At approximately 9:30am (2:30am EST) on the morning of June 24th, 2008, a bomb ripped through a municipal meeting hall in Sadr City, Iraq, killing my father and three other Americans. We got the call from U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker just before 5:00am with regrets for our loss and gratitude for his service and sacrifice.
In a phone conversation the week prior, my father detailed to me a list of critical events that had unfolded in the days just previous that he believed would open the floodgates in Iraq toward positive momentum and progress. For the last year, both under the DOD and then the Dept. of State, he had been working directly with the District Council in Sadr City, a 1.3 million suburb of Baghdad. Sadr City was the worst and most vitally strategic area in Iraq and was the headquarters and staging ground for the insurgent forces of Iranian-backed cleric Muqtad al Sadr. My father explained that the progress in Sadr City was critical because it represented progress in general for Iraq–as Sadr City goes, so goes the country.
In February of that year he hosted a majority of the Sadr City District Council members on a trip to the U.S. to witness self-government and the fruits of freedom firsthand. He wanted them to see what they were working toward and help them cast a vision of freedom for their people. Returning to Iraq, he and the councilmen set about the task of implementing what they had learned along with taking advantage of critical U.S. funds to rebuild their communities and restore pride and confidence in the Iraqi people.
Coming to a head, that week my father and several councilmen discovered that the chairman of the District Council was a surrogate of Muqtad al Sadr, insistently blocking financial aid and coordination efforts to rebuild Sadr City. Upon discovering this, they forced the chairman to resign. My father and council members arrived at the municipal building the morning of June 24th for a scheduled vote to elect a new District Council chairman, which he believed was the most important event in the history of the Iraq campaign. He was convinced it would start a cascading effect that would result in rapid rebuilding, growth, and finally sustainable self-government in Sadr City and in Iraq. The bomb was detonated just before the meeting was to begin. According to reports, my father, two soldiers, and a DOD official took the majority of the shrapnel sparing the lives of many of the council members, including the Deputy Chairman who was later to be elected as the new Chairman.
Why He Was There
My father made it clear to the entire family that his service in Iraq was a calling. A faithful follower of Christ and dedicated family man, Steven Farley was always a patriot-warrior at heart. He was at his happiest when in the field serving a mission greater than himself. In the week previous, despite learning that al Sadr’s insurgency had placed a $1 million price-tag on his head and amid regular sniper shots at his vehicle, my father was optimistic and elated about the prospects that these new developments promised. He believed that helping achieve freedom for the Iraqi people — the freedom we so often take for granted here at home — was something these dear people deserved. And he was willing to die to give it to them. He was a modern-day Lafayette, willing to risk everything for a people halfway around the world. He loved them and they loved him.
During their visit to Oklahoma City, our family had the privilege of spending several days in very personal interaction with members of the Sadr City District Council. We learned firsthand how genuine and passionate these people are. They share our values and concern for the future. They told stories of their children and families, conveyed concern about their education, health care, and general well-being. But what was most profound to us was their outpouring of gratitude and love for my father and thankfulness for his willingness to give his all for their freedom. They regarded him as their American brother, and he regarded them as his brothers. They were joined together in a mission of freedom that broke down the barriers of culture and language and faith. They were united as equal children of God in mutual pursuit of His blessings.
My father knew full well the risks that his job entailed. As it is said, courage is not the absence of fear…it is righteous action in spite of it. He was courageous in every sense of the word. He raised his three sons to pursue life as men with a sense of responsibility, faith in Christ, and love of our country. He was everything a father should be and more. His tragic death reminds us, too, that freedom after all isn’t free, and it costs us dearly to preserve it — both at home and abroad. Given the opportunity to do it all again, he would. And now our lives must be a testimony to his legacy.
I want to thank you all for your prayers and support. The outpouring from folks all over the globe has demonstrated to us — so much more than we ever knew — how profoundly my father influenced people around him.
Friends: love your family, cherish your freedom, serve God, and make each day count.