Thursday, July 05, 2007

Will Crow remembered

Michelle Crow picked up the phone at midnight last Thursday and heard her husband's voice.

"You asleep?" Will Crow asked from halfway around the world in Baghdad.

No, she said.

On his third deployment to Iraq, Will was leaving on a mission, and like all of his other departures, he called first. She told him she was forgetting what it felt like to be held.

"Six more weeks," he told her. "Six more weeks, baby."

But Sgt. William W. Crow, 28, of Grandview Plaza — just outside of Junction City — never made it home.

Two days after that phone call he was killed when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle in Baghdad, the military announced Monday. Crow became the 115th Fort Riley soldier killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. He was an infantryman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.

From taking care of a frail mother to taking in stepchildren as his own, Will had a "big heart," according to his wife and mother.

He grew up in Belleview, a small town in central Florida. He was a "punk," said Kathy Mondini, Will's mom. Baggy pants and skateboards were part of his childhood, but as Will's stature grew, so did his kindness toward his mom.

"I'm a little petite thing, and he used to pick me up and swing me around," Mondini said.

She said she has dealt with severe depression for years, and Will was her "heart line," a man who gave bear hugs that took the wind out of you.

"I know I've got God ... " she said, trailing off. "But how do I live without Will?"

Fresh from high school and wanting to explore, Will hitchhiked to Ohio. He soon found the romantic idea didn't match up with reality, and he signed up for the Army.

After returning from a tour in Korea, Will went out with some friends in Junction City in late 2002. There he met a girl named Michelle. On the tail end of a divorce, Michelle said she hadn't laughed in a long time.

"But he just cracked me up," Michelle said. "He was funny with a good heart."

She almost missed Will's marriage proposal because of that sense of humor. She received a phone call from him one day while she was helping a friend obtain a marriage license. When Michelle told him what she was doing, he said, "You should get one of those for us."

"I just thought he was kidding," Michelle said.

He wasn't.

She already had two kids, and Will "accepted them like his own." They had two daughters together, too, though he didn't get to see either of their births.

He returned from his second Iraq trip with a Purple Heart after a bomb blew up near his Humvee. His leg took some shrapnel, but he survived enough to return to the front lines.

He wouldn't be so lucky again.

Will called home every chance he got: When he woke up. Before he went to bed. Prior to a mission. Upon return from a mission. His wife would tell him about the "zoo" at home where they housed dogs, rats, turtles and doves. She told him she named the dog Rustamiyah, after the operating base in Iraq.

"He said, 'Baby, I'm going to have to kick that dog every time I see it,' " Michelle said.

Even though he was overseas more than home in Kansas during their marriage, Will never took his job into the house.

"He was infantryman by day, daddy and husband by night," Michelle said.

During her phone call with Will two days before his death, Michelle said they talked about his return home in six weeks. Oh, how they would enjoy that time together. They would lay around and play Xbox video games. They could go to the water park, maybe even venture out to Milford Lake and build huge sand castles.

Mondini remembers one of the last times she talked with her son.

"He said: 'It's all different now. We're fighting ghosts,' " she said.

But Michelle said her husband loved his job and his country. He had picked up a lot of Arabic and liked the country he was trying to protect.

She fondly holds a photo of him on an Iraqi's donkey.

"He just loved the people," she said. "He loved the kids. He loved what he was doing."

From the Capital Journal

Related Link:
William W. Crow dies 'of wounds sustained when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device'