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Old 04-17-2007, 12:55 PM   #16
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I think Justin pretty obviously suffered some a severe mental breakdown. I'm not a doctor, so perhaps I shouldn't speculate, but there are just a few things about his case that strongly suggest to me that he was coming apart at the seams:

1) The fact that the guy made it a goal to get into the army rangers his whole life, but found himself on kitchen duty. He surely sounded like someone who had made being an army ranger the be all and end all of his existence, and for someone like that to be denied his dream --- and to be put on something as demeaning as kitchen duty instead, traditionally (and probably even in this case, since he had been dismissed from ranger training for his participation in a shoplifting ring) used as a punishment within the armed services --- it must have constituted not only a severe one-time blow to his ego but also a gnawing problem as his conscription there continued.

2) The business with the briefcase. When his girlfriend saw him just tearing up pieces of paper out of the briefcase, that to me screamed "mentally unstable." I've seen things like this first hand --- compulsive tearing of paper is often a sign that there is really something wrong with a person, not the thing they are tearing. They've read something into a photograph, a document, etc., that is not there, and are trying to destroy it and consequently their own inner demons.

The idea that a guy like Private Burgwinkel had anything to do with any high-level operation is patently absurd --- I'm sure the army, the CIA, and the FBI are not in the habit of using army ranger wash-outs as high level operatives. I doubt they would keep their secrets very long if they did. And the oblique reference to White Sands only furthers, in my mind, that this kid was losing his grip on reality. Hollywood films and actual covert operations share the same relationship as "Made for TV" biographical movies and the actual lives of the people they claim to be about, I'm sure.

I do hope they find him someday, because I truly wonder where he could have gone, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was homeless and unidentified somewhere at this point - he may not even be aware of who he is anymore, and I'm not normally a big believer in amnesia. In this case, however, I really do think there was something seriously, degeneratively wrong with the kid's mind.
I agree with everything you just said. I couldn't help but think of the movie "A Beautiful Mind" everytime I see his eppie especially the part when the docs come in to take Russell Crowe's character away to the psych ward because the supposed missons he was doing for the government were all in his head.

The part I'm kinda leery about was the night the girlfriend got that strange call from someone saying, "the mission is off". Did Justin put someone up to that or did he disguise his voice somehow to do that?

One more note, I can't seem to find that White Sands movie anywhere. Has abnyone else seen it?
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Old 04-17-2007, 02:05 PM   #17
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Recently it has been alleged that the Army has severely mishandled cases of soldiers with PTSD or other mental issues. I suppose that could explain their silence on Pvt Burgwinkel, in that the Army still struggles to figure out exactly how to handle such cases.

I think the idea that Burgwinkel suffered a nervous breakdown and then didn't get much help from the country he was serving is sad enough without having to bring in any ideas of "covert operations" or conspiracy. If there's a coverup, it's that the Army wants to hide that they let their man down when he needed help. That's a coverup I have little difficulty in believing.
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Old 04-18-2007, 11:35 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mozartpc27
I think Justin pretty obviously suffered some a severe mental breakdown. I'm not a doctor, so perhaps I shouldn't speculate, but there are just a few things about his case that strongly suggest to me that he was coming apart at the seams:

1) The fact that the guy made it a goal to get into the army rangers his whole life, but found himself on kitchen duty. He surely sounded like someone who had made being an army ranger the be all and end all of his existence, and for someone like that to be denied his dream --- and to be put on something as demeaning as kitchen duty instead, traditionally (and probably even in this case, since he had been dismissed from ranger training for his participation in a shoplifting ring) used as a punishment within the armed services --- it must have constituted not only a severe one-time blow to his ego but also a gnawing problem as his conscription there continued.

2) The business with the briefcase. When his girlfriend saw him just tearing up pieces of paper out of the briefcase, that to me screamed "mentally unstable." I've seen things like this first hand --- compulsive tearing of paper is often a sign that there is really something wrong with a person, not the thing they are tearing. They've read something into a photograph, a document, etc., that is not there, and are trying to destroy it and consequently their own inner demons.

