BUT WHERE WAS SHE LAST YEAR?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 18, 2017) — On Tuesday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) demanded answers while delivering a harsh soliloquy to Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller regarding a scandal recently brought to light involving the posting of female Marines on a Facebook page.
Referencing a 2013 letter written by Rep. Jackie Speier to two military commanders regarding reports of sexual harassment, Gillibrand confronted Neller with accompanying evidence that the problem has been ongoing since at least that time.
“I can tell you your answers today are unsatisfactory,” Gillibrand admonished Neller in a C-Span video clip which does not show the “answer” Neller might have provided her previously.
Gillibrand has been a vocal critic of sexual assault and harassment in the military and in 2013 introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) to change the way in which cases are evaluated and adjudicated.
At the time of this writing, all of the previous links to Gillibrand’s proposed legislation, including an editorial she wrote, appear to be broken. A screenshot from her website announcement is here with a May 2016 update provided here.
After Gillibrand finished her four-minute statement, given without pause, Neller responded with, “We gotta change, and that’s on me.”
Last June, The Post & Email learned of a U.S. Army soldier who reported a 2013 sexual assault, additional physical abuse, robbery, attempted murder, and identity theft to his chain of command, after which no investigation took place by either military or civilian authorities. Because the soldier’s recent divorce had taken place through the New York courts, he had ties to the state and contacted Gillibrand for assistance.
In a June 7, 2016 letter, the soldier detailed his ordeal and alleged that his Walter Reed medical providers “refused to document my rape and attempted murder in my medical records…File an IG regarding my rape…Release my full medical records including Behavior Health to my POA,” among other deficiencies.
“As a victim, I have to live the rest of my life thinking about what happened to me and the military career that I love so much is going to end through no fault of my own,” he wrote.
While Gillibrand referred the soldier’s claims to the Army and requested an investigation and report, to the family’s knowledge, none was ever produced to her, and she appears to have failed to pursue the matter.
The soldier’s family believes that he was assaulted in order to force him into silence over behavior he claimed to have witnessed while stationed in South Korea in 2012 involving Army officers, their wives, his own wife, and a unit chaplain. After the soldier reported it to his chain of command, he was returned to the U.S., stationed at Ft. Lee, VA, deemed “delusional,” and scheduled for a “medical board” with the goal of discharging him as unfit.
On April 29, 2013, the soldier was attacked while off-base, incurring a traumatic brain injury from being thrust into moving traffic by the four attackers.
The Army has characterized the incident as a suicide attempt, a claim he and his family strongly dispute.
After the soldier’s power of attorney wrote to then-President Barack Obama and requested a presidential inquiry into the lack of investigation and the holding of the soldier at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) for more than three years, Col. Matthew Boyle responded in writing that an investigator from the Petersburg, VA Bureau of Police would contact him for an interview after he returned from leave in early July of last year.
However, no one contacted or interviewed him about the events that day.
Multiple spokesmen from the military declined comment to The Post & Email as we followed developments in the soldier’s story.
Also on June 7, 2016, the soldier gave a video deposition to the Army Criminal Investigative Service (CID) as to his allegations of assault, robbery and attempted murder. Surprisingly, the Army declared it “out of their jurisdiction” because he was assaulted off-base. However, the family’s spiritual adviser, also an Army veteran who experienced racial harassment while serving, told The Post & Email that the military has a responsibility to investigate any crime committed against an active-duty service member regardless of where it takes place.
Oddly, Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) declined to show evidence of its alleged “thorough investigation” of the soldier’s claim of identity theft and $13,000 in loans taken by unnamed individuals who forged his signature.
Four days before the assault, JAG Capt. Edwin Caban Jr. wrote an article about how military members can protect themselves from identity theft and available resources if they became victims.
At the end of last year, the NFCU was forced to admit that the soldier’s account was compromised and tens of thousands of dollars stolen electronically over the preceding two months while the soldier was hospitalized against his will on 7 West at Walter Reed. The POA told The Post & Email that the soldier related having been escorted to an NFCU office within the hospital by Sgt. Anthony Hill on or about November 11 to obtain a new debit card which neither he nor the POA ever requested.
Since last summer, the soldier’s family has been cyber-stalked, culminating in potentially tens of thousands of dollars’-worth of damages in disabled equipment and time lost from gainful employment. The POA also reported extensive surveillance by people in SUVs with darkly-tinted windows parked outside of her home for months and strange phone calls from unrecognizable numbers.
According to the family, the soldier never received support services for the sexual assault, nor was it ever noted in his medical file to their knowledge. Moreover, they report that further wrongdoing may have occurred while the soldier was stationed at Walter Reed to ostensibly receive treatment for his traumatic brain injury.
Finally, in mid-December, the soldier was notified that a long-awaited discharge plan was in place with a discharge date set for January 3, 2017. He was transferred to a Veterans Administration hospital close to home and signed discharge papers shortly thereafter. Although the Army had maintained that the soldier was “delusional,” “schozophrenic” and “bipolar,” it dealt with him directly regarding his discharge without a representative present.
On August 16, The Post & Email wrote Gillibrand a letter attempting to follow up on her inquiry of the Army on the soldier’s behalf to which we received no response.