Can you heal from abuse? What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day. And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough. Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation. But it doesn’t have to take years either. The lives of millions of other survivors around the worlds have been impacted by their narcissist. Yours doesn’t have to. To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.
Marissa: Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. In the nature of Military MeToo and IAmVanessaGuillen, I’ve been talking to a lot of MST survivor, MST survivors, service members who are survivors of MST, domestic violence or military sexual trauma. And Sexual Assault Response coordinators who have worked with the military and been retaliated against for doing their job and defending MST survivors. What we haven’t talked about here is how that impacts the family of service members who are affected by MST military sexual trauma. So today, I’m super honored to bring on two of my coalition members and friends. I’m so excited. Teri and Patrick Caserta. Patrick is a 22-year retired Navy counsellor, Senior Chief, and Terry, his wife claims to just be an administrative assistant. But I think she’s a thought leader and a powerhouse advocate for survivors. And they together are the authors of The Brand Act. And they’re dedicated to carry out their son Brandon’s legacy of saving the lives of our service members. Hey, guys, Welcome on Breaking through Our Silence. I’m so happy to have you today.
Teri Caserta: Well, thank you for having us today. We’re excited as well.
Marissa: I’m sorry for the nature of the conversation. I wish it was something happier. But I’m so inspired by you guys and your bravery. And you’re speaking out for what happened to your family. So, would you guys mind be telling us your story?
Patrick Caserta: Well, first of all, our son Brandon, he was since he was four years old, he was in swimming and he maintained swimming till the day he left for active duty. And he was in karate also since he was four. And a played many sports over the years. In modern times, We didn’t know this, but sports are year-round. He was a sport year-round not just in high school, but before High School. And we coached a lot of his teams over the years. And it was mainly football, flag football, football, he played some baseball but mainly football. And we were able to save up enough money for him to go to college. His college was paid for. Meaning it was already we can afford this. And we already have money set aside for it. And we did not want him joining the military at all. The thought was I had already served, and he we wanted him to, because he had the opportunity a lot of people do not, go to college. So, one day out of nowhere, he hit us with a surprise, that he wanted to join the military and become a Navy Seal. And we were shocked. And I was against it. But I knew that this was something he really wanted to do. He had a plan, and supporting him on it was the right thing to do. And ultimately, he could join anyway on his own later. So, the point was, it was better to support his decision and be proud of what he wants to do, than to go against it. So, we supported him. We got him everything he needed. He worked, boy did that kid work out. And he was already in shape. But he we took them the swimming all the time, which was about five miles away. He’d wake up early in the morning and ride his bike and he wrote up and back and 120 degrees sometimes. And he’d come home and he’d be completely soaked in sweat. And but the bike ride was you know, good for physical fitness and as he called it, SEAL training. Ultimately went in and he was in Seal training. He made it to week three, unfortunately, he broke his leg and he actually collapsed on the beach. They throw him in the back of a pickup truck. They should have taken him to medical. They did not. Since we’re in Arizona, he called us and we went out there immediately. And I could have gotten him back into seals based upon the fact that he had a broken leg. He told me word for word, “Dad, you can do that. And I know you’d get me back in. But they’ll never let me make it through. They’ll never let me make it through.” So, he would know more than I would because he was in the training so I backed away and honored his request. Unfortunately, when you don’t make it through the seals, you’re at the mercy of the Navy. And the Navy gave him three or four jobs to pick from. And he picked the best one of the bunch that was there. And they shipped them away with a broken leg to Pensacola. He went to school. He got orders to Norfolk, Virginia, HSC 28. He checked in. He went to advanced school there for a couple months. And then ultimately checked into the command permanently. And I kid you not they had him selling candy. And I’m not lying or exaggerating. Yes, candy. And yes, this is waste, fraud and abuse, it is best. So, I just want the taxpayers to know, and I am pursuing this and have been. But he decided, because of the toxic and abusive leadership in the command, and he was being abused and wanted out of there. So, he applied for an air-crewman program. He was accepted to it. He had orders leaving February 2018. But in October-November time-frame, he fell off his bike, he fell to the ground, broke his collarbone. So, he was going to rehab, and weren’t sure when he was going to be found, as the military calls it, “Fit for duty.” So, the command on their own, took it upon themselves to cancel his orders, even though, like I pointed out, he went to Pensacola, Florida with a broken leg. You could ship him somewhere with a broken collarbone, especially when it would be basically healed by the middle of February anyway, when his orders were to be executed. But the command cancelled orders without his permission. And the deal was, the