SOLDIER IN IRAQ SAID TO BE A "SUICIDE"
PVT KEIFER WILHELM FOUND DEAD OF GUNSHOT
TO HEAD - ARMY CHARGES FOUR GI'S WITH
"CRUELTY AND MALTREATMENT" OF OHIO
PRIVATE - DID ALLEGED HARASSMENT SEND
WILHELM OVER THE EDGE? WHY DID SOLDIER DIE
ONLY FOUR DAYS AFTER ARRIVING IN-COUNTRY?
ANGUISHED FATHER PLEADS FOR "THE TRUTH"
Sometimes we'd like to look up the recruiters that send folks off to war who are unfit for military service, much less combat, and kick their ass. Sign-up quotas are always tough to meet, but some things should be seen and problems avoided when they come walking through the door.
Whoever enlisted Keifer Wilhelm in the Army has some soul-searching to do in the wake of his death August 4 near Basra, Iraq. The "official" story is, the GI climbed into a portable toilet, locked the door, and shot himself in the head. He was said to be upset at brutal hazing he supposedly got from some fellow soldiers.
The 19 year-old private had a life-long weight problem. A high school wrestler, he knew he had to melt off at least 20 pounds of excess baggage before he could enter basic training. Through sheer will power and determination, he did just that.
But it wasn't long before the pounds started to creep back on his stocky frame.
When Wilhelm arrived at the Army's Multi-Division South base (B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cav. Regiment out of Ft. Bliss, Tex.) located near Basra, Iraq, he was visibly "heavy." And that, quickly attracted the attention of several fellow soldiers, including three NCO's.
Sources say they made Wilhelm a "special project," forcing him to exercise to the point of exhaustion.
Nothing new there. It happens every day. Sometimes the "extra motivation" works, if kept within reason. But once in a while, it backfires - big time! And in this case, it ended in tragedy for all concerned.
JUST FOUR DAYS INTO HIS TOUR OF DUTY IN IRAQ, PVT WILHELM WAS DEAD
Only four days into his tour of duty, PVT Wilhelm (apparently) had enough. If he did shoot himself to death, it is plausible that the constant hazing played a big part in his demise.
But now we have four soldiers staring at a long stretch in Leavenworth.
SGT Enoch Chatman of West Covina, Calif. is accused of four counts of "cruelty and maltreatment," as well as one count of making a false official statement. He faces 10 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
S/SGT Bob Clements of Eastland, Tex. was hit with the same four counts, plus three counts of making a false statement. As senior man in the group, he could get up to 25 years in Leavenworth plus a DD.
SGT Jarnett Taylor from Edmund, Okla. and SPC David Weber of Frankenmuth, Minn. both face lesser charges and eight and nine years in the slammer, respectively.
WHITEWASH FOR THE OFFICERS IN CHARGE?
Were there any officers around when all this was going on? Once again, it will be enlisted people and non-coms who will be punished, but the responsibility for Wilhelm's death, whichever way it happened, also lies with the officers supposedly in charge of the accused GI's.
Instead of one more dead soldier in Iraq - a 19 year-old kid, obviously ill-suited for fighting in a war, much less being in the military - you now have a total of five "casualties." That's the cost of poor leadership and lack of supervision.
As for Adrian Wilhelm, back in Plymouth, Ohio, he wants answers as to how his son really died. "I want the Army to tell me the truth."
We wish him "good luck" with that. He'll likely need it.