I cannot in good conscience remain silent about the treatment of our wounded and injured service members and their families. I am writing this letter on behalf of my husband Sgt. Thomas Lee. He medically retired from the Delaware National Guard’s 153rd MP Company in August 21, 2016. He deployed to Afghanistan January to September 2013. Upon returning from deployment he was sent to the Wounded Transition Battalion (WTB) at Fort Belvoir, VA in October 2013 for neck, back, shoulder, skin and stomach issues. The time frame for service members to spend at the WTB is approximately 12 months; my husband was there for 3 years. When my husband arrived, there were around 300 service members there. Every service member is assigned a nurse case manager who oversees the scheduling of appointments and does weekly check-ins with them. The nurse case manager’s job is to support and facilitate the care of service members; however, often they are misleading and at times lying to get information which is used by the command against the service members. The WTB does not promote an atmosphere of healing but rather one of harassment and punishment, where they provide the bare minimum of care, distribute medications and focus on the symptoms rather than diagnose and treat the actual issues. The WTB along with Fort Belvoir Community Hospital has failed my husband along with countless other service members. Our service members and families sacrifice so much for our country and it is a shame to see how they get treated when they return from combat broken physically and mentally.
My husband and I lived through a nightmare for the past 3 years, he was fortunate enough to survive 2 deployments only to be permanently disabled by a military doctor here in the states. Do you know what it’s like to watch helplessly someone you love whose served their country go from injured to permanently damaged and not to be able to hold any one accountable? My husband came to the WTB with 2 careers, 21 years with the Postal Service and 18 years of military service, he left the WTB unable to return to either career. Below are the events that forever changed our lives.
On October 18th, 2013 my husband underwent a colonoscopy at Fort Belvoir Comm. Hospital (FBCH). On November 19th, 2013 we received a letter stating that contaminated scopes had been used and he would have to undergo 6 months of blood work to monitor for infectious diseases.
On December 26th, 2013 while on leave he awoke to a very swelled and painful face resulting in an emergency trip from our home 170 miles away to the dental clinic at FBCH. My husband had been at the dental clinic four times in December complaining of a toothache. A split tooth had been missed by the dental clinic and as a result he had developed a serious infection. The tooth had to be pulled due to the infection and high doses of antibiotics were prescribed.
On April 15th, 2014 he underwent a CT Myelogram for his neck and back at FBCH. At the time they refused to do a MRI because of lead shot in my husband’s neck from a previous hunting accident in 2003. The CT Myelogram was performed by Dr. Seltzer. A blood patch was not done and he was released shortly after the procedure. The following day he became incoherent due to a spinal headache resulting from leaking spinal fluid from the CT Myelogram. He was taken by ambulance from the Warrior Clinic to the emergency department at FBCH. They gave him IV caffeine and released him. He returned to the emergency department at FBCH the next day and finally a blood patch was performed. My husband has suffered daily headaches and severe migraines since that procedure.
On September 19th, 2014 my husband underwent a C5/C6 spinal fusion performed by Dr. Moore at FBCH. We were told multiple times by Dr. Moore that surgery went routinely and easily. On September 21st, 2014 my husband was released from FBCH to come home on convalescent leave. My husband became very sick and by September 24th, 2014 I had to take him to Upper Chesapeake Hospital near our home because he was too sick to make the 2 ½-3 hour trip back to Fort Belvoir. My husband was seen by Dr. McCoy in the emergency department at Upper Chesapeake Hospital who ordered a CT scan with dye. The CT scan showed a collection of fluid along with an air bubble pushing on his carotid and jugular arteries. We were told had we waited any longer my husband could have suffered a stroke. My husband was denied transport to Walter Reed even though it was the closest medical military facility. When Dr. McCoy contacted FBCH emergency department they had never even heard of their surgeon, Dr. Moore so we waited 3 hours just to get approval for my husband to be transported back to FBCH. We spent 16 hours in emergency departments that day.
