15 Movies & Documentaries That Expose the Broken Military Justice System

Soldier’s Girl (Showtime):

New Army recruit Barry Winchell is assigned to a base in Tennessee. One night out to a local bar hosting a drag show. Calpernia Addams an in-transition transsexual drag queen, fascinates Barry, and they strike up a relationship. -Soldier’s Girl, Showtime (January 20, 2003)

Showtime Entertainment Released ‘Soldier’s Girl’: Based on the True Story of the Murder of Fort Campbell Army Pfc. Barry Winchell

In the Valley of Elah (Warner Bros):

“In the Valley of Elah” tells the story of a war veteran (Tommy Lee Jones), his wife (Susan Sarandon) and the search for their son, a soldier who recently returned from Iraq but has mysteriously gone missing, and the police detective (Charlize Theron) who helps in the investigation. -Warner Bros. (September 14, 2007)

Warner Bros. Premiered ‘In the Valley of Elah’: Based on the True Story of the Murder of Fort Benning Army Spc. Richard T. Davis

The Tillman Story (The Weinstein Company):

Pat Tillman never thought of himself as a hero. His choice to leave a multimillion-dollar football contract and join the military wasn’t done for any reason other than he felt it was the right thing to do. The fact that the military manipulated his tragic death in the line of duty into a propaganda tool is unfathomable and thoroughly explored in Amir Bar-Lev’s riveting and enraging documentary. -The Tillman Story (August 20, 2010)

The NFL, the MilItary, and the Hijacking of Pat Tillman’s Story

The Wounded Platoon (Frontline PBS):

The Wounded Platoon

Since the Iraq War began, soldier arrests in the city of Colorado Springs have tripled. FRONTLINE tells the dark tale of the men of 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st battalion of the 506th infantry, and how the war followed them home. It is a story of heroism, grief, vicious combat, depression, drugs, alcohol and brutal murder; an investigation into the Army’s mental health services; and a powerful portrait of what multiple tours and post-traumatic stress are doing to a generation of young American soldiers. –The Wounded Platoon (May 18, 2010)

Frontline PBS: The Wounded Platoon Documentary [Full Episode]

On the Dark Side of Al Doura (Maverick Media):

U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow soldiers in Al Doura, Iraq. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which, in the public interest, are now released in this video. John paid a terrible price for his opposition to these acts. His story is tragic. –On the Dark Side in Al Doura (2011)

On the Dark Side in Al Doura (Iraq): Documentary Gives You an Inside Look at Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Army

The Invisible War (Cinedigm):

The Invisible War is a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of our country’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within our US military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire with the number of assaults in the last decade alone in the hundreds of thousands. -The Invisible War (June 22, 2012)

Military Rape Documentary Funded and Distributed by “Serial Predator” and Hollywood Movie Executive Harvey Weinstein

Women of War Documentary (Sundance Films):

Military Sexual Trauma or M.S.T. has been a fixture in the military for as long as human war has existed, and is still quite prevalent even in today’s modern military. This feature length documentary uncovers the origins and offers solutions to M.S.T. -Women of War Documentary (February 4, 2013)

Women of War Documentary, Phil Valentine [Full Episode]

The Frozen Ground (Grindstone):

“The Frozen Ground” is inspired by the incredible true story that follows Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) as he sets out to end the murderous rampage of Robert Hansen (John Cusack), a serial killer who has gone unnoticed for 13 years. As the bodies of street girls start to pile up in Anchorage, fear strikes a chord with the public. -The Frozen Ground (August 23, 2013)

Serial Killer & Army Reserve Veteran Robert C. Hansen Died of Natural Causes While Serving Out a Life Sentence in Alaska State Prison

The Silent Truth (Midtown Films):

Ninety-four US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). ‘The Silent Truth’ tells the story of one of these women, PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson, who was found dead on Balad Air Force Base in Iraq. The army claimed she shot herself with her own M16 rifle, but forensic evidence, obtained by the Johnson family through the Freedom of Information Act, brings the army’s findings into question. The Army refuses to re-open LaVena Johnson’s case, leaving the family in limbo. ‘The Silent Truth’ follows the Johnson’s pursuit of justice and truth for their daughter. -The Silent Truth Documentary (July 1, 2014)

