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The Army vs. Spec. Richmond

Eddie Richmond strolled into a coffee shop one afternoon and proudly told the owner, "Edward's home, he's healthy as a mule, he's just getting settled."

But many in Gonzales know about the father's crusade against the Army. It is an awkward fight for someone who drives a truck with a decal that says, "Home of the Free, Because of the Brave." Eddie gets his news from Fox and his accent from the rural hills of north Louisiana. His own father was a decorated Marine disabled in the Korean War. He served three years in the Air Force.

What fueled his frustration was a cache of confidential Army documents he had gotten his hands on that described how another soldier in Edward's brigade with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, had shot and killed unarmed civilians. But Edward was the one who went to prison.

There seemed little left to fight for. Edward had served his time, been dishonorably discharged, lost his right to vote or carry a firearm, and couldn't leave the state without permission from his parole officer.

The general who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq and convened Edward's court-martial, retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, said he has faith in the military justice system. "If I were Dad, I would be focused on Donald Rumsfeld and his leadership, which took our great military to war without a strategy, with insufficient troops on the ground, which allowed chaos to rein in early 2004," Batiste said.

So Iraq was a mess and Edward was folded into the mess. This was unacceptable to Eddie Richmond.

Father and son shared the same name, but it was the elder Richmond who went by "Eddie" and his son the more formal "Edward." The son was always the guarded one in life, and he came home from prison burning with mistrust. At Fort Sill, Edward spent much of his time in a segregated cell for discipline violations. "You gotta understand, he didn't believe he belonged there," said Charles W. Gittins, a civilian lawyer handling his appeal.

It is impossible to know whether Edward wanted his name cleared as much as his father. He refused to be interviewed for this story.

His second week back, Edward got a job at a foundry outside Gonzales. He woke at 4 each morning and spent the next 10 hours near a furnace so hot that his boots smoked. One day his boss called him "jarhead." People knew his story.

While Louisiana sweltered and beer signs blinked in the windows of the bars where the Blind River Outlaws played "brain-busting, spine-tingling Southern metal," all Edward did was work.

His schoolteachers had always imagined that the exceptionally bright boy would be a mathematician or an engineer. His parents liked to say he joined the Army after 9/11, but Edward was less a twin towers avenger than an 18-year-old who needed a fresh start.

As a boy, he preferred playing computer games to hunting squirrels with his dad. He took medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He competed on the math team and was described as a "genius" by two former teachers.


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