LaVena Johnson: A Suicide or A Murder Cover-Up?

Posted: January 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

Due to double-digit black unemployment, the lack of permanent, living-wage-paying jobs, the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, and blatant racism in the job market, many young black people are turning to the military as an alternative, hoping to learn a skill and create some sort of financial future.

At the same time, there has been an increase of the number of ROTC programs (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps sponsored by the United States Armed Forces) in black high schools  across the United States, even while many black schools are closing their doors.

Joining the military seems to be the best alternative for a large number of black youth who do not want to wind up permanently unemployed, working in slave-wage temporary jobs, or rotting away in the prison-industial-complex.


That being said, I thought it was super-important to reblog Abagond’s post on LaVena Johnson to give young black males AND females–who are considering a career in the military–some LIFE-SAVING food for thought.

If you’ve ever consider sharing anything I’ve posted, this is the one post you should share with as many young people, neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, parents, and grandparents, as possible.

LaVena Johnson   (Reblogged from Abagond’s Blog)


LaVena Johnson (1985-2005), an American soldier, was the first female soldier from Missouri to die in the Iraq War. The Army called it suicide. Her parents say she was beat up, raped, shot in the head and then dragged to a storage tent that was set on fire to destroy the evidence.

There are at least 13 other such “suicides”.

LaVena Johnson was an honour student. She played violin. She lived in suburban St Louis, her father a doctor. By all accounts she was a happy soul. Her parents had hoped she would go to university. Instead, deeply affected by 9/11, she joined the Army, like her father and grandfather before her.

In May 2005 the Army sent her to Iraq.

On July 17th she talked to her mother by telephone. She seemed in good spirits. She talked about coming home for Christmas: “Don’t decorate the tree without me.”

On July 19th a soldier with a black book knocked on her parents’s door. He regretfully informed them of their daughter’s death. Her 20th birthday became her wake.

The Army says her boyfriend of two months sent an email from his home in Kentucky to break up with her. She printed out the emails and set them and the tent on fire. She shot herself in the head with her M-16.

Her father did not believe it. At her height (5 foot or 1.52m) an M-16 would have blown off her head.

The Army sent him its autopsy report with xeroxed black-and-white pictures. It said she had a busted lip, broken teeth, scratch marks on her neck, chemical burns to her genitals but no serious injuries apart from the gunshot.

The gunshot was on the left side of her head. LaVena Johnson was right-handed.

The pictures seemed airbrushed. Her father noticed they came from a CD-ROM. The Army said he had no right to it. He was able to get it under the Freedom of Information Act.

The CD-ROM had the original colour pictures:

  • She had been struck in the face with a blunt instrument.
  • Her nose was broken, her teeth knocked back.
  • The upper part of her body had bruises, scratches and teeth marks.
  • A flammable liquid had been poured on her back and right hand and set on fire.
  • Lye was coming out of her vagina, meaning she had been raped (lye destroys DNA evidence).
  • Her body had been dragged.

The tent she was found in belonged to KBR, a military contractor, a spin-off of Vice President Dick Cheney’s Halliburton.

CBS News paid for a second autopsy. Her body was taken from the grave. Parts of her tongue, vagina and anus were missing. Her neck was broken. All things the Army did not report in its autopsy.

Neither CBS nor ABC reported the story, despite spending thousands on it. Essence magazine printed a watered-down account. All three make money from Army ads. For Essence those ads are make-or-break – and are aimed at black women.

The Army says the case is closed.


Warning: Study says 1 in 3 Women RAPED in the Military

Source: American Journal of Industrial Medicine

The view of women as sexual prey rather than as responsible adults has always been part of military culture. Women today are indispensable to the military. Nevertheless, one woman soldier observed: “There are only three things the guys let you be if you’re a girl in the military – a bitch, a ho, or a dyke.”

Not all military men see women soldiers this way, but too many do. The hostility is shown by undermining women’s authority, denying promotions, denigrating their work, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.


  • A 2004 study of women veterans from Vietnam and all wars since, who were seeking help for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), found that 71% said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving.
  • The VA study (referenced in the title above) was funded by the Army Medical Research Department and found that 30% of women veterans said they were raped while serving. That is almost one in three.
  • Thirty seven percent of the attempted raped and raped women in the VA study also reported being raped more than once and 14% of them reported being gang raped. This study also discovered that 75% of raped women in the military failed to report it.

Although this is an epidemic, it is not being treated as one.

An Epidemic of Male-on-Male Rape in the US Military

The Pentagon estimates that last year 13,900 of the 1.2 million men on active duty endured sexual assault while 12,100 of the 203,000 women in uniform experienced the same crime — or 38 men per day versus 33 women per day. Yet the Defense Department also acknowledges “male survivors report at much lower rates than female survivors.”

The Washington Times reported “The Defense Department estimates 19,000 sexual assaults occur each year, but only 17 percent are ever reported. In 2010 … 8,600 victims [who reported were female, an incredible 4 percent of the women in the military that year], and 10,700 victims were male, reported the Service Woman’s Action Network.”

(In other words we have no idea how many males and females are being raped who either do not report it or are “silenced” the way LaVena Johnson was silenced).

