Friday, August 31, 2012

Death Memorial

My son’s name was Kenneth John Laga, he died on 31st August 2005, along with two other young soldiers in Gutersloh, Germany.
I had lost my oldest son (non military) 7 months earlier, so Kenneth’s death was unbearable, and also totally needless. The 3 boys were on a visit to the medical centre at another barracks.
Kenneth was with 26 Regiment, Royal Artillery. The regiment had to replace the original duty driver that morning, as he was on a course. The replacement driver, it transpired, had never driven a Land Rover Wolf alone, let alone on right hand drive roads (Germany), he should not have been given the full license to drive the vehicle as he should have undergone conversion training before being allowed to drive, this was his first driving duty!
He did not get his work ticket signed before setting off (the work ticket is the equivalent to the insurance document), he lost his way, took a gentle left hand bend too quickly for his ability and lost control of the vehicle and smashed into two trees. All the three boys died later that day of massive head and body injuries.
The front seat belts were torn apart as the roof ripped off the vehicle, it was left holding on by one screw. What happened after has been a disaster as far as I am concerned. My husband died 16 months later, he had a massive heart attack at the age of 53.
The only person who has faced any punishment was the driver, he was fined £1,000 at a court martial for careless driving, he appealed against this all the way to the House of Lords, all paid for by tax payers money. I have lost track of how many times I have asked about the Sgt who issued him with the full license, in fact he has been promoted now to Staff Sgt. He has not had a court martial or faced any internal discipline, he answered at the inquest that he had had an informal chat with his new commanding officer.
Elaine Laga, Mother of Kenneth Laga.
If you would like to contact Elaine Laga, please email us and we’ll put you in contact with her.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Death Memorial

PV2 NOLAN EDWARD STITES, (August 31,1981-August 29, 2000)
My son, Nolan Edward Stites, was an Army Reservist assigned to the 52nd Combat Engineer Battalion on Fort Carson, Colorado. He successfully completed nine months in the Army Reserve “delayed entry” program with the 52nd Engineers and received a promotion due to his excellent performance. In the summer of 2000 he reported to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for Basic Combat Training where he became ill with clinical depression shortly thereafter. Nolan sought help for his illness and was a patient under care of the U.S. Army when he died during his seventh week on the Missouri army post.
Nolan graduated from high school with honors, never got into trouble and was respected as mature by all adults that knew him. He was an active church member, did not smoke, drink, use drugs or have any history of mental or family problems. Nolan was a rugged and physically fit outdoorsman, expert marksman with all types of firearms and loved the military. He held high ideals and was very patriotic. Nolan’s many NCO and Officer friends familiar with his out-door skills and endurance considered Nolan potentially a model soldier.

During his second week at Fort Leonard Wood, Nolan complained of the heat and humidity and said his forehead was severely sunburned and swollen. Nolan, a native of Colorado, was not used to Missouri’s climate in July. Two weeks later he called home and reported leg cramps, insomnia, loss of appetite and cognitive problems with reading, writing and understanding what was being said to him. I, as his father, unwittingly made the mistake of responding with a letter, advising him to seek medical care on post, a recruit’s only source of help. Nolan, being one not to complain, tried to tough it out and continued training until his ailments progressed to bladder control problems, making it impossible to go on. He went to his roommates, drill sergeants and finally the Brigade Chaplain for assistance.

Nolan told the Chaplain he was depressed and had suicidal thoughts, a common symptom of depression. The Chaplain recognized Nolan needed to be seen by a mental health professional and, as required in this type of case, reported his findings to the Company Commander. The Company Commander immediately removed Nolan from training and put him on “Suicide or Unit Watch,” the Standard Operational Procedure in use on Fort Leonard Wood at that time. According to the Captain, Nolan ranked in the top 10% of the company when he placed my son on unit watch.
Unit watch is a disciplinary program of humiliation and ostracism used by the military to deter manipulative recruits from claiming mental problems to get out of the service. They removed Nolan from all training but not the unit; made him sleep in the War Room, using tired, resentful, and untrained teenagers to guard him at night. Without any medical treatment, Nolan was forced to parade around in front of his peers for fifteen days, minus belt and bootlaces. Ostracized from training and humiliated as a marked man, Nolan was so distraught over his situation he told a roommate he was considering ending his life by jumping from the third story window. The worried roommates got together and wrote their drill sergeant a note expressing their concerns to no avail; their note was ignored!

