Faces of the American Muslim Soldiers who died fighting for their country

Washington, 29 Shawwal 1437/3 August 2016 (MINA) – The speech by the father of Captain Humayun Khan, an American Muslim soldier who died serving his country, was one of the most striking moments of the Democratic National Convention.

An emotional Khizr Khan held up a copy of the Constitution and attacked Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump by saying: ‘You have sacrificed nothing and no-one.’

But Captain Khan is not the only Muslim-American to die in the line of duty, Dailymail reported.

At least 10 others were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan with some reports saying that at least 14 died in the decade after 9/11.

In fact Muslims have fought for America in every major conflict going back to and including the Revolutionary War.

More than 15,000 Arab Americans fought for the Allies during the Second World War and hundreds have served in diplomatic positions or as translators for US troops since then.

A report from 2011 showed that 6,024 Muslims have fought honorably in in the US military, a number which is doubtless higher today.

One of the highest ranking Muslims was Marine Colonel Douglas Burpee, who spent more than 20 years in the military.

Daily Mail Online has profiled some of Captain Khan’s contemporaries who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

  1. Captain Mohsin Naqvi

Captain Naqvi died in Afghanistan on September 17 2008 just three months after he married his wife, Raazia, and was given a funeral in the same mosque.

He was laid to rest in the Al-Fatemah Islamic Center in Colonie, NY, in a mixture of military funeral and traditional Muslim service.

Army officers stood in their socks with their heads hanging as the crowd repeated: ‘Allah Akbar’.

Afterwards Captain Naqvi was buried with full military honors at Evergreen Memorial Park.

Standing by his son’s grave, Captain Naqvi’s father Nazar said: ‘He gave the ultimate sacrifice – his life – just for America.’

He also said: ‘First he was American. Then he was Muslim.’

Captain Naqvi, 42, who was born in Pakistan, had served with the 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, based out of Fort Benning, Georgia

He died along with three other soldiers in Gerdia Seria, Afghanistan, when an explosive device blew up near their vehicle and caused it to overturn.

According to reports his family had moved to America when he was eight.

He signed up for the military four days after the 9/11 attacks to improve relations between the US and the rest of the world.

He fought during the Iraq War and re-enlisted for a tour of Afghanistan – and was deployed the day after his wedding.

Captain Naqvi was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with valor, which were given to his widow.

At his grave Captain Naqvi’s father lashed out at the portrayal of Muslims after the 9/11 attacks.

He said: ‘Why are we Muslims being blamed for something done by 19 people? Why? Why is that? We are patriotic Americans’.

2. Major James Michael Ahearn: Converted for love

Major Ahearn was a Muslim convert who married an Iraqi woman who he brought to the US, married. The couple had a baby girl together.

He learned to speak Arabic and had a profound respect and understanding of Iraqi culture and customs.
Major Ahearn died on July 5 2007 from injuries caused by an explosive device while on patrol in Baghdad in Iraq.

The 43-year-old was a civil affairs officer assigned to 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Originally from Concord, California, he served 18 years in the military including tours during the Gulf War in which he was assigned to a tank crew.

He died nearing the end of his third tour of duty in the Iraq War.

He met his wife, Lena, in 2003 where she was working as a military translator. She described it as ‘love at first sight’.

She told the Los Angeles Times: ‘Jimmy was the greatest gift I ever had’.

Major Ahearn converted to Islam so he could marry Lena and enlisted the help of Senator John McCain to cut through the red tape to get her to America.

The couple named their daughter ‘Khadija’, after the wife of the Prophet Muhammad.

Among the medals he won during his career were a Bronze Star for valor, a Purple Heart and five Army Commendation medals.

He was given an Islamic burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

3. Staff Sgt Ayman Taha: Special forces hero

Army Staff Sergeant Ayman A. Taha was close to finishing his PhD in economics but decided to sign up to the Special Forces.

The 31-year-old believed in doing ‘good deeds’ and felt compelled to serve his country.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Sergeant Taha died on December 30 2005 as he was preparing a munitions cache for demolition in Balad, Iraq, when it exploded.

He was originally from Sudan but grew up in Virginia and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley before earning a master’s degree in economics.

A friend said that joining the Special Forces was ‘something he felt compelled to do’ and he did so in 2002 under the 18X program, which allows people to enlist with unique skills.

Sgt Taha could speak English, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese, with Arabic being particularly useful to the military.
His father worked for the World Bank but rather than follow his footsteps Sgt Taha decided to sign up and fight for America instead.

He is survived by his wife Geraldine and his daughter Sommer.

Sgt Taha’s father Abdel-Rahman Taha said that his son was a devout Muslim who felt ‘the message of Islam is very simple – to believe in God and do good deeds’.

He said: ‘He believed that what he was doing were the good deeds Islam is asking for’.

Sgt Taha was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the

Iraq Campaign Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

4. Cpl Kareem Khan: Enlisted to show Muslims were not all fanatics

Corporal Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, 20, was held up by former Secretary of State Colin Powell as an example of how Muslims can be patriotic Americans and serve in the military.

Secretary Powell has said that Corporal Khan ‘was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could go serve his country, and he gave his life’.

Corporal Khan died on August 6 2007 in Baqouba, Iraq, along with four others when the house that they were clearing was destroyed by a blast.

He was born in Neptune, New Jersey and was a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys.

He also loved trips to Disneyworld and loved playing video games with his 12-year old stepsister, Aliya.

Corporal Khan enlisted straight after graduation and was sent to Iraq in July 2006, hoping to prove that not all Muslims were jihadist fanatics.

