Roy Brooks Mason, Jr. – Specialist, United States Army

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Courtesy of the United States Army, Fort Carson, Colorado

A 28-year-old Fort Carson Soldier has been missing since Tuesday.

Private Firt Class Roy Mason II, 28, assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), did not report to Tuesday morning's accountability formation and is listed as absent without leave (AWOL).


A “be on the lookout” (BOLO) notice was issued Tuesday for Mason and a car he rented from Enterprise. The car is a 2008 red Chevy Cobalt, license plate number CO 253SOX.

Mason is described as being 6 feet tall, weighs 195 pounds and has brown eyes and brown hair. He joined the Army in July 2004, and has been with his current unit since April 2009. Mason has served in two deployments to Iraq, returning from the last in December 2007.

Mason's hometown is Fairfield, California. He has been awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Army Service Ribbon and Overseas Service Ribbon.

There is potential that the soldier is in possession of a firearm, however there is no indication that he is a threat to the general public.

“Please assist us in locating Pfc. Mason and bringing him back safely to his unit, friends and family. We are very concerned about this soldier and my heart goes out to his family and friends who are right now wondering where he is,” said Majpr General Mark A. Graham, commanding general, Division West (First Army) and Fort Carson.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts or who may have spotted Mason is encouraged to call the Fort Carson Military Police at 719-526-2333.

May 23, 2009:

SANTA CRUZ, California:  An AWOL soldier committed suicide in a car parked at an ocean overlook Friday, three days after he was reported missing from Fort Carson in Colorado.

Army officials issued alerts asking for the public's help in finding Private First Class Roy Brooks Mason Jr., a decorated Iraq War veteran, but had no luck finding the 28-year-old.

“We knew that he was missing and we were looking for him,” said Fort Carson spokeswoman Brandy Gill. “We were concerned for him.”

About 1:20p.m. Friday, Mason used the phone in a call box on West Cliff Drive near Stockton Avenue to call 911. He told a dispatcher there would be a dead body in a red Chevy Cobalt parked on West Cliff Drive, authorities reported.

He asked someone to clean up the area quickly “before kids see,” an emergency dispatcher said.

Police, fire and medics found the car and saw a man sitting inside with what appeared to be a Beretta handgun on his lap, authorities reported.

Officers surrounded the area but waited to approach the car until they had obtained a ballistic shield. Mason had shot himself before emergency responders arrived.

West Cliff Drive, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, was packed with walkers, joggers, bicyclists and cars when the shooting occurred.

Police said no passersby were injured.

Tuesday, officials at Fort Carson, which is in Colorado Springs, had reported that Mason did not show up to accountability formation that morning and was listed as absent without leave. The Army reported he may be carrying a gun, but was not a threat to the public.

Mason, whose hometown is Fairfield, was part of Carson's Warrior Transition Unit, to which physically and psychologically wounded soldiers are assigned as they recover or wait for reassignment. Details about his injuries were not released by the Army.

He had served two tours in Iraq since joining the Army in 2004, according to Army records.

Mason had been awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Army Service Ribbon and the Overseas Service Ribbon.

Memorial grows at spot of soldier's suicide
Courtesy of the San Jose Sentinel
26 May 2009

SANTA CRUZ, California – Red, white and blue flowers now mark the oceanfront spot where a soldier shot himself Friday, as people paid tribute to the accomplished infantryman.

Cards and notes at the scenic spot along West Cliff Drive thank Army Private First Class Roy Brooks Mason Jr. for his service to the country and convey condolences to his family.

Mason, 28, of Fairfield, was a decorated soldier who had been deployed to Iraq twice.

He was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, and was reported missing from there Tuesday.

About 1:15 p.m. Friday, Mason called emergency dispatchers from a call box near West Cliff Drive and Stockton Avenue and told a dispatcher a dead body would be in a red Chevrolet Cobalt there, a car he had recently rented in Colorado. He asked that someone “clean up the area” before children see anything amiss.

Tuesday, those who had heard about Mason's death struggled to make sense of it.

One man parked near the overlook said he wasn't surprised to hear of the loss, as he had served in the Marine Corps and knew that “soldiers go through a lot.”

Ingrid Smith of Santa Cruz stopped and took a moment to straighten a story about Mason that had partially fallen off a bench.

Smith said hearing about Mason's death angered her, as she believes the military needs to change the way it deals with those who need help.

“This needs to be a wake-up call; the military needs to do more,” she said. “…And the fact that he did it in plain view, in such a super-populated area makes me think it was a message, even if there wasn't any note.

” …He was obviously a good soldier and knew if he went back, he would be penalized.”

