"Defending Our Defender"

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Sweetwater, Monroe County (WVLT) - An East Tennessee soldier has testified that he did not order his squad to kill three Iraqi detainees.

But that he did help the squad members who shot them, cover up the crime.

Staff Sergeant Ray Girouard is facing court-martial at Fort Campbell, for what some have dubbed the "Samarra Massacre" last May.

But as Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd shows us, his hometown of Sweetwater remains committed to his defense.

"If he tells the same story to the panel that he's told to us, no way will he be found guilty," Ron Bentley insists the grandson he raised, the Ranger Squad leader, can't be the Staff Sergeant Ray Girourard, the Army claims is a murderer. "You'd have to know Raymond, his character's impeccable."

"Ray could not have done that, no way could he have lined people up intentionally and killed them," says Jessica Morgan, a lifelong friend of SSGT Girouard.

Not the drummer Jessica Morgan knew in Sweetwater High School. "He'd give his life to support us, we should at least rally behind him."

Rallies. Fundraisers to cover legal expenses, even a prayer vigil. You'd expect such shows of support for one of your own. But here in Sweetwater, it's more.

"The Army put him in the position he's in, they should be backing him, not fighting him," in Ray Girourard, Charlie Boyd sees shadows of his service in Vietnam. "The raw deal is the thing that sticks in everybody's mind."

"He said if the Army doesn't want me I'll go to the Marines, I said son, it's the same government," Ron recalls.

Neither his grandfather, nor his Pastor can conceive of Ray Girouard losing faith in self, or his country, even if he's found guilty. That strength will come in the Psalm he read to the congregation just before deploying.

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high, small abide under the Shadow of the Almighty," says Pastor Larry Orr. "And that is helping me to realize that whatever happens to me in Iraq, God is gonna be in charge."

"It was a simple, yet, man, that was a profound statement for that young man to make," Pastor Orr says.

Staff Sergeant Girouard is the highest ranking member of the one101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles" to face trial.

The two alleged triggermen, have accepted pleas and testified against him.

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