A letter from Barb to ACCIA three
years ago

A recruiter called him within 24 hours and 2 weeks
later he had quit his job as supervisor and was on
a plane to Houston.  I was a total wreck.  Every
night I talked to would always wonder if he had
passed up a chance of a lifetime.

On Dec. 1st, 2004 he left Houston Texas.  The
man that left that day never came home again.

On his first R&R I noticed a change in him.  It took
about three days of his vacation to get him settled,
emotionally.  He would be angry and snap at the
littlest of things.  He also had trouble sleeping; he
would pace the floors at night.  Then after the
three days he would calm down and by the time he
would leave it was always seemed too soon.

He started moving from base to base.  He wound
up on the Fallujah base when it was the big topic
on CNN at that time.  He never really talked about
anything that went on over there because they are
told not to or they could loose their jobs.  The
company’s reason was everyday he woke up and
wondered if it was his last.  He came home in Dec
2005.

He had slowly changed since he had taken this
job.  Very distant, he didn’t care about things he
used to care about.  At this visit he told me that it
was going to be 6 months before his next visit since
it was so expensive to fly home each time.  I was
shocked; we had both discussed how important we
both needed these visits every 4 months and now
he was telling me I had to wait two months longer
before the next one.  It didn’t seem to bother him at
all.  

He was now on the Mosul base and had taken on
the position of Hazmat Coordinator.  This position
paid $1500.00 more a month.  However he was still
working his Vector control supervisor position since
they were dragging their feet to find a
replacement.  He once told me that the bosses
were told to try to keep costs down.  So he was
doing two jobs at the wage for the higher paying
job.  He became exhausted.   Working 14 to 15
hours a day 7 days a week took its toll on him.

Every night he would call me at 7pm California
time.  One night he called very upset and sobbing.  
He had to clean up after a young soldier had shot
himself in the head in his barracks.  He kept
saying, “The smell, the smell, I can’t get rid of it.”  I
begged him to come home; this was not worth the
anguish he was going through.  He told me he
couldn’t because there was no one there to take
his positions.

During that 6 month time he became more and
more hostile to me over the phone.  Once he said
that if they would find a replacement for Vector
control our calls would be a lot nicer because he
would be less stressed.

During that last 6 months he changed
dramatically.  He was angry all the time.  When he
came home in June 2006, he had lost weight, he
had dark circles under his eyes and he couldn’t
sleep.  He held me and I could feel him shaking all
over.  He complained about a headache.
When he would talk to me he would clench his fists
at his side as if he was trying to hold back from
exploding.

One of the first things he asked me was, “Where is
my handgun?”  Alarms went off in my head.  I was
afraid for my life.  I had always felt that he was my
protector.  But the man that came home only
looked like my husband.  This man wasn’t
interested in anything that had meaning to my
husband.  This man didn’t care.

I left and went to a friends’ house.   He seemed to
be fine with our daughter and the anger seemed
focused at me.

I didn’t talk to him for 5 days.  During this time he
destroyed everything in our home.  TV’s,
Appliances, furniture, and threw away anything of
mine that he knew I loved.  But the odd thing was
the way he did it.  He would pull out the TV from the
wall take off the back and sit there and clip every
wire on the inside.  Then he would put everything
back to the way it was.  So when you walked into
the house everything looked normal except for the
living room furniture.  My couches were missing
their cushions.

When I discovered what he had done I asked him if
he was just in a rage when he did all this, he said
to me, “No, actually I was quite calm.”

On July 15 I went to his hotel room because I had
received a prorated check from our car insurance.  
He had cancelled our policy.

That day was the last I ever saw him alive.  He said
he needed help treatment.  He said that it would be
intense and that he wanted me there with him.  

I told him to get the help first and then we would
talk.  That’s when he told me he had his handgun
with him.  Earlier that week he had told me he had
thrown it down our well.  Plus I knew that if I did stay
right there with him he wouldn’t get help and
something awful would happen.  

