Marine's death was avoidable
Marine didn't have to die
By MICHELE CANTY
Daily Record/Sunday News
York Daily Record/Sunday News
Article Last Updated:10/28/2007 03:27:45 AM EDT

At bottom: Memorials Another suicide
Oct 28, 2007 — Before his March 2003 deployment, Lance Cpl. Joseph B. Maglione III burned himself with cigarettes, sliced his arms with a knife and said he heard voices in his head.

The 22-year-old, known for his jokes and his drawings, claimed that people were out to get him and that the Marines around him were spies.

His superiors, worried Maglione might kill himself, put him on suicide watch until he could see a psychiatrist.

Maglione told the doctor he was embarrassed about his suicide attempt and wanted to go to Iraq. The psychiatrist dismissed Maglione's actions as fear of deployment to Iraq.

He was cleared to handle weapons and sent overseas with his bridge-building unit.

Seven days after being on suicide watch, he arrived in Kuwait. That day, he put the muzzle of an M-16 in his mouth and fired.

A Marines investigation into Maglione's death concluded he never should have been deployed.

Postponing his duty, it said, could have saved his life.

The Maryland native, whose father lives in Spring Garden Township, is one of more than 100 service members who have committed suicide while serving in Operation Iraq Freedom.

So many service members took their lives the year Maglione died that the U.S. Army - the branch with the largest complement in Iraq - commissioned a study on suicides, focusing on service members serving in the anti-terrorism war.

The study flagged a number of factors - including the rapid deployments - as causes for the spike in suicides.

The Marine captain who investigated Maglione's death recommended that a suicidal Marine's weapon should be confiscated for 30 days while he or she undergoes counseling, and that therapy be provided to a Marine with a history of mental illness - regardless of time constraints for deployments.

It is unclear whether the Marines took his advice.

A Camp Pendleton, Calif., staff judge advocate who handled the York Daily Record/Sunday News' Freedom of Information Act request, which included the death investigation and other documents, refused to comment on the recommendations because the Marines had blacked them out in the reports given to the newspaper.

Maglione's father, Joseph B. Maglione II, allowed the newspaper to view an unredacted copy.

Camp Pendleton Public Relations Lt. Colonel Chris Hughes emphasized that the Marines take mental-health issues and suicide gestures and attempts seriously.

"I can assure you that we make every reasonable effort to ensure we don't put Marines and sailors at unnecessary risk," Hughes wrote in an e-mail.

Hughes also would not answer questions about the unredacted report's conclusions.

Joseph B. Maglione II hasn't looked at the report on his son's suicide.

He probably never will, said his sister, Roseanne Maglione.

'Little Joe'

Called "Joe" or "Little Joe" because he and his father shared the same first name, Maglione was the only child of Joseph B. Maglione II and his ex-wife, Rosemary Corr.

Maglione grew up surrounded by a large Italian family whose branches spread through southcentral Pennsylvania to the Philadelphia area.

As a teen, Maglione ran track, played rugby and football and practiced tae kwon do. He struggled in school after his parents divorced in 1985, and he moved around the region as the couple settled into their lives apart.

At one point, Maglione lived with his mother's parents. During their stay, his aunt killed herself. She and Maglione were close, and the death was difficult for him.

Maglione received counseling to help him deal with his parents' split and discipline problems in school, said another aunt, Roseanne Maglione.

For the most part, Maglione was funny and happy, family members said.

"He was tall and clumsy," his aunt said. "He was just a goofy kid."

Maglione enlisted in the Marines in June 2000, about a year after he graduated from North Penn Senior High School in Lansdale. He was inspired to join the military by a grandfather who won the Silver Star in World War II.

"We were shocked that he joined the military, let alone the hardest branch, the Marines," his aunt said. "When you think of the Marines, you think of someone who is hard and tough.

"That wasn't Joe."

Maglione's aunt wonders if he joined the Marines to show to everyone, including himself, he was tough.

"We picked on him, but we picked on everyone," his aunt said. "I think he felt like he had something to prove."

The members of his Marines unit said Maglione was funny and made them laugh. He was friendly, hard-working and a "stand-up guy," his friends said.

Maglione enjoyed drawing, which helped when he changed his major to architectural engineering at Drexel University.

On March 9, 2003, just a few weeks shy of finishing his spring semester, Maglione's reservist unit, based in Folsom, Delaware County, was moved to active duty. He later traveled to California, then to Kuwait.

Roseanne Maglione's nephew loved to laugh. Now, it's hard for her to remember his smile or the sound of his voice.

She misses the boy who joked a lot, despite having to deal with difficult issues at a young age.

