This story pisses me off and why I'll never join the Army, but let's get into it.
LaVena and her family grew up in Missouri. She was very smart and an honor roll student. She wanted to go to college but actually told her family right after high school, she wanted to join the military. This way, her college would be paid for. Her family didn't have a problem paying for her college, but she wanted to go out of state for college. Her dad was a veteran and she wanted to follow in his footsteps off and take initiative and be more independent.
Lets fast forward to 2005. LaVena was stationed in Iraq. She was a private first class in the United States Army. At this point, she had only been in Iraq for about two months. She would regularly call home and she called home often because she worked in the communications building. She would also write letters. She always sounded upbeat and positive in her letters. She never gave the impression that something was off. She did mention that she and the female soldiers felt disrespected. She said the male soldiers would call them a "sol." That is a slur that means half of a soldier.
On July 14, 2005 LaVena called home and told her dad about her day. She said she was locking up the communications building but the other soldiers weren't listening. They were just ignoring her and being disrespectful. The general showed up and ended up having to kick the soldiers out. The general didn't get upset at the soldiers but instead got upset at LaVena for not being stern enough. LaVena's dad got upset at the general, remember he is a veteran, and he felt the general shouldn't have spoken to LaVena that way given that she is a private. LaVena's dad told her that she needed to get a battle buddy.
A battle buddy is someone with you all the time and has your back all the time. She told her dad that she didn't feel comfortable asking for a battle buddy because she didn't want to ruffle any feathers or make it seem like she needed help. LaVena's father said he would give her time to step up and ask for a battle buddy or he'd do it himself. It later came up that perhaps the reason LaVena didn't want to speak up was because she had been recently sexually assaulted in the military and was being treated for an STD as a result from the assault. It's unknown who assaulted her. Her family didn't know at this time that she had been assaulted.
Something was obviously going on where she didn't feel the need to speak up and just wanted to lay low. Three days after talking with her dad about battle buddies, LaVena called home saying she might get to come home early and she'll be home around Christmas time. Unfortunately that was the last time her family spoke to her. A few days later, there was a knock on the door. It was a soldier who came to tell the family that LaVena had passed away. Her family is in complete shock. Her mother is inconsolable and her father wanted answers. The soldier slipped and said she committed suicide, he then attempted to backtrack.
LaVena's parents got a phone call the next day to better explain what happened. LaVena's father is more stoic and stone faced, he steps up to ask answers about what happened. Phone call said LaVena had a normal day at the communications building. She got off at about 4 to 5 pm and locked up the building. She then got in her physical traing clothes and went down to her physical training. LaVena never showed to her physical training so someone went looking for her. Eventually she was found in a contractors room, in a pool of blood with an arm covering her face. On her right side, is a pile of burned papers. On her left side is a green cot and on the other side of the cot, is a M16 rifle. Right away, I think if she killed herself, whats with the burned papers and why is her rifle so far away from her body? Before her body was sent home, the Army did an autopsy and her death was ruled a suicide.
The Army said she burned notes from her boyfriend who she had been dating for 6 months and shot herself with her own M16 in her mouth. The Army sid she killed herself because of issues her and boyfriend were having. The Army urged them to do a closed casket because her bosy was in such bad shape. Her parents went against that and did an open casket and I'm glad they did.
Right away, her father notices her face is in pristine condition. Also, her nose appeared to be broken and shifted, buthtat someone tried to pop it back in place. LaVena also had bruises and cuts on her face and lips. Her teeth had also been knocked loose. LaVena did have a small bullet wound on the left side of her head. LaVena is right handed. Also an M16 is huge. Her dad has experience with guns from his time in the military and he could tell right away that the gun used was a 9 mm. But wait there's more.
LaVena's family noticed that her gloves had been super glued to her hands. The funeral director said gluing gloves onto the hands isn't a thing. I think the gloves were glued on, so they couldn't get DNA from under her nails. Obviously this wasn't a suicide. One thing that bothers me is that a rape kit wasn't done. LaVena's family knows the Army won't give them answers so they hire a criminal investigator.
They finally receive documents and crime scene images but it's obvious the US military isn't cooperating. The Army sent the most grainy, xeroxed photos that all you can see is shadows. Documents confirmed that LaVena had no gunpowder residue on her hands, witness statements confirming she had been raped, and was being treated for an STD from her rapist. This is the first time her family heard she had been raped. In the documents there is a random paper of a xeroxed CD-rom. People speculate this was a mistake and someone was trying to give the family a hint.
The Army fights them on this and says they must go to court for this CD-rom. The army says that there are other peoples names on the CD-rom and they have a right to privcy but that makes the family want it even more. Army tellls them to get a lawyer. Her family one upped them and went to a congresswoman for help. With the help of Congresswoman Lacey Clay it takes two years for them to get the CD-rom. It had the crime scene photos, LaVenas body when it was first found, LaVena's body before, during, and after the autopsy, all in color and good quality.
In the photos, you can see she had been hit with a blunt object in the face and her elbow was popped out of place. Her backside was covered in mud, dirt, and debris like she had been dragged. The photos also show a blood trail coming from her tent and burn marks on her hands, her back, and bruising on her stomach. That is not even the worst. Someone also poured acid on her genitals. Meanwhile the Army is like, Suicide. Case Closed.
But wait there's more. The CD-rom also confirmed LaVena's tongue, anus, and vagina had all been cut out and that wasn't reported on the autopsy report. LaVena had such a bright future and she only joined the Army to go to school. In return, she gets murdered and her family is called crazy and dismissed. Side note: I find it interesting that she was found covering her face. Of course she could've covered her face as she was being beat. Also, if someone close to her was responsible for her death, they would likely cover her face. Psychologically, they wouldn't be able to stand looking at her face as she lay there dead.