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NB native wants world to know soldier


http://www.herald-zeitung.com

The Herald-Zeitung (06/07/2006)
by Jessica Sanders

U.S. Army Capt. James Alexander Funkhouser Jr. was more than a name.

His wife, Jennifer Garza Funkhouser, said he was always the life of the party, making friends wherever he went.

He was a guy who loved his family, the state of Texas and barbecuing.

Before his deployment, you could find him at McDonalds, watching his daughters on the playground.

It wouldn’t be right for Alex Funkhouser, or any other soldier, to be just another casualty.

“I thought about how many years they have been fighting in Iraq, almost 3,000 have died. How many of them can you actually put a name to, put a face to, put a history to?” asked Jennifer Funkhouser, a native of New Braunfels. “If someone wants to know what my husband was like, great. Maybe it will help them remember the next soldier and their family.”

Alex Funkhouser, 35, was killed in Baghdad on Memorial Day when a car bomb exploded near his Humvee. A graveside service will be held at 9 a.m. Friday at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. He will be awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart posthumously.

The blast also killed CBS News cameraman Paul Douglas, soundman James Brolan and an Iraqi interpreter. CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier and six U.S. soldiers were injured.

To help the world know who her husband was, Jennifer Funkhouser consented to an interview with the Houston Chronicle.

“I thought it would be just one interview, and then they just started lining up,” she said. “I’m not a public person. I’m a shy stay-at-home type.”

Her husband was the outgoing one, she said, and their personalities complemented each other from the start. They met as students at Southwest Texas State University and were married in 1999.

“I’m going around talking to people about my husband who died, but I don’t feel different than when he was stationed over there,” she said. “I think in the back of my mind part of me still feels like he’s coming back.

“I know that he isn’t coming home, but I don’t feel it yet.”

Jennifer Funkhouser graduated from New Braunfels High School in 1996. The couple frequently visited her parents in town and planned to move back after his retirement from the Army. Now that move will come a bit quicker.

The Funkhousers had just purchased their first home in Killeen, which must be sold before Jennifer Funkhouser and her daughters can relocate. She said she also just started a new job and has agreed to train her replacement.

“I will be moving back to New Braunfels,” she said.

Alex the man

Alex 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.

He tried for years to get deployed. Alex Funkhouser wanted to experience combat duty so he could better train his men. He was deployed for the first and only time in December 2005.

Jennifer Funkhouser’s parents, Rosemary and Henry Garza, said they adored their son-in-law. Though Jennifer Funkhouser was their only child, the Garzas didn’t have a hint of apprehension about her marriage.

“He seemed to fit the kind of man we were waiting for her to find,” Rosemary Garza said of her first meeting with Alex Funkhouser. “By the time he asked my husband for her hand in marriage, Henry told Alex he would be proud to have him as a son-in-law.”

Alex Funkhouser was also an only child. His parents, who are retired from the Army, were in South Carolina when they heard that their son had been killed.

Rosemary Garza said both families are very close and have come together to grieve.

“We cried together and reminisced,” she said. “We’re standing up as strong as we can to support Jennifer.”

Jennifer Funkhouser said her husband’s life revolved around their two daughters — Kaitlyn, 4, and Allison, 2.

“He never thought we’d have two girls; he’d had never been around little girls,” she said with a smile. “But he just adored them.”

She said her husband would take Kaitlyn fishing and often drove the two girls up to Waco, an hour away from Fort Hood, to go to the zoo.

“He did so many little things with them,” she recalled. “We had a big swing set in the back yard, and he loved just watching them play.”

She said Alex Funkhouser found out that his Iraqi translator, known as Sam, also had a little girl and sent a little doll to her. Both men were killed in the same blast.

“Allison doesn’t understand death — she thinks Daddy is still at work,” Jennifer Funkhouser said. “But Kaitlyn understands, and she’s been very torn up about it.”

Like most small children, Kaitlyn will cry about her father and then go play for awhile, Jennifer Funkhouser said. But the girls won’t know the true circumstances of their father’s death until they are older.

“I told Kaitlyn that Daddy was killed in a car accident. She asked specifically if the bad people shot him, but I told her it was only an accident,” Jennifer Funkhouser said. “I know I will eventually have to tell her, but I’ve got to gauge when she’s ready. Right now, she’s just dealing with the idea that her daddy’s not coming back.”

Alex and Jennifer Funkhouser had discussed what would happen if he didn’t come back, or if he came back injured.

“He told me that if anything happened, the three of us would be taken care of, that we would go on,” she said.

Rosemary Garza said her daughter has been overwhelmed with support from family, friends and soldiers, as well as by the U.S. Army.

Jennifer Funkhouser said she had refused to live in fear while her husband was in Iraq, but she always knew it was possible that he wouldn’t come home.

She also knows that Alex Funkhouser would have been proud of the way that he died. He was that kind of man.

“I know he didn’t want to come back injured,” she said. “I hate that I lost my husband, but, knowing who he was, he would have wanted to go out this way — with guns blazing.”