A 'Peacemaker' Is Laid to Rest
Muslim Soldier From Prince William Tried to Improve Relations in Iraq
By Michele Clock
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 16, 2004; Page B01
Army Capt. Humayun Khan tried to reassure his parents in Prince William County that he was safe -- even though attacks on his base in Baquba, Iraq, were almost constant.
"Whenever I talked to him, I started to cry," said his mother, Ghazala Khan, 52. "He always said to me, 'Don't worry. I'm safe.' "
The last time she spoke to her 27-year-old son was Mother's Day, May 9. Yesterday, under the hot midday sun, she and her husband, Khizr M. Khan, 53, watched as their middle son was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
Khan's was the 66th casualty of the Iraq war to be buried on the cemetery's lush, manicured hills. His flag-draped wood coffin was placed at the end of a row of marble headstones.
On June 8, Khan died in a suicide car bombing at the main gates of his base. Khan, an ordnance officer with the Germany-based 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, had watched as several of his soldiers prepared to do a routine vehicle inspection. His unit was charged with the day-to-day security and maintenance of the camp.
When an orange-colored taxi drove toward them, Khan ordered his soldiers to "hit the dirt," said his father, who received details of his son's death from his commanding officer.
Khan walked toward the car, motioning for it to stop, his father said. A makeshift bomb inside it exploded, killing him and two Iraqi civilians in addition to the two suicide bombers. Ten soldiers and six Iraqi citizens were also wounded, the Army said.
Khan's father said he is proud of his son's courage but is devastated by the loss.
"Where did his strength come from to face such a danger instead of hiding behind a pole or booth or something?" his father said. "Normally we would try to hide. Had he done that, there would be no problem at all. It may have not been fatal."
Family members and friends -- including Khan's girlfriend, Irene Auer, 24, of Amberg, Germany -- have filled the Khans' Bristow home in the past week, weeping and praying for the Muslim soldier they will remember as helping to build a bridge between the American and Iraqi people.
During his three months in Iraq, Khan helped put Iraqi civilians to work for $5 an hour patrolling the streets of Baquba under the U.S. Army, his father said.
The program, dubbed the United States-Iraq Sponsorship Program, was intended to help combat high unemployment and provide the local population with security and peace, his father said.
"He was always a peacemaker," Khizr Khan said, "always seeing an opportunity to give. He always said to the Iraqis, 'We're here not to hurt you but to help you.' "
Auer said her boyfriend enjoyed taking responsibility for others and always respected those around him.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company