Sunday, June 10, 2007

Kimel L. Watt dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

It's the sight that every family with a loved one in the military fears.

For the family of Sgt. Kimel Watt of East New York that dreaded visit came at 9 a.m. Sunday when two somber soldiers knocked on their front door.

"I knew Kimel had died," said a weeping Clifton Watt, Kimel's father, recalling the moment he saw the officers.

The Department of Defense announced Friday that Watt, 21, had died June 3 in Baghdad of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. His family said he was patrolling on a mountainside at the time.

Watt was assigned to the First Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division based in Schweinfurt, Germany, according to the Defense Department.

Watt emigrated from Manchester, Jamaica, to the United States with his family when he was 6. His family said he was driven and family-oriented, and that he was well-respected and popular around the neighborhood.

"He likes being around family," said his sister, Selesha Gowins, 28, one of his 13 siblings. "We'd have family outings at Red Lobster."

He graduated from Automotive High School in Brooklyn and passed up a scholarship to Johnson and Wales University in Rhode island to join the military.

Soon after graduation, he enlisted in the Army and after completing boot camp, he served at military bases in Korea, Germany, Kuwait and finally Iraq.

"We didn't know until January" that he was being assigned to Iraq, said his mother, Naomi Watt, 52. "I don't think he wanted us to worry."

Watt last came home for 15 days in March to visit his father, who was hospitalized, the family said. His sister said, "He didn't want to talk about things over there."

The family said they communicated with Watt regularly through the MySpace Web site and phone calls, many that lasted 20 and 30 minutes. They said Watt was in good spirits the last time they spoke with him.

"He said, 'Don't worry I'll be back in June,'" Gowins said. "The only thing he said was he wasn't on the front lines, that he was helping the Iraqi people with food, water and medical supplies."

His mother said Watt was meticulous about staying in touch.

"He always called me," his mother said. "He called me for Mother's Day and then two weeks after." She said the last thing he ever said to her was "Mommy, I believe in God."

As his mother sobbed and reflected on her son's life, she said. "He makes me proud to know that he went to do something good for himself. He didn't stay back and hang around the corner, which is what his friends did."

A wake will be held June 19 at New Jerusalem Church on Springfield Boulevard in Springfield Gardens from 3 to 7 p.m. A funeral will immediately follow. Burial will be June 20 at Calverton National Cemetery.

From Newsday