Chandler dad never forgets his fallen warrior son - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler dad never forgets his fallen warrior son

May 27th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler dad never forgets his fallen warrior son

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Roy Conrad, father of the late Staff Sergeant Alex Conrad of Chandler, has been busy since his son was killed in combat in Somalia in 2018.

There are a lot of Gold Star Family events and dedications he has attended while he also volunteers with a number of organizations.

“I was talking to one of the dads and I said, ‘You know, when does it slow down?’” Roy recalled. “And because his son was killed almost 10 years ago, he says, ‘You know, it slows down when you want it to slow down. OK?’ And he says, ‘You know, we’re here for you. But if you need the space, you take it.’”

Roy finds that peace when he travels cross country on his motorcycle, something he does about a half dozen times a year.

“That’s my space,” he said.

His most recent trip across the country on motorcycle was earlier this month to visit his son’s grave on what would have been his 30th birthday.

Alex Conrad was serving at a small outpost in Somalia about 200 miles southwest of Mogadishu as part of Operation Octave Shield when, on June 8, 2018, it came under attack from al Shabab militants.

A human intelligence officer with the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group, Alex – along with three other Americans and a Somali solider – was wounded by shrapnel from a mortar round.

He had joined the Army 10 years earlier and had deployed twice to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He later completed the French basic language course at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in 2016, and was subsequently assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group as a human intelligence noncommissioned officer, according to the Military Times.

His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Commendation (second award), the Army Commendation Medal (third award), the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal (second award), the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge,and the Basic Parachutist Badge.

He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Alex also liked to ride and do pretty much anything to stay active, his father recalled.

He also liked to hear stories. Roy said Alex loved to visit the World War II Memorial when he was stationed near Washington, D.C., just so he could hear veterans tell their stories from their days on active duty.

Roy said one thing he likes to do on his motorcycle trips is visit the many memorials set up to remember the fallen.

“I’ll go through and see some of these little towns and, for example, Benson and Wilcox, and even Bisbee, some of those hidden away little memorials that are nothing more than just a little marker sitting there,” Roy said. “But that community will gather together around that and just remember their fallen members from their community.

“It’s kinda cool to go and see that it’s all over the country, those little things with all the negativity that going on, and but you see those things, and those are like little community things that are important to that community, and they’ve not forgotten.”

This Memorial Day, Roy suggested Americans seek out some of those forgotten memorials and learn about the people who they honor.

He pointed to the Chaplain’s Memorial in Scottsdale, which he said most people don’t know about.

He said some have been neglected, and are no longer in great shape. One thing Americans can do is to fix that.

“Our veterans are not neglected, because they are remembered that way,” Roy said. “But it doesn’t do any good if nobody goes to them. And so many of them are, the memorials themselves, are forgotten. Somebody spent a lot of time and effort to do that memorial, to memorize memorialize our veterans, and not just our fallen veterans, but our veterans that are here with us today.”

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Gilbert was renamed after Sgt. Alex Conrad on April 23. Roy said hundreds of people attended the dedication, not just from Arizona but from all over the U.S.

One way that he remembers his son is to visit Veterans Oasis Park, which opened in Chandler late last year.

Ray and the father of a former Chandler resident who was killed in action in Afghanistan, Major Brent Taylor of Utah, painted some big rocks there in the color of their son’s beret. Alex Conrad’s is red,and Taylor’s is tan.

“I think it was a Girl Scout troop that went through there and painted up a whole bunch of rocks,” Roy said. “They researched and found names of the fallen and painted their names on there and put a little inscription on them just to remember him, which I thought was really, really neat.”