Timeline of Veteran Suicides, Legislative Efforts, and Nationwide Negligence at the Department of Veterans Affairs

Military Sexual Trauma – The New Face of PTSD (2007):

The Other PTSD – Sexual Abuse of Women in the Military -NBC Nightly News (May 4, 2007)

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Featured ‘The Other PTSD: Sexual Abuse of Women in the Military’ (MJFA, May 4, 2007)

Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act (2007):

The House debates the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, which directs the VA to develop and implement a comprehensive program to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans. The bill is named for an Iraq veteran who took his own life, and recognizes the special needs of veterans suffering from PTSD and elderly veterans who are at high risk for depression and experience high rates of suicide. -Rep Leonard Boswell (October 23, 2007)

President George W. Bush Signed the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act Into Law (MJFA, November 5, 2007)

The Number One Problem Combat Vets Will Face is Mental Health (2007):

Paul Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense tells Armen Keteyian that the No. 1 problem facing vets of Afghanistan and Iraq will be mental health. -CBS News (November 13, 2007)

Eye to Eye with Katie Couric on CBS News: Veterans and Suicide (MJFA, November 13, 2007)

Veterans Who Get Help at VA Are Still at Risk of Suicide (2008):

CBS News first reported on the staggering number of veteran suicides in a report last year. Now, newly-released data shows that vets who get help from the VA are still at risk. -CBS (March 20, 2008)

CBS News: Veteran Suicides An Epidemic (MJFA, March 20, 2008)

Seven Vets Under VA’s Care Died by Suicide in Washington (2008):

They served their country honorably but after risking their life in combat abroad, coping with coming home was too much. In the last three months seven servicemen being treated by Spokane’s VA Hospital have committed suicide. -4 News Now (April 29, 2008)

Army National Guardsman Spc. Timothy Juneman Died by Suicide; Family Shares Imminent Redeployment to Iraq ‘Major Stressor’ (March 5, 2008)

Senator Patty Murray Alleges VA Cover-up of Veteran Suicide (2008):

Despite recent efforts by the Veterans Administration to prevent veteran suicide, seven have committed suicide in the Inland Northwest in the last four months and US Senator Patty Murray is calling the situation unacceptable. -4 News Now (May 1, 2008)

Murray Assails Top VA Official over Vets Suicide Cover-Up (Senator Patty Murray, April 23, 2008)

“The Betrayal Issues Are Really Deep” (2009):

Katie Couric investigates an alarming trend in the U.S. military, as more and more female soldiers have come forward with tales of sexual abuse at the hands of male soldiers and superior officers. -CBS (March 17, 2009)

Sexual Assault Permeates U.S. Armed Forces (CBS News, March 17, 2009)

Continue reading

Ark-La-Tex: Barksdale Air Force Base Commander Addresses Homicides of Five Airmen or Spouses in Less Than a Year (July 17, 2019)

USAF Seal

“The commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base issued a statement Wednesday afternoon expressing deep concern for the safety of the military members and their families assigned to BAFB in light of the recent murders of five Barksdale Airmen and/or their spouses. ‘I’ve been stationed at eight installations in my 25-year Air Force career and I have never experienced as many murders involving Airmen and their families,’ said Air Force Col. Michael A. Miller.” Read more from Ark-La-Tex here.

  • TSgt Joshua Kidd, U.S. Air Force: died September 25, 2018, murdered outside home, DNA links two teens to murder, Jareona Crosby and Alonzo Wilson charged with second degree murder, awaiting trial
  • TSgt Kelly Jose, U.S. Air Force Reserve and spouse Heather Jose: died November 8, 2018, murdered after giving a guy they met at the shopping mall a ride, found slain in a burned out car, Dewayne Willie Watkins, 34, was indicted in connection with the robbery, kidnapping, and murder, charged with two counts of second degree murder, state seeking the death penalty
  • Antonio Williams (spouse of civil servant Airman Ivy Shelby-Williams): died June 22, 2019, gunned down while delivering mail to Michael Gentry at his home in Shreveport’s South Highlands neighborhood, Michael Gentry, 32, arrested after the shooting & charged with second-degree murder
  • TSgt Perry Bailey, U.S. Air Force: died June 30, 2019, murdered in Shreveport residence, the female homeowner said her former boyfriend, Brandan Brown, broke into the residence through the master bedroom window and shot her current boyfriend Perry Bailey, Brown died by suicide

