My son, Jayson David Coffman, my firstborn of five children was taken from me, brutally, violently and without justice, without the truth. Jayson was stationed at Ft. Story, Virginia, a U.S. Army post right on Virginia Beach. His life was taken at the young age of 20, without justifiable cause and without the benefit of support from his family or legal counsel. Jayson, like many military personnel, did not die in battle overseas, but on a military facility right here in the United States.
I will never forget the day I heard the news. It will ring in my mind for the rest of my life. I was told my son committed suicide and was hung in the woods just five minutes from his barracks. I was shocked beyond my wildest dreams and it was then that my life came crashing down around me. My head was spinning and my heart went numb. I lost all composure and at times I was a rock. I was angry, hurt, confused and shocked to the bone. I had just spoken to him only a few days beforehand. I heard a happy, well-adjusted voice over the phone announce to me that he had purchased a ring and was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him. We laughed, teased each other and both said, “I love you” before we hung up.
Little did I know that my son would leave this earthly plane through such a vicious attack to his person. The information became known to me long after the investigation was over through military personnel who did not want to get into trouble for telling the truth, but had to get it off their chests.
My dear one, the one I held in my arms, formed in my body and cared for over twenty years of his life, was beaten by soldiers on his post for talking to a girlfriend of a fellow soldier. Alcohol was purchased for him by an NCO (non-commissioned officer) and he was then reported for drinking on the job. The NCO kept his job and was told to keep his mouth shut. When Jayson was counseled for the drinking, he was told that his Army career was over and that life as he knew it would never be the same.
He was reported missing on September 24, 1999 and was not “discovered” until three and a half weeks later. The military police told me they would not look for him. The Marines found him hanging from a tree just within sight and walking distance from his barracks. The Army told me that two soldiers, the Captain and a Sergeant, looked for him daily. How could they have not seen him? The smell from rotting flesh was so strong that when the Marines found him, they could hardly stand it. He was found with his wallet, ID and a note to his girlfriend in his pocket, yet I was told that those things were found in his locker. He was not searched for because his things were thrown in a box marked AWOL (absent without leave). He was just left to hang there and rot for three and a half weeks so there would be no toxicology report in the autopsy. He was found with his knees on the ground, legs crossed; one arm was dislocated from his shoulder and found to the right of his body and on the ground. (No explanation for this was noted in the autopsy report.) Beer bottles were at the scene, yet the mother of the girlfriend called me to tell me that the autopsy report had shown no alcohol in his blood. The thing was, that the autopsy report had not yet come out and his body was too decomposed to even get a toxicology report. His girlfriend’s father was a Colonel in the Air Force and was notified of my son’s death three days before I was notified. My son was dead and discovered and I was not even told for three days! It took until the end of October to get his body back in California.
I was contacted by soldiers he worked with, and told that the Army killed my son. I believe them, they were present. They covered it up by allowing a great deal of time to pass by so no evidence could be found. They lied about his wallet and told me it was in his locker and then placed it on his body with his ID and a note to his girlfriend that they most likely got out of a box of letters that my son kept for his girlfriend. He wrote to her often and sometimes did not send the letters.
Jayson was drowned in alcohol; died from his own vomit and hung to make it look like a suicide. His things were all sent back to me at Christmastime all thrown in a box: dirty underwear and socks all mixed with now-broken items that had belonged to my son. His pillow was included and still had the stains from his tears on it.
He was supposedly on 24-hour suicide watch that night, but if he were, he would never have been able to get out alone unseen. The last time he was seen by his roommate, it was late at night and he was in his bed, asleep, yet his body was found fully dressed in his Army uniform. He was hung by his bedsheet, which was never reported missing from his room.
I had made a big deal about the fact that my son would never have left and gone AWOL without his wallet and personal items. I find it strange that his wallet and ID were then found on his body.
I was not sent the Criminal Investigation Report and autopsy until a year later. The report states that he died from suicide. We live with a lie and my son’s life looks just like a lie.
No family should have to go through this kind of pain. Every day after taking my kids to school, I would park in th garage in my car, turn off the engine and cry until my guts felt like they would fall out. Then I just went numb.
I was warned not to pursue investigation of the Army and their deeds because my fate may end up just like my son’s. This came from a dear friend who worked closely with my son and knew all of the truth. He was there. Many stories have emerged over the years and brought to my attention regarding military abuse of our enlisted soldiers. These are our husbands, wives, and children. Our kids, from the age of eighteen, are being told that the military will assist them to further their careers and give them pride. They enlist, as Jayson did, to make a better life for themselves. They just never are told about the humiliation, and the fact that they might just have to die at the hands of their fellow soldiers.
There are many stories that are coming out into the open and our purpose is to expose them all in order to enlighten the public as to what kind of behavior goes on in our U.S. Military. Don’t get me wrong, we love our country. It is the wrongdoing from our U.S. Forces and officials who turn a blind eye when it comes to military accountability. We desire justice for the sake of our kids. Our kids and loved ones deserve to have the truth be told concerning their deaths. No other family should have to endure what we have had to endure. The cover up and the murder and the reckless care of our military personnel must be stopped NOW.
Update on Story “The Torment Must End”
Murder of PFC Jayson David Coffman
As of September 24, 2011, it has been 12 years since my son Jayson had suffered brutality while enlisted in the US Army which led to his death. My four other children are still going through bouts of grief, confusion, and lack the full truth of their brothers death. We have moved forward but we still suffer great pain and our lives have never been the same. One of my daughters describes her experience as, “when Jayson died a part of me went with him”. We all feel this way.
