My Last Breath: In Loving Memory of My Sister Army Reservist SSG Virginia Caballero, Our Fallen Servicemembers, and Our Gold Star Families

Virginia Caballero

SSG Virginia Caballero, U.S. Army Reserve

Army Reservist SSG Virginia Caballero Died on Plane Enroute in US After Deployment in Kuwait, Family Received Conflicting Accounts of Cause of Death (September 13, 2014)

My Last Breath by Suzie Caballero Turner, Gold Star Family

Ft. Hood tried to cover up 2 other deaths,
When Greg and Vanessa took their last breath.
Lying to the family, wouldn’t tell them the truth,
Hoping no one would ask, their story runs smooth…

But there is a group, Gold Star Families their name,
Who knew much better, Ft. Hood is the blame.

But this is much bigger than sexual assualt you see,
This is about soldiers killing him, them, and me,
About Heroes who once fought for us,
But when one dies, we can’t make a fuss.

Don’t get me wrong, sexual assault is a crime,
And those who commit it, better do the time,
But this situation is bigger you see…
It’s about lies told when they killed me.

Told my family I put a gun to my head,
But a soldier in arms is why I am dead,
My family knows better, you’re telling a lie,
They know for a fact, that’s not how I’d die.

A medical death, how quickly you lied,
Another soldier is the reason that I died,
His corruptive lifestyle, I didn’t agree,
So he thought he’d go on and silence me.

I’m only a Sgt, take orders from command,
What they tell me to do is out of my hands,
The mission they gave me, sounds dangerous to me,
Tried to talk to command, but they just disagree.
Now the mission’s over, just like it played in my head…
So they try to blame me, because we all end up dead…

It took them a month to find me and my car,
They didn’t realize that they took this too far,
Sending my phone signals to my home state,
Hoping my family will just take the bait,
While they decide what they’re going to say
About what happened to me when i died that day.

Suicide is what you tell my wife…
Multiple stab wounds from somebody’s knife
She knows me better, knows you’re telling a lie
She knows this isn’t the way I would die…

Commander and others like treating me bad,
So I finally stood up, only got them mad,
So now I am unresponsive, face down on my bed,
Another soldier in arms is why I am dead…

Healthy as ever, pass each PT test,
Taking care of me, doing my best,
All of a sudden, I fell on the floor,
All they tell my family, “She’s not breathing any more.”
Lie to my family, not medical death,
But a coward soldier who took my last breath.

These are just a few of the hundreds of deaths,
When our own fellow soldier took us from our last breath,
It wasn’t at war, not by the other country,
But one of our own who ended my life for me.

Higher command tries to diffuse the crime,
By making up a story and not doing the time.
Lying to the family, saying stories untrue,
Making families think there’s nothing they can do.

This needs to stop, too many have died!
Too many families to whom they’ve lied!
Now it’s time to make things right!
By telling the truth and letting us fight,
Fight for our loved ones who can no longer speak,
Because the truth is all we seek!

To demand the truth about their death,
And who made them take their last breath!
They deserve respect, justice, and closure too,
So quit being a coward and do what you’re supposed to do,
Start acting like the soldier you signed up to be
So families again, can believe in humanity!

Don’t get me wrong, we can’t blame them all,
We can’t expect all of Ft. Hood to fall,
For all the corrupt cowards who led a hero to death,
And watched him as he took his final breath.

This isn’t just happening on Ft. Hood you see,
This is happening within all military,
Some of these deaths are Marines, and Navy too,
Every military branch has got quite a few…

But just like the corrupt ones, not all of them are bad…
There are also some good ones who the corrupt ones make mad..