Related Links:
Barksdale Commander Expresses Concern About Recent Airmen Deaths
BAFB commander addresses homicides of five airmen or spouses in less than a year

Marine Corps LCpl Riley Schultz Found Dead at Camp Pendleton Entry Control Point; Death Ruled Suicide by Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound But Family Disputes Findings (March 15, 2019)

U.S. Marine Riley Schultz

Lance Corporal Riley Schultz, U.S. Marine Corps

In the early morning hours of March 15, 2019, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Riley Schultz was found dead near a guard shack with a gunshot wound in his head. Nineteen-year-old Lance Corporal Schultz was on guard duty at Camp Pendleton in California when this tragic incident occurred. Riley was discovered by a Marine who was assigned to replace him at this entry control point. The Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) were assigned to investigate Riley’s suspicious death but their investigation appeared to conclude when the medical examiner ruled that Lance Corporal Riley Schultz died by suicide via a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Riley’s family isn’t going to simply accept the outcome of the investigation. His family knows him better than anyone and his brother said Riley was the happiest he had ever been. Riley’s mom told the press that becoming a Marine was his dream and he worked hard and prepared for his enlistment before joining the USMC at the age of 17. Riley’s mom said he loved being a Marine and things were going well in his personal life when he died. Although this investigation appears to be an open and closed case with the Marine Corps, Riley’s family disputes the cause of death and plans to continue to fight for justice for Riley.

In the News:

The Marine from Colorado found dead at a Southern California base earlier this month died by suicide, according to 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh, a Marine Corps spokesperson. Rob Low reports. -FOX31 Denver (March 27, 2019)

The Navy is investigating after a Marine from Colorado was shot to death while on guard duty at Southern California’s Camp Pendleton. -CBS Denver (March 27, 2019)

Lance Cpl. Riley Schultz was discovered dead around 4 a.m. March 15 with a gunshot wound to the head. -Denver7 – The Denver Channel (March 27, 2019)

Related Links:
Lance Cpl. Riley Schultz From Longmont Killed While On Duty At Camp Pendleton
Marine Found Dead at Camp Pendleton Guard Post from Gunshot Wound to Head
Riley Schultz, Marine, shot dead while on guard duty at Camp Pendleton
Marine shot, killed while on guard duty at California base
Marine Shot, Killed While on Guard Duty at California Base
Colorado Marine shot, killed while on guard duty at California base
Marine from Colorado shot, killed while on guard duty at California base
Marine’s shooting death at Camp Pendleton guard post under investigation
Medical Examiner: Marine From Colorado Died By Suicide
19-Year-Old Marine Found Dead at Camp Pendleton Killed Himself: Officials
Death of Marine shot while on guard duty at Camp Pendleton ruled a suicide
Colorado Marine’s family not convinced death was a suicide
Family Convinced Marine’s Death at Camp Pendleton Was Not Suicide
Family of Camp Pendleton Marine disputes suicide ruling despite Marine Corps findings
Marine From Longmont Shot, Killed While on Duty At Camp Pendleton
Marine killed while on guard duty at California base; services to be held in Colorado
Longmont Marine took his own life
Violent Crime, Non Combat Death, and Suicide at Camp Pendleton, California (USMC)
Lance Cpl Riley Schultz, age 19 | Gun Memorial

Top 10 on Military Justice for All in 2018 (December 31, 2018)

Forensic Files

10. Air Force Sgt. Joseph Snodgrass Hired Hitmen to Kill Wife at Clark AFB in Philippines for $400,000 Life Insurance Payout; Sentenced to Life in Prison (February 26, 1991) #ForensicFiles

Homicide Hunter

9. Army Veteran Brandin Penza Stabbed 74 Times in Colorado Springs Parking Lot by Stranger; Kevin Gooley Sentenced to 32 Years in Prison (September 23, 1994) #HomicideHunter

Forbidden Dying for Love

8. Navy Master Chief John Bench Murdered Son & Attempted to Murder Wife & Daughter in Japan, Then Killed Self in Motorcycle Crash (August 30, 2009) #ForbiddenDyingforLove

ft-hood

7. Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (February 13, 2017) #NeverForget #HonorThem

