In Iraq, a soldier is killed

in Baltimore, his father is angry

`Why did my son die in vain?'

May 18, 2006|By SUMATHI REDDY | SUMATHI REDDY,SUN REPORTER

Standing on the porch outside his Gwynn Oak residence, Marion Flint Sr. speaks softly and slowly about his only son, his namesake, who was killed in a roadside explosion while serving in Iraq.

But inside, Flint is angry.

That his 29-year-old son, Staff Sgt. Marion Flint Jr., on his second tour of duty for the Army, had to go to Iraq again for a war that he says seems so futile infuriates him.

"It's not just my child; it's everybody's child," said Mr. Flint, 49, clasping hands with his wife, B.J. Flint, 50.

"What's the purpose of this war?" he said, his voice rising. "What have they accomplished? Somebody please give me some kind of answer. Why did my son die in vain?"

The younger Flint and Pfc. Grant A. Dampier, 25, of Merrill, Wis., were killed on a combat patrol operation in Baghdad when a bomb exploded near their vehicle Monday.

Sergeant Flint was the third soldier with ties to Maryland to die in Iraq this week and the 45th overall in a war that has lasted more than three years, triggering frustration and anger among many families.

"What we believe in don't matter," said Sergeant Flint's wife, LaShaviea Danielle Flint, 30, who lives in Garner, N.C., with their children, Dyamond, 11, and Malik, 3. "He had to go regardless. But he didn't believe in going over there. We're against Bush all the way."

Marion Flint Jr. was raised in Athens, Ga. He graduated from Clarke Central High School, where he played basketball and football. His mother and two sisters remain there.

Sergeant Flint moved to Baltimore with his father after graduating from high school and joined the National Guard a short time later, family members said.

He joined the Army in January 1998, according to officials at Fort Carson, Colo. He was stationed with the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii and then with the 101st Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky.

He met his future wife in 2001 in Baltimore through his stepsister. They married in September 2002.

Sergeant Flint served his first tour in Iraq with the 101st from March 2003 to February 2004.

He arrived at Fort Carson on Dec. 16, 2004, and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. He left for Iraq in December and was stationed at an air base in Balad, in northern Iraq.

Fort Carson officials said Sergeant Flint was a dismount squad leader for light infantry patrol at the time of his death and had received numerous awards.

He was quoted and pictured in an April article in Iron Brigade Chronicles, a magazine for his combat team.

In the article, about a "search and knock" operation, Sergeant Flint tells how soldiers passed out stuffed animals and school supplies to the children they encountered.

"It's basically just to give the kids and the families stuff just to show them that we are trying to help in any way possible," he says.

In an unrelated picture, he is carrying a weapon as he crouches in his fatigues while searching a field near Balad.

Yesterday Sergeant Flint's father and stepmother pulled out another picture. In it, the soldier stands ramrod-straight, hand raised, as he is sworn into the Army.

Marion Flint Sr. recalled how happy his son was that day. "He came to me and he hugged me and said, `I love you, Dad. Everything will be all right.' And he was so happy."

His parents, devout Baptists, prayed for him. Every week in church, the congregation at Christ Delivers in Edmondson Village invoked his name, said Martin Jacobs Jr., 72, pastor of the church and the father of Flint's stepmother.

"We constantly kept him in our prayers," Mr. Jacobs said.

Sergeant Flint became more religious when he moved to Baltimore and was baptized, serving as an usher.

"He surrendered to God when he was 19 and got his life together just before he went into the Army," his father said.

Family members said Sergeant Flint wasn't afraid to go to Iraq but didn't talk much about his life there.

"He never wanted us to believe he was in any danger," said B.J. Flint. "He always wanted to make us feel comfortable."

He called his wife every other day. The family sent him e-mail and used a Web cam so that he could see the children. His wife said she last spoke with him Friday, when he said he was going on patrol and would call her when he returned.

The family had been preparing for him to return for two weeks in July. He was to come home for good in November. Now, the preparations are for his body to arrive and for arranging a funeral.

"He shouldn't have been over there," Marion Flint Sr. said. "They never found any weapons of mass destruction, so what's the point? Why now do they have all these kids over there? Why are they still fighting? Why? I want an answer."

sumathi.reddy@baltsun.com

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