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’ (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 (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 (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 (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)

Senator Patty Murray Calls for Changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Wake of Suicides (May 1, 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

Simple Kindness: Easy Ways to Repay Our Veterans for Their Service (July 31, 2019)

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(Image courtesy of Pexels)

Guest post by Kelli Brewer, DeployCare.org

Simple Kindness: Easy Ways to Repay Our Veterans for Their Service 

It can be very difficult for the average American, especially those with no military experience, to appreciate the mental, physical, and financial impact that years of military service can have. The situation comes into focus when you consider that there are more than 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with more than 800,000 in the country’s reserve forces.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, family problems, and lack of employment opportunities can place a huge obstacle in the way of returning service members who just want things to return to normal. Unfortunately, it’s often not that easy, especially for those who return with debilitating injuries. If you’re looking for a way to help out, here are a few ideas.

Say ‘Thank You’

The Vietnam War experience taught Americans that returning service members can be seriously affected by the nature of their return. If it’s critical or indifferent, veterans may feel unsupported and unappreciated. And while today’s military personnel typically don’t face the kind of harsh criticism that confronted Vietnam-era servicemen and servicewomen, they can still be powerfully impacted by a lack of support and understanding. If you want to help a veteran, acknowledge their service by shaking their hand or offering a sincere “Thank you.”

The Health Care They Need

Veterans, particularly seniors, need to understand how their health insurance works. For those enrolled in Medicare Part A or B, there are several out-of-pocket costs, and to complicate matters further, plans often change from year to year. Fortunately, you can enroll in a Medigap plan, which may provide more of the benefits you need. For example, Plan F covers the deductible that comes with Medicare Part B, though certain changes to this particular benefit will go into effect beginning in 2020. Knowing your coverage and understanding how Medicare functions is essential for getting the most out of your coverage.

Help Veterans Reintegrate Socially

A soldier who returns home without a job or without access to social services may feel lost and alone. Consider organizing an event for returning service members, perhaps schedule an evening at the movies, an informal dinner setting, or get together every week at a nearby coffee shop. Make it a venue where everyone can talk about their experiences, hopes, and frustrations.

If you have a relationship with a veteran, offer to help out in specific ways. For example, if your friend has trouble scheduling a medical or therapy appointment, reach out by offering to babysit or offer to give them a ride if they lack transportation. There are many ways to volunteer, just by making efforts of simple goodwill.

Finding Work

Veterans often find that the skills they learned in the military don’t translate well into steady employment once they’re discharged. That can be especially true of veterans who lack a degree or some form of higher education. If you’re a business owner or have access to human resources personnel at work, why not put in a good word for a veteran who’s having trouble latching on somewhere? Your company will earn tax credits for hiring veterans. Sometimes, a foot in the door is all a veteran needs to impress a prospective employer.

Be a Willing Listener

You don’t have to be close friends with a service member who just needs a sympathetic ear. Give a veteran an opportunity to share their experiences. You really don’t need to say much, just be present in the moment and listen without judging or criticizing. It’s a simple but important gesture because many have no one to talk to, no outlet for their frustrations and anxieties.

Simple gestures are sometimes the best way to help veterans, service members, and their families. Be willing to provide the kind of support and assistance you’d offer to anyone. It’ll make you feel great and it’s a great way to thank our military heroes for their service. 

A Month in Review: In the News on Military Justice for All (June 2018)

June 2018

Missing:
Disappeared: Stacy McCall, Suzie Streeter, and Sherrill Levitt are ‘The Springfield Three’ who Vanished from Levitt’s Missouri Home on June 7, 1992
Friends, family of missing UMass nursing student Maura Murray hope funds will lead to answers

Cold Cases:
Family wants justice for Army vet found shot to death in driveway
Authorities Have Cracked a Bizarre Cold Case That Could Have Ties to the Zodiac Killer
48 Hours Premiered ’48 Hours Cold Case: Who Killed Amy Gellert?’ on CBS (June 17, 2017)

Fugitives:
Reward Offered for Armed & Dangerous Fugitive: Army Recruiter John Blauvelt Wanted for Allegedly Murdering Estranged Wife in South Carolina (2017)

Continue reading

A Month in Review: In the News on Military Justice for All (December 2017)

January 2018 copy

Missing:
Conversation with Fred Murray – Part 1
Marine recruiting office closed, sealed amid search for missing recruit
Robert Lee Boddie, Sr. | Fox 5 Atlanta
Special agent’s disappearance doesn’t make sense
Disappeared: Disabled Army Veteran Joseph Weber IV Missing Since 11/24/14

