Baumholder mourns captain who died in Afghanistan
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Capt. Michael Newton thought of his soldiers as family.
On Wednesday, Newton’s Army family packed the pews of a barracks chapel in Baumholder to mourn his death.
Newton, 30, of Newport News, Va., died June 11 in a noncombat related incident while serving in Faryab province, Afghanistan. Because of an active investigation, no details about the incident could be released, Army officials said.
At the memorial, rear detachment soldiers read eulogies by Newton’s colleagues in the field, who remembered him as a diligent soldier and compassionate mentor. Newton was assigned to 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which began a 12-month tour in Afghanistan in February.
Capt. Joseph Phillis, who assumed command of Service Battery after Newton’s death, said that in his 22 years in the Army, he had “never known a commander who had so much genuine love for his soldiers and his unit.”
Phillis recalled how Newton had prayed for him after he had fallen ill. It was one of Newton’s last deeds, Phillis said.
“That small act,” he said, “gave me more joy than I can express in words.”
On his Facebook page, Newton often posted inspirational quotes. One of his last was from sportswriter Howard Cosell: “The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give.”
Lt. Col. John O’Grady, the 1-84 Field Artillery Battalion commander, touched upon this quote in his eulogy, which was read by Lt. Col. Steven Fandrich, the rear detachment commander for the 170th IBCT.
By Cosell’s measure, “Mike had left on top,” O’Grady said. “However, unfortunately, I cannot say with certainty that Mike felt that way at the moment of his passing.”
Newton began his military career in May 2001, enlisting in the Army Reserve. He went on to earn a degree in history from the Virginia Military Institute, and became a commissioned officer in August of 2003. Before his Afghanistan deployment, Newton served two tours in Iraq, in 2006 and 2009. He also had been stationed in South Korea.
He is survived by his parents, Barbara and Willie Newton. Newton’s mother told the Daily Press, a local paper in Virginia, that her son had “wanted to be a soldier since he was 4 years old.”
Another moving tribute at Newton’s memorial came from 1st Lt. Zachary Lewis, who served as an executive officer in Newton’s unit.
“The first time we spoke on the subject of Service Battery,” Lewis said, “(Newton) referred to every soldier as a member of his family.”
Lewis ended his eulogy with Newton’s favorite greeting: “One love.”