The recent noncombat death of Sergeant First Class Jason Dene -- the nephew of actress/activist Mia Farrow -- remains under investigation. Unlike most of the cases of mysterious non-hostile deaths that I have chronicled here and elsewhere, this one will likely continue to grab some national attention.
Dene, who hailed from Vermont, was married with three children and was just weeks away from finishing his second -- extended -- tour in Iraq. He had suffered from various ailments, including severe sleep apnea, and had just been sent back to Iraq after undergoing treatment and was, according to initial reports from the military, found dead in his bunk on May 25. But the military has failed to find out why so far and some in his family have grown angry about this.
His father, Terry Deane (their last names have different spellings), says he still does not know what happened. Mia Farrow has paid tribute to her nephew and repeated her antiwar criticism. Jason's uncle, Patrick Farrow, a sculptor in Castleton, Vt., has been more outspoken.
A Vermont Public Radio report yesterday includes this:
Patrick Farrow : "If there's not going to be a private, outside-of-the-military investigation, I don't trust a word out of their mouths. They have lied to us all along, and I don't see why they wouldn't lie if they found out something that was embarrassing to them."
Reporter: Farrow says he contacted Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to look into the matter, but backed off when Jason's parents asked him to stop. Farrow says the entire war in Iraq has been overly sanitized by the administration and the media and he says too many non combatant deaths are swept under the rug. He says he feels like he has to speak out not only for his nephew, but for all the other soldiers who've been hurt by the war....
Tisa Farrow, Jason Dene's mother, feels the military has been honest with her family. But she admits it's frustrating knowing that her son and the other soldiers in his unit had to stay in Iraq an extra three months because of a shortage of troops. Still, she says, her son understood the risks.
Tisa Farrow: "He had a deep deep love of his family and he was a really, really intelligent man. And everything he did in the military- which he loved - he thought about very seriously. So, for him to serve over there was something he felt noble about. I didn't agree with it. But that's the way - our family is, very political. But I respected him a great deal for serving his country the way he did."
Meanwhile, the surge in "noncombat" deaths in Iraq, often by suicide, continued this week, more on this later.
Greg Mitchell's new book has several chapters on Iraq vet suicides. It is titled So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq.