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Dear Mr. and Mrs. Santiago, I was William's executive officer. I knew your son vaguely, which is to say I knew his name. In a matter of time, the trial of the two men charged with your son's death will be concluded, and seven men and two women whom you've never met will try to offer you an explanation as to why William is dead. For my part, I've done as much as I can to bring the truth to light. And the truth is this: Your son is dead for only one reason. I wasn't strong enough to stop it. Always, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Andrew Markinson, United States Marine Corps.
~ Markinson's final words on a letter to Private William T. Santiago's parents before his death.
Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Andrew Markinson is a major character in the play A Few Good Men and the movie adaptation of the play.
Markinson went to the academy with another young man named Nathan R. Jessup. The two men became friends, graduating from the academy together and doing tours of duty together in Vietnam. Markinson began working in counter-intelligence and spent a large part of his career as a counter-intelligence operative.
When Jessup became commander of the Marine ground forces in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba base he had his old friend Markinson named second in command. By then Jessup was a full Colonel and Markinson was still a Lieutenant Colonel, something that was a source of tension on Markinson's part.
When one PFC William T. Santiago made numerous attempts to get transferred elsewhere - going as far as to offer information on a fence line shooting - he came to the attention of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, Markinson, and Lt. Jonathan Kendrick. While Markinson wanted to transfer Santiago away Jessup overruled him and ordered that Santiago go nowhere. Jessup and Kendrick decided to have a code red performed on Santiago, and Jessup ordered Markinson to go along with what they were planning. The hazing went horribly wrong and Santiago died as a result of the hazing.
The two Marines who performed the code red - Lance Corporal Harold W. Dawson and Private First Class Louden Downey - were arrested. When their defense counsel - Lt. Daniel Alistair Kaffee, Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway and Lieutenant Sam Weinberg - didn't plea bargain the case as expected Jessup and Kendrick realized they had a problem on their hands and began doing everything they could to cover up their involvement in the code red.
Jessup had Markinson sign off on a falsified transfer order, and had tower logs at Gitmo altered, to make it look like Santiago was going to be going away. Furthermore Kendrick had ordered the other Marines to not touch Santiago before telling Downey and Dawson to go ahead with the code red on Santiago.
When Galloway and Kaffee arrived at Gitmo to interview the command staff Markinson's doubts began to intensify. Shortly after the JAG officers left Markinson decided to go UA from the base. Using his skills from his counter intel career he made his way to Washington undetected.
Finding Kaffee he informed the young officer that Jessup was never going to transfer Santiago off the base, and that he had submitted a falsified transfer order after Santiago died. Kaffee said that he would work on an immunity deal for Markinson, but Markinson said he didn't want immunity, that it was right for him to be punished for his actions. Kaffee put him up in a Washington hotel guarded by Federal agents.
Feeling that it would be wrong for him to testify, Markinson wrote a letter to Santiago's parents, telling them that he was William's executive officer and that regardless of how the court martial of Dawson and Downey went it was his failure that their son was dead, that he hadn't been strong enough to stand up to Jessup. Dressing in his full blue dress uniform, Markinson pulled his service pistol out, put it to his head, and ended his life.
Despite the death of Markinson, it was discovered that Jessup had indeed ordered the code red. Dawson and Downey were acquitted of the murder charges and both Jessup and Kendrick were arrested in order to make them answer for their crimes.
In the movie, Markinson was portrayed by the late J.T. Walsh, a friend of Jack Nicholson, who played Jessup. Walsh also worked with him on the 1992 film Hoffa, playing the role of Frank Fitzsimmons.
In the stage version, Markinson held the rank of Captain and had resigned his commission after the JAG officers left Cuba.
In the movie version, Markinson put his gun in his mouth when he killed himself instead of to his head.