There are many true soldiers still left you see,
Who are doing what’s right, fighting for him, her, and me,
So don’t disrespect a true soldier in any way…
Because of what corruption may have played out today.
So weed out the cowards and take them away,
Throw them in a prison for taking our loved ones that day…

Army Pvt. Nicole Burnham Found Unresponsive in Fort Carson Barracks; Death Ruled Suicide After Sexual Assault, Retaliation & a Three Month Expedited Transfer Delay (January 26, 2018)

Nicole Burnham Army

Pvt. Nicole Burnham, U.S. Army

Army Pvt. Nicole Burnham reported a sexual assault at Camp Casey in Korea on September 15, 2017. Four days later, she requested an expedited victim’s transfer (EVT) asking for reassignment back to the United States. Nicole’s Commander approved the request a few days later but it would be 82 days before the transfer occurred. In the meantime, Nicole Burnham shared the same barracks with her attacker. And there was no evidence to suggest the Army even addressed the fact that Nicole shared the same barracks as her attacker until an incident occurred three weeks later when he allegedly jumped out in front of her in an attempt to scare her. It was at this time, the Commander separated the two and put them in different barracks. In the weeks that followed, Nicole suffered verbal harassment and cyberbullying from within the ranks. She received comments from soldiers and their wives over social media calling her a “slut” and “deserving of rape.” Investigators claimed Nicole did not report the harassment to the Chain of Command but in a sworn statement a fellow soldier said most of the leadership was aware of the harassment yet turned a blind eye.

Nicole Burnham 5

Nicole Burnham Justification for Expedited Transfer (photo: KSTP-TV)

In October 2017, a tearful Nicole told her supervisor she couldn’t “take it” anymore and the supervisor believed she was eluding to suicidal ideation. She was referred to the Officer in Charge (OIC) who then handed her off to the Chaplain for counseling. But according to the A.R. 15-6 investigation, it doesn’t appear leadership in the Chain of Command was aware of what the supervisor believed was suicidal ideation. Nicole reported a sexual assault on September 15, 2017 and experienced three months of retaliation before Army leadership finally transferred her on December 12, 2017. In addition, KSTP reports Army leadership at Camp Casey failed to inform Fort Carson that Nicole was a victim of sexual assault (and harassment, bullying, & cyberbullying). Nicole should have been offered mental health care and compassion. Don Christiansen of Protect Our Defenders said in a statement that the Chain of Command was without a doubt responsible for the failures in Nicole’s case that ultimately lead to her ending her life. Nicole’s death triggered two investigations, one into the allegation of sexual assault that allegedly included Nicole being attacked by multiple men at Camp Casey and the other into the cyberbullying. Of course, the Army declined to comment until the investigation was completed. According to the family, Nicole’s main attacker was courtmartialed and agreed to a plea deal that forced him to leave the Army with a less than honorable discharge. The outcome of the cyberbullying investigation of military personnel and military spouses is unknown.

“It’s inconceivable that they let her languish in Korea. After all these failures, we had this tragic ending to her life.” -Don Christiansen, Protect Our Defenders (January 13, 2020)

Editor’s Note: The military wives who lived on a federal base overseas do not fall under the jurisdiction of the military Chain of Command. Civilians living on base fall under the federal jurisdiction of the FBI who at this point are reluctant to investigate anything but murder. The federal government uses a crisis oriented approach with military personnel and crimes on military bases as opposed to a homicide prevention approach. And in the case of reservations, there has been no justice for missing and murdered Native Americans. 

Nicole Burnham KSTP-TV Timeline

AR 15-6 Timeline of Events for Nicole Burnham (Source: KSTP-TV)

As a result of Nicole’s tragic and untimely death and the KSTP-TV investigation, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota pushed the Army to take action and make changes to the expedited victims transfer policy. The pair asked the Army to track the time it takes to transfer victims of sex assault to another military base, citing the ‘unfortunate delays’ in the transfer of Pvt. Nicole Burnham. In response, the Secretary of the Army directed staff to update policies regarding the treatment of victims of sexual assault who request an off-base transfer. He asked that the Army update policies to mirror the timelines in the Department of Defense (DoD) policy. According to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, DoD policy states an EVT should occur within 30 days and Esper said the Army’s policies will now reflect that timeline. Nicole’s mother, Stacey Burnham, said 30 days is too long. She also said, “I cannot imagine being a victim, having your EVT approved but knowing you may still be there for another 30 days.” Stacey Burnham has called for more significant changes in the wake of her daughter’s death suggesting the timeline should be condensed even further. She runs a public Facebook page called Pooters Peeps in honor of her daughter.

