U.S. Army Specialist Ebe F. Emolo was a member of the royal family of the Ivory Coast. He could had returned to the Ivory Coast and live a life of privilege, but he went to the United States to study abroad at a University. While attending University he later married and obtained his U.S citizenship and joined the U.S. Army.
I salute you and other Great Americans for your service and sacrifice!
James Van Thach
Soldier died in Iraq was a member of the Royal family of Ivory Coast
Firmin Emolo, to be buried on Saturday, is one of the most unusual casualties of the war in Iraq.
Specialist Emolo, a member of the 82nd airborne division, was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in April - just like hundreds of other US soldiers.
But Emolo's origins, as his name suggests, were not in Detroit or San Francisco, but in Ivory Coast.
The 33 year old was a close cousin of Nanan Boa Kouassi III, king of the Agni ethnic group in the east of the West African country.
So how did a member of an Ivorian royal family end his days as a US soldier?
"Like many of our young men, he went to America to study," explains family friend and local member of parliament Boa Thiemele Edjampan.
"Then he married an American, got American nationality, and joined the military."
Unusually, the US military flew Specialist Emolo's remains back to Ivory Coast, so he could be buried in his home town of Abengourou.
Emolo was not well known in Ivory Coast, but some Ivorians have been surprised to learn that one of their countrymen died in Iraq.
US Major Gen David T Zabecki accompanied the body as it arrived at Abidjan airport and paid tribute to the Ivorian-American soldier.
"As a soldier Specialist Emolo was one of the best.
"Other paratroopers he served with remember him as always vigilant in his duties, one of the most physically fit soldiers, extremely proud to be in the army and even prouder of becoming an American citizen."
US soldiers in crisp green uniforms carried his coffin onto a plinth bearing an Ivorian flag, a potent symbol of the young man's dual loyalties.
Some 100 friends and family members wept at the airport gathering, as trumpets played in his honour.
Sabine Emolo, Firmin's sister, spoke, in a voice that trembled slightly with emotion, of the money Firmin sent home to his family, and his pride in being a soldier.
"I can't regret him joining the army," she told the BBC.
"I can only regret that he went so soon."
She insisted that he should be buried in Ivory Coast, a decision the king is thought to have approved of wholeheartedly.
The king lead the tributes to his relative in the death notices in the local newspapers.
"The king is a very important man in Abengourou and throughout all of Ivory Coast," says Mr Thiemele Edjampan.
"Even in the current political situation, when the king says something it is very important, because it is always for peace and reconciliation."
Wearing a T-shirt with a photo of her brother, and his military dog tags around her neck, Sabine said she would never forget him.
"I will always remember his smile, he had a beautiful smile."
Firmin Emolo's great objectives in life were to become American, and serve in the military.
He achieved them both, but he didn't live long enough to enjoy the achievement.
BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Ivorians mourn royal killed in Iraq
BIOGRAPHY OF EBE FIRMIN EMOLO
Ebe Firmin Emolo joined the Army in February 2005. He completed vehicle driver advanced individual training and the basic airborne (parachutist) course in November 2005 and was assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in December 2005. Emolo earned the rank of specialist and, as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, was a vehicle driver with his unit.
Emolo was a decorated soldier whose awards included the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Combat Action Badge and the Parachutist's Badge.
The improvised explosive device which killed Specialist Emolo also killed Captain Jonathan D. Grassbaugh, 25, of East Hampstead, New Hampshire; Specialist Levi K. Hoover, 23, of Midland, Michigan; and Specialist Rodney L. McCandless, 21, of Camden, Arkansas.
According to Specialist Emolo‚Äôs Commander in Iraq, LTC Andrew Poppas, the unit had been engaged in brutal fighting in the region when SPC Emolo was killed. LTC Poppas had high praise for Specialist Emolo and said Emolo was the nicest person you ever met, very respectful, a quiet professional. Specialist Emolo was an accomplished soccer player according to LTC Poppas.
BIOGRAPHY OF EBE FIRMIN EMOLO - U.S. Embassy Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire
Honor the fallen: Army Spc. Ebe F. Emolo