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From Page 1A
High School’s champion debate team. She had an inclination for blunt talk. In the 10 days since Alex died, her parents’ grief had begun to irritate her. Her father, usually even-tempered, had become short-fused. The idea that the busy president somehow “owed” them a visit irritated her, though she didn’t like Bush. She thought Bush had killed her brother and everybody else in his Humvee. She’d joined the debate team four years before, in part because the Alex she adored then had been on his school debate team. Alex had gone on to become a dopehead dropout, but she became a student with a future, good grades and high skill. Debate either sharpens ideas or exposes weaknesses in logic. She found plenty to expose about Iraq, U.S. foreign policy, and George W. Bush’s leadership. Her parents supported Bush and the war. And the war killed Alex. One hundred Americans were killed in April 2007, the worst month so far. Bush’s Republican allies were deserting him in Congress. And now that Alex was dead, her father was angry, and sarcastic about politics, and her mother retreated to the bathroom every day and turned on the fan thinking no one could hear her sobbing. Alex had been a jerk to them; Bob had been so worried about Alex’s petty crimes that he had taken Karen to consult a lawyer about what their liabilities might be if Alex became a criminal. Gloria despised what he’d become. Karen still defended him, blamed the drugs, and remembered the good boy Alex had been. One day, she said, her little boy brought home a dead frog flattened by cars, and cried at how it suffered. But then Alex smoked pot morning, noon and night, including before he dropped out of Heights High School.
Karen was sure he had come out of the drug fog in the Army. From Iraq he had sent pleading e-mails: Send German CDs; he was studying German. Send guitar lessons; he was learning guitar. In late December, she learned, he’d been given a horrible task. A roadside bomb exploded beside a Humvee, killing soldiers. Officers ordered him to climb into the wrecked cab with the blood and body parts and strip the Humvee of anything useful to the enemy. He’d done that, and then, days later, after Karen’s father died, Alex e-mailed from Iraq: “u still grieving your dads death? You want to talk about it?” That was the real Alex, she said. Her boy becoming the man he was meant to be. She wanted to stop breathing. She wanted to die. But Gloria — “Glo,” as her Dad called her — was trying to ride this out. She visited friends. She sat in long silences, the pale skin of her face framed by strawberry blonde hair, her look composed. She cried for her brother, but she also told mourners the truth — she loved him, he was a screw-up. While she studied, while she earned a spot as an International Baccalaureate student at East High School, Alex got drunk, got laid, got high, treated his parents with contempt, and treated her cruelly, bullying her in grade school, ignoring or taunting her in high school. He’d joined the Army, she said, “because he had no other place to go.” Before he enlisted in 2004, he’d dropped out of school and lived in a trailer with listless friends. At his funeral the day before, Gloria and Andrew Eldridge, Alex’s best friend, had listened in puzzlement to e-mail messages read aloud from Alex’s fellow soldiers. Eldridge loved Alex, the natural leader, the guy who got the parties started, but even Eldridge conceded how mean Alex had become. And now they heard sincere tributes from combat soldiers.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Events described in these stories were drawn from interviews conducted over an 18-month period with the story subjects or from documents provided by the story subjects, or were witnessed by the reporter. In most cases where dialogue is used, the majority of the subjects interviewed agree on the words that were spoken. The exception is Sen. Pat Roberts’ conversation with President George W. Bush on Air Force One. That section was reconstructed based on the recollections of Roberts, a former journalist.
Jaime Oppenheimer/File photo
TALK TO US
The Eagle wants to know what you think about these stories. Reach Roy Wenzl at email@example.com or 316-268-6219.
Army soldiers carry the casket of Alex Funcheon to a waiting hearse. The funeral service was held at Central Christian Church, where combat soldiers offered tributes to Alex. from them. They obviously dont like us to much.” Alex Funcheon, Oct. 30, 2006, in one of his first e-mails from Iraq
Courtesy of the Funcheon family
Gloria, right, asked the barber to cut her hair like Alex’s, left, when she was in first grade and Alex was in fourth grade. Her parents said the Army had grown up Alex. “Maybe,” Gloria said. “But I never saw it.” But sometimes, sitting at the kitchen table, Gloria’s eyes strayed to a bookshelf a few feet away, where two photographs had been stuck into a crack to make them stand up together: Alex in fourth grade, Gloria in first grade, their hair cut exactly the same — bangs in front. Gloria adored her big brother so much back then that she’d told the barber to cut her hair like his. „ „ „ “I think i was here for 2 hours before we got our first rockets
„ Read the first installment in the Every night now in Baghdad, series. 1st Platoon Lt. Jon Bland went „ Read e-mails Alex Funcheon exchanged with his parents during to bed dreaming visions of his overseas tour. blood. „ Watch a video of Bob and Every night his mind Karen Funcheon talking about replayed Funcheon’s Humvee disappearing in a blast of flame their son growing up. „ View family photos and images and dust. Every night he slept from Alex Funcheon’s platoon in under the same roof as Iraqis, some of them probably traitors, Iraq. „ Read journal entries written by and wondered whether Gloria Funcheon, Alex Funcheon’s Funcheon and Martin and the others had died because Bland sister. „ Read and sign Alex Funcheon’s screwed up. Every night before he went to memorial guest book. „ Learn the story behind the sleep he relived the blast moment by moment, including series with Roy Wenzl. how he’d wanted to hose the Iraqi bystanders with his M4. for dead brothers, 1st Platoon And every morning he patrolled relentlessly, trusting slipped 30-bullet magazines no one. into pouches and took 1st Platoon on patrol. They’d come here gung-ho, Coming Tuesday: The laughing at Martin’s political Funcheons meet the lead sermons and Funcheon’s alcoHumvee’s sole survivor. hol-drenched stories. Now, surrounded by enemies, grieving
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“I don’t love it; I don’t hate it; but you’ve got to take it with a grain of salt.” The rankings were compiled by CQ Press, the publishing arm of Congressional Quarterly. The survey found that New Orleans had the nation’s highest crime rate last year while Ramapo, N.Y., population 76,371, had the lowest. The list, which has been published for 15 years, calculates each city’s peræcapita rate for six crimes — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. The publisher assigned each city a score based on how far it finished above or below the national average. The rankings are based on data published in the FBI’s 2007 “Crime in the United States” report, which was released in September. The FBI report cautions that, “Each year when ‘Crime in the United States’ is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region.” The rankings were criticized last month by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which issued a news release calling them a “misuse of FBI data” that distorts and damages cities’ reputations. Doug Goldenberg-Hart, an editor at CQ Press who attended a discussion about the rankings at the mayors’ conference, defended the publication. He said it offers helpful information that is not available elsewhere and stimulates people to talk about crime issues. Brian Withrow, an associate professor of criminal justice at Wichita State University, said crime statistics when taken out of context can be tricky and misleading. In 1991, while Withrow was a Texas state trooper, a man in Killeen, Texas, shot and killed 23 customers at a cafeteria. Withrow said the murders
2007 CITY CRIME RANKINGS
Wichita jumped up 31 spots in an annual ranking of city-by-city crime rates. Although critics say the figures are misleading at best, the publishers say they provide valuable information. A summary:
Score Population 2007 rank
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The study, the first part of a three-year effort, measures citizen engagement in the 26 communities where Knight Foundation founders owned newspapers. That includes Wichita. Gallup interviewed 400 randomly selected adults in Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey and Sumner counties between Feb. 1 and April 26. Nationally it interviewed nearly 14,000 adults. The study shows a significant correlation between residents’ emotional connection to their communities and the growth in those communities’ populations and economies in the last five years. It identifies factors that make residents feel connected to their cities, hoping to show leaders where they can focus efforts to improve longterm growth. The main driving force behind residents’ emotional engagement in Wichita is social offerings, the study shows. We want more of them. “It doesn’t just mean more bars and restaurants, it means places where people can go and feel connected to other people,” said Anne Corriston, Wichita program director for the Knight Foundation. “That can cover a wide spectrum.”
„ Tell us what it would take for you to love the Wichita community more or become more engaged with the city. Add your comment at the end of this story. „ Read the Gallup and Knight Foundation’s “Soul of the Community” study. Find it online via a link attached to this story.
1 2 3 4 5 n/a 42 37 59 77 91 147 148 151 172 241 272 291 325 347 381 382 383 384 385 New Orleans Camden, N.J. Detroit St. Louis Oakland 441.4 381.9 381.2 355.0 328.8 n/a 138.7 151.2 112.9 98.5 89.9 49.8 49.6 48.4 35.5 -7.7 -18.9 -29.5 -45.8 -54.9 -79.7 -81.3 -82.1 -83.0 -89.2 220,614 78,967 860,971 348,197 396,541 450,375 143,371 381,469 86,864 542,199 358,294 431,810 121,885 103,958 374,112 243,243 90,044 103,721 91,047 169,224 77,886 82,731 76,542 95,095 76,371 65 5 1 2 4 18 25 49 81 75 122 157 166 176 180 253 213 276 318 347 376 371 n/a 378 n/a
Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City, Kan. Tulsa Lawton, Okla. Oklahoma City Wichita Omaha Topeka Pueblo, Colo. Colorado Springs, Colo. Lincoln, Neb. Lawrence Norman, Okla. Boulder, Colo. Overland Park
Brick Township, N.J. Newton, Mass. O’Fallon, Mo. Mission Viejo, Calif. Ramapo, N.Y.
