• Petitioning Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay

This petition will be delivered to:

U.S. House of Representatives
Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay
Secretary of Defense
Leon Panetta
Missouri Governor
President of the United States
U.S. Senate
U.S. House of Representatives
Missouri State Senate
Missouri State House
Missouri
Sen. Claire McCaskill

It's Time to ACT Now! Claim Justice for PFC. LaVena Johnson

    1. Mantra Lotus
    2. Petition by

      Mantra Lotus

      Saint Louis, MO

19 year old, U.S. Army Private LaVena Johnson, was found dead on Balad military base in Iraq, in July, 2005. She was the first female soldier from Missouri to die in Iraq. Her death was officially declared a suicide by The Department of Defense, they claimed that she died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head with an M-16 rifle. Amid confusion and the viewing of her body, her family decided to investigate and what they found was shocking.

(The following is an article by John Lasker, a freelance journalist from Columbus, Ohio.)

An investigation into the alleged suicide of US Army Private Lavena Johnson points to a larger story of sexual violence against women in the military.

Do you know the story of US Army Private LaVena Johnson and her alleged suicide? If you get most of your news from the mainstream media, probably not, considering the mainstream media has mysteriously cowered from her story of how a loving and happy 19-year-old suddenly killed herself in 2005 while serving in Iraq.

But now that the Cold Case Investigations Research Institute of Philadelphia has agreed to tackle the case, perhaps the story of LaVena and the mysterious deaths of other US female soldiers on bases in Afghanistan and Iraq will finally become recognized by a much larger audience.

Each year the Cold Case Investigations Research Institute (CCIRI) takes on a high-profile cold case. Past investigations have looked into the murders of Tu Pac and Chandra Levy, for instance.

So far, CCIRI has had their own ballistic and forensic experts and a psychologist who is an expert on suicides, take a good look at the military’s investigative file and autopsy photos. All have serious doubts LaVena took her own life.

“There’s no question the military’s [investigation and conclusion of suicide] has problems,” says Sheryl McCollum, director of CCIRI. “If there are any signs of murder, you can’t automatically call it a suicide.”

But while the CCIRI has found the courage to take on this potential military cover-up, major media such as CBS News’s 60 Minutes and ABC News have attempted to report on LaVena’s death, but backed away from airing the story, even though both CBS and ABC spent thousands of dollars on Lavena, sending multiple teams to the home of the Johnsons. 60 Minutes also paid to have LaVena’s body disinterred for a second autopsy, this according to LaVena’s father, Dr. John Johnson of St. Louis.

“No one will touch LaVena’s story with a ten-foot pole,” says Dr. Johnson about the mainstream and corporate media.

He believes the Pentagon has a choking grip on a media industry that has become so financially injured, if 60 minutes or ABC News were to air stories such as LaVena’s, the military would pull advertising from those channels, he says.

“The military sure as heck don’t want to admit black female soldiers are being raped and murdered because they’re having a hard time recruiting and retaining black females,” he told Toward Freedom. “Major media stories of brutally raped black female soldiers would devastate recruiting.”

Indeed, the Pentagon has tried to intimidate reporters and editors working on stories about LaVena. Essence magazine, for example, was threatened to have their military ad dollars pulled if they ran a story on LaVena. The magazine eventually caved to the Pentagon running a watered-down story as the editors reportedly said their survival depended on military advertising, which in Essence’s case, is seeking young black women recruits, such as LaVena.

Nonetheless, LaVena’s family continues their effort to raise awareness about a daughter who loved serving her country and lived for making a difference to help others.

The US military was her destiny, says her father; she’s third generation Army. So it was no surprise to her family when the former violin-playing honor student was ordered to Iraq in 2005.

Though she always maintained a positive attitude, on July 18th, 2005, LaVena’s spirit took a tremendous turn for the worse, claims the military. On that afternoon, says the military, her brand new boyfriend of two months broke up with her via email from his home in Kentucky.

Scorned, she printed out the e-mails and retreated to her barracks at Joint Base Balad, this according to the military. Later that night she changed out of her camos and put on a jogging suit. She took the break-up e-mails and put them in a pocket, slung her M-16 over her shoulder as most soldiers did on this base and headed out to buy snacks at a military store – with a male friend the military refuses to name.

