LaVena in song, art, and verse

August 9, 2008 by Philip Barron  Email This Post Print This Post

As the story of LaVena Johnson makes itself more widely known, many people have registered their concern and outrage through political action, through letters to media sources, through writing and blogging and discussing the story with friends and family. For some, activism has taken the form of creative expression. Correspondent Luke Easter who publishes poetry at his website,, submitted here the following memorial to LaVena:

Just when you think you’ve heard it all,
Another name is slammed into a brick wall,
LaVena Johnson an Army Private First Class,
Is she the first? Certainly this PFC isn’t the last.

Is it any wonder Osama Bin Laden can’t be found?
With murders and rapists in camp running around,
Destroying evidence, burning bodies, again & again,
Calling themselves soldiers, claiming they are men.

What a shame when the real enemy is on the same side,
Behind the color of camaraderie these cowards hide,
Punched in the face, loose teeth, she was only 5 feet 1,
The Army claims its suicide, that’s all, over and done.

So, how did that chemical burn get on her private parts?
Oh yeah, maybe a tattoo, some kind of new wave art,
Why would someone waste time getting rid of DNA?
Just maybe without detection they’re free to get away.

The U.S. Army actually tried lying, hooray for her dad,
He gave that crap the smell test and oh did it smell bad,
7/19/05 her dead body found in a contractor’s tent, HBR,
Broken nose, black eye, shot in the head and body scars.

Military personnel or civilians aren’twe on the same side?
Who is the American Government protecting, why that lie?
Had to be someone with pull to get her alone, you’d think,
I don’t have to be standing next to skunk to know it stinks.

Where’s Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the infamous NAACP?
She could not have been more violated, do you not agree?
A 19-year-old honor student should be shown more respect,
But, this is how she’s being treated. Hey! What the heck?

Can’t call it racial because all women are treated the same,
Even academies and bases in the states there is this claim,
We are truly near the end of days soon God will work it out,
Vengeance will certainly be more than a punch in the mouth.

Musician and designer Paul Gunby has composed and recorded a song titled “Why LaVena,” accompanied by an illustration of Pfc. Johnson. He offers this work freely as a memorial and a signature of support. Please visit Mr. Gunby’s site to listen to the song and view the illustration and lyrics.

Most recently, David Lester Young expresses his feelings in a poem left here in comments on a recent post:

Private in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq upon duty,
Body burned by someone from her own military base.
Nineteen year old minor in service for her nation,
Never to reach 21, where one becomes this full adult.

Another body bag they claimed committed suicide
With trauma mark bruises, ‘n abrasions ‘n broken teeth
Closing the case like a coffin door hidden from view,
Flag covered miscarriage of Military Tribunal Justice.

This Angel was a segregated casualty of a poor family
Congress inept to investigate deaths labeled suicides
Walking Wounded parents in dislocated shoulder coverups
Military having Blackwater unchallenged reign raping minors.

Where is the DoD sexual assault prevention programs?
Where is the accountability to those soldiers parents?
Had the victim been an officer they would have responded,
Bringing everything to bear for the honor of class distinction.

The shame of the DoD denying Congress senior civilian in
Charge of Sexual Assault Prevention to testify in there contempt
Of Congress’s role to make our Military accountable to
“We the people” whose children are serving those Bush’s Wars.

If it was one of Bush’s daughters, who were serving over there,
There would be a furry of political action in Conservative righteousness.
But you see Private LaVena Johnson is from the wrong side of the tracks
That was told their daughter committed suicide with bruises and contusions.

Meaning no disrespect to her remains, she needs to have another autopsy
And if the report, say rape and murder, then a Federal lawsuit for defamation
Of character should be filled against those who signed and knew of the coverup
That they be drummed out of the service as traitors to their fellow soldiers
Even if they are not Bush DoD officers.
So Veterans, Walking Wounded, and Veteran family members
Petition for respect the memory of Private LaVena Johnson
That if interned they are returned with a Full Honor Guard gun salute


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5 Responses to “LaVena in song, art, and verse”

  1. Lavette Curry on August 17th, 2008 12:00 am

    It saddens me every time I read about this . My heart goes out to the family. Why are they covering up the obvious? I hope that one day the family gets justice for thier daughter. Proud Sis of 1st SG Michael S. Curry Jr. KIA 7/23/07 Afghanistan. A SOLDIER ISN”T GONE UNTIL HE/SHE IS FORGOTTEN

  2. al drongo on August 21st, 2008 1:15 pm

    It seems very obvious that, being a black female, her death never troubled the DoD in any way.
    She paid a high price for believing her life was as valuable as a white person’s. Oh well.

  3. Blkman on August 26th, 2008 8:00 am

    Where is CNN’s Nancy Grace on this one? I strongly suspect if this soldier had been a white female she (Nancy Grace) would have been all over this! Clearly, all life does not have equal value in America. Shame! Black people please wake up. Your government does not give a damn about you. EOM.

  4. Sergeant First Class on August 27th, 2008 2:45 pm

    Outrage! I’m a black female who too has served in Iraq, with family (Army). I too am sadden about this, Private LaVena Johnson was with strangers. We serve in a Army of One, for sure this will be looked into ASAP! ( I ask myself , am I with family). I sit here and say a pray for the Johnson family and I pray that the Army I serve will and should do the right thing. Private LaVena Johnson I will help you be heard from one sister to another sister. Sign my name to the Petition, we want the truth, and we want it told right now!

  5. SPC4 Disabled VET for Sexual Assault and PTSD on September 1st, 2008 10:10 pm

    I want to say that this truly is not a racial act. I hope that it isn’t anyway. I am a white female and have a group of friends that are both black and white that have all suffered from being raped in the military. From the Vietnam era, Bosnia to the present even in a non-combat time which is me. We all have suffered for a combination of over 100 years if you combine all of our years of suffering with the demons we see in the night from our dreams. From the days of the military tribunal’s that didn’t believe our stories. To the military records that they covered up or destroyed in our files so that it would never be found again. We have all struggled through the red tape of the Vetrans system to have someone acknowledge that these things happend to us. The attempted suicides from the pain we endure on a daily basis from the depression. I have to say that I am very sadened by the death of such a beautiful young soldier. I also have to say that in know way would of wanted her to suffer as so many of us do. I hope that the government takes a stand and finally starts answering some questions. I hope you get your answers. Sign me to the petition. I hope for what ever it is worth that I can reach out and help those who make it home.