Burton Kephart is the author of "Proven in Battle," a booklet of thoughts, prayers and accounts of a very difficult time in the Franklin family's life after his son, Jonathan Kephart, was killed fighting in the war in Iraq on April 8, 2004.
He said he wants the book to honor, not just Jonathan, but all those who have sacrificed for this country. Burton Kephart printed and passed out 10,000 copies of his book in the first year of printing. Since then he has passed out over 70,000 copies of his self published book.
Jonathan Kephart was part of a patrol outside Baghdad that was ambushed. "We were all in the kill zone," wrote Sgt. Edwin Rossman Jr. in a report about the incident that took Kephart's life.
"There were, at any given time, 30-50 people on each side of the road firing on us," he wrote. It was estimated that during this engagement the patrol were out-numbered by hunderds.
Kephart was manning .50 caliber gun at the back of a vehicle. "I watched numerous enemy elements take causalities as a result of SPC Kephart who was in the vehicle behind me firing." Rossman said he witnessed Kephart focused and performing at an incredible level to protect the patrol. The vehicles were driving in erratic patterns to make themselves a less predictable target for the enemy, according to Rossman. Kephart's gun and ammunition were hit and exploded and the gun was disabled. Kephart then began firing with an M-4 assault rifle from the turret of his vehicle as another soldier fixed the disabled .50 caliber weapon. At some point Kephart was shot twice. The tires of Kephart's vehicle were shot out making them slower targets. Moments later while still heavily engaged in a firefight his turret was hit with a rocket propelled grenade and exploded. Kephart sunk in the turret.
Rossman stated Kephart's actions of engaging the enemy in battle prevented the situation from being much worse for the others in the patrol. He said Kephart kept doing his job, despite being shot twice and hit several times in his kevlar vest until he was ultimately killed by the RPG hit. "Jonathan Kephart was a hero that day. I will make sure every young soldier I meet knows his story and the sacrifice he made giving his life protecting and defending his brothers and sisters," Rossman said.
Burt Kephart is also seeing to it that his son's story is being told and remembered through his book that he gives away for free. The book goes through the detailed last moments of Jonathan's life and the journey he and his family traveled in the days following his son's death to his burial over a week later. The elder Kephart said it's written from a Christian perspective. He knows people struggle with loss just as he misses his son. Kephart takes comfort that his son is home in heaven.
He hopes his book gives people that hope and strength as well. "That's been my motive for the last 16 years passing out this book," he said.
Kephart continues to share the book and his son's story. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 6424 US 322, Franklin Pa. 16323.
The COVID-19 situation has made it a difficult time for people in many different ways. One of those ways is in the lives of families all across our nation who have lost loved ones fighting for our freedom in wars of all ages.
With not being able to hold Memorial Day events (we understand why) this year for the purpose of specifically remembering their sacrifice, we fear they will be forgotten this year.
We should not let that happen.
One of the ways people might want to consider remembering these sacrifices is to volunteer to place flags on the graves of our veterans in their area. It is done by various groups of volunteers before Memorial Day weekend.
I am sure any added help to get this done would be appreciated.
As a father of Army Specialist Jonathan Kephart, who was killed in action while serving in Iraq on April 8, 2004, I have helped place flags for a number of years. It is a very rewarding experience.
If you have not experienced this yourself and you are able, consider it this year. Please join us in remembering their sacrifice. Let's not forget them this year. - Burton Kephart