Maggie Fetty

6. Army Spouse Melinda Stewart, Army Sgt. Daniel Stewart, Jill Yousaf & Army Soldier James Catlin Conspired and Murdered Homeless Colorado Teen Maggie Fetty (November 30, 1991) #HomicideHunter

A Stranger in My Home

5. Air Force Retiree Philip Inhofer Murdered by Nevada Escort for Money and 1975 Mercedes Convertible; Michelle Cummiskey Sentenced to 25 Years to Life (March 7, 1991) #AStrangerinMyHome

cold case

4. Army Pvt. Paige Fontenot Briles Found Unresponsive in Vehicle at Fort Hood Housing in Texas; Initially CID Investigated as Homicide But Later Ruled Suicide (December 24, 2016) #ColdCaseJustice

Forbidden Dying for Love 2

3. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Norris Fatally Shot Army Spc. Kamisha Block in Iraq After She Ended a Forbidden Relationship, Then Ended His Own Life (August 16, 2007) #ForbiddenDyingforLove

We Wil Never Forget

2. Fort Hood Army Spc. Zachary Moore Found Unresponsive in Barracks on Deployment to Camp Hovey, South Korea; CID Ruled Suicide (August 2, 2017) #NeverForget #HonorThem

And THANK YOU for making the MJFA Home Page our #1 for #Top10onMJFA with 85,945-4

1. Military Justice for All Home Page #ThankYou #HappyNewYear2019

Related Links:
Top 10 Posts on Military Justice for All in 2017

Method of a Serial Killer: Authorities Believe Israel Keyes Trained to Kill & Suppressed Desire to Murder While Serving in the Army (October 28, 2018)

Oxygen’s two hour special event on Israel Keyes airs Sunday, October 28th. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Reporters, investigators and family friends reflect on the kidnapping of Samantha Koenig. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Israel Keyes is arrested after a minor traffic infraction. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Follow FBI special agents as they investigate the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Koenig. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Investigators say that some conversations with Israel Keyes were very “normal.” -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Investigators discuss the power dynamics and the fight for Keyes to reveal information. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer (S1, E1)

Israel Keyes admitted that he is “two different people.” -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

The kill kits recovered by the FBI reveal the meticulous planning of Israel Keyes. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Keyes said the randomness of his victims is what kept him “successful.” -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Keyes could have many more victims than those that have been accounted for. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

FBI Special Agents discuss Israel Keyes’ possible involvement in another murder case. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

FBI special agents and a forensic psychologist reflect on Israel Keyes’ personality. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Israel Keyes fascination with serial killers reveals patterns in his MO. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Israel Keyes revealed he created kill kits and buried them in various locations. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

FBI special agents and a forensic psychologist discuss Israel Keyes’ training and suppression of killing sprees. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Mary Wood, reflects on the time her family employed Israel Keyes for a bathroom remodel. -Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Former reporter, Casey Grove, describes his journey as a crime journalist. -Israel Keyes, Method of a Serial Killer, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Related Links:
Method of a Serial Killer | Oxygen Official Site
Serial Killer Israel Keyes’ Suicide Letter Is Creepy Ode to Murder
Alaska Serial Killer Committed Suicide With Hidden Razor and Bedding
The untold story behind Israel Keyes’ jailhouse suicide
Was Israel Keyes the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of Modern Times?
Serial Killer Suicide Notes | Psychology Today
Israel Keyes Update: Remains of at least 5 victims of Alaska serial killer are in Washington, FBI interviews indicate
Israel Keyes Update: Alaska serial killer linked to at least 11 deaths, FBI says
Listen to Detectives Describe the Disturbing ‘Kill Kits’ Made by Serial Killer Israel Keyes
Method of a Serial Killer: Israel Keyes Abducts his Final Known Victim
Read Serial Killer Israel Keyes’ Chilling Suicide Note: ‘Soon Now You’ll Join Those Ranks of Dead’
Martinis & Murder: Episode #99 – The Alaskan Serial Killer
Oxygen’s ‘Method Of A Murderer’ Goes Inside The Mind of Serial Killer Israel Keyes
10 Recently Caught Demented Serial Killers |Listverse
Profile of Alaska Serial Killer Israel Keyes
Israel Keyes | Unresolved
Method Of A Serial Killer Premieres Sunday, 10/28 | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Samantha Koenig – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: White Ford Focus – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: From Kidnapping To Murder – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Interviewing Israel Keyes – Preview | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Fight For Control – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: The Two Sides Of Israel Keyes – Preview | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Calculation – Preview (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: The Randomness Of Victims – Preview | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Leaving Behind Unsolved Crimes – Preview | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: A Tight Timeline – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Double Life – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: The Fascination – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: The Caches – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: Military Training – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: He Didn’t Choose Us – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Method Of A Serial Killer: A Compelling Story – Bonus clip (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes by J.T. Hunter (Book)

