Congress must investigate crimes against women soldiers

The effort to prompt a renewed investigation of the suspicious death in Iraq of PFC LaVena Johnson has always had a strong ally in retired Army Colonel Ann Wright. Today, Col. Wright speaks out on LaVena’s case and that of other military women - in-theater and in the US - who have died following sexual assault. The introduction from the article at
The Department of Defense statistics are alarming — one in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military. The warnings to women should begin above the doors of the military recruiting stations, as that is where assaults on women in the military begins — before they are even recruited.

But, now, even more alarming, are deaths of women soldiers in Iraq, and in the United States, following rape. The military has characterized each of the deaths of women who were first sexually assaulted as deaths from “non-combat related injuries,” and then added “suicide.” Yet, the families of the women whom the military has declared to have committed suicide, strongly dispute the findings and are calling for further investigations into the deaths of their daughters. Specific US Army units and certain US military bases in Iraq have an inordinate number of women soldiers who have died of “non-combat related injuries,” with several identified as “suicides.”

94 US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in OIF. 13 US military women have been killed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in Afghanistan.

Of the 94 US military women who died in Iraq or in OIF, the military says 36 died from non-combat related injuries, which included vehicle accidents, illness, death by “natural causes,” and self-inflicted gunshot wounds, or suicide. The military has declared the deaths of the Navy women in Bahrain that were killed by a third sailor, as homicides. 5 deaths have been labeled as suicides, but 15 more deaths occurred under extremely suspicious circumstances.

8 women soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas (six from the Fourth Infantry Division and two from the 1st Armored Cavalry Division) have died of “non-combat related injuries” on the same base, Camp Taji, and three were raped before their deaths. Two were raped immediately before their deaths and another raped prior to arriving in Iraq. Two military women have died of suspicious “non-combat related injuries” on Balad base, and one was raped before she died. Four deaths have been classified as “suicides.”
Col. Wright recaps the story of LaVena Johnson - already familiar to many Shakers - in some detail, but also speaks on the “suicides” and “non-combat related injuries” of such personnel as Army Private First Class Tina Priest, PFC Hannah Gunterman McKinney, Major Gloria D. Davis, and others. The prevalence of such deaths and assaults against the women who serve in the military demands earnest investigation by the armed forces - and by Congress, should the services fail in this trust. I highly recommend reading the essay by Col. Wright in its entirety.

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