A trainee who died at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in November didn’t tell his drill instructors he was ill, a decision that was a factor in his death, according to a Corps investigation.
The Washington Post first reported the investigation’s findings Wednesday: 18-year-old Zachary Boland of Madison, Ala., “died due to complications from pneumonia” Nov. 4, 2016, after concealing his sickness from his trainers so he wouldn’t be dropped from training.
Boland’s family doesn’t blame the Corps for their son’s death, the Post said, and while his death came during a time when some Parris Island drill instructors were under scrutiny for allegedly hazing and abusing recruits, the investigation “found an entirely different set of circumstances.”
According to the Post, Boland’s training was twice delayed, once by a case of cellulitis and days later by October’s Hurricane Matthew. The diagnosis of cellulitis — a bacterial skin infection — and the resulting medical care occurred just before the storm, which lengthened the delay and meant Boland wasn’t able to join a new training platoon until late October.
Days later, on the night of Nov. 4, he was found convulsing uncontrollably in his bunk, according to the investigation. He was pronounced dead 45 minutes later.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Boland family,” Parris Island spokesman Capt. Greg Carroll told The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette on Wednesday. “And anything we can do to help — including having them aboard the depot — it was our privilege to be able to provide that.”
The Bolands, Bob and Sam, were on Parris Island twice after their son’s death, according to the Post.
The first time they met members of their son’s platoon, saw his bunk — which had been turned into a shine — and handed out Marine coins commemorating their child.
A week later they attended what would have been his graduation ceremony.
Carroll said the depot sent a graduation invitation to the Bolands.
“We thought it was proper and out of respect to the family,” Carroll said. “We wanted them to have the opportunity to attend the ceremony their son would have attended.”
The family is encouraging other recruits to tell someone if they’re ill.
“You hear over and over that the fastest way off the island is graduation,” Sam Boland told the Post. “You know, basically just telling them to get through it: ‘The fastest way off the island is graduation.’ But that’s really not the fastest way.
“They get off that island really fast if they’re in ... a casket, and these kids need to understand that if they get dropped, it’s okay,” she continued. “It’s not a sign of weakness to tell someone you’re sick. It’s not a bad thing to ask for help.”
One of Zachary’s younger brothers, Nathaniel, has enlisted and plans to soon begin training at Parris Island, according to the Post.