Sunday, April 29, 2007

MichaelMoore.com returns to LaVena's story

The website of activist and filmmaker Michael Moore has once more brought the attention of its readers to the case of LaVena Johnson with a front page link to the overall story, an audio clip of Representative Wm. Lacy Clay's opening statement on LaVena at the recent House Oversight Committee hearing, and a link to the petition addressed to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. Many thanks to Mike and the website staff for their continued help in bringing public attention to LaVena's story.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

FOX 2 in St. Louis links to LaVena Johnson petition, website

St. Louis-based FOX affiliate KTVI (FOX 2) followed up on the LaVena Johnson story in the wake of Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay's televised statement on the case. The FOX 2 story is available for viewing at the station's website. The story's page also links prominently to both the petition page and the LaVena Johnson website. Many thanks to KTVI and reporter Chris Regnier.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thanks to Congressman Clay

Representative William Lacy Clay of Missouri's First District brought LaVena Johnson's story to national attention in his opening statement at yesterday's Pat Tillman/Jessica Lynch hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. If you would like to send him a word of thanks, you may use the information on this contact page. Please note that the email form only allows use by constituents living in Rep. Clay's district. No such limit applies to phone, fax, or postal mail messages, however.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rep. Clay speaks about LaVena at Tillman/Lynch hearing

The case of Pfc. LaVena Johnson finally edged into official light today at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Cpl. Pat Tillman and Pvt. Jessica Lynch. Representative William Lacy Clay of Missouri's First District spoke briefly about LaVena's death, the unsatisfactory investigation by Army officials, the refusal by the Army to revisit the case. To my knowledge, it is the first time that any member of any congressional body has spoken LaVena's name before the public and the wider press, and certainly the first time that her family's struggle to force a a new investigation of LaVena's death has been officially linked to the wider topic of deception by the military.

There was some question of when Congress would finally bring any sort of attention to the case of Pfc. Johnson; now we see that the search for justice for one military family just may bring light to others as well. Rep. Clay's remarks, welcome as they are, represent only the barest beginning of the kind of official attention that is required to prompt a reinvestigation of LaVena's death...but it is a beginning nonetheless.

UPDATE: This is the text of the opening statement made by Rep. Clay:

Mr. Chairman, honorable colleagues, good morning.

Throughout history, it has often been said that "the first casualty of war...is the truth."

That has certainly been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan. And this morning's testimony will demonstrate the depth of that problem.

Private Lynch, I want to thank you for being here today. Your courage and dedication to duty, both while under enemy fire and then as a wounded P.O.W. are heroic. And your commitment to making certain that the truth about what happened to you and your unit finally emerged is equally heroic. It honors the memory of your fallen comrades and is in the best tradition of our armed forces.

Mrs. Tillman, as a parent, I want to express my sincere condolences to you on the loss of your brave son, Patrick. And I want to commend you for having the courage to pursue the truth about your son's death, while bearing the terrible burden of losing a child.

We know now that your painful loss was compounded by having had to confront a pattern of deception, misleading information, and in some instances, deliberate misinformation.

And unfortunately, that pattern of misinformation and deception is not limited to just your son's case.

Back in my district in St. Louis, I had a brave young constituent by the name of Private LaVena Johnson. And sadly, in July of 2005, at the age of 19, she became the first female soldier fro Missouri to be killed in Iraq.

Just like Corporal Tillman, Private Johnson was an exceptional young American. She was an honor student, a gifted musician, and very active in her church and community. And just like Corporal Tillman, after 9-11, she was inspired to join the Army to help protect her country.

Private Johnson came from a proud military tradition. Her father, Dr. John Johnson, is an Army veteran and worked for the Department of the Army for 25 years. Her two uncles served in Vietnam. And her grandfather served in World War II.

For almost two years, Dr. and Mrs. Johnson have been trying to get at the truth about what happened to their daughter. And my office has tried to assist them in that effort.

Unfortunately, they have been met by a wall of disrespect, evasion, and a failure to provide them with the answers that the parents of any fallen soldier deserve.

I am thankful that this committee is taking action to get them the information they have requested.

Private LaVena Johnson gave her life for her country. And her country has a responsibility to tell her family the whole truth about how she died.

Thank you.

The specific information of which Rep. Clay spoke - particular documents relating to the investigation of LaVena's death - was requested on behalf of the Johnsons by Chairman Henry A. Waxman and Representative Clay in his capacity as chair of the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Affairs. Their letter, addressed to Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, is available for download.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Remember to contact your legislator on the Armed Services Committee

I'd like to emphasize once more the importance of contacting your senator or representative who serves on the Senate or House Armed Services Committees. Signing the petition is a first step, but it's important that legislators hear directly from you about LaVena and her family.

