Questionable Practices Continue at Fort Belvior Warrior Transition Battalion: One Delaware Army National Guard Soldier’s Story After Injured in the Line of Duty

National Guard

Guest Post Submitted by Jill Lee

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.

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SSgt Cierra Rogers, US Air Force, Dies Mysteriously on US Soil Shortly After Saving a Family from a Burning Building in South Korea (2016)

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SSgt Cierra Rogers, US Air Force

People holding blanket save mom, kids from fire in S. Korea
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Staff Sergeant Dies From Injuries After Helping Rescue Family From Fire Outside Osan Air Base
Local airman dies mysteriously after helping save S. Korean family
Osan Air Base mourns loss of hero airman
UNSUNG HEROES: The Airman Who Died After Rescuing A Family From A Burning Building

SSG Virginia Caballero, US Army Reserves, Died on Plane Enroute from a Deployment in Kuwait, Family Received Conflicting Accounts of Cause of Death (2014)

If you have any information that could help this family find answers, please contact us at militaryjusticeforall@gmail.com. Thank you.

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SSG Virginia Caballero, US Army Reserves (2014)

Honoring SSG Virginia Caballero, US Army Reserves, who became ill while en-route from Kuwait and then died unexpectedly shortly thereafter at a hospital in Rockford, Illinois on September 13, 2014. Apparently the commercial plane needed fuel and/or had to do an emergency landing for Virginia in Rockford, Illinois. It appears that they were on their way to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. According to reports, Caballero was a Reservist stationed with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital, 330th Medical Brigade out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin but trained at Fort McCoy prior to her deployment to Kuwait.  She served in Kuwait for roughly eight months and for some reason was coming home a month early with a high ranking travel companion. Media reports claim she wanted to surprise her family in Texas. It is believed Caballero suffered from a blood clot which was exacerbated with the altitude on the flight. She was not listed as a non-combat death by the Department of Defense but this would in fact be considered a non-combat death due to medical. The family admits in newspaper articles that a lot of the details are sketchy.

Here are the questions we have after combing through the below articles. Why was she coming home a month early accompanied by a high ranking travel companion if she was going to surprise her family? Did something happen in country prior to her boarding that plane? Was this an early surprise for family in Texas or an expedited transfer from Kuwait back to the states? The military isn’t in the business of assigning high ranking travel companions unless there is an issue. Were there any concerns about medical health prior to boarding the plane? Where were they flying to? Rockford, Illinois is only a couple hour drive from Fort McCoy. Why did they not land the plane sooner at a larger airport like Chicago when the medical issues began to develop or the fuel began to get low? Why did the DoD not send out an official notification of non-combat death considering she was on active duty orders in support of war efforts in Kuwait? Criminal Investigation Division (CID) was assigned to investigate the cause of death of Virginia. The family was asked to submit a FOIA request for the results of the investigation.

Related Links:
Army Soldier Reflects on Life Overseas and Time Back Home
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Soldier flying home to surprise family in Texas dies en route
Decorated soldier flying home to surprise family in Abernathy dies en route
Local Purple Heart Recipient Died While On Active Duty
Purple heart recipient’s body to arrive in Lubbock on Saturday
Family, friends remember Virginia Caballero as Veterans Day approaches
The Heart of a Soldier: Sergeant earns hero’s salute from hometown
USAR SSG Virginia Caballero, 41 (Noonie Fortin)
Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Other Areas)
Tribute to SSG Virginia Caballero from her Family
Abell Funeral Home Tribute to Virginia Caballero

Air Force SSgt. Samuel Davis Died at Off-Base Home in Alaska; Parents Report Complications After Back Surgery (2014)

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SSgt. Samuel Davis, US Air Force

Air Force SSgt. Samuel Davis, 33, died at his off base home in Alaska on February 23, 2014. According to his family, he died from complications after a back surgery. SSgt. Davis was assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in 2011 where he worked as an aerospace maintenance craftsman with the 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Media reports indicate that SSgt. Davis was the fourth serviceman from JBER found dead this month: Army Sgt. Okan Cetinbag, February 11; SrA Katrina Jackson on February 15; and SSgt. Darian Miller on February 18.