‘The Silent Truth’ Documentary: The Rape, Murder & Military Cover-Up of Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson in Iraq

The Kill Team (PBS Independent Lens):

The Kill Team looks at the devastating moral tensions that tear at soldiers’ psyches through the lens of one highly personal and emotional story. Private Adam Winfield was a 21-year-old soldier in Afghanistan when he attempted with the help of his father to alert the military to heinous war crimes his platoon was committing. But Winfield’s pleas went unheeded. Left on his own and with threats to his life, Private Winfield was himself drawn into the moral abyss, forced to make a split-second decision that would change his life forever. -The Kill Team, (July 25, 2014)

The PBS Documentary ‘The Kill Team’ Reveals How the Military Justice System Operates in Response to Media Scandals

Gangs in the U.S. Army (A&E Television):

Sworn to protect us from every enemy, foreign and domestic, and every day the majority of soldiers do just that ! yet some units are being compromised and turn into street gangs. An FBI report recently showed an increased gang activity within US soldiers. -Gangs in the U.S. Army Documentary (2017)

Gangs in the Military: Armed and Dangerous Forces

Final Vision (Investigation Discovery):

The ID Original Movie, FINAL VISION tells the true story of Jeffrey MacDonald, a handsome, Ivy League-educated U.S. Army Green Beret doctor, who was convicted of brutally murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters in the middle of the night. -Final Vision, Investigation Discovery (December 10, 2017)

Investigation Discovery Premiered ‘Final Vision’: The True Crime Story of Former Army Captain Jeffrey MacDonald

The Kill Team (A24):

When a young US soldier in Afghanistan witnesses other recruits killing civilians under the direction of a sadistic sergeant, he begins to fear that the men he’s serving with might be the ones to kill him. -The Kill Team (October 25, 2019)

‘The Kill Team’ Movie Released: Based on the True Story of Army Whistleblower Adam Winfield

Leavenworth (STARZ):

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and executive producers Paul Pawlowski and David Check tell the story of First Lieutenant Clint Lorance. Watch the Official Trailer for the upcoming STARZ Original Docuseries, Leavenworth, premiering October 20 on the STARZ App. (August 28, 2019)

STARZ Premiered ‘Leavenworth’: Docu-Series Examines Army 1st Lieutenant Clint Lorance Afghanistan ‘War Crimes’ Case

Ready for War (Showtime):

Andrew Renzi sheds light on the lives of three of the estimated thousands of immigrants who volunteer for service in the American military, yet find themselves deported from the US once their tours of duty are over. -Ready for War, Showtime (November 22, 2019)

The ultimate threat for deported U.S. veterans? Drug cartels, new documentary says

Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado (US Army)

Fort Carson, Colorado

***RESEARCH NOT COMPLETE***

Fort Carson prepares trained and ready expeditionary forces for deployment in support of Combatant Commander requirements, provides first class support to Soldiers and families, and enables unified action with community, state, and interagency partners for the greater good of our Soldiers and their mission.

Roman Alred, US Army (2016): One of Four Soldiers Charged with First-degree Burglary, Felony Menacing, and Child Abuse

Andrew Byers, US Army (2016): Combat Death, Engaging Enemy Forces

Ryan Gloyer, US Army (2016): Combat Death, Engaging Enemy Forces

Mykal Hall, US Army (2016): One of Four Soldiers Charged with First-degree Burglary, Felony Menacing, and Child Abuse

Branden Harms, US Army (2016): Plead Guilty to Death of 4 Month Old Infant 

Dustin Mincy, US Army (2016): One of Four Soldiers Charged with First-degree Burglary, Felony Menacing, and Child Abuse

Aaron Perry, US Army (2016): One of Four Soldiers Charged with First-degree Burglary, Felony Menacing, and Child Abuse

Adam Thomas, US Army (2016): Died of Injuries Caused by IED

Christopher Wilbur, US Army (2016): Non Combat Death, Afghanistan

Benjamin Cardwell, US Army (2015): Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Government Property

Todd Crow, US Army Veteran (2015)Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Government Property