Murder By Numbers Premiered ‘Friend of the Devil’ on ID: Itzcoatl Ocampo Accused of Murdering Six Homeless Men, Dies in Jail (September 4, 2018)

Within a month, four men in Orange County are brutally stabbed by a mysterious man. No one makes a connection to a gruesome double murder of a mother and son two months earlier except the man sitting in prison for killing his own family. -Friend of the Devil, Murder By Numbers (S2, E4)

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Ex-Marine
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: October 25, 2011 – January 13, 2012
Date of arrest: January 13, 2012
Date of birth: 1988
Victims profile: Raquel Estrada (53) and Juan Herrera (34) / James McGillivray (53) / Lloyd “Jim” Middaugh (42) / Paulus Smit (57) / John Barry (64)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Orange County, California, USA
Status: In prison awaiting trial [Suicide]
via Itzcoatl Ocampo | Murderpedia

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

In the News:

A serial killer is terrorizing the homeless community in Orange County, California. -CNN (January 10, 2012)

OC transients warned about serial killer -TheRealHomelessOCRM (January 18, 2012)

Itzcoatl Ocampo, the 23 year old Iraq War Veteran accused of fatally stabbing four homeless men in a serial killing spree in Orange County is behind bars, and the District Attorney is now characterizing him as a brazen, vicious killer who enjoyed getting media attention. -Garden Grove TV3 (January 19, 2012)

Friends of John Berry, the alleged victim of accused serial kill Itzcoatl Ocampo, braved a steady rain to remember the homeless man. Dozens of marchers took the one-mile route along the Santa Ana River Trail where Berry often stayed. Marisol Gonzalez reports on the impact John Berry had on his community. -Garden Grove TV3 (January 21, 2012)

Investigators with a multi-agency task force announced on Thursday that accused serial killer Itzcoatl Ocampo is being investigated in the murder of Juan Herrera and his mother Raquel in their Yorba Linda home last October. The two were stabbed to death according to Lt. Julian Harvey with the Homeless Homicide Task Force. Harvey also confirmed Ocampo is “associated” with a man already in custody for the two murders. He is Eder Giovanni Herrera – brother and son to the victims. Ocampo is accused of planning, stalking and then killing four homeless men during December 2011 and Janurary 2012. -Garden Grove TV3 (February 3, 2012)

The Anaheim Police Department, the OC Rescue Mission and the Vineyard Christian Fellowship joined together for a community event in the wake of serial killings that terrorized North Orange County. With a suspect now in custody, volunteers want to mobilize the community to help the Homeless. Marisol Gonzalez has the story plus an update on new charges leveled against accused serial killer Itzcoatl Ocampo. -Garden Grove TV3 (February 4, 2012)

Itzcoatl “Izzy” Ocampo, 23, held in the deaths of four homeless men, will be arraigned March 16 in the case involving the stabbing deaths of a classmate’s brother and mother. -Orange County Register (February 6, 2012)

Itzcoatl Ocampo is heard from beyond the grave. He explains to an investigator what made him kill. -CBS Los Angeles (May 1, 2014)

Itzcoatl Ocampo, the suspect in a brutal string of slayings of four homeless men had his arraignment delayed until Feb. 17. After the court appearance, Ocampo’s attorney spoke with reporters. -Orange County Register (September 1, 2015)

