Two people were removed from a Donald Rumsfeld book signing Friday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, including the Yelm widow of an Army Ranger who blames the military for her husband’s suicide.
Security officers for the former secretary of defense escorted Ashley Joppa-Hagemann out by the arm, she said Saturday. She and Jorge Gonzalez, the executive director of Coffee Strong, a Lakewood-based anti-war group, confronted Rumsfeld as he promoted his memoir, “Known and Unknown.”
According to an account posted on Coffee Strong’s website: “Mrs. Joppa-Hagemann introduced herself by handing a copy of her husband’s funeral program to Rumsfeld, and telling him that her husband had joined the military because he believed the lies told by Rumsfeld during his tenure with the Bush administration.”
Joppa-Hagemann complained about Rumsfeld’s response Friday to her account of Staff Sgt. Jared Hagemann’s multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and his death at age 25. Hagemann belonged to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
The website said Rumsfeld’s “only response was to callously quip, ‘Oh yeah, I heard about that.’”
When Joppa-Hagemann continued to blame Rumsfeld, a group of five to six security agents and military police officers reportedly “dragged” them out and told them not to return, according to the Web post.
A base spokesman said Saturday that the pair were causing a minor disturbance.
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“Two people were quietly and peacefully escorted out of the PX after they caused a disturbance at the book signing,” public affairs officer Bud McKay said.
Joppa-Hagemann said the pair spoke calmly and weren’t trying to make a scene. She should have been allowed to finish talking to Rumsfeld, she said.
The pair did take a picture with Rumsfeld after Gonzalez unbuttoned his shirt to reveal an “Iraq veterans against the war” T-shirt.
Joppa-Hagemann says her husband took his own life to avoid another tour in Afghanistan after Rangers pressured him to drop his plans to leave the military. She has been pushing for a ceremony honoring him. Her efforts were the subject of a front-page story in Thursday’s News Tribune.
She said Jared Hagemann believed when he enlisted that he would be fighting in Iraq for “justice for 9/11” and to find weapons of mass destruction.
“All I could do was just really be happy at that moment that I got to tell Donald to his face that he was a liar,” she said in an interview Saturday, “and put a face to a soldier that because of him is no longer alive.”