David Evans, Jr.
Private, United States Army
May 26, 2003
DOD IDENTIFIES ARMY CASUALTY
The Department of Defense announced today that Private David Evans, Jr., 18, of Buffalo, New York, was killed May 25, 2003, in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq. Evans was killed in an explosion at a facility which contained Iraqi ammunition. Evans and another soldier were performing security at the site when their steel shelter collapsed during the initial explosion. The rest of the squad returned after the first explosion and extracted the other soldier, but Private Evans remains could not be located until several hours later.
Evans was assigned to the 977th Military Police
Company, Fort Riley, Kansas. The incident is under investigation.
Army's decision to drop charges in soldier's death angers mother
September 2, 2004
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - Esther Macklin still struggles to come to terms with the death of her soldier son in Iraq more than a year ago. That's because the terms keep changing, the grieving mother says.
The latest twist came less than two weeks ago, when she learned the Army had dropped charges against the soldier she'd been told had caused the explosion that killed her son as he guarded a munitions dump in Ad Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad.
"I am furious with that. How dare they? How dare they?" Macklin said of the decision by Fort Riley, Kansas, brass to halt prosecution of Specialist Benjamin Hathaway, who served with her son in the 924th Military Police Battalion.
Military officials told Macklin in March that horseplay had killed her 18-year-old son, Private David Evans. Hathaway, they said, had lit some fuse bundles at the cajoling of another soldier, sparking a series of blasts that sent the three soldiers diving for cover.
Macklin had planned to attend Hathaway's court-martial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide and four other charges. Then came word there would be no trial.
Colonel Robert Teetsel said he recommended that Fort Riley's Commanding General dismiss the charges after concluding a conviction was unlikely.
Teetsel said Thursday that Hathaway had denied responsibility, both during a preliminary hearing and a military-administered polygraph test, which he passed. On top of that, the Fort Riley official said, the only other living witness said he couldn't remember the incident after being seriously wounded.
"This is not over," vowed Macklin, who has asked Fort Riley officials to reconsider.
Macklin is angry over what she said has been an ever-changing account of just what happened on May 25, 2003.
When she opened her door to the first dreaded knock, she was told her son died in the second of two explosions as he was trying to get other soldiers out of harm's way. But when she traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to bury her son, she said, she was told he was seen crawling from the building after the first explosion and did not make it to safety before the second.
Then, in March, four high-ranking officials from Fort Riley and two others from the Defense Department came to Buffalo, sat with Evans' family and their pastor in a church and broke the news that, after a 10-month investigation, Hathaway had been charged.
"We found that it was a tragic accident, but it was due to negligence," Colonel John Simpson Jr., Garrison Commander at Fort Riley, said then.
Teetsel said investigators still believe the explosion was the result of horseplay, but the truth may never be known given that only three people were there: Evans, who died; Private First Class Brandon Shaver, who was wounded and said he lost his memory, and Hathaway.
"We still think that the likely cause of the explosion was somebody lit the fuse bundles that ultimately got out of control and caused the explosion," Teetsel said. "We just don't know who did that."
Attempts to reach Hathaway by phone and through his attorney were unsuccessful.
Macklin, meanwhile, said she no longer believes what the Army tells her. "It's been one lie after another. They're talking to me like I don't have the sense of a 2-year-old," she said.
"It was obviously a homicide," she said. "It might not have been intentional but it happened."
Evans dreamed of being an FBI agent and hoped serving with the military police would open doors, said Macklin, who had reluctantly allowed her son to enlist before his 18th birthday.
He is survived by a son he never met, born
a month after his last visit home.
Just before David Evans Jr.'s coffin was lowered into the soggy ground of Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, the rain stopped, the skies began to clear and a day that had been unremittingly gloomy suddenly turned brighter.
It seemed a fitting final tribute to the 18-year-old Army Private, whom friends and family remembered as someone who instantly lightened the mood of all around him.
"David was always smiling," said his older brother, Steven Owens Jr. "He was just full of energy. And he always tried to look on the bright side of things."
Evans, who served with the 977th Military Police Company out of Fort Riley, Kansas, was killed in Iraq on May 25, 2003, under circumstances that remain murky. He was helping to guard an Iraqi ammunition site in Ad Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad, when there was an explosion. The steel shelter in which he and another soldier had been standing collapsed, trapping the two men. Squad members were able to rescue the other soldier, who was injured but alive. Evans's body was not found for several hours.
The cause of the blast is under investigation.
News of Evans's death -- more than six weeks after the fall of Baghdad and nearly a month after President Bush's declaration of victory -- caught the young soldier's family off guard. The last they had heard from him, he was in Kuwait, not Iraq.
Many seemed still in shock yesterday as Evans was laid to rest in hallowed ground, one of nearly two dozen casualties of the war in Iraq now buried at Arlington. His mother, Esther Macklin, was presented with her son's Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
"He was forever smiling, in the good and bad times," she said. "No matter what, he would pat me on the back and say, 'Don't worry, everything's going to be all right.'"
Evans dreamed of becoming an FBI agent, a profession that would have played to his strengths, according to his father, because he was a natural investigator, curious about the people and events around him.
He also was fascinated by technology and was adept at breaking computer codes. "He liked tinkering with things like that," David Evans Sr. said.
His interest in the military had increased in recent years, in part because of the lack of jobs around Buffalo, his home town, but also because he thought serving his country might open some doors at the FBI once he got out of the service, his family said.