Related Links:
California police say they’ve caught killer
Suspect in Calif. homeless deaths a former Marine
Father of Itzcoatl Ocampo, suspected serial killer of Calif. homeless, was homeless
Father of Iraq war veteran who ‘killed four homeless men’ is HIMSELF homeless and lives out of a truck in a parking lot
California Homeless Killer Caught Thanks To ‘Donny,’ Heroic Father (VIDEO)
Accused Homeless Killer Was Covered in Blood and Not Mentally Ill, D.A. Says
Iraq veteran Itzcoatl Ocampo charged with homeless deaths
Iraq War veteran Itzcoatl Ocampo charged in serial killings of California homeless
Veteran Charged in Slayings of Four Homeless Men
Iraq war vet charged with first-degree murder in 4 homeless men’s deaths
Itzcoatl Ocampo, Iraq Vet, Charged With The First Degree Murder of Four Homeless Men
Suspect in CA killings returned from Iraq changed
Veteran charged with homeless murders: Hint of larger problem for US military?
2 more murder charges to be filed against suspected OC serial killer
2 new charges for suspect in Calif. homeless killings
Homeless Killer Suspect Accused of 2 More Murders
California homeless serial killer suspect to be tried in September
Transcript: Serial killer suspect stalked victims
‘I knew that I had the killer gene,’ accused Ocampo reveals in OC homeless killings case
Serial Killer’s Twisted Logic: Allegedly Murdered Homeless Victims as Community Service
‘It Had to Be Done,’ Says Admitted O.C. Serial Killer in Newly Released Video
DA to seek death penalty for homeless serial killer
Ex-Marine Accused of OC Homeless Killings Dies in Jail
Former US marine dies in prison awaiting trial for homeless murders
Ex-Marine charged in California homeless killings dies in hospital
California man charged in series of homeless slayings dies in cell before trial
Autopsy on Orange County inmate Itzcoatl Ocampo, suspect in homeless deaths, done but more tests needed
Itzcoatl Ocampo, accused in OC homeless killings, died in custody after swallowing Ajax
Lawyer: Ajax killed suspect in homeless slayings
Ex-Marine Accused Of Killing Homeless In California Dies In Hospital
Ex-Marine Charged In California Homeless Killings Dies In Hospital
Inmate’s Death Raises Questions About Treating PTSD in Jails
Funeral held for man suspected in homeless slayings
Itzcoatl “Izzy” Ocampo Says from the Grave That His Serial Killings of Homeless “Had to be Done:” Video
Natural born killer? Accused serial killer blames ‘kill gene’ for fatally stabbing six in California
How did an accused serial killer poison himself in jail?
Itzcoatl Ocampo | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers

Video Links:
Serial killer targets homeless men
OC transients warned about serial killer
Suspected Serial Killer Charged
Anaheim Community Healing in Wake of Serial Killings
Victim of Serial Killer Remembered
Anaheim Police Release Confession Tapes Of OC Serial Killer
Homeless slaying suspect reads Dr Seuss to little sister – 2012-01-16
Admitted Serial Killer explains why he killed homeless men
Attorney: Serial killings suspect was wrapped in ‘suicide blanket’
Admitted serial killer talks about why he kills
Suspect in serial homeless killings faces more charges
Is A Suspected Serial Killer Guilty of Earlier Crimes?
Izzy Ocampo Autopsy
Friend of the Devil | Murder By Numbers | Investigation Discovery (S2, E4)

Navy Sailor Brandon Caserta Died by Suicide at Naval Station Norfolk; Family Pushing for Suicide Prevention Legislation ‘The Brandon Act’ Focusing on Hazing & Bullying (June 25, 2018)

Brandon Caserta Navy.jpg

AEAN Brandon Caserta, U.S. Navy (photo courtesy of the Caserta family)

The Brandon Act:

I can honestly say no one is looking in this because at this point, no one cares. I just looked at the suicide rate right now in the Navy and it is now reported 43 for the year so far. I looked at it on Wednesday of last week and it was at 37. What the heck is going on and when will someone anyone going to start caring about the men and women in our Armed Forces? We need to respect the flag AND the men and women who defend it and save their lives like they do us. We all need to write to our senators and congressional staff. We need The Brandon Act passed and quickly.

