In Memory of SGT Amanda Ann Sheldon
February 17, 1986 – October 7, 2010
Amanda “Mandy” Ann Sheldon, aged 24, of North Carolina, formerly of Belding, passed away October 7, 2010. She was born February 17, 1986 in Grand Rapids. She graduated from Belding High School in 2004, enlisted in the Army in 2005 and was a unit supply sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 18th Fires Brigade (Airborne).
She is survived by her mother & step father, two brothers & two sisters.
Sheldon joined the Army in October 2005, according to the release, and served at Coleman Barracks in Germany before being assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in February 2010.
Sheldon deployed at least once, with her most recent deployment being to Kuwait, according to the release.
Her awards and decorations included the Army Commendation Medal with bronze leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Overseas Service Ribbon.
Amanda had another year to go in the Army, 24-year-old Sgt. Amanda Sheldon had her sights set on attending Duke University for a medical career.
She wanted to be a physician’s assistant.
She had been deployed in Kuwait during the Iraq War, returning in July 2009, and was expected to ship out for a year long deployment in Afghanistan the end of the month.
“Amanda loved her Army career, and she was proud of serving her country,” said an aunt. “She was soft-spoken and sweet, but very tough and she enjoyed running.”
“She kind of ribbed her middle-aged aunts and uncles about staying in shape,” Sheldon said. “She was into fitness. She loved to go out dancing and she loved music.”
Amanda Sheldon recently returned to the Grand Rapids area for a week so family members could throw her a going-away party before her deployment.
A good friend described her as a determined person who worked hard to attain the rank of sergeant. She earned a commendation medal for her efforts in the war on terror.
Outside of the military, Sheldon was a huge Michigan State University fan who took good care of herself and made others laugh, Murray said.
“She was very full of life”. In spite of this, her family indicates that the last year of Amanda’s life had been very turbulent & that she took her life.
Sgt. Sheldon’s mom, Renee Orcatt, went public with Amanda’s story in an effort to raise awareness, change policy, and save lives. Renee told the local media that Amanda was a victim of rape in the military at the hands of a superior officer. Amanda reported the crime to the Army and informed them she had been drugged and raped. As a result, the suspect was criminally convicted and discharged from the Army. Initially, Amanda sought help from military counselors and the family reported that she was getting better, yet still struggled with depression. Amanda wanted to deal with it and move on to serve her country as she had originally intended to do.
Unfortunately, according to Renee, this wasn’t the last time Amanda would have to confront her past while serving in the Army. When Amanda was up for promotion, she was asked why she was going to counseling. She would go on to get her promotion, but this line of questioning was something she never wanted to experience again. After making the realization that her past and seeking help was not confidential, counseling was out of the question in her future if she wanted to preserve her career. Sgt. Sheldon felt judged for seeking treatment for military sexual trauma. Her mom reported that Amanda recognized she needed counseling again and was planning on getting out of the military. When she died, she was serving out her final year of enlistment, had plans to go to college, and wanted to start a new life outside the military, with her new love. But her unit got tasked with a deployment to Afghanistan and she set about making plans to go to Afghanistan with her unit before she was discharged from the Army.
Amanda would learn that in order to accomplish this, she would need to re-enlist for two more years. Amanda didn’t want to stay in for two more years and made the devastating decision to stay back. She felt like no matter what decision she made, she was letting someone down. Renee observed that Amanda never came to grips with this decision and entered into depression. Amanda’s mom begged her to get counseling but to Amanda that was no longer an option.
Sgt. Sheldon was attached to the 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. She joined the Army in October 2005 and was assigned to Fort Bragg in February 2010. The family of Sgt. Amanda Sheldon hopes the circumstances surrounding her untimely death will spark military-wide change. In 2010, the Department of Defense was concerned about the increase in active duty suicides and since then the number of suicides in the military has increased.
“Just like any other soldier, whether she died in combat or some other way, she’s still a fallen soldier. She served her country and she served it well.” -Renee Orcatt (Amanda Sheldon’s mom)
Editor’s Note: CNN reported the suicide rates among active-duty Marines and the Navy are at a 10-year high on January 28, 2019. Task and Purpose reported Army suicides reached a five-year high on January 31, 2019. Military.com reported Active-Duty military suicides are at Record Highs in 2018.
Final Rest: Saranac Cemetery, Saranac, Ionia County, Michigan