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

ft bragg wtb

Fort Belvoir Warrior Transition Battalion

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.

  • 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.

Sincerely,

Jill Lee
(wife of Retired Sgt. Thomas Lee)
Rising Sun, MD

Retired Army Veteran Marinna Rollins Shot & Killed Estranged Husband’s Dog with New Boyfriend; Less Then Two Weeks After Arrested & Charged, She Committed Suicide (2017)

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Marinna Rollins, US Army Retired

Army veteran Marinna Rollins, 23, was found dead of an apparent suicide on May 7, 2017 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. According to reports, Rollins was medically retired from the Army with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic event while stationed in South Korea. Rollins was involved in the execution style killing of her estranged husband’s dog Huey around April 16 or 17. The harrowing incident was filmed and released to the public resulting in worldwide coverage. Marinna and her accomplice, Jarren Heng, were both facing felony charges in court. Jarren Heng is an active duty soldier stationed at Fort Bragg and he still faces felony charges, although the conspiracy charge was dropped after Marinna died. Meanwhile a Facebook page was created called Justice for Huey and they are also petitioning the Army to take action. According to Marinna’s estranged husband, Matt Dyer, Marinna was watching the dog for him while he was in South Korea but at some point decided she wanted to keep the dog and didn’t want to give Huey back. Meanwhile, she registered the dog as an emotional support animal. Matt shared that he was okay with her keeping the dog because he thought Huey would be good for her PTSD. Matt and Justice for Huey have been empathetic of Marinna and believe that had Jarren Heng never entered her life, this would not have happened. Matt expressed that he was aware that Jarren hated Huey and was controlling of Marinna. Marinna and Matt grew up together in Windham, Maine and were still technically married as their divorce had not been finalized yet. Initially it appears that Marinna did try and find a home for the dog with no success. Matt thinks Jarren Heng convinced Marinna to get rid of the dog. Did Jarren Heng pressure her to get rid of the dog because it was her soon to be ex-husband’s dog? We may never know the answer to that question but nonetheless this is a very heartbreaking situation: an innocent dog lost a life, another soldier with Post Traumatic Stress lost her life, and Matt lost his childhood friend & wife and his dog.

Related Links:
Justice for Huey on Facebook
Petition: To Seek UCMJ Punishment of Army Specialist Jarren Heng
Owner of dog slain by veteran and soldier speaks out on what really happened
Accused dog killer’s sister, separated husband still trying to process ‘shocking’ incident
Marinna Rollins & Jarren Heng: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
Army veteran from Maine accused of brutally killing service dog
Vet And Her Soldier Boyfriend Shot Dog 10 Times, New Report Shows
A Veteran Tied Her Service Dog to a Tree and Shot It 5 Times, Officials Say
Cops: Ex-soldier kills her service dog while her boyfriend videotapes
Prosecutor: NC military couple laughed as they fatally shot service dog
Army vet, boyfriend laugh while killing PTSD service dog, DA says
Army vet and special ops soldier boyfriend charged with shooting her service dog
Veteran Charged with Tying PTSD Service Dog to Tree, Shooting 5 Times
Bail raised for veteran, soldier accused in execution of veteran’s PTSD therapy dog
Army veteran who filmed herself killing her own service dog gets bail increase to $25K
Marinna Rollins army vet: Why I filmed myself shooting my service dog dead 5 times
Veteran who shot service dog on video found dead
Army vet who killed her service dog is found dead
Female soldier caught on video killing dog found DEAD
Marinna Rollins: Ex-Soldier Recorded Shooting Service Dog Found Dead
Windham veteran accused of executing therapy dog, posting video on Facebook, found dead
Marinna Rollins, ex-soldier who was recorded fatally shooting service dog, is found dead
Army veteran kills herself after being filmed tying service dog to tree and shooting it dead
Army veteran accused of murdering service dog commits suicide nine days before trial
Female army veteran ‘who tied her PTSD dog to a tree and killed it is found dead’
Veteran arrested in dog’s killing on Facebook found dead
Army Veteran Arrested For Murdering Her Dog Commits Suicide
Sad end to grisly episode: Ex-soldier who killed dog is found dead