I’m going to explain what “The Brandon Act” is. It is designed to be a safe word that men and women in our Armed Forces can use if they are subjects of any kind of abuse whether it’s physical, emotional or mentally. Abuse comes in many, many forms to include bullying, hazing, threats, sexual, abusive leadership, and any kind of mental and emotional abuse. These are just a few abusive tactics that can be done to someone. “The Brandon Act” protects those who come forward asking for help. It is designed for these men and women to come forward and get the help they need and if the abuse merits it, the sailor or troop will have a right to ask to be reassigned to another command or unit without any retaliation whatsoever from anyone in their current command or their next assignment. Our hope is to bring suicides to an end and by using this “Act” will hopefully allow them the courage to get help when they need it and get them healed and back on the right path. This “Act” is in front of Congress right now and hopefully very soon, they will approve and pass it once it’s completely written. Thank you for reading. #thebrandonact

-Patrick and Teri Caserta (Brandon Caserta’s parents)

Navy AEAN Brandon Caserta was stationed with the Helicopter Combat Sea Squadron 28 (HSC-28) at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia when he died by suicide on June 25, 2018. While Brandon’s parents were on the phone with Navy leadership at the Squadron, Brandon walked out on the flight line, apologized to the plane captain (who is in-charge of the flight line), and hurled himself into a helicopter rotor, dying instantly. AEAN Caserta had a brief career with the Navy and it didn’t turn out the way he had hoped. He had failed Special Warfare Training and was transferred into a new career field as a result. And then unexpectedly Brandon broke his collar-bone in a bicycle accident, which also negatively impacted his Navy career. At the moment Brandon Caserta made his final walk out to the flight line, his father Patrick Caserta was on the phone with the command expressing concern for his son’s welfare. Patrick was making plans to fly out to Naval Station Norfolk to explore his son’s legal options.

Desperate for answers, the Casertas reached out to Brandon’s chain of command and friends but eventually everyone stopped responding. The Casertas were told by many friends in Brandon’s command that leadership ordered a cessation of communications. Before the silence, Brandon’s friends shared that they thought he appeared to be suffering from depression, feelings of worthlessness, and anger, hence the reason he left a note asking the Navy be held accountable. As a result of the information gleaned from the note and those who knew Brandon, the HSC-28 conducted an investigation of itself; basically the fox guarding the henhouse. Although they knew months in advance of the problems, the report did note that Brandon’s supervisor had a history of berating and belittling those who worked for him. As a matter of fact, this supervisor could have been court-martialed under UCMJ Article 93, Cruelty and Maltreatment, but he wasn’t. Instead, Military.com reports he received no punishment and was transferred with a “declining evaluation” (and this was only after it was heard and reported that he made “derogatory and inflammatory comments concerning the deceased”).

“I want to see as many people fired, kicked out or, at the very least, lose rank.” -Brandon Caserta, U.S. Navy

According to Military.com, the Navy’s suicide rate in 2018 was the highest it’s ever been. And it was reported that a post-mortem analyses of suicides in the military usually showed the victim “faced major issues like financial problems, relationship problems, medical issues, and mental health conditions.” The military reporter reached out to Dave Matsuda, an anthropologist at California State University-East Bay, who researched and studied a suicide cluster among soldiers in Iraq in 2010. Matsuda’s research found some non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and officers in the chain of command made their subordinates’ lives a “living hell.” Matsuda also added that although the “bad leaders weren’t fully responsible for the suicides, they helped push the soldiers over the edge.” But in a system where the Navy is investigating the Navy, we have learned that the Chain of Command isn’t going to admit there is a problem. They have a history of blaming the victim and/or scapegoating an enlisted NCO or lower ranking military officer.

Brandon’s father, Patrick Caserta, a retired U.S. Navy sailor himself, asserts the Command was “so hostile, corruptive and unethical,” that they tormented Brandon and drove him past the brink of despair. Patrick and Teri Caserta wholeheartedly believe the command murdered their son. Patrick reminded us that the military talks about trauma, exposure to war, and mental health, but they don’t talk about harassment and bullying. He believes military leadership do not want to admit harassment, bullying, and retaliation happen or admit they are at fault. In the days and weeks that followed their son’s death, Patrick and Teri also learned from those who worked with Brandon that they were all dealing with a high operational tempo and manpower shortfalls. Brandon’s co-workers believed “personal issues were not a high priority and Brandon’s death could have been prevented.” And an anonymous message sent to the squadron commander on June 18, 2018 revealed the abuse was ongoing before Brandon died.

