When parents watch their sons and daughters go off to war, there’s always the very real possibility that they won’t come back again. The parents of Private First Class Hannah Gunterman McKinney experienced that pain firsthand, but the real agony came after her death.
On January 4, the Washington Post reported that when Pfc. McKinney died on September 4, 2006 at Camp Taji in Iraq, the Army told her parents, Barbie and Matt Heavrin that she died due to “injuries suffered when she was struck by a vehicle.” Her death was classified as a noncombatant injury, a term which typically refers to death from illness, suicide or training accidents.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Washington Post did obtain military documents that showed the death of Hannah Gunterman McKinney involved drinking, a sexual encounter, drunk driving and the court martial of a fellow officer who drove over her in a Humvee while intoxicated.
As shocking as the military cover-up of the McKinney case is, this isn’t the first time when the truth almost was buried with the victim:
Military Cover-Up No. 1: Specialist Richard Davis
The subject of both a Playboy article entitled “Death and Dishonor” and the recent movie “In the Valley of Elah,” Specialist Richard Davis disappeared days after returning home from serving his tour of duty in Iraq. His father, Lanny Davis of St. Charles, Missouri, received a call that his son had gone AWOL (Away Without Official Leave), but Davis thought there was more going on than the phone call indicated.
A former military police officer, the elder Davis launched his own investigation, which is recreated by Tommy Lee Jones during “In the Valley of Elah.” Portions of Richard Davis’ mangled and burned body eventually were found near a military base in Columbus, Georgia. What originally was reported as a solider going AWOL actually involved drinking, murder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Richard Davis and Hannah Gunterman McKinney case illustrate the fact that the Army tries too hard to deal with things internally and also turns a blind eye to the problems some soldiers experience after returning home from a war zone.
Source: CBSNews.com, “Duty, Death, Dishonor”
Military Cover-Up No. 2: Corporal Pat Tillman
A professional football player who walked away from millions of dollars to serve his country, Corporal Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004 during a firefight.
Though initial reports indicated that he was killed by enemy fire, Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger Jr. of the Army’s Special Operations Command said the following at a news conference at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. “While there was no one specific finding of fault, the investigation indicated that Cpl. Tillman probably died of friendly fire while his unit was in combat with enemy forces.”
TheNation.com website reports that it took the Pentagon five weeks to tell Pat Tillman’s family what really happened to him overseas, but other people still feel the truth about his death still hasn’t been told. The Internet is filled with stories and blogs that speculate that Pat Tillman was murdered.
Source: CNN.com, “Army finds Tillman probably killed by friendly fire.”
Military Cover-Up No. 3: The Rescue of Private Jessica Lynch
At first, the dramatic, real-life rescue of Private Jessica Lynch looked like the kind of thing that only a Hollywood writer could dream up. Later on, it turned out that Lynch’s rescue actually was more fiction than fact.
Captured by Iraqi soldiers, Pvt. Lynch was taken to a hospital where reports of a brutal interrogation by her captors appeared in the press, but that account appears to have been greatly exaggerated. Her rescue from the hospital also appears to have been influenced by the Pentagon watching too many Hollywood movies.
Source: BBC News, “Saving Private Lynch story ‘flawed’,” John Kampfner