counsellor of the command said that once you are found fit for duty, he’ll have you out here within two weeks. So, Brandon moved along. On March 28 He was found fit for duty. He went to the NC and said, “Hey, I’m found fit for duty. Here’s the paperwork.” The NC said, “Okay, I got it, I’ll take care of it.” And Brandon kept bugging the guy and nothing, nothing. Nothing. Brandon said, “Well, I’m supposed to be out here in two weeks.” He goes, “Oh, I never said that.” And mysteriously, he had to do all the paperwork over again. And apply again for air-crewman. Supposedly. He was in the process of doing that, this is a time consuming thing takes couple months. So, he was doing it. And all along, I want to point out that he was being abused by an LPO by the name of Jared Brose. And this Brose guy was heading on deployment for six months. And he was so abusive that they turned him in. And he got fired and kicked off deployment. And he went back to the command. And they gave him a job being in charge of ultimately, he was in charge of Brandon. He was in charge of others, but Brandon was under him. Again. And he continued to abuse Brandon in front of everybody and nobody cared. An example is, we sent a package for Christmas to him. And this guy gets the mail. And at the morning quarters, he has a package for him, walks up in the middle of the room and drops it on the floor, and says here’s your package. That’s the kind of person he was. He did this in front of everybody. This guy didn’t care. He did whatever he wanted to, and the commander knew it. But he fit in with the command. He fit right into their toxic abuse of leadership and abuse of power. So, they favored the guy. That’s why they put him back in charge. Anyway, this guy continued to abuse him, and ultimately, they made him write down on a piece of paper his name, social security number, date of birth, address, and they took it from him and didn’t tell him what it was for. Half hour later they called him into a room. There were seven people in this room. And there was this Chief on a computer by the name of Chief Doug Delasanro and AE1 Jared Brose was in the room too. And so was his Chief Shelah Hennard. It was seven total. And they are on a computer looking up his driver’s license, on the Arizona DMV website, looking up his driver’s license, they couldn’t find one. They asked if he’d moved. He said yes, because Brandon is totally honest. Added in the new address, and poof, up pops information. It’s not necessarily a driver’s license, either. It could have been an ID. They didn’t know. Brandon took out his wallet and they grabbed it out of his hand. Took his wallet, grabbed his credit card, paid for duplicate license and in Arizona, change of address is free. You don’t have to buy a duplicate license and changed his address, and had the license sent to him personally. When I say to him, I’m talking about Chief Doug Delasanro. And then basically looked at and started laughing so it looks like you do have a driver’s license. And basically told him to leave. So, he did. He texted us, and called us, and we knew about it. And this AE1 Jared Brose guy was trying to press charges against Brandon because they wanted him to drive, and he didn’t have a drivers license. Somehow, some way, I do not know how they felt they were entitled to his driver’s license. I couldn’t tell you how people would ever think that way but again, toxic abuse of leadership and abuse of power. They do whatever they want to do. They always have, always will. That’ll never change. This Brose guy was picking on him like crazy. So, this set the stage for Brandon, being in a corner. Now I spoke to him. He was very upset. We had no idea, obviously that he wouldn’t be suicidal at all. I thought for a minute we were coming out there anyway, because his command would not listen to reason. So, I was coming out there, but the plan was I was calling Monday morning. Monday morning, I called the command and I was on the phone with the senior enlisted advisor by the name of Command Master Chief, David Tokarski. And this guy is going round and round on me about this driver’s license thing. And I’m like, we could argue all day, you’re not entitled to the license. He just did not understand that. I mean, this guy literally without exaggerating the IQ of a hockey puck. And he wouldn’t listen to me. And I argued, argued, argued, and all he kept saying is he’s claustrophobic and if he goes to medical and claims to be claustrophobic, all this goes away. I’m like, No, he’s not doing that. Because then he can’t go air crewmen. He can’t even be in the Navy. He’s claustrophobic. And I said, He’s not claustrophobic. He doesn’t drive. What part of that don’t you understand? Well, he argues with me. He said he had to go. So, he left. When he got off the phone. He said, I’ll call you back right away 30 minutes later, he does call back. In that 30 minutes for a called me, apparently, he went and found Brandon, it was just screaming at him in front of everybody. And degrading him and calling him all this sand. Your daddy can call as much as he wants, he can’t help you. We’re going to burn you. We’re going to, send you to mast, kick you out of the Navy ,and all that. Next thing I know, he calls us back. Like I said, I’m on the phone with him. He’s going round and round his driver’s license again, even though there’s nothing else to talk about. So, I got off the phone with him. Teri was looking for plane tickets. We were coming out there. I was furious. I was going to go out there. And I told Brandon to let the command know we’re going to legal. Run and see the EEOC, and that we’re going to get an attorney if necessary. And then I’m going to talk to the commanding officer and we’ll take it from there. And next thing I know, we’re texting with Brandon. Teri gets a text. “Just know I love you.” And that was it.