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

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

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

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

Five weeks earlier, another recruit, PVT Gary Moore from our state of Colorado, also killed himself on Fort Leonard Wood after suffering three weeks of abuse and being made fun of on “Unit Watch.” Both families were denied redress when we filed Tort claims for gross negligence and medical malpractice, resulting in death. The government using the Feres Doctrine responded with a letter denying our claims

stating, “The United States is not liable to service members under the FTCA for injuries that arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service.” No one was held accountable or punished; the sergeant that told Nolan to kill himself was promoted.
Our and Gary Moore’s family discovered, like many other families of deceased active duty soldiers, the Federal government is above the law and you can’t do anything about it.

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

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spc. Thomas Porter Curtis IV sentenced to 3 months prison in Pvt. Danny Chen hazing case

A soldier who oversaw punishment of Pvt. Danny Chen in Afghanistan will spend three months in prison for his role in hazing the Chinese-American soldier.

Spc. Thomas Porter Curtis IV, 27, of Hendersonville, Tenn., was sentenced Monday to prison and demoted to the Army's lowest rank - private - following a day-long court-martial.

Curtis pleaded guilty to hazing, two specifications of maltreatment and two specifications of assault in connection with his treatment of the 19-year-old Chen.

Read the entire story here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Soldier accused in Chen case demoted, forced to forfeit part of his pay

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — One of the soldiers accused in the hazing-related death of Pvt. Danny Chen has been demoted and forced to forfeit part of his pay.

Sgt. Travis Carden was punished Wednesday on Fort Bragg in a summary court-martial, a proceeding that occurs without a military judge. He was demoted to specialist and forced to forfeit two-thirds of his pay for one month.

Read the entire story here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Platoon sergeant gets demotion in rank in Pvt. Danny Chen suicide case, but won't serve prison time

Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas will lose a rank, but will not have to spend any time in prison after being convicted during a Special Court-Martial on Fort Bragg.

Dugas, a platoon sergeant with the Fort Wainwright, Alaska-based unit of Pvt. Danny Chen, was convicted during the two-day proceeding of using alcohol in a combat zone and dereliction of duty.

Dugas, 36, of Port Arthur, Texas, is the third of eight soldiers in Chen's unit to be court-martialed in connection with Chen's suicide in Afghanistan last year.

Read the entire story here.

Platoon Sergeant Gets 90 Days for Role in Hazing of Private

Friday, August 17, 2012

Raffle for TAPS in memory of Jon Garza

Description: Description:

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is an organization committed to providing short and long-term support to those families who have lost loved ones in service to our country. Since 1994, TAPS has assisted over 35,000 family members. TAPS uses peer based emotional support, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, and grief and trauma resources through their annual events such as National Military Survivor Seminar and their Good Grief camp. The work they do is incredibly important to the morale of those families who have lost someone dear to them.

Teri Smith is a Sr. Subcontracts Manager for Sotera at our Charleston, South Carolina office. TAPS is an important organization to Teri because in 2009, she lost her son, Sergeant Jon Garza, who served in the U.S. Army. Teri and her family decided to donate a used 2002 Honda trike to TAPS who in turn have set up a fundraiser by raffling off the trike. The funds raised will be put towards the Good Grief camps for the children of fallen war heroes as well as funds for transportation to these events.

TAPS is able to provide programs and services to survivors thanks to the generosity of corporations and individuals, such as Teri. TAPS receives absolutely no government funding, but through the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, all families faced with a death of a loved one serving in the Armed Forces receive information about TAPS and its military survivor programs.

You can purchase raffle tickets through PayPal at anywhere from 1 for $10 to 15 for $100. The winning raffle ticket will be drawn on September 30, 2012 in Washington D.C.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Army Releases July Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of July. During July, among active-duty soldiers, there were 26 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide and 25 remain under investigation. For June, the Army reported 11 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers; since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of 12 cases: two have been confirmed as suicides and 10 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 116 potential active-duty suicides: 66 have been confirmed as suicides and 50 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

