Vet Net, "Unsung," and 2000 signatures

March 30, 2007 by Philip Barron · 1 Comment 

Chuc Smith of Veterans for Peace, who co-hosted the airing of Vet Net (station KDHX) in which I was a guest, is pleased to report that the show is now available in streaming audio. It can also be downloaded as a podcast. Our show on LaVena Johnson is the first one available. Get it here!

Last weekend, many visitors came to the petition site by way of an impassioned piece on the LaVena Johnson case posted at Welcome to Pottersville. It was heartening to read, and a fine example of the writing and advocacy many others are doing on behalf of LaVena’s family.


Message to the Missouri delegation in Congress

March 26, 2007 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

We are informed that members of Senate and House committees like hearing from real people.

This is fortunate for you members of the Missouri delegation to Congress, as there are some real people – the family of Pfc. LaVena Johnson – who would like to talk to you.

In particular:

Senator Claire McCaskill, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Kit Bond, vice-chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Representative Ike Skelton, chair of the House Armed Services Committee.

Representative Todd Akin, member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Representative William Lacy Clay, who has already expressed an interest in the matter of LaVena Johnson’s death and its subsequent investigation.

We hope that you will act on behalf of a grieving Missouri family, a service family that has lost its daughter, and compel the Army to reopen the investigation into this young woman’s death.

(Readers who are constituents of any of the representatives above are asked to contact them with your concerns regarding Pfc. LaVena Johnson. All Missouri citizens reading this are asked to contact the two senators listed above. Thank you.)

The word continues to spread

March 26, 2007 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

I tried last week to tally up all of the blogs, sites, and forums that have made a point of discussing the LaVena Johnson story or have linked to the petition website, but I soon realized that I’d never have time to count them all. The response to the story has been greatly encouraging, and the best I can manage for most of these kind souls is a blanket-yet-heartfelt thank you.

I would like to express particular thanks, however, to those people that have written about LaVena in direct response to a request. Oliver Willis was not only good enough to write about LaVena last week, but made that topic the first featured after his blog’s redesign. Steve Benes of Salon’s The Blog Report literally put the LaVena Johnson story on the radar today by linking to this weekend’s AlterNet piece. Many thanks to them both.

Security measure added to petition page

March 25, 2007 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

Password authorization has been added to the petition page in order to reduce computer-generated spamming. An image containing a short password is visible on the page; visitors must type those letters and numbers into the password field before clicking the “Submit” button.

The password will be updated periodically.

Authorization is always an inconvenience; I hope it’s a minor one in this case. Thank you for your patience.

Two soldiers, two families, and justice for one

March 24, 2007 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

For service families searching for the truth of how loved ones died overseas, not even the seeming advantage of fame can push the military into a timely and decent response. It has taken the family of Army Ranger and former pro football player Cpl. Pat Tillman some three years to get to this point: the Associated Press reports that the Pentagon will soon fault a number of officers – ranking as high as generals – for errors in the handling and disclosure of the young soldier’s death by fratricide.

In the meantime, the family of Pfc. LaVena Johnson – a soldier not famous, unremarked, unsung – is still rebuffed by an Army that refuses to reexamine her death or revisit its claim of suicide despite disturbing indications of foul play and sexual assault.

One year ago, I drew the too-clear parallel between the cases of Cpl.Tillman and Pfc. Johnson, but everything said can be pared down to the pointed observation once made by Tillman’s mother:

“This is how they treat a family of a high-profile individual,” she said. “How are they treating others?”

It’s time to level the field. Full as much as the Tillmans, the Johnson family deserves an honest accounting of their soldier’s death and the honor and respect due every service family.

Thanks to Vet Net for show on LaVena Johnson

March 23, 2007 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

Many, many thanks to Charles Clyde and Chuc Smith for hosting me on Vet Net yesterday (Thursday) for a taped show on the LaVena Johnson story. Charles is the regular host of the show, broadcast on KDHX; Chuc is president of the St. Louis chapter of Veterans for Peace. This was a follow up to their March 12 show on the death of Pfc. Johnson. The show taped yesterday will be aired at 5:30 a.m. Central on Monday, March 26. (Not the 25th, as I posted earlier.) The show can be heard at that time via the Internet (RealPlayer format for download); just click on the “Listen Online” link at the top of the show’s home page. (Streaming capability may come soon to Vet Net ; I’ll alert folks here when it happens.)

It was a good conversation. Chuc and Charles are quite familiar with LaVena’s story; additionally, Chuc and his organization, VFP, have been in touch with the Johnson family and are working to bring the story to the attention of such vital officials as Claire McCaskill, newly-elected Missouri senator and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Charles and Chuc (and Chuc’s wife Denise, whom I had the pleasure of meeting) were gracious in their thanks for the petition effort, which is only made worthwhile by each citizen who has lent their name to the effort. Thanks again to all of you.

