John Robert Teal
Captain, United States Army
Oct 24, 2003
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today that Captain John R. Teal, 31, of Mechanicsville, Virginia, was killed on October 23, 2003, in Baqubah, Iraq. Teal was in a convoy when an improvised explosive device exploded. He died of injuries sustained in the explosion.
Teal was assigned to 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
The incident is under investigation.
Captain John R. Teal was coming home. The table was laid with cakes and cookies; there were flowers, too many flowers, blooming in the living room; his parents, Emmie and Joseph Teal, waited on the couch, hands knitted in their laps.
"I need to see him, Joe," Ms. Teal said.
Mr. Teal looked at his hands.
Captain Teal, 31, Second Brigade, Fourth Infantry Division, was blown up by a bomb while riding in a convoy in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, on October 23, 2003. He had been working with Iraqi town councils.
His remains were making the journey from Baghdad to a base in Germany to a funeral home in Montpelier, on the outskirts of Richmond. Army officers told the Teals their son "got the full blast" of the explosion.
"I hope they fix him up good," Ms. Teal said.
"No, no, no," Mr. Teal said. "What's in that casket is a cold, damp piece of shell."
"Maybe they can crack the lid just so I can hold his hand," she said.
"Damn it, honey," Mr. Teal exploded. "That's not him, that's not the person who walked out of here, that's not John Robert!"
"O.K., honey, O.K.," she said.
Rain beat against the windows. The living room grew gray. Both the Teals started to cry. "When I heard the news I felt almost, almost . . ." Ms. Teal paused, knowing the word but not quite ready to bring it into the room. "Relief."
"I was dreading this every day of my life," she explained, between sniffles. "So when the Army finally came to the door and told us J. R. was dead, it was like this big thing hanging over my head just went away."
Two Dedicated Soldiers Honored
Families Mourn Victims of War
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Wednesday, November 5, 2003
When Army Captain John R. Teal was in high school in Hanover County, Virginia, he told his mother that he didn't like how the school would "just throw the flag" up the pole in the morning and pull it down at night. So he persuaded school officials to institute a military flag ceremony, which he helped conduct daily until his graduation in 1990.
A decade later and more than 500 miles away, John D. Hart joined Junior ROTC at his high school in Bedford, Mass. After he watched the events of September 11, 2001, on television, Hart decided to dedicate himself to what had been an occasional dream -- becoming a soldier. He enlisted in the Army shortly after graduation last year and wound up a Private with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Yesterday, Teal and Hart became the 32nd and 33rd U.S. casualties from Iraq to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery this year.
Before Teal's ceremony, a bittersweet irony was on the mind of his mother, who recalled that it was a former guard at Arlington who had taught her son how to care for the flag in high school.
"So it's going to take everything I've got to keep it together when they hand me that flag," said Emmie Teal. "It's going to be rough."
John Teal, 31, was killed October 23, 2003, when a homemade bomb exploded on a roadside where he was traveling with a convoy about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, according to the Army. Family and friends remembered him yesterday as someone who made fast friends with almost everyone he met. They recalled him playing soldier as a boy of about 10, dressed in fatigues and patrolling the ditches around the family's central Virginia home.
Emmie Teal said that when her son was deployed to Iraq, she had a dark feeling that something bad could happen. That tension stayed with her every day, she said, until the uniformed officers showed up at the door to break the news to her and her husband, Joseph.
"Part of me didn't believe it when they told me," she said. "I had to see him, just to make sure there wasn't some mistake. I knew they weren't wrong, but I had to see for myself."
After Teal's body was shipped home to a funeral parlor just outside Richmond, the bad news sunk in with finality. By the time Emmie Teal greeted the other teary-eyed mourners at the graveside service yesterday, she had been allowed a few private moments for one last look at her son.
"But what we saw there, that wasn't the boy we knew," she said. "The smile was gone. He was never without a smile."
A few hundred yards from where a composed Emmie Teal was handed the folded American flag that had rested on her son's coffin, Hart's graveside ceremony was soon to begin.
Hart was killed five days before Teal, when his Humvee was ambushed near Kirkuk in northern Iraq. A memorial service for Hart last week drew hundreds to the Bedford town common for a candlelight vigil. At that service and at yesterday's burial, friends remembered the 20-year-old soldier as playful, determined and kind. They described a young man who loved animals and -- before settling on a career in the military -- talked of being a veterinarian.
"He placed others' well-being above his own," said the Rev. John Gibbons, of the Bedford Unitarian Community, who delivered a graveside eulogy. "He was proud to serve in freedom's cause."
The soldier's parents, Brian and Alma, were joined yesterday by Hart's two teenage sisters and a large contingent of family and friends who traveled to Washington from Massachusetts.
Ed Hynes, a family friend, said that the conditions described by Hart in letters home have led the family to make appeals to the military to provide more resources to protect service members in Iraq.
"The message they want to get out from all
this is to make sure the soldiers are properly equipped over there -- they're
not 100 percent sure that's the case," Hynes said. "And they also want
to make sure the American people welcome home each and every soldier with
open arms, whether they agree with this war or not."
MONTPELIER, Va. -- A 31-year-old soldier from Hanover County who graduated from the Virginia Military Institute was killed by an explosive in Baqubah, Iraq.
Army Captain John Robert "J.R." Teal, a medical officer with the 4th Infantry Division, was in a convoy Thursday when the improvised device exploded, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Two fellow Army soldiers also were injured.
Teal spent his last days in a small town outside Iraq treating sick children. Just a few days ago, he called to tell his mother about a child he helped who had severely swollen tonsils.
Teal's parents told the Richmond Times-Dispatch they sent him candy, magazines and videos after he left in March, and in return, he sent detailed letters of his adventures.
Still, his mother, Emmie Teal, told the paper she was uncertain about his safety.
"The day he left, I said he's not coming back," she said.
His family and friends said Teal loved to travel and swim, and was a fan of the Dave Matthews Band.
"He was the kind of guy that no one could say anything bad about," said Frank Boehling, who graduated from VMI with Teal.
Teal never married and had no children. He wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but his parents also plan to hold a memorial service at St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Montpelier.
"It's really going to sink in when he comes
back," Emmie Teal said.
Emmie Teal, mother of Army Captain John R. Teal, receives the flag from Brigadier
General Richard Ursone, while her husband, Joseph, Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.),
back left, and Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee look on.
Photo By Michael Robert Patterson, May 2008
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 22 April 2004