NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
Mar 14, 2004
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Captain John F. Kurth, 31, of Wisconsin, died March 13, 2004, in Tikrit, Iraq, when his patrol encountered an improvised explosive device. Kurth was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, based in Schweinfurt, Germany. The incident is under investigation.
Specialist Jason C. Ford, 21, of Bowie, Maryland, died March 13, 2004, in Tikrit, Iraq, when his patrol encountered an improvised explosive device. Specialist Ford was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, based in Schweinfurt, Germany. The incident is under investigation.
From a news report: 15 March 2004
Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun
TEMPLE HILLS, Maryland — Specialist Jason Ford had only been in Iraq a few weeks when he called his father and stepmother at their Temple Hills home last week.
They sensed an uneasiness in his voice as he described hearing gunfire during his first patrol enforcing the curfew in the city of Tikrit, the site of frequent attacks on U.S. soldiers. Not fear, but perhaps a realization that danger was suddenly part of his daily life.
“I could hear the anxiety. It was almost like he was saying to himself, ‘This is the real thing,'” his father, Joseph Ford, said today.
Just days later, on his second patrol, Ford, 21, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded next to the Humvee he rode in as it drove through downtown Tikrit.
Now Ford's parents are waiting for his body to be flown home from Germany, handling the flood of phone calls from friends and family and preparing to bury him at Arlington National Cemetery.
The deaths Saturday of Ford and Captain John F. Kurth, 31, of Wisconsin were the first suffered in Iraq by the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment. The unit, based in Germany, formally took over security duties in Tikrit that same day.
The bomb destroyed the troops' armored Humvee. Gunmen opened fire on the rear vehicle in the three-Humvee patrol, then the bomb went off by the second Humvee, said one of the soldiers at the scene.
Ford grew up in the Bladensburg area, and attended a Job Corps program where he studied computers. In early 2002 he joined the Army, service that gave him structure and some “growing up,” according to his father.
His father said Ford was a model teen, the type who did not cause him much trouble growing up. To his stepmother, Irene, Ford was the type of person who others gravitated to because of his happy demeanor.
“He was just sweet, a good child,” she said. “There was nobody who didn't like him.”
A Vietnam veteran who served four years in the military and later 27 years with the Washington police department, Joseph Ford said he tried to reassure his son that his training would get him through his tour in Iraq.
Afterward, Joseph Ford planned to sit down his son and talk about what he had seen, to be there for him if he had any troubled emotions that still brewed from the stress of combat.
Now he steadies himself against the loss of a son by reassuring himself that Jason's death fits somewhere into God's plan.
I don't understand it and it hurts deeply,” he said. “But I am not a questioning man.”
Bowie community reaches out to family of fallen soldier
by Christina Findlay
March 18, 2004
Jason Christopher Ford was 17 when he moved to Bowie in search of a quiet, peaceful place to finish growing up. His journey led him into the U.S. Army, where he thrived and quickly rose up the ranks.
This weekend, Specialist Ford was killed in Tikrit. He was 21 years old.
Since learning of his death over the weekend, the soldier's family has been wrapped in love from the entire Bowie community.
“When I first moved here in 2000, a man came out of his house and asked if he could help us move in. I told my husband, I think we've moved to Mayberry,” said Yolanda McCrae, Ford's older sister, who marveled at the outpouring of support this week. “Our dog has been walked several times a day. People keep coming over to the house to take care of things.”
Yesterday a Bowie resident she doesn't even know mailed her a check in honor of the fallen soldier; the gesture prompted McCrae to start a memorial fund in her brother's name.
And the Bowie Homeowners Association laid a wreath in front of the Bowie Forest community where Ford lived with his sister and her family; the wreath will be lit with a solar light donated by Loews Hardware.
The generosity is exactly what Ford would have done for his own community, say his friends.
“He made you feel like you were the only person in the world,” said McCrae. “He had a presence around him. And he would do anything to help you. With children, he was so motivational in keeping them out of trouble.”
Ford took such pride in his small townhouse community that he organized regular community cleanups. When he was not busy rebuilding radios or playing his snare drums, he gathered groups of neighborhood youth for pick-up basketball games at White Marsh Park.
Children in the community “looked up to him as a leader,” said his neighbor and close friend, Aaron Braxton.
Ford's leadership symbolized just how far the young man had come.
A child of divorced parents — an office manager and retired police officer — Ford lived with his mother in the District of Columbia until 2000. He then moved to Bowie to live with his older sister.
