Sunday, May 20, 2007

James (Allen J.) Dunckley dies of 'wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using an IED and small arms fire'

Mae Dunckley gave her son an extra hug at his party before he left for Iraq.

It was March 8, Sgt. Allen James Dunckley's 25th birthday. The next day, he was reporting to Fort Benning, Ga., for his second tour of duty in Iraq.

While it was a joyous affair, Mae Dunckley said there was something about it that made the day sad.

"He knew in his heart he wasn't coming back," Dunckley said. "He made sure his family was prepared. Nobody voiced it, but each of us knew in our hearts that he probably wouldn't be back."

The knock on Mae and Allen Dunckley's front door came Monday night.

Their son, a sniper and paratrooper in the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Ga., was killed Monday in an ambush in Salman Park by small arms fire and an improvised explosive device, the uniformed officers said. Another soldier died and four others were injured.

Dunckley said she's struggled with her emotions.

God, she said, has guided her family, preparing them for the news.

He allowed her son to "tie up loose ends" before he left and made sure the couple's pastor was with them for dinner the night the officers came, she said.

Still, that doesn't fill the hole in her life.

"It's difficult. It's like a piece of my heart is torn out," Dunckley said. "But it gives you a peace that can't be explained. While we miss holding on to him, he's happy with the Lord."

Mae and Allen Dunckley raised their son in a religious, patriotic family outside of Ewing.

He was athletic, earning a black belt in karate, studying fencing and dabbling in kick-boxing.

In 2002, James, as he was referred to by his mother, enlisted in the Marines, motivated by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He was sent to Iraq during the opening months of the war there. He did not re-enlist after completing his four-year contract, but quickly signed with the Army, upset he had left his comrades.

"I love my savior, my family, my freedom and my friends," he wrote on his blog. "Most people view love as a word or emotion, I view love as an act of commitment. My act of love is my service in the military protecting and preserving all the things I believe in most, so that my children, family, and friends can enjoy true freedom."

When he returned from his first tour with the Marines, he was stationed in Philadelphia, close to his wife, Jen, and son, Joshua, who had been born prematurely.

"James was with him all the time," Dunckley said. "He never left his side."

Now 3 1/2, Joshua and his 2-year-old sister, Hannah, were told the news by their mother.

Hannah cried.

Joshua told his mother he loved her and that "Daddy is cool," Dunckley said.

One day Joshua will learn about how his father loved serving this country in the military. He will also learn about how his grandfather, Allan Dunckley, served in the Navy and how his great-grandfather served in the Army.

All of it comes so close to Memorial Day, a holiday the family always saw as important, Dunckley said.

"It will be even more important," she said. "because in the past our men have always come home."

From the Courier Post