuring that the right choices continue to be made for our soldiers, the Army and our nation.

“As we look ahead to the strategic reset, transitioning from a predominantly wartime Army to a ready and responsive one, leaders at every level must be actively engaged. They must understand the issues addressed in this report, apply the many lessons learned and, unlike the mostly reactive efforts of the post-Vietnam Army, continue to take a proactive approach to generating health and discipline in the force.

“This report should serve as a comprehensive guide, a roadmap of sorts reflecting not only how far we have come in recent years, but more importantly, provide direction as we look ahead to the strategic reset and the many challenges we will inevitably face as we come back home,” according to the “Gold Book.”

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 athttp://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.comor by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647for 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 athttp://www.sprc.org/index.asp .

Source:  DOD Announcement, verbatim

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Death Memorial

Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew David Brandt, June 4, 1982 - January 19, 2005
My story begins on January 18, 2005 (January 19th -- Guam). It was about 10:30 p.m. when two Naval officers knocked on my door. When I opened the door, the first thought that crossed my mind was that Matt had been hurt or in an accident. It never occurred to me that he was dead.

I asked them to come in and my husband and daughter came downstairs. My husband had this terrible look on his face and my dughter and I didn't know what was happening.

I said, "What happened to Matt? Is he OK?" They said, "No, your son has passed away. He was found not breathing in his barracks."

That is all the information we were told. They had no explanation. I thought someone had hit me with a truck and knocked me down, all I could do is say there must be some mistake. I just talked with him the day before and he was fine.

Neither officer had any details as to what happened or why he was dead.

Before entering the service, Matt had never had any major medical problems -- no migraine headaches, just the normal kid and teenagers illnesses. After boot camp he was sent to technical school and then he requested Guam as one of his top picks. He was then transferred there for a two year stay.
After about six months, he was bitten by some kind of poisonous spider. They had to operate on his knee to remove the poison and he was hospitalized for a week. He started going to the ER everytime he got one and their protocol was Percocet and morphine shots and go back to your barracks and sleep it off. They always did the same thing.

For some time he would visit the doctor's office or the ER -- approximately 45 times to be more accurate. During that time, he was given numerous prescritions for pain. He complained about not liking to take some of them because they messed his eating and stomach up. At one pint, they admitted him to the hospital for testing to try and figure out what was happening.

One doctor did a spinal tap and Matthew had to go back to the hospital to get a blood patch where his spinal fluid was leaking and causing problems. During this time he was placed on medical hold, meaning he could not be moved to another duty station until he was better. He was referred to a neurologist in town for treatment, which meant Acupuncture. The neurologist prescribed Valium.
Even though his medical doctor on base referred him to the doctor in town, not once were records of the outcome of the appointments sent back on base.

At one point, the base doctor consulted a USN Neurologist for his opinion, and was told to abort giving Matt any morphine. Also, the medical doctor on base requested he be sent to Tripler Army base in Hawaii for treatment, but she never followed up.

When Matt would come home for a visit, he never complained of headaches. We thought they had gotten better. The last visit home was Thanksgiving 2004. He came home and surprised me the week before. He was healthy and seemed to be happy. He was excited that he was finally going to be taken off medical hold and moved to another duty station. He went back to Guam on December 10th.
I talked with him several times a week and everything seemed to be fine. On January 17th, he called and talked for a while and was again, very happy to be moving to California. According to his friend, that day he got very sick and was throwing up and complaining about a headache. She said she wanted to take him to the ER. He did not want to go because he didn't want to mess up his leaving Guam. However, she insisted and took him anyway. While he was there, he got the standard treatment. His friend said they gave him two shots in his IV and a prescription to take home. They left them back in the ER room for about two hours.

When the nurse came back by, his friend said he was complaining of blurred vision and is still not better. The nurse said, "He will feel better in a while." She then proceeded to place a pen in his hand and help him sign his name. At this point, they left the hospital.

Matthew's friend took him back to his barracks and said he could barely stay awake to eat anything. He then went to bed and she said he started snoring very loudly, which for him was unusual. She fell asleep and about 8 a.m. woke up and he was not breathing. She then called 911 and they came and tried to revive him. They took him to te hospital where he was pronounced DOA.

It took ten days for the Navy to return my son to us. They performed their autopsy and said Matt died of pneumonia.

I was told that is what they were putting on the death certificate in order to get him released. They were still waiting on toxicology reports and various other tests that would take some time to complete.
In the meantime, he was shipped home and we buried him. Several months went by and we called about every two weeks to discuss how the JAG investigations were going.

