Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A.J. Walker remembered

The family and friends of a fallen soldier from Harker Heights say he was a light in this world, a light that is now shining from heaven.

23-year-old Aaron J. "A.J." Walker was killed Tuesday in Iraq.

"I am off to Iraq. I am finally allowed to do what I believe is right," Walker had written to family and friends when he left Harker Heights in August.

"I told him, well, I'll guess I'll see you in a few years. And he said, 'Alright, we'll hang out then.' It's tough to know that he's not going to be able to come back," friend John Hails said.

Walker was killed by small arms fire during combat. He leaves behind a wife, his parents, and a brother and sister.

But take one step inside Grace Christian Church, and you'll find
that Walkers' family doesn't end there.

"I have one son. And I'd like to consider him another one," friend Roscoe Parr said.

"I love the guy. He was a brother, more than a friend," John Holz said.

Walker played the drums in the church band. He also helped his father, who is the church's youth pastor.

"He was always a good leader if someone is straying. If they're having a hard time, someone they can talk to," Parr said.

"He taught me a lot about life. Life lessons, you know. What it means to grow up," Holz said.

The youth group that Walker loved taught kids to take out their anger in healthy ways, like beating up junked cars. Walker decided to direct his anger toward the world's greater evils. And he decided joining the military was the best way to do it.

"I will not live in a world where evil prevails!" Walker wrote
to loved ones. "If no one else will stand up against evil, then let the righteous be called upon, let them answer the call, and let the people of oppression be set FREE!"

"He was the type of person who would stand up for what he believed in, and he died standing up for what he believed in. He's a hero," Holz said.

And even though he's no longer here, that hero still manages to
conquer sadness with his happy memories.

"He never had the greatest voice, and he said that one day he's going to be able to sing with the perfect voice. And now I get to smile because I know he's singing with the perfect voice," Holz said.

Friends say the upbeat soundtrack that Walker once recorded with his band is the way he would have wanted to be remembered.

From News 8

Although Amber and A.J. Walker married on July 15, 2006, they never lived together.

"We were in different states or countries the whole time," Amber said.

Now, she will never be able to share a home with her husband.

Spc. Aaron J. Walker, 23, of Harker Heights, died Tuesday in Baghdad, Iraq, after his unit came under small-arms fire. He was stationed in Visleck, Germany, and deployed to Iraq in August.

A.J.'s parents, siblings, wife and uncle gathered Friday to talk about their lost loved one in the family room of the Grace Christian Center.

The word "passionate" was used often when they talked about A.J.

"He inspired people with his passion," said his father, Darryl Walker.

"He loved God (and) he let people know. He loved his country (and) he let people know."

Sparks ignited

"He always wanted to be in the Army," said Amber, 24. "He wanted to be a Ranger, but then I came into his life and that all changed."

The couple met in Little Rock, Ark., but didn't begin dating until after A.J. moved to Texas with his family.

"He was too much to handle," Amber said with a smile on her face. "He calmed down a lot when he came to Texas. He grew up a lot."

A.J.'s mother, Annie Walker, shared a story about making pancakes with A.J. While cooking, he claimed that he was good at making pancakes and his mother told him that the Bible says to let others exalt you.

"'Well, start exalting then,' he said to me," Annie said.

"See, too much to handle," Amber replied with a smile.

In January 2004, Annie and Darryl Walker moved their three children, A.J., Alex and Andee from Little Rock to Harker Heights. As youth pastors at the Grace Christian Center in Killeen, the family moved because of their ministry.

A year later, Amber called to say hello to the family who had worked with her parents at a church in Arkansas. Sparks ignited between A.J. and Amber, Darryl said.

Amber came to Texas for her first visit the same weekend A.J. finalized his paperwork to enter the Army.

Though A.J. and Amber had been married just more than a year, Amber said it was "a great year."

Amber now lives with A.J.'s family in Harker Heights and has been studying to be a nurse. She and A.J. planned to move to Phoenix when he got out of the Army. Instead, A.J. will be laid to rest in Phoenix, where he was born, and Amber will stay with his family in Harker Heights.

A.J. was last home in July in time to celebrate his first anniversary with Amber before his deployment to Iraq. Amber did not know until Friday morning that he had planned it that way.

Annie told Amber Friday that A.J. had asked her to keep it a secret. A.J. was also trying to schedule his mid-deployment leave around their second anniversary next July. He was in Iraq about 45 days, Darryl said.

"We never got to live together," Amber said. "But the times we were together – they were amazing."

'The best big brother'

Alex, who described A.J. as "the best big brother you could think of," was often compared to A.J while growing up.

"The past couple of years I realized how much like him I tried to be, even though I didn't want to admit it," Alex said. "I want to role model my life after him now."

Andee, at 19 the youngest of the three and the only sister, remembers A.J. as a protective older brother.

"It got on my nerves how protective he was," said Andee, chuckling.

She told a story about church camp. Andee was with some teenage friends and Alex saw a boy with his hand on Andee's shoulder. Alex told A.J., who then jumped over a fence, shoved the offensive boy aside and said, "You touch my sister again, I'll break your neck."

At the telling of this story, the family erupted in laughter.

"That's the kind of guy he was," they said to each other.

Another story Andee told involved her teaching A.J. to play the piano.

"He was so passionate and kept banging the piano and singing at the top of his lungs no matter how bad it sounded," she said.

'Rough, toughcream puff'

His mother described A.J. as a "rough, tough cream puff."

He was "a man that would fight, lay his life down and do anything for anyone, and yet he was so gentle," Annie said.

His father spent 19 years in the Air Force and has been in the Air National Guard for Arkansas for the past nine years. He said his son was very patriotic.

"He couldn't stand not being a part of helping the people in Iraq experience freedom," Annie said.

A.J. graduated from high school in Little Rock and played football for his high school team. He also enjoyed playing the drums.

"Everything he did had to be wholeheartedly," Annie said. "It was easy to follow him. He was a leader."

Darryl said he was proud of his son.

"He was just coming to be the man I had hoped and knew he would be," Darryl said. "You couldn't keep him down. He was always all or nothing. He wanted to be the best of the best. He always wanted to be a dad ... always wanted to be a husband."

Annie recalled what she told soldiers from the Casualty Assistance Center on Tuesday after she was informed of A.J.'s death.

"If he had to die, I would rather it be serving his country and something he believed in than some accident," she said. "This is a way he would (die) if he had to choose."

Darryl and Annie both said they were thankful they had 23 years with A.J. and experienced his wedding.

"He was able to experience love," Darryl said. "He got to know love."

Darryl said the family is taking things one day at a time.

"Two days ago was the worst day of our life," he said. "Things will never be normal again, but we're going to redefine normal. God will sustain us."

Darryl told a story about Alex, who shook with tears.

"Alex was in the shower the other day," Darryl said. "The Lord showed him a vision of A.J."

In the vision, A.J. was walking away from Alex and then stopped and looked over his right shoulder, Darryl said. He winked at Alex and said, "I'm good."

"We're thankful God allowed Alex to see that," Annie said.

From the Killeen Daily Herald

Related Link:
A.J. (Aaron J.) Walker dies 'of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire during combat operations'