Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Army Public Affairs strikes again

In the face of the claims made by members of the Martinez court-martial alleging that a senior member of the panel used her rank to prematurely squelch deliberations before their proper conclusion, and that as an ostensive time-saving measure, the panel did not vote on the specifications of the charge concerning the murder of 1st Lieutenant Allen, the Army could respond in a number of ways.

The Army could keep a proper silence, refusing to comment on the matter until it possesses all of the relevant facts. The Army could conduct a formal investigation to determine the truth behind these allegations. The Army could seek Mrs. Allen and me out, if only to have us formally submit our claims.

Instead, we have Army Public Affairs spokesman Lt. Col. Laurel Devine. According to a report filed by Times Union reporter Robert Gavin:
When reached Monday, a Pentagon-based Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Laurel Devine, would only say, "We stand behind the jury's decision."
We stand behind the jury's decision—to acquit Staff Sergeant Martinez, the government's only suspect in the murder of my late husband and 1st Lieutenant Allen. We stand behind the jury's decision—even in the face of these serious and life-altering allegations of jury misconduct. We stand behind the jury's decision—without so much as a cursory inquiry into the allegations that have been made by the widows of the victims.

I have heard this song before. When I opposed former 42nd Infantry Division commander Major General Joseph Taluto's nomination to serve as director of the National Guard in 2009 on the grounds that I believe that General Taluto failed to enforce well-established and broad-based principles of military discipline and ensure that these principles were enforced throughout his division, I was met with Army Public Affairs spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Durr. Answering me in a media interview, Lt. Col. Durr attempted to downplay the seriousness of the hundreds of vicious death threats and other gestures of contempt that court witnesses testified Staff Sergeant Martinez uttered against my late husband. According to Lt. Col. Durr:
"I would just submit that if you took the instance where everybody said "I hate that S.O.B." or "I'm going to take care of him" in a moment of anger in any organization, in hindsight it all seems wonderfully clear, but as we go through our day-to-day life it is never that crystal clear."
My answer then to Lt. Col. Durr was that Article 89 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not have a "wonderfully clear" clause that absolves a soldier of his obligation to enforce the law prohibiting death threats against a superior commissioned officer in moments of alleged ambiguity.

My answer today to Lt. Col. Devine is that she has just made it clear why the Army cannot be trusted to properly investigate the allegations of jury misconduct in the Martinez court martial. Barbara Allen and I echo a report of unlawful command influence and other misconduct in the jury room—and Lt. Col. Devine has indicated the Army's stance in the face of it. "We stand behind the jury's decision."

The Army can stand behind the Martinez jury and its decision all it wants. I want accountability, fair play, and justice, and I will not rest until I have it, for Phillip, for our daughter Madeline, for Phillip's parents and family, and for myself.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Albany Times Union: Army widows: Martinez jury tainted

In this article released today, reporter Robert Gavin of the Albany Times Union examines the recent allegations of juror misconduct in the trial of the soldier who murdered my late husband Phillip and First Lieutenant Louis Allen.

Here is a key quote from Barbara Allen, the widow of First Lieutenant Allen:
"Not only does this news emotionally shock me, but legally, it is a disgraceful breach of protocol," Allen, 40, the mother of the lieutenant's four sons, ages 9 to 13, told the Times Union from her home in Orange County. Allen said she has learned from jurors that the high-ranked juror told lower-ranking jurors to "shut up" if they wanted to continue deliberating.
Read the full report here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Journal News: 'Soldier's widow challenges Army, jury's acquittal'

Today, the Journal News published reporter Hema Easley's story covering my allegation of misconduct in the court-martial of Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez.

Here is a short excerpt from Easley's report:
"Now, seven years after her husband, Capt. Phillip Esposito of Suffern, was killed, and nearly four years after a military jury found the staff sergeant charged with murdering her husband not guilty, Siobhan Esposito will be asking the Army to investigate concerns that the acquittal was the result of deliberate misconduct in the jury room."
Read the whole report here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Address of Siobhan Esposito before the Graduates of the United States Military Academy Class of 1997

Note: Yesterday, I spoke at the fifteen-year reunion of the US Military Academy Class of 1997. Below is the text of my address.  

I thank the Class of 1997 for providing me this opportunity to address its members—the classmates of my late husband Captain Phillip Esposito.

