Gold Star wife learns of husband’s death through Facebook [UPDATE]

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The wife of a Fort Carson, Colo., staff sergeant killed in Afghanistan said she learned of his death when a soldier from his unit posted on her Facebook page that there was an emergency.

“I was told via Facebook,” said Ariell Taylor-Brown told a local NBC affiliate. “It was a girl in his platoon. She wrote to me and told me to call her immediately.”

The move short circuited the military’s solemn and sacrosanct casualty notification process and broke a staunchly defended taboo.

Taylor-Brown called her, and the soldier told her of the death. Taylor-Brown, who has two children and is pregnant with the couple’s third was at home alone with the kids.

“She told me over the phone, right in front of my kids and I completely had a meltdown. She wasn’t supposed to but I guess she took it on her own power to do it,” she said.

Hours later, two soldiers arrived at her home in Mobile, Ala., but she knew about it already. Protocol dictates the Army is the first to notify the family through messengers who come to the house.

Taylor-Brown said she did not fault the soldier at first.

“When she first told me I appreciated it because I wanted to know, but after it was all said and done, it was a horrible way,” Taylor-Brown said. “She didn’t even give me a chance. I could have been driving, anything. I could have harmed myself.”

Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Brown, 26, of Columbus, died April 3, in Kunar province from wounds sustained in a roadside bomb attack. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Brown was in his third deployment. His first was from Aug. 2004 to July 2005 in Iraq, and the second was from June 2009 to May 2010 to Afghanistan.

He was awarded, posthumously, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Brown arrived in Afghanistan just one week before he was killed. The couple had hours earlier been talking on Skype, as they did every day, his wife said.

“I wasn’t expecting this. He was there a week,” she said. “I just hope they bring them home because I don’t want anybody to have to through losing their husband and their kids losing their dad like this.”

 

UPDATE: Army Times wants to know what you think. If one of your loved ones was a servicemember killed in action, would you want to learn the news through the casualty notification process, or from one of his or her close friends? If it is the latter, do you care if the contact was initiated through Facebook or other social media?

Thank you, in advance, for providing your thoughts.

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21 Comments

  1. HUGE leadership failure. What an absolute disgrace. That soldier’s entire chain of command up to BN commander should be canned.

  2. Firstly, my condolences to this soldiers family.
    Secondly, I am sure this soldier who violated channels is being dealt with by her chain of command.
    The question this story touches is a valid one. Should the Army control the way the family is informed, or should the family receiving the news be notified the way they want to be? After all they are the Gold Star Family.

  3. When i was in, they always blacked us out from all media sources until protocol was followed, did they forget to do that this time??

  4. This female “Soldier” needs to get the max punishment for this one. How did she even have a phone after a death in the unit. Ever hear of a commo blackout? This is the very reason they have them.It will take more than batting some eyelashes to get out of this one lady.

  5. Great! Now TPTB will take greater steps to enforce blackouts while deployed. Most of the time, we were on the honor system. Now it will be enforced. Thanks for being “That Guy/Gal” and screwing it up for everyone! Goog job, tard!

  6. CPT Jeff Coulter on

    That Soldier needs to be brought up on charges. It’s bad enough when Soldiers tell their own spouses who then call the spouse of the deceased Soldier, but for a Soldier to contact that spuse is unconscionable.

  7. I understand from sources within the family that the female soldier, who might have had personal motives, is now being discharged.

  8. Somethings Should Be Kept Private on

    Though this is absolutely sad. Is this a story for the public media? Soldiers are humans, and they make very bad mistakes at times, as well as do great work. Why not handle family business at home. BTW a platoon mate is family, yes it sucks to be told over the phone, but to tell the press??? Not cool.

  9. This just makes me so damn mad. Although, not the same type situation, this totally reminds me of how I found out that my now ex husband’s second deployment had been extended. I mention this because I and many other spouses found out BEFORE our soldiers did through the internet of all things. My ex found out his deployment had been extended through me as did many other soldiers in his company thru their spouses. We found out weeks later that the information had been leaked. THAT was bad enough, but to have something like this happen and through/due to a fellow ‘soldier’? Personal motive or not, that is wrong and just inexcusable. Besides, even if there was personal motive, I’m thinking there is nothing that could possibly have been done to drive this idiot to do something like that. I hope that she receives the worst possible punishment for this through the Army and while I’m not one to wish ill on another, this is just wrong. Can you say dishonorable discharge? Good luck with the rest of your life sweetheart because it just became hell with that kind of discharge, which personally, if she is indeed being discharged is what I hope she gets. That will be a lesson she will hopefully never forget. I say ‘soldier’ because the TRUE soldiers I know have more integrity, respect, and are smarter than to ever do something like that. I CERTAINTLY HOPE that the Army does EVERYTHING that is needed to insure that this doesn’t ever happen again. As was mentioned, yes, thanks lady, you’re the reason the blackouts will be majorly reenforced.

  10. my condolences to the family. This is tragically more and more common. The unit’s “blackout” media outlets that they can control, but so many Soldiers take advantage of uncontrolled communication that it happens regularly. Personal cell phones, civilian satellite internet services and abuse of privileged communication allow these instances to happen. And yes, that Soldier needs to be dealt with severely (unlike the Company Commander who regularly allowed his wife/FRG leader to do the same while I was in Iraq a few years ago).

  11. Unfortunately there is no longer any reasonable way for a commander to guarantee a communications black out in an entire battalion. The use of portable devices and prevalance of connectivity is too wide spread, even in very remote locations. Unfortunately for the soldier in question, the only enforcement mechanism remaining is swift and severe military justice so that SMs get the message that this will not be tolerated followed by immediate disclosure of that event.