Beginning in November 2014 a month after his spinal fusion my husband noticed his left leg began randomly giving out. By December 2014 it had worsened to the point he had to use a cane to prevent falling. His headaches became so frequent that he had to start wearing sunglasses constantly, inside and outside. Also, he started noticing numbness and tingling in his left arm and leg with certain movement of his neck. I spent the next year fighting and advocating tirelessly for the care my husband deserved. I told every doctor we saw at FBCH as well as Walter Reed that something was wrong and that nerve damage had been done during the surgery, no one took us seriously. I was traveling at least once a week from our home which is 240 miles round trip to attend all my husband’s doctor appointments because frankly I lost all faith and trust in the healthcare system of our military. In 19 months we spent over $ 11,000 in travel expenses. The anguish and frustration this caused my husband and our family cannot be put into words and it exasperated the PTSD my husband was also suffering from, which the Army called “anxiety”. Despite having his care switched to Walter Reed, there was no resolution to my husband’s conditions and they only treated the symptoms. No one has ever accepted responsibility or apologized for the damage from the surgery.
On March 25th, 2015 we were scheduled to meet with Col. Allison, Director of Medicine at FBCH along with a conflict resolution person but when we arrived we were blindsided and told we would be meeting with Dr. Moore, the surgeon who performed my husband’s spinal fusion. We were unprepared and believe it was done on purpose. Dr. Moore tried to blame my husband’s condition on degenerative changes to C7 but after researching my husband’s medical records I found that not to be true and Dr. Moore was fully aware of that also. There was a spinal impingement at C7 prior to surgery and the previous tests showed that a C4-C7 fusion was recommended.
On April 23rd, 2015 we did get to meet with Col. Allison at FBCH. We had asked for my husband’s medical board to be put on hold because he had serious medical issues stemming from the failed spinal fusion that needed to be addressed. We took 3 things away from the meeting with Col. Allison. First, Col. Allison stated he was in a hurry and did not have time to hear our concerns. Secondly, we had to prove our case for the MEB to be put on hold. Lastly, Col. Allison believed Dr. Moore was a good doctor. After having our concerns ignored I decided to reach out to the Delaware National Guard, since we were a Delaware Guard family. They put me in touch with Delaware Senator Chris Coon’s office. Over the past 3 years nine Congressional inquiries have been filed by Senator Coon’s office on our behalf.
On May 6, 2015 we saw Dr. Witham, a neuro spine surgeon at John Hopkins per our request to be seen by a civilian doctor. He told us that my husband’s case was very complicated because he had already had a spinal fusion that wasn’t successful and success rates go down each time you have to go back in. The nerve damage causing the leg to give out was not reversible and he wasn’t sure the headaches would improve. Dr. Witham ordered his own tests which found C7 to be herniated and he recommended that C4-C7 be done, which is what was supposed to have been done originally. He also found that there had been no sign of the bone fusing from the spinal fusion. After several discussions with Dr. Witham a surgery date was scheduled for the C4-T1 spinal fusion. We continued to ask that my husband’s MEB be postponed until after the surgery, considering the recovery for this type of surgery is 6 months to a year. The command at the WTB assured us that if the surgery had to be done that the MEB could be put on hold. Two weeks prior to the surgery we met with Co. Commander, Capt. Heath, Battalion Surgeon, Lt.Col. Dinneman, Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Tulafula along with folks from the Delaware National Guard as well as the National Guard Bureau. After leading us to believe for 7 months that they would put the MEB on hold, they told us that they did not have the authority to do so. So, while my husband was trying to recover from a second spinal fusion within a year the MEB process would continue regardless.
On May 13th, 2015 out of complete frustration I wrote a letter regarding my husband’s situation and sent it to every senator in the country as well as Dr. Jill Biden since she was also a part of the Delaware National Guard family. Out of the 100 letters I sent, I only received 6 responses and those responding stated that I didn’t live in their state so they couldn’t help me. I never heard from Dr. Biden. Included in my letter was the fact that 2 service members from WTB in one week took their own lives. One happened at the WTB barracks parking lot and the second service member had recently been sent back to his unit from the WTB at Fort Belvoir. Both were suffering behavioral health issues, Fort Belvoir failed them, the Army failed them and our elected officials have failed them.