Monterrious Daniel, US Army (2015): Non Combat Related Incident, Kuwait

Johnny Herrera, US Army (2015): Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Government Property

Justin Holt, US Army (2015): Died After Stryker Vehicle Rollover in Training Area

Joseph Kimsey, US Army (2015): Sentenced to Life without Parole for Homicide of Ashley Melnyczok

Ashley Melnyczok, Civilian (2015): Homicide Victim of Boyfriend Joseph Kimsey

Ashley Pullen, US Army Veteran (2015): Serial Rapist, Sentenced to Life in Prison

Noel Acevedo-Mercado, US Army (2014): Accused of Raping Teenager with John Donathan; Disposition Unknown

John Donathan, US Army (2014): Accused of Raping Teenager with Noel Acevedo-Mercado; Died Before Trial

Jeffrey Page, US Army (2014): Homicide of Army Spc. Adrian Perkins in Jordan

Benjamin Prange, US Army (2014): Died from Wounds Suffered in IED Attack, Afghanistan

Keith Williams, US Army (2014): Died from Wounds Suffered in IED Attack, Afghanistan

Deangelo Brown, US Army (2013): Homicide Victim; Larry Spencer, Jr. Sentenced to Life, No Parole

Jonathan Clark III, US Army (2013): Suicide by Cop; PTSD, Deployed 3 Times

David Dunlap, US Army (2013): Homicide Victim; Macyo Joelle Sentenced to Life, Parole After 40 Years

Whitney Butler Dunlap, US Army Spouse (2013): Pregnant; Homicide Victim; Macyo Joelle Sentenced to Life, Parole After 40 Years

Joseph Garcia, US Army (2013): Two Counts of Sexual Assault on Child by a Person in Position of Trust; Sentenced to 30 Years Minimum

Saul Lucas, US Army (2013): Accused of Four Counts of Attempted First Degree Murder, First Degree Burglary, Third-degree assault; Disposition Unknown

Montrell Mayo, US Army (2013): Homicide of Girlfriend & Army Soldier Kimberly Walker; Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole

Mark Petrosky, US Army (2013): Accused of Child Sexual Assault
Soldier Arrested On Charge Of Sex Assault On Child
Fort Carson soldier arrested in sex assault on 14-year-old
Soldier Arrested At Colorado Army Base On Sex Charge
Private at U.S. Army base in Colorado base arrested on sex charge
Soldier at Colorado army base accused of sex with 14-year-old girl

Patrick Quinn, US Army (2013): Afghanistan-Injuries Caused by Small-Arms Fire

Richard Sheltra, US Army (2013): Child Sexual Assault
Soldier pleads guilty, gets 10 years for having sex with 13-year-old girl

Kimberly Walker, US Army (2013): Homicide Victim

Eric Bartholomew, US Army (2012):
John Burrell second soldier busted in Virgil Means killing near motorcycle club
Third Arrest In Motorcycle Club Murder
Killing at Colorado Springs biker clubhouse leads to 21-year sentence
Colorado soldier gets 21 years in fatal shooting

John Burrell, US Army (2012)
John Burrell second soldier busted in Virgil Means killing near motorcycle club
Third Arrest In Motorcycle Club Murder
Killing at Colorado Springs biker clubhouse leads to 21-year sentence
Colorado soldier gets 21 years in fatal shooting

Kevin Corley, US Army (2012)
Murder-for-hire sting nabs soldier, ex-Army officer
Ex-Carson soldier pleads guilty in murder-for-hire
Former U.S. Army Officer Hitman Sentenced in Murder-for-Hire Plot

John Dupree, US Army (2012): Accused of Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence
Soldier Arrested For Alleged Sexual Assault
Fort Carson soldier arrested on local sexual assault, domestic violence charges

Calvin Epps, US Army (2012)
Murder-for-hire sting nabs soldier, ex-Army officer
Verdict Returned Against Two Remaining Defendants in Murder-for-Hire and Drug Trafficking Conspiracy
Former Army soldier sentenced for murder-for-hire and gun possession