“[His sister] was more or less trying to get him on the right road, to get him out of D.C. and into Bowie, which was a more stable environment,” said Braxton.
Ford was naturally outgoing, kind and generous.
“He was a born comedian — he could make anybody laugh,” said his mother Florence Newell, speaking from her home in the District. “I'm looking at a picture of him where he's leaning on his father's Lincoln. He's got on a white shirt with a red tie, his legs outstretched. One hand is leaning on the Lincoln door, the other hand on his hip — as if he's saying, this belongs to me. And I think he's five in this picture.”
Ford went to Bowie High School for eleventh grade. He withdrew before graduation, but went through the U.S. Job Corps and sought advice on his future from family and friends.
“Jason, he was pretty much a free spirit type person,” said Braxton. “Once he got his life together, completing his GED, he became more focused. He knew he wanted to go into the military.”
Ford enlisted in the Army, and trained in Fort Benning, Georgia. He was stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment.
“He thought it would give him the opportunity to go into a specialized trade, to travel. And he really loved it, he loved it,” said Newell. “Once he got in there, the one thing he seemed to talk about all the time was the people he was meeting.
“My son is not quite so caught up in the material things around him — life is what mattered to him,” she said.
If Ford was worried how his loved ones would react when he deployed to Iraq last year, he didn't show it.
“He didn't worry about me, because he knew I was anchored in God,” said Newell. “He knew I needed to lift him up in prayer while he was gone, because that wasn't a party he was going to.”
Ford called home every weekend. He told his family that after his infantry tour he wanted to pick up a computer specialization — a natural evolution for a boy intrigued with electronics.
He was hoping to come back to Bowie on leave, but the trip home was canceled because of increased security concerns in Iraq.
In late 2003, Ford learned that his unit would be deploying to Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown and currently one of the most unstable Iraqi cities.
In their last conversation, Braxton was touched by Ford's concern for his fellow squad members.
“During the conversation, Jason said, ‘I'll have to be on my P's and Q's and ensure that my squad members are properly trained so that they return home safely,'” said Braxton.
Ford's unit was patrolling Tikrit in the early morning hours of March 13 when they encountered an improvised explosive device, according to the Department of Defense. Ford and one other soldier were killed in the blast.
“He sacrificed, but he did what he had to do for his country,” said Ford's mother of her son.
The last Bowie High School student killed in combat was Michael Griggs, 19, who was killed in the Vietnam War.
The friends Ford made around the world — in Georgia, Germany and Iraq — have flooded the family with calls all week.
“I don't know who he might have been. His life has just been taken away from him so early, but we're getting through it,” said his mother. “My son is in heaven right now playing the drums. God's got my back, and Jason's in heaven playing drums.'”
In addition to Newell, Ford is survived by his father and stepmother, Joseph and Irene Ford of Temple Hills; his sisters, Yolanda McCrae of Bowie, Francine Harley of Seat Pleasant and Denise Ford of Temple Hills; his brothers Thomas Harley of Charles County and Willie Nance of Columbia, South Carolina; his grandmother, Florence Askew of the District; and numerous aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.
In addition to a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, the family will hold a memorial service next week in Bowie. Details will be posted on www.bowiestar.com as they become available.
Armed With Hope, Soldier Dies
Md. Man Saw Army as Way to New Life
By Hamil R. Harris
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Joseph Ford, a retired D.C. police officer, smiled yesterday as he recalled the night several years ago when his son and another boy were riding in the back seat of his patrol car in Northeast Washington, getting a close-up look at police work. Ford got an emergency call and started rushing to the scene.
“They were riding with me,” said Ford, 57, of Temple Hills. “I had the siren and lights flashing. They were swaying and trying to hold on in the back seat.”
His son, Jason C. Ford, was on patrol again Saturday, this time as a 21-year-old Army infantryman in Iraq. He and Captain John F. Kurth, 31, of Wisconsin were killed by a roadside bomb in Tikrit, the home town of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
“His demeanor, his bravery — he took his love into a bad situation to help someone,” Ford said of his son, who was the 21st U.S. service member from the Washington area to be killed in Iraq, some in combat, others in accidents. Eleven of the dead were from Virginia, eight from Maryland and two from the District.
Ford said his son enlisted in the Army two years ago because he saw military service as a ticket to a better life.
Jason Ford was raised in Prince George's County and the District. As a teenager, he dropped out of Bladensburg High School but then joined the Job Corps and earned a high school equivalency diploma.
