LaVena post at Crooks & Liars

July 31, 2008 by Philip Barron · 3 Comments 

Crooks & Liars returns to the story of PFC LaVena Johnson with a post by Logan Murphy:

Nicole and I have both written posts about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of PFC LaVena Johnson, and Democracy Now! had a heartbreaking interview with her family last week. LaVena

Oversight subcommittee hearing on sexual assault in the military

July 30, 2008 by Philip Barron · 3 Comments 

The parents of PFC LaVena Johnson believe that their daughter was murdered in Iraq – contrary to Army claims of suicide – and suspect that she may have been victim to a sexual assault. The Army has resisted calls for reinvestigation of the matter; public and Congressional attention are required in order to change military minds. Gina at What About Our Daughters? has alerted readers to an opportunity to bring LaVena’s case to legislators – a public hearing on sexual assault in the military held by a sub- of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

On Thursday, July 31 at 10:00 am, [the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs] will hold a hearing entitled,

Feministing, BuzzFlash on LaVena

July 29, 2008 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

Apologies for coming late to the July 18 writeup on PFC LaVena Johnson by Ann Friedman of Feministing. The post asks readers to spare just a couple of minutes to sign the Danielle Vyas-authored petition to Congress and President Bush, which has (of this writing) 2374 signatures with a goal of 3000. Friedman references posts on LaVena by a number of feminist writers; some of them have been previously noted here, while others are new to me:

You may have read about LaVena recently on Feministing, or from Cara, Megan at Jezebel, Gina at What About Our Daughters, and Kate at Broadsheet

I am very happy to add Friedman to the growing list of writers whom I owe thanks for support for a renewed investigation of LaVena’s death in Iraq.

Also on that list is Meg White for bringing LaVena’s story to the many readers of BuzzFlash in a news analysis piece posted today. It is a capsule of the Johnson family’s trials in pushing the Army to revisit the investigation of their daughter’s death, and the possibility that she had been the victim of a sexual assault. Like Friedman’s entry at Feministing, White touches on the article by retired Army colonel Ann Wright on other suspicious deaths of women in service, and references the recently-launched ColorofChange to Rep. Henry Waxman of the House Oversight and Governmental Affairs Committee. Many thanks to White for this entry. launches LaVena petition

July 23, 2008 by Philip Barron · 8 Comments 

The online grassroots organization, a black advocacy group founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, has lent its support to the family of LaVena Johnson. The group has launched a new petition addressed to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and its chairman, Representative Henry Waxman. From the petition page:

Justice for LaVena Johnson
Tell Congressman Waxman to investigate the Army’s cover up of Pfc LaVena Johnson’s murder.
While overwhelming evidence shows that LaVena Johnson was raped and murdered while serving in Iraq, the US Army refuses to acknowledge the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Join the Johnson family’s call for Congressman Waxman to hold a Congressional hearing that uncovers the truth behind LaVena’s tragic death. is perhaps most widely known for its advocacy on behalf of the Jena Six – young African-American men facing racial bias and inflated charges of murder in Jena, LA. From the organization’s “About Us” page: is comprised of Black folks from every economic class, as well as those of every color who seek to help our voices be heard. Our members are united behind a simple, powerful pledge: we will do all we can to make sure all Americans are represented, served, and protected

LaVena’s parents on Democracy Now!

July 23, 2008 by Philip Barron · 9 Comments 

John and Linda Johnson, parents of Pfc. LaVena Lynn Johnson, were interviewed on Democracy Now! by host Amy Goodman on July 23. Activist and retired Army colonel Ann Wright was also part of the discussion; as detailed at DN!, Col. Wright spent twenty-six years in the US Army/Army Reserves and was a diplomat in the State Department for sixteen years before resigning in March 2003, protesting the then-impending invasion of Iraq. The segment was broadcast over television networks as well and the Pacific Radio network which is home to the program.

Suicide or Murder? Three Years After the Death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson in Iraq, Her Parents Continue Their Call for a Congressional Investigation

Three years ago, on July 19, 2005, Army Private First Class LaVena Johnson was found dead in Balad, Iraq. Her body was found in a tent belonging to the private military contractor KBR. She had abrasions all over her body, a broken nose, a black eye, burned hands, loose teeth, acid burns on her genitals, and a bullet hole in her head. The Army labeled Johnson

MySpace write-up on Lavena; credit for connection to ColorofChange

July 23, 2008 by Philip Barron · 3 Comments 

Kim Brummell, an Army veteran and member of the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union, has written about PFC LaVena Johnson in a post titled “Deadly Wall of Silence.”