Mason's suicide is evidence of a problem Army officials acknowledge.

Thursday, the Army released a statement saying that the service's suicide rate, of 19 per 100,000 soldiers, rose last year and is now nearly double the rate recorded before the invasion of Iraq.

The Army is taking steps to combat that pattern, said Lieutenant Colonel Leo Ruth, who is part of a suicide prevention task force formed in March and based in Arlington, Virginia.

The task force is taking a holistic approach to an issue that is not easy to pin down, Ruth said.

“It's more than just suicide prevention,” he said. “Its also promoting health and fomenting the idea that there is no reason not to seek help. At some point we all reach our breaking point.”

Their research has not shown any correlation between suicide and deployment, he said, admitting that was a surprise to him and others. But, he said, triggers can be any number of factors exacerbated by deployment – such as relationship problems, drug and alcohol abuse and financial challenges.

“The causes run the gamut,” Ruth said. “And sometimes you may never know.”

The Army has the longest deployments and the highest suicide rates amongst the military branches, he said.

Army soldiers are deployed for 12 to 15 months, versus four to six months for those in the Air Force and six to nine months in the Marine Corps.

The Army is considering adding more behavioral health and substance abuse counselors as well as chaplains, he said, and is battling a long-standing stigma against admitting the need for counseling.

“The senior leadership has said that they will no longer tolerate that type of stigma against another solider,” Ruth said. “But it may be needed the most at the buddy level; they will be the ones to see it.”

Mason had been in the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson for less than two months, a spokesperson said.

The units are new to the Army, Ruth said, and employ mental health counselors, physicians and others who seek to help soldiers reintegrate to military or civilian life.

Active duty soldiers are sometimes referred to a Veterans Administration facility for mental health counseling, said Kerri Childress, a spokeswoman for the administration's Palo Alto Health Care System.

And there is help available for active military personnel and retired veterans, she said.

They have inpatient and outpatient programs for post traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental needs, Childress said.

The programs would get a boost under President Obama's 2010 budget for the Veteran's Administration, Childress said.

Obama this month called for a 15.5 percent increase in spending for veterans' services, the largest increase in 30 years. Included is a 11 percent increase in health care funding.

“Our biggest challenge is getting them to come to us,” Childress said. “There is still very much a stigma in our culture at large, but certainly in the military about mental health care.”

Fear of promotion deters many soldiers from admitting they need help, she said, or fear of being released to go home. Others think they will feel better once they get home, only to find the pain is still there months later.

“I wish so much that these young men and women could hear some of our older Vietnam veterans who have dealt with (post traumatic stress disorder),” she said. “I wish I could hear them say, ‘If only I had gotten help sooner.' We all know that nobody goes to combat and comes back unchanged. There is a readjustment for every single person, and depending upon what they witnessed or endured it can be almost impossible to deal with alone.”

Childress stressed that it is up to everyone to encourage returning or active-duty veterans to get help if they appear to be suffering emotionally.

“These people belong to our community,” she said. “And it works; I've seen people turn their lives around. Sometimes it's just takes a friend or neighbor willing to take the time to sit and talk.”

In Santa Cruz, as one person wrote on the West Cliff Drive memorial, “the war has come home.”

And though the source of Mason's despair might well remain a mystery, officials who deal with suicide say the beauty of the coastline sometimes seems to be a draw for those considering ending their own life.

“I'm sure our suicide rate is no higher than other counties,” coroner's Sergeant Alan Burt said. “But we seem to have a lot of people who come here to end their lives because they like to look at the beauty of the cliffs or they come back to where they have good memories.”

Mason had been awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Army Service Ribbon and the Overseas Service Ribbon.

Reach the Veteran's Administration suicide prevention line at 800-273-TALK.

Friend: Soldier who killed himself on West Cliff unable to control his aggression after two tours in Iraq
By Cathy Kelly
Courtesy of San Jose Mercury News
7 June 2009

SANTA CRUZ — A solider who shot himself on West Cliff Drive recently had become unable to control the aggression he felt after serving two tours in Iraq, a friend said.

Roy Brooks Mason, Jr., 28, of Fairfield, was an Army infantryman who had received several medals and once planned to be a career Army officer, said Jay Johnson of Rocklin, a friend of Mason's since childhood.

But his combat experiences changed him and his plans.

Johnson said Mason was due to retire in July, after suffering injuries in two explosions and undergoing treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. Military officials, however, would not confirm Mason was to be discharged.

But Mason would not make it to July.