Brandy Fonteneaux, US Army (2012): Homicide Victim

Vincinte Jackson, US Army (2012): Homicide of Female Army Soldier

Aaron Lucas, US Army (2012): Indecent Exposure, Kidnapping, Child Rape

Christopher Mountjoy, US Army (2012)
John Burrell second soldier busted in Virgil Means killing near motorcycle club
Third Arrest In Motorcycle Club Murder
Killing at Colorado Springs biker clubhouse leads to 21-year sentence
Colorado soldier gets 21 years in fatal shooting

Stephen Payne, US Army (2012): Accused of Assault, False Imprisonment
Suspect Shot By Fountain Police Is Active Duty Soldier
Police Cleared In Wounding Of Fort Carson Soldier

Samuel Walker, US Army (2012)
Murder-for-hire sting nabs soldier, ex-Army officer
Verdict Returned Against Two Remaining Defendants in Murder-for-Hire and Drug Trafficking Conspiracy
Former Army soldier sentenced for murder-for-hire and gun possession

Stephanie Charboneau, US Army (2010): Bribery, Conspiracy to Commit Bribery
Army Soldier and Civilian Sentenced on Bribery Charges for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan
Army Soldier Sentenced on Bribery Charges for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan

Thaddeus Montgomery II, US Army (2010): Non Combat Death

Christopher Weaver, US Army (2010): Bribery, Facilitating Theft of Fuel
Army Sergeant Pleads Guilty to Facilitating Theft of Fuel in Afghanistan
Former Fort Carson soldier sentenced in $1M fuel theft from US military
Army Soldier and Civilian Sentenced on Bribery Charges for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan
Army Soldier Sentenced in Kentucky on Bribery Charges for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan

Roy Mason, US Army (2009): Suicide
Missing Fort Carson Soldier Found Dead
Memorial grows at spot of soldier’s suicide
Soldier who killed himself in Santa Cruz was part of troubled Army unit

Jose Barco, US Army (2008)
Fort Carson soldiers’ killing spree after Iraq combat
Ex-soldier who wounded pregnant woman sentenced to 52 years
Three stories from FRONTLINE’s The Wounded Platoon

Jomar Falu-Vives, US Army (2008)
2 Fort Carson soldiers arrested in double homicide
Army soldier gets 12 years
Ft. Carson GI sentenced as accessory to 2 murders

Judilianna Lawrence, Civilian (2008): Rape/Homicide Victim

Courtney Lockhart, US Army (2008)
PTSD: How the U.S. Army Failed Veteran Courtney Lockhart
Combat experience is factor in death penalty cases, experts say
How Did a Lifelong Prison Sentence for an Iraq Vet Turn Into an Imminent Death Sentence?

Robert Marko, US Army (2008): Rape/Homicide of 19 yo Civilian

John Needham, US Army (2008): Accused of Homicide, Overdosed Awaiting Trial

Rodolfo Torres-Gandarilla, US Army (2008)
2 Fort Carson soldiers arrested in double homicide
Army soldier gets 12 years
Ft. Carson GI sentenced as accessory to 2 murders

Jacqwelyn Villagomez, Civilian (2008): Homicide Victim

Bruce Bastien, US Army (2007): Accessory to Murder of Pfc. Robert James & Spc. Kevin Shields

Louis Bressler, US Army (2007): Accessory to Murder of Pfc. Robert James & Spc. Kevin Shields; Aggravated Robbery & Stabbing of Erica Hamm

Kenneth Eastridge, US Army (2007): Accessory to Murder of Spc. Kevin Shields

Robert James, US Army (2007): Homicide Victim

Kevin Shields, US Army (2007): Homicide Victim

Olin Ferrier, US Army (2007)
Carson soldier accused in slaying
War Stresses Linked to Soldiers’ Crimes
New Details On Pueblo Cab Driver Death Investigation
Intense combat tied to homicides by Ft. Carson GIs

Reggie Martinez, US Army (2004)
U.S. Soldiers Charged in Iraqi Drowning Death
Soldiers charged with manslaughter in Iraqi’s drowning death
Soldier in Iraqi drowning case blames commanders
GIs Deny Drowning Iraqi

Tracy Perkins, US Army (2004)
U.S. Soldiers Charged in Iraqi Drowning Death
Soldiers charged with manslaughter in Iraqi’s drowning death
Soldier in Iraqi drowning case blames commanders
GIs Deny Drowning Iraqi

