In the days after her husband was reported missing at the Texas Army base where he was stationed, Cam Chamberlain sent a series of urgent Facebook messages to an old friend: When he disappeared, she said, he left her without food or money.
She wasn’t working, she was separated from her family and her efforts to get help from the military had gone nowhere, two old friends said.
«I’m scared,» she wrote to Jessica D’Lynn Pyles in a message the friend shared with NBC News. «I’m alone. I just want the pain to go away. I can’t take it anymore.»
A week after that message, Cam Chamberlain’s death was announced, and the next day her husband, who had been missing for 11 days, was discovered alive. Specialist Craig Chamberlain, 23, had «intentionally» disappeared from his unit, according to Army officials at his post, Fort Cavazos.
Military authorities have offered few answers about what happened, and friends of Cam Chamberlain, who was in his early 20s, have said they have found no solace in the aftermath of his death: There has been no autopsy, no obituary, and no funeral. .
Authorities confirmed his death in a statement on May 25. The couple lived off base and a spokeswoman for the Killeen Police Department referred questions about the case to authorities at Fort Cavazos, who issued a statement confirming the death. They did not provide details about when or where he died, and his cause and manner of death have not been released.
Army investigators launched a criminal investigation. A spokeswoman for the Army Criminal Investigation Division declined to comment further, citing an ongoing investigation.
“I can’t even grieve her death like family should, because now it’s like she never existed,” said Shandy Eubank, one of the longtime friends.
The day after authorities announced his wife had died, Craig Chamberlain was found in «irregular condition» in the Killeen area, his mother, Virginia Chamberlain, said. In an interview, she refused to say where her son is now.
A Fort Cavazos spokeswoman declined to discuss his status in the Army, saying he was the subject of an administrative investigation in connection with his disappearance. The query has been completed, but cannot be disclosed due to privacy regulations.
A quick marriage and a mission abroad.
Craig and Cam Chamberlain met a few years ago through a dating app and got married in 2020, according to their Facebook page. Although Eubank believed the couple had rushed things, they initially seemed happy, she said.
“The way he treated her, he put her on a pedestal,” said Eubank, who met Cam when they worked together at an insurance company in Waco more than a decade ago. «He treated her better than anyone had ever treated her.»
She was a people person, Eubank said, someone who was as outspoken as she was happy and goofy.
D’Lynn Pyles said, «You knew where he stood on things.»
In an interview with a Texas newspaper, Cam described her husband as laid-back, patient and easygoing. He has a unicorn tattooed on his right shoulder.
Craig Chamberlain was assigned to the 704th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company at Fort Cavazos, formerly known as Fort Hood, one of the largest military bases in the country, located approximately halfway between Austin and Waco.
Over time, a rift arose between the couple, which Cam partly blamed on difficult family dynamics, Eubank said. Cam publicly identified as a transgender woman and had a difficult relationship with her own family, telling friends that her mother had «disowned» her, Eubank and D’Lynn Pyles recalled.
Efforts to contact Cam Chamberlain’s mother were unsuccessful. Messages left at a phone number listed as her brother’s were not returned.
Cam told Eubank that she also had problems with her husband’s family. Eubank recalled her friend recounting a conversation in which her mother-in-law challenged her ability to be romantic: «How can she know that she loves Craig when she doesn’t know what gender she is?»
Virginia Chamberlain called the comment «very, very inaccurate.»
“Did we have our differences? Absolutely,” she said. “But I will say that I never bullied Cam. I never made a statement like that to Cam. Not once did that come out of my mouth.»
Craig Chamberlain’s father, Gordon Chamberlain, added that although he did not know Cam before his son married her, «I said we would treat Cam like anyone else who comes into our lives.»
The military was sending Craig to South Korea and Cam planned to «stay with him,» Eubank said, despite the growing tension between them. Fort Cavazos officials confirmed that he had been sent to South Korea in December for a long-term assignment.
In a Facebook post on January 8, Cam seemed excited about the trip and traveling to other parts of Asia.
“Can’t wait for the FOOD,” he wrote in a post that D’Lynn Pyles captured on a screenshot and shared with NBC News. “I love real Asian food.”
But months passed, and the couple went nowhere. Then, on March 20, she posted that her husband’s orders had been deferred for six months, and that she found out about her only the night before he left her.