On May 19, he was reported missing from Fort Carson, Colorado. Johnson said Mason rented a car and ended up in Capitola two days later, a place he had loved when he spent a vacation there as a child, Johnson said.

The next day, Mason called emergency dispatchers from a call box on West Cliff Drive near Stockton Avenue in Santa Cruz, saying a dead body could be found in a car parked there. He asked that the scene be cleaned before any children saw it, officials said.

Mason enlisted in the Army in 2004, not long after graduating from Fairfield High School, Johnson said, and then signed up for another three-year term.

His dad had served in the Marine Corps, Johnson said, and then owned a kickboxing gym in the Rocklin area, where Mason and his friends spent many hours. When his father moved to Nebraska in 1995, Mason moved to Fairfield, where his mom lived. He didn't like Fairfield and wanted to earn money to help his mom, and also believed in the war effort “to a point,” Johnson said.

Mason changed after his first 18-month tour, he said, but didn't admit to needing help and wouldn't ask for it. After his second tour, it was worse, he added.

“He was always warm and funny, but when he came back the second time everything was cold and calculated, even something like going to get pizza,” he said.

Mason and his comrades in the 4th brigade combat team patrolled Ramadi, clearing houses and searching for insurgents, constantly prone to attack, Johnson said. Mason told his friend about some of his experiences.

His brigade once entered a “suicide house,” where insurgents would behead captured soldiers and others and leave the corpses there. The house was rigged with explosives, and Mason saw his friends die when they walked in and stepped on the device. Another time, the Hummer he was traveling in drove over an explosive device, and Mason suffered a head injury and lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he realized he was holding his captain's severed head, trying to reattach it.

Last year, Mason was assigned to a desk job after suffering injuries via two improvised explosive devices and because he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, Johnson said. He lived with his wife off base, but the relationship was falling apart, he said.

Mason tried to kill himself twice last year, Johnson said, though he doesn't think the failing marriage played a large role in that.

“He didn't kill himself because he didn't like his life,” Johnson said. “It was because he always felt like hurting people. He had a lot of anger and rage and he couldn't control it.

“I just know, knowing him, that he'd rather sacrifice himself than climb up on some clock tower somewhere.”

The friends thought of themselves as brothers, Johnson said, and when he realized how badly Mason needed help, he moved to Colorado last year.

He questions the treatment Mason received after his suicide attempts. Mason was assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson about two months before his death, a unit designed to rehabilitate soldiers for continued service or for returning home.

But Mason said he would report to the unit and be back home by 9 a.m.

“I really don't know what the WTU is supposed to do, except get them to open up and talk, but he was very private,” he said. “They could have given him some intense therapy instead of just doping him up.”

Both Mason and Johnson planned to return to California in July, but Johnson returned in May due to personal problems, he said.

But he thought his friend was getting better. He had moved to base and was looking forward to leaving the Army, yet troubled that his brigade was being sent to Afghanistan.

Johnson had thought he would be under close supervision, after his suicide attempts, and wouldn't be allowed to keep a gun.

“He should have been confined and he should have gotten more help, but he was good at hiding stuff and was very smart; they said he had a genius IQ,” Johnson said. “I'm just angry at the military and shocked and sad and hurt; I lost my brother.”

A spokesman for Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson said he could not discuss Mason's treatment, but that all soldiers have access to counseling, at the Warrior Transition Unit, the hospital or by private counselors in Colorado Springs.

Treatment is based on their needs as determined by their leadership, health care provider and case manager, public affairs spokesman Roger Meyer said.

However, Mason was not slated for retirement in July, Meyer said. Instead, he was being evaluated to see if he was fit for continued service.

If he had been determined to be a threat to himself or others, he would have been admitted in an inpatient treatment facility, Meyer said, and a superior could have confiscated his gun.

Mason wrote several letters before killing himself, including one to a Colorado Congressman, in which he asked for more intense screening and other help for returning soldiers, Johnson said.

He asked Johnson to look after his mother and his brother, Nick, who graduates from high school this month. His mother is training to become an emergency dispatcher, Johnson said.

He will attend the graduation ceremony, he said, and will plan a local memorial after Mason is buried June 16 at Arlington National Cemetery.

“We always helped each other out, and each other's family,” he said. “But this is hard; this is one of the hardest things I've ever dealt with.”

Military officials say Mason was posthumously promoted to the rank of Specialist.

Earlier, he was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Army Service Ribbon and the Overseas Service Ribbon.

Those commendations meant a lot to him, Johnson said.

Reach the Veterans Administration suicide prevention line at 800-273-TALK or Suicide Prevention Service of the Central Coast at 458-5300 or 877-ONE-LIFE.

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