We lost touch. Were trying to get a hold of them kept trying to get a hold of him. And next thing we know two uniformed people are at our door. And obviously, we knew why they were there. And we still hoped for the best, and that he was alive. And unfortunately, he wasn’t. And they told us he was dead. Obviously, he died when I was on the phone with the command the second time. But of course, command will never tell us that. I mean, they follow protocol. Just ask them they’re so honest. And what had happened is, he went out, I guess during Flight Ops, they let him through the flight line when the Helo was going, they should have never let him through. They’re going to say their excuse is, “he was one of us.” That’s fine. He’s one of you. When two rotors are going nobody is allowed in and out of there. Period. Unless it’s the flight crew. And Brandon was not the flight crew. And nobody is allowed in the area. Somehow, they breached. He said something to what they call the Plane Captain — who’s in charge of the ground crew, and he said I’m sorry for you about the Helo. He ran at a tail rotor to Helo. He jumped up. Missed. So, he jumped again. He succeeded. They watched. They did nothing. They didn’t tackle him. They didn’t try to do anything to stop him. And then, here’s the great part. Afterwards. So, this happens, you know what they all do, there’s about 9 to 10 of them, they all run. They don’t have them. They don’t do no first aid, nothing, they all run away. Now one will say human beings are human, they may do something like that. This is various ranks of people who’ve done this stuff 1000s of times that know better. And they’ve seen things. I’ve seen things; you respond to it. Not everybody responds the same. But how do nine people run away? And Brandon for almost the whole time he was there kept telling us everybody hates him. And we did not believe that to be a blanket statement. But in the end, we have found people that lied to him and appears they did. But we think that there’s a lot of truth to that. That explains their actions. But anyway, no first aid is applied. Nothing. That poor kid sat on that tarmac in the hot sun for six hours. They left him there. He went from there to the morgue. He never went to the hospital. They never took him to hospital and this is all on film. We don’t have the film. We’ve never seen it. And of course, the military said there was a film and then they conveniently have said there isn’t. Even though there is. And ironically, the lovely excuse to be here on every time you ask for clip that some of the cameras were broken. And it’s just a standard answer by the military. I mean, they buy cameras that costs 100 times more money than ours, and they’re very reliable. And yet they’re always broken when something happens. It’s kind of a standard answer for them. Anyway, that in a nutshell, is the story of Brandon. To that point, now, turns out he was abused a lot worse than we ever thought. This kid never did anything, anybody. He helped people. Before he went to military used to bring home homeless people, he’d help special needs people. He helped everybody. And whether you liked him or not, he helped you. If you hated him, and he knew you hated him, he still helped you. So that’s part one of it. This is all factual information. There is no exaggerating anything. The commanding officer Commander, Duane Whitmer – Commanding Officer (HSC-28), and the executive officer Commander, Trevor Prouty – Executive Officer (HSC-28). Those two individuals did nothing to help the kid at all. And they knew and condoned toxic leadership. They were part of the problem.
Now phase two starts on the reason I point this out is, there are those out there, they’re going to say, he took his own life, he had a choice. He didn’t have to do what he did and all that. I know what people say. Well, Brandon felt trapped his letter he left behind, it tells you this. And it also points out that we’re not at fault. Not to, we take responsibility, believe me, we do. And we will take responsibility till the day we die. However, he points out, this is the Navy’s fault and the commands fault. He points that out in the letter. It also gets better. They were keeping him for personal greed and keeping him from a program that the Navy needed people for, and he was supposed to leave.
Teri Caserta: Well, because it was 180 days is when they’re supposed to be able to complete it. They wanted him to complete it in two weeks.
Patrick Caserta: And that explains why that flight line let him in when the Helo’s were going. Those people got qualified quickly too. Some of them. And obviously the commanding officer didn’t properly train his crew. Anyway, moving forward, Here’s Part Two. He felt trapped. He felt he had no choice. He took his own life. He sent a message to command like, look what you made me do. And he left some letters for some others. And he felt those people would help us get justice for him. Unfortunately, they all turned their back on us too. He left them 10-page letters. He left us a five-page letter. So, you tell me they put in their statements that they don’t know him that well. And they don’t know why he left them letter. Well, when we got Brandon’s phone, we went to the text. Oh, yeah, they were really good friends. Those people lied. And they’re covering up this. And that’s the part two I’m going to point to. If you believe Brandon took his own life on his own, and you believe it’s a choice, and you have no empathy for the story, and the abuse of power, and how they treated him on that, well follow me on this.