Cold Cases:
10 Unsolved Military Cases
Cold Case: SSG Anton Phillips, US Army, Found Stabbed to Death at FOB Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan; CID Offering $25,000 Reward for Information (2009)
Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Pvt. Justin Lewis Shot & Killed Near Vacant Lot in Neighborhood in Killeen, Texas (2017)

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ACTIVE DUTY

Stateside Deaths:
Fort Riley NCO Kevin Johnson found dead at his home
Authorities investigate after airman found dead at Altus Air Force Base
Mountain Home Air Force Base identifies Airman found dead
Air Force investigating death of airman found in dorm
Heslam: Christmas event held in honor of ‘role model’ fallen soldier
Soldier home for holidays died saving lives in Bronx inferno
Army National Guardsman rescued others before dying in NYC fire

Overseas Deaths:
I Am Nathan
DoD Identifies Army Casualty: David Brabander, 24
DoD Identifies Army Casualty: Avadon Chaves, 20
Report: American Soldier Found Dead In Niger Fought To The Death, Was Never Captured
‘This is not closure’: Navy families want answers on McCain, Fitzgerald deaths
Why is the DOD Obscuring the Cause of Death of Thomas J. Boyle, Jr.?
Fort Bliss Soldier Dies in Non-Combat Incident in Iraq
Turlock soldier dies in Iraq
DoD Identifies Soldier Killed In Iraq
Troops Who Died Defending our Freedom (2017)

Homicide Cases:
Couple killed in murder-suicide identified
Marine found not guilty in teen’s death
Man charged in 2004 murder of Army captain
Sailor From USS Nimitz Involved in Apparent Murder-Suicide
Raleigh police investigate the shooting death of local soldier
Soldier’s death in Killeen weighs heavy on friend 8 months later
Police arrest second suspect in Tacoma WA. killing of Westchester soldier Da’Quan Foster
Savannah man indicted for murder in 2004 soldier’s slaying
Husband confesses to hiding wife’s body in drum of acid
Timberville Man Pleads to Missing Woman’s Death
After 15 years, father finds peace in knowing truth about his murdered daughter
Camp Pendleton Marine killed in off-base fight

Sex Crimes Cases:
Military Court Case Uncovers Marine Sex Escapades At Air Station Miramar
Airman sentenced for on-base Christmas party sex crime involving subordinate
Sexual Assault in Military Isn’t Going Away as a Problem
Alaska Supreme Court: State wrong to deny records request

Other Crime Cases:
Sarah Palin’s Son Track Charged with Beating his Father, Called Cops “Peasants”
Ex-Marine recruit accused of planning Christmas attack was inspired by ISIS, FBI says
New York man accused of fabricating decorated Green Beret military career
SF Terror Plot Suspect Served at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton: Records
3 Army Vets Set Free After 25 Years In Prison For Crime They Say They Didn’t Commit
Burglary suspects caught stealing from father of fallen veteran
Sarah Palin’s Son, Track, Arrested on Domestic Violence Charges Again

Military Explosives:

Wrongly Convicted:
Former Soldiers Get Bail in Murder Case After 25 Years in Prison
3 Army Vets Set Free After 25 Years In Prison For Crime They Say They Didn’t Commit

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NATIONAL GUARD

Administrative:
National Guardsmen awaiting pay months after hurricanes

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VETERANS

Deaths:

Homicide Cases:
Double homicide tops 2017 crime stories
The Stacks: The Searing Story of How Murder Stalked a Tiny New York Town
Man Charged in Killings of 2 Girls Is Found Hanged in Cell
Suspected Remains of Army Captain and Her Dog Found in Shallow Grave Following Her Ex’s Arrest
Missing army vet found dead in shallow grave next to her dog
Army veteran charged with killing man over drugs near Baldwin Park
Madera police ask Christmas Day murder suspect to turn himself in, seek public’s help
Police say suspect who killed man on Christmas day is armed and dangerous
Suspected of Christmas Day murder, he was caught by police at a veterans hospital

