Monday, August 06, 2007

William Howdeshell remembered

As a child, William R. Howdeshell used to pull the nipples from his baby bottle and lob them across the room like they were grenades.

Every game he played revolved around the military, particularly the Army.

Last week, while serving as an Army sergeant, Howdeshell, 37, was killed in Saqlawiyah, Iraq, after an IED, an improvised explosive device, detonated near his vehicle.

His family received his body Thursday afternoon at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. Funeral services are set for Tuesday at Harvest Temple Church in Largo.

"This was his dream to be in the Army. He died doing what he loved - defending our country," his wife, Kimberly, 34, said Thursday. "That's what I want everyone to know."

His wife and 8-year-old son Robert had moved to St. Petersburg about a month ago, she said, to be closer to family. Howdeshell, a native of Springfield, Ill., also lived in Norfolk, Va.

William Howdeshell had been on active duty overseas since January. He last visited home in June for two weeks, she said, and the family went to Walt Disney World.

"We knew the dangers involved," Kimberly Howdeshell said of his being in combat. "We both accepted the dangers."

The military was what Howdeshell wanted. It's what he always wanted.

In October 2005, not 24 hours after serving eight years with the U.S. Navy, he joined the Army and eventually was stationed in Fort Stewart, Ga., with the 5th Squadron, 7th Calvary Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

Other soldiers called him Sgt. Howdy and joked, because of his red hair and "goofy smile," that he resembled Howdy Doody, the popular television character from the 1940s and 1950s, said Nicholas M. Mrdalj, Howdeshell's half-brother.

"He just loved life," Mrdalj said Thursday at the airport.

Howdeshell's body was met on the tarmac by a military honors team and two fire engines spraying their hoses in a water arch, which is meant to symbolize a soldier's final trip.

Dark gray storm clouds held steady while his flag-draped coffin was transferred from an airplane to a hearse. Kimberly Howdeshell and her family took a few minutes to themselves, hugging and crying.

The family is holding visitation hours Monday at Harvest Temple Church, followed by a military service Tuesday. Howdeshell is being cremated and his remains will be divided among three urns. One is going to Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. Another is being taken out to sea. A third urn will remain with his relatives.

His family asked him little about the war, they said. Iraq, he told them, was "hot and sandy," his wife said. He brought back Iraqi currency, dinars, for the children.

Howdeshell received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart after his death. Two other soldiers were killed in the same explosion.

Army Staff Sgt. Vernon Ward, who was in Howdeshell's unit, said Howdeshell and the other soldiers were responding to an incident when the IED exploded. Thursday marked Ward's fifth ceremony where a fallen soldier's body was returned home.

Each one, he said, has become more difficult.

"You carry a piece of all of them with you," he said.

From the Tampa Tribune

Related Link:
William R. Howdeshell dies 'of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'