Spc. Bradley Acker, 25, US Army, was found dead at his off-post residence in Copperas Cove, Texas on October 7, 2016. Spc. Acker’s home of record is listed as Canandaigua, New York and he joined the Army in October 2010. Spc. Acker was reclassified as an aircraft power plant repairer and was assigned to 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood in 2014. The Copperas Cove Police Department ruled the cause of death was self-inflicted.
SSG Devin Schuette, 35, U.S. Army, originally of Clovis, New Mexico, was found dead inside a car near the recreation area at Fort Hood on January 3, 2016. According to his family, he had been missing since New Year’s Day. SSG Schuette’s service with the Army began in April 1999 as an infantryman and he was serving as an Intelligence Analyst with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood at the time of his death. He also served three overseas tours as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom; his deployments were from March 2003 to March 2004, November 2005 to October 2006 and June 2008 to June 2009. As of January 6, 2016, the Criminal Investigation Division was investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident. At the time of reporting, they did not suspect any foul play but were not ruling anything out as they moved forward with the investigation.
Air Force SrA Katrina Jackson, 22, of Universal City, Texas died from injuries sustained from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Alaska on February 15, 2014. SrA Jackson joined the Air Force in 2010 and was stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in 2011 where she was assigned as a patrolman with the 673rd Security Forces Squadron. Media reports indicate that the circumstances surrounding her death were investigated by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). SrA Jackson was one of four servicemen from JBER found dead this month: Army Sgt. Okan Cetinbag on February 11; and SSgt. Darian Miller on February 18; and SSgt. Samuel Davis on February 23.
Air Force Major Melissa Birtzer, 42, went missing from the Fort Walton Beach area in Florida on November 17, 2012. A few days later on Nov 20th, Major Birtzer was found dead at the Eglin Air Force Base range. The USAF reported that the case was under investigation and then updated the public with the announcement that there was no foul play suspected. The official cause of death is unknown but was not ruled a homicide. Co-workers shared she may have been ‘depressed’ prior to her disappearance. Major Birtzer served honorably for 18 years first as an enlisted Intelligence Specialist and then as a Nurse. She also completed two tours in Afghanistan. Melissa is survived by a spouse and two children.
SSG Jessica Wing, US Army, died of a non combat related incident in Kuwait City, Kuwait on August 27, 2012. SSG Jessica Wing was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom on behalf of the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Maine Army National Guard in Bangor, Maine. According to the Department of Defense, the incident is under investigation.
“The tags belonged to Staff Sgt. Jessica Wing, 42, who took her own life on Aug. 27, 2012, in Kuwait while serving with the 126th Aviation Medevac Unit, based in Bangor. It was her sixth deployment. With 23 years of military duty, she spent nearly all of her adult years in uniform.” -Bangor Daily News
Honoring LCpl Hollye Meeks, USMC, 25, Died June 1, 2012
“Lance Cpl. Hollye K. Meeks (left) searches Cpl. Roxanne Cox, after receiving a class on the proper procedures from members of a police transition team. Eight female Marines from different units within 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing volunteered for the Lioness Program to conduct security searches of women crossing into Iraq. Meeks is a motor transport vehicle operator, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd MAW, and a Houston, Texas native. Cox is a maintenance management specialist, with Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd MAW, and a Cincinnati native.” (22 Aug 2006)
Spc. Michael Henry Bailey II, US Army, died on December 29, 2011 from injuries sustained from a gunshot wound on December 23, 2011. He was assigned to 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, in Fort Hood, Texas. Spc. Bailey deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from May 2011 to November 2011. At the time of the Army press release, the incident was under investigation. According to a family petition, they believe that their was more evidence supporting murder then suicide. They asked the Army and the Killeen Police Department to investigate the circumstances further as they believe that Spc. Bailey’s ex-wife had motive (life insurance) and allege she was at his home on the day of the shooting.
