America's Forgotten Soldier
Much attention has been given to Pat Tillman in recent weeks, for the way that his family was misled about his death in Afghanistan. Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch has also received considerable media attention. Even the soldiers being Court martialed have received plenty of media coverage.
But there is one soldier who has hardly been mentioned. Most Americans are not even aware of this soldiers name. Yet her story is no less important than the Tillman or the Lynch stories. In fact, if Americans knew about her story, many would be saddened and outraged about the way that her family has been treated. I feel that if the truth were to come out about her case, it could easily dwarf the case of Pat Tillman. And the story of Jessica Lynch would not come close. Yet, for 2 years, the national media has ignored her case. (But there is plenty of coverage for Paris Hilton and Britney Spears).
The soldier that I speak of is Army Pvt. Lavena Lynn Johnson. She would have celebrated her 22nd birthday just a few days ago (July 27th). (picture)
This has to be one of the biggest stories in the Country that is not getting National Coverage.
Young Pvt. Lavena Johnson, was killed in Iraq on July 19th, 2005. Evidence in the case points to assault and murder. However, the Army has been covering up the killing, calling the soldiers death a suicide instead. The Army has refused to provide the family with key documents, and has ignored the families attempts to find answers in their daughters death.
Immediately after her death, the Army told the Johnson family that Lavena did not die from suicide. (1) But a few days later, the Army changed its story and called it a suicide by way of a self inflicted gunshot. The case was never properly investigated. The FBI should have taken over this case, once it appeared that foul play was involved.
The family put up an initial fight, but then the case faded.
Right after her death, I attempting to get more light shined on the issue. I wrote newspapers, and TV stations, without success. I guess they felt that it was more important to spend all of their time talking about Strippers like Anna Nicole Smith. I even attempted to get "Black Reporters" Tavis Smiley and Ed Gordon to cover this story, but neither of their programs ever responded to my e-mails via their websites.
I immediately saw red flags with this case, because the circumstances were so suspicious. First and foremost:
1. Lavena Johnson was not a candidate for suicide, based on all of the accounts that described her personality, demeanor, her spirit, etc. None of that pointed to suicide. Also, she was nearing the time when she would be coming home and had been making plans with her family.
2. Secondly, from a physical/scientific standpoint it would have been nearly impossible for her to shoot herself in the side of the head with an M-16 with her weak hand. The bullet wound was on the left side of her head, but Lavena was right handed. Typically this is not how a suicide would be done with an M-16 rifle. In addition, weapons residue & forensics tests showed that she did not even fire the weapon.
3. Her face and upper body showed signs that she had been beaten. She had a broken nose, a busted lip, and her front teeth had been knocked loose. The funeral service workers had to repair her face before her funeral. Other parts of her body also showed signs of trauma.
I did not want to push too hard at the time, because the family did not seem interested in dealing with the issue. They wanted to grieve instead.
But there are now new developments in the case, and the family is once again fighting for a new investigation. Local St. Louis TV Station KMOV Channel 4 covered the case this week, and even more evidence has surfaced in the case that was not previously reported. See video here. The new evidence supports the case that Lavena was brutally murdered in her tent.
This case should be brought to national prominence, because a disgusting injustice has been committed here. The killer or killers are out there walking free.
My theory on what may have happened to this young soldier? She was likely a victim of a rape or sexual assault of some kind, likely by superior officers or enlisted soldiers. In an effort to cover up their crime and keep her from telling anyone, they decided to kill her. The evidence in the case shows that the suspect (s) attempted to destroy evidence at the crime scene, including an attempt to try to set the crime scene on fire. The new information also shows that there was a blood trail leading outside from Lavena's tent. If she shot herself in the head with an M-16, then she would not have been able to get up and walk outside of her tent to create the blood trail. Another person would have had to do that.
OR an alternate scenario could be that Lavena was a witness to or knew of serious criminal activity involving officers or senior enlisted folks over there. She must have saw something or heard something, and her superiors knew that she could be a witness against them. In an effort to guarantee that she would not tell what she knew, someone decided to have her killed.
Either way, this case deserves National attention, and the FBI should get involved. From seeing other cases in Iraq involving Iraqi civilians, we know that these kinds of events have taken place. The problem with these kinds of cases involving soldiers overseas is that evidence is lost and potential witnesses and suspects are reassigned to other bases over a certain period of time. But this is exactly why this needs to be an FBI case, because any new case would involve several jurisdictions.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (or CID), which is typically responsible for investigating crimes on Army installations, has proved that #1. It may not have the resources and/or the manpower to investigate such a complex case, and #2. It has shown that it is not trustworthy in terms of being an impartial entity in this case. This is especially important if the offender or offenders were Army officers…and if the Army itself is involved in this cover-up.
Let's bring national attention to this issue so that justice can be served...for Lavena, her family, and for the other young women in the military who may have found themselves in similar situations (or will in the future), and may not have known how to seek help if help was even available at all.
This kind of vile injustice (far worse than what happened to Pat Tillman) should not be allowed to stand.
Fast Forward To April of 2007
This is a case that I have been following for a long time. It now looks as if things are finally beginning to move.... See video of latest developments here.
Johnson, a 19 year old soldier from St. Louis, was killed in Iraq in 2005. However, the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death point to murder and a government cover-up. The case has been stalled for several months, due to stonewalling by the Army. However, the U.S. Congress has now gotten involved in the case. This is the first sign of any significant national involvement. The case had basically been ignored on the national level, until now. It was only a local story.... But with the recent revelations about Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman and others, the Johnson case is finally getting at least some national attention.
Ironically.... if the truth comes to light in the LaVena Johnson case, it could easily dwarf the cases of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch (as if those cases were not bad enough). Yet, the Tillman & Lynch cases have gotten all the media attention.
It was blog activity (from several people) that kept this issue alive.
Fast Forward to May of 2007
Lavena Johnsons body was exhumed and an independent autopsy was performed. The final report is still pending. The Army is still stonewalling the family and Congress regarding documents and other evidence in the case.
This is currently where the case stands.
The publics help is still needed to get this story on the national stage. Once in the spotlight, pressure could be brought to bare to force officials into action.
Please call or write your member of Congress. If you are a journalist or the editor of a newspaper or magazine, you could help by covering the story and getting the word out.
I am The Angry Independent.... writing from St. Louis, Missouri, and I run the blog Mirror On America.
See the original 2005 media report
Other Blogs and Reports on This Story
Johnson And Tillman Families Deserve Answers
Post from Waveflux