dimarts, 3 de novembre de 2009

Your son is AWOL

"The red-and-yellow sign outside the Platinum Club advertises HOT WOMEN, COLD BEER. Inside are wall-to-wall mirrors, $3 drafts and two dancing poles, around which young women, some still in orthodontic braces, dance naked except for G-strings. This is the classiest strip club in Columbus, Georgia, home of the U.S. Army's Fort Benning, and it was here on the evening of July 14, 2003 that Richard Davis, Jacob Burgoyne and three fellow veterans of the Iraq war -- Mario Navarrete, Douglas Woodcoff and Alberto Martinez -- decided to celebrate. It was their second stop that evening, after burgers and many, many beers at a Hooters over on Adams Farm Road, on the day they were all together again after returning from Iraq.
Two months earlier these men of the third platoon of B Company had fought side by side in some of the bloodiest battles of Baghdad. Now they sat together, close to the center stage, talking to the strippers. Around midnight, after several more rounds of drinks, they became so rowdy and loud that the bouncer told them to leave. Typical soldier stuff, a waitress who was working that night recalled, just guys "shouting and being disruptive." They swigged the last of their beers and stumbled outside into a small parking lot behind a gas station and a Waffle House restaurant, and then, flush with alcohol in the warm Georgia evening, they began to argue.
Tempers flared over who was at fault for getting them kicked out of the club, according to two of the men. But the argument could have been about anything. These soldiers had fought among themselves with fists and knives in Kuwait, where they were stranded for two weeks in sweltering tents after two months of intense urban combat. That night Burgoyne, who was known to possess a vicious streak, went after Davis. Navarrete says he joined the fight.
What happened in the next hour may never be fully known, but this much is certain: All five soldiers piled into Martinez's car; the doors slammed, and they sped off into the summer night.
And then Richard Davis disappeared.

Staff Sergeant Lanny Davis, retired, a United States Army veteran, husband, father and proud owner of a tidy ranch home in serene St. Charles, Missouri, lives a life you could call squared away. The lawn is mowed, the white Chevy pickup in the driveway is spotless. In his speech Lanny is courteous in the slightly formal manner of a career military man. His hair is close-cropped, his loafers polished and his slacks pressed. At the age of 55 he keeps himself lean enough to get back into uniform if he's needed.
Up and down the block in this suburb of St. Louis, American flags fly outside the well-kept houses, and the sense of community is so strong that front doors are rarely locked. Behind such a door on the morning of July 16, 2003 Lanny spoke into the telephone and patiently corrected the caller: "Look, you're not -- you're not talking about my son."
"Yes, sir, Richard is AWOL," said the caller, an officer from Fort Benning.
"If anybody went AWOL, it wouldn't be my son," Lanny repeated. "My boy is pro-military."


Mark Boal, Playboy Magazine. Death and Dishonor.


(Note: On this report, published in 2004, was inspired the film In the valley of Elah)

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