- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

RICHMOND — The funeral for Army Spc. Clarence Adams III neared an end yesterday, and the choir at Fourth Baptist Church rose to sing “Amazing Grace.” The congregation sat and listened until a woman stood, her arms spread wide, and urged the mourners to join in.

It was Mary Adams, the mother of Spc. Adams, who died in Baghdad on Sept. 7 from wounds suffered the previous day when his Humvee struck a roadside bomb.

Spc. Adams died the day after his 28th birthday, which he shared with twin sister Pamela, a doctoral student in Florida. His death was one of seven that day that pushed the U.S. military fatality figure in Iraq to more than 1,000. The total stood at 1,018 as of yesterday morning, according to the Pentagon.

Spc. Adams was remembered as a man who loved life and people, and who found his way back to God in the days leading up to his death. He was a local legend from his days as a star running back at Varina High School, where he rushed for more than 3,800 yards in four years. He went on to play at Virginia Union University on a partial scholarship.

He was the father of six children, three of whom he took as his own when he married a German national he met while stationed in her country. Spc. Adams was deployed to Kosovo twice during the Serbian conflict.

He came from a family with a strong military tradition. His grandfathers served in the Navy during World War II; his father, Clarence Adams Jr., served in Europe during the Vietnam War; his older brother, Travis, served in the Navy during the 1991 Persian Gulf war; and an uncle and two aunts have served in the U.S. military.

“Make no mistake about it. Clarence was a hero,” said Capt. Robert George, who served with Spc. Adams in Iraq with Fort Hood’s 91st Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.

“He always thought of others before himself. He loved you no matter what,” said his oldest daughter, Indya. The 8-year-old called her father “a hero for the world.”

Spc. Adams loved Cheese Nips and Slim Jims, his mother said. Mrs. Adams, 54, sent him care packages regularly, and encouraged him through online instant messaging to fight his growing physical fatigue and weariness at seeing so much death.

“He was struggling with Christianity, about whether it was all true,” she said, sitting in her home Monday.

“The bottom line is, God is God. That’s the only way,” Mrs. Adams said. “I had to point him back to the truth. … The saving grace about this is that towards the end, as I talked to him … he began to see what I was seeing. He began to experience God.”

The service was marked by a passionate sermon from the Rev. Michael Jones, who guided those assembled through the question of why, as Isaiah 40 says, “young men … utterly fall.”

Rain fell as the flag-draped casket was carried out to the hearse. Tanja Adams, Spc. Adams’ wife, held her youngest daughter, Savannah, 2, as the casket went by. As it passed, she turned her head, winced, and began to cry.

At the cemetery, two honor guard officers removed the American flag from the casket and folded it for Mrs. Adams. The rain fell harder. Mrs. Adams gripped her daughter-in-law’s hand, and then the hand of her ex-husband, Clarence Adams Jr., as Mr. Jones led everyone in the Lord’s Prayer.

The word “amen” hung in the air for a moment, and then a flock of geese in a V formation flew south overhead, their squawks breaking the silence.

“I just looked up and grinned,” said Michele Carter, 34, the mother of Indya. “I said, ‘That was Clarence.’”

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