Knox Soldier Honored in Wall of Honor Ceremony

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The shadowbox honoring Sgt. Joseph A. Ford was flanked by Sgt Raymond Pendleton, left, and E4 Specialist Arjan Manwani. (By Jenna Esarey, Special to the Courier-Journal)

With numerous family members and friends on hand, an Indiana National Guard soldier who died in Iraq was honored Saturday at a Wall of Honor ceremony at the New Albany National Guard Armory.

Sgt. Joseph A. Ford was 23 years old when he was killed on May 10, 2008 in a non-combat vehicle accident.

Ford’s sacrifice was recognized with the dedication of a shadowbox containing a folded American flag, Ford’s picture, biography and all of his ribbons, awards and medals from his military career. Approximately 75 people turned out for the dedication, including many members of the HQ & HQ Troop of the 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment based at the armory.

In his remarks to the crowd, Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, adjutant general of the state Guard, pledged, “We will not forget. We can’t forget.”

Ford’s wife, Karen Ford, said she was glad to have a place to come to honor him.

“I’m so glad that people are acknowledging the loss,” she said.

A native of Knox in the northern part of Indiana, Ford was attending the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville and was a member of the National Guard unit there when he transferred to New Albany to be eligible for combat duty.

“He was ROTC,” Karen Ford said. “He quit to be deployed so he would be with his brother’s in arms.”

Ford’s mother, Dalarie Ford, remembered that her son’s death came on Mother’s Day.

“I really can’t celebrate Mother’s Day anymore,” she said.

But she said she appreciated the ceremony. “This is nice,” she said. “This is a way to connect with Joe.”

Abbey Ambrose, Ford’s sister, enlisted in the military with him.

“I’m more proud of him than anything else,” she said. “You have to move on. You can’t be depressed all the time.”

She said she is comforted by the feeling that Ford is still with her in some way. “He is there every day. I talk to him on my way to work and he’s just there for me. I see a lot of him in Noah (her nearly 2-year-old son), so that helps.”

Sgt. Keith Auspland was friends with Ford for about four years. The two deployed together but separated when they reached Fort Stewart.

“He volunteered to be a gunner with the Bravo Troop (First Battalion, 152nd Cavalry),” he said. “If he’d stayed with us he would have been stuck in a tent working on tactical operations.”

In his remarks during the ceremony Auspland said, “I know that I am a better man for having known him.”

According to Umbarger, 18 Indiana National Guard members have been killed since Sept. 11, 2001. He has attended Wall of Honor ceremonies for 10 of them and was attending another Saturday afternoon in Madison for Army Spc. Jonathon Menke, who died Aug. 4, 2008.

“These ceremonies are bittersweet,” he said after Ford’s ceremony. “It brings up the pain of the loss again, but enough time has passed that they can talk about the good memories.”