Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, whose home of record is listed as Brockton, Mass., was found [deceased] near Lake Polk in Temple. He entered the Army in September 2016 as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist and has been assigned to the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division since April 2019. Fernandes’ awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.
Fernandes was last seen in Killeen on Aug 17. When he was reported absent on Aug. 18, Soldiers from his unit initiated a thorough search for him, both on and off post while cooperating with the Killeen Police Department and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) in an attempt to find him. The unit distributed his photograph, searched motorpools, parking lots, barracks, and headquarters buildings. Members of his unit visited local hotels and hospitals throughout Central Texas trying to find him as they expanded their search efforts.
The unit is cooperating with local authorities from the cities of Killeen and Temple as this incident remains under investigation. The Division will continue to support the Fernandes Family during this difficult time and requests everyone respects their privacy during this time of grief.
Massachusetts lawmakers write “evidence suggests that the Army failed to give him the proper support and care that he needed while serving at Fort Hood” Massachusetts (September 4, 2020) – U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (MA-01) today called on the independent review panel investigating the command climate and culture at U.S. Army Base Fort Hood, Texas to include the case of Army Sergeant Elder Fernandes in its review of the base. Sergeant Fernandes, a 23 year-old native of Brockton, Massachusetts who was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, was found dead on August 25 after having gone missing on August 17. Shortly after he was reported missing, public reports revealed that in May of this year Sergeant Fernandes had reported a sexual assault allegation against a member of his chain of command and also became the target of bullying, hazing, and harassment. The Fort Hood independent review panel was created before Sgt. Fernandes’s disappearance, so the Massachusetts lawmakers are asking the panel to ensure it includes his case in the scope of their review and report.
In their letter, the lawmakers urged the Fort Hood panel to review the following issues:
The circumstances surrounding Sergeant Fernandes’s treatment by commanding officers and peers while serving at Fort Hood, including allegations of sexual assault, bullying, hazing, or harassment;
The adequacy of the investigation conducted by the Army of his reported sexual assault;
The circumstances surrounding his disappearance and death, including the Army’s coordination with local and state law enforcement in the search for him after he was reported missing, and;
The adequacy of Army’s coordination with and treatment of Sergeant Fernandes’s family, including but not limited to information-sharing during the search for Sergeant Fernandes and in the period after his body was discovered, and the release of his medical, service, and treatment records thereafter.
“Although an Army-led investigation remains ongoing into the cause and circumstances of Sergeant Fernandes’s death, the evidence suggests that the Army failed to give him the proper support and care that he needed while serving at Fort Hood,” write the lawmakers in the their letter. “As you conduct your independent, comprehensive review of Fort Hood, we urge you to consider the facts of Sergeant Fernandes’s case. We will do everything we can to ensure that Sergeant Fernandes receives the justice he deserves, that Army leaders are held accountable, and to prevent harm to any other soldiers at Fort Hood. We stand by, ready to assist in your review in any way possible, and we look forward to seeing your final report.”
Senators Warren and Markey along with Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) today sent a bipartisan request to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Ok.) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) asking that the Committee hold a public hearing to probe the findings and recommendations of the independent review panel on the command climate and culture at U.S. Army Base Fort Hood, Texas.
“In the last five years, 165 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood have died, according to the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office, which regularly released information on soldiers’ death until a 2018 decision to stop the practice. The post was an outlier in this level of transparency.
In those years, seven soldiers died by homicide, while six died in a combat zone. The deaths of 70 soldiers were ruled suicides, and on- and off-base accidents resulted in the deaths of 60 soldiers.”
“Air Force veteran Jennifer Norris believes Fort Hood’s current situation has been years in the making.
For the past decade, Norris, a trained social worker with a master’s degree in public policy, has been tracking crimes committed by and against service members and advocating for reform. She posts her research on her website, Military Justice for All.
She first focused her research on several large military bases, but after noticing a trend of Fort Hood deaths, Norris narrowed her efforts to the Texas post.