On October 19th, 2015 my husband underwent his second spinal fusion at John’s Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Witham told us after the surgery that the hardware from the first fusion was loose which could have been causing some of my husband’s pain. My husband spent 2 weeks in Hopkins struggling with recovery and he was admitted to the inpatient rehabilitation at John’s Hopkins where he received intense rehab. He struggled with weakness and his left leg continued to give out. Watching my husband suffer tremendous pain and struggle to just walk short distances without assistance because of the weakness in his left leg was devastating for me. Due to the leg giving out, my husband was a high fall risk and had to use a walker. We were told by the doctors at Hopkins that had my husband’s leg been treated previously than some of the damage could have been prevented. My husband was sent home from John’s Hopkins for convalescent leave on October 30th, 2015. We would spend the next 7 months traveling back and forth from our home to Hopkins for intense outpatient occupational and physical therapy. We also would have to travel to Fort Belvoir for check-in with his primary care doctor.
We saw Dr. Witham, my husband’s surgeon after the 3 month mark and he recommended another 3 months of convalescent leave, because traveling the 5-6 hours roundtrip to Virginia was very difficult for my husband and he was still in a neck brace. The command at the WTB disagreed with the decision of our surgeon at Hopkins regarding the extension of convalescent leave and instead they decided to accuse my husband of lying to the surgeon as their reason for denying any additional leave. I was outraged that the command who had misled us for 7 months would accuse my husband of lying. The surgeon at Hopkins wrote a letter stating that my husband never misled or lied to him, which we submitted to command. My husband isn’t even allowed to drive without someone in the vehicle with him due to range of motion issues in his neck so for the next 4 months I was traveling every Friday to pick him up to bring him home and taking him back on Sunday’s. We were seeing doctors at Hopkins 3x a week and instead of allowing my husband to be at home where I was caring for him and taking him to all his appointments he was being transported from Virginia to Hopkins 3-4 days a week. The left leg became the focus of his physical therapy, due to the nerve damage from the initial spinal fusion performed by FBCH. The team of doctors at Hopkins decided that my husband would need a brace for the leg in order to get him off the walker. This brace runs from his hip down into his shoe and is for the rest of his life! The nerve damage my husband has suffered due to the negligence of a military doctor has forever changed my husband’s life and has affected other organs.
Our situation is not unique, what is unique is that I have stood and fought and will continue to fight. Most service members at the WTB are young and have no advocates; they are being misled, misinformed and frankly lied to and as a result leave the military in worst shape then they arrived. I understand congressional inquiries are a tool used by our elected officials but you’re asking the Army to investigate itself and that is part of the problem. What is happening to our service members at Fort Belvoir’s WTB is an atrocity and needs to be investigated by someone other than the military. It’s been made very clear to me that the military doesn’t care, our President doesn’t care and neither do our United States Senators (other than Sen. Coons) so maybe our media will care. I am prepared to contact every news agency in this country in order to bring about awareness and change. I don’t want what has happened to my husband and our family and countless other military families to continue to happen. In closing, my husband has lifelong challenges ahead of him as a result of a botched surgery performed by Dr. Moore at Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital. We continue to seek treatment and spend countless days either at doctor appointments or scheduling appointments. Stories like ours need to be told but more importantly we need someone to listen. I hope you will stand with me and demand answers. I look forward to hearing from you and appreciate your time.
(wife of Retired Sgt. Thomas Lee)
Rising Sun, MD
We lost a number of U.S. service members in November 2016. We want to honor those who died in combat and honor those who did not, both overseas and in garrison.
O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. –Catholic Online
Army soldier Pfc. Karlyn Ramirez, 24, of Fort Meade, Maryland was found shot to death in her home on August 25, 2015 while she lay next to her newborn baby. Karlyn worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) and had a top secret security clearance. Investigators looked to her roommate and her husband as persons of interests. The media speculated that maybe this crime had something to do with her job. The Anne Arundel Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked jointly to solve Karlyn’s homicide. A $20,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest of a suspect. More then a year later on October 6, 2016 Karlyn’s husband Army Sgt. Maliek Kearney and his new girlfriend Army veteran Dolores Delgado were arrested for the murder. In testimony, Sgt. Kearney admitted to shooting Karlyn four times, placing their baby in her dead mother’s arms, and then fleeing the scene leaving a sliding glass door open. Investigators report that the crime was a well thought out and executed plan implemented in an effort to throw homicide detectives off.