Her daughter, and Maglione's cousin, Jessica Smith of York, said in an e-mail, "To lose someone that way is awful ... shocking and confusing ... and there are so many questions that we will never have answers to."

All the warning signs

Some answers lie in Capt. Wesley Woolf Jr.'s report. It shows Maglione's slide to suicide, beginning with his acting "strangely" after his unit arrived in California en route to duty in Iraq.

When Maglione's unit lined up for formation at Camp Pendleton, Maglione took off his clothes. It took several guards to get him to stop.

Maglione told others he didn't think he could do anything right, and he talked about people trying to get him in his sleep.

He was afraid of being killed in Iraq, but the Marines in his unit believed the drastic change in his laid-back character didn't stem from fear alone.

He was anxious about his unit's activation, frustrated over a fight with his mother over a life insurance policy and hurt over things ending with his girlfriend, Woolf found.

Maglione slashed his wrists on or about March 24, 2003.

The suicide attempt got his superiors' attention. On March 24, Maglione met with hospital Medical Chief Blanca Mendez for an evaluation at the base's medical center. In her report, Mendez noted Maglione's self-inflicted cuts and burns and that Maglione had a history of hurting himself.

She wrote Maglione told her he was confused and hearing voices. He'd previously been medicated for depression, but he couldn't remember the medication, he told Mendez.

Mendez's report, and others included with the FOIA response, mention Maglione was institutionalized at some point, but provided no additional details.

With an asterisk, she noted that Maglione's stories changed with each conversation and wrote, "Pt. does not want to deploy."

Mendez recommended Maglione be put on suicide watch for 24 hours, or until he could have a follow-up appointment with the mental-health staff, because he was suicidal.

She also wanted to rule out malingering, Mendez wrote.

Mendez retired from the military hospital and was unavailable for comment on her report.

The next day, medical staff psychiatrist Capt. W.P. Nash saw Maglione at Camp Pendleton. In the notes on the meeting, Nash said Maglione was stressed over family issues and the deployment.

Maglione had cut himself the day before because he thought it might get him sent home, Nash said.

"(Maglione) was ashamed of what he did and is eager to remain with his unit and make his family proud," the psychiatrist wrote.

Nash concluded Maglione was "fit for duty, not suicidal, OK to handle weapons and deploy."

'In a sense, he wasn't there'

Days after Nash said Maglione was OK to go to war, his unit left Camp Pendleton for Kuwait.

On April 1, 2003, the outfit touched down at Camp Betio.

Marines in his unit said Maglione appeared to be doing better. He was laughing and joking again, and he seemed eager about their mission in Iraq.

But soon after their arrival, he started giving his belongings away and seemed scattered and nervous again.

Lance Cpl. Brian Dunkle asked Maglione how he was doing, and Maglione said, "Fine, I'm ready."

But, Dunkle wrote in a statement to investigators, "The thing that stood out most of all was his eyes. They weren't there, in a sense, he wasn't there."

Dunkle said he and Maglione's roommate, Pfc. Paul J. Grevy, both noticed Maglione acting strangely.

"We both agreed (Maglione) shouldn't have his (rifle) rounds, but never took them from him," Dunkle wrote.

The men were in the tent with Maglione when he picked up Cpl. Gelu Negren's M-16 and inserted a magazine, reports state.

Maglione locked and loaded a round in front of six other Marines.

Negren got up and snatched the magazine out of the rifle Maglione cradled. But a bullet was already in the chamber.

Maglione stood up, put the rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger with his thumb. His body fell back on his equipment and some sleeping bags.

The rifle blast exploded in Negren's ears. At first, he thought he was shot, but then realized Maglione had shot himself, he wrote.

Grevy checked Maglione's pulse "but (I) was too shaken up at the sight of his face," he wrote.

"I just wish I could've done more to help him."

Maglione was pronounced dead at 9:05 p.m.

He had been in Kuwait less than 24 hours.

Assessing what went wrong

Maglione's family learned how he died in the two weeks before his body returned to the United States.

"I never had any idea that guys over there killed themselves," Roseanne Maglione said, "until it happened in our family."

Department of Defense statistics show 128 service members have taken their lives while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2003.

The year Maglione took his life, the U.S. Army conducted a mental-health study after five suicides occurred in Iraq during the first 17 days of July 2003.

That report found the suicide rate was higher than historical military rates, at 15.6 deaths per 100,000 service members, compared with years past, when it was 11.9 deaths per 100,000.

Maglione's aunt said she learned of other suicides in research she did after Maglione's death. As she scanned reports about her nephew's suicide, Roseanne Maglione asked, "Why didn't this stuff send up any red flags to anyone?"