Jack Saville, US Army (2004)
U.S. Soldiers Charged in Iraqi Drowning Death
Soldiers charged with manslaughter in Iraqi’s drowning death
Soldier in Iraqi drowning case blames commanders
GIs Deny Drowning Iraqi

James Neal, US Army Veteran (1996): Homicide of Spouse

Kevin Gooley, Civilan (1994): Homicide of Brandin Penza

Brandin Penza, US Army Veteran (1994): Homicide Victim

Michael Pelkey, US Army (1993): Homicide of Spouse

James Catlin, US Army (1991): Homicide of Maggie Fetty

Leroy Davis, US Army (1991): Homicide of Christopher Walton, US Army

Maggie Fetty, Civilian (1991): Homicide Victim by Army Soldier

Daniel Stewart, US Army (1991): Homicide of Maggie Fetty

Christopher Walton, US Army (1991): Homicide Victim

Jennifer Reali, US Army Spouse (1990): Homicide of Diane Hood

Darlene Krashoc, US Army (1987): Unsolved Rape & Homicide; $10,000 Reward

Micki Filmore, US Army Veteran (1986): Rape and Homicide Victim

Barbara Kramer, Civilian (1986): Rape and Homicide Victim

Tracy Spencer, US Army (1986): Homicide of Micki Filmore & Barbara Kramer

Nolly Depadua, US Army (1985): Homicide of Lourdes Riddles, USAF Spouse

Brian Hawkins, US Army (1985): Accessory to Homicide

Lourdes Riddle, US Air Force Spouse (1985): Homicide Victim

Ronnie Ball, US Air Force (1979): Homicide, Temporary Insanity

Michael Faast, Civilian (1979): Homicide Victim

Estevan Maestas, Civilian (1978): Detonated Stolen Fort Carson Grenade

Dennis Taylor, US Army (Year Unknown): Attempted Homicide

Related Links:
The Wounded Platoon, Frontline PBS, 2010 [Video]
Violence and the Military
Deadly duty for Fort Carson
17 Fort Carson Soldiers Charged in Domestic Killings
Fort Carson soldiers’ killing spree after Iraq combat
“All I Know How to do Is Kill People”
Intense combat tied to homicides by Ft. Carson GIs
Fort Carson report: Combat stress contributed to soldiers’ crimes back home
Army: Investigation of Homocides at Fort Carson, Colorado (Nov 2008 – May 2009)
A History of Shootings at Military Installations in the U.S.
Soldiers suspected in Colorado slayings
Army to Probe Five Slayings Linked to Colorado Brigade
Fort Carson Gets a Black Eye for Its Treatment of These Green Berets
9 years after leaving Army, veteran mistakenly declared AWOL is arrested, jailed
Three stories from FRONTLINE’s The Wounded Platoon (David Nash)
Human Cost of Combat Can Come Due at Home

On the Dark Side in Al Doura (Iraq): Documentary Gives You an Inside Look at Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Army (December 17, 2011)

U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow soldiers in Al Doura, Iraq. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which, in the public interest, are now released in this video. John paid a terrible price for his opposition to these acts. His story is tragic. –On the Dark Side in Al Doura (December 17, 2011)

After watching the 2011 documentary ‘On the Dark Side in Al Doura’ which profiles the case of Army Private John Needham, one can clearly observe the similarities to ‘The Kill Team’ PBS documentary released in 2014. On the Dark Side in Al Doura interviewed Michael Needham, the father of John Needham, who was an Army whistleblower from Fort Carson, Colorado and reported witnessing war crimes and atrocities in Iraq; The Kill Team profiled Adam Winfield, an Army whistleblower from Fort Lewis, Washington who witnessed and tried to report the same war crimes and atrocities in Afghanistan. For the sake of preservation, both John Needham and Adam Winfield admitted feeling pressured to conform or risk their own lives if they didn’t. They both felt like they were being set up to die or participate in the war crimes. Both soldiers at times felt like suicide was their only way out because there was no safe place for them to report overseas nor could they escape the situation. If they made it out of the war zone alive, the return home didn’t fair well for them. The PBS documentary  ‘The Wounded Platoon’ released in 2010 reveals the impacts the wars overseas had on Fort Carson soldiers. After watching these three documentaries, it’s clear why our soldier’s combat experiences traumatized and changed some of them. They not only had to fight a credible threat on the battlefields but some were betrayed by the very team they depended on for their lives.

