Saturday, March 03, 2007

Richard Ford laid to rest

COLCHESTER -- Family members, friends and people he served with remembered U.S. Army Sgt. Richard L. Ford on Thursday for the way he touched their lives.

"He was really a great guy and always had a smile," said Ford's cousin Daniel David Reeves.

Reeves was among several hundred people who gathered at St. Andrew's Church to mourn the death of Ford, who died Feb. 20 of injuries sustained in combat in Baghdad, Iraq.

Ford, 40, a resident of East Hartford for the past 10 years, was born in Middletown and grew up in Colchester. He was a decorated soldier who was serving his third tour of duty in Iraq when he died of wounds from small-arms fire.

Reeves remembered growing up with Ford and spoke in an interview after the church service about the kind of relationship he and his cousin had.

"I know I'm his favorite cousin, but I guarantee if you interview every one of my cousins they'll tell you that they were his favorites, because that's how Rich was," Reeves said. "If you were in his presence, he made you feel like you were the most important person. He was that kind of guy."

Nichele Rollins, who sang "Amazing Grace," told mourners about how she and Ford dated for a while about 20 years ago, when he gave her a ring. Rollins said that the ring left a mark on her skin that has since faded, but that the mark he left on her heart would never go away.

Ford's sister, Vanessa Migliore of East Hartford, said in an earlier interview that spending time with family members was Ford's main enjoyment in life.

"His family was really very important to him. He would take time on his weekends to drive from North Carolina, where he was stationed, to see us. He was dedicated to his family and the military," Migliore said.

"Over the past few days I realized how he has been there for me. It's hard to put into words. He was a bright spot in my life that's going to be missing. He's always been my hero and special someone," Migliore said.

Ford was a rifleman assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He had served previous tours in Iraq, from December 2004 to March 2005, and from September to December 2005.

Ford was the recipient of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, and he received an Army Commendation Medal with a "V" device for Valor in February 2005, for his role in an incident in the city of Mosul. A specialist at the time, he helped save members of his crew while under enemy fire, according to the Department of Defense.

Ford was the 37th person with Connecticut ties to die in Iraq or Afghanistan since March 2002.

Ford joined the Connecticut National Guard in 1995 and was stationed in Windsor Locks.

He entered active duty in June 2004 and was assigned to the White Falcons 2nd Battalion at Fort Bragg.

Mason L. Ford Sr. of Colchester, a longtime member of the Colchester Hayward Volunteer Fire Department, said that he never lost sight of the fact that his son's life was in peril while he served in Iraq.

"You always prepare for the worst but hope for the best," Ford said.

Sgt. First Class Chris Beloff, who has known Ford for 10 years and previously served with him, said that Ford was so dedicated to serving his country that he resigned from the Connecticut National Guard in 2004 so that he could join the Army and go to Iraq.

"He went through basic training again just to do what he wanted to do - become an infantry soldier. He went to jump school to be a paratrooper and volunteered for all that," Beloff said. "Anyone who does all that I have the utmost respect because he really believed in what he was doing and just really wanted to be over there. He believed strongly in the cause and in the defense of freedom and the spread of democracy."

The Rev. Fred Dole, chaplain of the fire department, said that Richard Ford made the supreme sacrifice of laying down his life for his country.

In addition to his father and sister, Ford is survived by his 11-year-old son, Michael D. Patrick of Bridgeport; two brothers, Matthew L. O'Connor of Lebanon and Mason L. Ford Jr. of California; and a grandmother, Marjorie Gordon of Middletown.

From the Courant

Related Link:
Richard L. Ford dies of wounds received in combat operations