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After Marine's wife says husband denied care when he invoked Brandon Act, lance corporal is flown off ship to receive medical evaluation

The wife of a Marine stationed aboard the USS Carter Hall said her husband's pleas for help were ignored for weeks.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — New questions are being raised about how well the military is doing in complying with the Brandon Act, a law that aims to help service members seek mental health services.

The wife of a Marine stationed aboard the USS Carter Hall, which is based at Joint Expeditionary Base–Little Creek, said her husband's pleas for help were ignored for weeks.

Burke Beasley, the wife of Marine Corps Lance Corporal Alex Grzesik, said she started receiving concerning e-mails and calls from her husband weeks ago aboard the amphibious dock landing ship, which is currently underway in the Fifth Fleet area of operations.

"He was scared of his own thoughts. He was having thoughts of self-harm," she said.

Burke said Alex repeatedly asked superiors to receive mental health care by invoking the Brandon Act, but she said he was denied.

"He said, 'Please help me. They're not listening to me. I've told them everything, and no one is listening,'" Burke recalled.

On Wednesday, 13News Now started asking questions about the situation. Later that day, the Navy and Marine Corps decided to fly Alex off the ship to Bahrain, where he was to receive medical and psychological evaluations, a source familiar with the situation confirmed with 13News Now.

RELATED: U.S. Army implements Brandon Act following criticism from late Navy sailor's family

In a statement, United States Marine Corps Forces Command confirmed that Alex was in Bahrain with medical professionals for evaluation to determine appropriate medical care.

United States Marine Corps Forces Command in a statement said: "Maintaining the health and well-being of our Marines and their families is critical to readiness and success. The Marine's command is taking action to get him appropriate medical care."

13News Now reached out to Virginia's two U.S. senators, who pushed for the passage of the Brandon Act.

Sen. Mark Warner said, "My office is in contact with Ms. Beasley and we are working to help address this alarming situation. No servicemember should ever be made to feel like they have to suffer in silence."

Sen. Tim Kaine said, "I'm deeply concerned about this case and have raised it with Marine Corps leadership. I'm going to continue working to make sure the Brandon Act is implemented effectively, and servicemembers have access to the mental health care they need."

Teri Caserta, co-founder of the Brandon Caserta Foundation, issued a statement:

"We are very pleased that Alex’s command is finally doing the right thing. The Brandon Act is a policy that needs to be used as the Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro states, anyone in the Navy and Marine Corps should invoke it at any time and under any conditions. He even sent an email out to his entire force with The Brandon Act policy. This is what we have fought for for five years. Bringing every service member home safely is what we strive for and so does Secretary Del Toro. Our service members mean the world to us. Without them, we don’t have a fit military. We could not be happier with this outcome when the system works the way it is supposed to."

What is the Brandon Act?

Under the Brandon Act, if a service member seeks mental health services or self-reports a problem, they're supposed to get a mental health evaluation and confidential help outside the chain of command.

The legislation was signed into law by President Joe Biden in December 2021, as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. It's designed to eliminate stigma and improve the referral process for service members seeking a mental health evaluation and allowing them to seek help confidentially.

The law is named after Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta, who died by suicide in Norfolk in 2018. 

The law's enactment comes after the Army had the highest number of suicides among the U.S. military branches in 2021 at 176, compared to the Navy which had 58, the Air Force which had 51 and the Marine Corps which had 43.

Despite Biden's signature in 2021, the Department of Defense didn't implement the Brandon Act until May 2023. The Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force followed suit in July.

The Army announced on Friday that it had also implemented the law, following criticism from Caserta's family in an interview with 13News Now.

"It's gut-wrenching to see that they haven't implemented it, and they don't seem to care about it." Teri Caserta, Brandon Caserta's mother, told 13News Now on Monday.

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