Deaths awaiting answers
September 11, 2008 by Philip Baron
The bleak refusal of Army investigators in response to the Johnsons’ call for a renewed investigation of LaVena’s death has been well-noted here and elsewhere on the Web. LaVena’s case is just one of many, however; stories of other soldiers whose deaths are shrouded in secrecy, and whose loved ones still await investigation and explanation by military authorities, are coming to light. In May of 2007, this website noted an article by Diane Farsetta, senior researcher for the Center for Media and Democracy, titled “War vs. Democracy: Untold Stories from the Lynch / Tillman Hearing.” Using as a springboard the House Oversight Committee’s hearings on the cases of Cpl. Pat Tillman and Pfc. Jessica Lynch, Farsetta noted several U.S. soldiers - besides LaVena - whose deaths or serious injuries had gone unexplained or whose families had received incomplete or misleading information:
To read the full article, go to the LaVena Johnson website. Stay up on what the military is doing, or not doing, to support the brave soldiers who fight for us.
- First Lieutenant Ken Ballard: “His mom, Karen Meredith, was told that Ken was killed by a sniper on a rooftop,” recounted Kevin. “Fifteen months later, she found out that he was killed by an unmanned gun from his own vehicle.”
- Private Jesse Buryj: “His family was told he was killed in a vehicle accident. A year later, they received the autopsy report, and they found that he was shot in the back. The Army was forced to concede that he was accidentally shot by a Polish soldier. Just recently, out of nowhere, a Lieutenant showed up at their family’s house and told them that an officer in his own unit had shot him.”
- Staff Sergeant Brian Hellerman: His wife, Dawn Hellerman, called Kevin Tillman late one night. “She was tired of receiving new official reasons why her husband had died. She was desperate for help. … The system had failed her.”
- Sergeant Patrick McCafferty: “The family was told, it was — quote — ‘an ambush by insurgents.’ Two years later, they found out that those — quote — ‘insurgents’ happened to be the same Iraqi troops that he was training. Before his death, he told his chain of command that these same troops that he was training were trying to kill him and his team. He was told to keep his mouth shut.”
- Sergeant Eddie Ryan, who was wounded in Iraq: “He sustained two gunshot wounds to the head and, thankfully, is still alive,” said House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman. “He didn’t find out the truth about his injuries until five months later, even though his fellow Marines knew immediately that his injuries were due to friendly fire.”
- First Lieutenant Sarah K. Small, who died during a military training exercise in Egypt.