According to his obituary in the Newark Star-Ledger he had sent home pictures to his family of him player soccer with Iraqi children.

After his death his father, Feroze Khan said: ‘His Muslim faith did not make him not want to go. It never stopped him. He looked at it that he’s American and he has a job to do.’

Corporal Khan was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with traditional Islamic rites and a full military burial.

5. Spc. Rasheed Sahib: ‘He was an American solider’

Specialist Rasheed Sahib, 22, was an American Muslim from Guyana who was killed in Iraq on May 18 2003.

He was a US resident and was expecting to become a citizen upon his return from combat.

His ambition was to become an FBI agent and he planned to go to college at the end of his service in Iraq, which began only a few weeks after the invasion of the country.

His family lived in Queens, New York and he was assigned to 20th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas

According to the Army version of events, he was killed when a comrade accidentally shot him in Balad, Iraq.
The other soldier was cleaning his gun when it fired and a bullet his Specialist Sahib in the chest.

His mother Fizoon said that even though her son was not a devout Muslim, she thought he prayed every night and read the Koran.

She said that when her son joined the Army ‘nobody had fears about him being Muslim. He was an American soldier’.

6. Sgt Damon Waters-Bey: Dead, Day Two of Iraq War

Marine Staff Sergeant Kendall Damon Waters-Bey was a Muslim convert from Baltimore, Maryland who served in the Gulf War.

The 29-year-old was killed in a helicopter crash on March 20 2003 that near Umm Qasr, an Iraqi port near the

Kuwait border, that also claimed the lives of three other Marines and eight British Royal Marines.
it was only the second day of hostilities.

A father-of-one, he was a longstanding member of the Moorish Science Temple of America, an African American Muslim organization.

Specialist Waters-Bey was buried at an interfaith service at St Matthew’s Catholic Church Baltimore attended by Rep Elijah Cummings, former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich and former Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley.

There was also a large number of Marines and a bus load of officers from the Baltimore police department.

The service began with a Muslim call to prayer before speeches by other religious leaders
Rev Joseph Muth, pastor of St Matthew’s said during the service: ‘We are in the house of the Lord.
‘We gather today as Christians, Muslims and Jews to give thanks to one God. We give thanks to Staff Sergeant Kendall Waters-Bey. We are here to witness that he gave by his life’.

Specialist Waters-Bey was buried at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery in Owings Mills in Maryland where Marines fired a salute in his honor.

His widow, his mother and his son were presented with US flags during the service.

7. Specialist Azhar Ali: Dreamt of being an NYPD cop

Azhar Ali left Pakistan for New York at the age of 14 and dreamed of becoming a police officer.
He planned to join the New York Police Department after serving in the National Guard but instead signed up to serve in Iraq.

His father Mubarak Ali, who lives in Pakistan said: ‘When I heard he was going to Iraq for America, I was proud.
‘He was a very sweet son – very loving, caring’.

Specialist Ali, 27, of New York, was killed on March 2 2005 when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad.

He was a member of the 1st Battalion, 69th Regiment and was based in New York.

One of nine children, Specialist Ali joined the military after graduating from high school and patrolled Grand Central Terminal after the 9/11 terrorist attacks

The day he died, he was part of a crew that responded to another roadside bombing and rescued those who were wounded.

After his death his brother, Zulfiqar Ali said: ‘He’s a hero – not only for my family, the United States, but the whole world.’

Specialist Ali was given an Islamic burial in Queens, New York, and laid to rest at the Washington Memorial Park in Coram, Long Island.
8. Spc Omead Razani: First Iranian-American casualty

Army Specialist Omead Razani, a medic, was the first Iranian-American killed while serving in Iraq.

He was hoping to retrain as a paramedic and ultimately as a doctor in Los Angeles when he died of non-combat related injuries in August 27 2004 in Habbaniya, Iraq.

A post by one of his cousins says that the 19-year-old died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
Specialist Razani was the son of Iranian immigrants who shocked his mother and father by saying he wanted to enlist at the age of 18.

His father had moved from Iran to the US in the 1960s to become a doctor and his son wanted to follow in his footsteps, but only after serving his country.

Specialist Razani was a member of the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and saved the lives of numerous colleagues by training them in how to administer medical help to themselves.

Among them was Staff Sergeant Tracey Koontz who said that his advice meant she survived a suicide bomber blowing himself up next to her vehicle.

He had previously served two years in Korea

9. Staff Sergeant Daniel Isshak: ‘Bad ass’ Ranger

Staff Sergeant Daniel Isshak was Muslim American with a Russian heritage who spoke fluent Arabic – and had an infectious laugh.

The Army Ranger used to make his comrades laugh with his cartoon-like chuckle which lifted morale even in dark times.

He died on October 3 2006 aged 25 from injuries sustained when his vehicle came under fire in Hawijah, Iraq.

He had been assigned to guard a colonel and was protecting him when he died.

Sergeant Isshak’s parents, who lived in Alta Loma, California, had allowed him to join the Army before he turned 18.
In a tribute in a newspaper website, his friend Sergeant First Class Michael McDaniel wrote: ‘Dan, you called me a couple of days before you went over there.

‘You told me you were scared but you knew you were doing the right thing and you had great buds going with you.
‘I understood your fear later, as when I went I had the same apprehension. I told you that you’d be fine and they can’t kill or hurt you because you were too much of a bad ass. I was wrong and I’m sorry.’ (T/R04/R03)


Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)