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'In a Way, It’s Surprising That There Aren’t More Bodies Piling up at Military Bases All Over This Nation'

Military Town Newspaper Challenges US Military on Murder of Military Women

Ann Wright

The October 14, 2008 editorial in the Fayetteville, NC Observer "Our View: Military domestic violence needs more aggressive prevention. focused on the murder of four military women in North Carolina and contained a startling comment: "In a way, it's surprising that there aren't more bodies piling up at military bases all over this nation."   The Observer is the newspaper that serves Fort Bragg, one of the military's largest bases.

The editorial was in response
to the vigil held on October 8 at the gates of Fort Bragg to commemorate
the murder of four US military women in North Carolina in the past nine
months and to call for action to prevent more murders by members of
the US military. 

In a nine month period from
December 2007 to September, 2008, four U.S. military women were killed
by military men near the Army's Fort Bragg and the Marine Corps'
Camp Lejeune, two military mega-bases in North Carolina. 

Three of the women were in
the Army.  The latest murder victim was 29-year-old US Army Sergeant
Christina Smith who was killed September 30, 2008.  Her husband,
Fort Bragg Sgt. Richard Smith, 26, was arrested and charged with first-degree
murder and conspiracy. Also arrested was 18-year-old Mathew Kvapil,
a private first class at Fort Bragg.

Spc. Megan Touma was seven
months pregnant when her body was found inside a Fayetteville hotel
room June 21, 2008. A married male soldier whom she knew in Germany
has been arrested.

The estranged Marine husband
of Army 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc, an Army nurse at Fort Bragg, has been
arrested in her death and the burning of her body. 

Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach
had been raped in May 2007 and protective orders had been issued against
the alleged perpetrator, fellow Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean. The burned
body of Lauterbach and her unborn baby were found in a shallow grave
in the backyard of Laurean's home in January 2008.  Laurean fled to
Mexico, where he was captured by Mexican authorities. He is currently
awaiting extradition to the United States to stand trial. Lauterbach's
mother testified before Congress on July 31, 2008, that the Marine Corps
ignored warning signs that Laurean was a danger to her daughter.

In 2002, four military spouses
were murdered at Fort Bragg by their Special Forces husbands after they
returned from Afghanistan. 

The Observer editorial was
remarkable in its clarity on the causes and connections of domestic
and state-sponsored violence:

"It's an old argument.
We train men, and now women, to wage war, then we are baffled when they
do that to each other. It is driven in times of war by a national culture
that can extol violence, conflating it with patriotism. And don't
overlook the general population raised on a steady diet of malevolence
disguised as entertainment.

In a way, it's surprising
that there aren't more bodies piling up at military bases all over
this nation. We are certain, nevertheless, that the demonstrators (at
the gates of Fort Bragg) were on to something that we as a community
need to address. This may become an epidemic that threatens us all.
It is a problem we, as a community, military and civilian, can't ignore.
It is also a problem that we have not, so far, effectively solved." 
On the morning of the commemoration, the father of 2LT Holley (James)
Winunc sent a message to the Quaker House, one of the sponsors of the
October 8 vigil. Mr. James thanked the individuals and organizations
for the tribute to Holly and the other murdered women and wrote "There
will be no end to our grief. They say time heals, it hasn't started
to heal for us.  We visit the cemetery and mourn daily for Holley
and anguish over the senseless way in which she was taken from us. 
Holly's children Tre and Kendell, 7 and 3 years old respectfully,
will never really know their Mom.  Years from now they will spend
time looking through the things we've saved from their Mother's
life and wonder "what might have been."  We appreciate that
you offer hope and help to others.  It is our wish and prayer that
not another family will have to go through this."

Another survivor of military
domestic violence joined the vigil.  Christine Horne flew from
Coconut Grove, Florida to commemorate the deaths of four military and
to mourn her own mother's death.  34 years ago in 1974, when
she was 9 years old and her brother was 5, their Special Forces father
murdered their mother in their home just off Fort Bragg by stabbing
her over 50 times.  In a military court martial, her father received
a life sentence for the murder, but was released after 12 years in prison.

The Observer editorial acknowledged
that "The Army has made a good-faith effort to provide programs and
services to prevent domestic violence and save lives. But it's not
enough. The effort must be redoubled, the violence studied more carefully,
and the intervention waged even more aggressively... The recent spate
of murders underscores the fact that domestic violence remains a significant
problem here. Whatever preventive action is being taken at Fort Bragg,
it isn't enough."

Because the preventive action
being taken by the military is not enough, 40 women and men from around
North Carolina and the nation stood at the Fort Bragg entrance gate
to commemorate the deaths and call for action to prevent any others. 
We were greeted by many honks of agreement from cars going onto the
base and several military spouses came out to join us.  Sadly,
no one from military command authority nor from the prevention of domestic
violence offices at Fort Bragg made the effort to come to the gates
to talk about the ending the epidemic of violence. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Ann Wright

Ann Wright

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia.  In December 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.  She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience."

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