By CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 JOSHUA MAILLARD, Detachment 2, D Company, 126th Aviation, Virgin Islands National Guard St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands February 29, 2012
This story takes place on the little island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Myers, well liked among his peers in the 661st Military Police Company, was an easygoing, laid-back individual. He'd just come from a deployment in Iraq -- his second deployment in four years. A U.S. marshal in the civilian job he'd held for many years, he was slated for another deployment -- this one to Kosovo. Before deploying again, he decided to buy his first motorcycle. The Hayabusa was said to be the world's fastest bike, which seemed a bit much for a first-time rider.
He'd had the bike about two months when he was on his way home from work, riding toward the island's west side. Speeding on a poorly lit section of highway, he lost control and crashed into a guardrail. Although he was taken to a hospital, he later died there. So what went wrong?
There were a number of factors, some obvious and some less so, that contributed to Myers' death. For example, he chose a Hayabusa, a powerful sport bike that would have taxed the skills of a highly experienced rider, let alone one without any type of training. Maybe after his two deployments he was feeling invincible and that attitude got the best of him. Maybe that was the unseen, underlying factor that led him to be indisciplined when riding. Whatever the reason, he ignored getting the motorcycle training required by the Army -- training that might have revealed his need to carefully develop his riding skills. Indisciplined, he violated the speed limit, even though he, as a law enforcement officer, clearly knew it was both wrong and dangerous. Although he made the right choice in wearing a helmet, it was not enough to save his life. Personal protective equipment is not a silver bullet that can protect riders from the consequences of every bad choice. Speed, alone, doesn't necessarily kill; however, speeding in the wrong places all too often does.
There was speculation he was having a lot of personal problems. The week before the accident, he attended a deployment farewell for his best friend, who was leaving for his second tour in Iraq. He'd miss his friend and maybe that weighed heavily on top of the other problems he was having. Looking back, maybe the command could have paid a little more attention to what was going on in his life before the accident. Had someone taken the time to speak to him about his choice of a Hayabusa as his first motorcycle, maybe he would have listened. Most of all, he needed proper training to give him the riding skills to handle his bike safely. But he didn't get those skills and, without them, mistakes were inevitable. And on a Hayabusa, small mistakes can have big consequences.
So what can be learned from what happened?
As riders, we need to always know our limits and look out for signs in fellow Soldiers that something is wrong. It's important that Soldiers returning from a deployment go through a complete evaluation and have any known or potential problems documented. When we see a Soldier having problems, we have a responsibility to report that to our command and get the Soldier help. Never take anything for granted. Just because someone looks OK doesn't mean they really are. Most of the time there are warning signs; the key is recognizing them.
Any number of things going on inside Myers' head may have contributed to this accident. Among those could be what motivated him to choose the Hayabusa. Maybe feeling a sense of invincibility overcame his common sense. For a first bike, he could hardly have made a worse choice.
Despite being greatly missed by his friends in his unit, nothing can bring Myers back. But there is something to be learned from his death. If we watch out for one another and spot the warning signs of indiscipline, maybe we can keep a friend's life from being done too soon. Don't leave a fallen comrade behind.