Once at the store, LaVena used her debit card to buy a six-pack of soda and M&Ms. The pair returned to the barracks, claims the military, but sometime after this LaVena left one more time, making her way to an empty tent owned by the contractor Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), formally a subsidiary of Haliburton.

Just 24 hours before this fateful night, says her mother, LaVena called her with a global phone. Her daughter sounded happy, says the mother, as they made plans for her homecoming at Christmas and LaVena told her, “Don’t decorate the tree without me.”

But within the KBR tent, just one day after making plans for Christmas, LaVena was distraught beyond any hope after the breakup with her boyfriend – this according to the military. So Lavena found a can of aerosol, lit the break-up e-mails on fire, and lit the tent on fire. The military says Lavena then took her M16 and pulled the trigger. The happy soul and young life of Private Johnson was gone; a suicide.

This was the military’s official version of Private Johnson’s “non-combat related death”.  This official version of what was deemed a suicide was based on an investigation by the US Army’s investigative arm, the US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID).

Soon after CID’s conclusion, the Armed Services Committees in the Senate signed-off. Case closed.

The story of Private LaVena Johnson, however, is far from over, as attested by the CCIRI’s decision to take on her case. What’s more, Lavena’s father says he has one simple reason to keep the pressure on the military: The evidence showing his daughter didn’t take her own life, but instead was murdered and possibly raped, is too great to take lying down, and the story of her being a jilted girlfriend simply a cover.

According to military documents, LaVena’s commanding officer, James Woods, told investigators that before her suicide, she was always smiling and that he did not see any changes in her behavior.

Two ballistics experts, Donald Marion and Cyril Wecht, told the family that LaVena’s wounds were not consistent with an M16 and the alleged exit wound from the top of her head looks more like a wound caused by a 9 mm pistol.

The US military’s autopsy of LaVena had revealed a busted lip, broken teeth, scratch marks on her neck, but no serious injuries. Yet after she was raised from the grave for a second autopsy, new X-rays would reveal a broken neck. Even stranger, the second autopsy also showed the military had removed part of LaVena’s tongue, vagina and anus, and didn’t tell the Johnsons, or document this in the first autopsy.

As implausible and twisted as it sounds, the taking of body parts, in some cases the heart or brain or both, has occurred to other bodies of female soldiers whose death’s were ruled  “non-combat related”.

Dr. Johnson believes the military took LaVena’s body parts so to hide what truly happened to his daughter: Military Sexual Trauma or MST.

“My daughter wanted to serve her country, and they’re going to insult her like this?” asked Dr. Johnson to this reporter. “The Army had the absolute chutzpah to say she killed herself. We believe she was raped and murdered by a contractor. If they had a daughter [that died mysteriously in a war zone] they would be acting the same way, there’s no doubt. And I’m not resting until something is done.”

Coincidentally, rape by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan may not be an isolated thing committed by a rare predator. In July of 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones, then 20 and working in Iraq, alleged she was gang-raped and beaten by fellow KBR employees and locked in a shipping container by managers after she sought out law enforcement. Jones and her lawyers, who lost a federal civil suit against KBR in July, said nearly 40 other female KBR employees who worked in Afghanistan and Iraq told them stories of rape, beatings and sexual harassment.

Besides a cold shoulder from the military, the Johnsons say Congress has hardly lifted a finger to help, either. A team of Congressional staffers did investigate LaVena’s death, but nothing official ever came of it.

One of the Congressional staffers, however, agreed to speak to Toward Freedom anonymously, saying when the Congressional team asked for LaVena’s autopsy photos, “the Army pushed back hard.” This staffer suggests if you believe the Army’s version of how LaVena died, you need to check your intelligence for a power outage.

“The Army’s story is ridiculous,” scoffs the staffer.

Activists such as Army Ret. Col. Ann Wright, now a peace activist who’s currently sailing the Mediterranean with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, says there are many more suspicious deaths of female soldiers and the military’s explanation behind them is simply not believable.

In fact, says Wright, there are 20-plus female soldier deaths under scrutiny, nearly all have occurred on bases in Afghanistan or Iraq. Of these 20, the military reports 14 were suicides, which includes LaVena Johnson. And like the Johnsons, many of these families refuse to accept the military’s explanation, believing their daughters died at the hands of fellow soldiers or contractors.