Related Links:
JBER airman found dead
Air Force sergeant dies at Alaska off-base home (Military Times)
Airman to be buried in Spencer
Funeral Set for Former Roane Resident SSgt. Sam Davis
Air Force investigates JBER death
Investigators probe death of JBER sergeant at off-base residence
Soldier’s death marks fourth JBER fatality in a month
JBER airman’s passing marks fourth death in February
Soldiers/Veterans Dead of Probable Sudden Cardiac Death (PROB SCD)
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska (Army & Air Force)

Petty Officer 1st Class Sean Caughman, US Navy, Died of a Non Combat-Related Injury in Kuwait (2010)

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Petty Officer 1st Class Sean Caughman, US Navy

Petty Officer 1st Class Sean Caughman, 43, US Navy, died of a non combat related injury on February 15, 2010 in Kuwait. Petty Officer 1st Class Caughman was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on behalf of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Twenty-Two, a Seabee unit at the Fort Worth Naval Air Station in Texas.

“A Seabee supporting Operation Enduring Freedom died Tuesday in Kuwait, the Defense Department announced Thursday. His cause of death was not provided, but the Naval Safety Center Web site said an E-6 died after a PT run.” -Honor the Fallen

Related Links:
DOD Identifies Navy Casualty
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Military deaths
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sean L. Caughman honored in dignified transfer Feb. 17
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Soldiers and Marine Killed in Afghanistan, Navy Also Reports Death in Kuwait

Sgt Carlos Gill, US Army, Died of a Non Combat-Related Illness, Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan (2010)

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Sgt Carlos Gill, US Army

Sgt Carlos Gill, 25, US Army, died of a non combat related illness at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on January 26, 2010 after being evacuated from Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan. Sgt. Gill was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom on behalf of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Lewis, Washington.

Related Links:
DOD Identifies Army Casualty
Army Sgt. Carlos E. Gill
Gadsden man’s son dies after evacuation from Afghanistan
Remembering three soldiers who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Shannon, US Army, Died of a Non Combat-Related Incident in Kabul, Afghanistan (2010)

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Sgt. 1st Class Michael Shannon, US Army

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Shannon, 52, US Army, died of a non combat related incident on January 17, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sgt. 1st Class Shannon was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom on behalf of the Army Reserve assigned to the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Kabul, Afghanistan. According to the Department of Defense, the circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

“Shannon, 52, of Canadensis, suffered a heart attack Jan. 17 while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He was the first known soldier from Monroe County to die in Afghanistan.” -Pocono Record

DOD Identifies Army Casualty
Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael P. Shannon
Canadensis soldier who died in Afghanistan honored during services

SSG Renee Deville, US Army (2008)

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SSG Renee Deville, US Army, September 1, 2008

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

4 wounded warriors graduate from BNCOC
First Warrior Transition NCO Class Graduates
Walter Reed Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

Air Force TSgt Jackie Larsen Died of a Non Combat Related Illness Supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom at Balad Air Base in Iraq (2008)

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TSgt. Jackie Larsen, US Air Force

Air Force TSgt. Jackie Larsen, 37, of Tacoma, Washington, died of natural causes on July 17, 2008 at Balad Air Base in Iraq.  She was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on behalf of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base in California.

Larsen died of non-combat-related medical causes, a Beale spokesman said, but the exact cause of death is not being released. –Military Times

Related Links:
DoD Identifies Air Force Casualty
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jackie L. Larsen
Air Force sergeant dies in Baghdad
Beale loses Airman to natural causes in Iraq
Servicemembers mourn loss of one of their own
A Tribute to Technical Sergeant Jackie L. Larsen (US Air Force)
Honoring Technical Sergeant Jackie Larsen
Time of Remembrance: TSgt. Jackie Larsen
“I love you, I love you. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
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Non-Combat Casualties in Iraq in July Exceeded Combat Casualties
Gov. Issues Statements On Deaths of Military Personnel
List of Washington’s Iraq War dead
100 female U.S. service members have died in Iraq
Noonie Fortin: Killed in Iraq or in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Iraq)

PO1 Cherie Morton, US Navy (2008)

Honoring Cherie Morton @USNavy (2008)

Petty Officer First Class Cherie Morton, 40, Military Police, US Navy, April 20, 2008

Non-combat death; Bahrain; Medical; Died Unexpectedly; Under Investigation

The Stars and Stripes said Morton lived off base and was found in her home. According to the Navy Times, in October 2007, two female sailors were shot and killed on the U.S. naval base in Bahrain. They also said 3,600 personnel work on the American base. While terrorism has been ruled out, according to the Stars and Stripes, the cause of death is under investigation. ~23 ABC

Navy Counselor 1st Class Cherie L. Morton
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Navy Identifies Petty Officer Found Dead at her Home in Bahrain
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Cherie Morton, 40, Bakersfield
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A month later, Navy has no cause of death for sailor in Bahrain
Trying to cope with emotional turmoil
Mystery still surrounds female sailor’s death in Bahrain