Dolores Delgado gave Sgt. Kearney the car, the gun, and gas cans to refuel with so he wouldn’t be caught on any security cameras as he drove from South Carolina to Maryland on August 24th to carry out the murder. Sgt. Kearney returned back to work the next morning at Fort Jackson in South Carolina to establish an alibi. Additional testimony revealed that Karlyn and Sgt. Kearney separated only two weeks after they had been married. They had been married for roughly five weeks when Karlyn was murdered. Karlyn attempted to get a restraining order on Sgt. Kearney just days before the murder after he showed up to her home unannounced in an effort to reconcile with her. After the failed attempt at reconciliation, Sgt. Kearney was hospitalized because he tried to end his life with sleeping pills. Sgt. Kearney was a decorated Army veteran of 15 years who had served tours in Iraq, Pakistan and South Korea. One of Sgt. Kearney’s superiors at Fort Sam Houston testified that he has been “nothing but an exemplary soldier.” A friend reported that he had no idea that Sgt. Kearney and Dolores Delgado were even dating. Sgt. Kearney and Dolores Delgado are being prosecuted by the federal courts because they crossed state lines to execute a murder in another state. The U.S. Magistrate denied bail for Sgt. Kearney and Dolores Delgado and ordered they be transferred to Maryland to await trial.
“He is sick and depraved. Slightly laughable was his compassionate transfer to San Antonio to be close to the child he put in her dead mother’s arms.” -Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Wannarka
Caleb Barnes, 20, US Army, of Fort Meade, Maryland admitted guilt in the stabbing death of Cheryl Silvonek in her car on March 15, 2015. Lehigh County prosecutor’s charged Barnes and his 14 year old girlfriend Jamie Silvonek with the crime. Barnes was charged specifically with criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse, and statutory sexual assault. He stood accused of killing his underage girlfriend’s mother who had expressed disappointment with the relationship and then burning and burying her body in eastern Pennsylvania. Caleb Barnes and Jamie Silvonek plead guilty to the homicide; Jamie Silvonek showed some remorse and apologized to the court yet Caleb Barnes expressed zero remorse. Barnes was sentenced to life in state prison plus 22-44 years. The judge accused him of “blindsiding a 54 year old woman by stabbing her to death in a cowardly attempt to conceal his illegal sexual relationship with her 14-year-old daughter.”
Caleb Barnes gets life plus 22 to 44 years for the murder of Cheryl Silvonek. Unlike his former girlfriend Jamie Silvonek, he did not apologize for his part in the Upper Macungie woman’s killing. -The Morning Call
The story of 17 year old Michelle Miller was featured on Forbidden: Dying for Love on Investigation Discovery. U.S. Army Reserve recruiter Adam Arndt, 31, enlisted the Rockville, Maryland high school senior in the Army Reserve Future Soldier’s Program. Michelle enlisted in part to help pay her tuition for Arizona State University. Unfortunately, in what appeared to be a downward spiral triggered by an ongoing military investigation, he took her with him. Because both Adam and Michelle were in the military, Army investigators concluded the investigation. In the end, they would add insult to injury and imply this was a ‘couple’ that wanted to die together in a double suicide despite background, testimony, and physical evidence to the contrary. Michelle’s father believes the Army changed the facts to fit their agenda.
According to her father Kevin Miller, Michelle left her Rockville, Maryland home at around 9:15 p.m. on April 8, 2013 after receiving a text message from someone in her reservist platoon about Staff Sgt. Adam Arndt. Michelle rushed out of her house believing that Arndt was suicidal and told her family she had to help a friend. Her father asked her to send the exact address, but he only received one vague message from her. He called the police and they arrived shortly before 9 a.m. the next day. When they were unable to make contact with anyone inside the house, they forced their way in and found Michelle Miller and Adam Arndt dead in the bathroom tub from what appeared initially to be a murder-suicide. Kevin Miller knows his daughter did not want to commit suicide because she simply had too much going for her.