In the fifteen years since the members of the Class of 1997 threw up their hats in celebration of their graduation from the Military Academy, eleven members of its ranks have died.

The largest number died in armed combat with a foreign enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan. A smaller number died from accidents or disease. One member of your class, my husband Phillip, was murdered by a subordinate soldier while deployed in Iraq. Phillip's death and its consequences—for you and the institution both you and Phillip served—are what I shall speak about today. In the interest of time, I will speak in broad essentials.

I am told that the depth and intensity of the West Point experience reveals a person’s character for all to see. If a person is deceitful or lazy, they will not be able to hide it for long, but if a person is moral and true, their virtue will propel them to positions of great trust and authority. My husband Phillip was honest, hardworking, and just, and his virtue propelled him to the responsibility of commissioned leadership in the Army and the National Guard. Yet it is the sad truth of Phillip's life that his virtue was not met in kind by the Army in which he served.

Phillip's virtue was not met in kind when Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, a subordinate under Phillip's command, made literally hundreds of death threats and gestures of contempt against Phillip in the year leading to Phillip's death. These threats, observed by both officers and enlisted soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division and known throughout the chain of command, were left unchallenged and unpunished under Article 89 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which proscribes disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer.

Phillip's virtue was not met in kind when, on the night of June 7, 2005, in the darkness of an Iraqi sandstorm, Staff Sergeant Martinez acted upon his rage and placed a claymore anti-personnel landmine in the window of Phillip's command post and then detonated it, murdering both Phillip and Martinez's replacement, 1st Lieutenant Louis Allen.

Phillip's virtue was not met in kind when military investigators arrested and interrogated Staff Sergeant Martinez absent probable cause as demanded by the Fourth Amendment, leading the trial judge to exclude Staff Sergeant Martinez's statement from the evidence presented at Martinez's court-martial.

Phillip's virtue was not met in kind when, despite overwhelming evidence that placed Staff Sergeant Martinez at the scene of the crime, linked him to the weapon used, and established Martinez's murderous hatred against Phillip for attempting to relieve Martinez for cause, Staff Sergeant Martinez was nonetheless acquitted by a court-martial of any responsibility for Phillip's and 1st Lieutenant Allen's slaying.

As the ultimate finders of fact, a jury enjoys great deference in both our system of government and our society—so great in fact that I have observed that the typical response to the acquittal of Staff Sergeant Martinez is for observers to conclude that there must have been something missing from the evidence presented at Martinez's court-martial to justify the jury's verdict. These observers are half right; there was something missing, but it was not evidence necessary to prove Martinez's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unlike a civilian jury, where jurors are randomly selected to sit in judgment, in the armed forces, the members of a court-martial are selected by the commanding general convening the trial. Here, Article 25 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice governs the convening authority's discretion in selecting panel members. Article 25 states that the convening authority shall choose members who are "in his opinion, [b]est qualified for the duty by reason of age, education, training, experience, length of service, and judicial temperament."

Let me focus upon the last qualification noted in Article 25: a "judicial temperament." To give justice is to give a person what they deserve. Accordingly, a judicial temperament must be a disposition to give a person—any person—what they deserve.

But to give a person what they deserve presupposes a standard of value—a standard of determining just what it is that a person deserves.

For a member of the armed forces, this standard of value is determined by one's oath of enlistment—one's solemn promise of what they will do as a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine. Upon taking the oath of enlistment, a service member pledges to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [to] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [to] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over [them], according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

The oath of enlistment has a serious moral and legal meaning—it defines both the purpose of one's enlistment and the legal code that will animate one's service. To swear to it means that one freely subordinates themselves in support of our American form of government, the laws enacted by Congress that govern the armed forces, and the leaders selected by the commander-in-chief to lead the armed forces. I doubt I have to remind this audience that men and women have accepted death rather than disgrace that oath.

Thus, in this context—that a service member freely subordinates him or herself to the Constitution and our laws that he has pledged his life to defend—let me ask you the following:

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a service member who states that anyone convicted of murder should automatically be executed, regardless of the law?

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a service member who says that military investigators routinely lie and cheat in order to secure convictions?

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a service member who says that only God can take a life, and therefore that they would refuse to impose a sentence of death even upon a person guilty of premeditated murder?

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a service member who says on one hand that they oppose the death penalty regardless of the facts and the law, but on the other hand, that they would consider imposing the death penalty because quote "anything can happen"?