Massachusetts School of Law Interviews Veteran Jennifer Norris About Violent Crime in the Military & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Massachusetts School of Law explored violent crime in the military with Jennifer Norris, Military Justice for All, and the impact it has on civilians too. Jennifer talked about her experiences with four different perpetrators within the first two years of her enlisted career, the reporting & adjudication process, and the retaliation that ensued and eventually ended a fifteen year career. Also discussed was the jurisdictional hurdles that arise with a transient population like the military. For example, Jennifer was not able to press charges against one perpetrator because he moved out of state after learning he was getting reported. Another perpetrator was active duty Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, therefore a state National Guard commander did not have jurisdiction of a federal employee. And finally, although Jennifer was able to move forward with two other cases involving high ranking National Guard members with over eighteen years of service, unlike the civilian world, after the cases were adjudicated, they retired with full military retirement benefits and no public records.

Jennifer also shared that although the Department of Defense downplays violent crime in the military and sexual assault appears to be closely monitored by some female members of Congress, everything is not under control. The crime appears to be escalating. The military doesn’t just have a sexual assault issue, they have a domestic violence and homicide issue as well. They also have a pattern of ruling soldier’s deaths both stateside and overseas as suicides, training accidents, and illness despite families strongly protesting and evidence revealing otherwise. Domestic violence is more likely to lead to homicide and unfortunately the two issues have not been given the attention they deserve because until you do the research yourself and see how many families and communities have been impacted by the crimes, suspicious death, and homicide of a soldier or civilian, you wouldn’t know because Congress and the main stream media do not give it the attention it deserves. Homicide and independent investigations of all suspicious deaths should be given the highest priority not only because people have lost their lives and families deserve answers but because someone needs to be held accountable. We must prevent others from becoming victims of these crimes too.

Jennifer discussed the lasting impacts the crimes and retaliation had on her. Jennifer was empowered after doing all that she could do to protect others from getting harmed by the same people, but her squadron did not see it the same way. After the cases were adjudicated, Jennifer faced hostility from a couple of the perpetrator’s friends and her Chain of Command once she returned back to work. She eventually had to transfer to another squadron. It was the professional and personal retaliation that made her start feeling more intense feelings of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. And unfortunately her next squadron wasn’t any more welcoming then the last. She was told shortly after arriving that ‘no female makes it in the satellite communications work center’ and that she was experiencing hostility from her new Chain of Command because the old squadron called and informed them she was a ‘troublemaker.’ The retaliation had a direct impact on her mental health and cemented an already traumatizing experience with further abuse, indifference, and judgement. By the time she got to her third squadron (almost ten years after the first attack), she learned that the Department of Veterans Affairs treated Post Traumatic Stress resulting from military sexual trauma.

After Jennifer informed her third squadron that she was getting help for the PTS at the Department of Veterans Affairs, she was immediately red flagged and asked to leave the squadron until she could produce a note from her doctor giving her permission to be at work. She did this and jumped through the other hoops asked of her in an attempt to save her career but lost confidentiality in the process. Jennifer walked away from her career in the end because she refused to release her VA records for a security clearance investigation. The entire experience not only opened her up to judgement again (simply because she asked for some counseling due to what someone else did) but she had to prove that she was ‘fit for duty’ while the perpetrators were enjoying full military retirement benefits. Jennifer chose a second chance at a civilian career when she refused to release her confidential VA records for her security clearance investigation because she wanted to ensure a future free of a tainted security clearance. It makes zero sense that someone who is a victim of crime be negatively impacted by the crimes of others in yet another way. The hypocrisy of the system is truly revealed when you look at how the perpetrators were let off the hook but the victim of crime loses their military career because they had the strength to first report and then eventually ask for help.

An Inside Look at Toxic Leadership in the US Army: On the Dark Side in Al Doura, Iraq (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

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.

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.

