“Wounded Platoon” Soldier Denied Parole
You may remember Kenny Eastridge from our 2010 film The Wounded Platoon: He was a kid with a troubled past who, at age 12, shot and killed his friend while playing video game. He shouldn’t have been allowed to join the military due to his juvenile record, but they were in need of recruits.
So he joined the Army and excelled as a soldier. He was mentored by his sergeant, Sean Huey. Then, in Iraq in 2004, a car bomb killed Huey. Eastridge was just a few yards from the blast:
It was pretty terrible. There was a few of us that were just really close to Sgt. Huey. I remember seeing lots of body parts laying down the alley. When we first ran up, I seen Sgt. Huey laying on the ground. He was doing, like, a dead fish thing, like, where he’s gasping for air. And he was pale. He was real pale. And I remember my buddy, Barco, the whole front end of the car blew off and pinned him against a concrete wall.
I remember, like, the next day after we lost him, we had to go right back out. You know, you still have to do your job, even if your buddy dies. I was wishing that somebody would get out of line. I was, like, “I will just destroy everything.”
Fast forward: Eastridge was falling apart. Prior to his second tour in 2006, he was getting drunk every night in Colorado. He was arrested for assault after pointing a gun at his girlfriend’s head in a drunken argument. Military regulations state that a soldier who has a pending criminal charge may not deploy. But, again, the military was short of soldiers. Two weeks before Third Platoon headed out, Eastridge’s new company commander decided to take him.
The above video shows what happened next: He became hooked on prescription drugs and marijuana; he behaved inappropriately in the presence of Iraqis. “Looking back on it, I mean, it looks like I was going crazy,” Eastridge told FRONTLINE.
Eastridge was eventually court-martialed on nine counts, including illegal possession of drugs and threatening an officer. Army doctors examined him and concluded he was suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress and “homicidal thoughts.” These afflictions were “battle-related.”
He was sent home under military escort to Colorado Springs. But when he got back, he escaped and went AWOL. And that’s when he became involve in a series of violent crimes, including the murder of another soldier, Kevin Shields in 2007. His lawyer arranged a plea bargain and he was sentenced to 10 years for his role (Louis Bressler and Bruce Bastien, the other two men in the video, were each sentenced to 60 years).
Last Thursday, Eastridge was denied parole. He remains in a Colorado prison.
[Warning: The above video contains graphic language and descriptions of violence.]