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.


Captain Morgan said...

Thorton & I shall continue to stand with you and support you.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

Dear Siobhan,

I know that you know that I support you and your choice here, but I want my support to be expressed openly. I have seen the tears you have shed over Phillip’s cowardly murder, the incredible love and effort you but into being a mother to Madeline, and your hunger and determination for justice. I have seen you stand undeterred in the face of extraordinary opposition—if not outright contempt. I have seen you pick yourself up when the world knocks you down. And I know, long-term, that you shall prevail.

I believe that the reasons animating your decision not to seek the Purple Heart for Phillip are sound. While poignant, here, the Purple Heart is a poor salve for the unpunished circumstances that led to Phillip’s murder and the acquittal of his murderer. Phillip’s death demands a more practical redress of the specific issues that led to his death and the acquittal of his killer. You are right in saying that this task cannot afford any distractions. From everything that you have shared with me about Phillip’s integrity and dedication to principle, I believe that were he alive today, your husband would agree with you.

I do not invoke the memory of the dead lightly. Phillip is not alive to share his thoughts and I do not presume to speak for him. At the same time, when I consider all that you have shared with me about your life with Phillip as his wife, I believe that you are supremely able to interpret his legacy for those of us who did not know him. I am proud of you for the effort and deliberation you put into the task. I often wonder, even in the face of all his love for you, if Phillip could have foreseen you as his great champion. If he hadn’t foreseen it, I wager he would be deeply proud of you. I know I am.

And as I see you continue to remain true to your love for Phillip, I must add that I am forever grateful for the love you have given me. It is surreal how you and I wound up here together, but here we are. I remain honored by the gift of yourself that you have given me.

I aim to live up to that gift and give you and Madeline as much in return.



Siobhan Esposito said...

Dear Jill and Thorton,

Thank you for your kind note. I am grateful to have your support.

Best Regards,