I have reposted here the membership of both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. The legislators' names are links to their contact pages, as before. For your convenience, I have added pop-up links to their telephone numbers and office addresses as well. If you choose to send a postal letter, it is highly recommended that you send it to a district office rather than the D.C. office, as delivery there may be delayed by weeks. No such problem with emails, or with phone calls or faxes to either office.

Whether you send a postal letter or an email to your senator or representative, remember to include your address with ZIP code. Generally speaking, legislators only pay attention to correspondence from their own constituents and do not read letters from other citizens, even if they do sit on committees. (A handy guide to writing a legislator is available at About.com.)

UPDATE: The House ASC membership with complete contact info has been added to this post.

Senate Armed Services Committee
Democrats
Carl Levin, Chairman (Michigan | numbers & addresses)
Claire McCaskill (Missouri | numbers & addresses)
Edward M. Kennedy (Massachusetts | numbers & addresses)
Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia | numbers & addresses)
Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut | numbers & addresses)
Jack Reed (Rhode Island | numbers & addresses)
Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii | numbers & addresses)
Bill Nelson (Florida | numbers & addresses)
E. Benjamin Nelson (Nebraska | numbers & addresses)
Evan Bayh (Indiana | numbers & addresses)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York | numbers & addresses)
Mark L. Pryor (Arkansas | numbers & addresses)
Jim Webb (Virginia | numbers & addresses)

Republicans
John McCain, Ranking Member (Arizona | numbers & addresses)
John W. Warner (Virginia | numbers & addresses)
James M. Inhofe (Oklahoma | numbers & addresses)
Jeff Sessions (Alabama | numbers & addresses)
Susan M. Collins (Maine | numbers & addresses)
John Ensign (Nevada | numbers & addresses)
Saxby Chambliss (Georgia | numbers & addresses)
Lindsey O. Graham (South Carolina | numbers & addresses)
Elizabeth Dole (North Carolina | numbers & addresses)
John Cornyn (Texas | numbers & addresses)
John Thune (South Dakota | numbers & addresses)
Mel Martinez (Florida | numbers & addresses)

House Armed Services Committee
Democrats
Ike Skelton, Chairman (Missouri | numbers & addresses)
Gabrielle Giffords (Arizona | numbers & addresses)
Vic Snyder (Arkansas | numbers & addresses)
Susan A. Davis (California | numbers & addresses)
Loretta Sanchez (California | numbers & addresses)
Ellen O. Tauscher (California | numbers & addresses)
Mark Udall (Colorado | numbers & addresses)
Joe Courtney (Connecticut | numbers & addresses)
Kathy Castor (Florida | numbers & addresses)
Hank Johnson (Georgia | numbers & addresses)
Jim Marshall (Georgia | numbers & addresses)
Madeleine Bordallo (Guam | numbers & addresses)
Neil Abercrombie (Hawai'i | numbers & addresses)
Brad Ellsworth (Indiana | numbers & addresses)
David Loebsack (Iowa | numbers & addresses)
Nancy Boyda
(Kansas | numbers & addresses)
Elijah Cummings
(Maryland | numbers & addresses)
Marty Meehan
(Massachusetts | numbers & addresses)
Gene Taylor (Mississippi | numbers & addresses)
Carol Shea-Porter (New Hampshire | numbers & addresses)
Robert E. Andrews (New Jersey | numbers & addresses)
Kirsten Gillibrand (New York | numbers & addresses)
Mike McIntyre (North Carolina | numbers & addresses)
Dan Boren (Oklahoma | numbers & addresses)
Robert A. Brady (Pennsylvania | numbers & addresses)
Patrick Murphy (Pennsylvania | numbers & addresses)
Joe Sestak (Pennsylvania | numbers & addresses)
James R. Langevin (Rhode Island | numbers & addresses)
John M. Spratt, Jr. (South Carolina | numbers & addresses)
Jim Cooper (Tennessee | numbers & addresses)
Solomon P. Ortiz (Texas | numbers & addresses)
Silvestre Reyes (Texas | numbers & addresses)
Rick Larsen (Washington | numbers & addresses)
Adam Smith (Washington | numbers & addresses)

Republicans
Duncan Hunter, Ranking Member (California | numbers & addresses)
W. Todd Akin (Missouri | numbers & addresses)
Terry Everett (Alabama | numbers & addresses)
Mike Rogers (Alabama | numbers & addresses)
Trent Franks (Arizona | numbers & addresses)
Ken Calvert (California | numbers & addresses)
Buck McKeon (California | numbers & addresses)
Jeff Miller (Florida | numbers & addresses)
Phil Gingrey (Georgia | numbers & addresses)
Geoff Davis (Kentucky | numbers & addresses)
Roscoe G. Bartlett (Maryland | numbers & addresses)
Candice S. Miller (Michigan | numbers & addresses)
John Kline (Minnesota | numbers & addresses)
Frank A. LoBiondo (New Jersey | numbers & addresses)
Jim Saxton (New Jersey | numbers & addresses)
John M. McHugh (New York | numbers & addresses)
Robin Hayes (North Carolina | numbers & addresses)
Walter B. Jones (North Carolina | numbers & addresses)
Michael R. Turner (Ohio | numbers & addresses)
Tom Cole (Oklahoma | numbers & addresses)
Joe Wilson (South Carolina | numbers & addresses)
K. Michael Conaway (Texas | numbers & addresses)
Mac Thornberry (Texas | numbers & addresses)
Rob Bishop (Utah | numbers & addresses)
Jo Ann Davis (Virginia | numbers & addresses)
Thelma D. Drake (Virginia | numbers & addresses)
J. Randy Forbes (Virginia | numbers & addresses)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Washington | numbers & addresses)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Petition page back up

