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SPC Joseph A. Graves
110 MP Company, 720th MP Battalion
, 89th MP Brigade

Killed In Action ~ 25 July 2006 ~ Iraq



They Say,
our deaths are not ours,
they are yours,
they will mean what
you make of them.

They say,
we leave you our deaths,
give them some meaning.

Archibald MacLeish
poet and WWI

There is no contact information for the next of kin.

        SPC Joseph A. Graves, age 21, of Discovery Bay, California, was killed in action on 25 July 2006, when his convoy escort was ambushed in Baghdad, Iraq. During the deployment the 110th MP Company was assigned subordinate to the 43 MP Brigade.


Even near the end, Army Spc. Joseph A. Graves didn't want his father worrying about the danger he could be in as a military police officer in Iraq.

"One of the last conversations I had with him was -- 'Aww Dad,' he says, 'There's a lot worse places in Iraq to be than here, so don't worry about me,' " Kevin Graves recounted Thursday in the living room of his Discovery Bay home on the eastern edge of Contra Costa County where his son grew up.

"I find out now that the route he was on was one of the most dangerous routes that they travel," Kevin Graves said. "That was Joey -- caring about my concern."

Joseph Graves was killed Tuesday when his convoy came under enemy fire in Baghdad, the Army announced Thursday. Military personnel described the attack as "a very well-organized ambush" on the convoy, Kevin Graves said.

Joseph Graves, 21, was driving one of the humvees in the escort convoy and was the only U.S. soldier killed in the attack, his father said.

Photographs courtesy of the Graves family

Other than to say he was providing military protection, Joseph Graves gave few details about what he did in Iraq, for security reasons, his father said.

"He was actually protecting allies," Graves said. "Part of his job was privileged information. I don't really know. He would do road duty sometimes, guard duty sometimes. He would do typical military police stuff."

Graves was assigned to the 110th Military Police Company, 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas. He is one of more than 2,560 U.S. military personnel to have died in Iraq since the U.S. invaded in 2003.

"He definitely felt like he was serving a purpose," Kevin Graves said before displaying pictures his son had taken of waving Iraqi children. "He said, 'Dad, we're doing a lot over here. I know you guys don't hear about that, but we're doing a lot.' "

Joseph Graves saw the military police as a vehicle to achieve his goal of becoming an FBI field agent, and he asked his father to sign a waiver to allow him to join the Army at age 17, Kevin Graves said. After graduating from Liberty High School in 2002, he went directly into the Army.

About two weeks before being deployed to Iraq in November, he married his high school sweetheart, Cori Maningas.

"He's a regular kid," Kevin Graves said, smiling as he recalled his son being unable to fit all of his uniforms in his pack before shipping out to Iraq because it was crammed with a Play Station 2 video game consol, a DVD player, an iPod music player and stacks of videos.

"It was an honor to be his father," Kevin Graves said. "It was an honor to spend any moment with him."

He flipped fondly through dozens of photos his son had sent back from Iraq, before lingering on one of Joseph Graves in the driver's seat of a Humvee, an arm resting on the steering wheel.

"That's right where he was when they ambushed him," Kevin Graves said. He began to repeat it, but his voice welled with emotion, and he sat quietly for several long moments.

The San Francisco Chronicle


“Spc. Graves courageously undertook his duties as a member of the United States Army. Maria and I want to reaffirm to Joseph’s family that we are forever indebted to him for giving his life to the cause of freedom. Our hearts go out to his family during this painful time.”

In honor of Spc. Graves, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor, State of California


"Community mourns death of soldier"

        U.S. Army Spc. Joseph A. Graves of Discovery Bay, who was killed July 25 during a military operation in Baghdad, Iraq, is described by friends and family as an idealistic and devoutly religious young man who was wise far beyond his years.

“Joey was not a victim – he was a victor,” said Larry Porter, pastor of Delta Community Presbyterian Church in Discovery Bay, where Graves was an active member of the congregation. “He went willingly to serve his country and the Lord. He was a very patriotic young gentleman.”

Before going to Iraq, Graves served a year in South Korea, where Porter said he taught Bible studies to his fellow soldiers.

“Right after getting to South Korea he wrote and asked me to send him some Bible study materials,” Porter said. “He held classes and several of his students converted to Christianity and were baptized. Can you imagine someone his age doing that? He was an awesome young man in so many ways. He was so wise and mature for his age.”