So, the Chief’s come in fresh uniform tell us our son’s dead. They’re here for a little bit and we’re talking to them and tell them the story and they’re listening. And then after a while, they broke down and started talking to us. And it was strange that they were even bringing the subject matter up. But turns out that on their way over when they were coming to tell us that Brandon was dead, they had done an internet search. And they found an article that said someone died at Norfolk, Virginia, and it was the safety mishap and that…
Teri Caserta: They were supposed to come tell us that he was alive and in the hospital. That is why they were coming to our house.
Patrick Caserta: Well, they pulled over and they called the command and he said, “Look, you know, this article says he’s dead. You told us he’s alive and in the hospital. I got to tell the parents. What’s going on?” So, the command proceeded to tell them well tell the parents he’s alive in the hospital. And he’s like, Is he alive in hospital? They’re like, No, he’s dead. He’s on the flight line laying there. And he’s like, well, I can’t tell them that he’s alive in the hospital if he’s dead. I can’t do that. And these guys didn’t work for the commanding officer. So, they said they’re not going to do it. So, it all starts right there. There’s where phase two begins with this lovely Helicopter Squadron 28 commanding officer. So they lied there. Then they proceed to treat us horribly. They hold a memorial service. They don’t invite us. They didn’t get our permission to hold one although ultimately, I realized they wouldn’t need our permission. But you understand my point. The Navy is required, and I did not know this. I wish I didn’t because I found out because Brandon’s dead, is they fly your immediate family out there to the memorial service. They pay for everything. And the two people dressed in uniform that came to our door, are the ones that are supposed to set that up for us, and pay for it. Of course, that was never done. And the reason that was never done is, we weren’t invited. And we didn’t even know there was going to be memorial service held. On that subject, there’s an article out there where the command responds and says, we were invited. They lied in the article, we were not invited. That’s factual. The two people come into the door, make the travel arrangements. They arranged for us to be there. If they didn’t make the arrangements, then how in the world could we’ve been invited? And then we found emails that we got through a FOYA of them going back and forth, saying we were concerned about getting his body back and waiting for it. Well, turns out, there’s truth to that. However, we could have gone out there. No family even arrived til the weekend. He died on a Monday. No one even came into picture until the weekend. We could have easily gone to the memorial service. And as far as the body goes, somehow, some way his body was delayed for two weeks. The command got involved, and somehow they got the body delayed. People die in the war and get home faster than our son did. The command interfered with the body coming home. Now why did they do this? And why not invite us to memorial service, You’re wondering? Sounds kind of stupid. Well, they did not want us there because they knew I was retired Navy. They knew that we would talk and ask questions to the people in the command. And they did not want us talking to them. They delayed the body because they didn’t want us coming out there. Because had we come out their Rest assured, we planed on going to the media. And they knew this and they did not want that to happen. They did not want word to get out over what they had done. Ultimately, NCIS is investigating. And they’re investigating whether the medical examiner’s report in the cause of death match. When they were investigating, I gave them all kinds of information. Instead of investigating it, they just asked the command nonchalantly some questions. Like we were looking for his driver’s license — the one that was sent to Chief Doug Delasanro that stole his credit card, and other things. Well, NCIS knew the command was corrupt. But the command was being nice to them and coaching them on. You know, saying, “Hey, we’re innocent.” Saying, “You know, this guy did this on his own. We’re nice people.” And so NCIS bought it. They should have turned it into a criminal investigation once they found out the command lying. There are several people they didn’t even get statements from the witnessed the event. In particular, the one that was closest to Brandon at the time. When I say closest, I’m talking proximity. They never interviewed him, ever. So, NCIS does an incomplete investigation. The statements are falsified. They’re not accurate. They’re not the way they’re supposed to be. So, then the command does what’s called a command line of duty investigation. They completely covered up everything. I mean, everything. The statements are falsified, they lie about everything. There is no truth in this thing. Commanding officer, you know what he put out after Brandon died? He mustered the whole command and told them that if they talked to us, or the press, or anyone, or tell the truth about what happened to Brandon, it’ll be considered mutiny, and will be sent to Fort Leavenworth prison. Almost one year later, when the executive officer took over by the name of Commander, Trevor Prouty – Executive Officer (HSC-28), he put out that same exact remark. Because two articles were coming out. It took us a year to get articles out and they knew about the articles. And they put that out before they came out and threatened the entire command again. Why would you threaten the entire command if you had nothing to hide, and you’re innocent? So, this Commander, Trevor Prouty – Executive Officer (HSC-28) and Commander, Duane Whitmer – Commanding Officer (HSC-28) are disgraces to the military, the Navy and society. If both commanders and come forward and told the truth, and they said, “Look, this is a tragic death. However, we learned from this, we’ve done training, we put new safety procedures in place. We’ve raised the bars on our training program. We have made the command more aware of people’s feelings, and if they witness events to report it.” They would have gotten away with this. There’s nothing we could have done to them. And then of course, they would have to go after the people that are guilty:
AE1 Jared Brose
Chief Doug Delasanro
Chief Shelah Hennard
Command Master Chief, David Tokarski
Master Chief Pete Lerette
NC1 Remmy Spence,
All those people you would have, they would have to go after them of course and discipline them. But if they did, that both of their careers would be intact. And they’d be fine. And there’s nothing we could do. The Navy they would say that yes, the chain of command let him down, and people let him down, and the commanding officers recovered from it and did this this and this. And that would be the end of it. But no, they chose to cover all this up All they cared about I guess was their career.
