Army Apologizes To Canton Family - Son Killed by Friendly Fire

CANTON, Ohio (AP) - The inspector general of the Army has apologized to the family of an Ohio soldier killed in Iraq for its handling of the investigation into his death, now believed to have been from friendly fire, the family says.

But Peggy Buryj said she still doesn't know who killed her son, Army Pfc. Jesse Buryj, 21, who died May 5, 2004, in Karbala.

"I don't think I'll ever get the answer," Peggy Buryj said after she, her husband, Steve, and their daughter Angela Sokol, met with Army Inspector Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Green on Friday. "But at least now I can say I fought a good fight for my son."

At first, the Army said Buryj was killed when his armored vehicle was hit by a truck driven by an insurgent and that Buryj died of internal injuries. He fired several hundred rounds at the oncoming truck, saving the lives of other soldiers, the family said it was told.

But the death certificate the family received said Buryj died within minutes after being shot in the back.

The family's search for answers led them to a meeting with President Bush when he visited Canton in July 2004.

The meeting on Friday came after an inspector general's investigation this year. Green would not comment on the meeting with the family other than to confirm the death of Buryj was discussed. A message seeking comment was left with the Defense Department on Saturday.

The bullet that killed Buryj was not kept since initial reports indicated he was killed by an insurgent, he told the family.

"Because Jesse's case was not classified friendly fire, they disposed of all the evidence," Peggy Buryj said.

Green told the family that the Army believes friendly fire from Polish troops killed Buryj when they began firing on the insurgent's truck. The destruction of evidence, however, makes an absolute determination impossible.

The Polish government has disputed that account.

"Although the issue of who fired the shot could not be resolved beyond all doubt, all available evidence indicated that it was highly unlikely that the shot was fired by a Polish soldier," a Polish Ministry of Defense spokesman said earlier this year.

The Polish Embassy in Washington was closed Saturday and officials could not be reached for comment.

Peggy Buryj previously had heard from a lieutenant in her son's unit, the 66th Military Police Company out of Fort Lewis, Wash., who said an American soldier told his superiors that he accidentally shot him. The Army told her that the officer would not speak to its investigators.

She said the family is relieved that the death has been investigated. She said the government apology was sincere.

"Does this make it right?" she asked. "Yeah. It has to make it right.

"Am I going to get old and nasty and bitter about this? No."