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Private John Needham, US Army

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)

Veteran James Jennings Jr Casualty of ‘Suicide by Cop’ in Richland County, South Carolina (2016)

PTSD

Richland County Sheriff’s Department says a man who engaged in an hours-long standoff with law enforcement agents on August 8th was a former member of the military and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. James Jennings Jr., 69, died from multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body, one self-inflicted. Police were called to a domestic situation at Jennings’ residence. Jennings barricaded himself inside his home and police responded after he pointed a weapon at his wife and threatened to kill her. “He wanted us to kill him,” said the Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. After he went down he was transported to the hospital where he later died from the injuries. The Sheriff’s Department said that Jennings suffered from PTSD after serving in the military and believes it played a role in his death.

“It is real, these people are suffering and they need help.” Sheriff Lott

Sheriff: Man in “suicide by cop” case was ex-military with PTSD

Complex Post Traumatic Stress and Dissociation in Military and Veteran Populations

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“Dissociation can be defined as disruptions in aspects of consciousness, identity, memory, physical actions and/or the environment.” –Healthy Place

Dissociation in military and veterans is an issue that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves yet explains a lot of things. Dissociation tends to occur mostly with those who have complex Post Traumatic Stress. It is also referred to as blacking out.

Related Links:
Dissociation Explained
Complex PTSD and Dissociative Disorder
Coming Apart: Trauma and the Fragmentation of the Self
How Trauma Can Lead to Dissociative Disorders
Working with Complex PTSD, Dissociation, and EMDR Therapy
Complex Trauma and Dissociation
Altered Circuits May Cause ‘Out-Of-Body’ Symptoms in Some People with PTSD
PTSD and Dissociation: What You Need to Know
Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder
Complex PTSD and the Realm of Dissociation
The Dissociative Subtype of PTSD: National Center for PTSD
Reexperiencing/Hyperaroused and Dissociative States in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Dissociative Symptomatology in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Disorders of Extreme Stress
Treatment of PTSD and Disassociation

Brandon Ransom, US Army Veteran, Georgia

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Brandon Allen Ransom, US Army

Related Links:
Plum’s Lounge shooting suspect surrenders to police
Dothan Police Release Identity of Suspect in Weekend Murder
Attorney: Dothan murder suspect an Army veteran diagnosed with PTSD
Attorney seeks to get accused killer out of jail

TSgt Steven Bellino, US Air Force (2016)

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TSgt Steven Bellino, US Air Force

TSgt Steven Bellino, 41, US Air Force, passed away on April 8, 2016 at Joint Base San-Antonio in Texas.

Related Links:
Obituary: Steven D. Bellino
Technical Sgt. Steven D. Bellino, Save Our Heroes
Two Airmen Fatally Shot at San Antonio Base Identified
Air Force Officials Identified Two Men Killed In Workplace Violence
Lackland AFB shooting victims identified as TSgt and squadron commander
Victims in Lackland shooting ID’d as former FBI agent, squadron commander
Gunman in Texas Air Force Base Killing Had Gone AWOL
Lackland AFB Shooter Was Facing Disciplinary Action For Going AWOL
Training Squadron Commander, Student ID’d as Airmen Dead in Air Force Base Shooting
Lackland Air Force Base Gunman in Murder-Suicide was Ex-FBI Agent
Official: Ex-FBI Agent Was Gunman in Texas Base Shooting
Suspect in Apparent Murder-Suicide at Texas Air Force Base Was a Former FBI Agent
Lackland base shooter ID’ed as former FBI agent, Iraq war veteran
Air Force: Student from Northeast Ohio killed commander at Lackland AFB
Texas Air Force base gunman was from Parma Heights, reports say
Commander ‘went out swinging’ in Lackland murder-suicide
Air Force commander ‘went out swinging’ during deadly shooting with former FBI agent at Texas base
Special Operations airman killed his squadron commander in apparent-murder suicide
Gunman in Texas Air Force base killing had gone AWOL, then taken mental health exam
A Long Career in Military’s Elite Spirals Into a Killing and a Suicide
Lackland gunman had been a standout soldier
Air Force: PTSD, other factors led airman to kill commander
Air Force reports: PTSD, other factors led airman to kill commander
Special Forces Vet Killed Himself, Commander Because Of Failing Career
Special Forces vet took two guns, a knife and a grudge into fatal meeting
In wake of Lackland shooting, Air Force aims to remove dropouts quicker
Family of Spec Ops Airman, who killed commander, alleges a USAF cover-up
A disputed suicide note and other documents trace Steve Bellino’s descent

The gunman behind the fatal shooting at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has been identified as Steven D. Bellino, a former FBI agent who later enlisted in the US Air Force. Bellino was an FBI agent for less than two years before resigning in 2013. Authorities have not confirmed why Lt. Col. William A. Schroeder was targeted in the murder/suicide attack.

