Accident in Iraq kills soldier who `believed in what he was doing'

September 14, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun reporter

When Ari D. Brown-Weeks learned that his wife planned to visit Washington, he asked that she go to Arlington National Cemetery, take photos and e-mail them to him in Iraq.

"He especially wanted a video of the changing of the guards," said Ashley Weeks, 21, a Harford County native. "I took the pictures on a beautiful, peaceful day, and I know he saw them."

Specialist Brown-Weeks, 23, an Army paratrooper who had lived in Abingdon for two years, was killed in a truck accident in Baghdad with six other soldiers Monday, military officials said. The truck rolled off an overpass and plunged about 30 feet to the road below.

After a service at the church where the couple were married in December, Specialist Brown-Weeks will be buried at Arlington.

"I know Arlington is where he wants to be," Ashley Weeks said yesterday, sitting in the couple's Abingdon home. "He really believed in what he was doing and was proud to serve."

Specialist Brown-Weeks, a Massachusetts native, moved to Maryland about two years ago, soon after meeting his future bride at the grand opening of a C&S Wholesale Grocers store in New Jersey. He worked for the company in Massachusetts and eventually arranged a transfer to one of its locations in Aberdeen.

Before his move to Maryland, Brown-Weeks came for a visit and brought a Red Sox jersey that he insisted Ashley wear to an Orioles game at Camden Yards. She later made a trip to his childhood home in Leyden, Mass.

Specialist Brown-Weeks, a standout athlete in school, had long considered joining the Army. He met with a recruiter several times and enlisted in May 2006, his wife said. He left for basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., on Memorial Day.

"He always wanted to be in the Army," Ashley Weeks said. "He said he felt badly for the kids in Iraq growing up surrounded by war. He hoped the U.S. troops would make a difference so those kids wouldn't grow up to be terrorists."

Just before he left, Specialist Brown-Weeks asked Debbie Tillery, Ashley's mother, for permission to marry her daughter.

"He was everything I could have hoped for Ashley," Ms. Tillery said.

Specialist Brown-Weeks trained at Fort Benning, Ga., and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was deployed to Iraq in January, a month after his wedding. The couple stayed in frequent contact by cell phone and e-mail.

Two other soldiers who were killed in the truck accident attracted attention last month for an op-ed piece in The New York Times in which they expressed skepticism about the war.

Ashley Weeks said her husband had no such doubts.

"He was frustrated by the anti-war stuff," said Ms. Weeks, whose car sports an "I love my soldier" bumper sticker. "He said Americans had no idea how bad life was for the Iraqis."

Specialist Brown-Weeks was due home in November and was considering re-enlisting, his wife said. She had planned to return to Fort Bragg next month, find an apartment and settle into Army life.

The soldier promised his wife that he would stay in Maryland after he left the Army. He had thought about a career in law enforcement or as a firefighter.

"I think he always wanted to fight the bad people and save lives," Ms. Weeks said.

News of the soldier's death reached state and county officials meeting in Bel Air yesterday. They observed a moment of silence in his honor.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his parents, Karyn Brown and Jon Weeks of Leyden; and his maternal grandparents, Charles and Margaret Brown of Chadds Ford, Pa.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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