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Douglaston Guardsman dies in Iraq

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While the brother of Spc. Azhar Ali, 27, of Flushing, pleaded with the government to grant his Pakistani family permission to enter the country for a Muslim burial in New York, the parents of Spc. Wai P. Lwin, 27, of Douglaston, wept for a young man who would still be alive if he had taken leave for his grandfather's funeral last week. "He was very close to his grandfather, but he couldn't leave what he was doing," said May Thi Kha, 51, Lwin's mother. "He refused to come back. He wanted to be with his troops until his vacation."Ali, who was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States as a child, was equally committed to the Army, making the government's actions since his death more painful, said his brother Zulfiqar Ali, 33.While Ali was killed March 2, his family was not notified until late last week, after the 24-hour period a burial is called for under Muslim beliefs had lapsed, Zulfiqar Ali said. "My brother was killed for this country and they don't even think that way," Zulfiqar said in a phone interview from his Flushing home. The Alis wanted a burial in Karachi, Pakistan but decided to forgo those plans when the local media caught wind of the burial delay, reporting that the U.S. government was disregarding the family's wish to ship the body to Pakistan, Ali said. "I don't want to show these things back home to the media over there," Ali said. "I want the positive - not the negative."Fearful that a controversial burial in Azhar's homeland would become fodder for certain religious and political groups, his father, Mubarak Ali, 60, opted for a stateside service, Zulfiqar Ali said. But while his father can legally enter the United States, his mother and sister have no visas, Zulfiqar said. His other brothers, Iftakhar, Waqar and Mazhar are already here. In another complication, the U.S. Consulate told Mubarak Ali he had to sign papers to release his son's body on Friday but said he would have to wait until Monday because the consulate in Pakistan was closed for the weekend, Zulfiqar said. "My family is over there and they got no help from the states," Zulfiqar said. "I'm not a rich person. I'm not powerful politically. We are simple people."City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) has come to his aid and petitioned the government to swiftly help the rest of the immediate family enter the county. He enlisted U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who was working with the U.S. Consulate in Karachi and U.S. Department of Defense to obtain visas and passports for Ali's immediate family. "They have suffered callousness from the U.S. government," Liu said in a statement. "It needs to act quickly and fully help the family of this American hero through this difficult time and not throw up bureaucratic hurdles." Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the State Department, could not discuss the status of the Ali family's visas, but said the department does expedite the application process in special circumstances. Ali, an alumnus of John Bowne High School in Kew Gardens, joined Manhattan's famous 69th Infantry Regiment in 1998 where he met Lwin, who attended Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside and enlisted in 2003. The two became friends, Zulfiqar Ali said, carpooling to drills and going to parties and barbecues together."They are like pretty much good friends," Ali said. They drew dangerous missions in Iraq, working as cowboy scouts who traveled ahead of convoys and scoped out buildings, said Army spokesman Maj. Steve Sober, who described it as "a dangerous job." They were killed instantly when a homemade bomb exploded near their Humvee as they patrolled a dangerous highway in Baghdad between the airport and the fortified U.S. government base called the "Green Zone."Army officers visited Lwin's mother to tell her the news last Wednesday, the same day she returned from her father's funeral in Mayanmar, formerly known as Burma."They delivered this bad news. At the time I wish it couldn't be true," Kha said. Khant Lwin, 22, said he spoke with his brother the day before he died. They made plans to get friends together for a night out at a karaoke bar when Wai came home on leave later this month. "He wanted to go to karaoke because he loved singing," Lwin said. Wai, who planned on enrolling in the ROTC program at Queens College to pursue a career as an Army officer, also explained during that conversation he did not attend his grandfather's funeral because of his duties in Iraq."I was actually very surprised because I would have taken the chance," Khant Lwin said. "He actually believed in the code of the Army - being selfless."Lwin's family will hold a wake Friday at the Lloyd Funeral home at 214-43 Bayside, with viewing hours from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. He will be buried at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Long Island National. Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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