‘I didn’t set up to go after Fort Hood at all. It’s a compilation of systematic issues,’ she said.
At the end of 2017, Norris used her own money to travel from her home in Maine to Washington to meet with lawmakers. By the time she got home, Norris said she thought everyone had moved on without intending to address the problems.
‘The other bases are nothing like Fort Hood is right now,’ she said. ‘I think the anomaly with Fort Hood is that its isolated and that it’s such an economic powerhouse in the community that it’s in everybody’s best interest to protect it so they can protect themselves.’”
My heart is heavy with the news we heard today and I still hold out hope that it’s not real. I don’t want to give up the hope that you are still out there and we will find you, as a dedicated, motivated team. So many people care about you. And a lot of people stepped forward and said yes, it happened to me too. The silence was finally broken and now we know for a fact that the same military justice system that failed us failed you too. My heart is broken. The writing was on the wall at Fort Hood. Prior to your disappearance, a team of people fought for you and all the other service members praying none of you would go missing or die whether by your own hand or someone else’s, both failures of leadership. The retaliation is real and we’ve been concerned that if we don’t deal with hazing, bullying, sexual assault and domestic violence appropriately then other more violent behavior would follow and it has.
Ten years of research and the creation of a website dedicated to military crime backs Vanessa up and all the other brave veterans who spoke up and shared their stories of heartbreak and betrayal. Although your safety has been of the utmost priority, we witnessed a shift because of you and because of what’s been going on at Fort Hood. I am so thankful you said something to your mother so everyone would know that sexual harassment is at the beginning of the continuum of harm and if not stopped only escalates. It’s like watching your future attacker plot when to make his move and you know it’s coming but there’s no way to escape. And then it’s too late. I’m not sure how I am going to sleep tonight but please know you are in my thoughts and I pray we can continue searching for you tomorrow and that what we learned is not true.
I was disappointed with the media today and how this was handled. I was especially disappointed with the headlines that purposefully made assumptions. I pray that justice will be served, that Fort Hood cleans up its act, and that your experience changes the entire military justice system. If this had been treated like the missing persons case it was, I may not be so angry knowing this is business as usual for the military. They replace us just as quickly as we disappear. The callousness and lack of regard for our fellow human, including murder victims, is sickening and heart breaking. Vanessa, please know how much you mean to me and so many other thousands of people. You are making a huge impact. Sending so much love and comfort to your family at this time, and anyone else who is struggling with today’s news.
The bill named in Caserta’s honor would create “Brandon Act” reporting, making it easier for service members to seek mental health care anonymously
PO3 Brandon Caserta, U.S. Navy
WASHINGTON — Today, Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Teri and Patrick Caserta, parents of fallen United States Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta, announced the introduction of The Brandon Act.
The bill would allow service members to anonymously report and seek mental health treatment by using a safe word like “Brandon Act.” It is designed to protect service members who experience mental health emergencies that result from hazing, bullying, or any other issue. It would allow them to seek help anonymously and, if necessary, outside of the chain of command. The bill’s introduction comes on the second anniversary of Brandon Caserta’s death from suicide, which he said was prompted by bullying and hazing within his unit.
“Brandon had a smile that made everyone want to smile. He was a very charismatic and upbeat young man. He made everyone’s day better no matter what they were going through. Brandon has always helped everyone he could. The Brandon Act would do this for his fellow service members in his death,” Teri and Patrick Caserta said, “Brandon did not die in vain and his legacy for helping others will continue long after his death when The Brandon Act is passed.”
Rep. Seth Moulton said: “Brandon tragically lost his life because he wasn’t able to get support for his mental health—something we should provide every American, especially every American hero in uniform. This bill will ensure our service members can get help and have no fear of retaliation for doing so, as it’s the right thing to do. Although we’ll never get Brandon back, his legacy will be the lives of many more great Americans he saves through this bill, and I’m proud of his parents who have fought so hard to tell his story and make this change.”
