Capt. Sklaver Buried With Full Military Honors

fromWNPR

Funeral services were held earlier this month for a Connecticut soldier killed in Afghanistan. Thirty-two-year-old Army Captain Benjamin Sklaver grew up in a suburb of New Haven and his life helped to change peoples' views of the military.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Whether in uniform or not, U.S. Army Captain Benjamin Sklaver spent much of his time helping communities hit by war. Sklaver grew up in a suburb of New Haven, Connecticut and then joined the military. He served in Africa before he was posted to Afghanistan, where he was recently killed. His funeral services came this month. Diane Orson of member station WNPR has this profile.

DIANE ORSON: Tall and muscular, Ben Sklaver was a star swimmer and scholar in high school. He went to Tufts University, and on to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The son of two prominent lawyers in a very blue university town, Sklaver surprised many by joining the U.S. Army ROTC. He was commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves in 2003.

Ms. ELAINA LOIZOU (Clearwater Initiative): Ben's main motivation in life was humanitarian aid.

ORSON: Elaina Loizou went to school with Sklaver.

Ms. LOIZOU: Utilizing the U.S. military in order to provide humanitarian aid, is not usually how we think of why soldiers are motivated to serve, but helping people on the ground in the conflict areas is what really drove his life.

ORSON: While not on active duty, Sklaver worked at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Photographer Jake Hurley describes him as the kind of person who could bring people together.

Mr. JAKE HURLEY (Photographer): Ben was a leader. Ben was wickedly funny. He was a very caring individual. And people gravitated towards him.

ORSON: Sklaver's first tour of duty was with a civil affairs unit in northern Uganda, working in areas hard hit by the civil war. Hurley documented the relief efforts.

Mr. HURLEY: He ran with a very small unit. And they went around and did everything from delivering wheelchairs, they dug wells, they built cisterns.

ORSON: When he returned to the U.S. Sklaver established a nonprofit to continue supporting sustainable water projects in Uganda. He recruited Ileana Lewisu to be a member of the all-volunteer organization.

Ms. LOIZOU: He established the ties from when he was on mission in Uganda with folks on the ground, because one of his main jobs was to build wells. We were emailing, as recently as the day before he died, about building the next well.

ORSON: On Sklaver's second deployment, he was assigned to the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Afghanistan. He was killed by a suicide bomber in the southeastern town of Mercha(ph). Another American soldier also died in the attack.

Matthew Nemerson(ph), a friend of the family, says everyone in his Connecticut community is feeling the loss.

Mr. MATTHEW NEMERSON: So war and Afghanistan and the whole issue of troops and the Army, suddenly it was in their face. These are real people. People are dying there. And not just people you see on TV, this was somebody we knew.

ORSON: The New Haven based nonprofit ClearwaterInitiative.org will continue its mission to support clean water projects in Uganda in Ben Sklaver's memory.

For NPR News, I'm Diane Orson in New Haven.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And not far from where Ben Sklaver was killed in Afghanistan, we have more fighting to report. Just across the border in Pakistan, the Pakistani army has sealed off a Taliban stronghold in the mountainous region of South Waziristan. The fighting is now in the fifth day and Pakistan's army is attacking on three fronts. While firsthand information is scarce, there are reports of heavy fighting and a new wave of refugees. The United Nations refugee agency says it has registered more than 40,000 people who have fled the fighting.

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