lavena johnson

LaVena Johnson: Raped and Murdered on a Military Base in Iraq

Have you heard the story about LaVena Johnson?

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The Pentagon's Shameful Record On Rape

As long-time readers know, I am a rape survivor. It isn't something I talk about often because, frankly, reliving a terrifying and brutal moment of my life isn't exactly high on my list of favorite things. But sometimes, news comes up that brings those memories crashing back.

I cannot stop thinking about LaVena Johnson.

Last Thursday, the House Committee on Government Oversight And Reform held hearings on sexual assault in the military. Rep. Jane Harman detailed some horrific statistics (PDF):

U.S. Military Covers up Murder: Says Soldier Beat Herself to Death

If Gen. Petraeus says things are rosy, they are. Questioning his integrity is an attack on all the men and women who serve in our military. The same holds true for the brave Army investigators who, when confronted with the evidence surrounding Lavena Johnson's death, ruled it a suicide.

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Soldier Mysteriously Killed in Afghanistan, Family Kept in the Dark, Sound Familiar?

This post, written by Philip Barron, originally appeared on Shakesville

Someone familiar with the story of LaVena Johnson forwarded to me a Boston Globe story by Noah Bierman that is hauntingly familiar:
Mystery surrounds death of soldier
Quincy woman is called a noncombat casualty
The Massachusetts National Guard soldier from Quincy who died in Afghanistan Friday was found with a single bullet in her head lying near her church on a secure military base, her family said yesterday after a briefing from Army officials.
The Department of Defense said in a statement yesterday that Ciara Durkin's injuries came from a "non-combat related incident" that is under investigation. The statement contradicts a Sunday statement from the Massachusetts Army National Guard that said Durkin, an Army specialist, was killed in action. A guard spokesman said the term was meant to imply that Durkin was deployed in Afghanistan at the time of her death.
"We're completely in the dark," said Pierce Durkin, the soldier's 28-year-old brother. "Patience is probably dissipating."

Father of Mysteriously Murdered US Soldier in Iraq: "Why Cover Up A Crime Like This?" [VIDEO]

Dr. Johnson spoke last Friday at the Veterans for Peace speakout on sexual assault in the military outside the Robert A. Young Federal Building in downtown St. Louis. This was just one of many events and workshops comprising the 22nd annual national convention of VFP.

In the video to your right, Dr. Johnson talks about learning of LaVena's death, his suspicions about how she died, and the family's attempts to get the Army to reopen its investigation. He is introduced by antiwar activist and retired Army colonel Ann Wright.

As always, I ask you to help the Johnson family by signing the petition to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, and by directly contacting your Senator or Representative on those legislative bodies. Thank you.

A Bitter Anniversary For the Family of a Murdered Soldier

Today, July 27th, marks what should have been a joyous celebration, perhaps including a party filled with family and friends. Today would have been LaVena Lynn Johnson’s 22nd birthday.

The month of July also marks another solemn milestone.

Two years ago this month the body of PFC Johnson was returned to her family and laid to rest, but there can be no rest for her her family and friends. The military continues to claim that LaVena took her own life while serving in Iraq, despite several indications to the contrary.

"Worth the risk?": How the media chooses between sponsorship and the truth

The Bullpen of New York University's Department of Journalism provides an illustrative tale for anyone wondering about the lack of coverage of the LaVena Johnson case in the mainstream media. Alexandra Zendrian recounts a sobering story told by Vanessa Bush, executive editor of Essence:

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Remember This

What do you say to the war dead on Memorial Day?

Private First Class LaVena Johnson


You tell them, perhaps, that you are sorry you never got the chance to know them. Who they were, what they loved and feared, what they hoped for. That opportunity is gone, replaced by mute stone and silent earth.

Private First Class LaVena Johnson


You tell them that you honor the choice they made in serving, even though that sacrifice goes unhonored by an army unwilling to answer families who want only to know how their loved ones died so far from home.

Private First Class LaVena Johnson


You vow to keep the unfulfilled promise of the dead in your heart. What they would have valued. What they might have accomplished. Who they would have been, if only.

On Memorial Day, you tell the war dead - you swear to them - that you will not forget.

Radio interviews re: LaVena Johnson

For every one who has been following the LaVena Johnson story, I will be doing two radio interviews this week:

Today, Thursday, May 17, at 5:35 pm Central Time with host Lloyd Sloan on The Sloan Ranger Show. This will air on St. Louis, MO area station WGNU, AM 920. This is a follow-up to my March 9 interview there and will touch on more recent developments in the fight to compel the Army to reopen the investigation into LaVena's death. The show can be heard live over the Web (Windows Media Player); click the "Listen Live" link on the show's homepage.

Friday, May 18, at 5:05 pm Central Time with host Christiane Brown on The Solution Zone. This will air on Reno, NV area station KJFK, AM 1230, an Air America affiliate. The show will also feature Diane Farsetta, senior researcher for the Center on Media and Democracy, who wrote the recent report "War vs. Democracy: Untold Stories from the Lynch / Tillman Hearing." This broadcast cannot be heard over the Web, but I will try to make the interview available in a streaming or podcast format later.

Both of these events came up rather suddenly, so apologies for the rather short lead time.

Center for Media and Democracy on Tillman/Lynch hearings and LaVena Johnson story

Diane Farsetta, senior researcher for the Center for Media and Democracy, examines the subtexts of the April 24 House Oversight Committee hearing. In today's CMD Report titled "War vs. Democracy: Untold Stories from the Lynch / Tillman Hearing," Farsetta looks beyond the cases of Cpl. Pat Tillman and Pfc. Jessica Lynch to explore the rights and responsibilities of citizens during wartime when faced with military misinformation, embellishment, and deception.

Rep. Clay speaks about Pfc. LaVena Johnson at Tillman/Lynch hearing (UPDATED)

The case of Pfc. Lavena Johnson finally edged into official light today at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Cpl. Pat Tillman and Pvt. Jessica Lynch. Representative William Lacy Clay of Missouri's First District spoke briefly about LaVena's death, the unsatisfactory investigation by Army officials, the refusal by the Army to revisit the case. To my knowledge, it is the first time that any member of any congressional body has spoken LaVena's name before the public and the wider press, and certainly the first time that her family's struggle to force a a new investigation of LaVena's death has been officially linked to the wider topic of deception by the military.

There was some question of when Congress would finally bring any sort of attention to the case of Pfc. Johnson; now we see that the search for justice for one military family just may bring light to others as well. Rep. Clay's remarks, welcome as they are, represent only the barest beginning of the kind of official attention that is required to prompt a reinvestigation of LaVena's death...but it is a beginning nonetheless.

UPDATE: Following is the text of the opening statement made by Rep. Clay:

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