PFC. LAVENA JOHNSON

LaVena portrait

 

LaVena uniform with beret

 

They come from all walks of life.

Black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American.

They are the young women and men who enlist in the U.S. military to make the world, and America,  safe for democracy.

But, the horrible, hateful way that these young people who serve our country are treated is downright wrong and sadistic.

Pfc. Lavena Johnson was a young black woman from the St. Louis suburb of Florissant. She was an honor roll student, who loved playing the violin. She donated blood and volunteered for American Heart Association walks. Because she wanted to proudly serve her country in the armed forces, she elected to put off college for a while and joined the Army immediately after getting out of school. At Fort Campbell, KY, she was assigned as a weapons supply manager to the 129th Corps Support Battalion.

LaVena Johnson, private first class,  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.

That this beautiful young woman’s story is so unheard of by so many people is reprehensible. Many people have certainly heard of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the soldier whose story was in many papers when it turned out he was killed by friendly fire.

Dr. John Johnson,  Lavena’s father, was initially told by an Army representative, that his daughter  “died of self-inflicted, noncombat injuries,” but initially added that it was not a suicide. The subsequent Army investigation reversed this finding and declared LaVena’s death a suicide, a finding refuted by the soldier’s family. In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dr. Johnson pointed to indications that his daughter had endured a physical struggle before she died – two loose front teeth, a “busted lip” that had to be reconstructed by the funeral home – suggesting that “someone might have punched her in the mouth.”

Very little coverage has been given to Lavena’s story, until a St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV news station aired a story which revealed details not previously made public – details which go against the Army’s contention that this young lady took her own life.

Parents question their daughter’s mysterious death in Iraq

 

10:27 PM CST on Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Click here to watch News 4 coverage(KMOV) — A year and a half ago, a 19-year-old Florissant woman became the first female from Missouri to die during the Iraq war.

Private Lavena Johnson

The military was quick to point out that her death was not combat related.

Since then, her parents have struggled to find out what really happened to their daughter.

News 4’s Matt Sczesny took a close look at the evidence gathered by the military and asks the question, “was it murder or suicide?”

Among the thousands of graves at Jefferson Barracks cemetery there are stories of bravery, heroism, and proud service.

Among the thousands is the grave of Private Lavena Johnson, whose story is clouded in mystery and according to her parents, marred by murder and cover-up.

Lavena’s father, Dr. John Johnson, has waged his own personal crusade to find out what really happened to his daughter in Iraq on July 19, 2005.

The army ruled her death a suicide, the victim of a gunshot wound to the head.

In documents and autopsy photos obtained by the Johnson family and shared with News 4, more questions are raised than answered.

One strange fact was that Lavena was apparently abused, physically, and the autopsy didn’t address the physical trauma to her body.

Military documents also show no apparent indication of suicide, her company commander wrote that Johnson was clearly happy and healthy physically and emotionally, something her mother knew by a phone conversation the day before she died.

Johnson’s parents also question how their daughter at 5’1”, could handle a 40 inch M-16 to kill herself while sitting.

In fact, a military laboratory even concluded that based on a gunshot residue test, Johnson may not have even handled the weapon.

Additionally, Johnson’s military debit card was never found, even though she used it two hours before her death to buy candy.

No bullet was ever found where she died, and a trail of blood is seen in photos outside the tent. Even stranger, it appears as if someone tried to set her body on fire.

So if it wasn’t a suicide as the Army maintains, then how did Lavena Johnson die?

Based on the autopsy photos, her father believes that she was raped.

The military is unconvinced and consider the case closed.

A Pentagon spokesman says that the case was investigated thoroughly and that there is no evidence to reopen.

News 4 tried for weeks to get the Army to say more about the death of Private Johnson, but they’re only response is that the investigation is closed.

Certainly the documents military investigators have gathered seem to say a lot more.

Johnson’s father is now trying to have her body exhumed at Jefferson Barracks to have an independent autopsy performed.”


 The video of the report is available on the KMOV website.

