Sunday, June 19, 2005

Suicides in the Ranks - Something is Seriously Wrong

Suicides in the Ranks—Something is Seriously Wrong in the Military
By: Jack Dalton

You’re a f…ing faggot conscientious objector” was what young Trent Helpkamps company 1st Sgt told him—publicly, again. This took place at the Separation Barracks at the Marine Corps base Camp Geiger next to Camp Lejeune, S.C. where Trent has been living for the past 10 months awaiting discharge…a discharge that still has not materialized! Less than a week after this confrontation with his 1st Sgt, Trent swallowed a handful of pills. After which Trent stated, “I just didn’t care if I ever woke up…” If this does not point to something seriously wrong in today’s military, I don’t know what does.

Trent’s story points out the absolute need to get military recruiters out of this nation’s high schools! And get them out we must! At least as they exist and currently operate on the grounds of high schools today.

How many more “suicides” by young people in the military is it going to take before this nation wakes up to what is happening to young people; to us a nation? We truly have become the monster we have always professed to be fighting.

“Is this what we have allowed this nation to become? Lives that are not our own, but the states to do with as it will when it will? That’s not an all volunteer military, that’s called forced indenture—once it was called slavery.”

Background on Trent

Trent was a 17 year old high school student when he “considered” taking the Marine Corps recruiters up on the Delayed Entry Program. Kids still in school like Trent with their parents consent “sign up” (parents have to sign the paperwork for anyone under 18) and as soon as they graduate, off to boot camp. Trent’s parents, initially, were not in agreement with his desire to sign up for the Delayed Entry Program and at first would not agree to sign the consent papers for him. Trent did what all kids do when they are told “no” by mom and dad—he dug his heels in and became more determined to get them to sign the consent papers.

From what Trent’s mom and dad have told me in our many conversations, Trent begged, pleaded, asked and kept on asking, typical of all kids who are determined and who have “made up” their minds on something. It took Trent a few weeks, but in the end his parents finally acquiesced and signed the consent forms. In June of 2004, Trent, having graduated high school that month, was off to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.

That Trent’s father is a career Naval Officer and Navy Diver, with 25 years active duty, more than likely had a sizeable influence on Trent and his wanting to be a Marine. His mother, Kathie believes so, and I pretty much agree with her on that point. Based on many conversations with Trent’s father, it is a safe assumption he thinks that also.

Trent’s father is a Navy diver and, as such, is pretty much separated from all the other facets of the military and its mission, whatever that may be at any given point in time. That’s the kind of military Trent grew up with and saw. A far cry from what he would be confronted with in boot camp. Trent, his father, and his mother have been going thru one big learning experience since Trent has declared himself, as a matter of conscience, a conscientious objector; which has not been easy or pleasant to say the least.

Trent graduated boot camp and went home for “leave” in September of last year. According to his parents, when Trent came home; “He was depressed and confused and was sent to see a military Chaplain and a mental health counselor at the Marine base close to our home. He knew he was now a part of something that would expect things from him that he couldn’t do.”

It was while he was home on leave that he first learned of “conscientious objectors” Up until that time Trent had no idea that someone in the military who became opposed to war could apply for status as a conscientious objector and possibly be discharged. The conviction that war, all war, was inherently wrong that had crystallized within him at the rifle range earlier now had a name—Trent declared himself a conscientious objector and requested status as such to his commanding officer when he returned to Camp Geiger from his leave.

Trent is now learning another lesson and this one is not pretty either. He is now learning that all Marines do not take care of each other; they do not all watch each others back; and they are not all supportive of their fellow Marines—especially when a Marine is directly and indirectly publicly insulted and humiliated by what is essentially “command and control” as is Trent after declaring himself a C.O. In fact he has been attacked by a “fellow” Marine once already and that required stitches. So much for Semper Fi—as a former Marine, and a combat Marine, that hurts to see and say. This new national policy of “perpetual war for perpetual peace” has more than just a little to do with men like Trent being treated in this manner.

One road block after another has been thrown in front of Trent after he declared and filed paperwork for status as a C.O. In fact, the investigating officer assigned to Trent’s case acted more like a prosecuting attorney rather than just follow the law and carry on an impartial investigation into the legitimacy of Trent’s application. During one session with the investigator, Trent was belittled and berated by this so-called “investigator who then proceeded to tell Trent that he “found his letters of support annoying.” These were letters from active duty military, some of which held very high positions of authority within the military. But, the investigator found them “annoying.” Give me a break! That’s not an investigating officer; that is someone bound and determined to find any reason at all to deny Trent’s application. The Marine Corps hates to lose. And if it were to approve Trent’s application, the Marine Corps would view that as them losing and that it cannot allow.

