Losing a Son in Iraq, and Trying to Keep Another

With U.S. military deaths in Iraq surpassing 3,000, Melissa Block talks with James Conneway, of Enterprise, Ala., Conneway is the father of Sgt. Timothy Conneway, a U.S. Army Ranger who was killed in Baghdad in June of 2003. Conneway talks about what it's been like since his son's death, and how he chooses to focus on his older son who's also a Ranger, rather than the number of war dead.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And one more name. Army Sergeant Timothy Michael Conneway. He was 22 years old, an Army Ranger with the 3rd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. Sergeant Conneway was killed in the first months of the war on June 28, 2003. He was returning from a mission. A car bomb exploded alongside the road as his convoy passed. His wife was pregnant at the time. Sergeant Conneway's father, Ken, lives in Enterprise, Alabama. He told me Tim, Jr. just turned three.

Mr. KEN CONNEWAY: They came down here for Thanksgiving this year and we had a birthday party for him for his third birthday.

BLOCK: That's great.

Mr. CONNEWAY: He's growing like a little weed.

BLOCK: Does he look like his father?

Mr. CONNEWAY: He looks just like his dad.

BLOCK: What does he know about his father?

Mr. CONNEWAY: He knows who he is. I mean, he's got in his room and everyplace he goes, I mean there's pictures of his dad everywhere. And you can ask him who's that or where's daddy and he'll point to the picture.

BLOCK: Does he ask questions?

Mr. CONNEWAY: No, not yet. We're waiting on the day when he does start asking questions.

BLOCK: Since Timothy died, have there been memorial services? Any way to mark his passing for you?

Mr. CONNEWAY: Yeah, in fact there's been several. The Rangers had a dedication ceremony at his unit. Here in Enterprise, we've got a Wall of Freedom that was put up shortly after Timothy was killed and on it is all of our veterans that have been killed in combat. And there's been - we've been invited to several others around the state through the last three years.

BLOCK: Do you find that helpful to be around other families?

Mr. CONNEWAY: Yeah. Yeah, it is. To be able to talk with other families that are in the same situation. I mean, it's a group that you're thrown into. You don't want to be in it and nobody outside can really relate to what you're going through. It helps to be able to talk.

BLOCK: Mr. Conneway, when you hear that there are now 3,000 U.S. deaths in the war in Iraq, is that milestone meaningful to you in any way?

Mr. CONNEWAY: Believe it or not, I haven't kept up with it. That may sound harsh or bad, but honestly since my son was killed, I have not kept up with the news and how many soldiers are being killed. I've got another son that's in the Army still. He's been to Iraq twice, so I concentrate on him most of the time.

BLOCK: What is he doing? This is your older son, I think.

Mr. CONNEWAY: He's with Special Operations, too.

BLOCK: Oh, my goodness. You've got your hands full, it sounds like.

Mr. CONNEWAY: I do, yeah. Every time we hear that he's deployed, we sit on pins and needles until we hear from him again.

BLOCK: Yeah. Your older son was an Army recruiter at one point, is that right?

Mr. CONNEWAY: When Timothy was killed, yeah, he was an Army recruiter.

BLOCK: I was thinking that would be an especially tough position to be in for somebody who had a sibling who was killed, to be recruiting people to join the Army.

Mr. CONNEWAY: He lasted about six more months in it and he finally just told them, he says I can't do this. Every kid, it seemed like, came up to him and said I want to be a Ranger. He said, go see that recruiter over there.

BLOCK: Mr. Conneway, in the years that - it'll be coming up on four years this year since Tim was killed. I wonder if the meaning of his death or how you deal with it has changed over time?

Mr. CONNEWAY: Ah, not really. I don't think so. I mean, I was proud of him when he went into the service. I'm still proud of him now. I'm proud of what he did. You know, nobody is forcing these kids to raise their hands and swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and follow the orders of those above them, and that's what my son was doing. And he believed in what he was doing. There's always that empty spot in your, you know, in your life or in your heart, but it just gets a little easier each year to be able to cope with it.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Conneway, it's good of you to talk with us. Thanks very much.

Mr. CONNEWAY: Well, thank you.

BLOCK: Ken Conneway in Enterprise, Alabama. His son, Army Sergeant Timothy Conneway, was killed in Iraq in June 2003.

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