Army Sgt. Amanda Sheldon, 24, took her own life while stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Sgt. Sheldon was found unresponsive at her off-post home in Fayetteville and was pronounced dead at the local hospital on October 7, 2010. Sgt. Sheldon’s mom, Renee Orcatt, went public with Amanda’s story in an effort to raise awareness, change policy, and save lives. Renee told the local media that Amanda was a victim of rape in the military at the hands of a superior officer. Amanda reported the crime to the Army and informed them she had been drugged and raped. As a result, the suspect was criminally convicted and discharged from the Army. Initially, Amanda sought help from military counselors and the family reported that she was getting better, yet still struggled with depression. Amanda wanted to deal with it and move on to serve her country as she had originally intended to do.
Unfortunately, according to Renee, this wasn’t the last time Amanda would have to confront her past while serving in the Army. When Amanda was up for promotion, she was asked why she was going to counseling. She would go on to get her promotion, but this line of questioning was something she never wanted to experience again. After making the realization that her past and seeking help was not confidential, counseling was out of the question in her future if she wanted to preserve her career. Sgt. Sheldon felt judged for seeking treatment for military sexual trauma. Her mom reported that Amanda recognized she needed counseling again and was planning on getting out of the military. When she died, she was serving out her final year of enlistment, had plans to go to college, and wanted to start a new life outside the military, with her new love. But her unit got tasked with a deployment to Afghanistan and she set about making plans to go to Afghanistan with her unit before she was discharged from the Army.
Amanda would learn that in order to accomplish this, she would need to re-enlist for two more years. Amanda didn’t want to stay in for two more years and made the devastating decision to stay back. She felt like no matter what decision she made, she was letting someone down. Renee observed that Amanda never came to grips with this decision and entered into depression. Amanda’s mom begged her to get counseling but to Amanda that was no longer an option. Sgt. Sheldon was attached to the 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. She joined the Army in October 2005 and was assigned to Fort Bragg in February 2010. The family of Sgt. Amanda Sheldon hopes the circumstances surrounding her untimely death will spark military-wide change. In 2010, the Department of Defense was concerned about the increase in active duty suicides and since then the number of suicides in the military has increased.
Editor’s Note: CNN reported the suicide rates among active-duty Marines and the Navy are at a 10-year high on January 28, 2019. Task and Purpose reported Army suicides reached a five-year high on January 31, 2019. Military.com reported Active-Duty military suicides are at Record Highs in 2018.
“Just like any other soldier, whether she died in combat or some other way, she’s still a fallen soldier. She served her country and she served it well.” -Renee Orcatt (Amanda Sheldon’s mom)
Source: Soldier’s Mom speaks out on suicide, WOOD TV8 (October 14, 2010)
The family of Sgt. Amanda Sheldon hopes her death may spark change. The 2004 Belding graduate’s body will return to West Michigan on Thursday night, about one week after Sheldon took her own life while serving at a Fort Bragg, N.C., military base. -WOOD TV8 (October 14, 2010)
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