Reaction of deployed troops to Maynulet verdict varies by perspective
April 2, 2005
AD-DALUIYAH, Iraq — Soldiers serving in Iraq had differing opinions on the sentence of Capt. Roger Maynulet.
“I don’t think he should have got kicked out,” said Spc. John Kirkpatrick of Englewood, Fla., and the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment.
“He was just doing his job. That’s something where you have to make a split-second decision. The military jury should have been people who have been [in Iraq] and have done all that stuff.”
Kirkpatrick said that Maynulet’s soldiers who destroyed evidence in the case were just showing support and trust for their leader.
“It was a high-value target to be caught or destroyed,” Pfc. Christopher Cade of Jefferson City, Mo., and the 1-15th said of Karim Hassan Abed Ali al-Haleji. “He did what he thought was right. I can’t say he was right or wrong because I haven’t been in that situation.”
Spc. Aaron Berghoff of West Los Angeles, Calif., and the 1-15th said the sentence was appropriate.
“Once the guy is down, it’s done and the mission is accomplished,” Berghoff said. “Once [Maynulet] became the judge, jury and executioner, we’re no longer appropriately representing the U.S. military.”
Sgt. Donny Dunbar of Hendersonville, Tenn., and 3rd Squadron, 278th Regiment Combat Team, Tennessee Army National Guard, said the sentence depended on what was going on in Maynulet’s head when he pulled the trigger.
“If it was truly a mercy killing, it was too harsh of a sentence,” Dunbar said. “If he was just doing it out of anger, it was way too light. Regardless of what the jury came up with, no one knows what was going through his head at that time.”
Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. soldiers had similar reactions.
Sgt. Andy Rivera of Puerto Rico, who works for the 3rd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion at Camp Liberty, did not know all the details, but wondered how many attempts were made to deliver first aid to the injured Iraqi man.
“Maybe that’s why he shot him,” Rivera said. “You’ve got to put yourself in his shoes. The Iraqi was hurt and in a lot of pain. A captain would know better than to just shoot somebody for no reason. I think he saw the guy was going through a lot of pain and was going to probably die anyway.”
Pfc. Angel Gonzalez, also of Puerto Rico, a tanker with Headquarters and Headquarters Operations Company, Special Troops Battalion, faces danger all the time outside the wire. Even then, he had a much different outlook.
“I don’t believe he has the right to play God,” Gonzalez said. “You also have to look at safety first. But nobody has a right to play God, and that’s what he did.”
Others weigh in
Former soldier and current Army spouse Tammy Chance from Maynulet’s base at Wiesbaden, Germany, said she didn’t see how a jury could convict Maynulet of wrongdoing without having been on the battlefield with him at the time.
“Until you’re in the situation yourself, I don’t see how you can fairly judge a person’s actions,” Chance said.
An Army captain and friend of Maynulet’s said he disagreed with the verdict, and said he thought the case should never have come to court-martial.
“The prosecutors said we don’t make life-and-death decisions. I disagree with that. We make them every day,” he said.
Col. Michael Ryan, an official at the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Alexandria, Va., who flew in to testify on Maynulet’s behalf, said he thought the five-day court-martial was a testament to the credibility of the U.S. military justice system.
“I was very pleased with the whole process. The interest of justice was served,” he said.
Vince Little, Nancy Montgomery and Ben Murray contributed to this report.