|From the Times shreveporttimes.com
Losses of war keenly felt across Ark-La-Tex
John Andrew Prime
By John Andrew Prime
The sound of rifle volleys will echo over west Shreveport today, marking the final homecoming of a young Marine who fell for his country half a world away.
Just over a week ago, Lance Cpl. John Edward Hale was killed in Al Anbar Province, and his death and that of fellow Lance Cpl. Jon Eric Bowman, from Summerfield in Claiborne Parish, are the latest brutal reminders that war fills the headlines also tears at the hearts and souls of families in the Ark-La-Tex.
The sound of the rifle may be heard in Greenwood, where Hale's parents live, or at Huntington High School, where he helped lead the football team just over a year ago.
Friday he was honored with a police and motorcycle escort into Shreveport from Dallas, and with prayers and a moment of silence before the Huntington-Byrd game at Independence Stadium.
"The Huntington High School family has lost a member to the war in Iraq," teacher Miranda Ross read over the stadium PA just before kickoff, her voice, tremulous at times and strong at others, echoing over the field.
"John died doing what he most wanted to do ... being a Marine, protecting his fellow Marines"
Then a friend of Hale's, B.J. Mason, played "Taps," ending in a moment of silence.
"John, may you rest in peace," Ross finished.
Principal Jerry Davis said a scholarship may be created in Hale's name, and his football number, 53, may be retired.
That number, and Hale's name, adorned numerous jerseys on people in the stands, many of whom shared memories of him through the game, or cried, or both. Some, like teacher Julia Adkins and friend Michael Carter, who graduated a year ahead of Hale and planned to buy and ride motorcycles with him next spring, wore lapel buttons emblazoned with a mischievous photo of their fallen hero.
Wednesday, the scenes will be repeated as Bowman is honored by his high school, then laid to rest in his native soil in the rural countryside of north central Louisiana. His widow lives in Summerfield in Claiborne Parish, and his parents live in Union and Lincoln parishes, and his death should resonate in West Monroe, which in the past year has lost several Marines in combat.
Summerfield High School will do something to honor its fallen hero, Principal D'Arcy Stevens vows.
"We will do something to honor him at one of our next home basketball games," Stevens said last week, when the school flew its flag at half-staff for Bowman. "We have also eulogized him, and talked to the students about what happened. Our art department is painting a big sign we will hang on the front of the school, and we also will get a picture of him in full Marine dress uniform to put in our hallway."
The game at which he will be honored will likely be the Tuesday game against Claiborne Christian, or one Friday against Simsboro, Stevens said.
Bowman's death "was a shock ... it has really affected our community," said social studies teacher Devona Cowling, who taught Bowman.
"This is a small community, so a lot of the students knew Jon Eric," she said. "He was very popular "" he was the class favorite and voted most athletic. He was very clean-cut, a neat student, very quiet and he worked hard in my classes. His senior year he talked a lot about joining the Marines. We talked about his chances of going to Iraq, and he said 'That doesn't bother me, I want to fight for my country.' He wanted to fight for his community."
Tyler Hurst, 17, was a freshman when he first met Bowman. Hurst's brother Justin was a senior classmate of Bowman's, and the younger student rode home with them.
"Everybody was just shocked," Tyler Hurst, now a senior said. He admitted he has mixed feelings about joining the military, but said Bowman's sacrifice has made an impression on others.
"Several of my friends have said it would make them want to enlist," he said. The community, he said, "is showing a lot of support for the family."
In the time of loss, the families feel each other's pain across the miles. Paula Moreno, John Hale's sister, said when she learned of Bowman's death just a few days after her brother's, "my heart went out to his family and especially his parents and wife. I know the hard road that my family has traveled this past week. I realize this family now has to go down that same path."
She said her brother left a powerful thought on his MySpace page, a sentiment that speaks for him after his voice was stilled.
"You just have to keep looking at the end of the tunnel and keep on going until you reach the end, where all things get better," she quoted.