"He used to wear my uniform all over the house while I was gone," said Owens, 31, who has spent several years in the military and also served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
When Evans enlisted after his graduation from Kensington High School last year, his father recalls feeling "a little stung, but it was his choice." Pride in his son's decision soon outweighed any other emotion, however.
Before he shipped out for the Middle East, Evans had a conversation with his father about military life. "I just asked him, was he all right with everyone in his platoon, because that's his family now. They're going to watch his back, and he watches theirs. He said, 'Dad, we're all cool.'"
That he fit in so well did not surprise those who knew him.
"He seemed to make friends wherever he went,"
his mother said. "A lot of people took to David because of that smile.
How could you resist?"
Fallen GI lived, died as a protector
Courtesy of the Buffalo News
3 June 2003
David Evans Jr. liked hip-hop music, basketball, football and cross-country running. But it's his nickname, not his hobbies, that will be the focus of today's eulogy at the memorial service for the fallen soldier killed in Iraq nine days ago. Many of Evans' friends called him "Usher," because of his facial resemblance to the R&B singer of that name.
The Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, in preparing for today's memorial service for Evans, was struck by the irony of a young man with the nickname "Usher" being killed while guarding a munitions site in Iraq.
"The word "usher' really means one who stands guard," Pridgen said before this morning's 11 a.m. memorial service in True Bethel Baptist Church. "For him to be nicknamed by his friends as "Usher' was almost prophetic, because he would give his life ushering for his country."
Evans, a 2002 Kensington High School graduate, had decided while in high school that he wanted to join the U.S. Army. His career goal, according to his mother, Esther E. Macklin, was to become an FBI agent.
Only 18 years old, he lived and died as a protector of others.
"Look at his last hours that we know of, standing guard at his post, for all of us," Pridgen said. "That's how he lived his life, and that's how he lost his life." Evans enjoyed the military and was happy serving with the 977th Military Police Company, according to his mother. He had his mind made up, both about joining the military and about becoming an FBI agent.
"That's what he wanted to be," she said Monday. "I am grateful that he chose such a wonderful career, to serve and protect."
At first, she questioned his joining the military, but once he had his mind made up, there was no changing it. "I had to let David go and become the man he wanted to become." She and other family members are trying to learn more about the incident that killed her son, specifically why he and another soldier reportedly were guarding the munitions site without a sergeant on the premises.
"I'm so very proud of him," she said. "Even now, I've come to accept the loss. I have faith that God has my son now."
Surviving, besides his mother, are his father, David Sr., also of Buffalo; his son, David K.; three sisters, Tijuana C. and Tiffany C. Evans and Jennifer E. Rivers; three brothers, Steven M. Owens Jr. of Killeen, Texas, and Lamar A. and Vaughn T. Rivers; one grandmother, Madeline Macklin; and one great-grandmother, Annie Valentine.
A celebration of Evans' life was scheduled for 6 p.m. today, in True Bethel Baptist, 907 E. Ferry St. Burial will follow at a later date, in Arlington National Cemetery.
June 3, 2003, 3:23 PM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Hundreds of mourners packed a church Tuesday to honor a young soldier killed in the war with Iraq.
Private David Evans Jr.'s flag-draped casket, grief-stricken parents and solemn military colleagues painted a now familiar scene. Evans, a new father who wanted to be an FBI agent, is one of 175 U.S. casualties of war, and the third soldier from Buffalo to die.
A member of the 977th Military Police Company in Fort Riley, Kansas, Evans was killed May 25 in an explosion at a munitions site he was guarding in southern Iraq. He was 18.
Friend Mallory Lee recalled a telephone call from Evans as he prepared to ship out to Iraq. As the two teens spoke, the soldier said it might be their last conversation.
"I said 'Don't say that. You're coming back. We're getting old. You're going to see my kids, I'm going to see your kids. We're getting old,"' Lee, 18, said.
"He was the brother I never had," said Lee, one of dozens of young people to wear T-shirts memorializing Evans. Evans' infant son, born in February, was pictured on many, with the words: "The legacy still continues."
Evans never saw his son, David Kevonta Evans, who was born a month after Evans made his last visit home on leave. The child slept in a relative's arms as family members accepted condolences after the memorial service.
"I don't think there's anything in our training ... that could prepare us for the loss of life of one of our babies, one of our children, in a war," said Eric Mohammed, a teacher at Kensington High School, where Evans ran track until his graduation last year.
Mourners spoke of the sense of service present in Evans even as a young teenager that would lead him to the military with the ultimate goal of a career in law enforcement. As a high school student, he interned at City Hall.
Mayor Anthony Masiello, one of several community leaders to attend the service, said Evans had a calling to serve. "But there was a calling greater than ours _ a calling from our savior, our maker, our Lord almighty, to join Him. Why? We don't know. It's difficult for us to understand," the mayor said.
The City Council proclaimed Tuesday "David Evans Jr. Day" in Buffalo.
In an emotional eulogy that had people on their feet, arms in the air, the Rev. Darius Pridgen said Evans had lived up to his nickname, "Usher," given to him because of his resemblance to the R&B singer by that name. Usher means one who stands guard, Pridgen said.
"You're relieved now, son. There's greater work for you," Pridgen said. "You have ushered well, now take your promotion."
Evans will be buried in Arlington National
Posted: 4 June 2003 Updated: 14 June 2003 Updated: 21 June 2003 Updated: 3 May 2004 Updated: 3 September 2004 Updated: 31 December 2005 Updated: 11 February 2006
Updated: 24 March 2007 Updated: 13 May 2008
Photo By Michael Robert Patteson, May 2008
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 22 April 2004