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Nigerian dies in Iraq fighting for U.S.

Posted by From Laolu Akande on 2004/08/17 | Views: 1211 |

Nigerian dies in Iraq fighting for U.S.

A TWENTY-EIGHT year old Nigerian, Justin Bialiolisa Onwordi, who fought on the side of the United States in its current war in Iraq is dead.

A TWENTY-EIGHT year old Nigerian, Justin Bialiolisa Onwordi, who fought on the side of the United States in its current war in Iraq is dead.

He died on August 2, from injuries sustained from an explosive device detonated near the vehicle he was travelling in while on patrol in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

While several Nigerians are currently in the U.S army and engaged in the Iraqi war, Onwordi's name seems to be the only one on the casualty list so far released by the U.S. Defence Department.

Onwordi, who was born in Lagos, relocated to the U.S. in July 2000 and joined the American army six months later. He was a cadet at the Military Secondary School Zaria, where his mother was a teacher.

He is survived by a mother, Virginia; a son, Jonathan, born early last month; and his wife Monique.

Onwordi met Monique at the U.S. army training when he enrolled in January 2001. They were married same year.

He is also survived by a brother Uzor, 36; Jacqueline, 34; and Martina, who is in the U.S.

A U.S. army representative visited the Onwordis at their Chandler Arizona home last Tuesday, a day after the incident to break the news to the bereaved mother.

U.S. Army media sources confirmed the statement from the Defence Department on Onwordi's death, but could not volunteer more information, except that an investigation was being conducted, as is normal in such an accident to establish the circumstances of his death.

Two American soldiers died after the incident, the other being a 19-year-old native American, Harry N. Shondee Jr. Both were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Armoured Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

According to reports, Onwordi, who held the rank of Army Specialist, next rank after Private, died first after the attack while Shondee, a private, died later.

When The Guardian asked when the investigation would be completed, a U.S. Army spokesperson simply said it would depend on a number of factors, including immediate availability of witnesses. The source could not say whether the result of the investigation would also be made public.

In a report published by the local newspaper, East Valley Tribune in Arizona, Onwordi's mother was inconsolable by her son's death.

She was quoted as saying: "I say to myself, God, I wonder how many women have been widowed by this situation

  • How many mothers have lost a child

    • I wonder how many more are going to die and I thought I do not believe in this war."

      Justin's wife told the paper: "It is time for us to put our knees down and pray to God for peace...this is not a thing for man to solve. This is a thing for God to solve and He will solve it in His own time."

      Onwordi started his tour of duty in Iraq earlier this year in January and came home last month on a leave about the time his wife was due to put to bed. He visited the wife June 23 and stayed till early July, spending some days with the wife and the new baby who arrived early July before returning to duty in Iraq, only to die about a month after.

      In a Web site for fallen heroes of the war, Justin was described by friends and wellwishers as a brave soldier whose memory would be carried on.

      One of the messages from Steve Schmoll of Columbia City, Indiana said: "I feel the loss of a brother. Justin, your sacrifice will never be forgotten. Brave soldiers like yourself have helped make a path toward freedom. To your family, we share your sorrow. Thanks from a grateful nation."

      Another, who simply signed "grateful citizen," said: "Thank you brave soldier for sacrificing your today for my children's safer tomorrow. You have our utmost respect and gratitude. May God provide your family with comfort in their time of sorrow. May you forever rest in Heavenly peace. Neither you nor your sacrifice will be forgotten. For the family/friends, may time provide loving memories in place of present sorrows. God bless you."

      Another U.S. Army employee, Laurie Gordon of Ft Hood Texas, who once worked with the deceased wrote: "I was shocked and saddened to learn of Justins' passing. Justin worked with me at Soldier Medical Readiness. We did the SRP for 4ID last year together. He was a very skilled medic, and an all around great guy. We teased each other a lot. Especially about his long lunches. I will miss you Justin and I will never forget you. Rest in peace, my friend."

      Tim Rivera from Powder Springs, Georgia also wrote, addressing the family: "I am saddened by the loss of your loved one. He will always be remembered as a hero for fighting for freedom. I hope that this website will be a source of comfort and encouragement for you during this difficult time, and in the future as you recall the memories of Justin, who continues to live on in your heart."`

      Onwordi's mother came to the U.S. in 1997, two years after her husband had died of stroke in Nigeria. She told a press conference last week that Justin had always wanted to join the U.S. Air Force, and came to the U.S. to accomplish that mission. But on getting here, he was first accepted by the U.S. Army and after he had committed himself to the army the U.S. Air Force also accepted his application. She said Justin regretted that he had accepted the U.S. Army offer since he had always preferred the Air Force.

      Onwordi's sister, Jacqueline who lives in Nigeria is also now in U.S. She arrived for the burial which took place last week.

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