“You never know what comes next,” he wrote in another post shared by D’Lynn Pyles. «Plans change faster than this Texas weather.»
A Fort Cavazos spokeswoman declined to comment on the postponement, saying it was part of the base’s administrative investigation.
a missing soldier
By the time Cam Chamberlain reported her husband missing (they had last seen him on May 15), their relationship had become so «toxic» that she had planned to separate from him, she told D’Lynn Pyles in a message from Facebook.
«Even though I’m getting a divorce, I still can’t help but think he’s in danger,» she wrote. «I still love him and I would blame myself if something happened to him.»
In other messages to D’Lynn Pyles, he asked for money. In a message, she said her husband had refused to pay her Basic Housing Allowance, or the compensation provided to service members and their families living off base.
«He disappeared and left me without food. With nothing,» he said in a message. Her order won’t help me.
In a statement, Fort Cavazos officials did not address Cam Chamberlain’s claim. They said that «caring for our soldiers and families is a top priority.»
“If Soldiers and their family members have pay issues that cannot be resolved at the unit level, they should seek help from their unit personnel office,” the statement said.
In another message, Cam shared a missing person flyer for her husband, a flyer that later circulated in the local media that Craig disappeared without his keys or phone. He had been suffering from an «extreme bout of depression,» the flyer said.
As she searched for her husband, she tracked down the sometimes grim responses to his disappearance on social media.
In a lengthy comment thread on a local station’s Facebook page, people made jokes about how the base’s name change didn’t stop another soldier from disappearing and casually suggested his wife may have had something to do with it.
In response to a user who said he hoped «his wife» didn’t see the comments, Cam replied, «I have seen them. All of them. And I hope that each and every one of them goes through the pain that I am going through.»
She also began to speak more about her husband’s disappearance. In a message to D’Lynn Pyles, she said her husband had «lied» to her about South Korea. She offered no additional details, but in an interview with the Killeen Daily Herald while Craig was missing, he said army officials had recently told him that he had stopped showing up for work in March.
“He told me he went to work all the time, so I didn’t think anything of it, but he didn’t really go to work,” he told the newspaper. «She just said she was going to work.»
Virginia Chamberlain questioned her daughter-in-law’s account, saying that photos from the time show her son with long hair and a scruffy face.
«You can’t report for a service like that in the military,» he said.
Fort Cavazos officials said in a statement that Craig Chamberlain had been unable to travel to his new assignment. for unknown reasons». A spokeswoman for the base declined to comment when asked about the accuracy of Cam Chamberlain’s comments.
A plea for help
The last time D’Lynn Pyles heard from Cam was on May 21, when she sent a Facebook message asking for $40. She had gone to her mother’s house in Fort Worth, a place where she said she was «no longer welcome», and she had spent the last of her money on a return trip to Killeen.
D’Lynn Pyles said she couldn’t give him the money: she had just gone shopping and had $20 in her name, according to a screenshot of the message.
“I totally get it,” her friend replied.
Four days later, D’Lynn Pyles texted Cam: «Are you okay?» — and then called. There was no response, and D’Lynn Pyles soon found himself on Facebook groups tied to Fort Cavazos looking for answers.
The next day, May 26, Craig Chamberlain was found alive. It was a week and a half after being reported missing and not long after a civilian search party set out with his parents to find him.
Virginia Chamberlain said the group, made up of «complete strangers,» was «with us every day looking for our son.»
«And they were there when we found it,» he said. «Now they are family to us.»
The base offered few details about how or where Craig was found. In a statement, military officials accused him of intentionally disappearing and said the search involved «tremendous efforts and support from the Fort Cavazos and Killeen communities.»
Virginia Chamberlain also declined to say where her son was found. She described her path forward as a «difficult journey» with «a lot of healing to go through.»
«This is a very delicate story,» he added. «There are so many lives that have been affected by this. My heart really breaks for Cam’s friends and Cam’s family, even with things that have happened in the past.»
For D’Lynn Pyles, Cam’s death was especially hard given that one of the things her friend wanted most was a committed partner, someone with whom she could establish the kind of family she didn’t have.
«Craig has been the longest relationship she’s been in since I’ve known her,» D’Lynn Pyles said in a text message. «She longed for THAT kind of love.»
Now, D’Lynn Pyles added, she just wants to know the truth about Cam, «even if it breaks my heart.»