Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Family View of MM2(SS) Ashley

I located the article below here with no information as to the original author. It sounds like a newspaper article. If anyone is aware of the proper credit, please let me know so I can post it with the article. In any case, it just seems fitting to post it here.


The Dixie song played by Joseph Ashley's green Jeep could be heard whenever he drove it through his neighborhood.

The song came from the car's horn, patterned after his favorite 1980s television show, The Dukes of Hazzard.

"We always knew where he was in Manchester,'' said his father, Dan Ashley.

But since 2001, when Joseph Ashley joined the Navy, those noises have seldom been heard.
A few months ago, Dan Ashley blew the horn to see if it still worked, and people started calling to ask if his son was home.

Joseph Ashley will be flown home this week, but he will be escorted by four to six of his crew members.

The 24-year-old Navy man died Sunday after a submarine accident. The family was told Friday their son hit his head on a pump when the nuclear submarine he was stationed on ran aground about 350 miles from its home port in Guam.

The Navy was preparing to fly Vicki and Dan Ashley to their son's bedside. They knew the injury was serious, but their son was holding on.

On television Friday night, the parents watched and sympathized with the families of six soldiers who were killed in a car bombing in Iraq.

"I said those families would love to be in our position, because at least our son is alive,'' Dan Ashley said.

They went to bed unsettled, but relieved.

Vicki Ashley tossed and turned so much that night she moved to the couch in the living room to try to rest.

"I couldn't sleep, but when I saw a flash of lights from a car pulling into the driveway about 2 a.m., I knew my Joey was gone,'' she said. ``I looked out the window and saw two men dressed in uniform. I ran to tell my husband.''

The men confirmed her fears.

"I nodded to them to go ahead. I already knew what they had to say,'' said Dan Ashley, a former Navy man himself. They stood at attention and announced Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley's death.

It was then the parents learned their son died while medics prepared him for transport to a military hospital. He had never regained consciousness from the accident. The Navy has launched an investigation into the accident, in which 19 other sailors were injured.

His parents will now fly to Guam for a memorial service with his shipmates and commanders. A second memorial service will be held in Canal Fulton, when their son is brought home.

Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley was about 5 feet 11 inches tall with blond hair, blue eyes and a big smile.

"When he had his heart set on something, he would try his best to get it done,'' said his mother. "I always told him to do what he wanted to do in life, but to be the best at it and to always try his hardest.''

He attended Stark State College of Technology for a year and took welding classes, but he couldn't find a welding job after he got certified.

One day he came home and shared his future plans.

"He said, `Mom I passed the Navy test; I'm going to do what daddy did. He always excelled in what he did.' ''

He made rank in minimal time and was named Junior Sailor of the Year for the entire Guam naval base.

"He loved the Navy, and he loved his country. He just signed up for another four years. He said he was young and wanted to make a career out of it,'' she said. He had just completed the fourth year of his original 5-year enlistment.

His father spent eight years in the Navy.

His grandfather, also named Joseph, was in the U.S. Army during World War II. Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley and his grandfather talked often because he was also stationed in the South Pacific during his time in the service.

Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley wasn't afraid to share his feelings with his family. He called at least once a month to share what he was doing and to find out what other families were doing. There was never a time he called that he didn't tell family members how much he loved them.
The family last talked to him on Jan 3. He was excited about coming home in March -- his first visit home in 18 months.

His father had just recently made airplane reservations.

The green Jeep Wrangler was waiting for the young sailor, who graduated from Manchester High School in 1999 and played the drums in the high school band. He played freshman football, then joined the band in his sophomore year.

Family members said he was always happy, wearing a big smile and beating his drums while marching in the band.

His older brother, Dan Jr., also a Dukes of Hazzard fan, sawthe show's impact on his brother.
"He always thought of himself as a good ol' Southern country boy wearing his cowboy hat, a red and black checkered shirt with steel-toed black boots.''

Dan Jr. said his brother sported a Confederate flag and the word ``redneck'' on his Jeep, not because he was a rebel, but because he loved the good ol' boy brothers and their driving tactics on the television show.

"He liked to stand out in a crowd,'' said his younger brother, Benjamin. ``Dan and I are the quiet ones. Joseph would be more likely to do the talking for us both.''

He will be buried at Fox Cemetery near Spencer, W. Va., where the family owns 35 acres and a cabin, a place where he spent many good times.

Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley will be buried next to his great grandfather and namesake, Joseph Ashley, also a veteran.

You can see the cemetery from the crest of the hill of the cabin's property, family members say. They remember the last time their Navy son and brother was on leave.

"One of our last memories is of Joey parked in his Jeep at the crest of the hill playing that Dixie song,'' Dan Ashley said. Family members heard him say: ``Hallelujah, I'm home.''

So family members know what they must now do.

"We will play that horn one more time in his memory at his burial.''