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Families try to find peace after losing a family member in Iraq War

By By Alva James-johnson

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, March 19 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

In 2005, Benford received orders for a second deployment to Iraq. On Sept. 25, he called his wife and told her he would be patrolling a dangerous area. Two days later, on Sept. 27, Weaver’s mother had just come over for dinner and her sons were playing when the family heard a knock on the door. There was an Army casualty assistance officer, chaplain and another Army spouse waiting to come in.

Weaver’s son, Lane, then 11 years old, grabbed his 4-year-old brother and took him outside to play on the trampoline. It was something his father told him to do if soldiers ever came to the house, which probably meant something bad had happened.

“And pretty much everything is a blur after that,” Weaver said, recalling the day she learned of her husband’s death. “It was just very hard to accept.”

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Benford was killed by a sniper, according to media reports. A month before he died, Weaver had registered for nursing school at Columbus Technical College. Her first class began four days after his death, and she threw herself into her schoolwork.

“I just wanted to make him proud, and let him know I could take care of myself and take care of the kids,” she said.

Now Weaver is a registered nurse. She remarried in 2009 to Joshua Weaver, and they have a 2-year-old daughter.

“My husband now, he has the biggest heart,” she said. “He stepped into our home, saw all the pictures and embraced it because it’s a part of who we are.”

A couple Saturdays ago, her youngest son, Jacob, stood in for Benford at the American Little League opening ceremony, where military people were honored. He also got to catch the opening pitch.

“Our community and our support group, they’re amazing,” Weaver said. “They have gone above and beyond on so many different occasions to make my kids feel special and to honor their dad. I’m so grateful for that.”

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Sgt. Lakeshia M. Bailey

Lakeshia Bailey, affectionately called “Sha” by friends and family, was a fun-loving military brat who wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father, Sgt. 1st Class Tony Bailey.

A native of Greenville, Ala., Bailey grew up traveling the world with her military family. She graduated from Spencer High School in 2004 and began pursuing an early childhood education degree at Columbus State University. But she soon decided she wanted to travel abroad. So she joined the Army in February 2006 and was stationed at Fort Benning. Her parents were supportive. But Tony Bailey, who served in Bosnia and Desert Storm, warned his daughter of the potential dangers.

“I pretty much knew the things she would face over there and I tried to get her to understand that we were a country at war and if she joined, chances of her fighting in the war were real high,” Tony Bailey said. “She told me in so many words, ‘Well, Dad, if I lose my life, then I will lose my life fighting for what I believe.’”

Lakeshia was deployed to Iraq for the first time in 2007 as part of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. She returned to Fort Benning in 2008 and was redeployed to Iraq in 2009. A month before she left she married Harrison Bateman, a high school friend.

In a phone conversation with her mother just a couple of days before she died, she said she would be driving to another military base in Iraq.

“I said, ‘OK, well, just call us to let us know once you make it back,’ ” Phyllis Bailey said before passing the phone to her husband. “ ‘Always remember, keep God first and I love you.’ ”

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