BOWIE, MD, USA U.S. Army SPC, B COMPANY, 1ST BATTALION / 18TH INFANTRY, APO AE 09033 (SCHWEINFURT, GERMANY) TIKRIT, IRAQ 03/13/2004
Jason Christopher Ford was 17 when he moved to Bowie in search of a quiet, peaceful place to finish growing up. His journey led him into the U.S. Army, where he thrived and quickly rose up the ranks. This weekend, Specialist Ford was killed in Tikrit. He was 21 years old.
Since learning of his death over the weekend, the soldier’s family has been wrapped in love from the entire Bowie community.
“When I first moved here in 2000, a man came out of his house and asked if he could help us move in. I told my husband, I think we’ve moved to Mayberry,” said Yolanda McCrae, Ford’s older sister, who marveled at the outpouring of support this week. “Our dog has been walked several times a day. People keep coming over to the house to take care of things.”
And the Bowie Homeowners Association laid a wreath in front of the Bowie Forest community where Ford lived with his sister and her family; the wreath will be lit with a solar light donated by Loews Hardware. The generosity is exactly what Ford would have done for his own community, say his friends.
“He made you feel like you were the only person in the world,” said McCrae. “He had a presence around him. And he would do anything to help you. With children, he was so motivational in keeping them out of trouble.”
Ford took such pride in his small townhouse community that he organized regular community cleanups. When he was not busy rebuilding radios or playing his snare drums, he gathered groups of neighborhood youth for pick-up basketball games at White Marsh Park.
Children in the community “looked up to him as a leader,” said his neighbor and close friend, Aaron Braxton.
Ford’s leadership symbolized just how far the young man had come. A child of divorced parents — an office manager and retired police officer — Ford lived with his mother in the District of Columbia until 2000. He then moved to Bowie to live with his older sister.
“He was a born comedian — he could make anybody laugh,” said his mother Florence Newell, speaking from her home in the District. “I’m looking at a picture of him where he’s leaning on his father’s Lincoln. He’s got on a white shirt with a red tie, his legs outstretched. One hand is leaning on the Lincoln door, the other hand on his hip — as if he’s saying, this belongs to me. And I think he’s five in this picture.”
“Jason, he was pretty much a free spirit type person,” said Braxton. “Once he got his life together, completing his GED, he became more focused. He knew he wanted to go into the military.”
“He thought it would give him the opportunity to go into a specialized trade, to travel. And he really loved it, he loved it,” said Newell. “Once he got in there, the one thing he seemed to talk about all the time was the people he was meeting. “My son is not quite so caught up in the material things around him — life is what mattered to him,” she said.