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a married couple sitting in judgment, knowing that a jury must not begin their deliberations until the end of a case, and knowing that most married partners communicate and are able to sway one another without uttering so much as a single word?

I say "no." I say that these examples indicate a temperament that is anything but judicial. Nevertheless, soldiers holding these views were nominated by the convening authority to sit in judgment of Staff Sergeant Martinez. Of the individuals depicted here, all but one came to serve on the panel that voted to acquit Martinez. Only the member who indicated his inelastic desire to put convicted murderers to death, regardless of the law, was excluded by the military judge from serving on the panel.

And let me be absolutely clear: even a person accused of a cruel and heinous crime, even Staff Sergeant Martinez, a man for whom I feel nothing but contempt, deserves a fair and impartial trial. That was Phillip's moral code, and it is my moral code as well. Accordingly, I agree that the exclusion of the one juror was just and appropriate, but I hold that the military judge’s failure to exclude the others was egregiously unjust and highly inappropriate.

You may be asking yourself why then did the military judge exclude the one, but not the others. The straightforward answer is that the law allows it. Because the convening authority is given the power to personally select panel members, military judges are required to liberally grant defense challenges to strike a juror for cause, but military judges are not required to liberally grant similar prosecution challenges. In fact, in the 2005 case United States v. James, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces explicitly held that "[g]iven the convening authority's broad power to appoint [panel members], there is no basis for application of the "liberal grant" policy when a military judge is ruling on the government's challenges for cause."

And thus for the last four years since Staff Sergeant Martinez was acquitted by court-martial, I have lived with the knowledge that the number of soldiers required to acquit Martinez were not objective—that these panel members were not animated by a soldier's true faith and allegiance to our constitution and our laws, but instead were animated by their own private whims and caprice. I have lived with the added knowledge that military law permitted it.

And this knowledge is vicious and cruel enough. But I have recently learned of allegations that I consider even more sinister and damning, and which, if true, impugns the integrity of the entire military criminal justice system.

I have recently been informed that a juror who sat in judgment of Staff Sergeant Martinez has privately alleged that a senior member of the panel used her rank to prematurely squelch deliberations before their proper conclusion, and that two jurors have privately alleged that as an ostensive time-saving measure, the panel did not vote on the specifications of the charge concerning the murder of 1st Lieutenant Allen. Specifically, I have been informed that the acquittal of Staff Sergeant Martinez is the product of the unlawful command influence of this senior panel member, and that the panel did not scrupulously follow the instructions of the military judge as it tallied the votes for its verdict.

The case of United States v. Accordino, decided in 1985 by the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, closely parallels the allegations made by the panel member in the Martinez court-martial. In the Accordino case, a sergeant in the Air Force was convicted by court-martial of the wrongful use of cocaine and marijuana and she appealed. The Court of Military Appeals held that the affidavits of two court members alleging that the board president had cut short the discussion on the findings could be considered to impeach the sergeant's conviction on the basis of unlawful command influence. In the face of this allegation, the court set aside the sergeant's conviction and returned the case for a new trial.

There is no opportunity for any new hearing in the case of my murdered husband; there will be no new trial as the Fifth Amendment's protection against double jeopardy does not permit retrials even in the face of this kind of misconduct. But here, I think that the legal test for unlawful command influence is instructive. Unlawful command influence exists when "a reasonable member of the public, if aware of all of the facts, would have a loss of confidence in the military justice system and believe it to be unfair."

I have lost all confidence in the military justice system. I believe it to be unfair. You will have to make up your own mind as to whether I am reasonable or not.

Under the principle of full disclosure, I must inform you that the military justice establishment largely disagrees with me. For example, in 1999, the Joint Service Committee on Military Justice examined how the Armed Forces convene their courts-martial. The Committee concluded in its report to Congress that current practice "ensures fair panels of court-martial members who are best qualified" and that there is "no evidence of systemic unfairness or unlawful command influence." Yet in a 2011 editorial on the application of the military death penalty, the New York Times observed that "eight out of 10 [military] death sentences have been overturned, compared with a reversal rate of 3 to 8 percent in military non-capital cases."

So on one hand, we have a claim of no evidence of systemic unfairness in the military, and yet on the other hand, we have a claim that says 80% of the death sentences handed out by courts-martial are subsequently overturned upon appeal. I respectfully submit to you that when prosecuting capital murder, the military justice system is systemically broken.

