Mother of a soldier found dead in barracks wants more oversight for deaths

PV2 Caleb Smither

The mother of the United States Army Paratrooper has taken to DC to raise awareness about a pressing issue that led to the late discovery of her son’s body.

Heather Baker, the mother of PV2 Caleb Smither, went to Capitol Hill and recounted how her son was found dead in his barracks room, five days after he was told to go rest on account of a head injury.

During those five days, nobody checked on Smither.

The soldier had injured himself in the line of duty, striking his head while working at the motor pool earlier in the month.

Smither was a member of Echo Company, 37th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and was pronounced dead shortly after his discovery on January 22, 2020.

At the time of his death, Smither was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is now known as Fort Liberty.

An autopsy on Smither revealed that he had bacterial meningitis, which went undetected due to his alleged head injury.

According to the Fayetteville Observer, Baker is critical of how the Army handled the matter, and how it affected a malpractice suit that she filed.

“Imagine a year and half without any idea of what’s going on, then all of a sudden you get a call from your attorney telling you that the Army has denied your medical malpractice claim,” she said.

“At the end of the day, Caleb is in the ground, but what about everybody else,” Baker added. “I can not sit here in Lubbock, Texas, and see all these things happening to our men and women in uniform and veterans and not say anything.”

Baker stated that she hopes members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees will pressure the Army to revisit its policies concerning checking on service members who are assigned to bed rest for injuries or illness.

A look into the death of Smither revealed that he was initially turned away from the hospital until members of his unit took him to the emergency room.

The medical professional who took a look at Smither in the hospital was reportedly a civilian contractor.

Baker was not made aware of this until sometime after her son’s death.

“Caleb died in 2020,” Baker’s attorney, Maharaj, said. “It almost appears as if the Army notified us after about the contractor after the fact despite having ample opportunity to tell us.”

While the Army has effectively closed the case, Baker hopes that the matter will be revisited.

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