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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


They didn't just find out

Behind the walls of Ward 54

They're overmedicated, forced to talk about their mothers instead of Iraq, and have to fight for disability pay. Traumatized combat vets say the Army is failing them, and after a year following more than a dozen soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, I believe them.

By Mark Benjamin

NothingFebruary 18, 2005 | Before he hanged himself with his bathrobe sash in the psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Spc. Alexis Soto-Ramirez complained to friends about his medical treatment. Soto-Ramirez, 43, had been flown out of Iraq five months before then because of chronic back pain that became excruciating during the war. But doctors were really worried about his mind. They thought he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving with the 544th Military Police Company, a unit of the Puerto Rico National Guard, the kind of unit that saw dirty, face-to-face combat in Iraq.

A copy of Soto-Ramirez's medical records, reviewed by Salon, show that a doctor who treated him in Puerto Rico upon his return from Iraq believed his mental problems were probably caused by the war and that his future was in the Army's hands. "Clearly, the psychiatric symptoms are combat related," a clinical psychologist at Roosevelt Roads Naval Hospital wrote on Nov. 24, 2003. The entry says, "Outcome will depend on adequacy and appropriateness of treatment." Doctors in Puerto Rico sent Soto-Ramirez to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., to get the best care the Army had to offer. There, he was put in Ward 54, Walter Reed's "lockdown," or inpatient psychiatric ward, where the most troubled patients are supposed to have constant supervision.

But less than a month after leaving Puerto Rico, on Jan. 12, 2004, Soto-Ramirez was found dead, hanging in Ward 54. Army buddies who visited him in the days before his death said Soto-Ramirez was increasingly angry and despondent. "He was real upset with the treatment he was getting," said René Negron, a former Walter Reed psychiatric patient and a friend of Soto-Ramirez's. "He said: 'These people are giving me the runaround ... These people think I'm crazy, and I'm not crazy, Negron. I'm getting more crazy being up here.'

Salon has been covering the tragedy at Walter Reed for two years. Yet, the Bush Admininstration pretends that they didn't know what was going on. What lie won't they tell.

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