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Military’s casualty notification system often frustratingly uneven for families

Hands on FlagBy Geoff Ziezulewicz – Stars and Stripes – August 5, 2010
Families with troops who died in noncombat situations generally reported a harder time getting answers than those whose loved ones were killed in battle.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors The casualty notification officers somberly relayed their message: It was one of her twin sons, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who had perished.

They couldn’t provide any more information to Harris, nothing else to help the reeling mother absorb or even comprehend the shock.

“Their job was to convey he died,” Harris said. “That’s it. I actually for a brief period of time thought he’d been murdered. That was even more horrible.”

It wasn’t until the next day that Harris was told that her son had been electrocuted in a shower, but still there were few details. Desperate for answers, Harris started hounding the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, and three weeks later, she found out that an electrical system had shorted out, killing Maseth in the shower at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad.

“I don’t think I would have been told that unless I had constantly pressured and questioned [the military],” said Harris, who later filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against KBR, the contractor responsible for the wiring. “They told me it was difficult to relay information from Iraq to the U.S. I said, ‘How are you fighting a war?’?”

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