I hope you know who LaVena Johnson is. But I'm finding out that very few people do, as compared to Jamie Leigh Jones. There's a couple of big differences as to why one woman's story is virtually unknown, while the other was covered by Brian Ross and ABC News.
Jamie Leigh Jones is white. She's alive to tell her tale.
LaVena Johnson is black. She's been dead now for over three years. And until recently, very few people were speaking up for her.
One of the first was The Angry Independent, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the blog Mirror on America. Over a year and a half ago, on February 24, 2007, he asked "Who Murdered Army Pvt LaVena Johnson?" An even louder outcry could be heard over at Shakesville, where Philip Barron had written about Private First Class LaVena Johnson two days earlier. Out of respect for Johnson and her family, I'm deliberately choosing to introduce you to the young woman she was, before describing the victim she became. Barron's narrative gives you an idea:
Once upon a time lived a young woman from a St. Louis suburb. She was an honor roll student, she played the violin, she donated blood and volunteered for American Heart Association walks. She elected to put off college for a while and joined the Army once out of school. At Fort Campbell, KY, she was assigned as a weapons supply manager to the 129th Corps Support Battalion.She wasn't killed by the enemy. She was murdered by a fellow soldier.
She was LaVena Johnson, private first class, and she died near Balad, Iraq, on July 19, 2005, just eight days shy of her twentieth birthday. She was the first woman soldier from Missouri to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Like every other mainstream media source, Broadsheet over at Salon.com only jumped on this recently. Here's their description of the desecration of LaVena Johnson:
She was found with a broken nose, black eye and loose teeth, acid burns on her genitals, presumably to eliminate DNA evidence of rape, a trail of blood leading away from her tent and a bullet hole in her head. Unbelievably, that's not the most horrifying part of the story. Here's what is: Army investigators ruled her death a suicide.The rest of us ignorant, stupid, unfeeling dummies are only talking about this now because of the sexual assault hearings held by the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs last Thursday. The hearings themselves were laughable because the Department of Defense refused to let the woman in charge of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) testify in Thursday’s hearing on sexual assault in the military.
And shame on me too. LaVena Johnson's story showed up in the Women's Issues forum before I ever covered it here
I am angry. I am ashamed. I am embarrassed. And the least that I can do is support colorofchange.org's demand that Congress investigate the Army's cover-up of her murder, and encourage you do to the same.
This beautiful young woman stepped up to serve her country and was brutally murdered. How far do things have to go in the US military before we demand safety for our female servicewoman and permanent and lasting change in a culture that finds it easier to turn a blind eye and cover up what it doesn't want to deal with?