When high school senior Michelle Miller joins the Future Soldiers program, she sees it as the first step to realizing her dream of enlisting in the Army. But a forbidden affair with her recruiter risks her career in the Army, and her future itself. -Investigation Discovery
Katherine Morris, 22, was found dead in her car near the Arundel Mills Mall in Maryland on May 6, 2012. Katherine was a University of Maryland student and married to Army spouse, Isaac Goodwin, who was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. According to a website dedicated to Katherine Morris, she died from carbon monoxide poisoning from charcoal grills lit in her car. Katherine’s family questioned the ruling of suicide by the Army and the Anne Arundel County police department immediately and were eventually successful at getting some retired civilian detectives to look into their suspicions of homicide motivated by life insurance fraud. Interestingly, Anne Arundel County police department also had jurisdiction of the homicide investigation of Army soldier Karlyn Ramirez, who was murdered in 2015. Karlyn’s husband Maliek Kearney and his new girlfriend Doris Delgado face federal murder charges. Karlyn’s homicide is similar in motive to the theories Katherine’s family has about her suspicious death. Karlyn and Katherine both appear to have been targeted and became the victims of domestic violence and/or life insurance fraud. The true motivation behind the Karlyn Ramirez and Katherine Morris deaths is unknown at this time but given how many homicides occur in the military with the common motive of domestic violence and/or life insurance, the Katherine Morris case deserves a second look.
Three families have asked for similar law changes for victims of domestic violence in the military since 2011. Representative Bruce Braley introduced the Holley Lynn James Act on behalf of Fort Bragg Lt. Holley Wimunc who was murdered by her Marine husband John Wimunc in 2008. The bill was advocating for the removal of the Commander and the Chain of Command from the investigation and adjudication of felony crimes like domestic violence because of their inexperience with the modus operandi of offenders. Unfortunately the bill was never even considered and this bill may have had the power to prevent what happened to Katherine Morris, Michelle Miller, and Karlyn Ramirez. Michelle Miller’s family believes she was targeted by an Army recruiter at her Rockville, Maryland high school and became the victim of domestic violence and homicide, despite the Army’s ruling of a double suicide. As a result, Michelle’s family is advocating for Michelle’s Law, which is an effort to encourage Congress to pass a law that would try military abuse and murder cases in civilian court. Katherine’s family is currently advocating for the Katherine Morris Military Spouse Protection Act. All of these law proposals ask that the Chain of Command be removed from the investigation and adjudication of felony crimes because of their inexperience at handling these complex cases. Similar bills have also been introduced to Congress to include the Sexual Assault Training, Oversight, and Prevention Act and the Military Justice Improvement Act. The military needs experienced investigators to get to the bottom of the truth in an effort to prevent crime and save lives.
Non-combat death; Iraq; Deville was injured in Iraq yet later died unexpectedly while in treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center; Autopsy results unknown.
“Staff Sgt. Renee Antoinette Deville, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran recovering from complex injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, died Sept. 1 in her room at the Mologne House. She was 44. Deville was found unresponsive by her husband, who began CPR and called for help. Walter Reed Emergency Services personnel transported the Soldier to the Walter Reed Emergency Department, where she was declared dead at 5:10 a.m.” ~Walter Reed Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office
Army veteran Kanika Powell, 28, was brutally gunned down outside the door of her home on August 28, 2008 in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Kanika enlisted in the Army in 2000, served in Korea, and then got out of the military and was finally living her dream job in national security. Kanika had a top secret security clearance. Prior to the murder, Kanika had some odd encounters. Two men showed up at her house claiming to be the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They called her by name and put a fake FBI badge up to her peephole. She did not open the door. She called her work to ask if someone sent them; they had not. The incident frightened Tanika.
Five days later another man showed up at her house, asked for her by name, claimed to have a package for her then left. Twelve hours later someone else showed up again claiming to have a package for her then left. Tanika was fearful for her safety. A few days later Kanika was shot several times. The gunman was standing right outside her door waiting for her. The police report that no hand gun was found and there are no known suspects at this time. The case has turned up few leads. Kanika’s wallet and keys were found next to her body so robbery was ruled out as a motive. The police do not believe her job was the motive. The police and Crime Watch Daily welcome tips.