As some may know, I have followed here, for months, the saga of my friend Cheryl Harris, whose son, Ryan Maseth, was electrocuted and died in Iraq several months ago. You remember: She was first told by the military that it was his fault for taking an electric appliance into the shower room.
That turned out to be a lie -- a faulty pump was the reason -- and she has gamely hung in there to lead the fight to probe more than a dozen other fatal electrocutions in Iraq, leading to a congressional and now Pentagon investigation. Meanwhile, she is suing KBR, the contractor in charge of maintenance. Cheryl told me last night that she will be testifying, with others, in Congress on Friday.
She is doing it to keep other soldiers out of electrical danger -- but now a new death has been added to the toll.
The Arkansas National Guard late yesterday announced the death in Iraq of Sgt. Anthony Lynn Woodham, 37, of Rogers. He died July 5, at Camp Adder, Iraq, from non-combat related injuries "resulting from contact with an electrified piece of metal in the vehicle maintenance area," the military announced.
At the time of his death, he was attached as a vehicle maintenance supervisor with the 1st Squadron, 151st Cavalry Regiment, 39th Brigade Combat Team at Tallil, Iraq. The incident is under investigation. He was married and had a young son.
Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, said "My heart goes out to this soldier's Family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this trying time. No words can fill the gap left by such a loss."
"A dark cloud hangs over the Bowie Brigade today, and it's a day we had hoped we wouldn't see during this deployment," said Col. Kendall Penn. "There are no words that can describe the loss of a soldier, a loved one, a friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Anthony Woodham in their time of mourning." He had a young son.
Meanwhile, Cheryl Harris's struggle for safety, and accountability, goes on. She told me last night that any new death like this that could have been prevented really hits her hard. But perhaps, with the testimony on Friday, this will start to change.
UPDATE: The military is now claiming that the victim actually may have suffered a heart attack unrelated to an electrical shock, with investigation to continue. Stay tuned.
Greg Mitchell's book So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Fails on Iraq includes several chapters on "nonhostile" deaths in Iraq.