Oct. 1-14, 2004
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Never forget: ROTC honors fallen, missing comrades


Never Forget
ROTC honors fallen, missing comrades
POW ceremony
Photos by Lincoln Ross Barbour

By Matt Kelly

Capt. Humayun S. Khan, the first member of the University’s Army ROTC program to die in the line of duty since the Vietnam War, was remembered Sept. 21 as a soldier, friend and son.

Khan, 27, a member of the Class of 2000, died in Iraq on June 8 while he was stopping two suicide bombers in an explosive-laden car outside his base, preventing the deaths of many American and Iraqi soldiers. He was honored in two U.Va. ceremonies, one at the McIntire Amphitheatre and the second at Army ROTC headquarters in the Astronomy Building.

At the amphitheatre, members from all of the University’s ROTC programs participated in the annual memoriam for soldiers who were missing in action or prisoners of war. The Army ROTC also held a separate ceremony at its headquarters, where a conference room was dedicated in Khan’s memory.

POW ceremony
A Cadet rifle squad (top) was part of an ROTC service honoring POWs, MIAs and a fallen U.Va. graduate. Khizr Khan, (center) father of slain
soldier Capt. Humayun S. Khan, was flanked at the ceremonies by his wife, Ghazala, and his other sons, Shaharyar (second from left) and Omer (third from left), during the ceremony.

Capt. Khan’s parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan of Bristow, Va., participated in both services.

Khizr Khan, his voice taut with emotion, said his son made three major decisions in his life: to come to U.Va., to join the ROTC program and to join the U.S. Army. Humayun was looking for direction and guidance when he came to U.Va., Khizr Khan said, and joining ROTC confirmed his values and shaped his character.

“This completed him as a person,” Khizr Khan said of his son’s decision to join the Army. “This prepared him to live his life.”

Khizr Khan also recalled a discussion he had with his son in January about an essay he had written as part of his admission to the University, in which Humayun said that liberty and democracy require vigilance and sacrifice.

“Remember what I wrote,” his father recounted Humayun saying. “If my time comes, I will not hesitate.”

And he didn’t.

Capt. James P. Holzgrefe, who graduated with Khan in 2000 and served with him in ROTC, praised Khan for his abilities to build consensus and resolve conflict as a student at U.Va. and as an officer in Iraq, where he established a jobs program to help Iraqis find work.

“The military is full of leaders who accomplish missions through conflict,” Holzgrefe said. “But the best accomplish missions through cooperation.”

During the ceremony at the Army ROTC headquarters, Khan’s brothers hung a framed, folded, American flag in his honor, and Lt. Col. Hampton E. Hite, chairman of the U.Va. Army ROTC, read a proclamation from the Society of the Purple Shadow. A portrait of the late Capt. Khan also was hung on the wall, and one of his uniforms and his black beret will be displayed.

At the amphitheatre ceremony, Rebecca Skinner, another former classmate who is now an instructor with the ROTC program at U.Va. and at Fort Monroe, spoke of loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity and personal courage — traits that every American soldier needs to possess. Khan was born with these qualities, she said. “He gave joy to everyone who knew him.”

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Wayne Jefferson delivered the keynote address at the amphitheatre, where he remembered his own brother, a pilot shot down over Vietnam in 1967 during a mission. He was killed when his plane went down, but his family remained unsure of his fate until his bones were identified in 2000. There are 50,000 prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action not accounted for in the conflicts from World War II to today, Jefferson said. It is important that Americans never forget them, he said.


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