So, now that The Brandon Act passed and Patrick and I started The Brandon Caserta Foundation, I can start writing for this blog I started nearly four years ago.
This blog will focus on military injustices not only the ones I have gone through but also the injustices that were done to other families as well. I will break down Brandon’s story first as there are so many injustices he went through before he died and what we went through after his death. These injustices that are happening to service members and families need to be exposed. That is the purpose of this blog and why I created it.
When a person is selected for the Navy SEAL program, they go through six phases to become a Navy Seal. Brandon was in the third phase known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUDS). It is in this phase, Brandon started experiencing pain in his shin (tibia). He did not ask to go to medical for about a week; he thought the pain would go away. Unfortunately, the pain got worse, so he was allowed to go to medical. He explained to the doctor what was going on and that he would like an X-ray. The “doctor” (can’t name him) told him it was just severe shin splints and to go back to training. Brandon told him it wasn’t shin splints, but the doctor didn’t care. Brandon went back to him the following week and, again, the doctor refused to do an X-ray and told Brandon to get back to his training and accused Brandon of wanting a break from training to rest up. That was not the case.
Two weeks before “Hell Week”, the part of the training where the candidates are up for five days and run 200 miles a day, completing 20 hours of physical fitness training, Brandon collapsed on the beach while doing an exercise, called “Boats on Head”. That is where they are carrying a huge sea raft fully equipped above their heads while marching 20+ miles. Brandon got back up and ran back under the boat but collapsed again, this time passing out.
When he came to, he was in the back of a pickup truck being taken to the famous bell candidates ring when they want to drop or tap out. Brandon begged the instructor to take him to medical, but the instructor refused to. Brandon refused to ring the bell and argued with the instructor for 10-15 minutes. The instructor took it upon himself to ring the bell for Brandon which is illegal. Candidates who want to drop out are the ONLY ones who can ring the bell. We were told that when we met with an actual Navy Seal before Brandon joined. With Brandon passing out and the instructor having to lift him into the truck, proves Brandon needed medical attention. This instructor was never held accountable for illegally dropping Brandon. On top of that, this instructor just left Brandon at the bell for him to walk back to the barracks room on his own. No medical treatment was rendered.
About two hours later, this same instructor helped drown a candidate in the pool. Yes, it was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. Brandon knew this candidate and liked him a lot. His name is James “Derek” Lovelace. We send our condolences to the Lovelace family. Also, Brandon had the flyer he received from the memorial service that was held for Derek that we found in Brandon’s personal belongings two years after Derek’s death. That shows that Brandon liked him. You can read his story here.
After the death of Lovelace, Brandon found out that EVERYONE from that class who was left made it through Hell Week and had become Seals. Brandon also found out that for several classes after Derek’s death everyone who wanted to make it through made it through. They had eased up on all the training because they were being watched by the media and Congress. No accountability happened for this death. The Navy has a habit of not disciplining anyone even when it’s blatant murder.
After Brandon was illegally dropped from the program, Patrick, a 22-year retired Navy Senior Chief, Brandon’s father, my husband, told him he could get him back in the program. Brandon told him he knows he could but that the instructors would never allow him to make it through. Brandon told us that there is a lot of drug use within the Seal program and with the Seals. He said the steroid use was awful. He told us that he heard people say whoever is not taking steroids they would not be chosen to continue.
If you knew Brandon, you know he absolutely hated drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. He would never do them so he knew he would be singled out and dropped anyway. Before joining the Navy, Brandon would talk to his friends and if he found out anyone did any of these he would try to get them to stop. Some did and some told him he didn’t know what he was missing. There were many friends he quit hanging out with because of their drug and alcohol usage.
So now Brandon is out of the Seal program. He is transferred to the 32nd Street Base in San Diego, California. We encouraged him to go to the hospital to get an x-ray on his leg. He walks in, tells the doctor about his leg, and, again, begs for an x-ray. The doctor told him it was severe shin splints but that he would humor Brandon and do an x-ray. After the x-ray, the doctor told Brandon if he saw something, he would call him but not to expect his call. Within 30 minutes the doctor called Brandon and told him to get back to the hospital because his tibia is broken in two places.
So, Brandon had been running 20+ miles a day performing every task and all the training required to become a Navy Seal on a broken leg for three weeks. This is why Patrick told Brandon he could get him back in the program. Brandon should have been taken to medical when he passed out on the beach. Brandon was also diagnosed with pneumonia and Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema (SIPE), Brandon was coughing up blood. This was due to being in the cold ocean almost every day. Seal trainees endure a lot as they go through their rigorous training.
A couple of days after being dropped, Brandon had to rerate or choose another job. He and many other special warfare candidates (EOD, Diver, Rescue Swimmer, etc.) are put in a room where computers spit out jobs based on each of their ASVAB scores and jobs that need to be filled by the Navy on that day at that particular time. If they are lucky, they will have five (5) jobs that are on their list. If you are even luckier, you will have a job that requires schooling. Most end up with a job that is an undesignated Seaman meaning they will go directly to a ship to paint, chip paint, and stand watches. Read about Undesignated Seaman here. The candidates have 30 minutes to decide which rating they want. Yes, they do count down out loud to them. If they do not choose a rating the person who is helping them chooses one for them and it will ALWAYS be undesignated because that is what the Navy needs more of. People to do all the crap work.
Brandon ended up with four (4) listings on his printout. All undesignated except Aviation Electrician. At least he went go to school in Pensacola, Florida. He graduated and went to a C School where he went through additional training to learn about the helicopters he would be working on. He ended up at Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28 in Norfolk, VA. This is where the “REAL” injustices happen.
I hope you enjoyed this first part of the injustices that happened to Brandon Caserta. Please come back for my next blog. Thank you for reading and if you want to be notified when my next blog comes out, please subscribe.
Teri Caserta, President
The Brandon Caserta Foundation