“Everyone who believes in justice. Our son was killed in Killeen Tx December 22, 2010, they did not do any interrogation of the that night to be x wife, who had plenty of motive and who should have been tested for GPR and arrested not only walked but is on the army payroll the rest of her life and collected all of his insurance money for 3 years of cheating on her husband our son and who was on her last day under his roof. Now they call it suicide? They have less evidence of that than there is of murder. This is a tragedy that needs justice!” –Petition for Michael Bailey
Army Specialist Mikayla Bragg died of a non combat death in Khowst province, Afghanistan on December 21, 2011. Spc. Bragg was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom on behalf of the 201st Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Fort Knox, Kentucky. The Army ruled that Spc. Bragg’s cause of death was suicide. After an investigation it was revealed that commanders at Fort Knox failed to properly track Spc. Bragg as a “high-risk” soldier who could potentially hurt herself or others before she was cleared to deploy to Afghanistan. The Army investigators also made three recommendations in the report.
Mental-health providers stateside should share more information about high-risk soldiers with mental-health providers in war zones. Camp Salerno’s behavioral-health officer said she had been unable to get mental-health records for Bragg because of privacy laws.
Commanders should develop better procedures to ensure personnel data is not lost while transferring soldiers between units.
No soldier, regardless of gender, should be stationed in a guard tower alone.
According to the U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs, unit officials conducted a health and welfare inspection of Cpl. Kimberly D. Agar’s barracks room after Agar missed a medical appointment. The corporal was found unresponsive and German emergency medical personnel were contacted. A German doctor pronounced Agar, whose home of record is North Richland, Texas, dead at the scene on October 3, 2011. An investigation into the cause of death determined Kimberly died from suicide.
Airman First Class Kelsey Anderson was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on June 9, 2011. According to media reports, she was found in a locked stall in a second-floor women’s bathroom inside an aircraft maintenance hangar at the base. The military investigation indicated that a few months after Kelsey arrived at Guam, she was stripped of her service revolver over mental health concerns. Although Kelsey’s weapons privileges had been restored about a month prior to her death. The reports stated that Kelsey may have been unhappy after trying and failing to be transferred from Guam or released from military service. Kelsey’s parents had to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to get the Air Force to turn over its investigation records. They simply wanted answers for their daughter’s tragic and unexpected, untimely death yet the Air Force concealed the details. Chris and Adelia Sue Anderson received the mostly redacted investigation reports almost two years after their daughter’s death. The final court settlement with the Air Force in September 2013 was for the cost of the attorney they had to hire in their quest to get the information they were entitled to have. It’s unfortunate that this family had to wait two years for answers and even more unfortunate that they were forced to go to court during one of the most difficult times of their life.
What could have been done to prevent this? What kind of mental health services were offered to Kelsey? Why did Kelsey want to leave Guam and/or get out of the military? Why was she upset after finding out that she was not able to transfer or get out of the military? What were the extenuating circumstances that made Kelsey feel like she had no options other then suicide? Is this a suicide? After so many families have come forward with concerns that their loved one was murdered despite a ruling of suicide, do we know for sure that this was a suicide? It happened in Guam. There is absolutely no one to hold the Air Force accountable in that setting. There is no way to ensure that the Air Force investigated the scene as both a potential homicide or suicide. It’s as simple as what the Air Force says happens is what happened. Every government entity should have a mechanism by which they are held accountable. Where does a grieving parent turn to when they do not agree with the military investigator’s or medical examiner’s findings? Who holds the individual branches or Department of Defense accountable? The only body of people that can hold the military industrial complex accountable is the US Congress and even they struggle. Time and time again we hear accounts from service members and families that contacting their congressional Representative or Senator did not help. Some help, some don’t, and some never call you back. Every level of government should have accountability of some kind because this country was founded on the principles of checks and balances in our system.
“Enlisting U.S. Sen. Jim Risch‘s office for help still didn’t yield results.” -Chris & Adelia Sue Anderson
In an interview the Andersons’ lawyer emphasized that the prolonged wait and anxiety of suing the federal government in a last-ditch effort for information intensified the couple’s pain after the loss of their daughter. He empathized as a father of three and shared that he could not imagine losing a child thousands of miles away and not knowing what happened to her. No parent should have to wait nearly two years before the government decides to produce the information they deserve to have.