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Father of Suicide Victim Barred from Re-enlistment

November 13, 1986

MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) _ The father of a 13-year-old boy who hanged himself in an effort to ease his family’s financial problems has been ordered out of the Army, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The Herald reported in a copyright article that Staff Sgt. Johnnie Holley has been told he can’t renew his enlistment and he and his family have been given less than a month to return to civilian life.

″There’s been nothing but turmoil since Danny died,″ said Holley’s wife, Jennifer. ″Why can’t they let us finish (her husband’s) six years in peace?″

Danny Holley hanged himself from the eave of the family’s house in Marina in August 1984 while the family was stationed at Fort Ord. The death drew national attention because of the boy’s belief that he could help his mother, two younger brothers and a sister out of financial straits by leaving them with ″one less mouth to feed.″

After the boy’s death, Mrs. Holley granted few interviews, saying Army officials had told them the publicity could harm Holley’s career.

A year later, the family transferred to Germany.

″Everyone knew who we were,″ Mrs. Holley said. ″It was very hard for Johnnie. We were having problems dealing with it. I went to his commander and said, ‘I think Johnnie needs help.’ We’d fight all the time, and he wouldn’t talk about it, wouldn’t get close.″

She said she and her husband underwent counseling, but Holley’s former commander didn’t seem satisfied. That commander recommended that Holley be barred from re-enlisting.

Holley, a 13-year veteran, said the former commander once surprised him with a urinalysis because he thought he was on drugs. That test and others showed he had no drug problem, he said.

A spokeswoman at the Pentagon said the Army couldn’t comment.

″We would be unable to confirm it because anything short of a court- martial is protected under the federal privacy act,″ said Elaine Henrion. ″We’re not allowed to talk about bars to re-enlistment and non-judicial punishment.″

She said, however, that ″there absolutely has to be some reason for it.″ She said grounds could include chronic disciplinary problems, failing to meet qualifications for future promotion or inability to do one’s job.

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