Marine who died in Iraq is remembered
His father sings as mourners sob
By Megan Tench, Globe Staff May 10, 2006
NORTH DARTMOUTH -- Wearing a necktie designed with the American flag, Joseph Ford Sr. slowly stepped forward yesterday, glanced down at his son's coffin, and then sang a hymn that broke the hearts of the mourners gathered inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
''I'll go where you want me to go," Ford sang, with his eyes closed and his voice cracking amid sobs of anguish from the crowd.
His son, Lance Corporal Michael Louis Ford, a 19-year-old Marine from New Bedford, was killed on April 26 when the tank he was driving struck a roadside bomb during combat in Al Anbar Province.
Ford, known to many in his hometown as Mikey, had been in Iraq for a month, family members said. In 2004, after watching President Bush in a televised speech talk about the war in Iraq, Ford decided to join the Marines, they said.
As rain poured outside the church, hundreds of mourners paid their respects to a young man who dedicated his life to the service of others. Teenagers from the culinary program at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, where Ford graduated in 2004, packed the pews and folding chairs, many wearing shirts and jackets emblazoned with Ford's picture. Dignitaries, including Governor Mitt Romney and Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford, sat facing the crowd of police officers, Marines, mother, fathers, and children.
''I have Mikey in my heart," said Barbara Owen, a friend who spoke on behalf of the family. She told tales of watching Ford grow up, and his visits to her home, particularly after his mother died of heart failure in 2002. Owen's words came out slow and painstakingly, as she described a loyal and trustworthy child who grew up to be an honorable man.
''I enjoyed Michael's sense of humor," she said, with a small smile. ''Sometimes I didn't get the joke."
As a youngster, Ford was a member of the 4-H Club, helped his mother plant a garden at Hayden-McFadden Elementary School, and often delivered food and created holiday greeting cards for the elderly. As a student at Keith Junior High School, Ford helped the staff install computers, she said.
''Michael and his family had a lot of difficulties in their lives," Owen said. ''I always felt Mikey has the ability to understand what life laid before him. Mikey, my Mikey, was a frequent visitor in my home. I was the only one who could pat his cheeks and kiss him on the forehead. I always told him I loved him."
Owen then stared at the coffin.
''There is so much left unsaid," she whispered, as Ford's father wiped away tears.
''We will always love you very much," she said.
Ford was buried with full military honors at National Veterans Cemetery in Bourne.