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.
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…