Source: CQ Press
were dutifully reported to the FBI. And he said it wasn’t long before some started calling Killeen the “murder capital of the country.” For the people of Killeen, he said, the murders didn’t change their chances of becoming crime victims. “If you take those (murdered) people out of that equation, they’re just as safe as they were the year before and the year before that,” he said. Withrow also said the rankings falsely imply that crime is evenly spread across a city. “Really, cities are collections of villages,” he said, “My village in Bel Aire, for example, is different from somebody else’s village in Midtown or somebody else’s in southwest Wichita. “It’s really irresponsible to say that one city is wholly and completely less safe than another city because you’re really not comparing apples
to apples.” Whether a city’s low-crime upper-middle-class neighborhoods fall inside or outside its city limits is one of several factors that can affect crime rates, Withrow said. “Chances are that these people didn’t calculate all of that,” he said. Stolz said Wichita police routinely compare current crime rates with those of past years, and with those of cities of similar size and geography. “We are in the business of crime prevention, and whether we like it or not we rank ourselves,” he said. “But comparing the New York Cities of the world with the Topekas — there’s a huge population and square mile disparity there, and I’m not sure that’s always fair.”
Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wichita has a higher percentage of residents who are neutral about the community compared to four other areas of similar size: Lexington, Ky.; Columbus, Ga.; Columbia, S.C.; and Tallahassee, Fla., according to the study. It defines “neutral” residents as those who lack full loyalty and passion for their communities, but who see some positive aspects in them. Roughly 43æpercent of area residents feel neutral, 24æpercent feel engaged, and 34 percent do not feel engaged, the study says. (The study’s percentages do not total 100æpercent due to rounding.)
That compares to 38æpercent “neutral” for the comparison group of cities and 34 percent nationally. A high neutral rate isn’t necessarily bad news. “Neutrals can be converted to be more engaged in the community,” Corriston said. Leaders, she said, can develop strategies to make people who don’t feel strongly one way or the other about the city feel more a part of it. The study, for example, shows that the city can challenge its young professionals who feel neutral to become more engaged, said Sheryl Wohlford, a member of the board of trustees of the Young Professionals of Wichita. “YPs more and more look at where they want to live first as opposed to where they want to work,” she said. Wichita scored lower than the other cities in overall citizen engagement, community loyalty and community passion. It scored higher on loyalty than the score for total adults nationally. Residents scored this community higher than peer cities in safety. They also rated it higher in economic conditions, economic improvement and availability of jobs. But they ranked it lower in whether those jobs provide the necessary income. They rated it lower in whether its leaders share their views and in the overall leadership of elected officials.
What comes next
Residents who tend to be most engaged in the Wichita area include homeowners, widows, those who have lived here 20 or more years, suburban residents and peo-
ple with incomes of $75,000 or higher, the study says. Singles and divorced or separated residents are least likely to be involved, as are those who have lived here fewer than six years, people with education no higher than high school, urban residents and residents with incomes of $25,000 or less. The study recommends area leaders focus on retaining students by connecting them with businesses while they are in school, work with business leaders to better engage their employees, and find ways to engage new residents and midcareer workers. Suzie Ahlstrand, vice president for community advancement at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, said the study is similar to a community-identity survey Visioneering Wichita conducted 18 months ago. Original findings by the Visioneering study also showed a high level of neutral feelings. “If we can move that needle from neutral to being more connected to the community, that’s a positive,” she said. Ahlstrand said the Gallup study adds to the momentum generated by Visioneering Wichita’s work, as well efforts by the city to improve its parks, recreation, open spaces and regional pathway system. “I think there’s a lot of things that have happened in the last four years that in the spring will blossom forth,” she said. In the next two years, Gallup researchers will analyze the trends of community-citizen engagement and economic growth to find out whether community engagement drives economic growth or the other way around. Meanwhile, Corriston said, Wichita can begin to develop strategies around the new data and take more pride in its assets. “I feel like Wichita is coming out of a slump where we apologize for ourselves,” she said. “We do a lot less of that, but we need to keep moving.”
Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or email@example.com.
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