Michael Needham takes us through the series of events that occurred in the course of John’s short Army career. He shared how John was the fifth generation in the family to fight in a war. John volunteered to join the Army in the spring of 2006, went to Fort Benning, Georgia for training, and then got stationed at Fort Carson. John was an Army Ranger assigned to the 212th, 2nd Combat Team, 12th Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. He was part of the infamous team known as the ‘Lethal Warriors’ which now appears to be disbanded. Part of his initiation into his new band of brothers was fighting other soldiers to determine where one fell in the pecking order. John held his own in the fights and was respected for his wins. According to John, the soldiers that didn’t fair so well in the fights were ‘smoked’ by leadership and peers, which ultimately forced them to leave, quit, or commit suicide. In October of 2006 John was deployed with his Fort Carson team to Al Doura, Iraq. His team was assigned to the Quarter Cav which was known for having some of the deadliest fights in the Iraq war.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 10.02.14 PM

Private John Needham, U.S. Army

John was a good soldier. He worked hard, saved lives in Iraq, and was awarded three medals for heroism and two Purple Hearts. John excelled as part of team, was brave, and his resilience was admirable. But during the course of John’s deployment, he witnessed war crimes and other atrocities committed by leadership and his fellow soldiers that affected his morale. John would also admit that initially he wasn’t quiet about it and when he did question superiors, he was told he didn’t have the right to question leadership. He didn’t dare report the war crimes via e-mail or telephone because he knew leadership could monitor everything. So for the sake of preservation and life’s sake, he did what he had to do to get by and stay alive. John would share that the Army was short of personnel so most of the soldiers got driven into the ground and deprived of sleep. After awhile John felt that he was forced into committing war atrocities that were illegal but feared if he didn’t do it, he would become a liability to the team and ultimately a casualty of his own people.

One night John was sent out on a mission with a Lieutenant (who did not commit war crimes yet remained silent). John thought this was unusual because they didn’t usually get sent out in pairs. They were ambushed by three shooters in the middle of the night who were determined to see them dead. When the shooting began, John pushed the Lieutenant to safety and kept the shooters at bay. He shot every round he had and when he was almost out of ammunition, he called the 212th for back-up on the radio but nobody answered him. Luckily another team was nearby who did answer him and was able to extract the soldiers from the situation and save their lives. It would be this incident that would break John’s spirit. He immediately suspected that he and the other soldier were sent on this mission to be killed. When he got back to the base, he began yelling “Why did you set us up?” And “If you want to kill me, kill me to my face!” But nobody acknowledged him so he went back to his tent where he decided that he would commit suicide. John was exhausted, irate, and he saw no way out. He didn’t want to live anymore. He felt that committing suicide was his only way out. John put a handgun to his head but just as he got ready to pull the trigger, his roommate dove and pushed the gun away from his head. The gun discharged and put a hole in the wall. Soldiers immediately began ascending upon the area. According to John, once leadership learned what happened, they held him down and beat him then locked him in captivity in a small room. The Battalion Commander was the one who kept John captive yet he didn’t press any formal charges.

John’s father Michael learned through John’s friends in Afghanistan that John was being held captive by the Battalion Commander. They were concerned about him. John’s family was already concerned about John’s earlier e-mails and posts on MySpace because it sounded like he had given up, which was not like him. With this information Michael Needham contacted Army commands, Fort Carson, Congressional leaders and the Army Inspector General (IG). He reports that the only office that took him seriously at the time was the IG. Michael was trying to save his son’s life. He told the IG that he didn’t want him to die. The IG’s office shared a list of rights for both John and Michael. And it was at this time Michael learned that he had third party rights and could intervene and act on John’s behalf. Michael was finally able to get in touch with the Battalion Commander only to learn that John was being treated like a criminal. The Battalion Commander informed Michael that John committed crimes and was being sent to prison in Kuwait. But Michael was able to intervene and get the Command to send him to medical instead. Medical determined that John was severely injured both physically and mentally. He had significant back injuries from the multiple explosions and blasts, shrapnel in his body, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Army medical in Iraq referred John to medical in Germany and from there he would be sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the states. But not before the Battalion Commander would put up one more roadblock. Instead, Michael Needham won this battle and John was flown to Germany.

