ARLINGTON, Va., - It is the call in the middle of the night that every military family member fears the most.
The call informing them that their son, daughter or spouse has been injured—or worse, killed—while serving overseas.
Families of Vermont National Guardsmen recently received such calls about their loved ones, leaving them distraught and searching for answers. They later found out that these phone calls were nothing but a hoax.
State and federal officials are now asking who would do something like this.
"I can't imagine what kind of person would do this," said Air Force Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow, the state public affairs officer for the Vermont National Guard. "If you think this is funny, it's not."
When hearing about these phone calls, Goodrow was angry. He still feels that anger when he talks about the hoax.
"To me, this is a form of domestic terrorism," he said, adding that the person making these calls should look in the mirror "and if you've ever wondered what a domestic terrorist looks like … that's what you've reduced yourself to.
"You don't expect this from our own citizens."
Goodrow said this is not the first time that the Vermont Guard has seen this type of behavior toward family members.
During Operation Desert Storm, some family members experienced similar prank calls, and Goodrow stepped in then to put an end to them.
"I did the same thing then as I have now," he said. "I brought immediate attention to the media and attacked it head-on … and the calls stopped.
"I realized that we needed to get the message out … that this type of behavior will not be tolerated."
There is a process of notification when a Soldier is injured or killed, said Goodrow. The Soldier ideally should make the first contact in the event of an injury. If a Soldier is unable to make the call, someone who is close to the Soldier should let the family know.
"In the state of Vermont, we are sending a [liaison] to help families get to Washington or wherever to be with their Soldier," he said. "We take the commitment to our families very seriously, because we ask a lot of them.
"They are the ones who are silently serving back home, and they don't deserve to be tortured [like this]."
Goodrow said that the incident is under investigation by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) as well as the state police. The investigation has also received the backing of the state attorney general.
"The attorney general of the state of Vermont takes this very, very seriously," he said. "I think that they are working the best way to get to the bottom of this."
As officials continue to move forward in their investigation, Goodrow offered advice to family members about what to do if they receive a similar call and what they can do to lessen their chances of a hoax call.
"Be careful of social media," he said. "There are people out there who read what you post, and not all of them are as kind and gentle, or as caring about your Soldier like you are.
"All of our families are deeply proud of what their Soldier is doing, but just be careful about what you put out there."
Family members should get the phone number of the caller through *69 if they have that ability, he said. The second thing to do is for the family to notify a military organization like their family readiness group and the local police.
"Understand that if your Soldier is injured in Afghanistan, or anywhere in the world, you will not be notified by a phone call unless it is from your Soldier or a friend of the Soldier," he said.