The following letter came to us from Debbie DeMello, whose son John Borero died nine years ago:
We have tried since January 12, 2000 to get someone to hear us, but our words have only fallen on the deaf ears of the newspapers, the TV station, Senator Patty Murray, and the President of the United States. A mother will go public with the truth about her son that was killed while in the 82nd airborne at FT Bragg, NC.
John grew up in Issaquah, Washington and joined the Army to protect his county. He was killed in a car accident just outside Fort Bragg, NC. Once the Army notified us of John’s death, we signed a legal document asking them to dress and prepare him for viewing. The Army had a contract with the Lafayette Funeral Home owned by Phyllis & Bobby Garvin in NC. They or someone else picked up our son but did not even care for him:, they were not even kind enough to clean and prepare his body. They had the Army Casualty Office, John Colton, and Sgt. Bob Hennis make up a special story that they had seen John and that he was so badly disfigured that a positive identification of our son could not be made. Later, we found out they did not do their job.
They put him into a body bag marked “unviewable” and sent him home to his mother.
The funeral home collected the money but did not do as they were asked by his parents (and their contractee, the Army). Bobby Garvin replied to my husband on a telephone call and said, “The Army gives me only so many hours to prepare him and we could not put him back together.” However, John was intact and could have been cared for. They saw John as a dark-skinned person and because of his ethnic background (Pacific Islander) said “no one will ever know if we keep the same story.” Well they do not know this mother.
We have clear pictures of this accident and it looks like he is just sleeping and his body was intact. These people are inhumane because they did not do their job nor could they speak the truth even under oath. They said our son had flaming tattoos when he did not. Did we receive our son or someone else?
This mother will never know, and she continues searching for her son everyday. I wear a heart medal around my neck and wonder if the ashes in it are of John’s.
John was later sent to a funeral home which we hired, Purdy & Waters in Lynnwood, Washington. We requested more then twenty times to see our son and the answer was always a “NO”. The bottom line was that it was their job to grant our request, but that request never followed through. Not being able to say “goodbye” to my child has caused me to never STOP searching.
After a five-year lawsuit with Purdy & Walters’ insurance company, “Uniservice Corporation,” we won the case and moved forward to educate the public with what has happened to us. We hope that this will never happen to another mother or loved one. However, it has not stopped the government and local mortuaries from doing their job incorrectly. When you ask the Army or any branch of service to dress your son, it should be done. If our son was handled this way, then how many of our men and women, whom happen to be our loved ones, have come home this way? How many haven’t even received the remains of their loved ones?
The Army gave the Garvin mortuary in FT Bragg, NC a government contract and paid them to prepare John for his mother and family. Instead, the morturary put him into a body bag with no clothes, did not clean him, and sent him home marked “unviewable.” These people should never touch a military person again, and the Army is to blame for having allowed this to happen. As for Purdy & Waters, they have to live with what they did to John, and what they have done to his mother. As for the judge that heard the arbitration case, I hope he can sleep at night because all he did was – as their eyewitness said – “slap the hands of the insurance company and let them go on.”
My letters to President Clinton, President Bush, Senator John Kerry, Dave Reichert, John Edwards, David Irons, (whom I’m certain remembers me) have met with no result. Senator Patty Murray and her assistant Muriel Gibson two years of us working with her only to spend our tax money and be told go away. If the case involved their child it would be on TV, and the coverage would not stop. When you ask the Army for answers, all they say is “CASE CLOSED.” What they have done is wrong.
I will never stop crusading to find the whole truth of what really happened to my son, nor will I stop until I receive justice for how my son was treated. Fort Bragg took all his personal things, cleaned out his room, and sent a few items home that needed a cleaning. They even took John’s clothes. We did not receive his watch, wallet, computer, games, jump medal, St. Christopher medal, or dog tags; the list goes on. They gave me someone else’s boots and uniform which did not even fit our son.
To the wonderful man that held our son’s hand until he died, you will be my angel forever.
As we move forward, I hope we are able to write a book of the truth, and what really goes on in a loved one’s heart. It affects a parent to lose their child without being able to say goodbye. Your heart will search for them until you die. If you are a mother, your children are your life. When you have them for twenty-one years and one day receive a picture of them dead, or when someone tells you that they are gone, you have to touch them or see them to know that it had really happened.
If this ever happened to your loved one, you should not have to ask twice: You are the boss and if you say “I want to see my child,” they have to let you say goodbye. Ask your loved ones to take pictures of their items, like our son did, and ask them to send them to you. This way, you will know just what they have and if those items are not returned, you will be able to ask for them.
We do not even know if we have received our son, and no one can answer that question. Please, help us get some type of closure. We ask anyone wishing to help us to contact Lt. Col. Anita Chapman at 703-325-5437 and ask her, on our behalf, to act on this matter. Any and all help would be appreciated.
All we want to do is lay our son to rest, and find peace. Someone out there knows something and we need your help.
We ask anyone who can help to please contact us.