How will cases like this affect women signing up for the service and staying in the military? How will it affect the respect citizens have for our soldiers? How could we trust the military to help secure this nation when we may have cold-blooded murderers in a uniform wearing a U.S. flag? I got nothing but love for the military. The service taught me a lot. On the contrary, an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. Where can you run and hide when your allies become your enemies?

Thanks much to Kim for her perspective as a former soldier and for her expression of concern for the service, for women in uniform, and for the Johnson family.

I also want to thank two people who – through separate efforts at the same time – brought the LaVena effort to the attention of Activist Danielle Vyas contacted the advocacy group even as she launched her own Care2-based petition to Congress and the President. Gemina13, a DailyKos blogger, wrote a diary there about LaVena and also contacted ColorofChange. Their efforts helped to bring about the ColorofChange-sponsored petition to Representative Henry Waxman and the House Oversight Committee which he chairs. Thanks again, very much, to both Danielle and Gemina13.

Support, old and new

July 18, 2008 by Philip Barron · 1 Comment 

A couple of posts regarding LaVena Johnson came across my desk yesterday. One of them is a reprised article from early in the effort to prompt a renewed investigation of LaVena’s death in Iraq; the other is a new entry commenting on the provisional Oversight Committee report released this week.

The revisited post by jurassicpork at Welcome Back to Pottersville:

To die unsung would really bring you down
Although wet eyes would never suit you
Walk through no archetypal suicide
Die young is far too boring these days

Socialist Appeal post on LaVena

July 18, 2008 by Philip Barron · Leave a Comment 

Josh Lucker of Socialist Appeal attended the Black & Green Wednesday panel discussion on PFC LaVena Johnson that was held on June 4, and has published an article in support of the effort to re-investigate her death in Iraq.

On June 6th, a panel discussion was held in St. Louis to discuss the death of LaVena Johnson. She was the first Missouri woman killed in Iraq, just eight days shy of her 20th birthday. Today, three years after her death, questions still surround the circumstances of this tragedy. Her father, Dr. John Johnson, and other family members, have dedicated countless hours researching and traveling the country looking for an answer.

Lucker’s article references the incidence of sexual assault in the military – the family of PFC Johnson believes that sexual assault was an circumstance in her death – as well as other cases of women soldiers who died from

LaVena in proposed Oversight Committee report

July 16, 2008 by Philip Barron · 4 Comments 

The death in Iraq of PFC LaVena Johnson – ruled a suicide by the Army and vigorously disputed by her family – finds a brief mention in a proposed report recently released by the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee: Misleading Information from the Battlefield: The Tillman and Lynch Episodes. As the title indicates, the main subjects of the report are the death of Corporal Patrick Tillman in Afghanistan and the capture of Private Jessica Lynch in Iraq. LaVena’s case is mentioned in Section IX: Other Cases Brought to the Committee’s Attention, as is the suspicious death of Specialist Jesse Buryj of Canton, Ohio.

The Committee

DailyKos diary on LaVena

July 15, 2008 by Philip Barron · 1 Comment 

I learned this weekend that DailyKos blogger Gemina13 posted this June 30 diary: “Justice for Pfc. LaVena Johnson”:

Women soldiers in the Iraqi-Afghanistan theaters have mostly been ignored, save when they can be trotted out for the cameras like Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Used by the armed forces in greater numbers, women soldiers are not only serving in ways their predecessors never got to. One in three women who join the military will be raped or sexually assaulted by men in the military. Of the 94 women who have died in Iraqi or in Operation Iraqi Freedom, 36 died from “non-combat related injuries.”

One of these was Pfc. LaVena Johnson. [...]

Through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) and Congressional offices, Dr. and Mrs. Johnson, their family, and their friends relentlessly hounded the Department of the Army for answers about LaVena’s death. They requested documents, and every piece of evidence led to yet another piece that had to be demanded and claimed. It took two and a half years before the Johnsons were able to see what had happened to their daughter.

Gemina13 draws on material posted at Shakesville and the LaVena Johnson website, as well as the CommonDreams article written by retired Army Col. Ann Wright.

I had the opportunity to exchange emails with Gemina13, and would like to thank her again for bringing LaVena’s story to the wide DailyKos community.

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