Marissa: I am so sorry for everything you guys went through and everything Brandon went through. I mean, I know that I had little to no part in any of it but I am like a mix of devastated for you and heartbroken and angry. Like I’m fuming. One of the things I wanted to kind of ask as a follow up is, I know that you said you called as a concerned parent, and you never called as retired military. But wouldn’t they already know that? They would already know that, Patrick that you’ve had military experience.
Patrick Caserta: I was insulted and upset and they did know. They knew long time ago, I was retired military. And I had high position. I was the Serve Pack Fleet Counselor, when I was a Counselor. And I was in recruiting for 15 years. So, I knew what I was talking about, and they wouldn’t listen to me. Like I said, they killed and murdered him. However, I will point this out. They will continue to kill. They will kill again, and again, and again, unless somebody does something about it. And the only way they can put an end to that, is to stand up to them. This case these people need to go. But there’s always a new batch. We need to stop it from rising. And the way to do that is to clean house and the Navy needs to put out. Because if you were to call the Navy right now and talk to somebody that’s in charge high up, nobody tells you about hazing, bullying, harassing sexual harassment. They’re going to tell you there’s zero tolerance. If that is the case, why is our son dead? How can he be dead if there’s zero tolerance for bullying, hazing, harassing, torture, intimidating? If there’s zero tolerance why is Brandon Caserta dead? They can’t answer that question. All we want is justice for Brandon. Brandon asked us in writing, we can show you the letter, specifically says to get justice for him. Matter of fact, it says, “Make them pay for what they put me through.” And the only way to get that is we have to demand it. And we have to get the attention of the appropriate people to do something. And unfortunately, the military never does anything until they don’t have a choice. And don’t have a choice means that they are so embarrassed that they’re going to do something. And that’s news articles, podcasts, things of that nature. I mean, Congress knows about it. And they’re outraged I mean; they really are. And they want to do something. HSC 28, Both commanders are very corrupt, and hardly anybody has come forward with this. They witnessed Brandon get abused, and they did nothing. Their fellow service member is dead and they don’t share. That bothers us more than anything.
Marissa: Brandon story gets even more complicated, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Teri and Patrick are working tirelessly to give Brandon the Justice he deserves. You can hear the passion in Patrick’s voice when he speaks. They are a very inspiring duo. And they’re going to make major changes to the treatment of service members. Tune in here to hear the rest of this heart wrenching interview, I promise the content gets lighter.
Everybody’s story is a little bit different. Nobody has gone through exactly what you have. And although that can make us feel alone, know that by speaking out, you’re inspiring others do the same. Writing a book is what gave me my start on this journey. I decided that even though I didn’t feel that my story was as awful as what others experienced. If I could help one other person process and heal from what they experienced, It was worth telling. And it did. I received a ton of support and private messages from people who felt inspired and empowered by me speaking my truth. If you have a story that you want to share, I would love to help you start this journey. The people who have endured sexual assault and domestic violence all have the same notion. They just don’t want anyone else to feel the way they did. We want to support everyone. Do yourself and our community service and consider writing your story or contributing it to my breaking through the silence series. your words and your voice are powerful, and your story can help others heal from their abuse. If you’re interested, please send me an email to Me@MarissaFayecohen.com and I would be thrilled to work with you on breaking your silence. Thank you so much.
If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!
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