The petition page has been inaccessible during the late hours tonight (it was last accessed at 9:40 pm Central). I will post here when it comes back up (or afterwards if it returns while I'm asleep).

The petiton page is once more accessible (2:45 am Central) with no apparent problems.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thank you to Fired Up! Missouri

Political strategist Roy Temple was kind enough to promote yesterday's piece on LaVena to the front page of Fired Up! Missouri. Many thanks to Roy and the readers of Fired Up!

Thanks to Facebook users!

As before - following the Crooks & Liars post on LaVena Johnson - the Facebook community is responding today with many visits to the petition page. My thanks to all of you!

Also: Don't forget to write!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Support from SuzanneSwift.org

In her first tour of duty in Iraq, Army Spc. Suzanne Swift was subjected to sexual harassment from one superior officer and coercion by another into a sexual affair. Rather than face that kind of degradation again, Spc. Swift refused to return for a second deployment to Iraq. The response from a military that should have moved to protect her was an arrest on AWOL charges, followed by a court-martial and being stripped of rank.

Suzanne's trials made an activist of her mother, Sara Rich, who has spoken widely on sexual harassment, abuse, and rape in the military in a way that her soldier daughter could not. She established a website dedicated to her daughter's struggle with a hostile military bureacracy, SuzanneSwift.org.

Sara came across the petition for LaVena Johnson and volunteered to help by writing about it on Suzanne's website. She said also that Suzanne knew of LaVena's story and wanted to do something to help.

Sara and Suzanne have been gracious beyond words in embracing LaVena and her family in this way. To the extent that I can speak for LaVena's parents, I would like to convey their thanks.

When will Congress stand up for LaVena Johnson?

From today's Associated Press article on a U.S. House committee's quest for honest answers for two military families:

"After successive failed Department of Defense and Army inquiries, only a comprehensive, unrelenting congressional investigation can do justice to Pat's memory, and restore service members' confidence in their chain of command," said Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat who represents the Tillman family's San Jose district. "I will not rest until the unvarnished truth - no matter where it leads - is brought to light."

If only Mike Honda represented the family of Pfc. LaVena Johnson.

It has taken the glare of notoriety and the force of public attention to finally bring the cases of Cpl. Pat Tillman and Pfc. Jessica Lynch to the point where Congress has declared its intent to uncover the facts behind the official deceptions in both cases - and even with that, it has taken years to get here. What solace does this give other service families who rightly question what they have been told about their loved ones in uniform? What lesson can be drawn by the parents of LaVena Johnson, whose death under clouded circumstances was written off as suicide by Army officials who have repeatedly refused calls for a reinvestigation of the case?

What does this tell the families of soldiers who aren't famous, whose names aren't known by the Associated Press or the New York Times or CNN?

The declared intent of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to explore the cases of Cpl. Tillman and Pfc. Lynch is both laudable and overdue. The announcement that the House Armed Services Committee is "considering" looking into the Tillman case is welcome news - and, again, overdue. These announcements, belated as they are, show us one thing clearly: it is up to a concerned public to remind Congress of its duty toward other service families, those beyond the media spotlight. You can help to make a start by signing the Pfc. LaVena Johnson petition, and - of equal importance - by directly contacting your Senator or Representative on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

Congress clearly needs your leadership on this.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Website address change

This website is now located at a more streamlined URL - www.lavenajohnson.com. Anyone who has bookmarked or shared the original address need not worry, however; the URL www.lavenajohnson.blogspot.com will continue to work.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Make Hip Hop, Not War Concert tonight in St. Louis

Chuc Smith of the St. Louis chapter of Veterans for Peace will be handing out flyers regarding the case of LaVena Johnson at today's Make Hip Hop, Not War concert. The music event is one of a series making its way around the country.

Make Hip Hop, Not War Concert Arrives in St. Louis
Free Concert Featuring DJ Chela
Thursday, April 5
4-6 PM
Gateway Classic Sports Complex
20th St. and Martin Luther King Dr.
Sponsored by the Hip Hop Caucus, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans
for Peace
and the Instead of War Coalition.