Reporter Matt Sczesny spoke with LaVena’s father and examined documents and photos sent by Army investigators. So far from supporting the claim that LaVena died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the documents provided elements of another scenario altogether:

 

  • Indications of physical abuse that went unremarked by the autopsy
  • The absence of psychological indicators of suicidal thoughts; indeed, testimony that LaVena was happy and healthy prior to her death
  • Indications, via residue tests, that LaVena may not even have handled the weapon that killed her
  • A blood trail outside the tent where Lavena’s body was found
  • Indications that someone attenpted to set LaVena’s body on fire

The Army has resisted calls by Dr. Johnson and by KMOV to reopen its investigation.

There have been other military deaths that the Army has handled incompetently, most infamously that of Army Ranger and former professional football player Cpl. Pat Tillman, with the Army has engaging in an insulting game of deny, delay, dispute, when it comes to uncovering embarrassing facts that cost young soldiers their lives. Only when public and official attention is brought to bear on the matter – as happened, eventually and with great effort, with the case of Cpl. Tillman – do painful revelations come to light.

That it takes moral outrage, family vocalization, and community involvement to the government, to bring to bear upon the Army to find the truth, to tell the truth, to honor the men and women who put on the uniform to serve their country, says alot about the callousness of this country which saw fit to send these young women and men into a war with a country which has done no aggression against America. No huge outcry has yet come to bear in the case of LaVena. There are no loud chorus of voices demanding that the military be held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof in the mishandling of this young woman’s case. Anyone, and everyone, can and should, speak for her.  It may seem that the comparision between the cases of LaVena Johnson and Pat Tillman may seem unrelated, but both cases are the same. In both cases, the death of a young soldier in a dangerous place, in an unjustly declared rogue war,  was not explained to the families they left behind, the families that gave them up to go halfway around the world to fight a war for oil, to put their lives on the line for those of us here in America. The Army should not be so cold and heartless in how it disregards its soldiers. It is not too much to ask that the Army take into consideration all evidence of this young woman’s death.  (The attempt to set her body on fire; the trail of blood found outside of her living area.) That her family has many unanswered questions surrounding her death, and the inept handling of Lavena’s case (judging by the evidence left at the scene of her death )by the military, speaks volumes to military injustice in how it treats, or rather, mistreats its soldiers.

Please do not let this young soldier’s death be in vain. She took it upon herself to serve her country, with honor. Let her be honored by not letting her story fall into silence.

1. Sign the online petition to the Armed Services Committees in Congress asking them to direct the Army to reinvestigate the death of LaVena Johnson.

2. Find your Senator or Representative on the Armed Services Committees list and contact them directly about LaVena. (Thanks to the blogsite, http://www.lavenajohnson.com for his outstanding work to keep Lavena in the public’s mind.)

3. For background on Lavena Johnson, please view the KMOV-TV news report from 02.21.07.

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “PFC. LAVENA JOHNSON

  1. Jen

    What a terrible story! As I was reading, I kept thinking, ok, but despite what I just read, it is still possible it was self-inflicted… right up until the part about the blood trail and the FIRE. Christ. CSI 101 would tell you something screwy was going on.

  2. Thanks for this piece, which I knew nothing about… I am blogging about her today!

    Again, thanks so much. I am furious this case has been ignored!

  3. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Guest Post: What really happened to Pfc. LaVena Johnson?

  4. Pingback: Hungry Blues › Guest Post: What really happened to Pfc. LaVena Johnson?

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  6. Black People! stay away from this ma’s killing machine
    you are all disposable and what do you get in return? college money!! let the man keep hi trinkets and fight his own wars

  7. Stephanie B.

    This is an outrage! That the government is covering up her death. Shame!

    Stephanie B

  8. Pingback: CARING FOR AMERICA’S WOMEN WARRIORS « BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS OF MY BLACK SISTERS

  9. Blair

    I am not American, but I am from a country that is considered by Colin Powell to be “…a very, very, very, very close friend of the United States”. I’m a white male, and an officer in my own nation’s military. LaVena’s story was run in our national daily newspaper today and that has prompted my visit to this site.

    I’m absolutely appalled at her and her family’s treatment by the military. It is truly the final insult to her memory, and is surpassed only by her treatment at the hands of her killer(s).

