Persian Gulf assignments catches some couples off guard

(FinalCall.com)–Three Black soldiers were involved in dramatic events in Iraq at Final Call press time.

Staff Sgt. Kendall D. Waters-Bey, 29, of Baltimore became the first Black soldier to die in the war against Iraq. The helicopter maintenance specialist was one of four Marines killed in a helicopter crash March 20.


Shoshawna Johnson was the first Black woman captured as a P.O.W. in the conflict. She was seen on Iraqi television with other prisoners. She was part of the 507th Maintenance division, part of the 111th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, stationed at Fort Bliss.

And Sgt. Asan Akbar, with the 101st Airborne Division’s 326th Engineering Battaliion, is being held and questioned for allegedly throwing grenades into three tents at the tactical operations center at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait on March 23.

Accoding to George Heath, a Ft. Campbell spokesman where Mr. Akbar was stationed, the explosions killed one soldier, Capt. Chris S. Seifert, 27.

Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st, issued a statement that Mr. Akbar was found in a bunker during the Scud alert and detained as part of the investigation.

During that investigation, it was found that Mr. Akbar was missing several grenades that had been checked out to him. According to Mr. Heath, Mr. Akbar had not been charged with a crime at Final Call press time. If charged, Mr. Akbar would likely be returned to Ft. Campbell to face military court action, unless he were to face a court martial board overseas.

Before Sgt. Akbar left for Kuwait in February, he expressed concerns about his involvement in the war because of being a Muslim in a war zone. Acording to press reports, he told his mother that his Muslim faith could land him in military prison when he got to the Middle East.

His mother, Quran Bilal, also expressed concerns about her son being deployed. She told reporters he had in the past expressed concern about being a Muslim in the Army.

“He said, ‘Moma, when I get over there, I have the feeling they are going to arrest me just because of the name that I have carried,” Ms. Bilal said.

His family was not in support of the war and is angry, in addition to grieving the loss of Sgt. Waters-Bey. He leaves behind his wife and 10-year-old son Kenneth from a previous marriage. Sgt. Waters-Bey ominously told his wife that he did not think he was going to return from Iraq.

His father, Michael Waters-Bey, who described himself as a “naturalized Muslim,” explained that he was against the war. “I’m against killing for any reason.” While holding a photo of his son, he told television reporters, “I want President Bush to get a good look at this, really good look here. This is the only son I had, only son.”

When asked by reporters what he would tell President Bush about his son’s death, he said: “This was not your son or daughter. That chair he sat in at Thanksgiving will be empty forever.”

Thanksgiving 2002 was the last time the family saw the Marine.

His sister, Sharita, who is also opposed to the war, was equally critical of Pres. Bush. “I think it’s sad that we’re going to war and we have to lose so many people over nothing. I can’t bring my brother back, but I really miss him,” she told WBAL-TV.

Another sister, Michelle Waters, criticized the U.S. government for its preemptive strike. “It’s all for nothing. That war could have been prevented,” she told reporters March 21, with tears running down her cheeks. “Now we’re out of a brother. Bush is not out of a brother. We are.”

Observers complain that the media has shown very little of these comments from the Waters-Bey family. Family members of soldiers killed who have not been critical of the war have been given wide airplay, they said.

Staff Sgt. Waters-Bey was the crew chief of the CH-46 Sea Knight, a bus-like helicopter with twin rotors used to fly troops to forward positions. The model is a Vietnam War-era aircraft that has been beset in recent years by mechanical difficulties. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

“I’m feeling sad now because my father is gone and I won’t see him again,” said Kenneth to reporters.

-Nisa Islam Muhammad