A Great Tragedy and Unthinkable Loss


Soldier Suicide

Sorry folks but this is not a light hearted post with funny pictures that you are normally accustomed to. The topic is definitely a relevant one given the nature of this blog as it has to do with obesity and how others react to it. In this case to an extreme that led to the worst of possible outcomes- one young man dead by his own hand. A tragic loss of life that leaves nothing but devastation and heartache in its path.

Some of you may have read in the news this past week about the death of Private Keiffer P. Wilhelm at an Army base in Iraq. Only 19 years old Keiffer had arrived in Iraq just ten days before. No doubt he was experiencing many feelings including pride at serving, apprehension at being in a war zone and he was likely missing his family too for Keiffer was just a kid, A kid who chose to serve his country in a war zone while others his age were looking forward to their first college frat party.

It is reported that upon his arrival at his base in Iraq he was perceived to be overweight by some of his superior officers. As a result it is reported that these four superior officers “… abused Wilhelm with excessive physical fitness, said Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a military spokesman. One defense official told NBC News that Wilhelm eventually stopped going to public areas to avoid being harassed repeatedly for being overweight.”

Ten days into his deployment to Iraq this young patriot entered a portable toilet with his rifle and ended his life. The superior officers have been charged with various crimes by the military that can result in imprisonment for terms of up to 25 years.

This story touches me on so many different levels and leaves me feeling conflicted:

  • I have two boys in the military- one of whom serves at Fort Bliss in Texas which is the same base that Keiffer and his antagonists were based at.
  • I have been personally touched by the incredible tragedy that is suicide – especially by a young person.
  • I have experienced the ability of people to be cruel – even publicly so- regarding me being overweight.

Yet…

The military is a unique organization where physical requirements are necessary and where dishing out excessive exercise to those not meeting standards is more the norm than it is the unusual.  How will criminal charges being meted out to these officers impact the mindset of other officers in the execution of their duties going forward?

I am not Barack Obama. I will not admit that I am without all of the facts and then proffer an opinion in this matter. I was not there and I have learned that there is always more to the story than that which is presented.  Were the actions of these officers excessive? I don’t know. Were there other underlying or contributing reasons for Keiffer making a dreadful and tragic choice? I don’t know!

Here is what I do know- tragedy flows from all portions of this story. There are far more victims of this circumstance than just Keiffer. This young soldier’s decision will leave his family and friends forever wondering why and what if only…

The Officers that have been charged likely had many years of honorable service as patriots for their country that has now been washed away. Justice may or may not be served but their lives too are forever changed in a horrible, horrible way that no doubt will leave them also wondering for the rest of their lives why and what if only…

http://www.norwalkreflector.com/articles/2009/08/21/front/doc4a8efe36c0d90479457860.txt

arlington cross

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3 Responses to A Great Tragedy and Unthinkable Loss

  1. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us

  2. Shamwow says:

    Well, as a former Marine and current fat person I can say I know a little something about this. It’s sad. They may have been cruel to the kid. But being in the military is not for everyone, and perhaps he should not have enlisted. I don’t know how overweight he was, but serving in the desert while significantly overweight would likely have been dangerous for him. Adding combat to the mix increases the danger exponentially. In a firefight I wouldn’t have wanted a fat guy slowing the unit down, putting them in danger. It’s scary enough and everyone needs to be able to pull their own weight…pun unintended.

    But there’s another way to look at this. The military is overextended, and their standards for soldiers are sinking. If this young man was overweight enough to be ridiculed to the degree he apparently was, he probably should have washed out in basic training. But from what I hear the Army, especially, is just taking recruits and sending them through no matter what. Short on bodies. And that’s a leadership deficit from the very top on down to his drill instructors.

  3. Holly says:

    Thanks for posting this article and I have enjoyed your site. I love your sense of humor. I don’t think we are capable of passing judgement on the soldier who was hazed for being overweight in the war. Sorry shamwow. Wow, you are an illbred. This child is gone! He killed himself and he was hurting so badly. It is entirely the fault of his ‘superiors’. Not one of us would be more capable of withstanding what he went through in his very short life. God bless dear Keiffer. A handsome, kind, good and courageous man/child who was treated like a mere piece of trash. He is in paradise now where one is judged by what’s in their soul, not by how big or small their body is.

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