The “interviewer” came at Trent as if he were a criminal. There was no impartiality whatsoever; he came into the interview attempting to bait Trent and proceeded to treat him with little to no respect or dignity. But, then that is the Marine Corps way when one stands like a man of conscience as is young Trent Helmkamp. One Major in Trent’s command even went so far as to tell Trent if he went UA (unauthorized absence) or did anything wrong that they would keep him there forever. While another one suggested Trent go UA and that way he could get out with other than an honorable discharge, but at least he would be out, as it was stated. Now you tell me, how nuts is that?

There is so very, very much more to this, but that is for another essay. Trent’s father wrote a letter to Senator Warner and it is a must read. In it he confronted the entire issue of conscientious objector status in a way I have never seen anyone else ever do, and I strongly urge all to read it. You will be able to better understand the entire process and how it is geared to deny and not help. In his letter, Trent’s father made some rather profound observations about the entire process and what his son has been subjected to.

A Marine LT. at Camp Lejeune (Lejeune and Camp Geiger are right next to each other)—on condition of anonymity--told Trent’s parents not long ago, “By letting your son go, they, the Marines, will feel like they have lost, and the Marines are trained to always win.” And in this instance they want to win even at the expense of what is right and at Trent’s expense, as it is his life they are attempting to turn upside down and to a large degree already have. In the meantime Trent, who is at the same base as was Jason Pirro, the young man the Marine Corps is trying to say killed himself, is going thru essentially the same type of brutality and harassment as did Jason Pirro—you take it from there. I only know this; I am more than just a little concerned for his safety, health and well being.

Devolved into a Militarized Nation that now Eats its Own

There is a “train wreck” I see coming, and it is the one that has been created by this current administration and the entire concept of “perpetual war for perpetual peace;” or as those who occupy this nation’s seat of power like to put it, “preventive wars.” How do you prevent war by going to war as the aggressor?

This nation incarcerates more of its own citizens than does any nation on earth. We have many in prison for murder, and for those who are in fact guilty, that’s where they belong. At the same time, when a young man such as Trent stands up and states that he cannot train to kill, he will not train to kill, nor will he ever kill another human being, he is threatened with prison for not wanting to kill! Right now today, we have people in prison who have been convicted of murder and in the cell next to them, are people in prison due to the fact they said no to killing as has Trent. Is this not insane?

And I will not accept as some have tried to tell me, “That’s different. They are in the military and the military’s job is to kill.” Hogwash! In general it takes a lot to train people to get over their natural aversion to taking a life. The military trains and indoctrinates young men into a culture of “killing” and then sends them off to war where killing is the order of the day and too often a matter of personal survival. Then they come home, all twisted by war where you learn to act and react instantly to “adverse” situations and that same type of reaction stays with them.

The next thing you hear, is another combat vet has killed his family (it happened a couple of years ago at Ft Brag) or his girlfriend while in a rage (a man was just sentenced for 2nd degree murder here in Oregon recently—he had just recently come back from Iraq) and they all end up where—in prison. And those two are far from singular events! Go to prison for killing—go to prison for not killing.

At one time in this nation individuals had the right to choose how to live their own lives; what they would do; where they would work; what kind of work they would do; at least until now. If, when after starting a “job” the individual decided, nope, this is not for me, they could quit and move on from there. Now we are in a situation where a person that goes into the military full of John Wayne movies; highly trained military recruiters who know how to get inside a kids head; and computer generated war games, gets confronted with the reality of the military and its mission and says, “nope, I cannot do this,” and then is criminalized for not wanting to kill or even learn how to kill.

Is this what we have allowed this nation to become? Lives that are not our own, but the states to do with as it will when it will? That’s not an all volunteer military, that’s called forced indenture—once it was called slavery.”

Now we are facing the very real possibility of more wars other than the two currently going on in Iraq and Afghanistan—Iran and Syria: Hi Ho Hi Ho, It’s Off to War We Go has to quickly become the mantra for this country since Bush and company have gained the seat of power—this must not be allowed to continue or many more lives will be destroyed--if not by participation in war, then by the U.S. military that will eat it’s own if they choose, as has young Trent Helmkamp, to say no, “I will not train to kill nor will I participate in killing”, period, end of story!

Trent’s current situation and status and the Marines Separation Barracks

Right now Trent is doing alright. At least he was per the phone conversation he and I had last night. He is still quite shaken but at least now the Marine Corps has him seeing a Doctor. It is the Doctor Trent is now seeing who has not only recommended an immediate discharge for Trent, but has stated he will fight on behalf of Trent, as he sees clearly what the Marine Corps has done to Trent, and the extreme negative reaction by Trent to the treatment he has received at the Separation Barracks.

Not only has Trent been victimized by the Marine Corps at the Separation Barracks, there have been and still are many others being treated in the very same manner as what Trent has been subjected too.

