I wanted to post this because I know this is going to keep me awake tonight.
Salon.com is currently running “Coming Home,” a weeklong investigative series on preventable deaths at Fort Carson, a U.S. Army post in Colorado, among troops who have returned from combat tours in Iraq. Salon national correspondent Mark Benjamin and Colorado-based journalist Michael de Yoanna reviewed more than two dozen incidents of suicide, suicide attempts, prescription drug overdoses and murder involving Fort Carson troops and examined 10 of those cases painstakingly.
The first story “The Death Dealers took my life!” is about Army Pvt. Adam Lieberman who tried to kill himself via prescription drug overdose at Fort Carson, Colorado.
“After swallowing the pills, he painted a suicide note on the wall of his barracks that read, “I FACED THE ENEMY AND LIVED! IT WAS THE DEATH DEALERS THAT TOOK MY LIFE!” Lieberman survived the attempt. Five days later, his mother, Heidi, arrived in Colorado and was told that her son would be charged with defacing government property for scrawling his suicide note on the barracks wall. Heidi Lieberman told her son’s commanding officer that she would repaint the wall herself to “make this stupidity go away.”
The next day Heidi called Adam’s company commander, Capt. Phelps.
“You know,” Heidi fired at Phelps, “I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that my son is being charged with defacing government property and you people are more concerned about your wall than my son,” she stammered. Then she threatened, half jokingly, “I will paint that wall and make this stupidity go away.”
A pause, and then Phelps snapped, “We’ll contact supply and have them bring you the matching paint.”
And so, the Army allowed a mother to paint over her son’s suicide note. Heidi’s handicapped sister helped.
“Nobody is willing to help anybody,” he [Adam] said about his experience at Fort Carson after returning from Iraq. “You have to understand. We are just pieces of equipment.”
The Army says it is working hard to erase the stigma of seeking mental healthcare. It isn’t working at Fort Carson. Adam says he was actively discouraged from looking for help.
“If you have a problem, you are going to be a problem,” he explained. “You don’t ask for help — ever. That is just the Army’s way. Always will be.”
A document obtained from another unit at Fort Carson supports Adam’s description of a culture that discourages “weakness.” Someone in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team prepared a mock official form called a “Hurt Feelings Report,” and left a stack of copies near a sheet where soldiers sign out to see a doctor. (View it here.)
Here is the photo of the room with Adam’s suicide note. Here is the photo of his mother painting over his suicide note on USG property.
Obviously there are folks in this story suffering from either dumb brain syndrome or heartgone paralysis. This is a terrible and painful story to read. How could a commanding officer react in such a callous way as if these people were objects in space? And to allow a mother to paint over her son’s suicide note as if the Army does not have enough staff to do this work is not only shameful but offensive.
And this buck stops where?
If you’re mad enough to call or write – below are a couple of useful info:
To contact Major General Mark Graham, Fort Carson Commanding General, use the Hotline: (719) 526-2677 (6-2677). To send an email click here, select Contact Us and use the Commander General Hotline option.
To contact the Office of the Secretary of Defense, use the following:
Dr. Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Pentagon Switchboard: 703-545-6700
Public Communication: 703-428-0711