‘Now You Soar With Your God’ – Back-to-Back Funerals Honor Three Lost To War in Iraq

Aldolfo Munoz stands vigil over the grave site after the funeral service for Army Captain Edward J. Korn at Arlington National Cemetery

By David Cho and Steven Ginsberg
Courtesy of The Washington Post
Friday, April 25, 2003

He was, like the others who have found their final rest amid the gentle hills of Arlington National Cemetery in recent days, a man in love with his country and proud to serve it.

But when family and friends gathered yesterday to celebrate the life of James F. Adamouski — Army captain, son, husband and brother — it was his love for others that most people spoke of.

“When I think of Jimmy, I can think of one word and one word only: love,” said Ben Rodgers, a West Point classmate who gave one of the eulogies at Adamouski's funeral service. “He came from love. He lived love, and he left love.”

His warmth and selflessness made him friends wherever he went, they said, and the proof was all around them. Nearly 900 mourners packed the Church of the Nativity in Burke for a funeral Mass and continued on to the services at Arlington, which received three of the nation's fallen sons yesterday. Meanwhile, a fourth casualty of the fighting in Iraq was buried on his family's farm on the Eastern Shore.

Adamouski's local ties — the 29-year-old helicopter pilot grew up in Springfield and was president of his senior class at Robert E. Lee High School, where he met his future wife, Meighan — partly explained the lengthy funeral cortege that tied up Interstate 66 en route to the cemetery. Some mourners, though, had crossed paths with the gregarious soldier and soccer fan at other points in his abbreviated life and flew here to bid him farewell.

Called “Father Jimmy” by the troops because he served as a eucharistic minister, Adamouski was remembered as a natural leader and an achiever who held to his goals. At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he was initially cut from the soccer team because of a knee injury, he not only made his way back into the starting lineup but also earned the team's top award his final year.

A fellow cadet, wrote in the Harvard Business School newsletter that Adamouski was “known for his astronomical threshold for pain, a characteristic that gave him an uncanny ability to run the field and pop his dislocated shoulder back into place at the same time.”

But he was not a man who put his ambitions above everything else.

“Jimmy was the embodiment of Christian love,” said Bob Hutsfield, his godfather. “He continually put his friends and his family above himself.”

Adamouski had been married seven months at the time of his death April 2 in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in central Iraq.

Yesterday, his young widow clutched the hand of her mother-in-law as the honor guard folded the American flag that had been draped over his coffin. When it was presented to her, tears dropped from her cheeks onto the grass. Nearby, Adamouski's father, Frank, a Vietnam veteran, stood in his military uniform, his face trembling and his hand cocked in a salute through most of the ceremony.

Jimmy Adamouski had already served four military tours, in Bosnia and Albania, before being sent to Kuwait in January. This was likely to be his last tour, his family said; he was due to begin graduate work at Harvard this fall before heading back to West Point to teach economics.

But that was not to be. The Rev. Richard B. Martin said in his homily yesterday: “You flew over the skies of Bosnia, Albania and Iraq to bring people a better life. You now enjoy that new life with your God while your family sheds their tears.”

Looking at the family, he continued: “You made us better people. You touched us, be we private or general. Now you soar with your God.”

In back-to-back services earlier yesterday at Arlington, Army Captain Edward J. Korn and Navy Lieutenant Nathan D. White were laid to rest with full military honors.

The first clack-clack of horses' hooves to echo through the morning chill announced the caisson carrying Korn, 31, of Savannah, Georgia. About two dozen family members and friends followed his flag-covered coffin to the grave site. Amid their quiet weeping, Captain Robert Williams, an Army Chaplain, said they had come to “honor the memory of a distinguished soldier and a national hero who gave his life for our precious freedom.”

Then a 21-shot rifle salute and the sad strains of taps filled the air. Major General Terry Tucker, whom Korn served as an aide at Fort Knox, Kentucky, presented U.S. flags and Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals to the soldier's parents, Richard Korn and Sally Davenport, as a military band played “America the Beautiful.”

In the days leading up to the Iraq fighting, Korn, a Persian Gulf War veteran, was eager to join in, other officers said. Knowing that his Fort Knox unit wasn't being deployed, he began looking for a combat unit. He hooked up with the 3rd Infantry Division and was with those troops in central Iraq on April 3 when he was killed by friendly fire. According to the Pentagon, Korn was investigating an Iraqi tank that his unit had destroyed when he was mistaken for the enemy and shot.

“He loved the Army. He lived to be in the Army,” Korn's sister told a reporter in Georgia.

David Tribble, head of the Bethesda Home for Boys, a Savannah facility for troubled youth where Korn lived in the late 1980s, recalled him yesterday as a teenager who had a tireless work ethic, a sharp mind and an interest in military life. As an adult, he would often visit the home when he was back in Savannah. “He was a tough man,” Tribble said, “but . . . a good man.”

About 90 minutes after Korn's service, White's flag-draped coffin, accompanied by about 100 loved ones, arrived at its final resting place. Mourners stood in silence as four F/A-18 Hornet jets screamed overhead, one peeling straight toward the heavens in the traditional “missing man” formation, to honor the 30-year-old Navy pilot and father of three from Mesa, Arizona.

“Thirty years ago, I held this beautiful baby in my arms and gave him the name Nathan Dennis White,” said the pilot's father, Dennis M. White, pausing to control his emotions. “That for me is sacred, special. . . . We appreciate the love we have felt.”

Nathan White, a graduate of Brigham Young University, spent two years as a Mormon missionary in Japan, where his wife and children live and where he was based. In his last e-mail home, he gave a brief description of what it was like to fly an attack plane and how his training saw him through on “those nights where your legs are shaking and you know that if you don't relax . . . you are going to flame out and lose the jet.”

On April 2, White's fighter went down during a nighttime mission over central Iraq — possibly, U.S. military officials have said, after being hit by a Patriot missile.

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