  12. That is a terrible way for the family to find out however everyone in uniform are not regulation following Soldiers. It is very well possible that the deceased directed the Soldier to notify the spouse if anything happended to him so that she would not have be be notified in the traditional way. Either way it did not work for the spouse and the Soldier will probably be charged with some type of UCMJ. The whole social media and communication has totally changed in the Armed Forces. I bet our members of the Armed Forces from Vietnam did not have the frequent communications like todays Soldiers.

  13. Ok, everyone needs to quit blaming the unit. I personally shut down the system for the web, however in todays time and age people hav e satelite phones and local national phones. It is almost impossible to shut down an entire network of cellular and wireless devices. The army does an amazing job and controlling these situations, granted there is a few bad apples per say that think its there right to ruin someone’s life with bad news and yes they should and will be delt with. Oh and one last thing. There is NO female in his platoon.

  14. Elizabeth Pittman on

    That is why the black outs need to mandatory. Social media is not how you should get a knock on the door. It’s bad enough that a price was paid…. don’t discount it without rear-D being there to offer support. in 2001-2005 there were blackouts to prevent this…. I am so sorry for her loss. I am mortified that this is how she was told.

  15. Elizabeth Pittman on

    follow up? Yes… the person who called needs to be punished. This is NOT how you take care of family. She should (and did) know better.

  16. Absolutely unprofessional on the female soldiers part. Like the article stated it is a sacrosanct tradition. Tightening down on social media communication is a must.

  17. Robert I Eachus on

    I suspect that the facts here are being overlooked. Apparently the deceased was injured, the unit member posted to the wife’s web page, the soldier died, the wife called about the emergency, and found out that her husband was dead.

    This parallels a situation in my own life. My wife was driving to Philadelphia to see her uncle who was in the hospital after a heart attack. Four hours after she left, I got a call that he had another heart attack and died. Five minutes later I got a call from my wife saying she was on the Jersey Turnpike and would be there in an hour. I said she should drive carefully and I would her aunt or mother know when to expect her.

    No way was I going to tell my wife her uncle died while she was at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.

    In this situation, if the soldier thought the injured man would survive, notifying the wife so she could get ready to fly to Germany or wherever was not a big error. That occurred when she told the wife over the phone that her husband was dead.

  18. I will say ” The unit ” isn’t to blame here!! The person to blaim is the Female soldier herself who leeked this info!!! There are people put in as casualty officers for a reason & as a SOLDIER she NEW BETTER plain and simple!!!! It is wrong for ANYONE to tell a family member of the loss of there loved one through phone or in the public eye like on facebook or nmedia!!! The MILITARY has strick rules on this to protect people from possable information going out that may or may not be true!!!! The problem here is that the proper chain wasn’t used!!!!!! We lose people evreyday to war and this is sad to say but true, everyone soldier’s and there family & friends know the risks & the only person to put all your trust in & who knows is GOD!!!! I am mad cause this information should have came from the CASUALTY OFFICERS & NOT ANOTHER SOLDIER from the unit! It is hard enough to hear of a loved one being killed but this would have been even worse if this soldier who leaked this info was WRONG & made a misstake with the identity!!! Casualty Officers even wait till they are given the OK from the Military to go & inform the loved ones of the loss of there soldier!!! In NOOOOOO WAY should this have been done in this manner!!!!
    Now My heart goes out to this family at time of need!!! Have piece & know that God is with you always & that your soldier died a HERO & paid the ultamit price for our freedom!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done as a wife & by supporting your soldier & standing by him!!! That is honerable & tuff to do at times, I know as a former wife!! God Bless you & your Family!!! <3

  19. I am a gold star mother. The loss of my son was not given to me by another soldier in the unit but I don’t agree with the way it was handled. His wife was notified first at 6:30 am by two army guys and a chaplain. No one came to our house and no one even called to see if anyone was here so we went about our life as usual. Around 9am my boss came and took me to the office. He gave no reason and I had no idea what was going on. When we arrived up front, there stood the HR manager and another manager with her. They told me someone was there to see me in the office next door. I opened the door and there stood a soldier. I was still a blank because you just don’t expect things like that. He told me to sit down so I did and he told me my son had been killed while on active duty. I guess I was in shock and disbelief and didn’t really know what to do. He told me his wife had already been informed earlier. He also said the media would be informed soon. I cried, thanked him, and left the room. I don’t recall if he followed but I assume he did. I talked to my boss and he let someone bring me my things and I left work. I was worried I may not get to tell my family before they heard it on the radio or the local news and I could not let that happen. I really don’t remember driving but I picked up my daughter from school and met my husband and told them. We then went separate ways to inform the rest of our family. I later learned that his wife had called some of his friends and told them before his own family even knew. That was the first of many things done wrong on her part. I felt disrespected by her and by the army for the way it was handled. I’m sure the army has better protocol but in our case I sure didn’t see it. I mean really, 3 hours in between his wife being notified at home and his mom being notified on the job? Basically with no support there at all?! That is just totally unacceptable in my opinion and I still harbor ill feelings about all of it to this day.

  20. Obviously this was a very tragic way for the wife to find out. But do not blame the unit as there is no way they can control all methods of communication. Comm blackout was created for this exact reason as any human is going to act unpredictably in this kind of a situation, unfortunately, communications have far exceeded the military’s ability to control and someone is going to leak the info if they are motivated enough. I do not really blame the soldier for telling the wife, especially if the original intent was to just notify of an injury…how do you hem and haw around the death when the wife calls? There should be some punishment, but discharge seems a little harsh.

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