Veterans Affairs Issues:
“Operation Deep Dive” to Examine Veteran Suicide Causes and Factors
V.A. Issues New Medical Marijuana Policy For Military Veterans
VA knowingly hired doctors with past malpractice claims, discipline for poor care
White House VA Hotline Now Fully Staffed and Operational Around the Clock to Serve Nation’s Veterans
Agency adds new positions to help Maine veterans transition from jail
Congress approves emergency funding for VA Choice, prevents delays of veterans’ care
79-year-old veteran who lived in the NJ woods for a decade has come home
VA Doctors Are Now Cleared To Talk About Medical Marijuana With Patients
Trump Signs Bill Opening VA To More Investigations
There’s something missing from research on veteran suicides
Buchanan Backs Bill to Study Painkillers’ Roll in Vet Suicides
Veteran still fighting…for medical care for those who served
Trying To Upgrade Your Discharge? The VA Has An App For That Now
Having Trouble With The VA? You Might Consider Calling Congress
Man threatening to jump from Vincent Thomas Bridge finally comes down
Veteran’s Stolen Dog Located On Christmas Eve
Utah couple’s relentless pursuit to end veteran suicide: ‘If it’s not us — then who?’
Volusia man arrested, accused of running fake veterans charity, authorities say
Woman wants service error on father’s gravestone fixed
Fort Gibson Veteran’s Service Dog Denied Access On Plane
VA Harassment Victims Share Their Stories

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Mental Health:
5 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Anxiety
Is More CBD Better? The Science Behind CBD Dosing for Anxiety and Other Conditions
Why Don’t We See Men’s Pain? | Tom Golden #RPRF
10 Symptoms of PTSD Everyone Should Know
Army Reserve unit reaffirms values through speaker’s story
Depression among veterans can escalate during holiday season
‘It’s hard having someone deployed’ at Christmas
The day I rescued my human from herself
New in 2018: New mental health programs seek to ease strain on airmen, families
Some survivors are offered help, some deal alone with pain of military suicide

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MILITARY JUSTICE REFORM

Felony Crime:
Killeen Calling in Feds to Combat Crime
Air Force Academy unveils plan to rebuild scandal-ridden sexual assault office
She was late just once to her job at Hill Air Force Base. So when the 75-year-old didn’t show up last week, her co-workers began to worry.
Shuttle bus driver charged with killing colleague at former Walter Reed says he was defending himself

International Incidents:
Okinawa assault victim’s family sues former Marines convicted in 2008 attack
Marine Corps Blames Human Error For Helicopter Window That Fell Near Crowded Elementary School
Okinawa governor wants all US aircraft grounded after window fell near schoolchildren
British police confirm incident at RAF Mildenhall not terrorist-related; lockdown lifted
Shots fired in ‘disturbance’ at UK base used by US Air Force
South Koreans complain about stray rounds, noise from live-fire range

Accountability:
FBI investigates after 70-year-old widow duped out of $225K
Army general’s promotion pulled after calling congressional staffer ‘sweetheart’
Naval Officer Who Lost Job Over Anti-War Sentiments, Hate Group Activity Reinstated
Marine Three-Star Admonished in Fallout from Colonel’s Child-Abuse Case
Federal judge to rule on admissibility of statements in Fort Gordon bid-rigging conspiracy
Ex-Marine commandant guilty of unlawful command influence in infamous urine desecration case

Other Injustices:
How Peter Mims spent a week hiding in a warship’s engine room
Deported ex-Marine wins case to return to US from Mexico
Marines Crack Down On ‘Cruel, Abusive’ Hazing At Camp Pendleton
Transgender troops can enlist, over Trump’s demand for a ban
Mold at Al Udeid Air Base Was Preventable: IG Report
Green card holders can join the Army Reserve again — after a wait

Military Policy:
#AlToo?
Investigations
#MeToo run amok
I Didn’t Know | Angry Staff Officer
I, Too, Am Thinking About Me, Too
Meet the Women Worried About #MeToo
Senator Al Franken’s Resignation
Franken Urged to Reverse his Resignation
Prominent lawyer sought donor cash for two Trump accusers
House member offices paid $342k in settlements over 4 years
Drawing a Line on Sexual Harassment
Cities Sue DoD over Gun-Check System Failures
Cities sue Defense Dept. over gun-check system failures
The Air Force Is Terrible At Reporting Its Criminals. The Other Branches Are Even Worse
U.S. Air Force unveils criminal reporting reforms in wake of Texas shooting
Unwinding bureaucracy: Start of 2018 to see major Pentagon reform
FULL LIST: Democratic Lawmakers Call for Al Franken to Resign
Trent Franks: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
Convicted Man Asks For Court-Ordered Marine Service
Dear #MeToo, I’d like to introduce you to #MikePenceRules
Rolling Stone Settles Last Remaining Lawsuit Over UVA Rape Story
Lawsuit: Oberlin College sexual assault hearing process rigged, 100% conviction rate
Criminologist and FBI to Journalists: Stop Naming Mass Murderers
IG: Mishandling of sexual harassment complaints at Justice Department a ‘systemic’ problem
The US Military Has Always Been A Social Experiment
New in 2018: Services to focus on excess training, education requirements
Pentagon Leaders Looking to Make a Culture Shift Within the Military
Fifth of Fort Hood soldiers begin new year overseas
In 2018, Let’s Fight for Due Process
Propensity Evidence on Appeal

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MILITARY JUSTICE FOR ALL:

Publications:
Military Rape Documentary Funded and Distributed by Serial Predator and Hollywood Movie Executive Harvey Weinstein
Washington DC Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of the Armed Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (2017)
Dishonorably Discharged Army Veteran Robert Cox is a Person of Interest in the Disappearance of ‘The Springfield Three’ (June 7, 1992)
Keana Barnes Shot & Killed Air Force Sgt. Perry ‘P.J.’ Jennings in Louisiana; Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison for 2 Homicides (2003)
Iraq Army Veteran Jonathan ‘Mike’ Gilotti Gunned Down in Front of Home in Alabama; 4 Individuals Charged with Murder, 1 Found Not Guilty (2016)
Fort Hood Army Spc. Zachary Moore Found Unresponsive in Barracks on Deployment to Camp Hovey, South Korea; CID Ruled Suicide (2017)
Fort Hood Army MSG Alva ‘Joe’ Gwinn Lead Police on High Speed Car Chase After Wellness Check Initiated; Died of Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound (2017)

On This Day:
Navy Wife Dina Kichler Raped & Murdered in Mayport, Florida by John Brewer Shortly After her Husband Deployed for Six Months on USS Forestall (December 3, 1990)
US Marine Lindell Mitchell Murdered in Home on Christmas Day; Kimberly Andrews Sentenced to 26 Years to Life in Prison (December 25, 1991)
Adrianne Jones Murdered by Air Force Academy Cadet David Graham and Naval Academy Cadet Diane Zamora; Motive Was Jealousy (December 4, 1995)
Leeds, England Police Officer Ian Broadhurst Gunned Down by Dishonorably Discharged Marine and Fugitive David Bieber During Routine Traffic Stop (December 26, 2003)
Navy Vet Peggy Thomas & Jim Huden Murdered Russel Douglas of Washington; Both Convicted, Huden Sentenced to 80 Years & Thomas Got 4 Years in Prison (December 26, 2003)
Former Air Force Reservist Michelle Theer Convicted of First Degree Murder of Husband Marty Theer for the Insurance Policy; Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole (December 3, 2004)
Navy Reservist Paul Berkley Murdered by Wife Monique in North Carolina while Home on Leave from Middle East, SGLI was the Motive (December 18, 2005)
Sandra Grant, 23, US Navy, Died of Natural Causes While Aboard the USS Eisenhower in Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (December 31, 2006)
Marine LCpl Maria Lauterbach and Unborn Child were Murdered; Fellow Marine Cesar Laurean Found Guilty of First Degree Murder, Sentenced to Life in Prison (December 15, 2007)
SSG Anton Phillips, US Army, Found Stabbed to Death at FOB Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan; CID Offering $25,000 Reward for Information (December 31, 2009)
Navy Lt CDR Fred Trayers Stabbed to Death in California by Wife Jennifer Who was Angered by Infidelity with Fellow Navy Doctor (December 4, 2010)
Vietnam Veteran Francis Patrick Fleming, US Navy, Targeted & Stabbed to Death By Brenda Nicholas & Charles Jungbluth for $60,000 Coin Collection (December 8, 2011)
Spc Mikayla Bragg Died of a Non Combat Death in Afghanistan, Army Ruled Suicide & Report Calls for Continuity of Healthcare in Deployed Locations (December 21, 2011)
Fort Hood Army Soldier Michael Bailey II Allegedly Committed Suicide, Family Petitions Military and Killeen PD to Investigate Death as Murder (December 29, 2011)
Air Force Captain William DuBois Died When F-16 Aircraft Crashed in Jordan; USAF Accident Investigation Board Ruled Rapid Descent Caused Crash (December 1, 2014)
Wrongful Conviction: Fort Hood Army Soldier Thomas Chestnut’s Guilty Verdict was Overturned by the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals (December 14, 2016)
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)
Army Veteran Fernando Duarte Fatally Shot in Florida Casino Parking Lot, Prosecutors Drop Murder Charges Against Two Men who Proved Self Defense (December 25, 2016)

