By John Hacker
Globe Staff Writer
ANDERSON, Mo. - Despite the fact that his son died in Iraq, James Barnes harbors no ill will toward the people of the embattled country.
Army Spc. Jonathan P. Barnes, 21, of Anderson, was one of three American soldiers killed Saturday when a grenade was tossed from the window of a building about 30 miles north of Baghdad, according to the U.S. Army.
James Barnes, who lives in Anderson, said his son died doing what he loved and what he believed in.
"He really believed he was doing good for his country and the people of Iraq," Barnes said Monday. "I don't blame the Iraqi people. I think the people who did this were being paid to do it."
Army Capt. Jeff Fitzgibbons, in a telephone interview from Baghdad, said the three soldiers were killed while guarding a hospital for women and children in the community of Baquoba.
"We don't know yet if the explosive was thrown from the hospital or an adjacent building," Fitzgibbons said. "They were providing security for the hospital when the incident happened about 11 a.m. our time Saturday."
Fitzgibbons said the medical staff at the hospital treated the soldiers until military ambulances took them to an Army medical unit.
He said it would likely be seven to 10 days before Barnes' body can be returned to the United States.
Jonathan Barnes joined the Army in April 2001. James Barnes said it was the culmination of a lifelong dream for his son to join the Army.
Jonathan Barnes was assigned to Headquarters Company, 4th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, based at Fort Hood, Texas.
"He was a strong boy with a strong will, and when he made up his mind to do something, he did it," James Barnes said. "He was a good Christian boy who loved God and loved his country. He believed in both all the way to the end."
Barnes said he had received three letters from his son since he arrived in Iraq in May and had spoken to him twice on the phone.
"He seemed to be doing all right," James Barnes said. "But he was bored. He was in a headquarters company, but what he really wanted to do was go fight. He was in good spirits otherwise."
Barnes said his son's letters told the story of someone confident of his abilities, yet wanting to come home and see his almost-3-year-old daughter, Michelle.
"He was looking forward to coming home and seeing his daughter," James Barnes said. "In one letter, he said there was a rumor going around that they would be coming home in September. He was really looking forward to that."
Barnes said his son's letters described some of the dangers soldiers faced in post-Saddam Iraq.
"He told us the teenagers were their friends by day when they were giving them part of the food, water and candy the soldiers received," Barnes said. "At night, he said, they would shoot at them and throw grenades at him. He said it was hard to tell who was friend and who was foe. I spent a year in Vietnam, so I know what he was talking about."
Barnes said he learned about his son's death after Sunday services at the Greenwood Community Church, where the elder Barnes is pastor.
Barnes said he had been expecting a phone call from his son on Saturday, but it never came.
"I came home from church at about 12:35 p.m., and a major from Fort Leonard Wood had already been to the house," Barnes said. "He came back and told us. I had heard about the incident on the news, but I never thought it was him."
Barnes said his son had a black belt in tae kwon do, a self-defense system similar to karate. Barnes said he home-schooled his son after his sixth-grade year.
"He was a fighter, and he wanted to fight," Barnes said. "He wanted to fight for his country, and I couldn't be prouder of him."
Jonathan Barnes is survived by his wife, Amanda, and daughter, Michelle, both of Goodman. His mother, Linda McDaniels, lives in Coweta, Okla.
James Barnes said scheduling of arrangements would depend on when his son's body is returned from Iraq.
By John Hacker