Personal Health

Veteran Dies After Setting Himself on Fire in Front of VA Clinic

While there's no clear motive established, the public nature of the act is provoking a discussion about the state of care for veterans.

A monument at Veterans Memorial Park.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

A 51-year-old U.S. military veteran set himself on fire in front of a New Jersey VA clinic earlier this month, reportedly dying from his burns hours later.

Charles R. Ingram III died Saturday, March 19 at the Temple Burn Center in Philadelphia, where he was airlifted after he set himself ablaze. The self-immolation took place earlier that afternoon at the VA clinic in Northfield, which was not open at the time.

Ingram was a seven-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. According to Daily Beast reporter Kenneth Lipp, “Ingram’s last years in the Navy were aboard the amphibious command ship the USS La Salle, one of five vessels in the Persian Gulf when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.”

Citing police officials, media outlets report that Ingram did not leave a note or explanation behind. His family has so far declined to speak to journalists. However, the public nature of the act is provoking a discussion about the state of care for veterans and service members living with trauma.

“At the very least, his actions were an expression of need,” said Atlantic County Veterans Affairs director Bob Frolow, who works at the county Vet Center in Ventnor, in an interview with Atlantic City Press.

The tragedy comes in the midst of a Koch brothers-backed campaign to privatize the VA, a move critics warn would further erode access to quality care for veterans as the U.S. expands troop deployments to ongoing wars.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.