"Jury Still Out" on Army's Probe of Recruit's Death by Dieting
UPDATE, AUGUST 2011: Lora Bailey has retained Joel Kuhlman, a civilian attorney based in Bowling Green, OH to represent her family in a federal lawsuit against the US Army for the wrongful death of her son. Tod Ensign, Citizen Soldier's legal director has offered Mr. Kuhlman his group's assistance as he moves forward to seek justice in what will likely be a protracted legal battle. One potential obstacle will be a 1950 Supreme Court decision in the Feres case which held that plaintiffs cannot use the Federal Tort Claims Act to recover damages from injuries that occurred "incident to military service."
Lorain County Coroner Dr. Paul Matus ruled Glenni Wilsey, 20, died due to acute cardiac dysrhythmia from an electrolyte imbalance brought on by dieting.
"I'll be damned if this'll ever happen again," said Wilsey's mother, Lora Bailey, who has vowed to fight for a change in the military's policies and procedures when counseling young people on weight loss.
"I looked at him in that hospital and I knew exactly why he died, nobody had to tell me," she told Fox 8.
Wilsey was determined to enlist in the Army's EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) Unit. Bailey claims he was told he needed to lose 70 pounds in a matter of months in order to go active duty.
"Glenn had never failed at anything, at anything, and he wasn't going to fail at this," she said.
Bailey claims army recruiters pushed Wilsey to sweat weight off by wearing a wet suit under two sweat suits while wrapped in a waist band. She says they encouraged him to run for hours on 800 calories a day. Purging, she says, was encouraged.
"It was the 'vomiting on 800 calories a day diet,'" Bailey said.
A senior picture of Wilsey in his high school football uniform shows a healthy looking teenager about six feet tall weighing roughly 270 pounds.
Another picture taken in the third week of February shows a chiseled young man with muscular arms. Bailey said Wilsey was told he still hadn't met the army's standards for height and weight.
Less than two weeks later, Wilsey took another picture. His upper body appeared emaciated, his skin clinging to his clavicle and shoulder bones. Bailey says her son still had seven pounds to lose when he took the picture.
Two days later he collapsed in their Vermilion home and died a short while later. He had lost 85 pounds in 3 and a half months. Wilsey weighed 197 pounds the day he died.
"I have to live with the fact that I allowed this to happen to my son," said an emotional Bailey.
The 41-year-old mother of three says she intends to fight for changes in the army's recruiting process so that no one else's son or daughter will be put at risk by irresponsible advice like that which she says was given to her boy.
The Chief of Public Affairs for the Army's Cleveland Recruiting Battalion told Fox 8, "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Glenni Wilsey. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to his family and friends during this time of grief and pain. There is a pending investigation regarding the death of Glenni Wilsey. We are confident that all details pertaining to this unfortunate loss will be revealed and appropriate actions will be taken based upon those findings."
According to his mother, Wilsey was an honor student who lettered in football, practiced Buddhism, was an accomplished artist and an organ donor. Bailey asks other military families with similar stories to come forward so that together their voices will be heard and changes will be made.
"They had no right to take his life, whether on purpose or not," said Bailey.