The idea that a guy like Private Burgwinkel had anything to do with any high-level operation is patently absurd --- I'm sure the army, the CIA, and the FBI are not in the habit of using army ranger wash-outs as high level operatives. I doubt they would keep their secrets very long if they did. And the oblique reference to White Sands only furthers, in my mind, that this kid was losing his grip on reality. Hollywood films and actual covert operations share the same relationship as "Made for TV" biographical movies and the actual lives of the people they claim to be about, I'm sure.

I do hope they find him someday, because I truly wonder where he could have gone, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was homeless and unidentified somewhere at this point - he may not even be aware of who he is anymore, and I'm not normally a big believer in amnesia. In this case, however, I really do think there was something seriously, degeneratively wrong with the kid's mind.
It does seem unlikely that someone that was demoted to kitchen duty would quickly graduate to high level operative. But I wouldn't call it absurd. It might have been the perfect beard.

The compulsive tearing up of a piece of paper could be any one of a number of things. Doesn't necessarily mean he's mentally unstable.
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Old 04-19-2007, 05:43 PM   #19
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I went back and saw the eppie again and I caught something. When they flashed the pic of Justin's ID Badge, they showed his SS#. I doubt it means anything but I'm surprised UM didn't blur this part out.
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Old 04-26-2007, 12:30 AM   #20
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Well, I am sure they wanted any leads out there to turn up. I do NOT believe Justin was mentally disturbed. At least he wasnt mentally disturbed for no reason. He was disturbed because of some stuff he was involved in and it is sad to say he either parished because of these activities or he suffered a complete nervous break down and is now wondering the streets either unable or unwilling to remember who he is. However the government wants you to believe he just ran off and if they say that I instantly do not believe them and I simply believe he was either run out of the Army or he left because he had his mind messed with too much.
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Old 04-28-2007, 01:03 PM   #21
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Concerning what happened to this individual, Justin Burgwinkel, we simply do not know enough. The theory of a "government coverup" or CIA stuff seems to me to be far-fetched based on the soldier's background. He was a young kid who was a cook and a former language school student from a New England town. What could he offer a conspiracy really? How would he even be selected for such a position? And what official activities could he be doing in California?

BTW any citizen can do a freedom of information act (FOIA) request to get his records from the National Military Records Center (part of the National Archives) in Saint Louis, although what records a junior soldier would have will be minimal.

Certain things in the story as told do not make sense: ranger privates are not usually sent to language school. I wonder if this individual was originally earmarked to be some sort of military intelligence analyst or special forces soldier. But then he flunked out or was kicked out for disciplinary reasons (the shoplifting incident which is glossed over in the segment). Around the time that the incidents took place, Fort Ord was closed (the language school was and still is at nearby Monterrey). It'd be interesting to see what unit at ORD he was a cook for. One of the brigades at Ord was moved to Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Washington, in the 1994-5 timeframe. Lewis did and does have a Ranger battalion (one of only three in the Army) located there. In the segement it seemed he had the same first sergeant in both places

If I were to guess, I'd say that Justin was involved in some nonofficial activities on the side. Maybe he was fooled into doing things he believed were secret missions but was actually involved with criminals or a militia or something similar. And then he figured it out. There is a slight chance he was being used as a CID (the Army version of the agency shown on the tv show NCIS) operative but that would have really meant he was spying on other soldiers. Usually such investigations involve drugs or stealing government property.

But really we do not know about what happened from the information presented.

Mrs. Burgwinkel died in Clinton, MA, suddenly in 2006. Her obituary is online (found when you google Justin). In the obituary, Justin is mentioned as being deceased.
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Old 04-28-2007, 01:09 PM   #22
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also the fact that someone with a .mil in their e-mail address or IP was searching a website is not exactly the same as "DoD is searching my website." It most likely means someone was inappropriately searching the website at work in their DOD job after having viewed the episode on tv.

