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Mom: Blackwater should never forget my boy

  • Story Highlights
  • Mother alleges Blackwater has stonewalled answering questions
  • Her son, three other Blackwater employees were killed in Falluja in March 2004
  • Blackwater CEO: Contractors should be held more accountable for actions
  • Mother responds: "That's what I've wanted from day one"
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By Wayne Drash
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(CNN) -- Katy Helvenston never wants Blackwater or America to forget her boy. Scott Helvenston was a decorated Navy man who, at age 17, became one of the youngest Navy SEALs in U.S. history.


Katy Helvenston holds a picture of her son, Scott Helvenston who was killed in Falluja, Iraq.

But her son's life was cut short on March 31, 2004 -- one of four Blackwater employees savagely attacked that day. It was Scott Helvenston's first mission inside Iraq with Blackwater, his mother says.

The burned and mutilated remains of two of the employees were strung up from a bridge over the Euphrates River, an image that fueled American outrage and triggered the first of two attempts to retake the city from Sunni insurgents.

Scott's mom has led the charge in seeking answers about her slain son. She has constantly pressed Blackwater for answers to what led to the killings that day despite, she says, running into resistance from the private security contractor at every turn.

"I've been put through the ringer," she says. "I just want them to be held accountable."

Just last week, the House Oversight Committee said Blackwater "delayed and impeded" its congressional probe into the 2004 killings, saying the company stalled the investigation by "erroneously claiming" documents related to the incident were classified.

"Blackwater agreed to the Falluja mission before its contract officially began, ignored multiple warnings about the risks involved and did not provide its team with adequate equipment, intelligence or directions," the House report said. "According to one account, the result was an 'incident that could have been avoided or at least the risk minimized.'"

One Blackwater employee described to the committee an unorganized operation in Iraq. "Some of these lazy f**ks care about one thing, money," the employee was quoted as saying in the report. Contractors can make $600 a day, and sometimes much more than that. Learn more about security contractors »

The night before the four Blackwater employees were killed, according to the congressional report, an urgent e-mail was sent to Blackwater managers by the contractor's Baghdad operations manager, Tom Powell, asking for much-needed equipment.

"I need new vehicles. I need new COMs, I need ammo, I need Glocks and M4s. All the client body armor you got, guys are in the field with borrowed stuff and in harm's way," Powell said in the e-mail titled, "Ground Truth," according to the House report.

He concludes with: "Ground truth is appalling."

Blackwater employees Helvenston, Jerry Zovko, Mike Teague and Wesley Batalona were killed the next day. The families of the slain men have sued Blackwater, alleging the company failed to provide their relatives with adequate gear and weaponry. Blackwater has denied the allegations and argued the men agreed to assume the risks of working in a war zone.

Katy Helvenston has testified before the House committee.

And so Tuesday, she turned on her television in Leesburg, Florida, to watch the testimony of Blackwater chairman and CEO Erik Prince, who has only spoken rarely in the public.

At the start of the hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, acknowledged some of the other Falluja Blackwater family members who were in attendance.

"I know many of you believe that Blackwater has been unaccountable to anyone in our government. I want you to know that Blackwater will be held accountable today," Waxman said.

Prince told the panel that he too "shares the committee's interest in ensuring the accountability and oversight of contractor personnel supporting U.S. operations." Video Watch what Prince had to say »

"Blackwater believes that more can and should be done to increase accountability, oversight and transparency," he said.

Katy Helvenston was almost in disbelief. "Well, gee, that's strange," she said. "That's what I've wanted from day one."

She recalled how she repeatedly called Blackwater the day her son was killed. She says she finally got word Scott was killed around 3 a.m. "I said, 'Will someone be here with me?' And they said, 'No, you're on your own.'"

Her voice breaks over the phone as she cries. "Six months, I tried to call them after that. I never spoke to a person. I just got answering machines and voice mails. Not one time did they ever call me back."

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said she couldn't speak to specific charges raised by family members of those killed in Falluja due to ongoing litigation. But she insisted Blackwater has "always argued in favor of stringent accountability."

"Blackwater does what it can to advocate accountability and it always has, but the company is not a governing body and is, thus, not in a position to enforce the existing laws that relate to contractor accountability," she said in an e-mail.


For Katy Helvenston, that brings little relief. She says she's "not had a life" since that day her boy was killed -- and that she'll never give up in her fight.

"They gave [Scott] nothing to protect himself, and they took away anything that could possibly save him." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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