The question for you is how many failures you need to see before you believe it— and how many failures you need to see before you demand action.

And in a larger sense, you cannot tell me that the victims of the Ft. Hood massacre in 2009 would have been murdered all the same if the Army had learned the needed lessons from Phillip's death.

At Ft. Hood, the stage for murder was set by a mind-numbing political correctness that failed to hold a killer to account for his avowed sympathy for the enemy's cause. In the case of Phillip's death, the stage for murder was set by a mind-numbing clique of poor performers who favored coddling an inept supply sergeant who nevertheless was their "buddy" over upholding the Army's own principles and defending the life of their commander.

The great American statesman Daniel Webster once observed that “every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man's life.” The English poet W. H. Auden found that "murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest." And rejecting the moral status quo that dominates our age, the philosopher Ayn Rand observed that "today's mawkish concern with and compassion for the feeble, the flawed, the suffering, the guilty, is a cover for the profound [h]atred of the innocent, the strong, the able, the successful, the virtuous, the confident, the happy."

My husband Phillip—your classmate—was innocent, strong, able, successful, virtuous, confident, and happy. I loved Phillip for it, yet Phillip's killer murdered Phillip for these virtues because they embodied everything that the killer was not.

The wrongful acquittal of this murderer recoils upon the Army, and the Army's failure to learn the larger cultural lessons of this tragedy continues to put soldiers' lives at risk. Yet I am here to tell you that the Army has not learned the necessary lessons from the tragedy of Phillip's death.

For example, in 2009, Phillip's division commander, Major General Joseph Taluto, was nominated to receive his third star and serve as director of the National Guard. I publicly opposed General Taluto’s nomination on the grounds that I believe that General Taluto failed to enforce well-established and broad-based principles of military discipline and ensure that these principles were enforced throughout his division. I believe that General Taluto's failure here set the stage for Phillip's murder—even if Taluto was never personally aware of the problems in Phillip's company.

I was met with a rather despicable answer from the general in reply to my argument. In a news interview, General Taluto's PR spokesman tried to downplay the gravity of Staff Sergeant Martinez's threats against Phillip's life, claiming that quote "[he] would just submit that if you took the instance where everybody said "I hate that S.O.B." or "I'm going to take care of him" in a moment of anger in any organization, in hindsight it all seems wonderfully clear, but as we go through our day-to-day life it is never that crystal clear." 

Perhaps it's just me. But I think that when an enlisted soldier speaks of his commander by saying that he "hate[s] that motherfucker" and that he's "going to frag that motherfucker," and he greets other soldiers with the daily greeting of "fucking frag him" as Staff Sergeant Martinez did according to the eyewitness testimony of over twenty witnesses, the soldier has made his contempt plain.

Yet in any case, Article 89 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not have a "wonderfully clear" clause that absolves soldiers of their duty to enforce the law in moments of alleged ambiguity. That the soldiers and officers of Phillip's division felt differently to the point that Phillip could receive hundreds of threats against his life and yet no one would act to uphold the law reveals a systemic lack of discipline that indicts the entire chain of command.

I am glad to report to you that General Taluto did not receive his promotion. General Taluto decided to withdraw his nomination two weeks after the Army's preliminary report on the Ft. Hood massacre, and lest my concerns about him become a "distraction" for the Army. But in falling on his sword for the alleged sake of the Army, General Taluto managed to moot the larger investigation that my opposition into his nomination engendered.

We must not let this be the end of Phillip's story. Phillip's murder demands atonement—for his sake, for the sake of our daughter Madeline, who was never afforded the opportunity to know her father, for the sake of Phillip's parents, who lovingly raised a son only to see him struck down with unpunished cruelty, and for the sake of the Army that Phillip loved and served with all his devotion.

Lou Allen's death also deserves atonement. Here was a man who also loved the Army and who also served it with all his devotion. My husband brought Lou over to Iraq because Lou was a man with integrity who knew how to lead soldiers and fix problems. Lou answered Phillip's call to help him rebuild a broken unit to insure that it was ready for the rigors of combat, and Lou was also murdered for his virtues. It sickens me that the jurors tasked with determining Staff Sergeant Martinez's guilt or innocence were so indifferent to the value of Lou's life that they did not have the common decency to properly vote on the charges that related to Lou. What a slap in the face to Lou's wife and their four sons that for the members of this jury, the dignity of Lou's life wasn't even worth the few short hours it would have taken them to conduct a proper vote in accordance with the military judge's instructions. What a disgrace to the uniform that Phillip and Lou now wear forever in their graves.

