Requiem for a Soldier from Alaska
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY.
April was a difficult month for Americans serving in Iraq. In Alaska, it was especially rough. Six men with ties to the state died there, including one who grew up in the small town of North Pole. Private First Class Joseph Love-Fowler joined the Army just 13 months before a roadside bomb killed him last month. Friends and family gathered in his hometown last weekend to remember the 22-year-old soldier. From member station KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska, Libby Casey reports.
LIBBY CASEY reporting:
Joe Love-Fowler is the only soldier cracking a smile in a photo of his basic training class. His mother, Patricia Smith, says Joe lived up to the name given to him by his grandmother, a member of the Yakama Nation.
Ms. PATRICIA SMITH: His native name is Sly Fox and it fit him perfect, because he'd always sneak around and act like, I'm not doing anything wrong, when he was always the one getting into trouble. All you could do is just sit there and smile back.
CASEY: Joe dreamed of going to college to study architecture. He would play the guitar for hours and encourage family jam sessions with his two teenage sisters. After Joe left for Iraq, Brittany and Elizabeth would talk with him by phone and make plans for his homecoming when they'd go ice skating and biking. Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth says Joe taught her math and how to throw a football.
Ms. ELIZABETH LOVE-FOWLER: He helped us. He kept us away from bad boys and just kept us safe. It was really great to have a very wonderful brother. And in an email that he wrote to me he said that he was proud of us both, my sister and I, no matter where he was in the world. Even though he's in heaven, he's still here; he's always going to be here.
CASEY: The 22-year-old wasn't shy about showing his feelings to his little sisters or anyone else, says Joe's father Dan Fowler.
Mr. DAN FOWLER (Father of American soldier): He was truly a manly man. I mean, he was just--he really was, but he wasn't afraid to show his affection. And when he came home before leaving--when he came back from basic training for the month, you know, I would still hold him and talk to him. And I'm just very thankful for the opportunity.
CASEY: Dan Fowler worried when his son decided to join the military last year during wartime. Despite the dangers, Joe saw the Army as a way to experience life. Patricia Smith says two months before her son was killed she had a feeling he would not come home, but she continued to support Joe in regular phone calls.
Ms. SMITH: I just kept his spirit up, you know. If he got down I said, ok, is it that bad. Is it really, really that bad? He says, well, mom, not really. I said, well, are you happy. He goes, yeah, I'm happy. I said, are you doing what you want to do. He goes, yeah. I said, that's all that matters.
CASEY: Private First Class Joseph Love-Fowler was killed in Balad, Iraq while on a Humvee convoy. He was buried near his grandparents in Washington state, but his family says it is in Alaska where he will be best remembered and missed.
For NPR News, I'm Libby Casey in Fairbanks.