ASBURY PARK, N.J. — Regina Mullen is finally getting some answers from the Navy about the death of her son Kyle Mullen during Navy SEAL training – although not all the answers, and not on the question that bothers her most.
The Manalapan, New Jersey resident met Tuesday with Navy officials, who affirmed that Kyle’s death occurred “in the line of duty,” Regina said, “which means there’s no misconduct on his part.”
Kyle Mullen, a former football star at Manalapan High School who later played at Yale and Monmouth universities, died in early February hours after completing the grueling portion of SEAL training known as “Hell Week.” Autopsy results released in June revealed the cause of death as pneumonia and indicated that the 24-year-old went untreated until it was too late.
The Navy’s autopsy report also stated that Kyle’s toxicology report came back clean. But, Regina Mullen has been concerned that the Navy would try to blame Kyle’s death on steroid use – a New York Times report in August raised the issue − and not hold anyone in the chain of command accountable for him going untreated.
“I told them, ‘You already killed my son, you don’t need to tarnish his character,’” she said of Tuesday’s meeting, which also was attended by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, whose district includes Manalapan.
On Wednesday, the Navy’s Special Warfare Command announced that it has reprimanded three officers in connection with Kyle Mullen’s death, but did not name names, and no one was fired as a result.
KYLE MULLEN CASE:Navy SEAL candidate died of pneumonia, treated by nonmedical personnel after completing ‘Hell Week’ training, autopsy reveals
Regina Mullen said she asked two things of Navy officials during the meeting. First, to “make sure the public knows” that tests for performance-enhancing drugs were negative. That was made clear in Wednesday’s report.
“I’ve been getting horrible messages on Facebook (since the New York Times report was published) saying, ‘You’re a horrible mother’ and ‘you raised a cheater,’” Regina Mullen said.
Her second request was to change the wording on the autopsy, which stated that Kyle’s enlarged heart was a “factor” in his pneumonia. Regina Mullen, who is a registered nurse, said the enlarged heart should be listed as a “condition” and not a factor.
“Factor and condition mean two different things,” she said. “An enlarged heart doesn’t cause pneumonia.”
Regina Mullen also contested the Navy’s contention that Kyle’s blood-oxygen rate measured 100% on the Wednesday afternoon of Hell Week — two days before his death.
“That’s nearly impossible if he died two days later,” she said.
‘I NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL’:Ex-SEAL candidate describes own Hell Week in wake of death
She said her reason for battling the Navy on these details, in addition to stopping the vitriol directed at her by trolls, is her concern that no one in the chain of command will be held accountable. As detailed in the Navy’s autopsy report, Kyle coughed up enough blood and fluid to fill a 32-ounce water bottle but was left untreated by medical staff after he completed the training.
The Navy has not explained who was responsible for that happening. Wednesday’s report said SEAL candidates tried to persuade unnamed instructors to help Kyle, but were rebuffed.
“I don’t understand how, eight months later, no one has been held accountable,” she said.
The Navy’s investigation into the chain-of-command actions surrounding Kyle’s death remains ongoing. Regina Mullen said it likely will be completed by the end of the year.
“I told them, they killed a good man,” she said. “He would have gone out on the battlefield and protected anybody. Now they’re not protecting his reputation, and that concerns me.
Jerry Carino is community columnist for the Asbury Park Press, focusing on the Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at email@example.com.