Friday, November 12, 2010

My position on the Purple Heart for Captain Phillip Esposito

There is a grassroots effort afoot that seeks to award the Purple Heart to my late husband, Army Captain Phillip T. Esposito, for his death by murder at the hands of Alberto Martinez. This effort seeks to expand the criteria for the Purple Heart to include the criminal killing of a member of the armed forces by a fellow service member. While ostensibly aimed at honoring the memory of my late husband, I believe that this effort confuses the concerns that surround Phillip's murder by introducing an unrelated side issue. I do not condone or support it.

The specific category that these advocates seek to create in their expanded criteria for the Purple Heart is that of an "unconventional enemy." Yet Alberto Martinez, the soldier who killed my husband, is not an "unconventional enemy;" he is a cold-blooded, premeditated murderer and he needs to be identified as such. Changing the Purple Heart from a mark of wounds and death from combat action with a foreign enemy to a mark of homicide does nothing to address who Martinez is and the conditions that he exploited in order to kill.

Lest we forget, my late husband's death was needless and preventable. Had soldiers in Phillip's unit enforced well-established principles of military discipline, Martinez's rage would have been checked long before his actions rose to murder. Further insult came when military leaders administered a defective court-martial, resulting in Martinez's acquittal. But for a trial where biased jurors were allowed to sit in judgment, where key evidence was excluded because of professional incompetence, and where a guilty plea was rejected by military commanders without so much as informing me of its existence, Alberto Martinez would be behind bars or facing lethal injection, rather than enjoying the life of freedom that he lives today.

None of these failures are corrected by awarding my late husband the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart is utterly meaningless in this context. What would I do with it? What would our young daughter do with it? Could the Purple Heart even begin to make up for all that we have been put though as a result of Phillip's savage murder and the unacceptable acquittal of his killer?

The answer is, of course, no. Even in the unlikely event that the criterion for receipt of the Purple Heart is expanded to include Phillip's murder, I would refuse the award. The leaders responsible for my husband's death and for the acquittal of his killer do not atone for their failures by awarding Phillip a posthumous medal. They atone for their errors by righting the wrongs that led to Phillip's murder and insuring that no other American family has to suffer as our daughter and I have.

The most serious failure of the Army is not that it failed to award my husband the Purple Heart, but that it allowed him to be murdered, failed to punish those responsible, and then failed to learn the needed lessons from this tragedy. I remain committed to correcting these injustices. I thank those who continue to stand with me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A letter to my husband on Veterans Day

Dear Phillip,

It is Veterans Day and I honor your incredible life. Madeline asks me if you knew that you would die when you went to Iraq. I reassure her that neither you nor your family could foresee that you would never come home. Alberto Martinez viciously took your life, but he couldn’t take your spirit. Just as Madeline’s picture was standing after the explosion, she continues to be the antithesis of everything wrong in this world. Madeline is a bubbly and vivacious seven-year-old with a bottomless supply of energy and enthusiasm for life. And in spite of the egregious injustice she has been forced to endure, I assure you that she will live, love and grow up to do amazing things and defy this evil. We have met an amazing man named Nick who supports and loves us. Nick and I will not let the world forget that justice has not been served. We are working to get the Army to address the problems that led to your murder and the acquittal of your killer while insulating Madeline from the battle. Please give us the strength and grace to carry out this mission.