From the day that I was told my only child, Lt Ken Ballard was killed in Iraq, the Army somehow managed to mess up everywhere they could. I wish I was exaggerating, but I have a letter of apology from the Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey to that effect. I dare say there aren't too many of those kinds of letters in existence. When I met with the Secretary last fall, he conveyed his regrets to me personally.
I was initially told Ken was killed by enemy fire; he was actually killed by the accidental discharge of the unmanned machine gun on his M1 tank. When the Army notified me of the change in circumstances of Ken's death back in September, 15 months after he was killed, I found I had done a fair amount of healing. My heart was ripped open and I had to hear in minute detail about the last hour of his life. I found out his last words.....
The Secretary of the Army called for an investigation into why I didn't know the truth from the beginning, when everyone involved did. He also called for an investigation into the casualty process and on 1.31.06, the Inspector General of the Army and 2 of his staff presented me with their findings. Am I satisfied? Hmmm, Ken is still dead, he's never coming home. But, yes they treated my allegations and concerns with dignity and respect. The execution of the casualty process was very poor, the recovery was amazing.
The Stars & Stripes, a daily newspaper serving bases, posts, ships, and embassies around the world wrote a story about the draft of the new casualty process that is being proposed. GI's legacy: Changes in easing families' losses, MotherÂs work led to revision of casualty notification I am happy to say that I see evidence of my involvment in many places of this draft document. I read ALL 166 pages to make sure.
I belong to a group of Gold Star families, Gold Star Families Speak Out. We are a chapter of Military Families Speak Out. We believe the best way to support our troops is to bring them home now, take care of them when they get here and to never let a war like this happen again. Nobody wants to be in this group, even we don't want to be in this club, but we are extremely close now. Each one of us knows the other's story, each one of us knows the other children as if they were our own. The circumstances of death vary, certainly, and out of that comes a mission for each of us. One mom & dad are pursuing the story of weapons of mass destruction, another IED's, another land mines and still another family wants to know why the Humvees have inadequate armor. Our son's and nephew's and cousin's voices have been silenced, but we will not let their conscience and their legacy die; so we speak. My mission is fixing the Pentagon. Okay, I know that's a big job, but someone's got to do it! ;-)
The thing about the Army is, they are a bureaucracy just like any other big company. I know they can do better than they did with me. I know they should respect Army families and do better by the soldiers. Fortunately, I have met many members of the military who agree with me. Changing processes and procedures is one thing, changing a culture is another.
Ken volunteered to serve his country and he loved being a soldier. It's shameful that this administration betrayed his patriotism and sent him to invade a country that was no threat to ours. Because the Army tells soldiers that the Army is their family, and they take care of their own, I know that Ken would have been so disappointed to see what I had to go through, but I do think he would be proud of me and he would say "Good job, Mom"