Brandon Caserta died by suicide on June 25, 2018 on the flight line at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. After his death, his parents and friends discovered six notes in which Brandon attributed his suicide to persistent hazing and bullying from some members and leaders of his Navy helicopter squadron.
The Brandon Act expands the existing law that regulates how service members are referred for mental health evaluations, in order to provide a confidential channel for service members to self-report mental health issues. The process would protect the anonymity of service members, similar to the restricted reporting option that protects victims of sexual assault.
Moulton made expanding mental health care and breaking the stigma around seeking help a top priority since disclosing last year that he is managing post traumatic stress from his service in Iraq as a United States Marine. In addition to The Brandon Act, Moulton has secured mandatory mental health check ups for service members who saw combat within 21 days of leaving the battlefield in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act.
He also co-introduced, with fellow veteran Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which would make 9-8-8 the national number for mental health emergencies. The bill has passed in the Senate, and is one step away from a vote on the House floor. Yesterday, the FCC announced that it would issue a final rule on the designation of 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention hotline in mid-July.
A copy of The Brandon Act is available for download here.
A legislative summary for The Brandon Act is available for download here.
Read more from the original source on Rep. Seth Moulton’s website here.
In 1998, a gifted Philadelphia graduate student is found murdered in her bed. The hunt for her killer forces police to reevaluate a series of unsolved crimes, turning the city upside down. Will her killer be caught or will he strike again? -Terror in Philadelphia, People Magazine Investigates (S3, E2)
Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.
I can honestly say no one is looking in this because at this point, no one cares. I just looked at the suicide rate right now in the Navy and it is now reported 43 for the year so far. I looked at it on Wednesday of last week and it was at 37. What the heck is going on and when will someone anyone going to start caring about the men and women in our Armed Forces? We need to respect the flag AND the men and women who defend it and save their lives like they do us. We all need to write to our senators and congressional staff. We need The Brandon Act passed and quickly.
I’m going to explain what “The Brandon Act” is. It is designed to be a safe word that men and women in our Armed Forces can use if they are subjects of any kind of abuse whether it’s physical, emotional or mentally. Abuse comes in many, many forms to include bullying, hazing, threats, sexual, abusive leadership, and any kind of mental and emotional abuse. These are just a few abusive tactics that can be done to someone. “The Brandon Act” protects those who come forward asking for help. It is designed for these men and women to come forward and get the help they need and if the abuse merits it, the sailor or troop will have a right to ask to be reassigned to another command or unit without any retaliation whatsoever from anyone in their current command or their next assignment. Our hope is to bring suicides to an end and by using this “Act” will hopefully allow them the courage to get help when they need it and get them healed and back on the right path. This “Act” is in front of Congress right now and hopefully very soon, they will approve and pass it once it’s completely written. Thank you for reading. #thebrandonact
-Patrick and Teri Caserta (Brandon Caserta’s parents)
Sailor’s Death at Naval Station Norfolk Ruled Suicide:
Sailor’s death at Naval Station Norfolk ruled suicide. -WAVY TV 10 (June 26, 2018)
Peoria Family Hopes for Change in Military Culture After Son Takes His Own Life:
As Teri Caserta entered her son’s bedroom in their Peoria home, she broke down. It’s an emotion that Teri and her husband Patrick Caserta will always carry with them. Their son Brandon was in the United States Navy from 2015 to 2018. However, at just 21, Brandon would take his own life. -ABC 15 Arizona (June 14, 2019)
Parents of Norfolk-Based Sailor Who Committed Suicide Want Changes:
Brandon Caserta, 21, was a sailor. He died by suicide while stationed in Norfolk. His parents hope new legislation will protect future military men and women. -13 News Now (October 4, 2019)
Navy AEAN Brandon Caserta was stationed with the Helicopter Combat Sea Squadron 28 (HSC-28) at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia when he died by suicide on June 25, 2018. While Brandon’s parents were on the phone with Navy leadership at the Squadron, Brandon walked out on the flight line, apologized to the plane captain (who is in-charge of the flight line), and hurled himself into a helicopter rotor, dying instantly. AEAN Caserta had a brief career with the Navy and it didn’t turn out the way he had hoped. He had failed Special Warfare Training and was transferred into a new career field as a result. And then unexpectedly Brandon broke his collar-bone in a bicycle accident, which also negatively impacted his Navy career. At the moment Brandon Caserta made his final walk out to the flight line, his father Patrick Caserta was on the phone with the command expressing concern for his son’s welfare. Patrick was making plans to fly out to Naval Station Norfolk to explore his son’s legal options.
