Action items re: Pfc. LaVena Johnson

As the blogosphere awakens to the story of Pfc. LaVena Johnson's death, it's important to remember that this story is much larger than Blogville. Weblogs obviously have their importance in comminicating this story, but you don't have to be a blogger to be concerned over the anguish of LaVena's family and the inflexibility of the Army in refusing to reopen its investigation of her death. And you don't have to be a blogger to act on that concern.

One very important and helpful act: commend the reporter and television station that brought this new information about LaVena to light: Matt Sczesny (pronounced says-nee) of KMOV-TV in St. Louis. Please contact the KMOV newsroom at It would be helpful to mention the name of Lavena Johnson in the subject header. If you'd rather contact KMOV another way, here's the info:

One Memorial Drive
St. Louis, Missouri 63102
Main Switchboard: 314-621-4444 (8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Monday - Friday)
News: 314-444-6333

Other steps you can take involve:

The media close at hand. LaVena's story is no more a local concern than the war in Iraq or the concern families have for their loved ones overseas. Share that concern in the letters column of your newspaper, or on open line discussion on that radio talk show you listen to.

The media far away. LaVena's story won't enter the minds of the professional opinion-makers unless it is brought to their attention. It could be a national-level print columnist (a Nick Kristoff, possibly), a television personality (a Keith Olbermann, perhaps), a talk show host (an Oprah Winfrey, maybe). If you feel that a particular media personality would be sympathetic to the story of Pfc. Johnson and her family, please share that story with him or her.

Those who have written or talked about LaVena before. Our attention span is narrow; we have to work to remember things, even important things. There are news outlets that have mentioned LaVena's death once and then moved on because that's the way of the world. Find out who they are (Google, Lexis Nexis, and the like). Help them remember. Remind them of LaVena.

Friends, family, plain old people. I look at the links that are bringing people to the posts on LaVena and see that several originated from emails. People are sharing the story. It takes just a moment to spread the word via your address book. Or over dinner.

Politicians. Frequent reader Bitty gave me the idea of contacting members of the Senate Armed Services (direct contact info at the bottom of that linked post). Both of Bitty's senators sit on that committee, as does one of mine (which reminds me: I haven't yet seen a response from Claire McCaskill's office). There's a corresponding committee in the House, however, and I would suggest that concerned constituents contact those members. I will post contact info for them on this blog tomorrow, time allowing. House member email addresses are now posted along with Senate member info.

Also: I have heard that a few politicians are running for president, and that they occasionally mention Iraq and the US troops stationed there. It would be useful to know (1) if they are can be helpful to Pfc. Johnson's family in this matter, and (2) if not, why not.

Those who have served. I saved soldiers for last here when they might easily have been first; I did so because I believe it's important to go away from this thinking primarily about the men and women who have served us in dangerous places. Our thoughts are with them and for them and their families, regardless of personal feelings about the current war. If you have a loved one or a friend who is is serving now or has served, share LaVena's story with that soldier.

The only thing I'd add right now is that even though feelings on this subject will run hot, it's important to be decent in your communications with people from whom you are asking help. After all, you're acting not in your name alone, but in someone else's.

Any suggestions that can be added here would be welcome.

Thanks very much for your attention, and your help.

(Cross-posted. Thanks very much to Melissa for the heads-up.)

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