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)
Sgt Amanda Ann “Mandy” Sheldon | Find a Grave
Grand Rapids soldier Sgt. Amanda Sheldon, 24, dies in N.C. hospital
Female soldier dies at Fayetteville hospital
Police, family say Belding area soldier took her own life
Soldier’s mom speaks out on suicide (YouTube)
Ada family of soldier who died off-base in North Carolina says death was not suspicious
The family of Sgt. Amanda Sheldon hopes her death may spark change
Army Sgt. Amanda Sheldon’s Mom Speaks Out on Suicide; Family Hopes to Inspire Military-Wide Change (October 14, 2010)
The Challenge and the Promise: Strengthening the Force, Preventing Suicide and Saving Lives (2011)
Air Force TSgt. Jennifer Norris Testified Before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington DC (January 23, 2013)
Retired Marine Stephanie Schroeder Fights for Servicemember’s Rights at the United Nation’s Geneva Conventions (November 11, 2014)
Ali and Josh Hobson: Sexual Assault and Retaliation in the US Air Force (2015)
62 Percent of Military Sex Assault Reports Result in Retaliation (2015)
Highlights of Lt Col Teresa James, Army National Guard, Military Sexual Assault and Retaliation Case (2015)
Heath Phillips, Active Duty Military & Veterans Advocate, a Voice for Male Victims of Crime (2016)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members (2016)
What Happens When a Rape is Reported in the Military? (2017)
How do we stop the retaliation from happening so victims of crimes in the military feel safe to report? (2017)
Dignified transfer performed for Fort Carson soldier who died on post (2018)
Failing Private Burnham: How the Army Did Not Protect a Minnesota Soldier after a Sexual Assault (2018)
Tribute to a Fallen Soldier | Amanda Sheldon
In Loving Memory of Amanda Ann Sheldon | Facebook
I thought they were trying to help these kids. They don’t mind them putting their lives on the line but they don’t want to spend the money to acclimate them back into Society. I’m beginning to think they’d rather they go ahead & take their lives so they don’t have to pay for counseling. They train them to become killers but they don’t train them how to go back to living in the regular world. This is so wrong.
So sad and just wrong!
So sorry for this huge loss. Unfortunately necessary change has not been implemented rapidly. Again a sign that our gov. Does not take care of our veterans like it should
Absolutely awful!!!How many others are they? So very sad!
Even some victims of rape don’t understand that, for some, the personal invasion of rape is indeed a matter of life and death. Some will get over it but for some, it will become a life long trauma that is triggered unexpectedly and can lead to any degree of reexperiencing this trauma. In order to avoid having to relive this feeling of extreme violation of self, some will see no option but suicide. Some will need on going counseling, some will not. Whatever the response, the person who needs on going counseling is no weaker than the person who does not. So very sorry this was the case here and in essence rape was the same as murder.
Maybe the Military should recruit or allow citizens as Myself to join? Maybe Career Counselors and Mental Health Professionals should be placed everywhere to Assess the Signs and Symptoms of service Men and Women.Those who drink or secretly indulge in Drugs and Alcohol should be required to actively participate in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous during their time at Base or station Headquarters. Failure to do so may be grounds to Terminate or Reduction in Rank status. Sorry to the Family don’t be afraid to have A voice anyone who tries to Violate or Oppress that right Revolt.
I’m an MST survivor and suffer with anxiety and chronic depression. Amanda, I’m 💔 😭 May you RIP in Him; thank you for your service 🇺🇸
I’m currently fighting with the VA. I was knocked out and raped by 5 fellow soldiers. I went to the hospital for a rape kit. THIS INFORMATION HAS NOW DISAPPEARED!!! I was honorably discharged after a suicide attempt, but the 5 guys were not investigated. No charges.
May her soul rest in God hands
rape is such a terrible crime. victims suffer the most,they never move on for they some times think they did some thing wrong and when they report it should stay confidential. it I’m sure would help in less suicides.