The Long Road Back

Capt. James A. Funkhouser, 35, of Katy, Texas, died in Baghdad, Iraq, on May 29, 2006, of injuries sustained when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during reconnaissance patrol operations. Funkhouser was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas. AP

It's been almost a year since the bombing and Kimberly Dozier and Sgt. Justin Farrar have stops they need to make on the long road back.

Farrar has come to the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio to honor his fallen captain, Alex Funkhouser, at his grave. And Dozier has come to Texas, too, to pay her respects to Funkhouser's widow, Jennifer, at her home.

"That was actually a picture we took a month before he left," Jennifer remarked when Dozier visited, as she pointed out a family photo. "That was our family and we're still a family—we're just—he's not here. But it doesn't mean he's not here," she says, putting her hand over her heart.

Dozier knows the details of Capt. Funkhouser's final moments, and Jennifer wants to hear them, hard as it may be.

Sitting together, Dozier told Jennifer, "The most important thing he said to me that day was, 'The hardest part about the mission was having you and the girls back home.'"

"And he said, 'I know what I'm doing is important. But I think about them everyday,'" she added. "And I just wanted to let you know, you were always on his mind."

Jennifer knows her husband died immediately when the car bomb exploded. "And that is one thing that, I mean, I hope helps. The last thing he did, he was doing the job he loved. And went out doing what he believed in," Dozier says.

It may be small comfort, but the men believed to be the car bombers were captured.

Still, nothing can be done to rewind that day, to change it. Justin Farrar remains haunted by that simple order from his captain: "You stay back with Kimberly, I'll go on ahead."

"It's hard. Oh man, I know it wasn't my fault. I should have been by you still. I should have said something," Farrar says, standing by Funkhouser's grave at the cemetery.

The death of a comrade in Iraq can forever change the lives of the living, left to carry on in the face of so much loss. "And like I told Justin, 'You're here because you're supposed to be here,'" Funkhouser's widow Jennifer says, through tears.

"What would you all want people to know about what happened that day?" Couric asks the members of the 4th ID.

"I want them to know that even though it was [a] chaotic scene that, you know, we all still gave our hearts and 100 percent to make sure that the job that we were sent there to do, that we did it, no matter what," says Staff Sgt. Nathan Reed.

"I heard this little quip not too long ago, and it's, you know, 'Soldiers fight for you, heroes die for you.' You know, 'cause people throw around the hero word all the time. We're just soldiers," Spc. Scott Reitvelt.

One group of soldiers, one IED, one day in Iraq… and so many lives, forever changed.

"I want my husband to be an example. I want people, when they see a picture of my husband or hear me talk about him, I want them to stop and take notice," Jennifer says. "And look at this one soldier's life, and think about the thousands more like him."
  • Daniel Schorn

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