I accidentally stumbled upon Fort Hood while conducting research on the non combat deaths of female service members overseas. Fort Hood, along with a few other big Army bases in the U.S., was the common denominator in non combat death overseas. I also learned there are countless numbers of non combat deaths of male service members as well. They shouldn’t have to face death as a way to escape their situation (whether they are a victim of crime and/or it’s a mental health emergency). This issue in and of itself is its own animal and the reason we need policy enacted immediately to create a “bug out” plan for those in danger (or mental health emergencies) in overseas locations, especially if the chain of command fails them. There is no 911 overseas. Why is it the military is not accountable to the American public with the outcome of the investigations of a U.S. service member’s death? They conveniently get to hide behind the non combat death label and because they don’t disclose why or how the service member died in most cases, we are not able to make informed consent as to whether we want to join an organization that appears to hide their misdeeds in an effort to protect the reputation of the institution. I was inspired to look into the other non combat deaths of women overseas after learning the military labeled the obvious rape and murder of LaVena Johnson as a suicide. My research found this isn’t an anomaly, this is a pattern.
After noticing the pattern of the same bases tied to the non combat deaths overseas, I decided to start researching crime in and around the bases in question. Crime knows no boundaries. I took a look at JBLM, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Fort Carson, Fort Campbell, JBER, Fort Wainwright, Camp Pendleton, etc. I not only discovered violent crime in and around the bases but I discovered suicide and homicide in garrison were significant issues as well. In late 2016, I noticed a large cluster of deaths at Fort Hood on the heels of learning about all the other violent crime, non combat death and suicide at Fort Hood since 9/11/2001. I was especially upset with the way Fort Hood handled the missing person case of Dakota Stump and how they treated his family. As a result of me taking an interest in the issues at Fort Hood, families of the fallen started contacting me. What I learned collectively was startling. Please keep in mind, each family didn’t know about my conversations with the other families as all this information is considered confidential unless they want to tell their loved ones story on my website: www.militaryjusticeforall.com
As a result of the intel I was getting from families of the fallen at Fort Hood, I decided I was going to start paying closer attention to what was going on at this base. It was by far the most problematic compared to any other base. But please understand Fort Hood is symbolic of the other bases; they all have these same problems. The Army is by far the worst offender concerning death and violent crime in the military. The patterns that emerged from the Fort Hood families included lack of interest in missing persons cases, mislabeling deaths, shoddy death investigations, reports and information from Army leadership that didn’t add up or make sense, evidence goes missing, computer devices and phones are erased, secretiveness, dismissiveness, misleading, and cover-up. When it comes to an untimely or dubious death, it’s hard to find a family who won’t stop fighting for their loved one until justice is served. No justice, no peace. We currently have a group of families at Fort Hood and elsewhere who want to file a class action lawsuit to get the suspicious deaths of their loved ones reopened so they can be investigated properly by independent investigators. The Army did not investigate each death as a homicide until ruled out, therefore the scene was not preserved for evidence collection; they quickly ruled the death a suicide and moved on. According to Stars and Stripes, in the last five years, we’ve lost 165 soldiers at Fort Hood and 70 of those deaths were deaths ruled suicide. I have not included all cases because a lot of families have not come forward to share their story publicly because they are heartbroken, traumatized, confused, and overwhelmed. This experience leaves the families feeling helpless. Even if the death was in fact a suicide, these families want answers, they want the truth, and they want an avenue to find the truth. I was so concerned with the number of deaths stateside at Fort Hood, I went to Washington D.C. in December 2017 to ask for help and it fell on deaf ears including the office of the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry.
“While investigators searched for Spc. Vanessa Guillen, the skeletal remains of Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales were found near Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. His mother, Kim Wedel, wishes investigators looked for her son like they did Guillen. He had been missing for ten months. Once former Fort Hood soldier Jorgina Butler read about the disappearance and death of Guillen, she said it returned her to the night she was sexually by a staff sergeant in 2009. On July 29, 2020, lawmakers plan to hold a congressional hearing in Washington D.C. focused on the review of Fort Hood’s handling of sexual misconduct in the wake of a national outcry for justice for Guillen and her family.” –Austin American-Statesman (July 28, 2020)
However, the lack of historical violent crime data from the post has not stopped one military veteran from tracking it on her own.
