We find out today that my friend, Nadia's only child Sgt Patrick McCaffrey was not killed the way the Army told her 2 years ago. It's deja vu all over again. (the photo of Patrick was taken 45 minutes before he was killed)
Nadia called me on Monday night to tell me that the Army was coming to see her on Wednesday. They wanted to come on Thursday, but that will be the 2nd anniversary of Patrick's death. Were they being inconsiderate when they wanted to meet on Thursday or were they just plain stupid? These kinds of anniversaries are a stab in the heart for Gold Star Families for a very long time before and after that day.
Probe finds Iraqi troops killed 2 American soldiers
Two California soldiers shot to death in Iraq in 2004 were murdered by Iraqi civil-defense officers patrolling with them, military investigators have found.
The deaths of Army Spc. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr., 34, of Tracy and 1st Lt. Andre D. Tyson*, 33, of Riverside were originally attributed to an ambush during a patrol near Balad, Iraq, on June 22, 2004.
But the Army's Criminal Investigation Division concluded there was foul play after probing the circumstances for several months.
The investigators found that one or more of the Iraqis attached to the American soldiers on patrol fired at them, a military official said Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the military did not plan to release the report until Wednesday.
There is alot more wrong about this than might seem evident. Nadia & I are very good friends. We talk several times a week, often several times a day. She stood with me when I found out that the circumstances of my son's death were not what they told me 15 months prior. I will stand with her as she goes through this continuing nightmare. (the photo is Nadia & me at Arlington West in Santa Barbara)
Nadia has been suspicious for a long time and has been trying to find her way through the military bureaucracy to have someone tell her the truth. When Patrick's unit came home, his fellow soldiers told her stories that did not match what the Army had told her. When she read the autopsy report, she was suspicious, and when she viewed the autopsy photographs, she remained suspicious. There were different caliber bullets and there were more wounds than she was told.
When is the Army going to understand that families want to know the truth at the earliest time? In this day and age, information cannot and will not remain hidden for long. Those terrible secrets from the battlefield will come into the homefront and then there will be more explaining to do.
When the Tillman family was told a different story 5 weeks after the very public memorial service, it was wrong. When I was told a different story 15 months later, it was wrong. Nadia will be finding out the truth the day before the 2 year anniversary of Patrick's death, and that is wrong, too. In all of our cases, the soldiers who had boots on the ground in Iraq knew the truth. This is starting to look like a very ugly pattern of behavior.
The military has to fix this problem about revealing the truth in a timely manner. It seems as if covering up is standard practice and that must change. I told both the Secretary of the Army and the Inspector General of the Army that it is easy enough to change a policy, but it is more difficult to change the culture of the Army. I wish them good luck, but they have no choice, this must be fixed. The staff at the Pentagon must know that when news of a coverup or incompetence is revealed, it is a cold wind that blows in the home of every military family. For Gold Star Families, they wonder if they know the truth about their loved one and if not, how long will it take for them to get this very difficult and different news? For active duty military, they wonder if this is how their family will be treated should something happen to their loved one? There is a lack of confidence in the military and for every one thing they do correctly, this type of revelation, or coverup erases too much hard work and commitment that many members of the military live by. It is easy for us to feel that no one cares about our soldiers.
Imagine for one minute that you have lost a family member in a war. You try to deal with this new normal that your life has become and you try to move on. You start to heal in ways that you don't notice, because it is so subtle. Imagine then that the story of the circumstances of their death was not what you were told. Your heart is ripped open and you immediately move back to the day your world was turned upside down, when you heard about the death the first time. As you listen to the "new" story, you are hearing about the last minutes of your loved one's life. You are trying to listen to the analytical details, the technical side and at the same time, you think to yourself, this is my little boy they are talking about. These are the last minutes of his life. For us, it isn't a "story"; it is our life.
Don't think for a moment that these are the only cases. I know of 2 Army families who were initially told their son's committed suicide in Iraq; they didn't. In both cases no investigation was performed in Iraq. It has to be nearly impossible for a thorough investigation to be held when the evidence is no longer intact and the people of interest are scattered to the wind.
I find the timing of this news interesting, too. How will this play in the media following George's Excellent Adventure to Baghdad last week and the killing of Zarqawi? Things are not going well in Iraq. PERIOD. Two young American soldiers were captured and killed in a very horrendous and public way and now this news of yet another Army coverup. Patrick and Andre were murdered by the very Iraqis that they were training. Is this still continuing? Why are we in Iraq if they don't want us there? Was there a bounty on American soldier's lives as Nadia was told? Why did the Army not respond to Nadia's earlier inquiries? Why indeed? Nadia says she has a list of questions for this meeting on Wednesday. I'll bet she does.
This is all bad, but to me, having someone from the military leak this information to the media before the families are briefed is beyond unconscionable. This is reckless behavior and someone's head should roll.
I was fortunate that the Army played it close to the vest with me. Even though I did not know what the Army was going to tell me, I knew it was going to be bad news. I had called on my Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's office to be by my side during my meetings- my message- don't f**k with Army families, and they didn't. I hope they learned that telling the whole truth, however awful, is really in their best interest. The McCaffrey's and the Tillmans deserve the same; the sooner the better.
When Nadia is told the truth, the whole truth, perhaps Patrick can then rest in peace.
* I do not know the family of Lt Andre Tyson who was also murdered in this ambush. My heart goes out to them, too. I have walked in their shoes.