FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Missing in America

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

From the time he was a young boy, Levi Moddrelle wanted to be a soldier. His paternal grandfather was fire chief at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Levi had visited the base many times as a child.

On March 21st, Levi’s mother, Susan Tileston, marked his 22nd birthday and prepared his favorite meal, but he was not with her on that day nor did she talk with him. She has not seen or heard from her son since February 2004.

Levi grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and graduated from Lafayette High School. When he was 16, military recruiters descended on the house, attempting to secure a commitment. Susan Tileston insisted her son postpone this until he received his diploma.

I met Susan at a peace rally last week. She told me about Levi’s dreams. His intelligence and high test scores along with an expertise in sharp shooting caught the attention of West Point where he was contacted about Officer Candidate School. Levi wasn’t interested. He didn’t want to be an officer. For years, his goal was to train as a Chinook helicopter mechanic. “If you’re smart, you’re able to choose your skill specialty,” Susan said.

Army specialist Levi Moddrelle, serving with the 101st Airborne Division, deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in February 2003 and, then, was sent to Iraq where he served for awhile as a Chinook mechanic.

According to his mother, Levi was reassigned as a sharp shooter to protect American contractors. After serving in Iraq almost 11 months, he called to say he was stateside, having returned home unexpectedly and without the rest of his unit. Susan Tileston drove to Cincinnati to pick him up on Christmas Eve 2003. She was thrilled to see him but recognized that something about Levi was different.

“He was too quiet,” she said. “And he was shorter by about an inch and a half. I don’t understand why, but it’s true. He also had scars on the back of his head.” Susan said her son wouldn’t talk about his experience in Iraq but that he definitely wasn’t the same person he’d been when he left to serve his country.

His order packet required that he report to Fort Campbell for a five-day evaluation. During this period, Levi called his mother daily to tell her there was no one on the base. So, Susan Tileston, who had moved from Lexington to Stanford, Kentucky, went to Fort Campbell to pick up her son and bring him home. Eventually, she drove him to Lexington so that he could spend time with friends. He bought a car.

Levi was supposed to report to Fort Campbell on January 31, 2004 to return to Iraq. He told his mother he was going. Officials at Fort Campbell called Susan and inquired about Levi, telling her he hadn’t arrived. Later, they sent a letter, stating that Army specialist Levi Moddrelle was AWOL. He is now listed as a deserter.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2004 that Susan Tileston learned from one of Levi’s Lexington friends the truth that led her son to abandon the military. This is what she told me:

<i>Ronnie said Levi didn’t talk about what happened at first. You’re not supposed to. They tell you not to say a word about what you did or saw. That’s why they have a medical debriefing. They want to see what kind of mental shape you’re in. Levi told Ronnie that he’d killed an eight-year-old boy who fired at the contractors he was protecting. Levi was 18-years-old and what he had to do disturbed him. He wasn’t the same after this happened. And he couldn’t go back. Levi just couldn’t do this. And, now, he can’t call or write because they’re told if they don’t come back when they’re supposed to report, the military will tap their parents’ phone…their friends’ phones and they’ll go to jail. They take a kid who’s trained to repair helicopters and then assign him to combat duty where he’s in firefights…that’s not right</i>.

In September 2004, Susan filed a missing person report with the Kentucky State Police. No one in the military will tell the police anything about Levi. At one point, the police notified Susan that Levi had received a traffic citation in Florida, but at the time, the National Computer Database had not yet listed him as AWOL. She is desperate to hear from her son.

Susan wants people to know that there are thousands of soldiers who have been to Iraq and, then, make a decision based on conscience not to return to duty. She’s been in touch with a Quaker Network that has aided over 20,000 troops, providing shelter in both the United States and Canada.

Susan always wears a carved ivory, eagle’s head pendant given to her by Levi. This treasure is in harmony with her summer job as a pre-Civil War, living history demonstrator at festivals. She also wears her son’s dog tag and a diamond pendant–a gift from military sons to their mothers.

Susan hopes to send a message to Levi that he doesn’t have to be afraid. She supports his actions and wants him to come home. A less than honorable discharge is perfectly fine with Susan Tileston, outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war, an activist who speaks at peace vigils, and the loving mother of an only child who she says is “Missing in America.”

The casualties of this war are far greater than the dead and wounded.

 

 

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail