Steven Rodas, nj.com
Aching reminders of her son’s death have come steadily, Regina Mullen said Sunday.
Kyle Mullen, who died Feb. 4 after completing the grueling first phase of U.S. Navy SEAL training called “Hell Week,” was supposed to be the best man at his brother TJ’s June wedding. A photo of Kyle was set up at the ceremony instead.
A street was dedicated to the 24-year-old in Manalapan at the start of the month. Fitting, his mother Regina said, as he was devoted to his community.
And last Saturday, Regina — a nurse who lives in the township — opened her mail to find an Armed Forces Medical Examiner autopsy report, stating that her son died as a result of pneumonia during the training at Naval Base Coronado in California.
“(Kyle) had completed Hell Week and was being looked after by non-medical personnel to help him tend to his basic needs,” reads a copy of the autopsy report provided to NJ Advance Media by Mullen’s mother. “He was in a wheelchair most of the time, unable to stand and walk on his own. He had reportedly been coughing/spitting up red-tinged fluid which had nearly filled a 36 oz. sports drink bottle.”
Kyle died of “acute pneumonia due to Streptococcus pyogenes,” according to the May 2 report written by U.S. Army Regional Medical Examiner Wendy Warren. Streptococcus pyogenes is “a major human-specific bacterial pathogen” that can be mild or life-threatening depending on the case, the National Library of Medicine says online.
Mullen’s mother said the military’s autopsy simply acted as confirmation of a private autopsy she’d already paid $6,000 to complete some weeks prior. The military’s medical examiner also confirmed what she’d suspected in a toxicology report — which came back negative for drugs.
The Navy did not immediately provide comment Sunday.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to Seaman Mullen’s family for their loss,” Rear Admiral H.W. Howard III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command previously said. “We are extending every form of support we can to the Mullen family and Kyle’s classmates.”
Regina Mullen said she hadn’t been able to obtain her son’s medical diagnosis immediately following his “Hell Week” training, which lasted for five-and-a-half-days. She also wants to know why discipline hasn’t been doled out to the instructors and the commander in charge at the time of her son’s death.
“I want them all in jail … never able to work in the Navy. They should be in jail,” she said. “This is like murder to me and no one seems to care, but I care and I’m not going to stop. My whole community cares.”
Signs that her son was suffering during the training and was not provided appropriate medical treatment came prior to Feb. 4, she said.
Last August, Kyle discussed facing mistreatment during rigorous training exercises, she said.
A few months later, he FaceTimed her.
“That was in January, the second week. He was all swollen. His face was swollen. He’d been spitting up blood,” Mullen’s mom said.
A month later, she was told that once “Hell Week” began, he would not have access to his phone until the training was finished.
“He called me that day when he (completed) Hell Week and I heard it on the phone. I was yelling at him to FaceTime me. ‘You don’t sound good,’ I said. ‘What’s wrong,” she remembered. “He goes, ‘No, mom, I’m good. I love you’ and he hung up the phone.”
After the training, according to the medical examiner report, “One of the other SEAL candidates had requested medical attention due to feeling like he couldn’t breathe. As emergency personnel were summoned for that sailor, (Mullen) became unresponsive. When the ambulance crew arrived, they shifted their attention to Seaman Mullen and transported him to the hospital, where he was later pronounced deceased.”
Regina Mullen said she was told her son in fact died in the Navy barracks in the arms of a 19-year-old non-medical sailor.
She is currently waiting on the results of an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. NCIS did not immediately reply when asked for comment Sunday.
Kyle Mullen was a linebacker and tight end at Manalapan and led the Braves to a 2014 Central Jersey Group V state title, and was named team most valuable player. He was also a six-time letter winner in football and basketball, according to his Yale biography. He was on the Honor Roll and a member of the National Honor Society.
In addition to the autopsy report, his mother received condolences from President Joe Biden earlier this month.
“This certificate is awarded by a grateful nation in recognition of devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States,” reads a card from Biden in honor of Kyle Felix Mullen.
Regina Mullen said she was disappointed to have received it more than four months after her son’s death.
Going forward, she wants the individuals in charge during her son’s death to be disciplined and for the Navy’s “Hell Week” training to have permanent oversight, she said.
“Kyle was happy go-lucky. He loved to exercise and be competitive,” she said, noting that her son volunteered at a nearby recreation center as a counselor, gave talks at a local school and was her best friend. “We’re horrified at how he was treated. It’s disgusting. It’s a disgrace to the country.”
To donate to Kyle Mullen’s family click here.
NJ Advance Media staff writer Larry Higgs contributed to this report.