Prosecutors Reopen Investigation into Cause of Death of Disabled Army Veteran Felicia Reeves Found Hanging in a New Jersey Motel Room (2015)

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Felicia Reeves, US Army

US Army veteran Felicia Reeves, 40, was found hanging August 19, 2015 in a bathroom in a room at the Royal Motel in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Initially the police ruled her death a suicide but the family questioned the investigator’s decision. One year later, Union County prosecutor’s reopened the probe into the investigation of Felicia to determine if in fact this was a homicide. According to her family, Felicia Reeves was a disabled veteran and had ties to organized criminal elements who might have wanted to silence her. The family also shared that she was sexually assaulted while stationed in Korea and her back was hurt during the attack which is what caused her permanent disability. She suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well. Felicia escaped a couple abusive relationships and in the past couple years became associated with people who appeared to be taking advantage of her and manipulating her. Felicia’s painkiller prescription from the Department of Veterans Affairs was a frequent target for her new found friends. Felicia was in the process of trying to get custody of her two sons and had recently become concerned that she may be in danger.

“Reeves had been in several bad relationships before her death and didn’t trust other people. Reeves’ sister, Suzan Bayorgeon, told the news outlet that Reeves had repeatedly commented that if she were discovered dead, it would be a murder.” -NJ.com

Related Links:
Family disputes police claims about daughter’s case
Death of WNC Veteran Raises More Questions than Answers
Hendersonville family questions circumstances of Felicia Reeves’ death
Hendersonville Family Raises Questions About Sister’s Suicide
Sister warned to stop seeking answers about death of Felicia Reeves
What happened to Felicia Reeves?
Army vet’s family questions whether she really took her own life
Death of Hendersonville woman, ruled a suicide, now reviewed as possible homicide
NJ, NC authorities looking into Reeves’ death, disappearance
Prosecutors reopen probe into Army vet found dead in motel

Air Force Reserve Captain Jamie Brunette Committed Suicide After What Parents Allege May Have Been an Unreported Sexual Assault in Afghanistan (2015)

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Captain Jamie Brunette, US Air Force

Captain Jamie Brunette, 30, US Air Force, was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her car on February 9, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. Tampa police found her in the parking lot of a Harbour Island cafe near her apartment slumped over in the back seat of a locked vehicle. She purchased the hand gun six months earlier. According to friends and family, Jamie didn’t speak much about her time in Afghanistan but her parents believe she may have suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a sexual assault while deployed to Afghanistan. The issue sheds light on whether or not military members feel comfortable reporting crimes and asking for help for the aftermath. According to one MacDill Air Force Base official, they actively encourage airman to reach out for help and assured they would not lose their careers. They also reminded airman that reaching out for help early will help prevent the Post Traumatic Stress from getting worse and in the end help save their military career.

Related Links:
Lieutenant US Air Force Jamie Brunette and Sergeant US Army Thomas Penkal
Tampa reservist’s suicide brings home tragedy
Suicide of Florida soldier recently returned from Afghanistan leads to questions of whether she was sexually assaulted overseas
Family of Afghanistan Veteran: She Committed Suicide Due To Unreported Sexual Assault
Air Force captain, 30, shoots herself dead ‘after being sexually assaulted in Afghanistan’
Jamie Brunette’s Suicide: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
Friends Grapple with Suicide of Woman, 30, Who May Have Suffered from PTSD
Family believe sexual assault led to Air Force Reserve Captain Jamie Brunette’s suicide
Sexually assaulted former Air Force captain Jamie Brunette driven to suicide, family say
Captain Jamie Brunette Suicide: Mystery Surrounds Soldier Found Dead in Car – What Happened?
#22toZero: Captain Jamie Brunette and “The Moment”
Air Force veteran’s suicide sheds light on female soldiers and PTSD