Native Soldier Killed in Koran Burning Retaliation

The military plane landed in Delaware on March 3, where 25-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Jordan Logan Bear’s tour of duty would end. Some 1,500 miles away in Denver friends and relatives gathered in his grandparents’ living room to remember him and his life.

Bear arrived to soldiers standing in full attention upon his return from his third tour of duty. This tour however ended when the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Native was killed on March 1. Bear was killed on a base in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan by an Afghan soldier firing from a tower.

The shooting was part of an attack by several Afghanis, one of whom was a civilian teacher.

His mother, Cathleen, said she was angry after she learned that her son’s death and that of a fellow soldier were linked to Afghan outrage after the Army’s accidental burning of the sacred book of Islam, the Koran, on February 20.

Bear was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was to have completed his current tour of duty in about nine months.

“Staff Sgt. Bear set the example for all the squad leaders in his platoon,” said Capt. Cecil Wolberton, commander of Bear’s company. “He was a phenomenal leader and beloved by the men he led,” the captain told the Army Times.

Bear was among more than 500 Native soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan by mid-2011, according to figures of the National Congress of American Indians.

His death occurred mere hours after President Barack Obama had held a state dinner to honor those who gave their lives in the Iraq war. As with other national events, that honoring seemed scarcely relevant to those in grief over the recent death of their relative and friend.

The stars and stripes and a red, white and blue flag of the Airborne flew at half-mast outside his grandparents’ home, where visitors brought food and comfort to the grieving family.

Bear’s mother had received some troubling news and she said little March 4 when the household was involved in preparations for a purification lodge ceremony. But she insisted that she “wanted people not to forget the military, because those who served did it for the right reasons. We are thinking of the families, and we want people to know that.”

“We’re kind of a military family,” said Logan Bear, Ponca/Omaha, Bear’s grandfather.

Jordan Bear’s great-grandfather is believed to have served in the Army, while Logan Bear and his son Lee Bear were both in the Special Forces. Two of Logan Bear’s brothers served in World War II, one in the battle for Omaha Beach and the other killed in fighting in France. There are also nephews and other relatives serving.

“Being in the military is not a joy ride,” Logan Bear said he advised potential young soldiers. “But if you’re going to go, enlist in an elite unit. The training is hard, but you’ll come out the best.”

Jordan’s grandmother, Ida Bear, of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, confided “I hate to say it, but the U.S. treats our veterans really bad and people don’t understand that the war isn’t over yet.”

Logan Bear said his grandson always was “great” with his grandmother—Logan Bear’s wife of nearly 55 years—who taught him how to shop and to cook, skills that came in handy with his recent marriage. In addition to his widow, he left behind a two-month-old son, affectionately called “the slugster” after his father’s similar nickname.

Jordan’s brothers, Jacob Lee, 28, and Josh, 18, remember him for his sense of humor, his achieving good grades, and his stint as varsity quarterback in high school. “He was a big-hearted guy who always cared about his family,” Jacob recalled. Others remarked on his love for Nebraska Cornhuskers football, for NASCAR racing, and for bicycle marathons.

A four-day traditional wake was being planned for All Saints Catholic Church meeting hall, where honor songs and prayer songs would be sung for him. Preparations for his service and burial were on hold until the family learned when his body would be sent to Denver from Dover Air Force Base.

In the gentle hills of Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Jordan will take his place in the rows of military dead, his final resting place marked by a white headstone with his name and perhaps a tipi, a symbol the military has carved on some headstones to denote American Indian graves.