Monday, May 24, 2004

Family defends leash holder

Pfc. England keeps close ties to E. Kentucky

The Associated Press

FLATWOODS - One of the soldiers at the center of the Iraqi prisoner controversy has the support of relatives who live in eastern Kentucky.

Pfc. Lynndie England spent the first two years of her life on a quiet lane in Flatwoods that bears her family name. Her father worked at the Russell rail yard for CSX, while her mother stayed at home and raised the kids.

Around 1985, England's dad was transferred, and her family moved to West Virginia. But her many aunts, uncles and cousins remain.

England is the American soldier pictured holding a leash attached to the neck of an Iraqi prisoner in Abu Ghraib.

Debbie Armstrong, one of England's aunts, has difficulty believing England would have been doing anything other than following orders.

Before she joined the Army, she would often come to England Lane for holidays, or to stay the summer. She was very close with her Flatwoods family, Armstrong said.

Armstrong recognized her niece as soon as the photos began appearing in the news. "I was shocked to see her in those photos," she said. "But it was obvious she was posing for whoever was behind the camera."

In Armstrong's house, other photos show England in a different light.

One shows her as a bride. Many others show her smiling with her arm around one relative or another. Others depict her graduation from boot camp and in the Iraqi desert, smiling still.

This, her family says, is the real Lynndie England: a family girl with a strong set of morals and a sense of patriotic duty, not a violator of human rights.

Armstrong's sister, Tammy Jordan of Greenup, said she sees some of the Lynndie England she knows in the Abu Ghraib photos.

"The smile is Lynndie. She had a smile for everyone," Jordan said. "But those pictures reflect bad things."

Armstrong admits England was a follower, but insists she wouldn't have followed in the abuse or humiliation of prisoners unless so ordered. Armstrong, who recently spoke with England, claims she told her the orders came from men she did not know. She only knew they outranked her, Armstrong said.

"I just hope everything comes out," Armstrong said.

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