This much is clear: The mysterious deaths of female soldiers coincide with an increase in reported sexual violence against women in the military during a time when women are joining like never before. In 1970, female soldiers made up 1 percent of the entire armed forces; today, that number has jumped to roughly 15 percent, nearly 200,000 in all. As the numbers of female troops grow, the U.S. Department of Defense’s own reports bear out the rising problem of military sexual assaults in war zones: up 26 percent from 2007 to 2008, and another 33 percent over the following year.

In a war zone, the air of intimidation following rape, says Wright, can be ratcheted to another level simply because the victim is surrounded by violence and confusion  

"They’ll say, ‘You’re going to be dead by tomorrow,’” Wright says. “‘Raping you is just the cost of war. We’ll just chalk it up (your murder) to unsafe security.’”

In 2010, a documentary from Midtown films was released called "LaVena Johnson-The Silent Truth" it was screened at Webster University in St. Louis MO.

WE MUST HAVE JUSTICE FOR LaVena Lynn Johnson!

(This petition is endorsed by Dr. John H., Linda, and the rest of the Johnson family; relatives and friends)

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Reached 30,000 signatures
    2. "The SILENT TRUTH" (Full Documentary) is now available for viewing!!!

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      We are pleased to announce that complete documentary "The Silent Truth" is now available for online streaming on:

      iTunes (http://bit.ly/1mjJPWT)
      Amazon (http://amzn.to/1qVyfsE)
      Google Play (http://bit.ly/1srGgmt)

      The Silent Truth

      Watch the trailer, read customer and critic reviews, and download The Silent Truth directed by Joan Brooker-Marks for $12.99

    3. Short Film takes a different approach- "The Verdict"

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      Short film by Stanlee Ohikhuare "The Verdict" takes a very unique approach to the death of PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson. Powerful and Gripping. *Graphic* but please watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y23WTp4C5DY

      VERDICT- An American Injustice against its citizen (LaVena Johnson)

      19 year Old LaVena Johnson joined the Army sequel to the 911 terrorist attacks. She was sent to Iraq by the Army. On July 19th a soldier with a black book knocked on her parents' door. He regretfully informed them of their daughter's death. Her 20th birthday became her wake.

    4. Mass PUSH today!

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      Let's Move Mountains TOGETHER today! We're PUSHING Senator Claire McCaskill to Remember PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson!

      We need all LaVena supporters to contact Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill via phone lines, mail/email, fax, and social media. Ask specifically how the recent reforms of the Defense bill will help PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson. If this policy is to help protect and empower victims of Military Sexual Assaults and Abuse, how will PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson be empowered? Will there be justice for her?

      DC Address: The Honorable Claire McCaskill
      United States Senate
      506 Hart Senate Office Building
      Washington, D.C. 20510-2504
      DC Phone: 202-224-6154
      DC Fax: 202-228-6326
      Contact Senator McCaskill: http://www.mccaskill.senate.gov/?p=contact
      WWW Homepage: http://www.mccaskill.senate.gov/
      Twitter: @clairecmc

      www.mccaskill.senate.gov

    5. We are still here!

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      The beauty of being human is that sometimes we are giving opportunities that test all that we assumed we were. Our thoughts and beliefs are challenged and our strength and courage is questioned.The Universe in a sense puts us on trial. But, because WE are human we are instinctively caring, social, empathetic, and compassionate of one another. We come together in tragedy and lift each other when needed. We feel each others pain and help in healing. We have endured in the loss of LaVena and all like her, and WE will continue to rise and support each other in claiming her justice. I wanted to share this video from a special supporter Stacey Lunsford. Let us all remember who WE are and never doubt our capabilities. (Mantra)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDqGJxS9E5Q&feature=youtu.be

    6. Reached 25,000 signatures
    7. We have reached our goal of 3,000 signatures, but why stop there?

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      We are ready and prepared to submit the signatures that we have received to President Obama and all Respective Parties, but I urge all current supporters to recruit more support for this movement! Share LaVena's story, post the petition on your social media pages, talk to your friends and family as well as local politicians. PFC. LaVena Lynn Johnson is not NAMELESS! She existed, lived and loved. Her smile is contagious and song will forever be sung. But, WE have to help her be heard. LaVena is MST and if she had survived the injuries of her assault she would be at the forefront of the MST (Military Sexual Trauma) Movement as well as an active supporter of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). She was not given that opportunity to do ALL that WE know she would have done, but WE are here to fulfill her mission. We will STAND for her! WE WILL ACT for her..right NOW!
      https://www.facebook.com/lavenajohnson

