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Complexities of a soldier's death emerge

Complexities of a soldier's death emerge

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Oct. 14 Daily News editorial

All of our reporting on the death of Army Spc. Mikayla Bragg, beginning with the first story last December, has noted that the circumstances of the death remained under investigation by the Army.

We obtained the results of that investigation several weeks ago and, after a determined effort to make certain every word was as well-chosen and as accurate as possible, we publish them today.

They aren't easy or escapist reading. They reveal that Bragg's case may have been mishandled at several turns by the Army and that interventions at multiple points may have placed her in a more protected environment. They reveal the Army's finding that Bragg committed suicide while alone in a guard tower somewhere in Afghanistan.

They also reveal Mikayla Bragg.

There's nobility and heroism in Bragg's story, and it comes from Bragg herself. We find it impossible not to admire her.

Nothing in the report stood out to us more than the account of Bragg's initial months in the Army, when she was several times recommended for exclusion from service overseas. When given requirements for reinstatement, Bragg met them. When reinstated, she excelled.

We think it's worth noting that Bragg was frequently across tables from military doctors and psychiatrists who were recommending that she be parked at a safer, stateside location, thousands of miles away from the bullets in Central Asia. She not only declined this option, she appears to have resisted all attempts to impose it. She won recognition and medals. Whatever her unseen wounds and inner traumas, she persevered and prevailed.

Until she couldn't. We fully concur with the Army's finding that Bragg died in the line of duty and should be recognized in no way other than as among our honored war dead.

American military suicides have reached unprecedented and unacceptable levels, exceeding one per day worldwide in 2012. We also agree with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who said this summer that our current military leaders should and will be judged on how effectively they can lead in this area.

Erik Olson's report on Bragg's experience in the Army is direct and disturbing. To those well-meaning individuals who have requested that we withhold it from the public, we say respectfully that our only proper role and service must be to gather and distribute rather than to ration access to the news, however saddening we often find the news to be. Spc. Mikayla Bragg was the first man or woman from Cowlitz County to die in the line of military duty since the Vietnam War. In terms of our mission and responsibilities, suppressing the outcome of the Army's investigation into her death was neither our right nor our prerogative.

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