Desperate for answers, the Casertas reached out to Brandon’s chain of command and friends but eventually everyone stopped responding. The Casertas were told by many friends in Brandon’s command that leadership ordered a cessation of communications. Before the silence, Brandon’s friends shared that they thought he appeared to be suffering from depression, feelings of worthlessness, and anger, hence the reason he left a note asking the Navy be held accountable. As a result of the information gleaned from the note and those who knew Brandon, the HSC-28 conducted an investigation of itself; basically the fox guarding the henhouse. Although they knew months in advance of the problems, the report did note that Brandon’s supervisor had a history of berating and belittling those who worked for him. As a matter of fact, this supervisor could have been court-martialed under UCMJ Article 93, Cruelty and Maltreatment, but he wasn’t. Instead, Military.com reports he received no punishment and was transferred with a “declining evaluation” (and this was only after it was heard and reported that he made “derogatory and inflammatory comments concerning the deceased”).
“I want to see as many people fired, kicked out or, at the very least, lose rank.” -Brandon Caserta, U.S. Navy
According to Military.com, the Navy’s suicide rate in 2018 was the highest it’s ever been. And it was reported that a post-mortem analyses of suicides in the military usually showed the victim “faced major issues like financial problems, relationship problems, medical issues, and mental health conditions.” The military reporter reached out to Dave Matsuda, an anthropologist at California State University-East Bay, who researched and studied a suicide cluster among soldiers in Iraq in 2010. Matsuda’s research found some non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and officers in the chain of command made their subordinates’ lives a “living hell.” Matsuda also added that although the “bad leaders weren’t fully responsible for the suicides, they helped push the soldiers over the edge.” But in a system where the Navy is investigating the Navy, we have learned that the Chain of Command isn’t going to admit there is a problem. They have a history of blaming the victim and/or scapegoating an enlisted NCO or lower ranking military officer.
Brandon’s father, Patrick Caserta, a retired U.S. Navy sailor himself, asserts the Command was “so hostile, corruptive and unethical,” that they tormented Brandon and drove him past the brink of despair. Patrick and Teri Caserta wholeheartedly believe the command murdered their son. Patrick reminded us that the military talks about trauma, exposure to war, and mental health, but they don’t talk about harassment and bullying. He believes military leadership do not want to admit harassment, bullying, and retaliation happen or admit they are at fault. In the days and weeks that followed their son’s death, Patrick and Teri also learned from those who worked with Brandon that they were all dealing with a high operational tempo and manpower shortfalls. Brandon’s co-workers believed “personal issues were not a high priority and Brandon’s death could have been prevented.” And an anonymous message sent to the squadron commander on June 18, 2018 revealed the abuse was ongoing before Brandon died.
According to the message, Brandon’s supervisor called subordinates his “bitches,” referred to the chiefs as “douchebags” and “dumbasses” behind their backs, and “treated workers worse than garbage” and “like dogs.” –Military.com (June 8, 2019)
Military.com reported that Brandon Caserta’s death was one of 68 Navy suicides in 2018. They also reported the rise in military suicides appears to mirror an increase in suicides among the general U.S. population. Suicide experts are struggling to understand why so many are dying by suicide. Some factors for suicide risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), include “spending time in prison or jail, having a mental health disorder or a substance abuse problem, experiencing family violence, a history of suicide, and having guns in the home.” Brandon’s family believes their son’s suicide was a direct result of toxic leadership, one superior who harassed and bullied Brandon, pushing him over the edge. According to Army Doctrine Publication 6-22, a toxic leader “operates with an inflated sense of self-worth and from acute self-interest,” consistently using “dysfunctional behaviors to deceive, intimidate, coerce, or unfairly punish others to get what they want for themselves.” Although it appears there are multiple variables that impact when a service member chooses to die by suicide, the experts need to find out the why so we can save our service member’s lives. What is happening in their environment that makes them feel like suicide is the only way out?