Amy Klobuchar Letter

Letter from Amy Klobuchar & Tom Emmer to the Secretary of the Army (photo: KSTP-TV)

Sources: KSTP-TV, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Stacey Burnham

In the News:

A 21-year-old Fort Carson soldier who died after being found unresponsive on post last Friday was honored with a dignified transfer. -KOAA 5 (February 2, 2018)

Failing Nicole Burnham Tweet

Retweet on Twitter in honor of Pvt. Nicole Burnham.

Photos of Nicole Burnham:

Nicole Burnham 3

Nicole Burnham (photo: Pooters Peeps)

Nicole Burnham 2

Pvt. Nicole Burnham, U.S. Army (Image: Alex Wentz)

Pooters Peeps (Facebook):

Related Links:
Obituary: Nicole A Burnham of Andover, Minnesota | 1996 – 2018
Failing Private Burnham: How the Army Did Not Protect a Minnesota Soldier after a Sexual Assault
Dignified transfer performed for Fort Carson soldier who died on post
Soldier commits suicide after Army wives bullied her, told her she should die
Report: Soldier Kills Herself After Sexual Assault, Harassment, Cyberbullying
Failing Private Burnham | KSTP-TV | Facebook
5 Investigates “Making a Difference” | Midwestern Emmys
Veterans suicide prevention walk remembers Nicole Burnham
Letter to Secretary of Army from Amy Klobuchar & Tom Emmer
Klobuchar, Emmer look into Minnesota soldier’s sexual assault, suicide
Klobuchar, Emmer Push Army to Take Action after Minnesota Soldier’s Sexual Assault, Suicide
Army Secretary orders changes to policy after Minnesota soldier’s sexual assault, suicide
Army Secretary orders changes to policy after Minnesota soldier’s sexual assault, suicide
Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services Articles of Interest
The Murder of Pvt. Nicole Burnham – When Driven to Suicide, It’s Murder – Failure to Act Prudently Makes the United States Army an Accessory to Her Murder
HOR Oversight Subcommittee on National Security & Foreign Affairs Held a Hearing on Sexual Assault in the Military (July 31, 2008)
Lauterbach Case Prompts Policy Reforms for Victims of Sexual Assault in the Military (December 25, 2011)
Rep. Mike Turner Says New Military Legislation Closes a Loophole & Includes Domestic Violence Victims in the Expedited Transfer Policy Law (May 1, 2018)
Pooters Peeps on Facebook (A Public Page Dedicated to Nicole Burnham)

Fort Hood Army Spc. Deangelo Mathis Found Unresponsive in Sly County, Georgia; Official Cause of Death Unknown (July 26, 2017)

Deangelo Mathis Hood

Spc. Deangelo Mathis, U.S. Army

Fort Hood Army Spc. Deangelo Marquis Mathis, 22, was found unresponsive July 26, 2017 in Sly County, Georgia. Spc. Mathis’ home of record is listed as Mauk, Georgia; he entered active-duty military service in July 2012. Spc. Mathis was a Patriot missile launching station enhanced operator and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Hood in Texas since May 2014. The circumstances surrounding the incident were under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Criminal Investigation Command at the time of reporting. The official cause of death is unknown. Since January 1, 2016, Spc. Mathis was one of thirty-one soldiers who died of a death ruled suicide or the official cause of death was unknown while stationed at Fort Hood. He was the twelfth soldier to die stateside by death ruled suicide or official cause of death unknown in 2017. Spc. Mathis was honored in the Military Justice for All veteran’s presentation on the current status of the Armed Forces at Fort Hood to congressional members in Washington D.D. in December 2017.

