BRADENTON, FLA.- — A Manatee County mom continues to push for change after her son died during a military training exercise in 2019.
Nicholas Panipinto died after his Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned while training in South Korea.
His mother, Kimberly Weaver, has shined a spotlight on military training accidents ever since her son’s death.
“You feel like a carved-out pumpkin. You’re just sleepwalking through the rest of your life and somehow by the grace of God, Nicholas has given me the fire to fight because I was so angry with my grief,” said Kimberly Weaver.
U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan requested a public hearing on military training accidents. It was the focus of a hearing by the U.S. House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness on Tuesday.
Vice chiefs for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines attended the hearing.
During the hearing, Congressman Buchanan highlighted the lack of emergency services following Panipinto’s death.
“Nick died in a training accident at Camp Humphreys in South Korea in 2019. A tragic series of errors and training failures contributed to Nick’s death including a lack of medical services on the base and significant delays in medical response to the scene of the accident. Nick eventually arrived at the hospital two hours after the accident and died from his injuries later that day,” said Congressman Buchanan.
Deaths during training exercises have risen dramatically in recent years.
“Any preventable loss of life is unacceptable. It is shameful that the nation with the most powerful military in the world loses more service members in noncombat settings than in war,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA).
During the hearing, Army General Joseph Martin called Panipinto’s death an “unfortunate anomaly.”
Weaver does not agree.
“It’s crazy to me that our base, that’s the largest overseas military base, Camp Humphreys that is home to 42,000 service members and their family and they have no hospital at the time of my son’s accident, they do now,” said Weaver.
Congressman Buchanan previously fought for legislation to address training accidents. A proposal was signed into law in January.
It required the Department of Defense to examine emergency response capabilities and services currently available at U.S. military bases around the world. It requires the department to report to Congress on the potential benefits and feasibility of requiring bases to have properly functioning MedEvac helicopters and fully-stocked military ambulances.
Weaver said she appreciates the efforts from Congress. She said she will not stop until the Army better protects the men and women who serve.
“I really hopes that Congress follows through and I believe that they will in pushing for those safeguards to be implemented,” said Weaver.
Weaver said her son always wanted to serve our country. He loved to hunt and fish. Panipinto attended Manatee High School and joined the Army in 2018.
“We always knew the risk that would come with that, but we had no idea being on base not in a combat zone would be the most dangerous place. We’re just completely devastated and appalled,” said Weaver.
“Every dream and plan you have for your life is now shattered.”