Md. soldier killed in Iraq is buried

Sergeant's leadership skills praised as family mourns

June 22, 2005|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Va. - Sgt. 1st Class Neil Armstrong Prince possessed the skills to someday lead his convoy in Iraq, his former sergeant said yesterday.

"I could put him in charge of anything and he could handle the mission," said Command Sgt. Maj. Dwight Morrisey, Prince's former first sergeant at Fort Hood, Texas. "I wouldn't be surprised if he was actually in charge of that convoy someday."

But that day will not come. Prince, 35, a native of Jamaica who grew up in Baltimore, was buried yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, 11 days after being killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

A chaplain addressed mourners on a humid afternoon with occasional wind that toppled two graveside wreaths moments before soldiers carried Prince's flag-draped casket to grave No. 8192 of Section 60.

After the firing of 21 shots, soldiers handed American flags folded in crisp triangles to his father, Cecil Prince, and his widow, the former Suzette McLeod, who held their son on her lap. She also received a handwritten note from the Arlington Ladies, a group of military spouses who attend all burials at the cemetery.

Prince joined the Army after graduating from City College in 1989. As a chief fire control sergeant assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo., Prince arranged the transport of weapons to troops in combat, Morrisey said.

"He is like the brains of the artillery," Morrisey said. If military units needed firepower, "He was the one that would send it."

Earlier in the day, during a service at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Staff Sgt. Keith Gavin said Prince was on a path to becoming a great military leader.

"He loved training troops," Gavin said after the service. Gavin had befriended Prince while both were at Fort Hood in 1999. "He was direct and fair."

The service at the Main Post Chapel at APG is thought to be the first at the proving ground for a soldier killed during the war in Iraq. APG officials could not recall the previous funeral there for an active-duty soldier.

"We seldom ever have a funeral here [because] we have such a small contingent of active-duty soldiers," said Patricia McClung, a spokeswoman at the proving ground.

Suzette Prince, 31, a nurse at Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic at APG, said she met her husband as an Army medic. She spoke of him as a man who adored their 4-year-old son, Jordan.

"Number one, he loved his son," she said after the service in Aberdeen. "He wanted everything for his son."

She and Jordan are living with the sergeant's parents in Forest Hill, in Harford County.

Prince, named after the first man to walk on the moon, is the 148th serviceman killed in Iraq to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

He and a soldier from Iowa were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their military vehicle in the town of Al Taqaddum, said a spokesman for the Iowa National Guard.

Prince is to be awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously, a cemetery spokeswoman said.

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