Ford said his son was interested in becoming a computer technician and saw the military as his best hope.
“Being a serviceman who served in Vietnam, I have no regrets on what my son chose to do,” said Ford, who was in the Marine Corps for four years.
“It hurts deeply to realize that he lost his life, but he lost his life in an honorable way, serving his country. I am very proud of that. I am very proud of his courage and not questioning why he was there,” Ford said.
Ford and his wife, Irene, Jason's stepmother, said they learned of his death Saturday evening.
The news came in a telephone call from Jason's mother, Florence Newell of the District, shortly before Army officials showed up at the Fords' home.
“His mother called and said, ‘Jason is gone,' ” Irene Ford said, adding, “I tried to call as many family members as possible and told them, ‘Come over here.' ”
She voiced anger over the U.S. military involvement in Iraq. “Why are our children dying?” she said. “What is the reason for this young boy to lose his life? . . . It's like their lives don't make a difference.”
Jason was the youngest of Joseph Ford's six children. Jason's sister Thleia Hamrick said her brother “had a free spirit” and showed concern for others.
The Defense Department said he was in Bravo Company of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
He had been stationed in Germany before deploying to Kuwait and then Iraq.
His father said he received a call Sunday morning from an Army sergeant who was close to his son.
“He called and said, ‘I am going to bring Jason home,' ” Ford recalled. “He said, ‘I am going to do it even if I have to pay my own way.' He said, ‘I will let no stranger bring him home. I will bring my brother home.' ”
Irene Ford fought back tears as she reflected on the sergeant's call.
“He said one time when he was depressed, Jason came by at 1:15 in the morning and talked with him all night. He said not one person didn't like Jason. They all liked him.”
Joseph Ford said his son will be eulogized at Paramount Baptist Church in Northeast Washington after his body is returned to the United States.
He said that despite his loss, he went to church Sunday morning and sang with the choir.
“My strong faith is in the Lord, and God doesn't make mistakes,” Ford said.
“God knew him as one of his soldiers, and therefore he is watching over him.”
FORD, JASON CHRISTOPHER (SPC Active Military)
On Saturday, March 13, 2004 in Iraq. Beloved son of Florence Newell and Joseph Ford (Irene); loving brother of Thomas Harley Jr. (Ruth), Willie Nance, Jr., Yolanda McRae (James III), Francine Harley, Denyse Ford and Tina Thomas. Also survived by his grandmother Florence Askew, 10 uncles, 11 aunts, three nephews, four nieces a host of great-aunts and uncles, cousins, other relatives and friends. Bravo Company 1-18 INF, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. On Tuesday, March 23, friends may visit with the family from 9 a.m. until time of funeral services at 10:30 a.m. at Paramount Baptist Church, 3924 4th St. S.E. Interment Arlington National Cemetery. Arrangements by MARSHALL'S.
March 23, 2004
By Barbara L. Salisbury
Courtesy of The Gazette
About 800 people converged on a Baptist church in southeast Washington, D.C. today to mourn the loss of Specialist Jason Christopher Ford of Prince George’s County, who was killed while on patrol in Tikrit, Iraq.
His family honored Ford in song and prayer, calling the young man’s death on March 13 a “homecoming” to God.
“I believe Jason’s homecoming is going to bring this family closer together. [God’s] going to make it work to the good,” said Rev. Andrew J. Newell, Ford’s uncle.
The funeral, at Paramount Baptist Church, attracted well-known faces such as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Prince George’s County Council Chairman Tony Knotts (D-Dist. 8) of Temple Hills, and Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mitchellville.
“They will ask us how old he was, and we will say, ‘Too young.’ They will ask us where he died, and we will say, ‘Too far.’ They will ask us when he died, and we will say, ‘Too soon,’” Hoyer said.
“It’s because of people like Jason Christopher Ford that basic human rights are being extended and protected half a world away.”
After the funeral, Ford was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
The family has started a scholarship fund in Ford’s name.
Contributions can be made to the Jason C. Ford Scholarship Fund and sent to 3262 Superior Lane, P.O. Box PMP 212, Bowie, MD 20715.
Optimistic Young Soldier Is Buried
By Avis Thomas-Lester and Hamil R. Harris
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
The motorcade stretched for a quarter mile as it made its way into the city, snaking past the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial before crossing the Potomac to the stately cemetery.
Army Specialist Jason Christopher Ford, a son of Washington, was buried yesterday, 10 days after he encountered a roadside bomb near Tikrit during his first week in Iraq.