I am here before you today to issue a call to action. There must be a proper accounting, or even more lives will be destroyed, and our system of justice will come into even more disrepute.

I call upon the Army to fully investigate the allegation of unlawful command influence in the jury-room of the Martinez court-martial that I allege here today. The jurors who made these allegations need to come forward and swear to all that they have alleged—there is no room for any more cowardice. I call upon the Army to finally acknowledge that Phillip's and Lieutenant Allen's murder was, in part, the product of a faulty culture of defective leadership and broken accountability, and thus recommit itself to its own standards of military discipline. And I call upon the Army to address the defects in its justice system that allowed a killer to go free, and that delivers far less than the full degree of justice that lies within human grasp.

And I call upon you, Phillip's classmates, to stand with me in this fight. I have created a foundation in Phillip's memory that seeks to advance the cause of criminal justice. You can pledge your support and offer your leadership to this foundation today. I also seek to build a fitting and poetic artistic monument to Phillip's life here at the campus of West Point, so that future Army officers can find inspiration in the man Phillip was, and resolve never to surrender the cause of justice as it was surrendered with Phillip's death. You can pledge your support to this effort as well.

But most importantly, you, as individuals, and as a class of Phillip's brothers and sisters in arms, can join me in my call for full and complete accountability.

Please know this: I will take no backward steps. I will fight upon these lines for as long as it takes. I know that many of you have endured great trials in your service to our nation, and as I noted in the beginning of my address, I know that some of your classmates have given the last, full measure of their devotion in faithful service to America and the principles for which America stands. I say to you that my struggle in the face of Phillip's needless and preventable murder and the incomprehensible acquittal of Phillip's murderer is part and parcel of the same struggle. But I need your help.

I thank the Class of 1997 for providing me this opportunity to speak. It needed to be said, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to finally say it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A note to my friends and supporters on the recent actions of Ray Ortega

It has come to my understanding that a Mr. Ray Ortega, a former defense investigator for the government’s suspect in the murder of my late husband, Captain Phillip Esposito, has created a website to solicit funds for his private investigation of my husband’s murder and the murder of 1st Lieutenant Louis Allen.  I do not condone this website and I encourage you not to visit or support it.

In this website, styled "," Ortega claims that he has developed his own theory on who murdered my late husband and 1st Lieutenant Allen and that he seeks monetary support to continue his private investigation.

In the past, Ortega has contacted me privately to secure my financial assistance for his endeavors. He presented me with no evidence beyond his mere assertions, yet he sought for me to underwrite his investigation.

It goes without saying that I flatly rejected Ortega’s request.  I told Ortega that if he possesses evidence that implicates another suspect in the murder of my husband and 1st Lieutenant Allen, he should turn it over to government prosecutors immediately and worry about his reward later.

To my knowledge, Ortega did not act on my advice.

But by using my late husband’s name, my name, and by quoting me on his website, I am concerned that Ortega creates an impression that I somehow sanction his use of my husband’s name, my name, and his investigation of my husband’s death.

Unequivocally, I do not. In my opinion, neither should you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

'Insuring' the Status Quo at Gold Star Wives

As a candidate for the Board of Directors of Gold Star Wives of America, I expected at least some resistance to the ideas that I propose, if only because I see such a pressing need for the organization to step up its advocacy on behalf of surviving spouses. That said, I didn't expect this kind of opposition. On the Gold Star Wives Facebook page, Gold Star Wives national outreach chair Rachel Clinkscale publicly scolded me for my platform, writing:
"You should not be posting GSW information on this Facebook (sic), Social Networking sites is (sic) not covered under the organizations insurance, only the monitored internet site are (sic) covered."
The claim that a candidate for the board of directors of an organization should not speak openly about what they would do if elected because of so-called "insurance" reasons is such ridiculous folly, I won't bother to examine it; I'll only ask what it seeks to achieve. Clearly Ms. Clinkscale is threatened by new ideas to improve Gold Star Wives. Clearly Ms. Clinkscale seeks to squelch discussion of new ideas.

Yet new ideas and thoughtful discussion is exactly what Gold Star Wives needs if it is to achieve its mission of advancing the cause of surviving spouses.

