By Betsy Lizotte
You didn’t know Hansson. You would have liked her if you had. Maybe you would remember her like I do if you had seen her the way I saw her.
I met her, knew her for about three months while she was a Soldier under my command, and I’ve thought about what happened to her for over two decades. From what I remember, Specialist (SPC) Hansson was 24 years old when she died. She was beautiful, with large blue eyes, long blond hair, and a sprinkling of freckles over her nose and high cheekbones. Her smooth forehead seemed to reflect her kindness and levelheadedness. She had gravitasse and wore her BDUs like a model on the cover of Cosmo magazine. The Army had recruited her to be an enlisted engineer equipment mechanic even though she had a bachelor’s degree. Having a four-year degree would have allowed her to be an officer, like me, but instead she chose to be enlisted. When I asked her why she had joined the Army as an enlisted Solider instead of as an officer she told me that she wanted to be an officer some day, but only after experiencing military life as a Soldier. That way, when she became an officer, she felt that her decisions would be more benevolent because she would know how those decisions affected the young Soldiers under her command. She was a much better person than I was and because she died young, she always will be.
I have thought about her on and off over the last 23 years. Mostly I think about her death. Hansson’s remains are the only ones I have ever had to identify. She’s the only reason I’ve ever visited a morgue. I remember the ensuing investigation and all the unanswered questions about her death: How did she die? Was it the fire or something before the fire? Why was her head split open? Did her boyfriend or someone who knew her do it, or was she accidentally hit by a car that split her head open? Why was she in that farmer’s field when they found her? How and why was she burned? Did her assailant burn her to cover the evidence or did the farmer who found her burn her body so he wouldn’t have to answer questions about an American Soldier found on his property? We’ll never know. But, here is a possible account of what killed her...