Eventually, John was sent to Ward 54 which is the psychiatric ward at Walter Reed. Michael shared that John appeared to like the psychiatric help he was getting. A month into John’s stay at Walter Reed, he was informed that the Iraq Battalion Commander contacted the 212th Command in Colorado and requested that John be sent back to Fort Carson where he was facing criminal charges including unlawful discharge of a weapon. They were making him go and sent armed guards to accompany him back to Fort Carson. Michael Needham tried to intervene with the 212th at Fort Carson but they said they couldn’t do anything because they had orders from the Battalion Commander. John was sent back to Fort Carson and the harassment he endured in Iraq continued with the 212th in Colorado. John shared that they mentally tortured him, banged on his barracks door, stole his things, and isolated him. It was at this time Michael elicited the help of a veteran advocate Andrew Pogany who went to the command in Colorado and held these people personally accountable. Andrew helps soldiers in John’s situation because he understands how important it is to intervene. John could not get the kind of help that he needed at Fort Carson. Michael shared that the soldiers could see a professional once a week if they were suicidal and once a month if they were not. John’s father wanted him transferred to a Naval Medical Center in San Diego for intensive treatment and so he could be closer to home. Andrew helped make that happen.

Michael began to understand the impacts the war had on his son after John got back to California. John couldn’t handle driving above 35 mph, was suspicious of trash on the side of the road, and was easily startled by loud noises. He could not function in public and suffered with what is known as flashbacks. The Naval Medical Center in San Diego recommended that John get surgery on his back right away. They warned him that he could become paralyzed if he didn’t get the surgery. In the meantime Johns father spoke candidly with one of the Navy doctors about the treatment John received both in Iraq and at Fort Carson. He reiterated that he was concerned about his well being and asked him to help him find a way to prevent John from being sent back to Fort Carson, Colorado. Michael Needham feared that if John got sent back to Fort Carson that he would not return. This doctor agreed to help John. And Andrew Pogany recommended that John report the war crimes to the Army in an effort to protect John from being complicit and implicated in the future. John reported to the Army that he witnessed both leadership and peers killing innocent Iraqi civilians during the October 2006 to October 2007 timeframe in and around Al Doura. It wasn’t long after John made the report that all the charges against him were dropped and Fort Carson gave the necessary approval to transfer him to Balboa Naval Command. John went in front of the medical board and was medically retired for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and back injuries. He was discharged honorably from the Army. The Army investigated John’s claims but concluded that no war crimes were committed.

Michael and John won a lot of battles with the US Army but soon they would lose the war. Just days after John was discharged from the Army, he would be accused of beating his new girlfriend to death with his bare hands. John Needham was charged with the murder of Jacqwelyn Villagomez and jailed for ten months until his family raised enough money to get him out on bail. John was not given treatment while jailed so the family was motivated to get him out so he could get the treatment he needed. John did in fact follow through with getting treatment and he learned a lot about himself in the process. He spent some time on camera talking about how the combat stress and the betrayal from his team impacted him. He talked about how he didn’t realize the significant impacts from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. John recognized how PTSD and TBI did in fact play a role in his fight or flight response mechanisms and that it may be because these conditions went untreated that he disocciated, snapped and beat his girlfriend to death. The two were in a heated argument after Jacqwelyn attacked one of John’s female friends. Both of them were volatile but unfortunately there were no witnesses to the event as John’s friend was outside the home calling the police to report Jacqwelyn. While John was awaiting trial, he went to Arizona to get another surgery and visit with his mom. On February 19, 2010 following treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs, John would be found dead in his room from an overdose on painkillers. The cause of death at autopsy was considered undetermined and it is unclear if John accidentally overdosed or committed suicide.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, M.D. (Ret.), a former top military psychiatrist who until recently was a consultant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told us: “[TBI ]most sensitively affects executive functioning, that part of the brain that we use for judgment and we use for decision making … when we are in situations of intense emotion. So if a person is affected neurologically … they don’t have the controls that they had before. … They can’t think as clearly. …They are really vulnerable to just reacting, overreacting, particularly maybe doing something that they had done when they’d been in combat.” –The Wounded Platoon