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Featured in Television Episode, Movie, Documentary, Theatre:
Sneak peek: Murder by Design | 48 Hours
The Final Fall – Part 1 | Village of the Damned (Investigation Discovery)
Murder and dismemberment of cheerleaders Jennifer Bolduc and Sarah Hajney on Village of the Damned
Leading True-Crime Network Investigation Discovery Lifts The Veil On Mysterious Tragedies In A Small Town, ‘Village Of The Damned’
5 Things to Know About the Jeffrey MacDonald Case | Investigation Discovery
Final Vision | Investigation Discovery (Jeffrey MacDonald, US Army)
Duty, Honor And Murder | Diane Zamora Case | Crime Documentary
Nat Geo’s Iraq War Series: Gritty, Authentic, And Army-Approved
Body of War Documentary | The Real News
Filmmakers Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro Premiere the ‘Body of War’ Documentary Featuring Anti-War Activist & Disabled Army Vet Tomas Young (2007)
The Perfect Suspect (Investigation Discovery | GI Gone: Lisa Gaudenzi, US Army (1)
The Perfect Suspect (Investigation Discovery | GI Gone: Lisa Gaudenzi, US Army (2)
The 15:17 to Paris | Clint Eastwood (1)
The 15:17 to Paris | Clint Eastwood (2)

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MISCELLANEOUS:
The Top 10 Military Stories of 2017
We Asked You For The Biggest Military Stories Of 2017. Here Are The Top 21
Soldiers Honored for Saving Lives After Afghan Suicide Bombing
Veteran Helps Bring Ex-Iraq Military Interpreter, Family to US
2 Fort Carson brigades tapped for Afghanistan deployment
They went to lunch at the Ki-Be market and ended up foiling a murder plot
Jesse Ventura Takes His Last Shots At ‘American Liar’ Chris Kyle As He Drops Lawsuit
JBLM soldier jumped from pickup truck to help rescue passengers in train crash
Iraq War Veteran Reveals ‘Hostage’-Like Sexual Relationship With Disgraced NBC Host Matt Lauer
Ohio teens charged with murder after sandbag thrown from bridge hits car, kills passenger

Related Links:
A Month in Review: In the News on Military Justice for All (November 2017)
A Month in Review: In the News on Military Justice for All (December 2017)
A Month in Review: In the News on Military Justice for All (January 2018)
A Month in Review: In the News on Military Justice for All (February 2018)
A Month in Review: In the News on Military Justice for All (March 2018)

Army Veteran Shawn Bryce McVea Died by Suicide; Death Prompts Mom to Educate Others of Warning Signs After Deployment (September 4, 2017)

Shawn Bryce McVea KING 5

Shawn Bryce McVea, U.S. Army Veteran (Photo: Screenshot KING 5)

Suicide prompts mother to warn others. -KING 5 (November 29, 2018)

A military mom is trying to make a difference after her son killed himself after returning from deployment in Iraq. -KING 5 (November 29, 2018)

Related Links:
Shawn Bryce McVea | Find A Grave
Suicide prompts mother to warn others
Extended: Veteran’s suicide prompts mother to warn others
Veteran’s suicide prompts seminar for deploying JBLM airmen
Veteran’s Suicide Prompts Seminar for Deploying JBLM Airmen 2
Channeling grief into resiliency | The United States Army
Timeline of Veteran Suicides, Legislative Efforts, and Nationwide Negligence at the Department of Veterans Affairs

A 2011 Documentary Gives You an Inside Look at Toxic Leadership in the US Army: On the Dark Side in Al Doura, Iraq


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)

Disappeared: Disabled Army Veteran Joseph Weber IV Missing from San Francisco, California Since November 24, 2014

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Joseph Weber IV, US Army Veteran (photo credit: Missing Veterans)

Disabled Army veteran Joseph Weber IV, 28, disappeared near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California on November 24, 2014. Joseph is an Iraq war veteran who struggled with both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). If you have any information, please contact the Sunnyvale Police Department at (408) 730-7100.

Related Links:
Find Joseph Weber
Find Joseph Weber on Facebook
Missing Veterans: Joseph Weber
The Charley Project: Joseph Weber IV
Joseph Weber missing Army veteran from California
Iraq War veteran disappeared near Golden Gate Bridge
Sunnyvale: Veteran killed in officer shooting, but not missing vet with same name


Joesph Weber an Iraqi combat veteran walks on to the Golden Gate bridge and disappears. -Missing and Tattooed