At some point, we were given another updated death certificate which stted that Matt died of an accidental overdose. As far as the Navy was concerned, he woke up in the middle of the night and took some other drugs to ease his pain and that is what caused him to die.

According to a witness who was with him all night, he never got up at all after he went to bed. During the course of the investigation there were many unanswered questions tht were left unanswered.
We were visited by some JAG investigators to interview us about Matt. Of course we had no idea what to say. We only knew what was going on over in Guam according to what Matt told us.

On September 21, 2005, we were hand delivered the complete JAG report. It contained several interviews with Matt's friends and co-workers along with doctors' reports, medical reports, etc.
The findings of the JAG report were nothing but a lot of procedural changes along with a few disciplinary actions on some of the medical personnel involved with Matt. When I requested information as to when those actions were to be taken, I was told that was strictly information for the Navy and not for me.

I still think that there are many pieces of the puzzle still missing. I am not sure who is responsible for my son's death, and I am not sure I will ever know. I do know that there are doctors practicing medicine on young boys and men in the service who are not held accountable for anything, which I think is an atrocity. I never knew what the Feres Doctrine was until this happened to us. I am sure there are many Americans who have never heard of it.

We are currently still waiting for the NCIS Investigation to be completed. It has now been three years and I really don't know much more than I knew on the night I was told about Matt's death, except there were lots of medical mistakes made during his time in the Military. He was given a lot of drugs that he should not have been given. He was a good sone and I would have given my life for him to still be here.

Mary Ann White, mother of Matthew Brandt.

If you know anything about this case, contact Mary Ann White through this website

Monday, January 16, 2012

American Society in Crisis: Non-Hostile Deaths Are Overtaking Veterans

Source: Huffington Post
Journalist: Cilla McCain
Original Post: American Society in Crisis: Non-Hostile Deaths Are Overtaking Veterans
Type: News Article

November 7, 2011 — For nearly a decade, I've been researching and writing about the issue of non-hostile deaths in the military. Early on in my research, I would get upset at the information provided by our troops and their families. Their revelations painted a picture of a dysfunctional military culture that allows medical and legal malpractice, as well as violent crime, to thrive and exist. As a result, I naively reached out to every genre of media available, imploring them to bring the looming crisis of military deaths to the public consciousness. Nobody ever found it newsworthy; an apathy that made me confused and at times livid.

I remember calling my friend Hunter Glass to vent my frustration. In his efforts to help me make sense of it all, he spoke some very prophetic words:

"Well, everyone will wake up one day. It's just like putting bad fuel in your car day after day. You may get away with it for years, but one day, the damage to your engine will get so bad that it shuts down."

Glass, is a respected detective, consultant and lecturer on the topic of crime and security threats in the military. He travels constantly, speaking to citizens and law enforcement officials trying to prepare us for the inevitable dangers making its way to our society as the war comes home. With the exception of reaching Dan Rather and a few others, his message has fell on deaf ears.

Oscar-winning writer/director, Paul Haggis, also began publicly addressing the fact that we need to be thinking about the long term effects of war when his 2007 movie "In the Valley of Elah" was released by Warner Brothers. Despite stellar casting of Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Josh Brolin, Elah, fell largely on deaf ears too.

Now, we finally have the Veteran's Administration admitting that America is losing a veteran to suicide (also classified as non-hostile death) every 80 minutes. This is indeed a public health crisis of limitless repercussions that stretch far beyond the deceased. There is little doubt, the children, wives and parents of these veterans will need assistance dealing with the tragedy, emotional trauma and stigma of suicide. If this were any other form of widespread death, the entire country would be shouting the words "pandemic," with media and government officials advising citizens of the best ways to protect themselves.

"The Center for a New American Security" released a policy brief in October 2011 titled "Losing the Battle: The Challenge of Military Suicide" that has researchers and administrators at military medical facilities buzzing with activity. The brief examines the phenomenon of military suicide and the preventative measures currently in place. It goes even further by pointing out the problems with these existing measures and offers solutions for improvement. However, as the brief states, one of the most elusive aspects to suicide prevention is removing the stigma of mental illness.

There is much confusion as to why the stigma persists despite massive efforts aimed to remove it. Even worse, the efforts are ultimately short-sighted, because the stigma reaches much further than a service members unit and military career. Right now, insurance companies and civilian employers are allowed to ask about the health backgrounds of its applicants. It is naïve to assume the decision makers involved would not hold PTSD or TBI against veterans. In the outside world, there must be laws to protect our veterans from discrimination for having mental health issues.

