Saturday, July 21, 2007

525600 Minutes.....Part Two

This is the graduation photo of a young lady named LaVena Johnson. Though she and I are both natives of St. Louis, Missouri (the "show me" state), and might even have been neighbors at some point as she and I both have lived in Florissant, one of St. Louis' largest suburbs, we are not acquainted. As it stands, I was only introduced to Ms. Johnson two days ago by way of this post on my pal DP's blog, "Parrish, The Thoughts".

You may be wondering, why I am writing a post in my 525600 minutes series about a young woman I didn't even know existed a year ago. The answer to that question is simple, it is because a year in the life of this young woman made such a profound difference to her and her family that it has compelled me to want to spread her story.
Ms. Johnson, an "A" student at a local high school here in St. Louis graduated as expected, but instead of going off to college, she chose a different road. She decided to join the United States Army in order to earn the money to help pay for her own college education. Ms. Johnson was inducted into the army, successfully completed basic training, and inside of that year, found herself at the inconceivably young age of 19 years old off to serve her country in Iraq.

On July 19, 2005, PFC LaVena Johnson died near Balad, Iraq; she would have been 20 years old just eight days later. Ms. Johnson did not die in combat. Her death has not been deemed accidental. Her parents were told by Army representatives that PFC Johnson "died of self-inflicted, noncombat injuries," and initially they were also told "it was not a suicide." This cause of death is not supported by the findings of the autopsy performed on PFC Johnson nor does it jive with the forensic evidence found at the scene of her death. In the link to the full story on DP's blog you can read all of the particulars of this case and view a well-done local newscast that details this family's struggle to find answers. I truly hope you will click the link as this beautiful young woman and her family have not received the courtesy and respect that her sacrifice deserves.

Contrary to what some might be thinking, this is not a post about whether or not America should be sending our soldiers to Iraq. Of course I have opinions about that issue, but this is a different issue entirely. This post is simply about what our soldiers and their families are owed when 525600 minutes impacts their lives in ways as unimagineable as a year in the life of this particular family has. PFC LaVena Johnson deserves justice and the Army owes her the courtesy and respect of doing everything in its power to help her to receive it by discovering what actually did happen to her. Her family has been irrevocably altered and for what they have been forced to give up, they deserve a full investigation into their daughter's death, an explanation of how and why it happened, and a full apology for having to go to such extreme measures to get what the Army owes to each and every family of a soldier killed while on active duty.

Perhaps the problem here is that Ms. Johnson was just a private and not a high ranking officer. Maybe if she had been a celebrity things would have been handled differently; maybe not. Recall the situation involving Cpl. Pat Tillman, the NFL player who joined the Army and was killed by friendly fire which was at first deemed a combat death. Referring to the difficulties encountered when trying to learn the truth of the circumstances surrounding her son's death, the mother of Pat Tillman was once quoted as having said:
"This is how they treat a family of a high-profile individual,". "How
are they treating others?"

After reading this, if you do nothing else, please click this link which will take you to the website where you can sign the petition to impress upon the powers that be to re-open the case of PFC LaVena Johnson's death. You will also be able to forward the petition to those individuals in your email address book if you are so inclined which will help to spread the word further and faster. The petition has been being circulated since February 21, 2007 and though it had great momentum in its early days, that momentum has slowed significantly so please pass the word to others as well. Together we can bring justice to LaVena and closure to her family.

GOD's blessings, love, and comfort to the Johnson family.

A year in a life can change everything.....


Rose said...

Sharon this is so sad. I live in Florissant too and have heard of this story all over the news. Senator Clay has called for an investigation. She was murdered. Probably by some high ranking official who raped her and covered it up. There is a big thing about women soldiers being raped. She was only 19. A straight A student who went to the Army following her dad's footsteps.

We'll have to meet sometimes. I signed the petition.

Anonymous said... talked all that stuff and YOUR post is better than MINE.

Glad I could help

Your sister Trina said...

Great post! I heard the story from one of her relatives. I was at a seminar and I heard them discuss this situation. I feel that it is very wrong when the government tries to cover up the truth. I hope that her family finds peace, and whoever committed this crime be brought to justice. She was so young and it is very unfortunate when young lives are taken. I pray for her family.

JerseyTjej said...

This is scandelous and I am off to sign as well.

Safa said... sad. I'm glad you are bringing this back up again. I hope enough pressure can be brought down on some higher-up to do something. Unfortunately, I doubt it.

YouToldHarpoTaBeatMe said...

No doubt in my mind, this young lady was murdered. An M16 rifle is over 3 ft tall, and this young lady was 5'1". I just signed the petition. Thanks for sharing.