On August 27, 2015, members of MFSO, Veterans For Peace, and Iraq Veterans Against the War had met with the Office of Public Engagement and Joining Forces regarding our strong opposition to military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, our call for diplomacy, and our concerns about care for our veterans and military families. Two members of our delegation, Joyce and Kevin Lucey, spoke at the meeting about their son, CPL Jeffrey Lucey, who died by suicide after he was denied care by the VA. We spoke at the meeting about our recommendations for changes to prevent suicide.
On August 28, 2015, SFC Tyler Westbrook, the son of a Military Families Speak Out member, died by suicide at his base in Colorado. SFC Westbrook was an active duty soldier. Upon hearing about SFC Westbrook’s death by suicide, the Office of Public Engagement asked for the address of SFC Westbrook’s family so the White House could send a letter of condolence. Just before the funeral, OEP called, apologized, and told MFSO that the Department of Defense (DOD) does not allow letters of condolence to be sent from the White House because SFC Westbrook’s suicide was state-side rather than while during a deployment!
This is a despicable and disgraceful policy which shows absolutely NO empathy, and NO understanding for our troops, veterans, or military families. It only reinforces the stigma already rampant in the military, the stigma attached to our troops and veterans reaching out for and receiving help for the moral injuries and/or traumas from their military service. We know that alcohol abuse and steroid use was rampant at Ft. Carson where SFC Westbrook was based. We know that SFC Westbrook was a victim of alcohol abuse, and we know there were numerous other red flags which were overlooked by the military. SFC Westbrook was a highly accomplished soldier, and was a member of the Special Forces when he died. SFC Westbrook left behind a wife and a 2-year-old son. His two brothers are also members of the military. Both of his grandparents were WW II veterans.
For over one year we have waited for the DOD policy to be reversed. No more! We call on elected officials, the public, and members of the military to demand that the Department of Defense to change its policy on condolence letters. We demand that a condolence letter be sent immediately to the Westbrook family.
Write to Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter and send copies to MFSO@MFSO.org.
Tell him: Stop Stigma. Send the condolence letter to SFC Tyler Westbook’s family!
Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Or Comment on Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s Facebook page