Thursday, May 03, 2007

Alex Funcheon remembered

Alex Funcheon had some decisions to make. He was promoted to sergeant on March 1. He turned 21 the next day.

He’d been in the military for two and a half years. He was considering his future. Would he get out? Would he come home? Would he get married and become a firefighter like he wanted?

Funcheon, a gunner on a U.S. Army Humvee, was deployed to Iraq in October 2006. His family expected him to return to the States in a year.

“I’ll be home before you know it,” Funcheon wrote in an April 24 e-mail to his parents back home in Bel Aire.

It was the last e-mail they would get from their son.

“You know anything can happen,” Funcheon’s mother, Karen Funcheon, told The News May 1. “But you don’t think about it for very long. You don’t entertain those thoughts for more than a minute or two.”

Karen and Bob Funcheon’s oldest child was killed April 29 during a combat operation in Baghdad, Iraq. Two others in Funcheon’s unit died from wounds they suffered when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle.

“We do believe in God, and that has been key to us getting through this,” Bob said.

The Funcheons have lived in Bel Aire for the past 11 years. Alex grew up running around with a large group of friends. His parents said Alex and his buddies were inseparable, riding around Eagle Lake on their bikes and getting into minor mischief. When Alex went to Heights High School, his mother said he was always the center of attention and the life of the party.

“That was his personality,” she said. “He was likable, gregarious, outgoing.”

But it had its drawbacks. Alex’s attention was easily swayed from schoolwork and other responsibilities. He was a teenager. He needed some direction, the Funcheons said. Some structure.

“Alex never met a party he didn’t want to be a part of,” Bob said.

Alex dropped out of Heights and began contemplating the military, at his father’s suggestion.

“If you’re going to find yourself, it’s a good place to do it,” Bob said.

Alex left for basic training in July of 2004. He spent a year in Korea and a year at Fort Carson, Colo. He came home in September 2006 for about two weeks before he was sent to Iraq.

“He knew he had a job to do,” Karen said. “And he did it. He took that responsibility seriously. He just wanted to go over there and get it over with.”

His parents could see that Alex was changing. He was talking about his future. He was thinking about more than the day or week ahead. When he achieved the rank of sergeant earlier this year, the Funcheons saw it as a potential turning point. Next spring, Alex would have faced the decision either to re-enlist or leave the military.

He’d have time for all of that.

The Funcheons prayed for their son and his safety. They asked others to do the same. Karen had cards printed with Alex’s name and deployment dates and the Bible verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She gave away hundreds, many to complete strangers. She was involved in making quilts for wounded soldiers. And late last month, she and a family friend started a Web site,, dedicated to supporting men and women in the military with prayer.

Those prayers, the Funcheons said, have helped them through the past few days.

“The outpouring of support from our family and friends has been wonderful,” Karen said.

Besides his parents, Alex is survived by a younger sister, Gloria, who is a senior in high school.

The date of Alex’s funeral had not been set as of early May 2. However, the service was to take place at Central Christian Church in Wichita. Alex was to be buried in Kechi Cemetery.

Alex’s parents said the service was to include an “open mic” time so his friends can share stories about him.

From the Ark Valley News

Related Link:
Alexander J. Funcheon dies of injuries from I.E.D.