Ms. Clinkscale continues:
[Y]ou have some very ambitious plans like taking over the Chairman of the Board and National President's positions.
The claim that a member of the board of directors of an organization usurps the positions of the Chairman and National President by declaring an agenda that they seek the organization to adopt is equally ridiculous folly. As a board member, I would have only one vote with which to advance any proposal. Thus any proposal, be it mine, or anyone else's, will require the support of board members. Thus any proposal, be it mine, or anyone else's, will require the support of the majority of the members of Gold Star Wives.

Lastly, as national outreach chair of Gold Star Wives, Ms. Clinkscale wrote in the Gold Star Wives' March newsletter that "sometimes we don't agree with the life styles of the younger widow but it's not our place to judge them –  just love them."

Perhaps I should add a final point to my platform. I seek a more effective organization that welcomes new members. As such, I will not sit silently when people in charge of outreach patronize younger widows with such condescending statements as Ms. Clinkscale's.

So yes, I will work to change attitudes for the better. Our needs as surviving military spouses deserves no less.

UPDATE: My platform has been removed from GSW's Facebook page. Corinna Gibson-Ashmead deleted my post claiming in a message to me that "a good point was made that not everyone is on FB and therefore it is not an equal/fair platform presentation for all candidates." Ms. Gibson-Ashmead refused to indicate who made this "good point" and stated that she was acting out of her own independent judgement as Facebook administrator.

Needless to say, I disagree with this action. Rather than squelch discussion and debate, I think that GSW should be encouraging potential leaders to share their ideas for the future of the organization. Furthermore, there's nothing to say that members could not assist the less technically savvy in getting the word out. I, for one, would be happy to host any candidate's ideas on my website if it was thought that doing so would help serve the larger interest of the organization.

At root, we should be working to raise the bar, not lower it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Siobhan Esposito For Board of Directors of Gold Star Wives of America

Gold Star Wives should be the nation’s preeminent organization when it comes to promoting the interests of surviving spouses and families. In that light, it is important that candidates for the board of directors indicate what they wish to achieve should they be elected to serve on the board.

My background is in public administration with a focus in nonprofit management; specifically, I am a handful of credits shy of having my Masters degree in this field from American University.

In the course of my studies, I have learned much about the hallmarks of effective nonprofit organizations. I have had the opportunity to study several nonprofits in depth, and learn from both their successes and mistakes. I hope to apply these lessons to making Gold Star Wives a more effective voice for surviving spouses.

As a member of the board of directors, I will propose the following nine points:

  1. I will work to help the board of directors improve the quality of its leadership of Gold Star Wives. I will work to insure financial and program accountability, promote peer review among the members of the board, and impose term limits.
  2. I will call for monthly board of directors meetings. I believe that an organization with thousands of members brought together because of a life-altering event as dramatic as losing a spouse requires active and ongoing board leadership.
  3. I will call for the hiring of a professional executive director to manage the day-to-day affairs of Gold Star Wives, to include legislative advocacy, coalition-building, fundraising, and member services.
  4. I will work to see that a parallel 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization be created in addition to GSW's current organization. Gold Star Wives is currently incorporated as a 501(c)(4) organization under the Internal Revenue Code, which means that Gold Star Wives may lobby Congress to pass legislation, but private donations to the organization are not deductible on one's taxes. By creating a new 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization to work alongside the existing organization, Gold Star Wives will dramatically increase its ability to raise revenue for its members’ benefit.
  5. As Gold Star Wives must increase its outreach and actively recruit younger widows and widowers from America’s more recent wars, I will work toward this recruitment by ensuring that GSW offer services that younger surviving spouses need in the face of their loss, and work to expand knowledge of our organization in the military community.
  6. As Gold Star Wives must be an easily accessible clearinghouse on information about government survivor benefits, I will work to have the national organization make experts available to members in areas such as grief counseling, financial planning, and child-rearing in the face of loss, just to name a few. Local chapters could then host these experts as guest speakers—adding value to the local chapters' meetings. At root, Gold Star Wives needs to dramatically increase the services that it provides to its members—and not leave it to other service organizations to fill in the gaps.
  7. As one of Gold Star Wives' primary purposes is effective government advocacy, I will work to ensure that the interests and needs of surviving spouses are respected by our nation's political leaders in Washington, and I will work diligently to expand GSW's grassroots voice.
  8. I will propose that our organization change its name to "Gold Star Spouses of America" to reflect the changing face of America, and the changing nature of military service.
  9. I will propose that membership in our organization be open to all surviving spouses of eligible military service members, regardless of the current citizenship of the surviving spouse. It would be horrifying to turn our backs on the surviving spouse of a fallen American hero merely because that surviving spouse was not American themselves—a needless slap in the face to someone who has already suffered enough. 
Ultimately, I will work to ensure that Gold Star Wives of America exists as an effective advocate for surviving spouses, and I ask for your help and support in this effort. Surviving spouses have given their husbands and wives in the service of our nation. In return, these survivors need and deserve a well-managed organization that is equal to the many challenges that they face in their lives. Through the death of my late husband, Army Captain Phillip Esposito, in Iraq in 2005, I have come to know many of these challenges personally, and I seek to stand with my fellow surviving spouses as we face them together.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Seven years ago today, US Army Staff Sergeant Alberto B. Martinez murdered my husband

