Friday, September 21, 2007

Ari Brown-Weeks laid to rest

Even half a world away, Spc. Ari Brown-Weeks promised to watch over his family. At his funeral at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa Wednesday, those who knew the 23-year-old Abingdon resident recalled the letters he sent from Iraq expressing his love for his wife, Ashley, her family and his country.

Ashley tearfully read from a letter Brown-Weeks had sent her young cousin Hope from Iraq, which expressed his optimism for his mission there.

“It makes me happy to be able to help these people. Most of them are good people who deserve a shot at a good life and the freedoms we enjoy back in the United States,” he wrote. “I want you to know that if you ever need anything or someone to talk to, I am here for you. I don’t care what it is; I will do whatever I can to help.”

Ashley recalled a friend who told her she and her husband got out of so much trouble they must have angels watching over them, and how that thought returned to her when she heard of Ari’s death.

“I didn’t know what to think or what to do, but I knew Ari was with his angels,” she said. “It rained the day I found out and didn’t stop for two days. But I knew when it did, I knew he was smiling down at me. I knew that he was now my angel.”

Brown-Weeks, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, was killed Sept. 10 near Baghdad when the vehicle he and seven other soldiers were riding in rolled over in a non-combat-related accident. He became the eighth Harford County resident and the 79th Marylander killed in Iraq.

Growing up in Leyden, Mass., Brown-Weeks, an only child, had struggled in class and moved from school to school before he earned his GED, said Tony Matteo, his guidance counselor at the Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield, Mass.

Brown-Weeks, who will be buried Oct. 3 in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, moved to Maryland to be with Ashley, whom he married in December before he was deployed in January.

“He was extremely good at expressing his feelings on paper; or as just a simple letter or poem,” said his mother-in-law, Deborah Tillory.

“He was definitely a young man in love,” said the Rev. Victor Harnen, who married the couple and conducted the funeral alongside 82nd Airborne Chaplain Col. P. Dudley Neal. “There’s no question he had a deep commitment to Ashley, and it was also obvious he had a commitment to his country.”

From the South Bend Tribune

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