Death in Baghdad: How a troubled teen found himself in Iraq

The facts about the life and death of Alex Funcheon are these: As a Wichita teen he was a screw-up and a jerk. He got drunk, got high, got arrested for possession, dropped out, bedded girls and bragged about it, cursed at his parents, bullied his little sister to tears, and ticked off friends so much that a roommate, one of his closest friends, told Alex one day to find some other place to live.

He told his Christian parents that he doubted the existence of God.

His father, Bob Funcheon, in despair, urged his son to join the U.S. Army. Alex enlisted.

On April 29, 2007, Sgt. Alex Funcheon, age 21, was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

At the funeral in Wichita, family and friends were startled to discover, from notes sent by soldiers, that Alex had become a good soldier, resourceful, courageous -- and beloved.

Six weeks after Alex died, the president of the United States came to Wichita to dedicate a new youth center and to crack jokes at a political fundraiser. The moment he heard Bush was coming, Bob said, "I knew I wanted to do something big. For Alex."

The Funcheons asked for a meeting.

On Air Force One in Wichita, on June 15 last year, they confronted an exhausted-looking President Bush with a message.

A lot of sons and daughters died, they told the president.

They asked whether their son died for nothing.

APRIL 29, 2007

Forward Operating Base, Baghdad, IraqTruck convoy, 1st Scout Platoon of Alpha Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalryregiment

In east Baghdad, Sgt. Gerardo Medrano and the 20 other guys from Alpha Troop's 1st Platoon could feel the heat from the morning sun as they strapped on body armor. They were laughing, joking, and a good deal scared.

They were about to drive down a road.

In the pouches attached to the front of their armored vests, they slipped in one ammunition magazine after another, 30 bullets to a magazine, seven or more magazines stuck into the chest pouches of each soldier. They cross-checked each other's pouches to make sure everybody had what they needed: bullets, night vision devices, water, medical kits.

In the turret of the convoy's lead Humvee, Alex Funcheon, a kid from Wichita and the lead gunner of this scout platoon, was checking the action on the 50-caliber machine gun and big thermal sights that were mounted in the gun turret.

Read the complete story at