No comments, documents from Laughter
by BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer, STEPHEN CRASS Publisher
Apr 13, 2014 | 2136 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sixth District county commission candidate E.J. Laughter brought a written statement to the Cleveland Daily Banner on Monday, March 31, saying he would provide additional information about his career in the U.S. Navy.

Nearly two weeks later, that information has yet to be delivered to the newspaper and no information from any source has appeared that would document various claims he made regarding his service.

Laughter, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary for the Bradley County government position, previously announced he had served as an EOD technician and had been awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

When he was presented by the Banner with information that appeared to contradict his service claims, Laughter acquiesced to two interviews.

The total documentation provided by Laughter through the course of those interviews was a single sheet of what he claimed was his DD214 certificate of discharge from the Navy. Laughter said he had personally redacted information from the certificate, information that would have listed duty stations and training.

Laughter’s second interview also gained a commitment he would be inquiring to the service to get further documentation and pictures to provide to the Banner.

The documents and pictures requested and promised to the Banner have yet to be presented.

Since publication of the story in the April 1 edition of the Banner, the newspaper has received literally hundreds of emails and Facebook postings from around the world from former shipmates of Laughter and other members of the U.S. Navy community.

Without exception, every credible communication received refuted Laughter’s version of his military record.

Emails and messages left on Laughter’s cellphone by the Banner have not been returned.

Emails and phone messages requesting comment from the Bradley County Democratic Party have also gone without response. It appears earlier references regarding Laughter’s campaign announcement, as well as any mention of his candidacy, have been removed from the Democratic Party’s website.

Laughter stated in his candidacy announcement he “was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his military service to our country. I served four years in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. I was an Explosive Ordinance (sic) Disposal Technician, 2nd Class, and attached to EOD Mobile Unit 2 at the end of my career.”

According to Laughter’s publicly releasable service data from the U.S. Navy, Laughter’s military decorations do not include either the Bronze Star or Purple Heart, an award given for injuries received while engaged in actions with a hostile enemy.

The U.S. Navy information is also absent of any reference to acquiring an EOD rating — a rating which requires about a year of specialized training in explosives, dive school and parachute training.

The duty stations reported in the U.S. Navy document acquired by the Banner show Laughter went to Nuclear Field “A” School in Charleston, S.C., from Feb. 16, 2010, through April 22, 2010; Center for Surface Combat Systems Unit student in Great Lakes, Ill., from June 20, 2010, through July 13, 2010; USS Iwo Jima; and the Transient Personnel Unit in Norfolk, Va., from March 12 through April 12, 2012.

The Navy lists his last duty station as the Navy Medical Center, Portsmouth, Va. That is inconsistent with Laughter’s claim his service with EOD Mobile Unit 2 came “at the end of my career.”

His “end of my career” statement would also be at odds with his announcement that he spent four years, or even parts thereof, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. His total service listed on Navy documents was less than three years.

There is no mention of “EOD 2” in any fashion on his service history as provided by the U.S. Navy.

The Banner will continue to develop this story as information unfolds, including any developments on the presence of Laughter’s name on the coming Bradley County primary ballot on May 6.