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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Demoted

Buswell (left) received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Iraq (courtesy photo)

By Stephen C. Webster
Originally published May 30, 2007, on the cover of Fort Worth Weekly.

These days, Donald Buswell’s job is not as exciting or dangerous as it once was. For the past few months, his working hours have been spent taking care of some 40-plus wounded soldiers at San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston medical center. The work is sometimes menial, even janitorial, but he doesn’t mind. After all, Buswell has been where these men are — three years ago, he too was recovering from wounds received in a battle zone in Iraq.

“I truly consider this an honor,” Buswell told his dad not long ago.

Still, it’s not exactly where Buswell expected to be after 20 years of well-respected service in the Army.

Since joining the Army in 1987, he had risen to the rank of sergeant first class, serving in both Gulf Wars, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Korea. He ended up with shrapnel scars and a Purple Heart and, back in the U.S. after his last tour in Iraq, a job as intelligence analyst at Fort Sam Houston.

He couldn’t have foreseen that one e-mail could derail his career and put him on his way out of the Army. One e-mail, speculating about events that millions of people have questioned for the last six years, was all it took.

Sgt. Buswell wants to know: What really happened on 9/11? And he said so in his e-mail. In the few paragraphs of that August 2006 message — a reply not to someone outside the service, but to other soldiers — Buswell wrote that he thought the official report of what happened that day at the Pentagon, and in the Pennsylvania crash of United Airlines Flight 93, was full of errors and unanswered questions.

“Who really benefited from what happened that day?” he asked rhetorically. Not “Arabs,” but “the Military Industrial Complex,” Buswell concluded. “We must demand a new, independent investigation.”

For voicing those opinions in an e-mail to 38 people on the San Antonio Army base, Buswell was stripped of his security clearance, fired from his job, demoted, and ordered to undergo a mental health exam.

(He was also ordered not to speak with the press. Information for this story came from documents, conversations with Buswell’s family members and friends, and sources within Fifth Army who asked not to be named.)

As if all that weren’t enough, Fort Sam Houston’s chief of staff penned a letter accusing Buswell of “making statements disloyal to the United States.”

His father, Winthrop Buswell, said that his son “is one of the most patriotic people I know.”

“Donald saw something that his conscience led him to dispute,” he said. “That’s just the type of man he is.”

For his dissent, Donald has paid a heavy price.

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