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Army veteran works to save fallen soldier's reputation

By Carole Mikita | Posted - Jan. 24, 2011 at 6:27 p.m.

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PLAIN CITY -- A retired Utah Army veteran is trying to stop the military from rewriting the history of a deadly battle in Afghanistan, while at the same time saving a young soldier's reputation.

The July 2008 Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan became infamous because of the high number of Americans killed and injured. One branch of the military is now placing some of the blame on a young lieutenant killed in the battle.

We just felt there was an inordinate amount of blame at the tactical level -- on Jonathan as the platoon leader, who was really trying to make the best of a bad situation.

–Dave Spargur


First Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, of Hawaii, went to Afghanistan to see action. He followed his father into the military and, at age 24, led a unit called The Chosen Company.

His company was part of the Battle of Wanat on July 13, 2008, in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan. Taliban forces killed nine, including Brostrom, and wounded 27 others. The American deaths were the most in a single battle since the start of U.S. operations in 2001.

Brostrom is survived by his girlfriend, Lindsey Spargur, and his son, Jace. In 2009, when Jace was 6 years old, the Utah National Guard presented him with the Silver Star honoring his dad.

At the time, he was very proud. "I'm gonna hang it up in my room somewhere," he said.

Several investigations of the battle finally led to the reprimand of senior military leaders. But last year the Army revoked that reprimand, concluding that those on the ground made mistakes.

Brostrom's family disagrees with the move and is defending his legacy.

Dave Spargur is a retired Air Force veteran of 29 years. As Lindsey Spargur's father, he was very concerned about where the Army was pointing.

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"We just felt there was an inordinate amount of blame at the tactical level -- on Jonathan as the platoon leader, who was really trying to make the best of a bad situation," he said.

"I just feel that they're not portraying the history," Dave Spargur continued, "because the Combat Institute Studies report doesn't point out any failures at the strategic level, and what senior commanders should have done, could have done, didn't do; and they focus on the tactics involved in setting up the base and the actual battle."

Monday, Army representatives showed the Spargur family a Combat Studies Institute DVD report on the battle. They listened to information on what happened in before and during the combat.

Lindsey Spargur and her family believe Bronstrom did all he could.

"We think Jonathan look the most horrible conditions -- weather, food, water, shelter -- and, I think, made the best situation he could. And I just don't feel like that's being recognized enough," Lindsey Spargur said.

From the Army's perspective, the study focuses on the bigger picture of lessons learned.

"Because we're trying to get those lessons out, and the human cost of doing that is now what we're recognizing; and for that, I am very sorry," Brig. Gen. Sean MacFarland told Lindsey Spargur.

Col. Robert Whetstone, the Army public affairs officer at Fort Levenworth, Kan., said, "When a soldier is gone, it doesn't mean the family is neglected. They are still part of the Army family. Only time will heal the wounds that happened in a combat situation. We just want them to know that those soldiers that gave their lives aren't forgotten."

Military officials told the Spargur family they are sorry for their loss, but the conclusions in the second investigation will stand, and they will help other Army companies to better understand battle strategy.



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