Moreno said support from "the community has been awe-inspiring. In these days where it seems many Americans have just (gone) on with their daily lives and stopped thinking about the war, we've been overwhelmed. Huntington High School has been very supportive. My own co-workers, the co-workers and friends of other family members, family from many states, the list goes on. The Marine Corps representatives have done an outstanding job of keeping my parents informed and ensuring that John is honored."
In his last blog entry, dated Sept. 17, he wrote "we as Marines know why we signed up, that for our jobs as 0311s, infantryman, that harm will always be in our way. That's why I think and yea, pray for all my loved ones every day. Because they're my reason. Whoever reads this, take care, be safe, be easy, for you Marines be and stay hard. Peace Out!!!!"
Louisiana has lost nearly 80 military personnel in the war on terror, nearly half of them "" 35 "" from the 256th Brigade Combat Team, the "Tiger Brigade." Of that number, 16 were from Shreveport or associated with its component of the Tiger Brigade, the 1/156th Armor Battalion.
It returned from Iraq just over a year ago and has since transformed into the 2/108th Cavalry Squadron, but even today its leaders and personnel are confronting their losses. Today, a major effort is planning and funding a memorial to the 16 soldiers it lost.
"We try as much as possible to honor their memories and keep them alive in our hearts, and recognize the great sacrifices they made," said Lt. Col. Scott Adams, who visited most of the dead and wounded. "For some of them, it's been close to a year and a half, and I still think of every one of them every day."
With some of the soldiers, the loss was as personal as losing a son. That was the case with Adams when Staff Sgt Jonathan Reed, a 25-year-old from Krotz Springs, was killed by a makeshift bomb in Baghdad on Jan. 28, 2005.
"When I was in 1088th Engineers, he was my driver, so his death was especially close," Adams said quietly this past week. "And it was hard with the ones who were wounded that you really know and work with every day. Staff Sgt. Mike McCrary for one."
McCrary was badly wounded in April 2005, and was shipped home to recover.
"I dusted him off after he was wounded and helped put him on the medevac chopper, and that was very difficult for me," Adams said. "He wasn't just a soldier, he was someone I worked with every day, almost like a son."
Adams knows the hurt the families of this month's slain Marines feel, as does Natchitoches mother Denise Godbolt. Her son Lee was killed in late March 2005 when a suicide car bomber destroyed his Humvee, killing another soldier and seriously wounding two others.
"My heart goes out to them," said Godbolt, who fled New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and now calls Natchitoches home. Her son was attached to a Natchitoches unit of the Shreveport battalion, and so she is a major part of the local National Guard presence.
She said the hurt never goes away, but it changes.
"It has been 19 months for me, and I have my days, but when I look at what has happened and the different people this has touched, I realize that just because they are home, it doesn't mean the war is not still inside of them," she said.
She said that's true of the soldiers who returned, and the families whose sons and daughter never will.
"What I can tell them now is what no one could tell me back then, because only God knew what I was going through," she said.
"I thought the pain would never go away, but we have to keep them in our hearts," she said. "Any time you see a soldier, you'll think of your soldier. Every time you see the news, you'll think of them.
"But you have to surround yourselves with positive people, people who have been down that road. Don't be afraid "" now we are a family, we have that special bond.
"Remember, these boys are all right "" they can't hurt any more."
See a list of soldiers, sailors and Marines, and one civilian, from Louisiana or with Louisiana ties, killed in the war on terror.
Access this story online to link to Lance Cpl. John Edward Hale's blog.
Funeral services for Shreveport Marine Lance Cpl. John Edward Hale will be today at 1 p.m. at Rose-Neath Funeral Home, 2529 Southside Drive, Shreveport, with burial with full military honors to follow at Forest Park West Cemetery, West 70th Street Extension and Meriwether Road.
Funeral services for Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jon Eric Bowman, who died Monday in Iraq, will be Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Cook Baptist Church in Ruston, with burial to follow in the Sharon Cemetery in the Sharon Community, in Claiborne Parish.