Working the kitchen would not be a punishment for this individual. he may have been reclassified into the cook's specialty after leaving the course. Or he may have been placed there as a "casual" because after he got kicked out of the school, he could no longer go to his scheduled assignment of specialty because it required the language training. Something doesn't match then with him becoming a cook and with the consequences of being arrested for a crime in the Army. Usually if someone doesn't make "ranger training" (dittoed because it doesn't really seem he was beign trained to be a ranger) they don't become a cook, they become a non-ranger infantryman. And if he was arrested for a crime, if it were a military crime (ie on-base), he'd have been court martialed or given an Article 15. In any case, the punishment would have been on the order of a fine, a reduction in grade, a short jail term and/or discharge, not sentancing to the mess hall, although he colud have been placed there while awaiting civilian justice. However, when he moved to Lewis, apparently with his unit, the implication is that his punishment was over and he was a cook by specialty. If he was still awaiting diposition in the civilian court, he would have stayed at Monterrey.

I've noticed that UM does not check out its facts often (their Roswell episode is a good example) when facts interfere with the "dramatic effect"

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Old 04-28-2007, 01:52 PM   #23
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Thanks for posting jjmcgr. I'll go out on a limb and say that you seem to have a lot of knowledge about the military and this case. Thanks for letting us know that Justin's mom passed away...how sad that she died still not knowing what happened to her son.

You brought up an interesting point about Justin possibly being involved in activity that he may have thought was military related but was not. It is also a possibility that he were involved in something illegal (that he was fully aware of). Maybe he was naive and got in over his head.

Yes sometimes UM isn't too keen on portraying the story precisely as it happened and is more interested in making things seem as dramatic as possible even if that means leaving out a few pertinent facts. Unfortunate but true.
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:12 AM   #24
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Well thanks for the information jjmcgr. I am sad about Mrs. Burwinkel and may she rest in peace. I have no idea whether or not Justin is alive but I lean towards him being deceased. I am sure after so many years of him missing his parents had him declared legally dead. Still a horrible thing and this story is just so bizarre I honestly will not even begin to guess what happened to him or what he was really up to.
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Old 08-04-2007, 09:31 PM   #25
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hello All,

i have actually never looked up anything reguarding Justin. I went to school with him from k-12 and I will tell you he was one of the most intelligent people that I knew. I actually found it strange that he went into the Army I would have assumed he would have chose an Ivy league school.

As for Justins possible mental problems anything is possible I know that many people in their early 20's have their 1st dealings with bipolar or skitzophrenia. I know in school he was always polite, funny, and cute as hell !!!!!