He told me he couldn’t go back to Iraq.  He said, “I
can’t go back there”  “I just can’t” and I told him he
didn’t have to.  I was sure he could get his old job
back.  Then he said, “Honey, I’m just really tired.”  I
started feeling nervous and anxious and had to
leave that hotel room.  He kept asking me to stay a
little while longer.  I kept thinking of the handgun he
had with him.  I left not knowing that was the last
time I would ever see him.  

The man I married was my prince charming.  We
had grown up together.  High school sweethearts,
we were married 17 ½ years.  I believe that if he
had never gone over there he would still be here
today.

Something happened in Iraq.  He committed suicide
the morning of July 16th, 2006 at the Oxford
Suites. He left behind a lot of pain and two ruined
lives.  I never dreamed I would be without him and
my daughter without a father.  Who will walk her
down the isle now?  He always said he would take
her to her prom since he was such a great dancer.

He was her hero.  They had a special bond.  
Everyday after he got home from work they shared
their days together.  This was their time.  Now it’s
all gone and picking up the pieces is the most
difficult part of our lives.  Everything we see has
memories.  My daughter clings to a few personal
items of his, tucked away in a special box she
keeps safe.

It’s too painful still to talk about what happened.  
They say time is a healer.  But it is a very slow
healing process and there is a lot of suffering
along the way.
American Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan
Casualties Not Counted
Wade Dill
Update Wade Dill Casualty Counted
ALJ Awards Defense Base Act benefits to Barbara Dill
The man I married was my prince charming.  
We had grown up together.
High school sweethearts, we were married 17 ½ years.  
I believe that if he had never gone over there he would still be
here today.  
Something happened in Iraq.  
He committed suicide the morning of July 16th, 2006 at the
Oxford Suites.
He left behind a lot of pain and two ruined lives.  
I never dreamed I would be without him
and
my daughter without a father.
REDDING, Calif. — Wade Dill does not figure into the toll of war dead. An
exterminator, Dill took a job in Iraq for a company contracted to do pest control on
military bases. There, he found himself killing disease-carrying flies and rabid dogs,
dodging mortars and huddling in bomb shelters.

Dill, a Marine Corps veteran, was a different man when he came back for visits here,
his family said: moody, isolated, morose. He screamed at his wife and daughter. His
weight dropped. Dark circles haunted his dark brown eyes.
Three weeks after he returned home for good, Dill booked a room in an anonymous
three-story motel alongside Interstate 5. There, on July 16, 2006, he shot himself in
the head with a 9 mm handgun. He left a suicide note for his wife and a picture for
his daughter, then 16. The caption read: "I did exist and I loved you.''

More than three years later, Dill's loved ones are still reeling, their pain
compounded by a drawn-out battle with an insurance company over death benefits
from the suicide. Barb Dill, 47, nearly lost the family’s home to foreclosure. "We’re
circling the drain," she said.

While suicide among soldiers has been a focus of Congress and the public,
relatively little attention has been paid to the mental health of tens of thousands of
civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. When they make the news
at all, contractors are usually in the middle of scandal, depicted as cowboys,
wastrels or worse.

No agency tracks how many civilian workers have killed themselves after returning
from the war zones. A small study in 2007 found that 24 percent of contract
employees from DynCorp, a defense contractor, showed signs of depression or
post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after returning home. The figure is roughly
equivalent to those found in studies of returning soldiers.

If the pattern holds true on a broad scale, thousands of such workers may be
suffering from mental trauma, said Paul Brand, the CEO of Mission Critical
Psychological Services, a firm that provides counseling to war zone civilians. More
than 200,000 civilians work in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the most recent
figures.

"There are many people falling through the cracks, and there are few mechanisms
in place to support these individuals,'' said Brand, who conducted the study while
working at DynCorp."There's a moral obligation that's being overlooked. Can the
government really send people to a war zone and neglect their responsibility to
attend to their emotional needs after the fact?"