From Teresa in Michigan to Senator Carl Levin

March 21, 2007 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

Early on in the drive to prompt public officials to come to the aid of the Johnson family, Teresa shared with me a letter she wrote to Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, chair of the Armed Service Committee. With her kind permission, that letter is posted here.

Dear Senator Levin,

I am pleased that you are head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

I understand that you are extremely busy with seeing to issues with the Armed Services that have been sorely neglected for many years.

I would like to draw your attention to the case of Pfc. LaVena Johnson.

Pfc LaVena Johnson was killed in Iraq. Her death as been listed as “died of self-inflicted, noncombat injuries” yet there is evidence to the contrary.

Indications of physical abuse that went unremarked by the autopsy.
The absence of psychological indicators of suicidal thoughts; testimony that LaVena was happy and healthy prior to her death.
Indications, via residue tests, that LaVena may not even have handled the weapon that killed her.
A blood trail outside the tent where LaVena’s body was found.
Indications that someone attempted to set LaVena’s body on fire.

Truth has been in very short supply these last 7 years. I have the greatest hope that you being a person of principle and honesty will rectify that problem.

I draw your attention to Pfc LaVena Johnson’s death because the truth of her death is needed.

Like Cpl. Pat Tilman’s death, LaVena Johnson’s death requires further investigation. Both they and their families have earned the truth.

Please I ask that you do your best for Pfc LaVena Johnson and her family. They have paid a high price.

We can not bring Pfc. Johnson back to life but you can help bring out the truth. Both she and her family have earned the truth.

“Please do your best for LaVena and her family.” It’s not so much to ask, is it?

Many thanks to Teresa and to everyone who has duplicated her efforts many times over.

Fourteen hundred

March 20, 2007 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

As of this writing, the number of signatories to the LaVena Johnson petition stands at just over fourteen hundred. Everyone who has written about this effort or shared this story with someone else, whether in person or via email or blog post, deserves very much to be named here and thanked individually. I ask forgiveness for not being able to do so.

Also: I can be heard talking about LaVena and the petition effort with Chuc Smith on the KDHX-FM program Vet Net next Monday (March 25 26) at the early hour of 5:30 a.m. Chuc is the president of the St. Louis chapter of Veterans For Peace and has worked to bring official attention and aid to the Johnson family’s efforts to have the death of their daughter reinvestigated. The program is not archived, but may be heard over the Internet as it is broadcast. (RealPlayer format; click the “Listen Online” link at the top of the page at the show’s webpage.)

Petition status and other items

March 15, 2007 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

The current count of the petition to the two Armed Services Committees stands at a hair under twelve hundred signatures. The Johnson family again expresses its gratitude for everyone who has taken the time not only to sign on, but also to send word about LaVena Johnson to individual legislators, media outlets, and friends and family.

I’d like to add a special thanks to the many people who have spread word of the petition and this site by way of LiveJournal and MySpace blogs. This followed closely on the heels of the story posted at Crooks & Liars, and the surge of interest was gratifying.

I’ll be talking about LaVena’s story on an upcoming airing of Vet Net hosted by Chuc Smith at radio station KDHX. It’s tentatively slated for March 25; the show runs from 5:30 am to 6 pm. I’ll post final information soon.

More information related to this story and the petition will be posted here as soon as it becomes available. Again, thanks so much.

Guest Post: 1000 Signatures! It

March 11, 2007 by Philip Barron · 2 Comments 

As I write this, the count of signatures on the web petition to reopen the PFC LaVena Johnson investigation has just reached 1000. That is a very nice figure, especially since just three days ago it was barely over 200. Truly, the word is starting to get around.

It is a great start. But it is not enough. I hope for many, many more signatures. I know there are thousands upon thousands of folks across the nation who will sign on just as soon as they hear the facts of this case. So that is what has to happen. You are reading this now because someone led you here. Perhaps it was a news story, a radio interview, an email from a friend, or a posting on an internet site. No matter how it happened, I am glad you are here and I hope you lead others here too. I also deeply hope you sign the petition to demand that the Army reopen the PFC LaVena Johnson investigation.

But I also hope that is not the last thing you do about this. I hope you leave this web site after signing the petition and that you begin immediately to write letters to your congressperson and your two
senators. I hope you then fax or email them to those elected officials. I hope you follow up by phoning those offices or even by visiting them in person. The message can be short and simple. Ask your representative and senators to demand that the Army reopen it

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