Father: Army 'Broke' Soldier Accused Of Killing 5

The father of a U.S. soldier accused of killing five fellow troops in Iraq said his son "forfeited his life" but the military bears some responsibility for the rampage.

Wilburn Russell said Tuesday that 44-year-old Army Sgt. John M. Russell wasn't typically a violent person, but counselors "broke" him before gunfire erupted in a military stress center Monday in Baghdad.

"John has forfeited his life. Apparently, he said (to his wife), 'My life is over. To hell with it. I'm going to get even with 'em,'" said the elder Russell, 73.

His father said the younger Russell, an electronics technician, was at the stress center to transfer out of active duty. He said his son was undergoing stressful mental tests that he didn't understand were merely tests, "so they broke him."

"I hate what that boy did," said the elder Russell, speaking in front of the two-story house his son was buying with his German wife in a new subdivision. "We're sorry for the families, too. It shouldn't have happened."

Excerpts of his military record, obtained by The Associated Press, show Sgt. Russell previously did two one-year tours of duty in Iraq, one starting in April 2003 and another in November 2005. The stress of repeat and extended tours is considered a main contributor to mental health problems among troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sgt. Russell, who is facing charges of murder and aggravated assault, was about six weeks from the end of his third tour of duty in Iraq, his father said. Wilburn Russell said his son e-mailed his wife in Germany early this month, telling her officers threatened him during what he called the two worst days of his life.

"His life was over as far as he was concerned," said the elder Russell, who didn't know whether his son was being disciplined or facing a discharge. "He loved the military."

The soldier's son, John M. Russell II, said he has communicated with his father by e-mail regularly. In the last message he received — April 25, the day after his 20th birthday — the younger Russell said his father sounded normal and planned to be back in Texas to visit in July.

"He's not a violent person," the son said. "He's just a loving, caring guy. He doesn't like to see anyone get hurt. For this to happen, it had to be something going on that the Army's not telling us about."

Sgt. Russell grew up in a rural, unincorporated area of Grayson County and graduated from Tom Bean High School in 1985. Records show he entered the Army National Guard in 1988 and served in the Guard until 1994, when he became an active duty soldier. His military record shows Russell served in Serbia through the last half of 1996 and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last half of 1998.

He lives with his wife in Germany, where he's been for most of the past 10 to 15 years, but comes home a couple times a year, his father said.

The elder Russell said his son went active-duty after working various maintenance jobs around Sherman, a town of about 35,000 located about 60 miles north of Dallas. He'd also had a divorce and a few minor criminal scrapes in his hometown before enlisting.

When Russell's ex-wife sued for divorce in 1991, she obtained a temporary restraining order against him and an order withholding earnings for child support.

In an affidavit attached to the divorce petition, Denise Russell said her husband had committed "acts of family violence" and should be barred from coming within 200 yards of her or their son, then 2 years old. The document specifically cited an incident in which John Russell allegedly took the child after a confrontation with Denise Russell's mother.

"During this time, respondent physically attacked my mother, age 58, hitting her on the shoulders and about the head," the affidavit stated.

A call and visit to Russell's ex-wife weren't answered Tuesday.

In 1993, a month after the divorce decree was issued, Russell was charged with misdemeanor assault by threats, Grayson County online records show. The matter was later dropped.

Jack McGowen, listed as Russell's attorney for the divorce as well as the threat case, said Tuesday he couldn't recall either matter.

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  • by NC Soldier Location: Baghdad on May 14, 2009 at 09:39 AM
    To those of you so against this war and convinced it is all based on lies, just what are you doing to help this great country you have the privilege of living in? Easy to speak, even easier to type, but what actions have you taken, oh mighty keyboard warriors? And to all of you, what exactly do you know about what it is like to be us? My deepest condolences to the families of the Soldiers involved, and Godspeed my brothers in arms.
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on May 13, 2009 at 01:49 PM
    Snake Oil; You are suggesting that these people didn't know they were getting bad intelligence. I'm saying they made it up. I'm saying that they fabricated a case for war. If I made up a story about a sniper on a road and I KNEW it was bs because I created it, I would certainly let my kids go down that highway and would probably have a good laugh about it. WAKE UP! The whole thing was based on lies! Our government wouldn't do it? Check out the Bay of Tonkin.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on May 13, 2009 at 01:29 PM
    Would you let your son or daughter go down that highway or not? I gave you the information that it was a story but witn couldn't confirm it, would you let them go?
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on May 13, 2009 at 12:22 PM
    Okay, Snake Oil, why did I know this was coming? It's the old "faulty intelligence" deal. These people are not stupid enough to tell outright lies so they found (I think the word is "cherry picked") what would fit their needs. Or they got some idiot, called him a "credible informant" and got him to say what they wanted. I know you are smarter than this. If I tell you I saw a report about a blue unicorn, or someone told me he saw one, it doesn't make me a liar TECHNICALLY (like that matters when you do it and kill thousands), but it is a lie.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on May 13, 2009 at 11:47 AM
    So where is the lie? Do you know what a lie is? If Bush or Cheney were informed as they were or anything from intelligence how does that make them a liar? I can assure you as I read what was going on at the time, that they took evidence from the UK, Arabs, Sadaam himself and US intellgence (Bill Clintons) people to come to a "conclusion". So, where do any of you get a lie from all this? What would you have done? If you saw a report on witn that a sniper was shooting cars on a certain highway, would you send your son or daughter to drive down that road? If it is not true, do you take the chance anyway?
  • by Anonymous on May 13, 2009 at 11:12 AM
    This would take a book, but here is one...There's overwhelming evidence there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government. I am very confident that there was an established relationship there." - Vice President Cheney, 1/22/04...."Saddam Hussein warned his Iraqi supporters to be wary of joining forces with foreign Arab fighters entering Iraq to battle U.S. troops. The document provides another piece of evidence challenging the Bush administration contention of close cooperation between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda terrorists." [NY Times, 1/15/04]
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on May 13, 2009 at 10:16 AM
    Yes Barlow, nice return, however, you still have not given me one lie from Bush, not one. Yes, we are all aware of the Torture hearings and it sounds like you will loose your speaker of the house, Mrs Pelosi since she authorized it. I am even excited to find out as many democrats knew about it and authorized it. Again, I am a blue dog democrat who questions my party on everything and keep up with the goings on. Sometimes Fox is part of being informed. I don't have that denial thing going on like some dems.
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on May 13, 2009 at 09:04 AM
    Snake Oil: Try searching somewhere besides Faux News LOL. I can't believe there are still people who think like you are around, but you are few and far between these days. There is a reason for that. The same reason we have the President we do. Good luck with that. whew! Check out CSPAN this week on the torture hearings. good source of reality for you.
  • by Wanda Location: Kenansville on May 13, 2009 at 08:42 AM
    If this soldier had so much pressure on him, why wasn't he immediately discharged back to the states and ordered to mental health? I beleive it's a little to late to say shoulda, woulda and coulda. My condolences to all the families.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on May 13, 2009 at 07:39 AM
    Give it a break already, Soldiers volunteer for service. As usual, Barlow, we are all waiting for you to tell us what lies you are referring to? I have searched everywhere and never found one "lie" that Bush or Cheney said. Yet, I have already found numberous lies that your chosen one has made. No new taxes? He just spent more money than Bush did in 8 years as president and you are OK with that? What is sad is this story and the families resolve.
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