The survivors of civilians who have committed suicide have found themselves
confused, frustrated and alone in their grief.

"If I was in the military, I'd at least have someone to talk to," said Melissa
Finkenbinder, 42, whose husband, Kert, a mechanic, killed himself after returning
from Iraq. "Contractors don't have anything. Their families don't have anything."

Some families of civilian contractors who have committed suicide have tried to battle
for help through an outdated government system designed to provide health
insurance and death benefits to civilian contractors injured or killed on the job.

Under the system, required by a law known as the Defense Base Act [2], defense
firms must purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their employees in war
zones. It is highly specialized and expensive insurance, dominated by the troubled
giant AIG and a handful of other companies. The cost of it is paid by taxpayers as
part of the contract price.

But the law, which is designed to provide coverage for accidental death and injury,
blocks payment of death benefits in the case of almost all suicides. Cases linked to
mental incapacity are the lone exception, judges have ruled.


A joint investigation last year by ProPublica, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times
[3] revealed that contract workers must frequently battle carriers for basic medical
coverage. While Congress has promised reforms, there has been no discussion of
changing the law when it comes to suicides involving civilian defense workers.


The military, by contrast, allows survivors to receive benefits in cases in which a
soldier's suicide can be linked to depression caused by battlefield stress.

Hundreds of soldiers have committed suicide since the war in Afghanistan began in
2001, according to studies by the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In
response, the Defense Department has become more active in trying to prevent
suicide than its hired contractors, military experts said.

The military is "aggressively trying to reach people and do intervention beforehand
and set up suicide awareness programs," said Ian de Planque, a benefits expert at
the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans group. "Awareness of it has
increased. I don’t know that it’s transferred over to the civilian sector at this point."


Wade Dill was working at a local pest control company when he decided to take a
job with KBR in Iraq in late 2004. The money was good – almost $11,000 a month
for handling extermination and hazardous material disposal, more than double his
normal salary.

"He said this was our opportunity," Barb Dill said. "He could start a college fund for
our daughter, pay off the mortgage and have a nice retirement. He told me at his
age, 41, he didn't know if he had enough years left in him to give us what he
wanted."

Wade started that December, working on bases in central and northern Iraq.
Violence was ever present. A base near Mosul was shelled frequently. He told Barb
that a mortar landed close enough to temporarily deafen him. Once, he called her
sobbing.

"My husband never cried, ever," she said. "Marines don't cry. A young man, a
soldier, had put a pistol to his head and blown his brains out. And Wade had to go
in and clean up after they removed the body –he had to clean up brain matter and
blood. It really upset him."

Barb Dill noticed a change in her husband when he returned home for a visit in
December 2005. The couple had been high school sweethearts, married for 15
years. They had troubles, but had always worked them out. Now, he seemed moody
and often angry, lashing out at her and their daughter, Sara.

"He would say hateful things to me and our daughter – things he had never said
before." Dill said. "This was a man that loved his little girl and his wife. He always
called us his girls."

When Wade returned for another visit in June 2006, he abruptly quit his job and
began acting erratically, Dill said. He ripped the wiring out of appliances, smashed
mirrors and poured lighter fluid on their furniture.

After a few weeks, Wade took a room at a local motel. On July 15, he asked Barb to
come see him. Their conversation spiraled into a confrontation. Frightened and
angry, Barb sped off in her car. The next day, the Shasta County coroner's office
called to tell her that Wade's body had been found in the room.

"He told me that he was sick and needed help," Dill said. "I told him to get help and
then we would talk. The last time I saw him was in my rearview mirror."

Barb Dill noticed a change in her husband when he returned home for a visit in
December 2005. The couple had been high school sweethearts, married for 15
years. They had troubles, but had always worked them out. Now, he seemed moody
and often angry, lashing out at her and their daughter, Sara.