According to the message, Brandon’s supervisor called subordinates his “bitches,” referred to the chiefs as “douchebags” and “dumbasses” behind their backs, and “treated workers worse than garbage” and “like dogs.” –Military.com (June 8, 2019)

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Military.com reported that Brandon Caserta’s death was one of 68 Navy suicides in 2018. They also reported the rise in military suicides appears to mirror an increase in suicides among the general U.S. population. Suicide experts are struggling to understand why so many are dying by suicide. Some factors for suicide risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), include “spending time in prison or jail, having a mental health disorder or a substance abuse problem, experiencing family violence, a history of suicide, and having guns in the home.” Brandon’s family believes their son’s suicide was a direct result of toxic leadership, one superior who harassed and bullied Brandon, pushing him over the edge. According to Army Doctrine Publication 6-22, a toxic leader “operates with an inflated sense of self-worth and from acute self-interest,” consistently using “dysfunctional behaviors to deceive, intimidate, coerce, or unfairly punish others to get what they want for themselves.” Although it appears there are multiple variables that impact when a service member chooses to die by suicide, the experts need to find out the why so we can save our service member’s lives. What is happening in their environment that makes them feel like suicide is the only way out?

The directive states, toxic leaders exhibit a combination of “self centered attitudes, motivations, and behaviors that have adverse effects on subordinates, the organization, and mission performance.” –Military.com (June 8, 2019)

Military.com reported that one of Brandon’s co-workers helped shed some insight into the toxic climate at the Navy’s HSC-28 squadron. He accused leadership of deploying personnel in retaliation for speaking up and not doing as they are told. This particular individual requested that he remain at the squadron when his wife got sick because he needed to support her and their two girls. But his leadership was going to deploy him with a detachment anyways. So he filed an Inspector General complaint and thankfully was transferred out of the squadron in a couple weeks. He believes Navy personnel have a “fear of retribution” because the command is resentful of the service members who can’t deploy. Brandon’s family experienced a form of retaliation as well. The unit held a memorial service for Brandon four days after he died but Patrick and Teri said they were not invited by anyone in the HSC-28 command. Patrick Caserta believes the family was excluded out of sheer pettiness; leadership wanted to continue to conceal and coverup what truly happened. Regardless of the reason, it was a violation of Navy policy.

“Navy policy states that the command should provide round-trip travel and allowances to family members to attend a command memorial service.” –Military.com (June 8, 2019)

On May 31, 2019, after the command learned that Military.com had made phone calls regarding the Casertas’ allegations, Navy personnel indicated there was a “culture of fear” at the squadron. The Casertas are so angry and distraught that communications have stopped that they offered a $25,000 reward to anyone who came forward with information that “lead to successful prosecution of individuals in their son’s chain of command.” They have also met with the congressional staff of at least a dozen senators and representatives, including Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to discuss “the treatment they and Brandon received, request an independent investigation, and promote efforts to prevent suicide linked to toxic leadership.” They also would like to see the Navy implement Brandon Caserta’s request in his suicide note regarding the re-rate process: “sailors who don’t complete the training for the rate they initially sought should be able to select any other training they qualify for with their Armed Services Vocational Battery (ASVAB) test results.”

Anthropologist Dave Matsuda told Military.com that to truly address the problem of suicide in the armed forces, “all the services need to consider ‘toxic leadership’ when analyzing the deaths of each individual.” If we understand the why, we can prevent suicide. Matsuda also believes operational leaders should not rely on “the boot camp strategy of breaking people down to build them back up.” Matsuda concluded with the assertion that indeed a toxic command climate can trigger suicidal behavior. One year later, Patrick and Teri Caserta are determined to get justice for their only son, because they believe this tragedy could’ve been prevented. The pair also report that Congress is drafting “The Brandon Act,” which is “federal legislation aimed at ending military suicides, holding commanders accountable, and halting the bullying and hazing that occurs within military ranks.” Please contact both the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) members and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) members and your Senators and Representative to ask that they too support our troops by supporting The Brandon Act. Our service members deserve a chance at a beautiful life post military.