As a parent, Michael Needham has questions for the Army. Why don’t they even recognize the problem? Why don’t they take care of the soldiers? And why did they leave his son John Needham behind? The documentary ‘On the Dark Side in Al Doura’ concludes with the reminder that since the Patriot Act was passed and Dick Cheney declared that we needed to go into the shadows, the definition of torture has been blurred. The Abu Ghraib prisoner torture and abuse scandal erupted under the Bush administration in 2003 but no war crimes have been investigated under President Barack Obama’s administration. If the rule of law has been lost, what do we have? Our military personnel have a responsibility to abide by the rules established by the Geneva Conventions. John Needham and Adam Winfield both reported witnessing innocent civilians murdered by their fellow leadership and peers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They both also shared the impact the crimes had on their mental health and morale. They wished they could have reported the crimes to someone who would have listened and understood that their lives were in danger. We can learn a lot from John Needham and Adam Winfield; they have experienced what it’s like to be a whistleblower in the US Army. They have clearly illustrated what toxic leadership in the Army looks like and how whistleblowers in the US military have nowhere to turn.

Related Links:
Dateline NBC Mystery: Private Needhams War
PBS Documentary: The Wounded Platoon
On the Dark Side in Al Doura: A Soldier in the Shadows
PBS Documentary: The Kill Team
The PBS Documentary ‘The Kill Team’ Nominated for an Emmy
Retired Army Pvt John Needham Beat his Girlfriend Jacqwelyn Villagomez to Death, Then Died of an Overdose on Painkillers Awaiting Murder Trial (2008)
Honoring Jacqwelyn Villagomez who Died at the Hands of Retired Army Private John Needham (2008)

Civilian Jacqwelyn Villagomez Died at the Hands of Boyfriend and Retired Army Private John Needham (2008)

Jacqwelyn Joann Villagomez (2008)

Jacqwelyn Villagomez

Honoring Jacqwelyn Joann Villagomez, 19, who tragically died on September 1, 2008 at the hands of Army Private John Needham, a medically retired soldier struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Although John was charged with her murder, he died on February 19, 2010 shortly before the trial of an apparent overdose on painkillers.

Related Links:
Woman, 19, dies after apparent beating in condo
‘Mentally unstable’ Iraq veteran arrested in death of girlfriend, 19
Iraq vet charged with killing girlfriend is found dead in Arizona
Former Carson soldier Needham, charged in slaying, dies in Arizona
Private Needham’s War: A soldier is accused of killing the woman he loves
Deadly duty for Fort Carson
‘Lethal Warriors’ in Iraq, Linked to String of Crimes Back Home
John Needham Back in Court
Iraq War Vet’s Dad Accused of Threatening Victim’s Friend
Was PTSD to blame? Mystery over troubled Iraq veteran who killed girlfriend and was found dead after overdosing 18 months later
Soldier in “Coming Home” series dies after surgery
Iraq veteran accused of murder has died
Troubled Iraq vet charged with murder dies
Military Whistleblower Ends Up Dead
A Focus on Violence by Returning G.I.’s
The Hell of War Comes Home: Newspaper Series Documents Murder, Suicide, Kidnappings by Iraq Vets
John Needham, Iraq Veteran, Accuses Army Of War Crimes
New Photos Released of Iraq Atrocity, With Documents and Video
Are they both victims? Veteran Suffering Traumatic Brain Injury Beats Girlfriend to Death, Kills Himself
Army Ranger John Needham Exposes Possible American War Crimes in Iraq, and is Punished For it
Project Censored Recommends: Video “On the Dark Side in Al Doura, A Soldier in the Shadows” Addresses Soldier’s War Crimes Allegations & Iraq Atrocity Photos
On the Dark Side in Al Doura – A Soldier in the Shadows
“48 Hours” preview: Private Needham’s war