Pagan Soldier Killed Due to Shoddy Equipment?

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The Indianapolis Star reports on a mother who is investigating the death of her son, Sgt. Joseph A. Ford, who was serving in Iraq’s Anbar province. The official statement says his vehicle rolled over and he died as a consequence, but fellow soldiers have told her that the turret Ford was riding in came loose, and that he was thrown from the vehicle.

Sgt. Joseph A. Ford

“Dalarie Ford, a wife and mother from the Northern Indiana town of Knox, had never been one to rock the boat. She voted, but not passionately. Never had she felt wronged. But now she senses injustice. She’s on a mission to find out precisely what happened in Iraq’s Anbar province on May 10, the day her son died. Sgt. Joseph A. Ford was 23, a soldier with the Indiana National Guard’s 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He was a gunner in an Armored Security Vehicle, a sort of tank-on-wheels that’s commonly used to guard convoys that haul food and supplies for U.S. troops. The vehicle rolled over. Ford was killed. That’s the extent of the military’s public explanation. Ford’s mother says soldiers privately provided her with additional details. “They said the turret came loose and he was thrown out of the vehicle and the vehicle rolled over on him and it impacted his chest and face,” she said.”

Dalarie Ford, since launching this investigation, has discovered that ASVs are vulnerable to rollovers, and that this isn’t the first time the gunner’s turret has broken away. She has been contacting her state officials in an effort to make sure what happened to her son doesn’t happen to other soldiers.

As for Sgt. Joseph A. Ford, the paper reveals that he was a member of Nova Roma, a group dedicated to reviving the “Cultus Deorum Romanorum” (the religion of Rome). The group’s banner hung at his funeral.

“His friends and teachers describe him as intellectual, curious. He often had a book under his arm. He attended the University of Southern Indiana, where he majored in history. Ancient Rome fascinated him. He practiced the religion of Roman paganism. At his funeral, a banner hung on the lectern. “SPQR,” it said — shorthand for the Latin “Senatus Populusque Romanus,” or the Senate and the people of Rome.”

Ford had only been in Iraq for two months when the accident occurred. While some commentators are saying that such accidents are part of the package of military service, I can’t imagine a turret breaking off and killing its rider should be considered a normal or acceptable situation. If shoddy equipment is indeed responsible, the military should take responsibility for Ford’s death. It is the very least they can do to honor his sacrifice.

Finally, depending on burial plans, I do hope that Nova Roma enquirers with Dalarie Ford to see if her son would want an official emblem of his faith engraved on his military tombstone or marker. Perhaps this would be an excellent time for Nova Roma to join the growing coalition working for an expanded selection of Pagan and Heathen emblems of belief from the VA.

May Ford rest with his gods and ancestors, may his sacrifice be honored, and may his family find the closure and justice needed to move forward.