D.C. police officers who once worked on the force with his father; political leaders from the District and Maryland, where Ford attended high school; and family members deep in mourning filed into a local church and on to Arlington National Cemetery to honor the 21-year-old soldier.
“It's because of the courage and sacrifice of men and women like Jason Christopher Ford that 25 million human beings who had been enslaved for a quarter century have been liberated,” Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told the overflow crowd at Paramount Baptist Church in Southeast Washington. “It's because of their courage and sacrifice that a dangerous dictator no longer menaces his own people or the world.”
“Freedom,” Hoyer added, “exacts a sometimes fearful price.”
Ford, who joined the Army two years ago for the chance to travel, was the 21st American from the Washington area to die in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began a year ago. So far, 584 American soldiers have died in the war and its aftermath, according to the Defense Department.
At yesterday's funeral service, Ford was remembered as an optimistic young man who had an abiding love for his family and who hoped to make his mark in the uniformed services. His father, Joseph Ford, is a retired D.C. police official. His brother, Thomas Harley Jr., is a Prince George's County police officer.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a friend of the family, said from the pulpit that it makes her angry that young African American men like Ford, who left Bowie High School to join the Job Corps, find opportunities fighting overseas that they can't find at home.
“My constituents know I don't think much of this war, but they also know I give all praise and honor to the young men and women who have gone off to fight for their country,” she said.
Relatives said Ford was positive about the mission in Iraq, albeit realistic about the dangers that he faced. After completing basic training, he spent two years in Germany. He was sent to Iraq early in March. Before he left Germany, he wrote on his personal Web page — in a passage shared by his parents — “I will be going to war soon with one of the worst countries in the world. I will be on the front line watching any and everything a person could only have nightmares about and I will be facing it in first person view. Do I have a choice? No, and I don't know if I will come back.”
In an interview last week, Florence Newell, Ford's mother, said she last spoke to her son just days before he died when he called her from Iraq in the middle of the afternoon with his trademark greeting of “Hey, Mommy!” to check on the family and update her on his new assignment.
“They were staying in a house where Saddam Hussein used to live, and he was really excited about that,” Newell recalled. “And he said it was really hot. It was 86 degrees the day he called me. He said he really liked the people he was working with.”
Four days later, Newell was trying to take a late-morning nap after dropping off her granddaughter at choir rehearsal when a knock at her door woke her. She went downstairs to find two uniformed soldiers. They found it difficult to meet her eyes.
“My worse nightmare is here,” Newell recalled thinking. The soldiers asked her name but didn't say anything more.
“You are here about my son, Jason, aren't you?” she told them.
“Yes, ma'am,” was their only reply.
Yesterday, hundreds of well-wishers filed past Newell, Ford's father, stepmother Irene and his siblings sitting in the first pews, giving them hugs, kisses and words of encouragement. Nearby, the flag-draped cherry casket containing Ford's remains stayed closed. Two photographs of the uniformed soldier smiled down from either side of the pulpit.
“We are having quite a celebration, aren't we?” the Rev. Ishmael L. Shaw asked the congregation after a particularly rollicking rendition of the song, “I Won't Complain.”
A close friend of Ford's, Army Sergeant Shawn Jackson, who served with Ford in Germany and escorted his body from the military morgue at Dover (Delaware) Air Force Base, brought a somber note as he took to the lectern.
“About a year and a half ago I made a promise, and he's home,” Jackson said, standing tall in his dress green uniform. “This is about the hardest thing I've ever had to do. . . . Know this, he was loved by every soldier he served with, and he loved you people. He talked about his family all the time.”
At the cemetery, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, former Deputy Chief of Operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom, presided over a brief service.
When it was over, seven soldiers in dress blues fired three shots in unison. A soldier played taps on the bugle before six pallbearers folded the flag over the casket and handed it to Brooks, who presented it to Newell. He also presented flags to Joseph Ford and Jason Ford's oldest sister, Yolanda McRae, with whom he lived for a while in Bowie.
“On behalf of a grateful nation,” Brooks told each in turn as he handed them the folded flags.
Afterward, several of Ford's relatives remained graveside for a final goodbye. “They did my son good today,” Joseph Ford said. “I didn't know that so many people cared.”
FORD, JASON CHRISTOPHER
- SPC US ARMY
- VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 02/27/2002 – 03/13/2004
- DATE OF BIRTH: 01/16/1983
- DATE OF DEATH: 03/13/2004
- DATE OF INTERMENT: 03/23/2004
- BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 7971
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard