13 March 2006
IRAQ: Tom's Last Journey Begins
by Doug Pritchard
Our brother Tom has begun his final journey home.
He left Anaconda military base at Balat, Iraq, at dawn on Mar. 13 (9 p.m.
EST, Mar. 12), and is expected to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware
at 1 a.m. EST, Mar. 14.
CPT Toronto was originally informed by Canadian authorities at 1:30 p.m. EST
Mar. 10, that a body had been found in Baghdad which was likely that of Tom
Fox. An hour later, when the CPT Iraq team asked officials at the U.S.
Embassy in Baghdad if they could come to identify the body, they were told
that it had already left on a military transport for Dover. Officials had
repeatedly assured the team over the previous three months that CPT would be
able to accompany our colleagues home "if at all possible." They now said
that their only focus was getting the body back to the USA as soon as
possible. At 8 p.m. EST, the U.S. State Dept. confirmed the identity as Tom
Fox based on fingerprints.
The next day, Mar. 11, at 10 a.m. EST, CPT Iraq learned that Tom's body was
still at the Anaconda base at Balat. The U.S. Embassy arranged for Beth
Pyles, a member of the CPT Iraq team, to travel to Anaconda, and she was
able to keep vigil with Tom for the next 36 hrs. until his departure.
Meanwhile, CPTers Rich Meyer and Anne Montgomery travelled to Dover, and
have been in the vicinity since 5 p.m. Mar. 11, keeping vigil and awaiting
Pyles was present on the tarmac at Anaconda as Tom's coffin was loaded onto
the plane for Dover. She reported that his coffin was draped in a U.S. flag.
This is unusual for a civilian, but Tom may not have been uncomfortable with
this since he had always called his nation to live out the high ideals which
it professed. Iraqi detainees who die in U.S, custody are also transported
to Dover for autopsies and forensics. On this plane, right beside Tom's
coffin, was the coffin of an Iraqi detainee. So Tom accompanied an Iraqi
detainee in death, just as he had done so often in life.
At Tom's departure, Pyles read out from the Gospel of John, "The light
shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it" (1:5). In
honour of Tom's Iraqi companion, she spoke the words called out repeatedly
from the mosques of Baghdad during the Shock and Awe bombing campaign in
March 2003, "allah akhbar" (God is greater). She concluded the sending with
words from the Jewish scriptures, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken
away; blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21).
Dawn broke. The contingent of Puerto Rican soldiers nearby saluted. The
plane taxied away. Venus, the morning star, shone brightly overhead as the
night faded away.
Godspeed you, Tom, on your final journey home to your family and friends.
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