Jennifer Norris, who served in the U.S. Air Force, researches and writes about Fort Hood crime on her blog, “Military Justice for All.”
Norris, who said she was sexually assaulted by one of her supervisors in the military, switched from only researching sexual assaults to also delving into non-combat deaths of service members in recent years.
Norris set up Google alerts for new stories about deaths in and around military installations, thinking that one day she could prove to Congress that some deaths were related to sexual assault or harassment.
Norris said her data for Fort Hood shows that 138 of its soldiers have died stateside since 2016. Not counting Guillen, three of the deaths this year were determined to be homicides.
Haug said he could not confirm the number Norris provided, adding that the size of Fort Hood, spread across 218,000 acres in southwestern Bell and southeastern Coryell counties in Central Texas, should be taken into account when looking at violent crime.
He said it’s about the size of New York City, with 36,500 soldiers assigned to it with more than 100,000 family members. By comparison, the average Air Force base only has 5,000 personnel assigned to it, he said.
Norris took particular interest in Fort Hood after a pattern emerged while interviewing families of slain soldiers there. Many of those families felt the Army had not properly investigated or searched for their loved ones after their disappearance, she said.
“And the stories are still coming in.”
Read more from the Austin American-Statesmanhere. (MJFA added links)
In the last 4 years from January 2016 to present, Fort Hood on average lost 36 soldiers a year. If you divide 36 by 12 months, that’s an average of 3 soldiers a month. We must find out WHY so we can prevent these untimely deaths and save the precious lives and futures of these mostly young soldiers. The average age at time of death is 28 years old and each death has a ripple effect on the families, friends, and communities left behind.
Billy Jensen & Paul Holes of The Murder Squad released a must listen to podcast about the issues at Fort Hood. They made a great case for the improvement of sexual harassment, sexual assault, missing persons cases, and murder investigations. They also asked us to sign the petitions for Vanessa Guillen and LaVena Johnson. (Source: Jensen & Holes)
“The Military Justice Improvement Act would take the prosecution of sexual assault and other serious crimes, such as murder, out of the chain of command. It would keep those crimes in the military justice system, but put the decision to prosecute them into the hands of actual military prosecutors who are trained to deal with complex legal issues.” –Senator Kirsten Gillbrand (Military Times, July 1, 2019)
Obituary: Pfc. Jason Matthew Decker, U.S. Army, age 25, of Slidell, LA, passed away on Saturday, September 15, 2018. Beloved husband of Emily Fuller Decker. Survived by his grandparents, who nurtured and raised him from birth, Buddy and Colette Decker, his birth mother Lacey Smith, his birth father, Adam Galloway. Brother of Madison Lara, Rylee Lara, Taylor Galloway, Megan Galloway, Matthew Galloway. Also survived by many Aunt’s, uncles, nieces, nephews, and friends. Jason was born in Slidell where he graduated from Slidell High school in 2011. Jason was an avid outdoorsman, loved baseball and his family. He will be greatly missed and remain in our hearts forever.
Obituary: “Timothy James “TJ” Jurgens passed away July 30, 2018 in Fort Hood, Texas.TJ was born July 5, 1999 in Effingham, Illinois. He is survived by his parents Thad and Tommi Jurgens of Golconda, IL, his brothers Hunter (Katie) Jurgens of Jasper, Indiana, Lane Jurgens of Litchfield, IL and one sister Josie Jurgens of Golconda, IL. He is also survived by his grandparents Carol and John Sheehan of Teutopolis, IL, Tom and Tammy Logsdon of St. Elmo, IL, Greg and Elaine Lilly of Mode, IL, Paul and Doris McConkey of Brownstown, IL, great-grandparents Marilyn Logsdon of St. Elmo, Lydia Hemrich of Effingham. TJ was preceded in death by his grandfather Harold “Tubby” Jurgens, his uncle Louis Jurgens, great grandfather William “Bill” Logsdon, and great grandparents Arthur and Ruth Forbes. TJ was a 2017 graduate of Pope County High School, and enlisted in the US Army before graduation. He enjoyed music and drama club in high school, as he loved to make people laugh. No one laughed harder than him, he was a joy to all he encountered. TJ loved the Lord. He loved his family and his friends. He loved his church family and kept strong relationships with every church he participated in.”