The discovery of the body of another soldier near Killeen, Texas leaves the public asking, “What’s going on at Ft. Hood?”
Since January, 2016, there have been 147 deaths at Fort Hood, out of a base population of 217,000. For more than two decades, the military installation has been plagued by accidents, homicides, and suicides, along with death by unknown causes, so much that in 2018, the Army stopped issuing press releases notifying the public of the death of a soldier.
While being reported as the fourth death on the base this year, the actual number is at least eight, based on counting cases reported by the press in the past year.
At least four of the dead have been members of the 1st Cavalry Division, one of 16 units based at Fort Hood; two were with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment; and two are unknown.
In a statement Tuesday, Ft. Hood officials said that the body of Pvt. Mejhor Morta was found in the vicinity of Stillhouse Lake, about 20 miles from Killeen in Bell County. The incident is being investigated by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, but authorities have not released information surrounding the circumstances of Morta’s death or whether foul play is suspected.
Since May, the soldier from Pensacola, Fla., was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
In a statement this week, Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment said that Morta’s fellow soldiers are “truly heartbroken by the tragic loss.”
“I would like to send my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and loved ones,” Armstrong said. “My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.”
This year’s death toll at Fort Hood is still on the rise. Either Fort Hood is the unluckiest place in the world to be stationed, or maybe it has its own way of taking care of its problem children.
On March 1st, the body of 20-year-old Spc. Shelby Tyler Jones was found outside of a convenience store. Police believed that Jones had been shot at a strip club and his body dumped at the store. The investigation continues.
Another March fatality is Spc. Christopher Wayne Sawyer. The 29-year-old was found unresponsive at his post residence. Foul play has not been ruled out by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command.
March 5th claimed yet another victim. The death of Raul Torrez, 24, was recorded the same day as Sawyer’s; the cause of death is unknown.
The Ides of March came early for Spec. Freddy Beningo Delacruz Jr. and Army Veteran Shaquan Markell Allred. On March 14th, both 23-year-olds were murdered in a triple killing at an apartment complex in Killeen. The case is still being investigated.
On March 25th, Victor D’Onofrio,22, U.S. Army died at Fort Hood of unknown causes.
Pfc. Vanessa Guillen disappeared April 22nd and her body was found in Bell County in late June. Guillen’s family called for a Congressional investigation into the U.S. Army’s handling of the case.
“Unfortunately, this U.S. soldier’s death is consistent with our concerns: that these soldiers are living on a dangerous base and are being threatened if they speak up. Enough is enough,” said Natalie Khawam, an attorney for Guillen’s family.
After learning of Morta’s death, Khawam said, “As we all know, soldiers are not safe at Fort Hood.”
On May 18th, Pfc. Brandon Scott Rosecrans was found murdered on the side of the road. His vehicle was engulfed in flames three miles away. The crimes were reported just minutes apart and the case is still under investigation.
The decade of the ‘20s is in keeping with Fort Hood’s history of mayhem and murder. Last year saw the disappearance of Pv2 Gregory Wedel-Morales, who had been classified as AWOL/Deserter when he failed to return to the base last August. The soldier’s remains were found in a shallow grave on June 19th.
Believe it or not, foul play is suspected and a $25,000 reward has been offered for credible information about the soldier’s death. However, the Army still has Wedel-Morales listed as AWOL/Deserter and he was not eligible for a military service.
On July 1st, Spc. Aaron David Robinson allegedly shot himself to death when authorities confronted him about beating his fellow soldier, Vanessa Guillen, to death with a hammer on the morning of April 22nd. Robinson’s girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, was charged in federal court with conspiracy to tamper with evidence in disposing of Guillen’s body.
Demanding Congressional action, Khawam said. “How many more soldiers need to die before Congress agrees to convene a Congressional investigation?
Earlier this month, Army Sec. Ryan McCarthy ordered an independent review of the command climate at Fort Hood, which has raised questions surrounding the treatment of women and Hispanics at the base.