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17 Apr

Iraq vet kills self outside hospital & Dad wants more answers in Ohio soldier’s suicide

The 27-year-old Dayton man had entered the center’s emergency room about 1a.m. yesterday and requested some sort of treatment.

By Lucas Sullivan and Margo Rutledge KissellSaturday,  April 17, 2010 2:51 AM

DAYTON DAILY NEWS

DAYTON — Jesse Charles Huff walked up to the VA Medical Center yesterday wearing Army fatigues and battling pain from his Iraq war wounds and a recent bout with depression.

The 27-year-old Dayton man had entered the center’s emergency room about 1a.m. yesterday and requested some sort of treatment. But Huff did not get that treatment, police said, and about 5:45 a.m., he reappeared at the center’s entrance, put a military-style rifle to his head and twice pulled the trigger.

Police would not specify what treatment Huff sought and why he did not receive it. Medical center spokeswoman Donna Simmons declined to answer questions about Huff’s treatment, citing privacy laws. But police believe Huff killed himself to make a statement.

Scott Labensky, whose son lived with Huff, agreed. He said the veteran was injured by a ground blast while serving in Iraq and received ongoing treatment for a back injury and depression.

“He never got adequate care from the VA he was trying to get,” Labensky said. “I believe he (killed himself) to bring attention to that fact.”

Simmons said Huff had received care at the center since August 2008 and his care was being handled by a case manager.

Huff drove a van to the medical center. Police found nothing dangerous inside the van, which contained some Army clothing, a carton of cigarettes and a prescription bottle of oxycodone with Huff’s name on it.

Oxycodone is often used to treat severe pain.

Dad wants more answers in Ohio soldier’s suicide

By JOHN SEEWER
Associated Press Writer, April 16, 2010

The father of an Ohio soldier who killed himself in Iraq says the Army didn’t do enough to punish three superiors accused of mistreating men in their platoon.

Two of the men were sentenced to several months’ confinement and the other — who had faced up to 25 years behind bars — received a pay cut.

“How is that remotely fair,” said Pvt. Keiffer Wilhelm’s father, Shane, who served in the Navy during Operation Desert Storm, in an interview Thursday.

The military said its investigation into Wilhelm’s death found that his superiors ridiculed men in their platoon and punished them physically. But it also said there was no evidence that it led to Wilhelm’s death.

The 19-year-old who grew up in northern Ohio told his mother just before his death in August that he had to run for miles with rocks in his pockets that smashed against his knees and that his personal items were disappearing.

He was in Iraq with his new platoon for just 10 days before he killed himself.

A military panel in Kuwait on Sunday convicted Staff Sgt. Bob Clements of Eastland, Texas, of obstructing justice, but cleared him on charges of cruelty and maltreatment.

He was given a one grade reduction in pay.

Two others were convicted earlier of cruelty and maltreatment. Staff Sgt. Enoch Chatman, of West Covina, Calif., was sentenced to three months’ confinement, and Sgt. Jarrett Taylor of Edmond, Okla., received six months. Charges against a fourth soldier were dismissed after he agreed to testify against the others and resign from the Army.

Shane Wilhelm, of Plymouth, said Clements appeared to be the “ringleader,” and that he deserved a harsher sentence. Wilhelm said he plans on appealing to military leadership to take another look at the trial.

“I don’t think it’s over yet,” he said.

A message seeking comment was left with Clements’ wife on Friday.

Wilhelm made four trips overseas for the trials, spending his own money along with about $16,000 that had been donated. He said that prosecutors weren’t allowed to tell the military panels deciding the cases that his son had killed himself.

“They weren’t allowed to know he shot himself,” Wilhelm said. “They weren’t allowed to say he was no longer here. I don’t understand the reasoning.”

An Army spokesman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Friday.

Keiffer Wilhelm, who grew up in Willard, had volunteered to leave for Iraq before the rest of his unit and join a brigade with the mission of training Iraqi security forces. His family said he knew enough to expect some hazing because several friends and family members had served in the armed forces.

His father said he hopes that what happened to his son will change how the Army trains those in leadership positions. “Keiffer wasn’t the only one,” he said. “These other kids were fortunate they survived it.”

Suicide rates have increased in all military branches since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army had a record number of suicides last year.

Efforts to reduce soldier suicides have not cut down the numbers, Gen. George Casey, the service’s chief of staff, said in February.

Wilhelm now wants to talk to the soldiers who were in his son’s unit during the last hours. “That’s something we don’t know,” he said. “The final stages. The final moments.”

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