Thursday, April 19, 2012
Roanoke Valley pours in cash for soldier's funeral
The donations paid for about 20 soliders to come to Roanoke, with plenty of money left over.
Roanoke Valley residents and businesses contributed more than $30,000 in late February and early March to help pay for about 20 of U.S. Army Sgt. T.J. Conrad's comrades to travel from around the country for his funeral.
Conrad and another soldier, Sgt. Joshua Born of Florida, were killed Feb. 23 in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province after they were shot by a man in Afghan military fatigues during a protest over the burning of copies of the Quran.
Conrad's family asked for donations to help pay for travel and lodging costs for several of his fellow soldiers to attend his memorial service. According to T.J.'s father, Tim Conrad, the outpouring of support was overwhelming.
The donations paid for about 20 soldiers to travel to Roanoke, with money left over. T.J. Conrad's wife, Holly, used some of it to buy 145 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to send to his unit in Afghanistan. Another $1,500 was sent to Born's family so that some soldiers could travel to his memorial service in Indiana. Holly Conrad also plans to make a donation to the Disabled American Veterans organization in Roanoke.
The remaining money from the fundraiser has been placed into a trust fund for T.J. Conrad's infant son, Bentley. Tim Conrad said that Holly and Bentley Conrad will move to Roanoke in the near future. This, after all, is where T.J. Conrad's body is buried, and with no remaining ties to Fort Stewart, there's no reason for Holly and Bentley to remain there, Tim Conrad said.
His wife, Kim Conrad, wrote this statement: "The family of Sgt. T.J. Conrad wishes to thank the people of the Roanoke Valley and surrounding communities, along with area businesses. We have been overwhelmed with the kindness and compassion of friends, business friends and strangers alike. All out-of-town guests were complimentary and impressed with the Roanoke Valley."
Tim Conrad also thanked the Virginia Museum of Transportation for hosting a gathering after the memorial service; MainStay Suites Extended Stay Hotel and Marriott's Courtyard for providing free and discounted rooms; the Volvo truck manufacturing plant in Dublin for contributing a bag of money; Roanoke Postal Credit Union and Wells Fargo bank for setting up funds to take donations for the family; and Northside High School for hosting the memorial service.
Tim Conrad said that members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. — known for protesting at the funerals of soldiers and at other tragedies — had threatened to appear at the service. Rep. Morgan Griffith, however, suggested renting Northside High School for the day so that it would temporarily be private and not public property, allowing the family more control on access.
Conrad grew so frustrated with Westboro that he announced last month he will run as an independent this year for U.S. Sen. Jim Webb's seat, largely so he can speak out against the church and against the ongoing war in Afghanistan. He said that none of the money donated for his son's memorial service is going to his campaign. So far, Conrad said, he's spent only $26 to print out copies of the petitions he must gather to get on the fall ballot.