Another point of confusion is the fact that as much as 50% of the troops who take their own lives have never deployed. So if the cause of suicide is not PTSD or TBI, then what is going on? This question brings to mind another major issue not getting the attention it deserves; the possibility that some of these "suicides" are actually "murders."

Let's face it, with a veteran allegedly committing suicide every 80 minutes, it is certainly possible, if not probable, that at least a small percentage of these deaths are in fact homicides. With such an overwhelming suicide crisis in our midst, investigators may automatically assume every unattended death is just one more suicide. Homicide is not mentioned in the brief, yet in July 2011, the Inspector General of the Department of Defense established the creation of the Violent Crimes Division. Their press release states:

DoD IG Establishes Violent Crimes Division. The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has established a new division that will evaluate DoD and military service criminal investigative policies, programs, and training focused on violent crimes including murder, suicide, sexual assaults, robbery, child abuse, and aggravated assault.

Although the DoD has not openly admitted to the possibility that some of the alleged suicides could indeed be homicides, the creation of the Violent Crimes Division clearly indicates a high level of concern for the way murders and suicides are investigated by calling for an evaluation of the policies.

While writing the book "Murder In Baker Company" I was made aware of a three-year investigation conducted by Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ) and former Congressman Dave Levy (NY) to recognize deficiencies and correct the findings of flawed military death investigations. The two congressmen presented their investigative report on September 12, 1996 to the Subcommittee on Personnel of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I included a copy of it in the exhibits section of my book because the issues it addresses are still going on today. The lengthy report clearly outlines the dangers of investigators and medical examiners utilizing a psychological autopsy, or psychological profile, as it is known today, to determine the likelihood of suicide. Their concerns for the accuracy of the psychological profile were summed up as follows:

"Psychological profiling as is currently being utilized in military psychological autopsies is only as good as the information provided to the profiler by criminal investigators who have performed a thorough investigation. If, in fact, a DoD investigator is misusing information, misquoting witnesses, and is deliberately or unknowingly misdirecting the profiler, the psychological autopsy is irretrievably corrupted."

The Pallone and Levy presentation also requested a "board of investigative review" be established to handle conflicting medical, technical and investigative findings presented by surviving military families. But the request was to no avail. The DoD maintains the final word on whether military investigations have been carried out properly. In other words, it has the privilege of policing itself and answers to nobody.

There is also the issue of the "51% rule" for determining suicide. The 51% rule basically means that if 51% of the evidence collected in a death investigation suggests suicide, then "suicide" can be the official cause of death and the remaining 49% of evidence, ignored - evidence that may indicate homicide. This method is used in both civilian and military sectors.

To make it all even more preposterous, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory or "USACIL," which is the military's premier crime lab, is under heavy scrutiny for systematic botching and falsification of evidence testing. Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) and Senator Chuck Grassley (IA) wrote a letter in May 2011, to Inspector General Gordon Heddell of the DoD imploring him to establish an independent entity to investigate. In the letter, the senator's stated:

"The failure to address these issues in a timely manner could damage the Nation's trust in the military justice system."

Recent reports of prosecutions relating to theft rings and corruption among troops of all branches and ranks add to the belief that murder in such an environment is also highly probable. The idea of preventing "damaged trust" is too little, too late for many military families who don't believe their deceased loved ones took their own life. Kimberly Stahlman and Tracy Shue, widows of Colonel Mike Stahlman (USMC) and Colonel Philip Shue (USAF) are not waiting for the bureaucrats to take action. They are taking their message of injustice and the need for a system of checks and balances in military death investigations to the American people and have established "The Stahlman-Shue Bill of Rights for Bereaved Military Families" to insure investigations are accurate and that the nation's military families have a voice in the process. Right now, our society is twisting in a wind of confusion about the death toll. But it's not necessary. By allowing our veterans and their families to be heard, we may finally get to the bottom of all the questions plaguing this dire crisis.

Pay attention people, the military engine is knocking loudly.

--reprinted with permission of the author

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Widow of Marine Corps Colonel Involved in Haditha Trials Launches Campaign to Prove Her Husband Was Murdered

Military widows join forces to raise awareness of non-hostile military deaths.

(1888PressRelease) January 12, 2012 - Easley, SC - Kimberly Stahlman, widow of Colonel Michael Stahlman USMC, is fighting to prove that her husband did not commit suicide but was instead murdered. However, the Marine Corps refuses to help. As part of this fight she partnered with Tracy Shue, widow of Colonel Philip Shue USAF and writer/military family advocate Cilla McCain and drafted a Bill of Rights for Bereaved Military Families. To bring this campaign to the public, they have started a petition to Congress and launched MilitaryHomicide.org as a resource for other military families facing the same circumstances.

