Tag Archives: John Stewart

Father Seeks Support for Wrongly-Convicted Soldier, Son

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below, and with only minor modifications, I share a story published recently at SaveThisSoldier.com, the website run by CMSgt. John Stewart (USAF Ret.). Chief Stewart, by the way, is the father of former Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, a Green Beret combat veteran whose life story is chronicled in my first book, Three Days in August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice (October 201):

Click image above to visit SaveThisSoldier.com.

Click image above to visit SaveThisSoldier.com.

Current Status and Help Needed

After release from prison March 31, 2011, SFC Stewart was forced to move to Virginia where he lived in an old 20 foot camper in a very, very rural area near the Shenandoah Mountain range.  His wife divorced him, taking away his two children.  Over the next 3 years he did not have funds to purchase propane gas on a regular basis and suffered through cold winter nights without heat.  A water hose running from a well froze, and there was no water and he frequently went to use a nearby river as the bathroom facility.  Having little funds for payment during the heat of summer, he had to significantly reduce use of electric and was without air conditioning.

This past year, with assistance of his parents, he was able to rent and move into an unfinished garage of an old home, one without heat or any comfort items.  He purchased a used wood stove, ran a stovepipe, to have heat in the garage.  Wood was hung on the wall for shelves for food items, etc.  An old, worn out couch and chair were purchased from a thrift shop for about $25.  A used bed and work table were found, the table serving as somewhere to sit and eat.  Found some cheap throw rugs from a thrift shop for the unfurnished floor.  A used refrigerator with a bad door and no icemaker were found, as was a makeshift kitchen stove to cook on.  He was unable to purchase a microwave oven.  Lighting is rudimentary at best.  In a joint room through a large opening is a portion used by the owner for repair to motorcycles and other items.  Obviously odors and fumes permeate throughout the living area.

Click image above to order book.

Click image above to order book.

SFC Stewart has an entry level job now at a local business (who’s owner) stepped forward, (understanding) his situation and the outlandish conviction.  Unfortunately, he makes a very, very small salary but it is the best that can be done for now.  From that small amount of take-home pay he must pay a large child support payment, necessary utilities, food, insurance and gas to get to work while using an old car purchased by his parents, medical bills must be paid (he has extensive health issues from military service and his without VA health benefits), clothing, etc., etc., etc.  Additionally, the United States Army has billed him for over $27,000 in back pay issues while on active duty and shortly will begin garnisheeing his pay for a monthly amount that appears to exceed his entire monthly income. 

His parents are attempting to find an affordable and livable home in the near area allowing him to commute to work and have the amenities of comfortable living.  They will make the payments until SFC Stewart gets back on his feet with sufficient income to pay the mortgage.  It is difficult to find a home because of the rural situation, which is the lowest populated County in the State.  Few homes are for sale within an affordable bracket not only from the aspect of parents being able to afford it, but in SFC Stewart being able to assume those payments should the death of his elderly parents occur.  Both mobile homes and fixed homes have been looked at by SFC Stewart and his parents during a recent visit.  Almost every home that has been reviewed (and there have been many) that are affordable have been in absolutely atrocious conditions and would be a complete waste of money due to improvement needs.  Nearly every home visited under $75k has been in terrible condition, but his parents nor SFC Kelly can purchase a home without assistance.

You can help.

Money is needed for purchase of a house that is livable and affordable.  100% of your donation will be used in the purchase of a home for this Soldier.  How much is need?  A lot.  Consider that 20% of the price will be needed for down payment, possible closing costs, purchase of appliances and furniture will be necessary, deposits for utilities, etc., etc. 

Will you help this Soldier who served his country with honor, only to be erroneously and unjustly convicted by a corrupt military justice system?  If so, click on this secure link and use your existing PayPal Account, create one, or use a credit card to make a donation.  Thank you for caring.

* * *

After reading the piece above, I hope you’ll find a way to help Chief Stewart help his son by making a contribution to the cause.  If you want to learn more about Kelly Stewart, please order a copy of Three Days in August, the book New York Times best selling author Richard Miniter described as “Well-written and thoroughly researched, Three Days In August paints a convincing portrait of a military justice process that appears to have lacked one essential element – justice.”  Thanks in advance for anything you can do!

UPDATE 4/19/2015 at 1:18 p.m. Central: Check out the limited-time free-books offer here.

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

Green Beret’s Dad ‘So In Tune With the Military’

I contacted retired Air Force CMSgt. John Stewart for the first time on March 30, 2010, after I read somewhere about the case of his son, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, a highly-decorated Green Beret combat veteran who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to eight years behind bars after being convicted by a court-martial panel of an assortment of charges. After more than 100 email exchanges and dozens of phone calls since then, I thought I had a good feel for the kind of man Chief Stewart — a veteran of Air Force Special Operations — truly was.  But I was wrong.