January 2017
1/1: Kai Yancey, 26, U.S. Army (died after complications from short illness)
1/2: Randal Anderson, 22, U.S. Army (died of gunshot wound off-post, Killeen)
1/7: Barron Von Reichelt, 24, U.S. Army (fatal auto accident on South Range Rd on post)
1/11: Alex Taylor, 23, U.S. Army (death ruled suicide, found dead at place of duty on post)
1/12: Zackary Partin, 24, U.S. Army (found dead in barracks room on post, cod unknown)

February 2017
2/5: Steven Hines, 29, U.S. Army (death ruled suicide, CID Agent found dead at place of duty on post after media exposes bizarre cluster of suicides & accidents on post)
2/6: Christie Anderson, 44, U.S. Army (found dead at off post residence, cod unknown)
2/17: Michael Garcia, 29, U.S. Army (died in vehicle training accident at Fort Irwin NTC)
2/18: Sean Callahan, 31, U.S. Army (passed away unexpectedly in Iowa, cod unknown)
2/21: Brian Odiorne, 21, U.S. Army (non combat death in Iraq, death ruled suicide by CID)
2/27: Andre Nance, 34, U.S. Army (found dead on post at Fort Rucker, AL, cod unknown)

March 2017
3/26: Jonathan Garcia, 29, U.S. Army (fatal motorcycle accident off post, Harker Heights)

April 2017
4/7: Daniel Wildeman, 40, U.S. Army (found dead on post in barracks, cod unknown)
4/11: Darius Cooper, 40, U.S. Army (declared dead by board of inquiry after missing for two months, vehicle swept away in low water crossing on post)
4/16: David Ananou, 30, U.S. Army (death by apparent drowning at Belton Lake)
4/17: Justin Lewis, 19, U.S. Army (fatally shot near vacant lot in Killeen neighborhood, unsolved homicide)

May 2017
5/5: Travis Granger, 29, U.S. Army Veteran (fatal gunshot wound, ruled homicide)
5/14: Jon Bullard, 40, U.S. Army (found unresponsive at off post residence in Temple, died next day)

June 2017
6/15: Devon Tucker, 21, U.S. Army (found unresponsive at off post residence in Copperas Cove)

July 2017
7/3: Anthony Lovell, 40, U.S. Army (multiple blunt force injuries, death ruled motorcycle accident by Killeen PD & Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences)
7/11: Justen Ogden, 22, U.S. Army (death ruled suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wound, found at on post home, family claims circumstances surrounding death don’t add up)
7/14: James Smith, 24, U.S. Army (fatal motorcycle accident off post, under investigation)
7/26: Deangelo Mathis, 22, U.S. Army (found unresponsive in Sly County, Georgia)

Related Links:
Fallen Warriors: Deangelo Mathis
Fort Hood: Soldier found dead
Fort Hood soldier dies in Georgia
Officials release name of Fort Hood soldier who died in Georgia
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (January 1, 2016 to Present)
Washington D.C. Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (December 12, 2017)
Salute to Fallen Foundation Honors Army Spc. Mason Webber; Vinton Today is First Publication to Honor & Acknowledge the Fort Hood Fallen (July 20, 2020)

Fort Hood Army Sgt. Duane Shaw III Found Unresponsive in Off-Post Killeen, Texas Home; 12th Reported Fatality in One Month (June 8, 2016)

US Army Seal

Sgt. Duane Shaw III, U.S. Army

Army Sgt. Duane Shaw III, 34, was taken to a hospital in nearby Temple, Texas where he was pronounced dead on June 8, 2016. Sgt. Shaw was found unresponsive at his off-post home in Killeen, Texas. Sgt. Shaw enlisted in the Army in December 2005 as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) specialist. He was assigned to the 8th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. Sgt. Shaw deployed in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom; he earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, a Combat Action Badge and a Driver and Mechanic Badge with Wheeled Vehicle Bar, and other awards and decorations. Sgt. Shaw’s death was the third death reported in one week by Fort Hood officials. Decorated combat veteran SFC Antino Glass died in a fatal motorcycle crash on June 5th and Spc. Bernardino Guevara, Jr. was found dead with a gunshot wound on June 6th in a parking lot on post. Additionally, this was the 12th death reported in the month of June at Fort Hood. On June 2, 2016, nine service members died in a flood water training accident on post.

Related Links:
SGT Duane Cass Shaw, III | Find A Grave
Soldier re-enlists on Bridge of No Return
Soldier found unresponsive in Killeen identified
Fort Hood IDs soldier found dead in off-post home
Col. Andrew Poznick, One of Too Many Fort Hood
Soldier suicides: Causes studied in attempt to prevent future tragedies
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)