Freshman Honors Father, Who Died in Iraq
By Michael Taylor, Senior Staff Writer
Most college students are too young to know what it’s like to lose a parent or to even worry about such a thing happening. But Wesleyan freshman Angelika Henderson lives with this loss every day. She just observed the sixth anniversary of the death of her father, Sgt. William Robert Green, who was killed in action while deployed in Iraq. Henderson was only 13 years old at the time.
Henderson clearly remembers the day she heard the news about her father, who drove field artillery trucks in the Army. She was told by casualty assistance officers that were “sent the day when they found his body,” the Raeford native said. She related feeling devastated and speechless. “All I could do was hold my baby brother and cry.” Reminiscing, she related, “We always knew it was a possibility when my dad got deployed, but it doesn’t feel like it could really happen until it does.”
She also recalls how his death affected her family. Her mother, a substitute teacher in the Hoke County school system, had to do the work of both parents to provide for Henderson and her two brothers. Her older brother was inspired to join the Army. He currently serves as a military police, rank E4 corporal, at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. “Honestly, the fact that he’s in the Army scares me more than anything,” Henderson said. Now her younger brother, who was 3 years old at the time of his father’s death, also wants to “be an ‘army man like daddy,’” she said.
At times Henderson has found it difficult to cope with her father’s death. “I have yet to find comfort in anything,” she admitted. But she is striving to make the best of her situation by focusing on school. “It’s driven me to work harder than I did in school prior to his death,” she said. “I’m very capable and I’m still working hard to prove myself in hopes he is watching me proudly.”
Many people were eager to help Henderson and their family after the tragedy. “Everyone was very supportive and I couldn’t tell you how many times people told us that we could call if we needed anything,” she said. Sgt. Green’s funeral was held in Raleigh, which was attended by family and friends from around the country. He also had two memorials in his honor. One was at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Henderson related that it “was held at one of the largest buildings we could possibly get and even then people had to wait outside to pay their respects.” The other was held by Green’s battalion stationed in Iraq. His fellow soldiers videotaped the ceremony and sent a copy to the family.
Sgt. Green died on April 11, 2009. Questions remain about the cause of his death, Henderson said. “We were told that he died of a heart attack,” she said, “but when we went to identify his body—at Dulles Airport in D.C.—there was a gash on the back of his head that nobody could explain.”
He was ultimately classified as “killed in action,” Henderson said, “but my family is still unsure as to exactly how my father was killed.”
Henderson was born in San Antonio and raised in Raeford, a small town near Fayetteville. She is a double major in accounting and criminal justice. After Wesleyan, she plans to attend law school but she is undecided on which one. “I want to show that when he died,” she said, “he didn’t leave behind a slacker.”