Kelly and John Stewart

SFC Kelly A. Stewart (U.S. Army) and CMSgt. John Stewart (USAF Ret.)

During a May 11, 2011, interview with Kelly, who was released on parole from the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth March 31 after his sentence was reduced to three years, I learned more about Chief Stewart. A lot more.

“There was a time after I graduated the ‘Q Course’” — that’s the Qualification Course for prospective members of the Special Forces — “and I was getting ready to go downrange to Iraq,” Kelly said. Then his dad, a longtime member of VFW Post #4252 in Hernando, Fla., took him out to a National Homeless Day event in downtown Ocala, Fla.

“There’s been a couple of times in my military career when my dad’s had me show up in my military uniform… but the one for National Homeless Day kind of really bothered me,” Kelly said, his voice breaking up. “I really had no clue. I was blind to it, and I think a lot of people in society are blind to it.”

“We’re at this thing, and my dad’s like, ‘We’re going to hoist this flag up to half-mast and play taps, you know, for National Homeless Day,’ and I was thinking, ‘National Homeless Day?’

“My dad gets up there and starts talking about the percentage and number of homeless people that are here in the United States and how about 85 percent of those people are Vietnam vets or veterans as a whole,” he explained. “I had no clue. I’m seeing people in wheelchairs, and there’s a bunch of homeless people there; it really hit me (that) my dad was trying to take care of them, people he served with. It was an honor for me to do it.

“Here he is referencing me, being a Green Beret getting ready to go downrange, and I’m looking at heroes sitting in front of me, and I wasn’t a hero. Small things like that that he does make me so proud of him.”

The sound of Kelly holding back tears comes through the phone line, then he regains his composure.

“He cares more about everybody else,” Kelly continued. “Even out of the military, he’s working military hours.”

Kelly explained that, during the last ten years while his dad has spent a lot of time in hospitals dealing with his own health concerns, the Vietnam veteran visited countless hospitalized veterans and others.

“He’s supposed to be retired, but he’s not. I don’t think it’s in his DNA to do it,” Kelly said about his dad, 65 at the time of the interview.

Chief Stewart recently took on the task of serving as secretary of the Inverness, Fla.-based program, Operation Welcome Home, which welcomes every military service member returning home from a war zone with free dinner certificates, gift baskets and other expressions of appreciation for their sacrifices.

Such effort comes on the heels of personally delivering eulogies at hundreds of veterans’ funerals across the country, including many at Florida National Cemetery in nearby Bushnell.

“He’s so in tune with the military,” Kelly said about his dad before explaining how his dad’s behavior is not unique among veterans.

“I saw early in my career, the first time I went to Kosovo, I was getting 40-pound care packages I used to share with all the guys in my platoon. They were from old vets.

“Kosovo’s like one of those small wars that was going on that people don’t really recognize as a war. It was never classified as a war, but there were still things that we were doing,” he explained. “I remember getting a letter from a guy that was in the 1st Infantry Regiment in Vietnam, and he sent me what, at that time, I thought was some really off-the-wall stuff.

“He sent me some socks, gloves, a scarf, a bunch of candy canes, some Vaseline, and some shoe strings and some dental floss.

“It just shows you how ‘cherry’ — the word I would use — or young I was with war,” Kelly explained. “You feel like you’re talking with somebody who’s really been to war. The items that he sent me were for a reason.

“I remember reading through the letter that he sent to me,” he said before recounting some of what it contained:

“Listen. Even during the summer months when it rains a lot, your hands are gonna get cold while holding that cold weapon, so make sure you wear those gloves even though it’s raining out there ‘cause they’re wool gloves and, when (they’re) wet, they’re still warm.”

And he wrote about other things, Kelly said:

“Dental floss. Nothing like having a toothache when you’re on a patrol. That’ll take you out, so make sure you floss every day even if you can’t brush. The scarf, it’s the same way. Keep yourself warm. It’ll keep the mosquitoes off of you.”

“Candy canes are great for energy when you’re on a patrol. Just make sure you don’t leave the wrappers around, because the enemy will see those and find you.”

‘The Vaseline, you put on your face; it’ll keep the cold wind from blowing on your face and making you cold.”

“That was kind of a weird letter, but you totally get that this guy (understood)… and that’s what my dad does now,” Kelly said. “He’s that same person that cares about each and every troop that’s over there.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Kelly A. Stewart is the man whose life story and wrongful conviction are chronicled in my book, Three Days In August. To order a copy, click here.

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.