Tragedy Upon Return
> 2/1/2006 8:45:44 AM

The battlefield can have a very dramatic effect on soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Stresses of battling an often unseen or unknown enemy compound the mental strain of maneuvering in an unfamiliar environment.  While our soldiers receive some of the most extensive and thorough training in the world, nothing can truly prepare someone for the very real threats that he will face in the field.

It is because of this that stories like that of Spc. Richard Davis and Pfcs. Jacob Burgoyne, Mario Navarrete, Douglas Woodcoff and Alberto Martinez become all the more tragic.  On Tuesday Jacob Burgoyne was sentenced to 20 years in prison in a Columbus, GA, courtroom for his part in the murder of Richard Davis as well as the attempted cover up that followed.  Burgoyne's sentence was significantly less than Navarrete and Martinez due to a plea bargain that turned Burgoyne against his former brothers in arms.

In the end, Martinez was the man left holding the knife that delivered the fatal blows, but both Burgoyne and Navarrete paid witness and did nothing to stop the murder.  Woodcoff who had been with the others that night was convicted of concealing a death. 

On the surface, Richard Davis's death appears to be nothing more than one of the thousands of senseless murders that our country sees every year.  But in the details, a different story is told about that tragic night in July 2003.  Davis was killed the day after all five of the men had returned from a tour of duty in Iraq.  Added to that already potentially volatile situation was alcohol, which the men consumed together at the Platinum Club in Columbus.  During the evening, Davis was asked to leave the club and was forced to wait in the car.  When the other men joined him, Davis and Burgoyne engaged in a scuffle.  The men drove away and when they stopped again, Martinez got out and stabbed Davis more than 33 times.  The men then drove, bought lighter fluid and burned Davis's body to cover their crime.

Burgoyne's testimony, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, illustrates, to a certain extent, the men's state of mind:
"It was almost like [Martinez] was plotting something that we didn't know about," Burgoyne said. "It was a total surprise."

Woodcoff said he walked away and did not know what was happening. Burgoyne said he and Navarette told Martinez to stop but to no avail. "I made a choice and I stepped away," Burgoyne said.

At his hearing Dr. John Stuart Currie testified that Burgoyne "suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, along with panic attacks, clinical depression and flashbacks from combat."  While it is impossible to diagnose Burgoyne from these limited accounts, the evidence suggests that not only Burgoyne, but most likely the other men as well, suffered from at least some of these mental disorders.  The desperation, or disassociation that Burgoyne described with "I made a choice and I stepped away," is very suggestive of his mental state.

These men have likely been effected by their war experience and their combat duty in the early weeks and months of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Fresh off their experiences in the gulf they dove back into civilian life with little in the way of a safety net.  The effects of alcohol most likely clouded their judgements and compounded their mental fatigue.  While it is impossible to ever know what truly went through any of their minds, it is possible to see how a confluence of factors turned what might have been little more than a scrap between comrades into an act of cold blooded murder.  But mitigating factors are not excuses, and Jacob Burgoyne, Mario Navarrete, Douglas Woodcoff and Alberto Martinez will now spend the remainder of their productive years behind bars.  One can only hope that we can take some knowledge away from this situation and do more to protect the men who serve our country, not only from physical harm in the battlefield, but from the mental harm that can often times follow.


I knew these guys, this whole situation is so unfortunate. From what I knew of Jacob I am positive that he did have PTSD. I dont think alcohol was the main issue here. There are so many more things to these stories and the truth.
Posted by: christian 9/19/2007 2:20:00 AM

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