    8. Reached 3,000 signatures
    9. We are so Grateful!

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      I (Mantra Lotus, aka Jessica Williams) would like to personally thank each and everyone of you for your support! We have almost reached our goal of supporters for this petition and our Movement is continuously rising because of all the warm hearts that are beating for LaVena Lynn Johnson and all of those like her. Keep Standing!!! Keep Acting! and Keep Moving! It only takes ONE step to start a MOVEMENT! Continue to follow our progress on our Facebook page ACT Now! Stand for PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson @ https://www.facebook.com/lavenajohnson

      ACT Now! Stand for PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson

      ACT Now! Stand for PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson. 1,762 likes · 76 talking about this. PFC. LaVena Lynn Johnson born on July 27, 1985 in St. Louis MO. In 2004, she graduated Hazelwood Central High School as an Honor Roll Student.

    10. Reached 2,000 signatures
    11. A Monumental Event; "The National Moment of Silence for LaVena"

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      Our "National Moment of Silence for LaVena" in commemoration for her birthday was a huge success! We accomplished greatly. More followers, More Supporters, More Signatures on the Petition, and Media coverage. We have plenty work to do. Please Share..Share..Share the cause. Our true USA Heroes need us. Let's Stand for LaVena! ACT Now!!!

      http://fox2now.com/2013/07/27/family-calls-for-the-truth-in-soldiers-death/

      Family calls for the truth in soldier's death

      NORTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) -Against the backdrop of outrage in Congress over sexual abuse in the military, there was a nationwide moment of silence Saturday for a North County soldier. It coincided with renewed calls for the truth about how Lavena Johnson died.

    12. Reached 750 signatures
    13. St. Louis Rally in honor of LaVena!

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      St. Louis Supporters, The Long Road Home Riders, and Protect Our Defenders honor LaVena's memory with a Rally and Fundraiser.

      Staff Sergeant, USAF retired Colleen A. Bushnell is one of five veterans cycling across the country to raise awareness about the challenges veterans face when they return home. Sergeant Bushnell is riding in honor of Missouri Soldier Private First Class LaVena Lynn Johnson who was killed in Balad, Iraq in 2005. Bushnell is a survivor of MST; Military Sexual Trauma.

      Read more on the story at: http://pfclavenajohnson.wordpress.com and Please Remember to get LIKE at http://www.facebook.com/lavenajohnson and connect with other LaVena Supporters.

      Thanks

    14. Reached 500 signatures
    15. Happy Birthday LaVena!!!! We love you!!!

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      The Johnson Family Story successfully aired on Protect Our Defenders official website. We are still fighting!!! and will never give up until justice is reached!!

    16. Protect Our Defenders will Launch LaVena's Story in July, 2012

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      On July 16, Protect Our Defenders (http://www.protectourdefenders.com/) is launching a Nationwide Awareness Campaign telling the LaVena Johnson Story, in conjunction with the The Long Road Home project (http://longroadhomeproject.com/) begins it's quest.

      The Long Road Home project is a cross country journey completed by Veteran cyclists in memory of a fallen soldier. PFC. LaVena Johnson was chosen by one of the riders. Her name is Colleen Bushnell and she needs our support as well. ( http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=199615)

    17. Reached 250 signatures
    18. Be apart of the action on Facebook

      Mantra Lotus
      Petition Organizer

      Connect, Share, and Rally More Support for LaVena and the ACT Now! Petition

    19. Reached 100 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Debra Mitchell AUSTRALIA
      • about 2 hours ago

      This is a disgrace

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Melanie Boyd GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
      • about 6 hours ago

      I want to see this family at peace by knowing the full story of their childs death.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Evie Ball SUMMERVILLE, SC
      • about 7 hours ago

      This is devastating... govt trying to sweep a tragedy under the rug... So sad for LaVena's family! God bless them!

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Edna Carby CLOVIS, NM
      • about 12 hours ago

      I know what it is like to lose a loved one and not know what happened. The coroner put cause undetermined due to lack of investigation and information from local authorities. This is unacceptable at any time but even more so for our people in the military. They and their families deserve better.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Joyce Thompson LOS ANGELES, CA
      • about 12 hours ago

      Our children deserve better!

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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