By Adam Ashton, Staff writer
At least the waiting is over.
That's small consolation for friends and family of 12 Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker soldiers who spent much of the past two years ensnared in a sprawling war crimes investigation.
The trials tested families in ways they couldn't have imagined when their sons and husbands enlisted in the Army. Some couples broke apart. Others came away intact, but found themselves thousands of dollars in debt from legal fees.
"Oh God, this isn't what happens to us, this is what happens in movies," Sara Bram, 25, remembered thinking as the trials unfolded and gained international attention.
Her husband, Staff Sgt. David Bram, is serving a five-year sentence for assaulting a subordinate and posing for a photo with a dead Afghan.
While the investigation included a range of lesser charges, it centered on five soldiers from the former 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division accused of murdering three Afghan civilians in the spring of 2010.
The so-called "kill team" investigation ended last week when the Army dropped murder and assault charges it had pressed against Spc. Michael Wagnon. He was the only accused soldier to walk away with a mostly clean record.
Eleven of Wagnon's platoon mates were convicted at courts-martial. Seven received jail time, including a life sentence for kill team ringleader Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs. Three more were handed bad-conduct discharges that will deny them veterans benefits and give them felony convictions to answer for as they rebuild their lives.
At Lewis-McChord, soldiers and infantry units connected to the kill team can finally start putting the trials and the spotlight behind them.