    As a non-US citizen, I only wish I was eligible to sign your petition or contact a politician.

  10. Ann

    You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to sign the petition. All signatures are welcome.

    “LaVena’s story was run in our national daily newspaper today and that has prompted my visit to this site.”

    Could you provide a link to that news article? I am very interested in reading what the article states about Pfc. Johnson.

  11. Ann

    Thanks for that link. I have since posted it on my blog.

    I also sent a thank you e-mail to Ms. Barnett for her article on Pfc. Lavena Johnson.

  12. Alethia

    It is so sad that this female died so young. I’m in the military and it make me want to get out. We serve our country and this is what we get in return? I hope more young females go straight to college. The military show that it is not really for its people! It’s ridiculous the Officers involved in this would cover up this story. Shame on all the people who tried to make this a suicide story. I’m so angry and I don’t know this female. I cant imagine this family’s outrage!

  13. Gina from What About Our Daughters has taken up this case and is pressing it forward.

  14. Ann

    Thanks, Sharon, for the heads up on Gina’s efforts.
    It is most appreciated that she is doing her part to keep Lavena’s case in the spotlight.

  15. LaVena Johnson

    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’t we 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.

    Poems By Luke Easter

  16. Ann

    Luke, thank you for that very moving poem in honor of Lavena. It is a lovely gesture and much appreciated. If I may, with your permission, I would like to put your poem into a post.

    Thank you for stopping by.

  17. LaVena Johnson (In Memorial) Where Is The Justice?

    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 a criminal loose in our 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.

    How many before shooting themselves bust their own lip,
    Severe enough to the point it needs more than one stitch,
    Surprisingly they didn’t say she tried to saw herself in half,
    Which lie would be easier to swallow? You do the math.

    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’t we 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.

    The Uniform Code Of Military Justice aka the U.C.M.J.,
    But, where is this promise for LaVena, her assailant got away,
    Judging by the condition of her remains, she put up a fight,
    Now John and Linda Johnson are paving the road to right.

    Funny thing though, seems they have a roadblock in Iraq,
    It’s from the U.S. Army, who supposedly has their back,
    The saying, “with friends like these who needs enemies?”
    Guess the Army thinks first the perpetrator said, “please?”

    Here’s a little something to me that is simply down right scary,
    The hole in her head was from a pistol, which she did not carry,
    Oh yeah, if you think that’s something how does this fact sound?
    The fatal bullet that went through her head was never even found.

    If there ever was this kind of incompetence in World War II,
    Adolph Hitler or his off spring would be telling us what to do,
    Oops, I don’t mean us because there’d be no Blacks or Jews,
    And only if the Furor liked Mexican food maybe a Hispanic or 2.

    Whomever, wherever, whatever, an injustice did occur,
    We can’t make it right for others without justice for her,
    Hey, White House, the most powerful office in the world,
    Do you have the gonads to speak out for this Johnson girl?

    A petition was signed that is over twelve thousand strong,
    The Army closed the case anyway saying nothing’s wrong,
    Nothing like U.S. Intelligence, it’s the reason for the attack,
    If they hadn’t been storing WMD’s we wouldn’t be in Iraq.

    I saw something on the Internet much sadder than sad,
    Her mom distraught, shedding tears, clutching her dad,
    Soldiers carrying LaVena’s body almost made me mad,
    Draped over her lifeless casket was an American flag.

    Apparently the stars and stripes blows in two directions,
    There is one for neglect, another for promised protection,
    As it laid over her body on that particular sun filled day,
    Was it 1 of protection or 1 allowing a killer to get away?

    Beware this incident is not about colors, Black or White,
    Remember it’s a statement in the arena of wrong vs. right,
    I wonder if her recruiter bothered to make LaVena aware,
    The same injustice suffered here is also allowed over there.

    And here’s a timeless saying, which is entering my mind,
    There’s even a movie with the title, “Behind Enemy Lines,”
    Now that the light is shining on a lie that 3 years rang true,
    Who will step in & accomplish what the enemy refused to do?

