- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2004

KOKOMO, Miss. - From the porch of James A. Chance Jr.’s mobile home, you can see his namesake. There, he says, is his son — the one who got his father’s dark hair and broad forehead; the one who followed Daddy and Granddaddy into the military; the one who one day would pass on their name to a fourth generation.

There, across the street, beyond a grove of tall oak trees, where gray stones rise from a field of green grass.

There, where a marble headstone bears the inscription “Army Spc. James A. Chance III.”

“When Jimmy died,” the father says, “the name died, too, I reckon.”

With every death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan, somewhere a family grieves. This Memorial Day, they mourn the loss of love that will never be returned, of memories that will never be made, of a life that will never be lived.

For dozens of families, there is an another kind of loss — the loss of a tradition of names passed down, from grandfather to father, father to son.

For some, the death is a missing name in a living lineup, a lost senior or junior or third or fourth who already had passed on the name. For many, it is simply the end.

For the family of Army Spc. Eugene Uhl III, that ending came on Nov. 15 when two Black Hawk helicopters collided over Mosul, Iraq.

“He was the only male Uhl to pass the name on,” said his mother, Joan Uhl, from her Amherst, Wis., home. “He was the hope for the family name.”

As a high school student, Eugene Uhl III listened as his father tried to dissuade him from military service. Mr. Uhl had served in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart for wounds he received to his face. But the son wanted to be a soldier, and he joined the 101st Airborne.

Spc. Uhl, 21, was planning to marry his high school sweetheart upon his return, his mother says. One day, he hoped, his own family would include a namesake.

“He loved his name. He told his father, if he had a son, he would name it the fourth,” his mother said.

Several pregnant wives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have named sons for their fathers.

When Shauna O’Day gave birth to a daughter, she wanted the child to carry the name of her father, Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick O’Day of Santa Rosa, Calif., who died in the first days of the Iraq fighting. She named the baby Kylee Marie Patrick O’Day.

Army Staff Sgt. Frederick L. Miller Jr. of Hagerstown, Ind., was killed Sept. 20 in an explosion while on patrol outside Ramadi, Iraq. His father treasures a letter home, a letter of thanks.

“You know dad,” the namesake wrote, “when I look down at my name, I’m proud.”

The name is just a memory now — or carving on a headstone, with “A Fallen American Hero” beneath, as in the case of James Anderson Chance III.

For the Chance family in this small Mississippi logging town, the namesake tradition ended with 25-year-old Spc. Chance’s death in the Iraqi desert on Nov. 6. The truck he was driving hit a land mine.

“All we got left of him is what we remember,” his father says.

The Chances say they always hoped their youngest son would leave and one day return.

But it was no surprise to the family when Spc. Chance followed in the footsteps of James A. Chance Jr. and Sr. by joining the military. He joined the Army in 1997 after high school and, after serving out his enlistment, joined the Mississippi National Guard in 2002. Spc. Chance’s unit — part of the 890th Engineer Battalion — was called up for duty in Iraq in 2003.

“He took my place,” said his father, himself a former National Guardsman, whose father served in World War II.

Along the walls of one room, framed posthumous military honors — the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Mississippi Magnolia Cross, a National Guard honor — are propped up along the floor. On a small table in one corner, a framed picture of Spc. Chance is surrounded by ceramic angels. Nearby are pictures of his brother’s children.

Next to it, his mother says, is where the photos of Spc. Chance’s children — maybe including a namesake — one day would have been placed.

It is an empty space.

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