Marine Corps Colonel Michael Stahlman was an investigating officer in the case against Lt. Andrew Grayson, an intelligence officer charged with making false statements, attempting fraudulant discharge, and obstructing justice, in connection to the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha. Colonel Stahlman was vocal in his disappointment with the manner in which the entire Haditha matter was handled by the Marine Corps hierarchy and recommended that charges against Grayson be dropped. The recommendation was rejected by prosecutors and Grayson eventually was cleared of all charges in June 2008.

At the time of Grayson's acquittal, Colonel Stahlman was serving as the Rule of Law Coordinator at Camp Ramadi Iraq, where he was found unconscious with a gunshot wound to the left side of his head on July 31, 2008. Never regaining consciousness, he died months later on October 5, 2008 at Bethesda Naval Hospital. His shooting was immediately suspicious to his widow Kimberly. Despite the fact that Colonel Stahlman was right-handed and had no history of depression, the Naval Criminal Investigative Services and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology apparently labeled his shooting a suicide within hours of the incident without performing all available evidence testing.

Mrs. Stahlman hired experienced forensic reconstruction consultants to dissect all of the evidence collected after the shooting. The result was the conclusion that Colonel Stahlman did not shoot himself, but was instead the victim of homicide.Mrs. Stahlman presented the scientific evidence to NCIS, AFIP and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, but she was shocked when they refused to thoroughly address the detailed and compelling forensics analysis or investigate further.

In addition to the petition efforts, Mrs. Stahlman separately is working with attorneys Victor A. Kubli and Alan M. Grayson to pursue legal action to, among other things, correct the manner of death finding for Colonel Stahlman and defend his remarkable legacy of years of exemplary military service. She also is telling the story of her struggle in a forthcoming book co-authored with McCain. Release date is not yet available.

For further information, please visit www.militaryhomicide.org or, for the status of efforts to correct the manner of death finding for Colonel Stahlman, contact attorney Victor A. Kubli at (301) 801-2330.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Questions linger in US soldier's death: Was it a game?

By Jeff Black, msnbc.com

An Army soldier who says he killed his roommate during a pistol game called “quick draw” remains free even though he's charged with murder, there are questions about evidence in the case, and the dead soldier’s family is calling for answers.

Sgt. Matthew Gallagher, a 22-year-old from Falmouth, Mass., was shot in the head by Sgt. Brent McBride, 25, on June 26, 2011, on their base in Al-Kut, Iraq, according to the Army.

But the details and circumstances of Gallagher’s death remain under investigation.

When first notified of Gallagher’s death weeks after the incident, his widow, Katie Gallagher, and his mother, Cheryl Ruggiero, were left with the impression he was killed in combat.

Read the entire story here.

--submitted by Lois Vanderbur

Sunday, January 08, 2012

We thought she was safe

Last April, straight out of the Army’s course for human resources specialists, Gamboa was sent to the Headquarters Company of the 1st Personnel Command, in Schwetzingen, Germany — and, her mother thought, to safety.

But on Sunday, two Army officers showed up at Posada’s door. They told her that her daughter, a 19-year-old private first class, full of life and laughter and recently home for the holidays, was dead.

“They just told me she was found stabbed in her barracks,” Posada said.

Read the entire story here.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Private Chen’s Family Learns More About Hazing by Fellow G.I.’s

The officers in command of the battalion of Pvt. Danny Chen, who the Army says committed suicide in Afghanistan in October after being hazed by fellow soldiers, were aware of the harsh treatment he had repeatedly received, his family said Thursday.       

The family had already been told by investigators that other soldiers had taunted Private Chen with racial epithets and forced him to crawl on the ground while they pelted him with rocks. But this week, new details of his treatment were disclosed to the family.

At a news conference, family members and their supporters said Private Chen had been mistreated virtually every day of his six-week stint in Afghanistan. They said he had been called a “gook,” a “chink” and “dragon lady.” He was also forced to wear a green helmet and shout orders in Chinese, to a battalion that had no other Chinese-American soldiers, they said.

Read the entire story here.

Editor's note:  Many of the families in this group can relate to this story.  Our sons and daughters were subjected to similar group bullying within the military services.  We have been kept in the dark.  The details have been buried by the military, even though we have spent years and a great deal of money in legal fees to try to get answers.

We are happy that, at last, a light in being shone on these abuses.  We are glad that politicians and the local communities of victims are coming forward and forcing  public attention. 

We'd like to think that we have had some part in getting this change for the better.