Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ups and downs, and thanks

It was clear from the outset of this petition project that this was going to be a long haul endeavor. There are so many stories and events that compete for our interest, and media at large is so predictably sluggish and unresponsive, that it can take a long while for any narrative to gain traction. Also, public attention tends to come in spurts, with long empty stretches in which it seems that no one is paying much heed. All the more reason, then, to be heartened when the attention level is high and responses come fast and furious. That's where we stand today with news of LaVena's story, and I'm grateful for everyone brought here via weblogs, online magazines, message boards, email, and old-fashioned word of mouth.

It's your collective voice that will bring the Johnson family the official help they need.

Thank you.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dr. John Johnson speaks on LaVena's death at VFP event

The father of PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson, Dr. John Johnson of Florissant, Missouri.










Dr. Johnson spoke last Friday at the Veterans for Peace speakout on sexual assault in the military outside the Robert A. Young Federal Building in downtown St. Louis. This was just one of many events and workshops comprising the 22nd annual national convention of VFP. More material relating to the convention will be posted here as soon as I can get to it.

In the video embedded here, Dr. Johnson talks about learning of LaVena's death, his suspicions about how she died, and the family's attempts to get the Army to reopen its investigation. He is introduced by antiwar activist and retired Army colonel Ann Wright.





As always, I ask you to help the Johnson family by signing the petition to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, and by directly contacting your Senator or Representative on those legislative bodies. Thank you.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Postings to come on Veterans for Peace events

Just returned from the Veterans for Peace addresses on sexual assault in the military. I'll be posting on the remarks made by LaVena Johnson's father, Dr. John Johnson - as well as some other material - over the weekend.

Incidentally: Today marked my first face-to-face meeting with Dr. Johnson. We chatted for a brief while before the speeches began. Issues of the day aside, he and the family are doing well. More to come.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Welcome (back), Crooks & Liars readers

Many thanks to Bill Wolfrum, guest-blogging at Crooks & Liars, for including us in his blog roundup. He noted that LaVena's father, Dr. John Johnson, will be speaking Friday at the Veterans for Peace convention in St. Louis (as posted here yesterday).

This is the second time that C&L has brought needed attention to LaVena's story. The support is greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

LaVena Johnson's father to speak at Veterans for Peace national convention

As part of its 22nd annual national convention taking place in St. Louis, Veterans for Peace will hold a press conference on sexual assault in the military on Friday, August 17, 12:30 - 1:45 pm Central. The event will be held outside the Robert A. Young Federal Building, 1222 Spruce Street. Among the participants will be Dr. John Johnson, father of PFC LaVena Johnson, the area soldier who died under clouded circumstances in Iraq two years ago. Other scheduled participants include:
  • Sara Rich, mother of Suzanne Swift, victim of rape while in the US military in Iraq
  • Maricella Guzman, victim of sexual assault while in the US military
  • Michael McPherson, Executive Director of Veterans for Peace and veteran of the US Army and Gulf War I
  • Sharon Kufeldt, Veteran of Vietnam War and Vice-President of Veterans for Peace
  • Ellen Barfield, served in Korea and former Vice-President of Veterans for Peace
  • Ann Wright, Colonel, Retired, US Army Reserves

From the VFP press release on the press conference:

Sexual assault and rape of women and men in the US military increased so dramatically during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that in 2005 then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld formed a task force on sexual assault.

Nearly one-third of a nationwide sample of women veterans who sought health care through the Veterans Administration said they experience rape or attempted rape during their service. Of that group, 37 percent said they were raped multiple times and 14 percent reported they were gang-raped. Department of Defense has been reluctant to release statistics on sexual assault of men in the military, but anecdotal evidence indicates that the statistics are alarmingly high.

Over the past 10 years, more than 700 US Army Recruiters have been accused of sexual misconduct or rape.

60 years of US military studies and task forces since women began entering the military in larger numbers have not lessened the incidents of assault and rape.

We call on the Department of Defense and the US Military Recruiting Commands and the Military Entrance Processing Stations to formally notify women and men of the statistics on the incidence of the criminal acts of sexual assault and rape of women and men in the military committed by fellow members of the military, many in their chain of command.

Links to additional information on sexual assault in the military may be found at the VFP National Convention media page (scroll down to 'References for Sexual Assault Press Conference').

Friday, August 10, 2007

Thanks to the MeFi community!

I am very grateful to toma, who brought the story of LaVena Johnson to the great hive mind of MetaFilter. (On a personal note: this was a welcome sight indeed, coming as it did after a lengthy round of oral surgery this morning.) I appeal to new readers here for their signatures on the petition to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, and just a bit more of their time, enough to an email or postal letter or to place a phone call directly to their legislator on those committees.

This is very heartening, especially as it follows a surge of attention and interest generated by Kansas City radio host Tom Klammer's interview of LaVena's father, Dr. John Johnson, on station KKFI FM 90.1.

Readers are invited to visit the MySpace site of Jimi Wilson, who has posted a substantial piece of advocacy on behalf of LaVena, written from the viewpoint of a veteran. I learned of this post just this morning.

Thanks to everyone who has helped to raise LaVena's story to the level of visibiilty it deserves. Your efforts will help ensure that justice will be done in her name, and for her family.