As Jayson’s mother, I can say that not only has part of me left with him but also I grieve what “might have been”. We are robbed of my son’s future with us. I will never have a daughter- in law, grand children through him, holiday memories, his laughter in hard times, and so much more I could not even list them all. As survivors we not only grieve the loss of our loved ones presence but the losses of a life completely altered and changed forever. Even as a minister, my grief is often not comforted. I receive some strength and comfort from my faith, but there is no “healing” from love. Love is just love. Just because my son is now dead, does not mean I will ever love him less. My heart longs for him and although I know by faith where he is and that he is no longer suffering from this world, my “mother’s heart” will always ache for him.
We have recently received some updates on Jayson’s case through communication sent to us by an individual who worked with Jayson and knows some of his story. It has been confirmed once again through this person that Jayson’s wallet, and personal belongings were in his locker the morning it was discovered he was “missing”. The report we received from the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) clearly states that Jaysons wallet, dog tags, ID, and supposed suicide note was found on his body after he was discovered in the woods hanging from a tree three and a half weeks after he went missing. The individual who contacted me has also stated that he and his wife met with Jayson prior to his death and he seemed fine, even in light that there were issues going on concerning Jayson and the Army.
In my original account of our experience concerning Jayson’s murder, (called suicide by the US Army) I made mention that Jayson’s things were sent back to us in a huge mess and most of his belongings broken. Jayson’s captain had expressed to me that he personally packed Jayson’s things himself with the help of a newly stationed female soldier. This is contrary to the new information received in the email sent to us by the individual who worked with Jayson. His statement was that he and his wife packed his clothing, and things that were sent back to me, personally, and he assured me his things were in good order when they packed them. Strangely, there is no explanation as to the reason a confederate flag was stuffed in the bag Jayson’s clothing was packed in. Continued attempts to connect and ask about this flag have now been met with no response. When Jayson was alive he told me in a phone conversation of this confederate towel which was purchased by his room mate for racial reasons because they had an African American soldier moved into their barracks with them. Jayson explained his room mate’s reason was to get the soldier to desire to be transferred to another room, and that clearly his room mate’s actions were racially motivated. Jayson said he had no problem with the latest soldier added to their room and stated he appeared to be a very nice guy. Jayson had many friends prior to enlisting in the army and they were all of mixed races. In fact, quite often Jayson was the only Caucasian person in his circle of friends.
Jayson also expressed a more intense desire to know his “nationality” and wondered in light of the fact his last name was Coffman if he was of any Jewish descent. I had to once again explain to him that Coffman was his given name because that was my last name at the time and that it was not that of his true father. Although Coffman is considered a name of Jewish descent, we have no Jewish lineage, and nor did Jayson. My next question was why he wanted to know all of this. In the past we had already discussed the fact that Jayson’s given name on his birth certificate was not that of his real father and it was done that way because his father was not in our lives and I wanted his name to match mine even though it was one of a different marriage.
I suppose my next concern on this matter is if the confederate flag which was packed in his bag was a hate message or even why it would be sent when it was not Jaysons. I did a search on racism and what the confederate flag stands for and I found a page explaining that it usually
stands for racism by white supremacists against those of African and Jewish descent. The symbolism is that if a “noose and cross”. Jayson “lost” his cross he always wore around his neck a month prior to his death and was hung on a tree by his bed sheet formed into a noose around his neck. I can’t help but feel that my son’s death had some form of racial hatred attached to it.
Jayson loved rap singing and was quite good at it. I did not always approve of the lyrics but he definitely had a talent for rapping. I was told by a soldier’s wife that Jayson and another soldier had rap “competitions” between them and that other soldier was a black man. My son was a young man who was persecuted all of his life but he had an acceptance of all people. He had his enemies, but he found it to be a continual battle and not something he wanted in his life.
Another area of concern is that the military police commented to me that Jayson was not being looked for even though he was missing. This was confirmed by the message I have recently received in the statement that many of the soldiers wanted to immediately go and look for him.
They were told that if they did they would be disciplined. In light of the fact that my son’s body was found about 5 minutes from the army barracks, this is inexcusable! He would have been found for sure and it is obvious to me that the intent was that he not be found. In fact he was found by Marines who were doing training in the woods on Army property.
My question in mind at this point, is “Why won’t these people come forward who know facts regarding my son’s murder, and as a group, present these facts to the criminal investigation department so that we might have a resolution? Can the US military intimidate others so much that they can get away with murder untouched? I know there are many families who really would like to know the answer to this question. No one should have to live with the pain my family lives with and the lack of closure. No soldier should have to live with the guilt of knowing the truth about a crime but feel intimidated into keeping silent. This can’t help but eat at someone’s guts. I am reminded by the truth of my Christian faith. To know sin and do nothing about it is to be a part of it. So therefore those who know things and do not come forward are just as guilty of the crime as those who committed it. This is not a comment I want to say but it is the truth so I have to say it. Even in civilian investigations those who know about a crime and keep silent are considered an accomplice to the crime itself. It is standing in the way of justice and also allowing others to be subject to those who obviously got away with murder. My plea, and that of my family, is please come forward so we can all have the truth.
In light of all that has happened we still love our county, the freedoms our military soldiers stood for and still fight for today. We are forgiving people. We only want closure, justice, and truth.
Jenine Marie Mason
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