LULAC And Brandon Caserta Foundation Demand Action From The U.S. Navy Amid Suicide Crisis Or Risk Loss Of Support
Nation's Largest and Oldest Latino Civil Rights Organization Joins with Authors of the Brandon Act In Issuing List of Specific Steps Navy Must Take
Washington, DC - The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Brandon Caserta Foundation (BCF) are making an unprecedented call upon the U.S. Navy. They are demanding immediate and specific actions in the wake of a series of deaths, including four suicides during the past year involving servicemembers of the U.S.S. George Washington. This marks the first time in LULAC's 93-year history that it is invoking a direct demand of the U.S. Navy to take action or risk losing the support of millions of Latinos while it seeks to recruit across the United States and Puerto Rico as well as the trust of Latino families of present servicemembers.
"LULAC is calling for an immediate meeting with Carlos del Toro, Secretary of the Navy to address this crisis," says Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President. "We need to see concrete steps taken urgently, or we cannot reassure parents asking us whether it is safe to send their loved ones into the Navy. It's that simple," adds Garcia.
"There is absolutely no more time for talk or promises," says Patrick Caserta, whose 21-year-old son, Brandon Caserta, died by suicide on June 25, 2018. Brandon was assigned to Helicopter Squadron 28 at the Norfolk Naval Base and jumped to his death into a helicopter tail rotor following what his parents say was a history of chronic bullying unchecked by his Navy command. "Our sons and daughters are victims of murder by suicide caused by a toxic and negligent command that refuses to acknowledge and deal with what it knows is a severe problem. Enough is enough, and Americans deserve to have the truth. The U.S. Navy doesn't care about our children when it refuses to take the specific steps to protect them from the criminal actions of those in command driving our loved ones to take their own lives," adds Caserta.
LULAC and BCF are calling for the dismissal of the Captain of the U.S.S. George Washington and the entire chain of command, chiefs mess, and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) for addressing the ship personnel with no compassion and a blatant disregard for the tragedies that happened and the welfare and wellbeing of his sailors. Other demands include releasing data on all suicide attempts within the Navy during the past five years and in the future. In addition, commanding officers be held directly accountable for suicides and suicide attempts. Similarly, all individuals, whether presently serving or retired, connected to suicide in the Navy, including Brandon Caserta, be held accountable based upon a full investigation of each case by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Further, those officers who are found guilty be stripped of retirement benefits, and their discharge listed as dishonorable. Also, individuals withholding evidence and information related to suicide within the Navy face court-martial for obstruction of justice and accessories to a cover-up of a criminal act.
"Our son's name must be restored for what the Navy did to him," says Teri Caserta, President of BCF and Brandon's mother. "We are owed a public apology and demand that Naval Station Norfolk Gate 3 and the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado Gate be renamed after Brandon Caserta for what his sacrifice and the Brandon Act will do to protect generations of other servicemembers. Also, the U.S. Navy needs to underwrite the education outreach of the BCF to ensure that Navy-wide around the world, men and women in uniform are aware of the mental health resources to which they are entitled," she adds.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/