96th Civil Affairs Battalion honors comrades in a memorial ceremony

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, July 19, 2007) -- More than 300 family members, friends, Soldiers and other guests assembled at the John F. Kennedy Chapel here to remember Maj. James M. Ahearn and Sgt. Keith A. Kline, who were killed in Iraq, July 5.

Assigned to 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, Ahearn and Kline both died from wounds sustained in an improvised explosive device attack while conducting a patrol during combat operations in Baghdad. They were members of a civil affairs team supporting the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. The 96th CA Bn., is a subordinate unit of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) here.

Col. Ferdinand Irizarry, commander of the 95th CA Bde., spoke about Ahearn’s outreach to others.

“Whether it was having people in the states send over toys for young Iraqi children, or being the go-to person for countless Iraqi people, Ahearn went beyond anybody’s expectations,” he said.

Maj. Don Sculli, rear detachment commander, 96th CA Bn., spoke to the audience about Ahearn’s commitment to achieve. “When all others around became frustrated with their progress, Jim was the one who assured them that their mission would go on.”

Sculli acknowledged Ahearn’s love for his family. He said that he and other members of the unit would have to step up their game after learning from Ahearn’s wife, Lena, for whom Ahearn often left doughnuts, hid notes and left flowers every Sunday.

“Jim we’ll have to step our standards now, we have to step up on our role on Sunday morning,” Sculli said.

Sgt. Jacob Gosset, a communication sergeant with the 96th CA Bn., shared memories of Kline with the assembled mourners. He said he and Kline shared many experiences over the years both good and bad. His fondest memory was that people often asked Keith, “Does your mom know you’re in the Army? And Kline would always say, ‘She knows where I am.’”

Gosset recalled how on one occasion he, Kline, and Staff Sgt. Daniel Croker, an automation noncommissioned officer with the 97th CA Bn., were going fishing. While Croker and Gosset bought the routine fishing gear of baits and hook, “Kline said he was buying a large lure to catch a wide-mouth bass. And while we continued to catch fish all day, Kline kind of shrugged it off and continued with his lure. He refused our offers to switch to the classic bait and hook,” Gosset said. “He never gave up but was just as committed and determined as in any other situation.”

Chaplain Jay S. Johns III, 95th CA Bde., summed up the ceremony with the reading of Psalms 23 and reminded mourners that people never know what life will hand out, but through faith individuals can be prepared for what ever it is.

Funeral services for Ahearn are scheduled for July 25 in Arlington National Cemetery. Funeral services for Kline were held in Oak Harbor, Ohio, in the Oak Harbor High School where he was a wrestling champ and 2002 graduate. More than 1,000 family and friends, local community and state officials, fellow Soldiers from the 96th CA Bn. were on hand for the service. He was buried in the Union Cemetery of Oak Harbor.

Along with his wife, Lena, Ahearn is survived by their daughter, Khadijah, both of Raeford, N.C.; his mother, Connie Ahearn of Concord, Calif., and James F. Ahearn, Pheonix, Az. Surviving Kline is his mother, Betty Kline and his stepfather, Allen Lipstraw both of Oak Harbor.

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