Saturday, September 08, 2007

Alun Howells' final wishes to be honored

AN AMERICAN soldier killed in Iraq will have his ashes scattered in a “wild but beautiful place” in Wales.

Alun Howells, who was a Private First Class in the US Army, had stated that, should he die, he wanted his final resting place to be in Wales.

The rugby fan will have a full military funeral in the town of Menomonie in Wisconsin on Sunday, but his ashes will later be brought to North Wales.

His Welsh-speaking father Gwyn now lives in Wisconsin but grew up in Porthmadog. Alun’s ashes will be scattered near the Gwynedd town.

On his MySpace website page, the 20-year-old had described himself as “Welsh and proud” and dreamed of moving to the UK to live.

The US Department of Defence said that Spc Howells died from wounds suffered from enemy fire on August 13 in Baghdad. He had been in Iraq since June – his first deployment – and was serving as a combat engineer.

He was reportedly on patrol in Baghdad when the Humvee he was travelling in was attacked.

Spc Howells was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, in Georgia.

Writing on his MySpace page, Spc Howells said, “I have a lot of plans for the future. I want to travel and see new things and eventually move back to the UK, but that isn’t till the distant future.

“As of short term, I am going to finish my time in the army and get out. I may join the air force reserve but that’s all up in the air.

“What I do know for sure is that I want to go to finish up college after the army, maybe play rugby with my little brother, and get a degree in physical therapy, leaning more towards sports medicine.”

He added, “I would like to meet all my family and friends again in a nice pub that’s not in Iraq and sit down and have a beer and some fish’n’chips with them and be grateful for their presence and humour and all the other things I took for granted before I left.”

Spc Howells was a pupil at Gunnison Valley School, in Colorado, an alternative campus for about 35 students. The school’s programme co-ordinator Neil Coen said when he first arrived he was an “angry teen clad in black and painted with dark makeup”. But by 2004, he had become a student leader who served as a mentor for other young people and took part in community projects for the disadvantaged.

Mr Coen said, “When he went off to the military, he would commit himself to this kind of excellence as a man. This was fully his choice to get out there and be tested and see what his skills were.

“It was a time of exploration and making these kinds of commitments which were good no matter what happened. It was a no-lose deal.”

After Spc Howells graduated from high school, his parents, Gwyn and Jaena Howells, who have three other children, left their Gunnison home and moved to Wisconsin. His father gave up the two businesses he owned in the area – a motel and a liquor store.

Their son, who had dual US and British citizenship, initially stayed behind in Gunnison before joining his parents in their new home.

From IC Wales

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