Army accused of killing officer's career after she refused to play politics with suicide

Army accused of killing officer's career after she refused to play politics with suicide

Army accused of killing officer's career after she refused to play politics with suicide

Despite climbing spectacularly through the ranks of the U.S. Army, a lieutenant colonel now faces court-martial for being willing to speak the truth about a suicide investigation at one of the nation's largest military installations.

Lt. Col. Joy Thomas, an Army Reservist, began her career at the lowest enlisted rank of the U.S. Army, climbing all the way to the rank of a senior commissioned officer over the course of 18 years of service.

Representing Thomas at a pending general court martial trial is attorney R. Davis Younts, a retired lieutenant colonel. He told American Family News his client has “an outstanding, stellar record" and has excelled at everything she has done in her military career.

Her troubles began, the attorney alleges, because she was honest. While completing an active-duty tour at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, now known as Fort Liberty, Thomas was tasked with three suicide investigations in June 2018. The Army installation has been plagued with a “rash" of suicides in the past several years, and suicide is taken "very seriously" by the military, according to Youngs. 

So part of Thomas’ investigation required her to look at is “command climate,” essentially questioning if commanders are doing enough to prevent suicides among the ranks or - much worse - they are contributing to the problem. 

“All three of the investigations that she wrote were critical of command,” Younts reveals. “Because of this, she was asked to change her findings and recommendations on one of the three in order to soften the blow to command.”

Thomas, Joy Thomas

But she refused. Younts said the investigations were taken away from her and someone else was ordered to continue her work.

“From that point forward,” he alleges “things got very, very difficult for Lt. Col. Thomas as a pattern of setting her up for failure began to emerge.”

Her next assignment required working on contract management for her command. “Based on what she observed related to the handling of a contract extension,” Younts says, “she made a complaint and it matured to the point that an Army investigation into potential criminal fraud was the result.”

Not only did the Army officer have the courage to file a complaint, her attorney told AFN, but it was "compounded" by leadership who were potential subjects and had assigned her to audit the contracts. 

Younts also alleges the Army tried to embarrass Thomas by side-lining her from her duties and even requiring her to report to a junior enlisted soldier. 

Younts, R. Davis (PA attorney) Younts

In November 2022, her command initiated an administrative separation. Shortly after, however, a three-person board of inquiry that would have overseen the separation was cancelled. Instead, she is now facing a general court martial with 30 charges. 

“When you tally all the allegations made against her, they don’t add up to a court martial,” Younts argues. “We're talking about a lieutenant colonel facing jail time for things like rolling her eyes and using a disrespectful tone in a meeting, for example.”

Jury selection begins June 16 with her trial set to begin June 20.

With the trial soon to unfold, Thomas could not comment for American Family News.

Fort Liberty Public Affairs did not return a request for comment from AFN.