In its latest report on sexual assault, the Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, 53 percent involved attacks on men, mostly by other men.

Though women, who represent about 15 percent of the force, are significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted in the military than men, experts say assaults against men have been vastly under-reported.



  1. Adeen says:

    This is so sad what happened to LaVena Johnson. I am a young, Black woman and I haven’t yet tried to join the military. I do feel uncomfortable going into the job market in this bad economy and the rampant racism in this country.

    However I don’t see going into the military as an alternate for me because I am not interested in going into the military.

    Anyways I am glad I found this blog site and I find it well written and informative

  2. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t know how to react to stories anymore. I think maybe I’ve become so desensitized until the human part of me has retreated in order to preserve itself. More military members died by suicide than on in war-is that really true?

    This lady is was murder after being raped, but you can almost bet and family will never see justice. Much like a murdering cop getting a paid vacation for murdering a child then skating off into the sunset to murder again. This government is completely out of control and no one seems to be able grab the reins. We have a semi-Black president who will go down in history as an enabler to his own semi-people’s continued oppression.

    • TrojanPam says:

      @ hunglikejesus

      I hear you and understand. A lot of us have become numb to the endless mistreatment and suffering of our people. It’s a coping mechanism so we won’t be paralyzed by despair and rage.

      I posted this ONLY because there are so many young black people who are thinking or planning on going into the military and I believe this is need to know information before they make that decision.

    • Star child says:

      Why do we as Black people think that the Military is a way out of the carnage of the ghetto or a way out from college to make money for college. White America does not, will not, and has never cared about black people. When 911 happened in NYC, an act that was orquestrated by the US govt, where was it written that black people should fight this so called crime by enlisting in the army!! There has been terrorist since 1492. The first terrorist was Christopher Columbus and many followed that were from the white race!! The KKK are terrorist!! The US military are terrorist as well. Do you recall the slaughter of Native Americans in this country? Does anybody who is black recall SLAVERY or the Civil Rights Movement. When has the white mans war become our agenda. When has anything that white people do become a part of us!!! We are Black people who should not think about joining any military force of the United States of America. Some people say we should fight for our country. Oh really, our country!! Is this really our country? My ancestors were stolen from Africa and shipped to the island of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, my skin is dark like my ancestors. My grandparents on my paternal side and maternal side came to NYC in 1930. My mother and father were born and raised in NYC!! I was born in NYC. My cousin died in the World Trade bombing and you don’t see me running to join any damn military cause this is not my country!! I was born in America but I am not of America. Know your history and you will know who you are and where you are from. America doesn’t care about black people. We are expendable and nothing but cattle. Both female and males who are black in this country called America are being annihilated every day. Whether its drugs, murder, rape, imprisonment or lack of (education, food, homes or jobs). This annihilation is done on purpose!! why would anybody who is black fight in their racist military force!!! Terrorism isn’t new!! White people wrote the book on terrorism!! And as Malcolm X stated The Roosters are Coming Home to Roost meaning that America is getting what they deserve. Muslims are the new black people that the USA wants to pick on but these people are fighting back just like we did. However, under the leadership of Martin Luther King our fight was peaceful but Muslims are not playing that. They believe what Malcolm X stated, “BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY” and don’t be confused at all!! America has waged war with the Muslim for their OIL!!! Black people need to think about who they are and what they are!! We are not white and should not fight a war away from the USA when there is a war happening right in the USA against BLACK PEOPLE!!! Wake up!! That’s what they want -for us to be oblivious to the real truth!! Wake up!!!

      • Star Child hit that nail perfectly and squarely on it’s head. People of color, especially “black” people were used on front lines of a Vietnam war. Even though there were more white soldiers then black soldiers, a disproportionate amount of blacks died in that war.

        Also, you had millions of other people of color, labeled Vietnamese, that perished as well. I am on that same page that the white supremacist United States military is the largest terrorist cell on the planet. Those events of September 11, 2001 were a white supremacist false flag inside job from my perspective. Look at how much murder and death has transpired with people of color since 911.

        I will never defend the United States military, as I think it is painfully obvious it is used by the white supremacist terrorists, to continue what I call their system of white terrorism. American military are notoriously corrupt and many times provide inadaquete care if not fail to provide any care to veterans. What makes you think that white people that run the United States military care about people of color?

        I’ve never felt an urge to join the American military to get my head blown off, I mean to fight for some alleged war. I certainly never had aspirations of fighting to defend America either. I too am NOT an American.

        I refuse to endorse, support, assist, etc. a white colonies terrorist organization. If you have studied the United States military since World War I, look at how many people of color world wide have been raped, sodomized, robbed, pillaged, tortured, detained, imprisoned, murdered, etc. I too see no distinction between the current United States military and the same white supremacist military that was used to kill off most of indigenous population, other wise known as people of color.

        Then the white terrorists, including Cristobal Colon aka Christopher Columbus, as you well know forced millions of Africans agains their will and perpetrated same atrocities towards them. Military organizations teach you to follow orders and train you on how to legally murder people. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lavena Johnson was raped and then murdered by another soldier.

