Friends remember American slain in Iraq

Julia Hensley, center, is escorted by her son Ty Hensley, right, and a family friend Marty Cochran, second from left, as they leave a Memorial service for her son Jack Hensley, who was slain in Iraq,.Gregory Smith / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jack Hensley was a man who loved to smile and make others laugh. He played golf in his sandals, sent clean versions of e-mail jokes to his pastor and wore a grass skirt for two days when he organized a trip with friends to a Jimmy Buffett concert.

But friends also say the Marietta man knew the importance of helping others have a better life, and touched many lives in the United States and overseas.

About 800 friends and family members gathered Saturday to remember Hensley, who was slain by terrorists in Iraq after his Sept. 16 kidnapping. His family learned he had been killed Wednesday, his 49th birthday.

“The world’s lost a valuable resource in this man,” said longtime family friend Marty Cochran, 33, of Austell.

Hensley, who had accepted a construction job in Iraq to support his wife and daughter, had been kidnapped with two co-workers, American Eugene Armstrong and Kenneth Bigley of Britain. Armstrong also was killed, and efforts to free Bigley continued Saturday.

“God is with my brother,” said Hensley’s brother, Ty, during the memorial service at North Metro Church in Marietta. “I know that I will see Jack again because I am a Christian.”

Hensley’s pastor, Rev. Jerry Gladson of the First Christian Church of Marietta, sought to console the audience, some of whom fought back tears during the service. One man yelled out, “We love you Jack.”

Hensley’s wife, Pati, and his daughter, Sara, attended the service, carrying flowers and surrounded by family members.

“In this sanctuary today I sense there is a lot of anger, there is a lot of frustration,” Gladson said. “But Jack, he would find a way to be witty and funny. He would urge us to move beyond the anger.”

Hensley was born in Hendersonville, N.C., and grew up in Ponca City, Okla. He graduated from the University of North Carolina.