The directive states, toxic leaders exhibit a combination of “self centered attitudes, motivations, and behaviors that have adverse effects on subordinates, the organization, and mission performance.” –Military.com (June 8, 2019)
Military.com reported that one of Brandon’s co-workers helped shed some insight into the toxic climate at the Navy’s HSC-28 squadron. He accused leadership of deploying personnel in retaliation for speaking up and not doing as they are told. This particular individual requested that he remain at the squadron when his wife got sick because he needed to support her and their two girls. But his leadership was going to deploy him with a detachment anyways. So he filed an Inspector General complaint and thankfully was transferred out of the squadron in a couple weeks. He believes Navy personnel have a “fear of retribution” because the command is resentful of the service members who can’t deploy. Brandon’s family experienced a form of retaliation as well. The unit held a memorial service for Brandon four days after he died but Patrick and Teri said they were not invited by anyone in the HSC-28 command. Patrick Caserta believes the family was excluded out of sheer pettiness; leadership wanted to continue to conceal and coverup what truly happened. Regardless of the reason, it was a violation of Navy policy.
“Navy policy states that the command should provide round-trip travel and allowances to family members to attend a command memorial service.” –Military.com (June 8, 2019)
On May 31, 2019, after the command learned that Military.com had made phone calls regarding the Casertas’ allegations, Navy personnel indicated there was a “culture of fear” at the squadron. The Casertas are so angry and distraught that communications have stopped that they offered a $25,000 reward to anyone who came forward with information that “lead to successful prosecution of individuals in their son’s chain of command.” They have also met with the congressional staff of at least a dozen senators and representatives, including Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to discuss “the treatment they and Brandon received, request an independent investigation, and promote efforts to prevent suicide linked to toxic leadership.” They also would like to see the Navy implement Brandon Caserta’s request in his suicide note regarding the re-rate process: “sailors who don’t complete the training for the rate they initially sought should be able to select any other training they qualify for with their Armed Services Vocational Battery (ASVAB) test results.”
Anthropologist Dave Matsuda told Military.com that to truly address the problem of suicide in the armed forces, “all the services need to consider ‘toxic leadership’ when analyzing the deaths of each individual.” If we understand the why, we can prevent suicide. Matsuda also believes operational leaders should not rely on “the boot camp strategy of breaking people down to build them back up.” Matsuda concluded with the assertion that indeed a toxic command climate can trigger suicidal behavior. One year later, Patrick and Teri Caserta are determined to get justice for their only son, because they believe this tragedy could’ve been prevented. The pair also report that Congress is drafting “The Brandon Act,” which is “federal legislation aimed at ending military suicides, holding commanders accountable, and halting the bullying and hazing that occurs within military ranks.” Please contact both the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) members and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) members and your Senators and Representative to ask that they too support our troops by supporting The Brandon Act. Our service members deserve a chance at a beautiful life post military.
“The Brandon Act” is designed to be a safe word that men and women in our Armed Forces can use if they are subjects of any kind of abuse whether it’s physical, emotional or mentally. Abuse comes in many, many forms to include bullying, hazing, threats, sexual, abusive leadership, and any kind of mental and emotional abuse. These are just a few abusive tactics that can be done to someone. “The Brandon Act” protects those who come forward asking for help. It is designed for these men and women to come forward and get the help they need and if the abuse merits it, the sailor or troop will have a right to ask to be reassigned to another command or unit without any retaliation whatsoever from anyone in their current command or their next assignment. Our hope is to bring suicides to an end and by using this “Act” will hopefully allow them the courage to get help when they need it and get them healed and back on the right path. This “Act” is in front of Congress right now and hopefully very soon, they will approve and pass it once it’s completely written. Thank you for reading. –Justice for Brandon Caserta on Facebook (June 20, 2019) #TheBrandonAct
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 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.