“The Brandon Act” is designed to be a safe word that men and women in our Armed Forces can use if they are subjects of any kind of abuse whether it’s physical, emotional or mentally. Abuse comes in many, many forms to include bullying, hazing, threats, sexual, abusive leadership, and any kind of mental and emotional abuse. These are just a few abusive tactics that can be done to someone. “The Brandon Act” protects those who come forward asking for help. It is designed for these men and women to come forward and get the help they need and if the abuse merits it, the sailor or troop will have a right to ask to be reassigned to another command or unit without any retaliation whatsoever from anyone in their current command or their next assignment. Our hope is to bring suicides to an end and by using this “Act” will hopefully allow them the courage to get help when they need it and get them healed and back on the right path. This “Act” is in front of Congress right now and hopefully very soon, they will approve and pass it once it’s completely written. Thank you for reading. –Justice for Brandon Caserta on Facebook (June 20, 2019) #TheBrandonAct

Sources: Patrick Caserta (Brandon’s father), Patricia Kime, Military.com, and related links

In the News:

As Terri Caserta entered her son’s bedroom in their Peoria home, she broke down. It’s an emotion that Terri and her husband Patrick Caserta will always carry with them. Their son Brandon was in the United States Navy from 2015 to 2018. However, at just 21, Brandon would take his own life. -ABC 15 Arizona (June 14, 2019)

Related Links:
Obituary: Brandon Patrick Caserta (June 25, 2018)
3rd Cowpens CO Fired Since 2010; CMC Relieved (2014)
Army Takes On Its Own Toxic Leaders (2014)
‘I now hate my ship’: Surveys reveal disastrous morale on cruiser Shiloh (2017)
Navy: Failures of Leaders, Watchstanders Led to Deadly Ship Collisions (2017)
Former MCPON Bawled Out Staff, Made Sailors Fetch Coffee: Investigation
His Suicide Note Was a Message to the Navy. The Way He Died Was the Exclamation Point
When Driven to Suicide, at a Minimum it is Manslaughter! – The Navy’s Incessant Harassment of Brandon Caserta Ultimately Drove Him to Suicide – People Were Promoted, Instead of Held Accountable
Suicides Are Still On The Rise In The Military — Is That Really a Surprise? Spoiler: The Answer Is ‘No.’
Peoria family hopes for change in military culture after son takes his own life
Family hopes for change in military culture after son takes his own life
Family hopes for change in military culture after son takes his own life
Peoria family hopes for change in military culture after son takes his own life (YouTube)
Army Staff Sgt. Paul Norris Fatally Shot Army Spc. Kamisha Block in Iraq After She Ended a Forbidden Relationship, Then Ended His Own Life (August 16, 2007)
Camp Lejeune Marine Maria Lauterbach & Unborn Child Murdered, Remains Discovered in Fellow Marine’s Backyard; Cesar Laurean Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole (December 15, 2007)
Military Rape Survivor Army Sgt. Amanda Sheldon Died by Suicide After Suffering With Depression; Family Hopes Her Death May Spark Change (October 7, 2010)
Lauterbach Case Prompts Policy Reforms for Victims of Crime in the Military (December 25, 2011)
Army Directive 2011-19: Expedited Transfer or Reassignment Procedures for Victims of Sexual Assault (3 Oct 11)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members (2016)
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (2017)
Are More Male’s Victims of Violent Crime in the United States Than Females? (2017)
September: U.S. Department of Defense Casualties Report from September 11, 2001 to Present (2017)
Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces, Transfer Policies Panel (2017)
48 Hours NCIS Premiered ‘Trail of Fire’ on CBS: Holley Wimunc, Domestic Violence, and the Holley Lynn James Act (June 26, 2018)
ProPublica: ‘Death and Valor on an American Warship Doomed by Its Own Navy’ (February 6, 2019)
Senate Armed Services Committee Members & House Armed Services Committee Members (June 21, 2019)
The Brandon Act | Justice for Brandon Caserta
Justice for Brandon Caserta | Facebook
Navy Failed Their Son | ABC 15 Arizona