Saturday, December 4, 2010

Unconventional Heroes

Two years ago today, a military court-martial acquitted Staff Sergeant Alberto B. Martinez of the double premeditated murder of my husband, Army Captain Phillip Esposito and First Lieutenant Louis Allen. After hearing evidence that placed Martinez at the scene of the crime, put the weapon that Martinez used in his hands, and showed how months of Martinez's threats and contempt culminated in Martinez's deliberate killing, this military jury nevertheless saw fit to absolve Martinez of his crimes. If the murder of my husband and Lieutenant Allen was vicious and senseless, the actions of the jury two years ago today only compounded that injury. I have often times heard of people who cry "no justice, no peace" as a threat. For me, such a cry is a sad fact of reality, for without justice, how can there ever be peace?

Alberto Martinez's brutality and cowardice was wicked and inexcusable. My husband and Lieutenant Allen were each men of moral stature and ability. Martinez murdered them for carrying out the obligations of their commissioning oaths; Martinez murdered them because Phillip and Louis accepted a solemn responsibility as officers and they chose to fulfill that responsibility.

Yet as much as Alberto Martinez squelched Phillip and Lou's lives, and as much as he escaped legal punishment for his crimes, his actions recoil upon him. Because of their unfailing devotion to the good, no matter the opposition, Phillip and Lou attained a unique grandeur, even as they were unable to achieve a practical victory over Martinez and his machinations, and even as the military justice system would betray them in falling to punish their killer. Phillip and Lou may not have died upon the battlefield, but their unconventional heroism speaks to me and others even in death. They remind me that there is such a thing as spiritual justice. It is my aim to help deliver it.

I shall soon be forming a justice advocacy institute that I will name in honor of my late husband. The Phillip T. Esposito Foundation for Justice will be dedicated to addressing the failures that led to my husband and Lieutenant Allen's murder, the acquittal of their killer, and the larger implication of these acts and failures upon our Armed Forces and system of justice. Phillip and Lou were horrifically failed—both in life and in death—and these failure reveal defects in our Armed Forces and system of justice too great to ignore.

At night, before she goes to sleep, our daughter often struggles with the reality of Phillip's death. She asks why she cannot see her father, and why he is unable to come back to hold her and love her as he would have had he lived. As her mother, our daughter's suffering is deeply painful to me.

And yet, our daughter and I have hope. The last word on my life will not be said by Alberto Martinez or the members of the jury that acquitted a murderer. Our daughter will thrive and be the living refutation of the evil loosed upon her father. And I will not be deterred in my pursuit of justice, or happiness.