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.
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)
Retweet on Twitter in honor of Pvt. Nicole Burnham.
Marine Corps veteran Laurel Chasmar, 28, was gunned down outside her Morris Plains, New Jersey apartment building in the early morning hours on August 5, 2017. Hassan Shahid, 32, of Jersey City, New Jersey is accused of her murder; he was found dead with a self inflicted gunshot wound in Morris township after fleeing the scene of the crime on foot when the police arrived. According to media reports, Laurel and Hassan were co-workers at one of the Novartis facilities where Laurel worked as a senior production support technician for the past couple of years. It appears Laurel dated Shadid for a brief period of time but she ended things and had recently complained several times to the police that Shadid was harassing her.
“A Morris Plains woman and former Marine Corps veteran who was slain over the weekend had complained to police about the former boyfriend who killed her. Kevin Coughlin of Morristown Green says Laurel Chasmar made several complaints to the police that her former boyfriend was harassing her.” –Gloucester City News (August 11, 2017)
The Morris Plains Mayor confirmed that Chasmar did at one point date co-worker Hassan Shahid at the pharmaceutical company, but Laurel had ended the relationship and made several recent harassment complaints against Hassan. The Mayor said Laurel stopped short of filing for a domestic violence restraining order, which the police advised her to do. Police believe Shadid ambushed Laurel when she arrived home. Shahid borrowed a car so Chasmar would not recognize him and while lying in wait, he sprayed more than a dozen shots from a .45 caliber handgun in the parking garage of her apartment building, hitting both parked vehicles and grazing Chasmar. Chasmar ran to the common entrance of her apartment building, but could not unlock the door in time and was fatally shot. Police heard the gunfire and when they arrived, Shahid ran accross the street and shot himself. This gun violence incident has been ruled a murder-suicide.
Online, Chasmar’s grieving friends expressed shock and dismay at the tragedy.
“Laurel Chasmar you where the most amazing soul I came across… your kindness your smiles your warm heart always touch everyone. In the short time I’ve known you, you have been an amazing friend to me and everyone I know. You will always be in our hearts.”
“Chasmar, you were a smart, funny, sweet woman. All of the Marines who served with you are gonna miss you. RIP and Semper Fi.”
“Over the past few months she was in a bad relationship with a very controlling and jealous man. She left but not soon enough.”
Another solemnly played the Marines Hymn on his bagpipes in her honor.
In a touching tribute from her alma mater, a memorial service for Laurel Rae Chasmar was held at Lenfell Hall on the Florham Park campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) in Teaneck, New Jersey. MorristownGreen.com reports Laurel served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2007 to 2011 as an administration chief and sergeant, and as a recruiter based at Camp Pendleton in California. After leaving the Marine Corps, Laurel earned an associate’s degree from the County College of Morris, where she was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honors society. NJ.com reports Laurel earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology at FDU and was scheduled to complete her master’s degree in business administration from the university in 2018. Laurel Chasmar was honored on the university’s FDU Veterans Facebook page on August 9, 2017..
Allegations of mistreatment persist inside units designed to heal wounded soldiers
“NBC 5 Investigates has learned that the U.S. Army has launched a new investigation inside Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), looking at claims of harassment and abuse.
The investigation comes after NBC 5 Investigates partnered with The Dallas Morning News for a six-month investigation that revealed hundreds of complaints from injured soldiers who said commanders harassed, belittled them and ordered them to do things that made their conditions worse at three Warrior Transition Units in Texas: Fort Hood, Fort Bliss and Fort Sam Houston.”