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by Shaila Dewan
Monday, Nov. 06, 2006 at 5:40 PM
Hey don't be so negitive!!! Look at the Iraq war as a jobs program for Generals!!!! Of course we are forced to pay for it at gun point, and our kids are dying for it in Iraq and Afganistan
DAGSBORO, Del. - When Tricia and Gregg White were told by the Marines in 2004 that their son, Lance Cpl. Russell White, had been killed in Afghanistan in a gun-cleaning accident, their hearts went out to the Marine who had been holding the gun.
White's brother Adam memorized a prayer of forgiveness, the Whites said, and headed to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to visit the Marine, Lance Cpl. Federico Pimienta. The Whites had been told he was on a suicide watch.
"I immediately put myself in his parents' position, and I just couldn't imagine," Tricia White said. "We didn't want two people to die because of what we thought was an unfortunate accident."
But their outpouring of forgiveness came months before they learned that, whatever had happened, their son's death did not result from a gun-cleaning accident. It was before they learned that Pimienta had lied to investigators and that he had been repeatedly chastised for mishandling weapons. It was before he failed to appear at his court-martial, having fled to Europe.
And it was before persistent questioning, guided by intimations of a darker explanation from their son's platoon mates, enabled the Whites to piece together what had happened in the bunkhouse at Bagram Air Base on June 20, 2004, when White, 19, was killed by a single shot to the head.
What they learned did not, to their minds, add up to a simple accident. But it did leave them feeling alone, forsaken by military authorities, and incredulous at what they say was the incompetence of the initial investigation into White's death.
"I had lost faith in the entire system," Adam White said at Pimienta's June court-martial on unauthorized absence charges. "I figured we were never going to receive any justice."
The Marines say there was no attempt to mislead the Whites, and that the investigation and prosecution were appropriate.
More than a dozen families have publicly said they were misled or overtly lied to about the cause of their loved one's death in Afghanistan or Iraq. These families - about half from the Marines and half from the Army - said the military was slow to investigate or take possible violations seriously, or that the information they did receive was riddled with contradictions.
What should be the military's most careful duty, these families say, has for them been a painful ordeal.
The best known such case was in 2004, when Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former professional football player, died in what the Army first said was a heroic firefight. A month later, officials told the family that he had actually been accidentally shot by members of his own platoon. The Defense Department is now completing the fourth investigation of his death, this time examining the possibility that a cover-up followed.
But cases like Tillman's are not unheard of. A recent study by the Army shows that the families of seven soldiers were misled about their deaths.
The Whites said they had expected better treatment from the Marines, a smaller, select force that goes out of its way to welcome the families of recruits into the fold.
"They started out real good, and then they stopped - they stopped giving me information," said Gregg White, a construction contractor in Dagsboro. "The door kept shutting, and I was like, 'No, you're not going to slam the door on me.' "
Lt. Col. Curtis L. Hill, the chief spokesman for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, said in an e-mail message that there was no intent to provide inaccurate information to the Whites or to the medical examiner, who was also told the death resulted from a gun-cleaning accident.
After complaints from parents and publicity over the Tillman case, the Army recently revised its casualty notification procedure.
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