Bonis nocet qui malis parcit
"He who spares the wicked injures the good." ~ Seneca

Seven years ago today, US Army Staff Sergeant Alberto B. Martinez murdered my husband, Captain Phillip Esposito.

Evidence presented at Martinez's court-martial in 2008 revealed that Staff Sergeant Martinez placed a claymore anti-personal mine in the window of my husband's office and detonated it, killing my husband and another officer. Further evidence revealed Staff Sergeant Martinez's motive; either to avoid his being removed from his position for cause, or to punish my husband for removing him, Staff Sergeant Martinez premeditatedly murdered my husband and the officer set to replace Martinez at his job.

Testimony at court-martial revealed that Staff Sergeant Martinez issued hundreds of death threats against my husband's life; nevertheless, none of these threats were acted upon by anyone in the 42nd Infantry Division of the National Guard and United States Army in which Martinez served, nor was my husband ever informed of these threats. If Staff Sergeant Martinez set and fired the mine that slaughtered my husband, Martinez's unindicted co-conspirators were the men and women of the 42nd Infantry Division who recklessly sat on their hands while Martinez spewed his venom.

At his court-martial, Staff Sergeant Martinez put forth no reasonable hypothesis of innocence; at least none that would convince me of his innocence in the face of the evidence presented against him, or compel me to demand further investigation and criminal charges levied against others. Thus it goes without saying that in my view, Staff Sergeant Martinez's freedom to commit murder and his subsequent acquittal by a military court-martial is an egregious error of justice.

But further, I have stood singularly alone in my public appraisal of the undisciplined military culture within the 42nd Infantry Division that set the stage for my husband's murder and of the defects in the military justice that set my husband's killer free.

That is not to say that private comments have not been made to me. For example, I received the message below just last week, ostensibly in honor of Memorial Day:

Mrs. Esposito, Please do not post my comments to your blog. I was a fellow Captain that worked with your husband at FOB Danger--he was a good officer and a good person. His professionalism was above that of other officers in his unit. I was in the next building over when your husband was killed. Although, it has taken me years to write to you, please know that few days pass that I don't think about how awful and unprofessional the culture was at FOB Danger during that time. Your husband paid the ultimate price for the failure of Army leadership. Please know that this Memorial Day, like every Memorial Day, I remember my fellow innocent officers that were murdered by their own. My thoughts will be with you over this weekend. With great respect and peace--A former officer and current Army wife living in Europe.

The author above freely admits that "[my] husband paid the ultimate price for the failure of Army leadership," but doesn't want her even anonymous comment published, lest apparently the word get out. Such was the caliber of the men and women my slaughtered husband had the misfortune of serving alongside in the 42nd Infantry Division of the National Guard.

Seven years after Phillip's murder, I still seek justice—I still seek my vindication. I still seek to show the cause of Phillip's death, and show how this cause was both needless and preventable. I still seek to prevent future slaughter, if only to serve as a living memorial to Phillip's memory. I still seek to raise our daughter with proof that her father and his family received the justice that they deserved. And I still seek to rebuild my life, and live free in a world no longer dominated by the taint of Staff Sergeant Alberto B. Martinez and his sundry apologists and defenders.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Tribute

In today's Times Herald-Record, reporter Adam Bosch has assembled a tribute to the seventeen Hudson Valley and Catskills area servicemen and women who died in the war in Iraq.

My late husband, Captain Phillip Esposito, is profiled here.