One year after racial killing, Fort Bragg assesses recoveryDecember 6, 1996
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EST
From Reporter Russ Jamieson
FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina (CNN) -- Prayer and pronouncements marked the one-year anniversary of the day three soldiers from Fort Bragg killed two African-American civilians. A service was held in Fort Bragg's Post Chapel Friday in a ceremony to remember the troubling incident.
The Army called the memorial service a time for remembrance and reconciliation. It claims to have weeded skinheads and extremists out of the military, and to have once again bonded with the surrounding community.
One year ago Saturday, Michael James and Jackie Burden were gunned down in Fayetteville, a community which has lived for decades side by side with Fort Bragg. Three members of Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division -- Pvt. James Norman Burmeister II, Pvt. Malcolm Wright, and Army specialist Randy Lee Meadows, were charged in the killing.
The incident stunned the community and the U.S. Army. Anger, rage, and mistrust followed the shootings.
"We did not see this cancer coming. We missed the signs, symbols and manifestations of extremism," said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. John M. Keane.
Keane says the Army erased extremism at Fort Bragg by implementing sensitivity training, and actively investigating suspected extremists. Now, he says, even tattoos are screened for possible racist or extremist meanings, and several soldiers already have been discharged because of tattoos they wouldn't remove.
"We've educated our people, in terms of what to look for and how to deal with it, and when we find soldiers whose attitudes and behavior are disruptive to the good order and discipline of our unit, we are going to act," Keane said.
Army personnel from the 82nd Airborne maintain that training has worked. Corporal Jason Page said of extremism, "We don't have any of that in our unit. If we do, I haven't seen it."
PFC Lance Tucker agreed. "They tell us they don't want to see it going on, which it doesn't in our unit."
Local community leaders say they believe time has helped in healing the wounds between Fort Bragg and Fayetteville. "Since then, we have had a liaison with Fort Bragg," said James Florence, a Fayetteville NAACP leader. "We can talk with them almost any time that we need."
Carveline McLean, Burden's aunt, agreed that Army efforts had eased racial tensions -- "a little bit." However, she said, more could be done. "They got to look a little bit deeper, they got to search a little bit harder, and no matter what they do, some gonna still be there," she said.
Since the shooting, all three soldiers have been discharged. Private Burmeister's trial is set for next month.
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