      • TrojanPam says:

        @ Star child

        I agree.

  3. […] LaVena Johnson: A Suicide or A Murder Cover-Up? | Racism Is White Supremacy. […]

  4. mstoogood4yall says:

    Her murder is not surprising to me sadly I know her family will not get justice, they have no suspects or witnesses and if they do have witnesses I bet they are scared and will be silenced. I do not think black people should join the army but there are other branches where u are less likely to go to war zones. The only war black people should’ve fought in was the civil war other than that those other wars don’t have anything to do with us. they sleep in a tent, don’t get visits, have to serve any where from a couple of months to years at a time. then they have to deal with other soldiers suffering from ptsd and maybe killing them, then they have to deal with sexual assault. then some soldiers have gone over there and raped the local women and killed civilians . it is disgusting all the way around.

    • TrojanPam says:

      @ mstoogood4yall

      yes, it is disgusting.

      I work with several black females who were in the military and nearly all of them have some sort of medical or emotional issues. I learned recently that most had been sexually assaulted WHILE in the military, and one had a child as a result of a rape.

      Yet, these women are expected to “carry on” as though nothing happened to them, and most try but some fail. And then we look at some troubled sisters and write them off, not knowing their story or what may have made them that way.

      It is time for the stories of black females TO BE TOLD, and to DROP this “superwoman” stuff that sets us up to be taken advantage of, and be used like mules by all around us.

      I am planning a “Black Female Boot Camp” either in late winter or early spring that will focus on the issues black females face.

      We can’t take good care of anyone else, until we start taking good care of ourselves.

  5. Taufeeq says:

    I remember this incident quite well. In fact, it was championed abit by a radio host, Coz Carson (who at the time was working for, a fledging black owned internet based talk radio station). As I recall he tried to solict congressional support leveraging contacts he had from his days working for former Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney. Unfortunately, he ran into a brick wall and nobody they family turned to seemed to care enough to really press the issue.

    There was clearly a major attempt to cover up the truth behind this crime. And yes I do consider it a crime for even a laymen can take one look at the evidence in this case and determine that trying to call this a suicide is far-fetched. The flimsy explainations from the military in this case simply dont align with the evidience not matter how much they try to doctor photos or arrange the scene. As I recall the incident also involved military contractors and occurred at a period when abuses by these contractors were beginning to cause a stir in major media circles. Clearly the military and their compatriots had motive for wanting to hush up this situation and generally keep the noise down.

    In the wake of LaVena’s death, things have arguably gotten worse for women in the military both on and off shore.

    • TrojanPam says:

      @ Taufeeq

      Unfortunately, suspect you’re right.

      One thing that troubles me is what will be the fate of females if they are captured by the “enemy” during combat? I think it’s easy to guess what will happen to them.

      I suspect most female soldiers have not given this enough serious consideration

  6. Timothy says:

    First and foremost, RIP to Sister LaVena Johnson. I will share this information everywhere and to many friends too. I did not want to make a rushed response, so I took my time to read the article and the great comments in this forum. I had to meditate and think so to speak. Yes, a Brother will meditate at times. A Brother has to do what a Brother has to do. LOL. This article is not pleasant, but it has to be shown. Many thoughts are in my mind about this situation. It shows that the military industrial complex is one extension of the system of white supremacy (since the military industrial complex has been used for a long time to DOMINATE PEOPLE OF COLOR IN AN IMMORAL WAY VIA IMPERIALISM & BLATANT ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION OF THE RESOURCES OF HUMAN BEINGS OF COLOR. The way that the system treats soldiers with no respect is how they treat us who aren’t soldiers too). You will notice that they or the white supremacist elite treat the soldiers less than human while they hypocritically praise the soldiers. The dignity of the BLACK WOMAN has never been respected in this system and the story of Sister LaVena Johnson proves it.


    Any rape is immoral and it is a crime against Nature. The family of the Sister is in her corner by doing all that they can to bring about justice. The dignity of HUMAN LIFE ought to be respected. The circumstances that we see in the black community have been caused by design as you Sister Trojan Pam have proven eloquently (After the War on Drugs, the bad trade deals, the anti-civil liberty laws, the low wage jobs, the costly education system, etc., we witness more problems in our communities. All of these things benefit the 1 percent and their privileged lifestyle not the MASSES OF BLACK PEOPLE). We should learn about such stories since these are our people. We care for our community. LaVena Johnson deserves justice. We all respect you a great deal in bringing attention to this important issue.

    • TrojanPam says:

      @ Timothy

      I agree. A man can’t bash the place he came from AND at the same time claim to respect himself.

      I (can almost) guarantee that the most vicious black female bashers are suffering from a massive inferiority complex.

      That’s why I’m going to start addressing the plight of black females in a white supremacy system–an issue that has been largely ignored BY BLACK PEOPLE.

  7. Courtney H. says:

    @ everyone:

    Have you seen the documentary The Invisible War? It is about sexual harassment and rape against women (and men) in the US military. It aired on PBS either last year or in 2012. It is very interesting and really good.

  8. canc says:

    alert(“first comment”);

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