Soldier accused in stepson’s death in Ohio
July 10, 2008
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — A former Baumholder-based soldier who served in Iraq two years ago and recently talked to friends about the difficulties of dealing with post-combat stress now stands accused of killing his 3-year-old stepson inside his Ohio apartment.
Corey Flugga — who received the Purple Heart for injuries suffered while serving in Iraq two years ago — was indicted for murder Monday in connection with his stepson’s June 21 death. Flugga served with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in Ramadi during the Baumholder-based unit’s 2006 deployment in Iraq, according to Kevin Phelps, Flugga’s former Army roommate.
Phelps told The Advocate of Newark, Ohio, that just a few weeks ago the two former infantrymen talked about the lingering emotional strains from their time in Iraq.
Flugga recently reunited with Phelps during a visit to his Army buddy’s home in Oklahoma City. During that trip they talked about the difficulty of coming to terms with their experiences in Ramadi.
"For the most part, we talked about how people don’t understand what we’re going through," Phelps told The Advocate. "Family, the military, they don’t know how to deal with it."
According to Army data, 10,049 soldiers who had been deployed to combat zones were diagnosed with PTSD in 2007. The number of Army PTSD cases has risen each year since the start of combat operations in Iraq.
Whether Flugga suffers from PTSD and whether it will be a factor in his upcoming trial remains uncertain. However, at least one family member of the victim was concerned that such a diagnosis could be used as an excuse.
"That’s what we’re all thinking," Shelly Custard, an aunt of the child, told The Advocate. "That he’s going to use that (PTSD) as a plea bargain thing. I know others who have served and come back and they ain’t never done nothing like that."
Authorities contend that Flugga, 22, hit 3-year-old Carson Hanson in the stomach Saturday, resulting in deadly internal injuries. An autopsy revealed that blood and a large blood clot were in the boy’s abdomen. The coroner also reported that bruising along the abdomen matched the shape of knuckles.
Police allege that the assault occurred when Flugga was taking care of his son and stepson while his wife was at work.
He is currently being held at the Licking County Justice Center in lieu of $1 million bond.
According to Phelps, Flugga suffered a head injury from an roadside bomb blast while on patrol in Ramadi. The injury resulted in months of treatment, including a stint at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, The Advocate reported.
The 2006 campaign in Iraq was a bloody one for the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. Twenty eight soldiers were killed in combat, and many of those casualties happened in Ramadi.
Phelps told The Advocate that the responsibility of watching his stepson and 1-year-old son, Hunter, caused Flugga stress.
"I’ll just say this," Phelps told the paper. "My little girls were shoved down my throat as soon as I got home just like his boys were shoved down his throat. That’s wrong. We weren’t over there baby-sitting. We were killing people and getting shot at."
The effects of PTSD in recent headlines
Combat stress disorders have been around as long as there have been wars. It’s been called shell shock and combat fatigue. Now, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is part of the American lexicon.
Here are some recent stories of military members whose lives were affected by PTSD:
• In North Carolina, a former Army medic made famous by a photograph that showed him carrying an injured Iraqi boy during the first week of the war in March 2003 has died of an apparent overdose, according to various media reports.
Media reports quoted military doctors as saying Joseph Patrick Dwyer suffered from PTSD.
He died in late May at a hospital in Pinehurst, N.C. He was 31.
• In Honolulu, Hawaii, a U.S. soldier assigned to Schofield Barracks barricaded himself in his home last week during an 18-hour standoff with Honolulu Police.
A local television station reported that the soldier’s wife said he has PTSD and has become depressed and turned to alcohol. While in Iraq, two of his close friends were killed right in front of him, she said.
Pfc. James Burmeister was being held at Fort Knox, facing a court-martial on AWOL and desertion charges.