Last year, young Jason Pirro supposedly hanged himself at least that is the “Official” report from the Marine Corps. The biggest problem with that is simply this: less than one hour before Jason was found hanged in a bathroom stall he had breakfast with his friends in the mess hall; all of whom have stated essentially the following: “Jason was in very high spirits as he was getting discharge in a couple of days. He would be home when his wife had their second child…he was elated at going home finally.” Less than an hour later Jason was found hanged and the Marine Corps wrote off his death as a “suicide.” The Marine Corps completely ignored the fact that for months while awaiting his “discharge” Jason had been subject to a string of brutal hazing at the base. Myself, after many discussion with Jason’s mom, and reading many reports and statements, firmly believe that Jason Priors’ death was the result of a hazing that went terribly wrong and the Marine Corps has covered that up!

Not long ago, at the very same base, another young man was chalked up as a suicide—he was found face down in a creek in 4 inches of water. Excuse me! Committed suicide by lying down in a 4 inch deep creek? Give me a break! What in the hell is going on there?

According to what Trent has told me on several occasions; according to what Trent’s mother, Kathie, has told me over a period of many months, there have been many in the Separation Barracks that have attempted suicide; while many others have gone AWOL so they could get sent to the brig. It seems life in the brig is better than life in the Separation Barracks. There is something terribly wrong when people choose to go to jail because life is better in jail than out of jail.

Massive and continuous “corporal punishment” from what I have been told is a daily event at the Separation Barracks at Camp Geiger/Camp Lejuene, S.C. The level of fear these young people are forced to endure there is driving some of them to do as Trent attempted to do, just end it all—driven to helplessness and hopelessness by the very military they are in. They live with the daily fear of reprisals, corporal punishment, humiliation, physical hazing (Trent has had stitches put in his face once already behind a fight over this), threats and intimidation.

If this does not point out the absolute necessity of getting military recruiters out of this nation schools I don’t know what does!

Letter from Trent’s Mother /trent.htm

Letter to Senator Warner from Trent’s Father /trent_002.htm

Rebuttal to Investigating Officers Report /trent_001.htm


Blogger Denise Osbun said...

As Jason Pirro's Aunt and Godmother, I want to Thank you Jack for bringing Jason's story to light. We are waiting for the records to get released to his Mom and then we will begin our quest for justice. My sister Vicki has endured the worse loss a parent can endure, but what makes it worse is that it was at the hands of our military. We have quite a few people on our side who will help us in our fight.
Nothing can ever bring Jason back, but we can do 2 things: First we can get justice for Jason and Second we can make the public aware of these deaths at Camp Lejeune and hopefully it can save the life of someone else's child.
Jason's death has changed our lives forever, but as we see how brutal the military can be in their physical, mental and verbal abuse, not to mention unexplained deaths, it has opened our eyes that everyone needs to get involved to save these children's lives. On home soil, in an American base: you don't have to go to war, you can find death right on our military bases

Mon Jun 20, 01:33:00 AM  
Blogger Edward said...

Until we have a greater sense of shared sacrifice in this country, these types of horrible atrocities will continue within the ranks of our military. Being in a quasi-military occupation myself, I can tell you that most leaders expect cookie cutter allegience to whatever mindless mission-of-the-day mentality they present. Those who speak out or stand out are labled as malcontents and are quick to feel the wrath. It's much like the way the general population is being conditioned. Fall in line or be labled un-American. Our values are twisted by leaders who misrepresent right from wrong. True evil doesn't look that way, it takes on a form that is easily digested by idiots and fools. Military honor and moral values mean nothing when the leaders condone acts of reprehensible violence against their own. I have had the misfortune of seeing this type of negative justice up close. I can sadly report that until the whole nation feels the pain and hardship that is endured by our people in uniform, they'll just continue to shrug their shoulders while thinking that they "support the troops" with bulls**t yellow ribbons on the back of their SUV's. It's sad and I pray for things to change. If Bush's plan of perpetual war are realized, they will change. But not in a good way.

Mon Jun 20, 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger Denise Osbun said...

I just read your email about Trent getting discharged. Today I am going to celebrate. Both myself and my sister Vicki have had numerous conversations with Kathie (Trent's Mom) and our main concerns were for Trent to be okay at the base and for Trent to come home to his family-not in a box. I always has this positive outlook that Trent would come home alive and we Thank God for that. But there are many more young people like Trent stuck down there and stuck with the abuse so we need to continue to help them and get them home safe. We don't want other families to lose their loved ones the way that we lost my nephew Jason Pirro.

Thu Jul 07, 01:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not just say he's gay? Wouldn't that get him out in a homophobes heartbeat???

Thu Aug 04, 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Denise Osbun said...

It appears that no matter what reason you state, they drag out the process of discharging people. So regardless of the reason, they don't let you go fast.
And during the time that you are waiting,(which could be months or years,that's when others decide to do whatever they want to verbally, mentally or physically assault you.

Thu Aug 18, 03:21:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home