This week’s outpouring of thanks to fellow veterans and myself was humbling. We fail to remember those we lost anywhere near as often as we should.
With the passing of Veteran’s Day, for many come the memories of loved ones lost. For the veterans however, come the memories of comrades lost. The impact is no less, just different.
During the week of Veteran’s Day, the story of Adam Hermanson is made so much more infuriating.
I first met Adam at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. I do not remember the first time I met him, but I remember thinking how different he and I were.
We deployed to Iraq at the same time in 2003. He and his eventual wife Janine deployed to Kirkuk Air Base. I was on the team sent to Baghdad. We flew from Utah to Qatar on the same flight and parted ways there.
Shortly after we returned in summer of 2004, Adam and Janine married. They made quite the interesting couple, and it was quite the contradiction to see timid Janine with Adam, sometimes the loudest guy in the room. I am happy to say their marriage outlasted my own.
I had not spoken with the Hermansons since 2006 when I left Utah for Boston. Through the social networking miracle that is Facebook, I got back in touch with Janine this summer.
Janine told me she and Adam had both separated from the Air Force. She was going to school and working in a dental office, while he was working for a security contractor in Iraq. It was obvious Janine missed Adam badly and could not wait for his return so they could move their lives forward.
On Sept. 1, I was on Facebook when I was instant messaged and asked if I had heard about Adam. The unofficial word was that he had died from non-combat related events.
I started making contact with friends I have still in the Air Force closer to the situation and heard through reliable sources that Adam hadn’t shown up for work. When his coworkers went looking, they discovered he had died in his shower.
It turned out that Adam had been electrocuted. Adam was the 19th shower-related electrocution fatality in Iraq. The company he worked for, Triple Canopy, dismantled the wiring in Adam’s room by the time an investigator arrived.
It is my belief that Triple Canopy lied to Janine and the rest of Adam’s family when they notified them of his death. The events since then have been nothing short of disgraceful. While Janine struggles to deal with losing her husband, she fights to learn the truth.
Triple Canopy claims Adam’s death is not its responsibility, and another contractor, KBR, also denies any wrongdoing. Janine is meeting with Congressional members today to discuss Adam’s death.
While I and every other veteran appreciate the outpouring of gratitude this week, Janine is left fighting, pushing Congress to hold someone, anyone, responsible for what CNN reported to be the negligent homicides of 19 servicemen and veterans. CNN’s report was based on a report from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division.
It doesn’t matter that Adam was no longer wearing our uniform. Adam was a brother, warrior, husband and one day would’ve been a father.
Adam knew going back to Iraq that going into private security held risks. He was willing to risk snipers, Improvised Explosive Devices and myriad other risks both in the Air Force and as a contractor.
That he died in his shower while getting ready to carry out the day’s mission is unacceptable.
These are difficult answers, but our once-and-always servicemen and women deserve better than the treatment these deplorable corporations have provided.
Their families deserve better, and we deserve better.
Thanks to all who expressed their gratitude during Veteran’s Day. I ask anyone who finds this story appalling to contact your representative and senators immediately. Insist they move forward aggressively to hold someone accountable.
Seth Stern is a senior journalism and sociology major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.