Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Times That Try Men's Souls

As I am sure many ROR readers have noticed, I have not been posting much of late. This is due in part to a responsibility I took starting in mid-September. I more or less accepted the task of being Mr. Nanny to a five year old girl as her mother sat through the murder trial of her husband, Army Captain Phillip Esposito, who was ruthlessly killed in Iraq alongside First Lieutenant Louis Allen by Alberto Martinez, a solider under Phillip's command.

This Thursday, after three and a half years of delay and subterfuge and two months of grueling and heart-wrenching trial, the victims of this outrage received their so-called justice by the Army: they were told that the killer of their loved ones was "not guilty" of the crime of murder by a military court martial. They were told that there was not sufficient circumstance to justify even a minor conviction and that a murderer should walk free.

Needless to say, I am numb. We are all numb. Siobhan, Phillip's wife, expressed it best on her website (and please leave a comment there; all the messages of support and encouragement are truly appreciated):

"He slaughtered our husbands and that’s it!"

Those are the words of my dear friend Barbara Allen whose husband was also killed alongside mine by this despicable man.

I am disgusted. This is a miscarriage of justice. My husband took an oath and died in fulfillment of it. The officers and non-commissioned officers who sat in judgment of Alberto Martinez betrayed their oath. Their task was to ensure justice and they failed utterly. I want them to pay for their failure.

They have said in a time of war you can take a personal grudge and turn it into premeditated murder and get away with it. He got away with murder. How can that be?

How do I explain to my daughter that her father would give his life to an institution that would turn his back on him so many times? How do I find the words? How do I come to grips with it myself?

I'm afraid for myself and my child. This man who murdered my husband leered at me in the courtroom in front of the jury. If he was innocent he would feel nothing but compassion for our families and would have shown it.

Barbara and I have been betrayed. The fact that it was by men and women who wore the same uniform as our husbands and claimed to share the same values makes this both sickening and wrong. This is the second worst day of my life.

Thank God for my family and friends whose untiring support gives me the strength to carry on (and some days, to keep living).

I am so deeply proud to be among those friends and to have been entrusted with the care of Siobhan and Phillip's daughter, Madeline. I wasn't given only the responsibility to feed Madeline or drive her to school by Siobhan while she was away during the week--I was given the mandate to act as Madeline's mentor in her mother's absence, to share my knowledge and values as I took it upon myself to give her discipline and to help to explain to her the discipline, knowledge and values of her father.

And thus I have taken this child to the artwork in Washington that portrays dignity, valor, love of freedom and the thirst for justice and told her how in that she can come to know just who her father was. I have answered her questions as she struggled to come to grips with the meaning of life and death in a way that no five year old should ever be forced to have to understand, especially by an act of cruelty. I have held her in my arms as she wept in longing for her mother as this woman fights for her fallen husband.

And now I stand staggered as this child that I have come to so deeply love has been forced to live with her own thirst for justice unquenched. Like all who love these people, I must stand powerless and watch them suffer. It's a nightmare—but only worse. I must live knowing that neither I nor these people that I care about will ever wake up from it.

Yet in the face of all this madness, you would be stunned at the strength of these people that I have come to know. You can take little more away from them but they are still standing tall. And let me tell you of their compassion. My grandmother died the day before the verdict. All I will say is that Madeline's concern for me went well beyond one would expect from a child of five.

I will soon write a book sharing all I have seen here. I'm still trying to take it all in because there have been so many moments that it will take time just to sort them all out, let alone describe them with any justice.

Justice. To give to he that which he deserves. I have seen so much injustice here that I have to ask just what kind of world I live in. And yet I have also seen its polar opposite. I have seen the incredible love of a woman and mother for her fallen husband and innocent child. I have seen a child who will no doubt grow into a remarkable woman in her own right. And I will tell the world of it.

It may be inconvenient to some that Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen were murdered by one of their own solders in time of war and that the killer was allowed to go scot free by members of the Army that both men served; an episode better swept under the rug than acknowledged for the appalling travesty that it is. All I will say is this: it is not inconvenient and embarrassing to me.


Burgess Laughlin said...

What was the evidence against the accused soldier?

Jenn Casey said...

Can you include a link to Siobhan's website?

I can't imagine the pain they must be enduring.

It's wonderful that she has such a great friend in you, someone who would look after her daughter so lovingly. There is nothing so reassuring as being able to leave your child with someone who is interested in and cares for her so deeply.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

>Can you include a link to Siobhan's website?

My bad. It is: And please do share your thoughts there.

And it's been my absolute privilege to have been entrusted with Madeline while Siobhan was in North Carolina for the trial; caring for her has been an absolutely rewarding experience and I am glad for all I got out of it.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

>What was the evidence against the accused soldier?

It was a largely circumstantial case, but in my opinion, there was enough to justify a conviction.

There's a lot more I wish to say on this but my responsibilities keep my attention elsewhere. I expect that in my book, I will address the conduct of the trial and its outcome. In my view, this is the military version of the OJ verdict.

redb said...

sorry to hear of this.

Anonymous said...

Burgess, et al. : FYI. Some (journalistic) discussion of the evidence. I guess this is all we get for free...

C. August said...

Here is a detailed NY Times article from June 2008 about the murders.

From what I've read and heard about the case, Nick is spot on with his evaluation. Justice was not served with this verdict.

Amy said...

Nick - My heart goes out to you and your friends, and Robert and I wish you all comfort now and justice for the future.

A monster like Martinez will find himself in shackles again. (Most likely sooner than O.J.) Please keep us informed about your book.

And please take care!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

There is so much about this war that we have not learned about, and unfortunately, the honor of our military appears to have been lessened of late.

I am so sorry for the pain and injustice that your friends must endure.