During July, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 12 potential suicides (nine Army National Guard and three Army Reserve): one has been confirmed as suicide and 11 remain under investigation. For June, among that same group, the Army reported 12 potential suicides (nine Army National Guard and three Army Reserve): seven have been confirmed as suicides and five remain under investigation. The Army previously reported 10 Army National Guard and two Army Reserve cases for June. Subsequent to that report, one Army National Guard case was removed due to a change in manner of death to non-suicide and one Army Reserve case was added. For 2012, there have been 71 potential not on active-duty suicides (44 Army National Guard and 27 Army Reserve): 54 have been confirmed as suicides and 17 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 the toughest enemy I have faced in my 37 years in the Army. And, it's an enemy that's killing not just soldiers, but tens of thousands of Americans every year. That said, I do believe suicide is preventable. To combat it effectively will require sophisticated solutions aimed at helping individuals to build resiliency and strengthen their life coping skills. As we prepare for Suicide Prevention Month in September we also recognize that we must continue to address the stigma associated with behavioral health. Ultimately, we want the mindset across our force and society at large to be that behavioral health is a routine part of what we do and who we are as we strive to maintain our own physical and mental wellness," said Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, vice chief of staff of the Army.

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

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

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at .

Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

Information about Military OneSource is located at or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental United States. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource website for dialing instructions for their specific location.

Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at .

The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at .
The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is , and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at .

Source:  DOD Announcement, verbatim

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Danny Chen Case: Specalist Ryan J. Offutt Pleads Guilty To Hazing Asian-American Private

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — A second soldier accused of driving an Asian-American private to suicide has received a six-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to reduced charges in a court-martial at Fort Bragg.

Spc. Ryan J. Offutt of Greenville, Pa., pleaded guilty Monday to one count of hazing and two specifications of maltreatment in the death of 19-year-old Danny Chen of New York. Authorities say Chen shot himself last year in Afghanistan after being hazed over his ethnicity.

Offutt also will be demoted to private and receive a bad conduct discharge. He had faced several charges, including negligent homicide.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

GI who died of suicide to receive long-sought combat recognition

WASHINGTON — Spc. Jacob Andrews was the only soldier in his platoon who wasn’t awarded the combat infantryman badge, though his unit mates insisted he earned it.

Now, two years after Andrews was discharged from the Army and more than a year after he committed suicide, his family will finally be able to pin the treasured CIB on his Class A service uniform — thanks to the perseverance of an Army officer who never met him.

Andrews suffered a traumatic brain injury during his 2009 deployment to Afghanistan and struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after he returned, though neither was diagnosed until he was discharged in Sept. 2010 after a string of alcohol-related incidents and arguments with his superiors. He hanged himself with a climbing rope in the woods near his childhood home seven months later. He was 22.

Read the entire story here.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Group creates first award recognizing fallen soldiers of non-combat situations

They served their country willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and died while active in the military. But as it stands, there is not any award or recognition for fallen soldiers who died while serving in non-combat situations.

A group in Port St. Lucie made up of former active duty military members is out to change the situation by creating their own award.

It is called the "Blue Star of Valor Award."

Read the entire story here.

Submitted by Melanie Pizzo

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Military Hazing Has Got to Stop

LAST fall, at an outpost in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Danny Chen, a 19-year-old Army private, was singled out for hazing by Sgt. Adam Holcomb and five other soldiers, all of whom were senior in rank to their victim. They believed Danny was a weak soldier, someone who fell asleep on guard duty, who forgot his helmet. So for six weeks, they dispensed “corrective training” that violated Army policy. When he failed to turn off the water pump in the shower, he was dragged across a gravel yard on his back until it bled. They threw rocks at him to simulate artillery. They called him “dragon lady,” “gook” and “chink.”

Read the entire story here.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Wrongful-death lawsuit in Shaler soldier’s electrocution dismissed

The mother of a Shaler soldier electrocuted in Iraq said Monday she was “completely disappointed” and will appeal a federal judge’s decision to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit against the company she claims is responsible.

Cheryl Harris of Cranberry said the case involving her son, Ryan Maseth, didn’t end when U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer on Friday dismissed the lawsuit against KBR Inc., a Houston-based engineering and construction company that contracted to maintain Army barracks in Iraq.

“We won’t quit until there is nothing left to appeal,” Harris said. “I was told that if I wanted justice, it would have to be in a courtroom. We expected that justice would prevail, but (the judge’s dismissal) left me surprised and disappointed.”

Read the entire story here.