Porter said that a memorial service for Graves is tentatively scheduled for Monday, Aug. 7 at the church, which is located at 1900 Willow Lake Road.

“It looks to be a huge turnout,” Porter said. “His friends are coming from all over.”

Porter said that Kevin Graves and Joseph’s wife, Cori, have asked that people do not wear black. They want the service to be a “celebration” of Joseph’s life.

Graves always made a profound impression on everyone who met him, Porter said. And that was true of both his peers and older adults.

“Once he set his mind to something you knew he would never waver or give up,” said family friend Virgil Koehne, whose three children were friends of Graves, a 2003 graduate of Liberty High School. “He was the kind of young man who restored your faith in today’s youth. A lot of us who knew him felt that way.

“So often these days you only read or hear negative things about young people, but Joey was a great example of how we have good people coming up through  the ranks. He was a great role model for anyone of any age.”

Graves, 21, was killed when his convoy was ambushed by enemy fire while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was assigned to the 110th MilitaryPolice Company of the 89th Military Police Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas.

“Being a small community, this has hit us all really hard,” Koehne said. “It seems like the whole community – and I include Oakley, Brentwood, Byron, Bethel Island – is grieving. It’s like we all have lost a family member.”

He said Joseph’s father, Kevin Graves, seems to be coping with the death of his son as well as can be expected. Koehne said Kevin is deeply touched by the outpouring of love and sympathy for his son and the family. Koehne, general manager of the Discovery Bay Community Services District, planned a tribute to Joseph for Wednesday night at the group’s meeting and invited Kevin Graves to attend.

Susan Tonjes of the Delta Blue Star Moms plans to present a Gold Star Banner to the family. The group is made up of mothers with children serving in the armed forces.

“We don’t know when we’ll present the banner,” Tonjes said. “That’s entirely up to the family. We can do it at the funeral or the memorial service or any other time convenient for them.”

Several civic and political leaders have expressed their sympathy and sorrow over the soldier’s death. At the opening of this week’s meeting of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, members paid tribute with a moment of silence, followed by adjournment in Joseph’s honor.

“This is such a huge tragedy,” said Supervisor Mary Piepho. “This young man made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom that so many of us take for granted. We will do whatever we can to support the family.”

When the state legislature reconvenes Monday, Aug. 7, it also will pay tribute in the same manner at the request of Assemblyman Guy Houston. “Then we will send his family a copy of the journal along with a personal letter from Guy,” said Aaron Bone, Houston’s chief of staff.

Members of the Delta Presbyterian Community Church immediately rallied around Kevin Graves with offers of cleaning the house, bringing meals and even washing the car. Meanwhile, Kevin has been contacting relatives and starting to make funeral arrangements, along with Joseph’s wife, Cori. The day after learning of his son’s death, the elder Graves drove to a small town near Grass Valley to tell Joseph’s grandparents what had happened.

“He was an only child and an only grandchild,” Kevin Graves said. “I didn’t want them hearing about it some other way, and I didn’t want to tell them on the phone.”

Graves raised his son as a single parent and said Joseph had been more like a friend, a best buddy. “We had our plans,” he recalled. “We had good times together.”

When he was 17, Joseph told his dad of his plans to join the military and his dad supported the idea.

“His goal was to eventually join the FBI,” Kevin Graves said. “He had very specific goals and had everything mapped out. He knew what he wanted to do and never stepped off that path. He figured his service in the military and work in the military police was a great way to prepare for a career in law enforcement.”

The elder Graves said his son looked forward to serving in Iraq.

“It wasn’t that he wanted to fight,” Kevin Graves pointed out. “But he wanted to put into action what he’d been taught.”

The last time Kevin Graves saw his son was a few hours before Joseph left for Iraq. He had flown to Texas to meet the other men in his son’s unit and say goodbye in person.

Two weeks before shipping out, Joseph married Cori, his high school sweetheart. They met in Discovery Bay when he was in ninth grade and she in eighth. Cori moved with him to Texas, where they planned to buy a house and eventually start a family.

Joseph Graves was scheduled to return to the United States in October. He would have turned 22 on Dec. 28.

Edited from the article, "Community mourns death of soldier," by, Monty Norris, Antioch Press, published 08/04/2006.


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