Monday, February 26, 2007

LaVena



As a father, I do my best to take care of my little girl. I try to teach her the good stuff, try to be there if she falls down on the sidewalk, and I talk to her. But her mother and I can't take care of her all the time, and there's a short list of people we trust to watch over Adinah when we're not around. Our babysitter Rosa. Our friend Micha. The women and men at our Kindergarten.

As she gets older, our daughter will have to learn to take care of herself. I may find this a difficult process, but Adinah is gonna be just fine, I know. At the same time, she will entrust herself, first to her friends, and then to various institutions--we all do this as we become little league baseball players, university students, parents and responsible citizens of the place we call home.

We all want to be able to trust our institutions--our society--to take care of our children. But what if they don't?

This is a photograph of LaVena Johnson. She grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. She was an honor roll student at Hazelwood Central High School who played the violin in her spare time and volunteered for the American Heart Association. When LaVena finished school, she joined the Army. They sent her to Iraq. She died there on July 19, 2005. She was nineteen years old.

Army representatives initially told LaVena's parents that she died from "self-inflicted, non-combat injuries" but that she had not committed suicide. After an investigation, they changed their story and insisted LaVena had killed herself. But the Army also sent investigation photos and documents home to the Johnsons, and these documents suggest that LaVena was murdered. The evidence of foul play includes the disappearance of LaVena's debit card, lab results that indicate she may not have even touched the rifle she was said to have shot herself with, and indications that someone tried to set her body on fire. Despite these findings, the Army has declared the case closed and refused to make any further comment.

Last week, the St. Louis CBS-TV affiliate KMOV broadcast a report about LaVena's death. I learned about her from posts by Waveflux, Shakespeare's Sister and an Angry Black Bitch. As far as I can tell, there has been little media attention otherwise. That leaves LaVena's father, Dr. John Johnson, all alone in a fight to find out what really happened to his little girl.

As a father and a man who is living a long ways from home, I want to believe that people over there in the US are trying to do the right thing. And as Americans, we have to be able to trust our Army to take care of us and our children. But what if they don't?

In this case, it's possible that Army investigators really did try to discover the truth about LaVena's death in her tent in Iraq. If that is so, our message to them is simple: Try harder.



(PS: Waveflux suggests, as do we here at Euro Like Me, that anyone who cares about this case contact their US Senator, particularly if that Senator is on the Armed Services Committee. That Committee's membership is listed here:

Democrats
Carl Levin, Chairman (Michigan)
Claire McCaskill (Missouri)
Edward M. Kennedy (Massachusetts)
Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia)
Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut)
Jack Reed (Rhode Island)
Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii)
Bill Nelson (Florida)
E. Benjamin Nelson (Nebraska)
Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York)
Mark L. Pryor (Arkansas)
Jim Webb (Virginia)

Republicans
John McCain, Ranking Member (Arizona)
John W. Warner (Virginia)
James M. Inhofe (Oklahoma)
Jeff Sessions (Alabama)
Susan M. Collins (Maine)
John Ensign (Nevada)
Saxby Chambliss (Georgia)
Lindsey O. Graham (South Carolina)
Elizabeth Dole (North Carolina)
John Cornyn (Texas)
John Thune (South Dakota)
Mel Martinez (Florida))

3 comments:

Shark-fu said...

Excellent post!

pat said...

Thank you very much, Shark-Fu. Coming from you, that is high praise indeed.
There is a petition to reopen the investigation into LaVena's death at

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/pfc_lavena_johnson/

JerseyTjej said...

I followed several links related to this tragic story and ended up here. While I am recently learning of this travesty, I must commend you on your willingness to take a stand from abroad and help do something. Well written and like shark-fu said" excellent post"