She said that, had the military delayed Maglione's deployment, he could have received help.

In his conclusions, the Marines investigator, Woolf, said the same thing.

Woolf said Maglione's deployment was "a life stress event that triggered suicide."

Maglione left his life as a college student and was in Kuwait less than a month later, which didn't give the reservist time to adjust, Woolf said. Maglione came to see his family and work problems as things he couldn't escape, the investigator added.

Because of time constraints, the decision on Maglione's fitness for deployment happened quickly. In a manner of days, it was determined that Maglione was no longer a danger to himself and was ready to carry a rifle into war, Woolf said.

In an e-mail, Camp Pendleton public affairs representative Hughes wrote there were indicators that Maglione was having problems, which led to the psychiatrist's assessment.

"'Ruling out' malingering is, as one would expect, a standard aspect of a mental health evaluation, especially if the issue arises on the eve of a deployment," Hughes wrote.

Woolf said the command did all it reasonably could to ensure that Maglione received medical attention and that Maglione was cleared by the appropriate medical authorities.

Still, Woolf wrote, "The system broke down, this Marine should not have been in Kuwait."

Hughes backed up Woolf's conclusions about Maglione's medical care and deployment, saying, "Based on the outcome, it is apparent that LCpl. Maglione should not have been deployed."

Judge advocate Ewers, who directly handled the newspaper's Freedom of Information request, said in an e-mail that it would be inappropriate for him to try to comment on Woolf's conclusions.

Woolf did not recommend any administrative or disciplinary action for anyone involved in Maglione's case.

With Maglione's history of depression, Maglione should have been placed on medical hold and allowed to get counseling, instead of deploying so rapidly, Woolf said.

The investigator also suggested establishing a policy that any Marine who shows suicidal intent would not be allowed to handle a weapon for a minimum of 30 days to allow time for counseling.

1st Force Service Support Group Commanding General E.G. Usher III approved Woolf's investigation in May 2003.

In his memorandum, Usher said suicide prevention is an ongoing educational process. With the activation of a large number of reserve forces during a period of high stress, he wrote, the military has to be especially watchful for signs of depression and work to prevent these types of tragedies.

No one with the Marines would talk directly about what specifically has changed regarding how they deal with suicide prevention.

'I needed to see him'

Roseanne Maglione remembers the weeks after her nephew died, including his viewing and funeral. After his suicide, the funeral home had to reconstruct one side of Maglione's face.

Family members who came to the viewing worried about what Maglione would look like. His aunt volunteered to look at him first.

"I needed to see him. I needed to know that it was true and that I was never going to hear his voice again," Roseanne Maglione said.

She looked down at her nephew, then touched his hand.

The gangly boy who practically grew up with her children was gone.

"What would've been the harm in delaying his duty for a few months while he got treatment?" she said.

Reach Michele Canty at 771-2028 or mcanty@ydr.com.

Memorials

Dozens of entries with condolences for U.S. Marines Lance Cpl. Joseph Basil Maglione are listed at fallenheroesmemorial.com.

Many thank him for his service to his country, and call him a hero.

A Marine who was Maglione's roommate while they trained together in Virginia wrote, "Joe was a great guy and he seemed to have great things in store for him.

"I think about him often, and I hope that he is in a better place."

The summer after his death, his parents, Joseph B. Maglione II and Rosemary Corr, were presented with a posthumous bachelor's degree for their son at Drexel University's commencement.

Both parents declined interviews for the stories on Maglione, but his mother said in an e-mail, "The loss of Joe (my only child) was devastating to both myself and my ex-husband, as well as everyone who knew Joe. ...

"He was one of the best," Corr wrote.

To this day, the university sponsors a scholarship in Maglione's honor, for students who major in engineering.

For more information on the scholarship, or to make a donation, call Drexel University at 215-895-2611.



Another suicide

In addition to Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph B. Maglione III, another service member with local ties, U.S. Army Pfc. Corey Small, took his life while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Small committed suicide July 2 or 3, 2003, at Camp Dragoon, in Baghdad, Iraq, according to reports on his death obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

“The autopsy report reflected the cause of death as a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death as suicide,” a U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command report states.

A York County native, the 20-year-old has a son who lives in the county and other family members who live in East Berlin, including his mother, Jodie Orner.

Orner disputes how her son died and does not believe military accounts.

After three years of submitting FOIA requests for information on Small's death, the York Daily Record/York Sunday News received reports this summer.

Reports received on Small's death confirm his death was a suicide, but list conflicting dates for his death, and at least one report lists July 2 and July 3, 2003 as the date of death.

Ellie