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May 17, 2008
Meet Jonathan AponteBy Greyhawk
Jonathan Aponte comes home
The door to the doughnut shop swung open. For a moment, the tall young man, every bit a soldier in his bearing, stood with the windy rain of Friday afternoon at his back. A wave of coffee and doughnut humidity slapped him in the face.But this "tall young man, every bit a soldier in his bearing" wasn't returning from Iraq - he was home from an eight-month stay in Rikers Island prison.
He had been to Iraq. But while home on leave last year he decided he didn't want to go back...
Home on leave for 10 days last year, Mr. Aponte entered into a marriage of extremely short duration with a young woman. The new bride either volunteered or was assigned to hire a gunman to shoot her new husband, carefully. She negotiated via text messages. Right after Mr. Aponte arrived in the hospital with his wounded leg and flimsy yarn about a mysterious assailant, the scheme collapsed, followed immediately by the marriage.But as Aponte and his lawyer prepared his defense the anti-war left found a new hero. His publicity campaign was launched on CBS TV in New York
The death and destruction of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq seems to have become so rampant to one local soldier that he actually staged an attack on himself -- allegedly hiring a hitman to non-fatally shoot him -- so he wouldn't be sent back for another tour of duty.His story fit the Iraq war narrative so popular among the easily swayed (see here here here...). While easily verifiable if true, none would question his claims of atrocities, suicides, PTSD, mortal combat against pregnant women and eight year olds with machine guns, and desperate efforts to avoid returning to the complete American defeat in Iraq. And each mainstream news report of his story would reinforce his claims with lead paragraphs like the one above, or this one from the New York Daily News:
The war in Iraq was such hell for Bronx soldier Jonathan Aponte he decided he'd never go back again - no matter what.TV talk show host Star Jones even delayed an appearance by Grey's Anatomy co-star Isaiah Washington (who had lost his job and made headlines by allegedly referring to a gay fellow actor as a "faggot") to interview him:
On Tuesday, however, Jones called an audible -- delaying part two of Washington to spend more time with an Iraq war vet, Jonathan Aponte, who paid to have himself shot to avoid returning to duty. Aponte’s plight is depressing and poignant, but Jones couldn’t think of much more to say other than repeatedly asking him how he felt about it.We already know how he felt about it. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Grand Jury investigating the shooting declined to indict Aponte:
His wife, Alexandra Gonzalez, and hit man Felix Padilla, who took $500 to shoot Aponte in the leg while he was home on leave in July, were indicted on assault charges.More details:
The Bronx soldier accused of hiring a hit man to shoot him so he wouldn't have to return to active duty will be spared felony charges, but his wife and the gunman have been indicted by a grand jury, the Daily News has learned.
There was just one little catch. Aponte was still scheduled to appear in court for falsely reporting the incident, a misdemeanor charge. But before that trial, Aponte returned to Ft Hood. Reporters accompanied him - perhaps seeking a story of a hero's welcome. But shockingly, given that they had supposedly gone through the same mind-bending horrors Aponte had, the New York Daily News reported that Aponte wasn't greeted by a marching band and a cheering throng of fellow
Bronx soldier Jonathan Aponte doesn't know yet if he'll be punished by his superiors, but he's already taking lumps from his peers.That response might be because they knew something the many reporters supporting Aponte did not (or chose not) to report.
Here's a myspace milblog response to Aponte from before the Grand Jury decision:
I am a soldier currently deployed in Iraq. I was sent a copy of a story fox news morning show did on a "soldier" named Jonathan Aponte. Apparently Jonathan hired someone to shoot him in the leg to avoid returning to Iraq because he couldn't handle all the ..."chaos, blood and bombs.." I happen to know who this soldier is and I know first hand that his story of the horror he supposedly witnessed is a bald-faced LIE. Spc Aponte is in my Unit here in Iraq.By the time of his misdemeanor trial, New York prosecutors had some "new" information...
Assistant District Attorney James P. Cudden told the court that investigators had determined that Private Aponte lied to a grand jury about his experiences in Iraq. Private Aponte did not witness a soldier’s suicide, as he claimed, and was not under fire in combat, Mr. Cudden said, adding that Private Aponte was a supply clerk on a military base and was never involved in any hostilities.Why that wasn't available to the Grand Jury (or whether it would alter the feelings of a random group of New Yorkers) is anyone's guess.
A Bronx soldier who hired a hit man to shoot him in the leg so he wouldn't have to go back to Iraq was sentenced to a year in jail yesterday after admitting he lied about being in combat and witnessing atrocities.For what it's worth, Aponte's lawyer was quick to claim that Aponte's first response to being caught in a lie regarding his shooting was actually true, and that his admission that it was actually another lie was the real lie, told to spare his family further pain:
Aponte's lawyer Marty Goldberg said his client maintains that he told the truth, but decided to cop the plea to avoid putting his family through any more agony.Sadly, no reporters bothered to verify any of the claims - which should have been fairly easy given that whatever Aponte did in Iraq, he didn't do it alone. (Or if they did verify, they chose not to report their discoveries.)
Which brings us back to the present. Aponte is home, and after his eight month stay in prison (we'll assume he got time off from his year for good behavior) the NY Times explains that he only joined to get an education:
In the late winter of 2004, Mr. Aponte was hanging around outside a friend’s store on Westchester Square in the Bronx. “This guy in uniform came up to me and said, ‘You look like you’re in decent shape,’ ” Mr. Aponte said. “I told him, ‘Yeah, I do my pushups now and then.’ He said, ‘You ought to think about the military.’ ”And concludes the story with an interesting spin:
For now, Mr. Aponte appears to be one of the very few people in America — if not the only one — to go to jail for lying about the Iraq war, a conflict nurtured in the deceptions and errors of people in positions of great responsibility.Actually, the story isn't complete. Ms. Gonzalez and Mr. Padilla are still awaiting trial on charges of felony assault.
Update: Somewhat related discussions at MilBlogs - here and here (scroll a bit - multiple entries at the second link), as yet another spinner of "atrocity" tales rears his ugly little head (and makes headlines for doing so).
Posted by Greyhawk / May 17, 2008 2:35 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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