“Ok. so today a crazy soldier pulled a 9mm on me . . . don’t go telling people. . . . he’s in jail and i’m doing better. TTYL,” she wrote.
Weeks later, Durkin, an Army specialist who worked in finance, dispatched another in a series of e-mails to family and friends. The tone of this message, sent on the Fourth of July, was utterly different. She was exultant.
“Well, as the first of the gang of us to officially hit the 4th of July (12:10 am here, lol) Happy 4th,” Durkin wrote. “I am more than happy to be here making sure you have this day to celebrate. Regardless of politics, this is worth it to me.”
She signed off with a mention of her upcoming leave. “I’ll be home in 2 months, no complaints here.”
Durkin, 30, came home as planned, but would never make it back for good. On Sept. 28th, her body was found on the base with a single bullet in her head, her M-16 nearby. The Army has declared her death a noncombat related incident, but has provided no more public information about how the ebullient flame-haired soldier died.
There are only two ways that Durkin could have died: She either shot herself or was shot by someone else on the base. Her first e-mail suggests she had something to fear. And friends and family have said that she was a passionate young woman who had many plans for her life after the service. They insist she would never have killed herself, and are increasingly anxious for the Army to offer some definitive answers. Soon.
Durkin’s family declined to be interviewed, saying they are waiting for the military’s explanation. Army officials also declined to answer any questions and have prohibited soldiers on the base from talking with the media. In that silence, questions about Durkin’s unexplained death have multiplied.
First, there was the soldier who pointed a gun to her head, an encounter that she reported to several people. Then there were her unsettling comments while on a home leave in early September, just two weeks before her death. Durkin told several people that she had uncovered some things that had made her some “enemies,” although she did not say exactly what. Durkin, an information technology specialist whose unit worked with finance and commercial contractors, said that if something happened to her, “We should come and investigate,” said Dawn Hurley, a close friend of Durkin’s.
“I didn’t know what she meant,” sighed Hurley. “Maybe I didn’t want to know.”
Durkin, nonetheless, seemed to thrive overseas. E-mails that she sent to a group of more than two dozen friends and relatives reflect a soldier who was as enthusiastic about her military experience as she was proud of it. Durkin had struggled with depression a few years earlier and had sought treatment, according to one person who knew her. But friends say that those dark days were long gone. Her boisterous e-mails have further convinced them that Durkin, an ardent Red Sox fan who comes from a sprawling Irish clan, would never have taken her own life.
more stories like this
Durkin also had extensive plans for after her return, expected to be in February. She hoped for a job with a Boston bank, and was taking computer courses to enhance her resume. “Boy, I can’t wait. I’m so excited,” Durkin wrote. “It feels good to talk about my plans after this deployment because that means I’m not too far from it.” Durkin, a lesbian, also had plans to get married.
Those close to her do not believe that Durkin was targeted because of her sexual orientation. Durkin had talked with her friends, before she enlisted, about the Army’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which allows gays and lesbians to serve as long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation or act upon it. She was, they recall, not particularly concerned about being found out. Durkin apparently did not reveal that she was a lesbian while in the service and, according to one soldier who knew her, her unit members were as shocked by her death as the discovery that she was a lesbian.
“It just doesn’t add up,” said Douglas Bailey, a spokesman who is representing the family at the request of Senator John F. Kerry. “Ciara was very happy when she was home. She loved being in the military; it was really the right place for her. The family absolutely does not believe it is suicide.”
The military has said that its autopsy should be done by the end of this month, but that its investigation into how Durkin died could take many months, even years. An independent autopsy, paid for by Kerry, is also expected to be presented to the family soon.
What will those reports say about the bullet that killed her? The Durkin family has been told it was fired directly into her mouth, according to Bailey.
“All the evidence may add up to a suicide, or somebody who staged a suicide,” added Bailey. “The evidence would look the same either way.”
A desire to enlist
Ciara Durkin was not the kind of woman some might expect to enlist in the military. She liked to eat tofu scrambles and grow organic vegetables on the roof of her Jamaica Plain apartment. She was a lover of animals and spent some of her spare time rescuing wild cats and playing with her pet rabbit, Ms. Wilbur. She worked with Alzheimer’s patients and the needy. A member of the vestry of her church, she sometimes handed out small stickers that said, “God Bless You.”
(For the rest of this story, please visit the article’s original site http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/11/18/a_death_shrouded_by_war_mystery/?s_campaign=8315) The Boston Globe