    For every ranking Army official who signed off on this case,
    Nothing less than a court martial is what each 1 should face,
    Upon their conviction exactly where should they have to go?
    What about life in a cell behind barb wire fences at Gitmo.

    Poems By Luke Easter

  18. Trint0n C. Berry

    A BlaQ gUrL LoSt

    She trys to find her place in society
    Searching for her lost identity

    Wondering who would she be…
    If Europeans have never came
    and tooken her away from her homeland
    than stripped her of who she is….

    Perhaps she could have been A loving
    wife of a proud Afrikan man and a loving
    mother of two beautiful Afrikan children

    Feeling totally safe and comfort as her
    Husband holds her and whispers in her ear
    in their native language “I Love You”.
    While he runs his hands threw her locks.

    Depressed from years of slavery
    Her black womanhood is taken
    Wondering who she is….lost is confusion
    She becomes angry at herself
    She blames herself for all the
    damage that has been done

    She believes society when it
    tells her she is the lowest thing…..

    She than begans to emulate
    “the standard of beauty”

    Damaging her beautiful natural hair
    Using bleaching creams to hide her
    beautiful natural skin….

    Using colored contact lens to cover
    her pretty brown eyes….

    Letting men use her for their pleasures
    Searching for love but looks in the
    wrong places…….

    As she is constantly abused and misused by men
    She finds her self planted with a seed
    But have no idea how to nurture it….
    While the father who has given it to her
    ran out on his responsibility…..

    Trying to raise her child the best way she can
    She than realises her fatherless child has no direction

    For the child is bound to grow up and become a ‘baby-boy’

    She than falls into a state of depression from years of build up pain and stress….

    Mental and emotional scars
    She carries from slavery
    Has broken her spirit
    For it is not her fault………….

    She was born A BlaQ gUrL LoSt…..

    By: Mr_DarkAnGel

  19. Trint0n C. Berry

    A BlaQ gUrL LoSt

    She trys to find her place in society
    Searching for her lost identity

    Wondering who would she be…
    If Europeans have never came
    and tooken her away from her homeland
    than stripped her of who she is….

    Perhaps she could have been A loving
    wife of a proud Afrikan man and a loving
    mother of two beautiful Afrikan children

    Feeling totally safe and comfort as her
    Husband holds her and whispers in her ear
    in their native language “I Love You”.
    While he runs his hands threw her locks.

    Depressed from years of slavery
    Her black womanhood is taken

    Wondering who she is….lost is confusion
    She becomes angry at herself
    She blames herself for all the
    damage that has been done

    She believes society when it
    tells her she is the lowest thing…..

    She than begans to emulate
    “the standard of beauty”
    Damaging her beautiful natural hair
    Using bleaching creams to hide her
    beautiful natural skin….

    Using colored contact lens to cover
    her pretty brown eyes….

    Letting men use her for their pleasures
    Searching for love but looks in the
    wrong places…….

    As she is constantly abused and misused by men
    She finds her self planted with a seed

    But have no idea how to nurture it….
    While the father who has given it to her
    ran out on his responsibility…..

    Trying to raise her child the best way she can
    She than realises her fatherless child has no direction

    For the child is bound to grow up and become a ‘babyboy’
    She than falls into a state of depression from years of build up pain and stress….

    Mental and emotional scars
    She carries from slavery
    Has broken her spirit
    For it is not her fault

    She was born A BlaQ gUrL LoSt…..

    By: Mr_DarkAnGel aKa (Me)

  20. Pingback: FOR WOMEN IN COMBAT, POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS TAKES DIFFERENT FORMS « BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS OF MY BLACK SISTERS

  21. Pingback: PFC. LAVENA JOHNSON: “THE SILENT TRUTH” | BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS OF MY BLACK SISTERS

  22. T

    Has any progress been made on reopening and reinvestigating this case???

  23. Well considering that these wars were fought for profit and greed, it’s not surprising that they treat service members like shit. I am a military veteran and I sure am glad I never had to go to war. It seems like people who are supposed to be your comrades are more dangerous than the enemy. We have been discussing Lavena today and we want this case reopened. We want her family to have justice. The brutality against that girl needs to be punished.

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