Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Just Gimme Some Truth

I don't know what happened here, but somebody does. It is absolutely imperative that we hold our leaders accountable.

From the Boston Globe"

The Massachusetts National Guard soldier from Quincy who died Friday in Afghanistan asked her relatives to press for answers if anything happened to her while she was deployed, according to her family.

"She did say to us that she had concerns about things she was seeing when she was over there," Ciara Durkin's sister, Fiona Canavan, said in an interview with WGBH-TV. "She told us if anything happened to her, that we were to investigate it."

Questions surrounding Durkin's death prompted US Senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy and US Representative William D. Delahunt yesterday to call for the Defense Department to thoroughly investigate the death of Durkin, a Quincy resident.

In a letter, Kerry urged Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "to deploy your staff on this matter immediately, so that the answers and circumstances around Specialist Durkin's death are uncovered, expeditiously and thoroughly."

Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat, said his staff met yesterday with Army officials to find out how Durkin died. Kennedy's office said he had spoken to Army Secretary Pete Geren yesterday to relay the family's concerns.

The Defense Department says it is investigating Durkin's death, which it described as a "non-combat-related incident." Durkin's family says Army officials have told them she was found with a single bullet in her head, lying near the church where she worshipped on the secure Bagram Airfield.

The Army has not publicly disclosed whether a weapon was found near her body.

The Massachusetts National Guard initially reported that Durkin was killed in action, though a Guard spokesman later said the term meant only that Durkin was serving in Afghanistan at the time.

"When confusing information comes in, which is contradictory, it raises the level of anxiety during a very difficult time," Kerry said in an interview yesterday. "It's very important to know what the facts are."

Canavan said yesterday that the family is trying to be patient as the Army investigates. An Army liaison has met with the family every day, Canavan said.

Yesterday, the military told the family that investigators have interviewed every member of Durkin's unit "all day, every day."

Canavan expressed gratitude to Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, saying, "We feel like somebody's got her back."

"It's just a matter of when are you going to let us know if somebody accidentally killed her or purposefully killed her," Canavan said. "We're not letting it go. . . . We're not for one minute accepting anything at face value."

Canavan said the family was wondering whether someone might have targeted Durkin because she was gay.

"Ciara was a lesbian, and that's bound to come out," Canavan said. "It is possible that someone over there found that out, and, you know, maybe they were very homophobic."

The Adjutant General of Massachusetts, Major General Joseph C. Carter, pledged his support for the family.

"It is my focus to support the family by seeking the answers they need regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of Specialist Durkin," Carter said in a written statement. "Along with the Durkin family, we are anxious for answers and are anticipating the conclusion of the investigation."

Durkin, the eighth of nine siblings, was born in Ireland and moved to Massachusetts at age 9. After working in information technology for a healthcare company, she enlisted in the Guard two years ago.

Her family says she admired military discipline and wanted to serve her country.

Kerry said the Durkin family desperately needs answers to three questions:

Why has the Army not responded to the Durkin family's request for an independent autopsy?

Why, after not responding to the family's request for an independent autopsy, did the Army fail to contact the Durkin family with the Army's autopsy results? The family was told to be available to receive a phone call between 1 and 3 p.m. on Oct. 1, and the Army never called.

Why has the Army refused to make Durkin's will and paperwork available to her family, so they can respect her wishes as they plan her funeral and burial?

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Withington, a Defense Department spokesman, said yesterday that Gates had not received Kerry's letter but that the Pentagon would respond.

"We do feel there's a great lack of information but we're trying to be patient with them," Canavan said of the military. "They keep telling us they're taking time so they get it right."

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