Army dad in North Richland Hills to bring son's body home

04/20/2011 11:00 PM

10/09/2011 11:18 AM

Editor's note: The report was originally published in the Star-Telegram on April 16, 2011.

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- Army Sgt. 1st Class Eugene Cemper, a recruiter, has put three of his sons in boots.

"The only person who could make sure it was exactly what they wanted was their own dad," Cemper said.

Cemper, a recruiter based in Irving and a North Richland Hills resident, has another duty now.

In a few days, he will fly to Dover Air Force Base and escort the body of Spc. Joseph Brian Cemper home.

"The only proper way is for me to do it," his father said.

Spc. Cemper, 21, died Saturday when a terrorist dressed in an Afghan army uniform detonated himself at a meeting of NATO and Afghan soldiers in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department.

Killed in the same incident were Sgt. 1st Class Charles Lewis Adkins, Staff Sgt. Cynthia Renea Taylor and Sgt. Linda Lamou Pierre, all of whom served with the 101st Special Troops Battalion, 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, Ky. Four Afghan soldiers and an interpreter died as well.

The death of Spc. Cemper marked the fifth time in three weeks that the war in Afghanistan has touched a family in North Texas.

Spc. Cemper was born and mostly raised in a suburb of Omaha, Neb. But after his father went back on active duty after a stint in the reserves, they moved to Warrensburg, Mo., where he graduated in 2008, his family said. He played football in high school and was an accomplished wrestler who qualified for state two years in a row.

He attended the University of Central Missouri for one year because "his mom wouldn't let him join the Army until he got at least one year of college," his father said.

But the Army was all he wanted. He enlisted in September 2009.

"He had already been to air assault school and warrior leadership school," his father said. "They saw something in him they wanted. He was moving up. He was going to make it a career."

Spc. Cemper's unit deployed to Afghanistan in November, but he arranged an early midtour leave to see the birth of his first child, born March 15 at North Hills Hospital, to his former high school sweetheart. His son's name is Liam.

"He came in on the 14th, and the baby was born the 15th," his father said. "He was able to spend almost all of his R&R with his new boy. I've never seen him so happy."

Funeral arrangements for Spc. Cemper, are pending but he wanted to be buried in Nebraska, his father said.

A fund has been established at Wells Fargo bank to benefit Spc. Cemper's son. The account number is 1330080639.

Chris Vaughn, 817-390-7547

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