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Family awaits answers in Army veteran’s death

Glenn Lester O'Neal, a veteran whose body was found Aug. 1 near I-70 Drive SW and Silvey Drive after he had been missing for more than a month. O'Neal's death has led to an Columbia Police Department internal investigation to determine why officers didn't file a missing person report after being notified by the family on July 3. (Columbia Daily Tribune/TNS)

As the family of a U.S. Army Veteran found dead continues to seek answers and Columbia Police investigate internally why a missing persons report was not filed, the chair of the Missouri House Veterans Committee says he will look at a Wisconsin warning system similar to the Amber Alert for missing former service members.

The body of Glenn Lester O’Neal, a Columbia man who was one of the first to respond to Ground Zero during the terrorist attacks on 9/11, was found the afternoon of Aug. 1 near Interstate 70 Drive Southwest and Silvey Street. Columbia Police are investigating the case, but so far few details have been released.

O’Neal’s brother-in-law Greg Silvey said Tuesday it would be very unusual for the avid outdoorsman to run across misfortune in the woods. When last seen, O’Neal was riding a moped which has also not been recovered. His wallet and other personal effects also remain missing, Silvey said.

“He was an avid outdoorsman,” Silvey said. “Glen loved going out in the woods, camping, fishing and stuff like that. I don’t know how or what happened out there. For him to be found out in the middle of the woods, when that was basically his home away from home if you will, it really is a mystery. He got on his moped and took off and said he would be back and that was the last we heard from him.”

While it was not unusual for him to go camping or hiking for a few days, family members grew concerned after O’Neal left June 30 and did not return after about 72-hours. After speaking with officers on July 3, Silvey said, the family was under the impression that a missing persons report had been filed. It was not until his remains were found, Silvey said, that the family learned that was not the case.

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The reasons why remain unknown, pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigationby Columbia Police. Silvey says he is not sure if issuing the report would have helped, but it is possible it might have alerted someone who had seen him on the days leading up to his death.

“It is possible someone might have seen him before that and could have helped him, but I honestly can’t say,” he said. “I have to wait for Chief Jones and the internal affairs unit to do their investigation to see what was going on.”

The case of O’Neal bears some similarities to the case of U.S. Air Force veteran Corey Adams, whose death in March 2017 spurred the Wisconsin General Assembly to pass the “Green Alert” system, which is similar to the Amber Alert system but focuses on veterans.

While a missing persons report was filed the day after Adams disappeared, authorities did not treat it as a critical incident until after eight more days. He was found dead in a pond 18 days later, just a mile from his mother’s home, according to a press release by state Senator LaTonya Johnson, who was one of four lawmakers who filed legislation to help locate missing veterans.

The Corey Adams Searchlight Act established a system called the Green Alert, due to the color of military fatigues, that works much like an Amber Alert for missing children or Silver Alert for the elderly.

“We all share a duty to those who put their lives on the line to defend our country, and Green Alerts, like the current system of Amber and Silver Alerts, will help fulfill that duty by giving us, the public, the opportunity to be on the lookout and help bring our missing veterans home safely,” Johnson stated in the release.

State Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport and chairman of the House Veterans Committee, said he had not heard of the Wisconsin system but intends to look at in the days to come.

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“I think it’s a great thing, as long as it’s not violating anyone’s rights or privacy,” Basye said. “Believe me, that is something we are trying to get a grasp on, what we can do better in Missouri to help veterans that are suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injury or things like that.”

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. are sponsoring a bill in the U.S. Senate to support the Green Alert system and take it nationwide. The Green Alert Act of 2019-2020 is currently in the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and if passed would establish a committee to study the issue and help states who want to implement the system.

“I think I might look at filing some legislation here in Missouri if the federal legislation falls through,” Basye said.

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© 2019 Columbia Daily Tribune