"He would say hateful things to me and our daughter – things he had never said
before." Dill said. "This was a man that loved his little girl and his wife. He always
called us his girls."

When Wade returned for another visit in June 2006, he abruptly quit his job and
began acting erratically, Dill said. He ripped the wiring out of appliances, smashed
mirrors and poured lighter fluid on their furniture.

After a few weeks, Wade took a room at a local motel. On July 15, he asked Barb to
come see him. Their conversation spiraled into a confrontation. Frightened and
angry, Barb sped off in her car. The next day, the Shasta County coroner's office
called to tell her that Wade's body had been found in the room.

"He told me that he was sick and needed help," Dill said. "I told him to get help and
then we would talk. The last time I saw him was in my rearview mirror."



















Dill soon found herself in financial difficulty. Her husband had always taken
care of the bills. He had spent lavishly with his higher salary, buying two BMWs
during trips home. Now, Dill discovered the couple was $300,000 in debt on their
mortgage and car loans.

She plunged into depression, struggling to cope with her daughter’s grief and the
sense that she had failed her husband in his time of need. She sold the cars and
nearly lost her home after falling behind on mortgage payments.

She suffered mostly by herself. Except for a handful of Web sites, no support
groups exist for widows of civilian contractors. The federal government offers no
counseling for civilians returning from work in war zones.

Dill said that she felt abandoned by everyone: her husband's employer, the
insurance company and especially the federal government, which oversees the
Defense Base Act system through the Labor Department.

"Shouldn't our government be responsible for the companies they hire?" Dill said.
"Shouldn't our government take care of its own people, who are doing jobs our
government, ultimately, wanted them to do?"

Survivors of civilian contractors whose death is related to their work in Iraq have the
right to apply for compensation benefits that pay up to $63,000 a year for life.

Dill applied, asserting that her husband’s PTSD made him an exception to the rule
against payments in suicide cases. Her claim was denied by AIG, KBR's insurance
provider.

She protested, sending her claim into a dispute resolution system run by the Labor
Department. Her case is still grinding its way through the system, which can take
years to produce a final result.

Experts hired by the family and the insurance company differed on what led to
Wade Dill’s suicide.

Barb Dill lays on her living room floor as she talks about her husband's suicide. She
said, “It leaves you with the most empty feeling. And there’s no band aid, there’s no
drugs, there’s no operation, there’s nothing to make it better. They say time, but I’m
waiting. And some days it was really rough.” (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/July
15, 2007) A psychiatrist hired by her attorney found that job stress in Iraq was one
of the factors that drove Wade to suicide: "The bottom line is that the combination of
physical separation and work-related stress resulted in increasingly emotional
distance, greater distortion of the relationship, increasing emotional intensity, and a
pattern of increasing erratic behaviors that culminated in suicide," wrote Charles
Seaman, an expert in PTSD.

A Labor Department examiner recommended that AIG pay the claim, but the
company refused. AIG and KBR declined comment about the case. In court filings,
AIG has argued that the Defense Base Act does not cover suicides.

AIG attorneys also have said that Wade Dill's actions were related to marital and
family problems. A psychiatrist hired by AIG testified at a hearing in San Francisco
in January that he had performed a "psychological autopsy" on Wade Dill based on
interviews with his family and court documents.

The psychiatrist, Andrew D. Whyman, said his evaluation led him to conclude that
Dill suffered from depression and that his suicide was unrelated to the violence he
witnessed in Iraq.

"Take out the Iraq experience, (the suicide) would have happened," Whyman
testified. "He had a choice. … He could have chosen not to do that."

Barb Dill insists her husband came back from Iraq a changed man.

"No matter how strained our relationship could get at times, we always pulled out of
it with no problem," Dill said. "Iraq changed all that."

Now, she said, she is trying to hold her life together. A final decision in her case is
not expected for months.

"We're just slowly sinking," she said. "It's hard to be strong."