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Car bomb attack kills Katy soldier


http://www.houstonchronicle.com

Houston Chronicle (06/2/2006)
by Armando Villafranca

Jennifer Funkhouser had just returned Monday from a Memorial Day weekend outing with her two young daughters when she saw an Army officer standing on her front step.

She thought the officer was there for something related to the holiday, such as handing out flags to military wives whose husbands were in Iraq.

She could not have been more wrong, or more right.

"I took one look at the major who was there to bring me the news, and I could see it in his eyes. He had been crying. I could tell it was so hard for him to tell me the news," she said.

Her husband, Capt. James A. Funkhouser Jr., 35, of Katy, was killed in Baghdad on Memorial Day when a car bomb exploded near his Humvee.

CBS News cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan were also killed. CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier was critically injured and remains in an Army hospital in Germany.

An Iraqi interpreter also was killed, and six U.S. soldiers were injured. The Army is investigating the incident.

Funkhouser was born Feb. 12, 1971, and grew up in Katy. He met his wife while the two were students at what is now Texas State University in San Marcos. They were married Dec. 13, 1999, in New Braunfels, her hometown, and later had two daughters.

He left college to join the Army as an enlisted man in July 1991, and served six years before returning to college to receive his degree in 1999.

Funkhouser served as a reservist while finishing his college education, then returned to the Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Funkhouser, who was known by his middle name, "Alex," was commissioned by his father, retired Army Col. James Funkhouser Sr.

Jennifer said her husband served at Fort Hood as an armor officer training men for Iraq. For years, she said, he had tried to get assigned to combat duty.

"He was in charge of training all of these men under him and most of these men had been in Iraq — a lot of them two or three times — and he felt he needed to be there to experience it so he could train them better," she said.

Before he got his orders for Iraq, she said the two talked often about the realities they faced, if he didn't come back or if he came back disabled.

"I would ask him what happens if you are killed over there, and he said, 'You know what, you and the girls will be taken care of. You will go on,' " she said.

"I was worried, but on the other hand, I wasn't," she said.

Funkhouser was deployed in December and kept in contact almost daily with his family through phone calls and e-mail.

But, she said, he most enjoyed the webcam conferences on the weekends when he could see his daughters.

She said the girls would show their father the new clothes or a new haircut they had gotten.

"He lived for those weekends," she said.

They made plans to vacation in Cancun when he returned for two weeks in August.

She described him as a "great husband" who doted on his two daughters, Kaitlyn, 4, and Allison, 2. When she took the girls to see family in New Braunfels, she said she would return to find James had cleaned the entire house in her absence.

"He was a hands-on father — he lived for his little girls," she said.

She said Allison doesn't understand death, but she told Kaitlyn that her father died in a car accident "and she asked me if the bad people killed him."

"They will both know that their daddy went over there because he was doing his job," she said.

She later learned that all of the men under his command lined up to walk past his body, some to gently place a hand on him for the last time. She said the procession took more than two hours to accommodate all of his men.

"It means a lot to me," she said, her voice breaking.

Funkhouser was the headquarters company commander for an infantry battalion in Iraq.

He had been assigned as an armor officer with the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood since April 2005.

A memorial service is planned later this month at Fort Hood, and Funkhouser will be buried at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.