Services for slain soldier to be held in Cape this week
Sunday, March 4, 2012
With combat missions scheduled to end next year, the war in Afghanistan was supposed to be winding down.
If that happens, it will come too late for Megan Born.
On Feb. 23, the Olive Branch, Ill., resident was made a 22-year-old war widow when her husband, Army Sgt. Joshua Born, was shot and killed outside a U.S. base there during violent protests over the U.S. military's burning of Qurans.
In the last 10 days, as she's prepared funeral arrangements that will take place in Cape Girardeau on Monday and Tuesday, Born has struggled to find answers.
"It's kind of made me mad at the whole situation really," Born said. "I understand that sometimes war is necessary. But, to me, I just don't understand why we're still there, especially when something that we do -- accidentally or not -- causes backlash against our soldiers. It's hard to try to comprehend."
Joshua Born, 25, of Niceville, Fla., and Timothy J. Conrad, 22, of Roanoke, Va., died in Nangarhar province after an Afghan soldier shot them during a riot. Born was serving with the 549th Military Police Company out of Fort Stewart, Ga.
At least 30 people have been killed in the protests, sparked by the news that copies of the Quran had been thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field.
According to The Washington Post, a military investigation has concluded that five soldiers were involved in the incineration of a pile of Qurans. The story cited military officials who have been briefed on the inquiry.
The man Megan knew as Josh had called her the night before he died.
"He asked if she knew about the riots," said Cindy Parker, Megan's mother. "He said they were close to where he was. The next day I started Googling about the riots and saw that two men had been shot and killed."
They found out later that one of the men was Josh.
It's obviously been a nightmare for both women and Josh's other relatives in Florida. They have been finalizing preparations for Josh's funeral, which begins with the visitation from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday at Crain Funeral Home in Cape Girardeau. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the funeral home.
Flags will line the street for part of the procession from Crain Funeral Home on West End Boulevard to Capaha Park in Josh's honor. Larry Eckhardt of Little York, Ill., is seeing to that. On Saturday, he made the seven-hour drive to Cape Girardeau, bringing his 2,200 U.S. flags. In addition to Cape Girardeau, he and a group of volunteers will be putting flags along streets in Illinois at Olive Branch and Mounds.
For five years, Eckhardt, the self-described "flag man," has traveled to soldiers' funerals in Illinois and surrounding states.
"I don't feel like it's a sense of patriotism," he said last week. "It's just something that needs to be done. These men die for this flag; they should have it flown beside them. Without them, I couldn't do it. Without these young men over there, we wouldn't have near the freedoms we've got."
Muslims in America have expressed disdain for the actions of what they consider religious zealots who are murdering people in Afghanistan. Tahsin Khalid is a professor at Southeast Missouri State University and faculty adviser for the Muslim Student Association.
Khalid, a Pakistani native who has lived in the U.S. for two decades, noted Afghanis tend to do things first and think later. He pointed out that Cape Girardeau native Terry Jones caused an uproar when he threatened to -- and then did -- burn a Quran two years ago after he put on a mock trial for the Muslim religion.
"When we send people over there, they should be trained what they should not be doing," Khalid said. "I doubt we were doing those things."
While Khalid repeatedly said he and his faith condemn the killing of anyone, he also condemned the burning of their holy book, which Muslims believe is the literal word of God.
"If you say bad things to somebody or their family, of course they will react, but not in a nice way," Khalid said. "... I totally disagree with the way they are killing people. But before we ask about the reaction, we should think about the action. I condemn both."
Chemistry at once
During a tearful interview last week, Born recounted their whirlwind romance that began in an online chat room with conversation about their mutual love of classic cars.
Josh persuaded her to accept his Facebook request and two months later she agreed to give him her phone number. After being reclassified for the military police at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., he asked if they could meet since he was driving through Southern Illinois on the way home to Florida.
They met in person for the first time at the White Castle restaurant in Cape Girardeau in April 2010, where they talked for hours, Born recalled.
There was chemistry at once.
"When he left, I was heartbroken because I already knew it was meant to be," she said.
Born described Josh as a man with a good sense of humor, always cracking jokes.
"He was really goofy," she said.
But he also had a big heart, constantly checking in with Megan, willing to do anything to help another.
Later that April, Megan Born drove to where Josh was stationed at Fort Stewart to spend two weeks with him at his mother's house. She didn't come back to Olive Branch. Two months later, they were married on a Georgia beach.
The two made plans. She would continue her passion for photography and start a business. They were going to build a house together in Kentucky. And later, children.
Then Josh got deployed. A month later, he was dead.
Last week, Megan watched a video Josh had made for her in case he didn't come home.
"He told me he wants me to be happy, get married and have kids," she said, choking back a sob. "He knew that was important to me."
During the interview, Megan became so emotional she could barely speak. Her mother, at her side, did it for her.
"That's real love," Cindy Parker said. "That reveals his character right there."
829 N. West End Blvd., Cape Girardeau, MO