National Guardsman’s death in Afghanistan troublingly familiar

October 2, 2007 by Philip Barron · 2 Comments 

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.”

Family members, who are pushing for more information from Army officials, are girding for the possibility that Ciara (pronounced Kee-ra) Durkin was killed by a fellow service member, intentionally or accidentally, at the Bagram Airfield. They said they are confident that she did not commit suicide.

From the death of a female soldier in the relative security of her own base to conflicting statements and clumsy parsing of language by authorities to the certainty of a grieving family that its daughter did not take her own life – we have seen this before.

It is to be hoped that the family of Ciara Durkin meets with a swifter and more transparent response from the military than has the family of LaVena Johnson.