either way it is very sad that he is still missing, the stange thing is over the years ot much has been heard about him, is it a cover up, a cloak and dagger kind of thing or who knows but the class of 1990 Clinton High School Mass do miss him
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Old 11-08-2007, 04:12 PM   #26
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Justin was one of my closest friends in high school. Occasionally, I google his name to see if any news about him ever comes up (which is how I found this forum). In high school, he was probably a "B" student, but we were in a few Honors classes together. He was also a member of the track team. What I remember about him most was his great sense of humor. During my freshmen year of college (and his 1st year in the army), we wrote letters frequently, which I still have. Most of the letters were just reminiscing about the past. I re-read them recently, and there was never any indication of anything wrong. I know it's highly unlikely that Justin is still alive, but there's always hope. I miss my friend.
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Old 11-09-2007, 05:19 PM   #27
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Wow, well thanks for posting about Justin, it is always interesting to hear from people that actually knew people profilied on UM. Yes, I have always found it strange too how everything is so quiet regarding the disapperance of Justin Burgwinkel. A cover up is possible. I just find it strange how he hasnt been found yet his name is on like no missing person's websites or anything and the Army never really seemed to do anything in terms of looking for him. Something just doesnt add up.
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Old 12-20-2007, 11:15 PM   #28
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I was surprised to read what ABC124 wrote because it could've been something I wrote. I, too, have searched on the web for any news of Justin. The last time I heard anything related was when my mother told me Justin's mother had died. I was so sad. It was the hardest and longest cry I have had in years. I felt so sorry for Diane. Week after week for 7 years, I witnessed Diane's frustration, sadness, and destruction because she couldn't find closure regarding Justin's disappearance.
I had known Justin since joining the Cub Scouts when we were in first grade. We were both on the Cross Country team from our Sophomore year to our Senior year of high school. Justin was really competitive. Although, I was the top runner on the team, he was constantly challenging me for the position. However, he was pretty laid-back, too. Before our meets and during practice the team would play hackey-sack and read the Far Side comics which would annoy our coach to no end. Justin was integral in that. I had also been in several classes with him, including French (7th + 8th grade) and Latin (Sophomore and Junior year). Justin's language ability was outstanding. When everybody was struggling in French class just to get above an 80 he was getting a 100. So, it was no surprise when his mother told me that he was going to the Defense Language Institute to study Korean. (And it would be no surprise if there were truly high-ups at the Presidio who were aware of Justin) Justin also had a daring side. I remember during our Senior year he grew out his beard just so that he could go to a local bar (the Maybarton) and get served. His reason wasn't to drink, but to see if he wouldn't get caught. (That's also why when his mother told me he got caught stealing videos at a mall with some other soldiers, I wasn't surprised. That was Justin being Justin.)
Although, I went to class with Justin, played sports with him, and went out with him on the weekends, we were not very close emotionally. He had other friends he may have been close to, but it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't open up to anyone. I also don't recall Justin ever been serious about dating girls which would further indicate that he wasn't a very open person.
The last time I saw Justin was when we were all home during Christmas in 1990. After that, I would see his mother shopping at the grocery store I worked at. We would always talk for a long time. The first thing I would always ask her was "How is Justin?" and she would fill me in because Justin would call her every week. I remember her telling me about him getting caught stealing, getting kicked out of the Presidio, being sent to South Carolina to be a cook and his transfer to Washington State. Then, I remember one day I caught Diane on the way in to work and I asked her how Justin was. She got all choked up and said she hadn't heard from him in two weeks. That was very unlike him.
And then it began, every week no news from Justin. Diane would only update me on the things she had found out, how they found his car, how Justin's girlfriend was not being cooperative, how she was getting stone-walled by the army, how the army wouldn't declare him a missing person (The army doesn't actively seek out AWOL soldiers, but they will actively search for missing persons), how she contacted Senators Kerry and Kennedy to help, how every investigator found a dead-end to the case or how they were being "encouraged" to stop asking questions. It was so hard on her. She was a wreck.
Then Diane told me she was going to try Unsolved Mysteries. After the show aired she got all kinds of leads. Some said he had caught the interest of some high-ups at the Presidio, some said he was hiding guns while on maneuvers with the army. Some said Justin was an excellent soldier in the field and was recruited into the CIA or some other covert part of the government. Some said he had joined the Foreign Legion. Anyway, all the leads still ended at dead-ends.
I don't know what happened to Justin. I don't think he was mentally unstable. I either believe he got himself into trouble or he did join some covert government branch. Of course, sixteen years later without a peep and I think we can figure out which is more likely. Like ABC 124, I miss my friend.

-- Duane
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Old 04-27-2008, 01:17 AM   #29
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I've always found this story fascinating. I have seen the movie White Sands several times. Why did Justin make a reference to this movie?
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Old 04-27-2008, 03:41 PM   #30
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Im glad to see that more than 4 years after I posted the original post that started this thread, people are still reacting over it. I still think about this case often, and now that the world has changed, I have more friends in the military than ever.. Its a bit scary to think of this case in terms of one of MY friends.. So to the posters who lost thier friend.. my sympathies. I hope this posting continues to stay up front. I hope people continue to wonder.
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