Army Pfc. Jennifer Cole died of a non combat related incident in Bayji, Iraq on August 2, 2008. Pfc. Cole was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on behalf of the 426th Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. An investigation revealed that Jennifer died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. According to the family, she was accidentally shot by a fellow Army soldier while they were cleaning their weapons. They learned that the weapon had not been cleared prior to the cleaning and no one is sure how it got into the place where Jennifer was shot. The soldier (Thurston) responsible for the accidental shooting was charged with negligent homicide. He spent 30 days in military jail and was given a general discharge from the Army. Jennifer’s mom, Candy Gholson, shared with Napa Valley, California newspapers that the Army wouldn’t give her information, provide her with paperwork, or tell her exactly what happened to her daughter.
Candy Gholson shared that she heard three different versions and wanted to know exactly what happened. She also shared that she learned from Jennifer’s roommate in the Army that no one ever questioned her and they both thought that odd considering most investigations start with those closest to the victim. Both Jennifer’s parents shared the frustration that it is not easy getting answers from a military organization or is it easy dealing with the bureaucracy of the Army and their typical federal government run-around. The parents were told to go through the Freedom of Information Act for the investigation report but the Army warned them it could take up to a year to get the trial transcript they were requesting. Jennifer’s step father, a US Marine Corps veteran, reiterated that he too wanted to know the details of what happened and that he didn’t have hard feelings towards the soldier who killed his step-daughter. But he does feel that Thurston’s superiors should have been court-martialed for ineffective supervision and oversight of the weapons.
“I understand they had a trial for the guy (Thurston) who shot my daughter. I was told he spent 30 days in a military jail and was discharged from the Army. He didn’t get a dishonorable discharge, but the one just above that. But I have never received any paperwork to that effect,” Gholson said. “I just want answers. And it’s not easy trying to get them from a military government institution. “I’ve heard three different stories from the Army about what happened the day Jennifer died,” Gholson said. “I want to know what exactly happened that day. There were witnesses. Why can’t the Army get the story straight?” ~Napa Valley Register (December 11, 2008)
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Army Pfc. Jennifer L. Cole
Army Pfc. Jennifer L. Cole, 34, American Canyon
Pfc. Jennifer L. Cole, The Fort Campbell Courier
City Honors Army Pfc. Jennifer Cole
Accidentally killed by another soldier
Pfc. Cole laid to rest in Napa
Questions remain in Napa soldier’s death
August: Department of Defense Casualties Report (2008)
Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Iraq)
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Campbell, Kentucky (US Army)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members