Family Sues USMC for $100M


By Debbie Gregory.

The family of 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui, a Muslim Marine recruit who died after being slapped by drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, is pushing to move forward with their $100 million lawsuit against the federal government.

Siddiqui’s death was ruled a suicide by a local coroner, which is disputed by his family.

The courts have consistently held that all claims relating to injuries to active-duty military personnel are not actionable in civil courts based on a longstanding legal doctrine that the government cannot be sued for injuries or deaths involving active-duty military personnel that occurred in the course of their service.

Shiraz Khan, the Siddiqui family attorney argues that Siddiqui should not be considered active-duty military because he hadn’t yet completed boot camp, and the hazing and abuse that led to his death because of his Muslim faith began during the recruitment phase.

Allegations of abuse involving other Muslim recruits at Parris Island involving Sgt.Felix had been raised prior to this incident.

Siddiqui, in his second week on the island, was reported to have been trying to request permission to go to medical for a sore throat on the day of his death. He was refused medical attention, instead being forced to run laps in his barracks. When he collapsed on the floor, Sgt.Felix allegedly slapped him. That is when Siddiqui allegedly ran through a door in the barracks and leaped over an exterior stairwell, falling three stories.

Felix was convicted of mistreating recruits, although he maintained his innocence throughout his court-martial.

His parents have maintained that their son, as both a faithful Muslim and son, was morally incapable of purposely killing himself. In Islam, suicide is a mortal sin.  They also claim that Siddiqui never had any mental health issues or threatened suicide. He had spent months training with his recruiter before boot camp in order to succeed.

The government noted that following Siddiqui’s death, the family received $100,000 from the government in addition to a life insurance payment of more than $400,000.

Linkin Park Frontman and Vet Advocate Chester Bennington Dies in Apparent Suicide


By Debbie Gregory.

Chester Bennington was one of those guys: enormously talented but deeply troubled. The 41-year-old father of six struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, and had previously talked about suicide as the result of childhood trauma and abuse.

Linkin Park bandmate Mike Shinoda said that the band had always felt “a special bond with the military.”

In 2014, the band teamed up with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to call attention to the suicide crisis that dramatically affects American service members and veterans.

“It is an honor to meet with you guys, the men and women of the armed forces, who protect our freedom every day,” Bennington told fans during a performance in Denver during the band’s Carnivores tour. “The greatest country in the world and it’s because of men and women who go out and risk their lives for all of us … no matter who we are or what we believe in.”

To give a startling visual impact, the group displayed 22 American flags to symbolize the estimated number of U.S. veterans who take their own lives on a daily basis.

Bennington’s death occurred on what would have been his good friend Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday. Cornell, best known as the lead vocalist for the rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, committed suicide on May 18th.

“My whole life, I’ve just felt a little off,” Bennington said in an interview. “I find myself getting into these patterns of behavior or thought – especially when I’m stuck up here [in my head]; I like to say that ‘this is like a bad neighborhood, and I should not go walking alone.’”

Our sincere condolences go out to Bennington’s wife Talinda Bentley and his six children.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Trying to Stem the Tide of EOD Technician Suicides


By Debbie Gregory.

They’re trained to disarm improvised explosive devices. Neutralize chemical threats. Even render safe nuclear weapons. Explosive Ordnance (EOD) Technicians perform some of the most harrowing, dangerous work in order to keep others from harm’s way, and they do so in every environment.

But the highly skilled EOD technicians have another threat looming; an alarmingly increase in the number of EOD suicides.

The non-profit EOD Warrior Foundation, which supports current and former military EOD techs and their families, offers a peer-to-peer 24 hour hotline to assist the EOD community.

Suicide is a major concern throughout the military and it is a special concern for the EOD Warrior Foundation, according to Nicole Motsek, the foundation’s director.

“We are a small community; we have only 7,000 people on active duty. During some months, it has been every week that we have lost someone. There are so many people out there with the invisible wounds of war and they are a part of our EOD community. We cannot wait and hope they get help, we have to do something now to help them,” said Motsek, who is married to an Army EOD technician who has had multiple combat deployments.

The foundation plans a round-table summit in November to discuss suicide among EOD techs. The foundation is also holding a retreat this fall for “White Star widows,” the widows of EOD techs who have killed themselves.

Since 9/11, 131 EOD technicians have died in combat and another 250 have sustained major physical injuries including lost eyesight, lost limbs, paralysis and major burns.

The EOD Warrior Foundation does not have an exact number of EOD techs who have taken their own lives, partly because in their line of work, it is often difficult to tell if someone died accidentally or intentionally.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Survey Reveals Increase in Post-9/11 Veterans who have Considered Suicide


By Debbie Gregory.

A new survey of more than 3000 post-9/11 veterans by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) revealed an increase over a previous study in the number who contemplated suicide since joining the service. IAVA is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

The survey found that 40 percent of veterans polled had considered suicide at least once after they joined the military, up from 30 percent in 2014. Many of those survey also expressed feelings that the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments aren’t doing enough to address the suicide problem, as well as addressing mental health injuries, with 80 percent believing their peers aren’t getting the care they need.

“It shows that mental health challenges and access to care continue to impact veterans in all facets of their lives,” IAVA CEO Paul Reickhoff said in a release accompanying the survey results.

The statistic on veteran suicide is typically quotes as 22 veterans each day, which is a national tragedy.

Nearly 60 percent said a family or friend suggested they seek mental health treatment and 77 percent said they sought help because of these suggestions.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of non-profit organizations that are working to address veteran suicides and eliminate them. Many of them have been formed by veterans who are looking out for their brother and sisters. Many of them are working to destigmatize mental health issues and show that asking for help is truly courageous.

The passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act of 2015 was a landmark, bi-partisan effort that showed America its politicians can work together, and that veterans’ issues are everyone’s issues.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Concussions

concussion suicide

By Debbie Gregory.

After any type of brain injury, there are a number of challenges during the recovery process. Scientists have known for a long time that suicide and brain injury are linked, but the actual number of people who have had a brain injury that have committed suicide wasn’t explored.

A new study conducted by a team of Canadian researchers, headed up by Dr. Donald Redelmeier, has found that the long term risk of suicide increases three-fold among adults who have had concussions.

Recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the results reflect a study that concentrated on ordinary people who had concussions but did not sustain severe brain injury. The researchers explored official death certificates that listed suicide as the cause of death, and then examined the person’s medical history over 20 years.

Their research revealed a suicide rate of 31 deaths per 100,000, which is three times the norm. Each additional concussion raised the suicide risk.

“Multiple concussions can be cumulative, and that’s where the more significant deficits occur,” according to Gary Pace, the director of the May Center for Education and Neuro-rehabilitation. “We do know now that as a result of multiple concussions, the brain becomes more vulnerable to more long-term kinds of brain injuries, which results in some of the depression we see in individuals.”

“The magnitude of the increased risk surprised me,” said Dr. Redelmeier, a practicing physician and professor of medicine.

Although research often focuses on traumatic brain injuries rather than smaller, milder concussions, concussions can lead to depression and anxiety.

Redelmeier feels that people who have sustained concussions should give themselves time to recover, and remember that their head injury, no matter how mild, is an important part of their medical history.

Additionally, it is very important for anyone who has experienced a concussion to be immediately informed about all potential problems associated with concussions — which include possible depression and suicidal thoughts — and to be encouraged to speak up immediately when he or she experiences a problem.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.