He was a graduate of South Doyle High School (2000), Carson-Newman College (2004), and was a member of First Calvary Baptist Church. Survivors: mother, Ms. Karen Ray of Knoxville, Tennessee; father, Mr. Michael Alford of Chattanooga, Tennessee; two children, Ms. Mya Alford and Mr. Marcus Alford, Jr. Funeral service March 4, 2010 at 10:00 A.M. at Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church with Dr. George W. C. Lyons and Pastor Benjamin E. Lewis officiating. Interment at Tennessee Veterans Cemetery with full military honors.

On June 21, 2010, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen signed a bill from the Tennessee Legislature honoring the memory of Captain Marcus Ray Alford, Sr. with a memorial bridge located on State Route 840 in Wilson County, Tennessee. State Route 840 was designated in the Public Acts of 2005 as the Tennessee National Guard Parkway and has several intersections and bridges dedicated to the memory of fallen Tennessee National Guardsmen. The Marcus Alford, Sr. Memorial Bridge was dedicated October 12, 2010 and is located 2.5 miles west on State Road 840 from the Interstate 40 and State Route 840 interchange near Lebanon, over Oak Grove Road in Wilson County.

Helicopter crash in Iraq kills South-Doyle graduate, Gallatin woman
By Matt Lakin, Knoxville News Sentinel
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Marcus Alford knew what he wanted to do from the moment he saw his first helicopter.

“All he really ever talked about was being in the Army and flying helicopters,” said Crystal Fox, who grew up with Alford in South Knox County. “He always knew someday he’d be up there doing what they were doing, and he couldn’t wait.”

He made his last landing Sunday. Capt. Marcus Ray Alford Sr., 28, and another pilot died when their helicopter crashed near Mosul, Iraq, military officials said.

Alford and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Billie Jean Grinder of Gallatin, Tenn., had been stationed there since July with the 230th Air Cavalry Squadron. They would have come home next month.

“Tennessee has lost two brave volunteers who truly believed in what they were doing to ensure a free Iraq,” said Maj. Gen. Max Haston, commander of the Tennessee National Guard.

The pair’s deaths made them the first members of the 230th to die during the deployment – and Alford, a 2000 graduate of South-Doyle High School, is the school’s fourth former student killed since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You never get used to it,” said Lt. Col. Bill Woodcock, the school’s senior ROTC instructor. “Any loss is a real loss, but Marcus was a special person. You couldn’t ask for a better role model, and he was everything you’d want in a son.”

Family members learned of Alford’s death Sunday night, said their pastor, the Rev. Benjamin Lewis Jr. His mother, Karen Ray, made the trip Tuesday to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to claim his body.

Alford left behind two children, a son and a daughter.

Army officials said they’re investigating the cause of the crash, which happened when the pilots tried to land their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior near Qayyarah Airfield West, about 30 miles south of Mosul in northern Iraq. The chopper wasn’t under fire, and no enemy forces were nearby, according to the Department of Defense.

Army officers didn’t give the family many details, the pastor said.

“They just said it was a ‘hard crash,’ with no enemy fire involved,” he said. “That’s all we know right now.”

The family had already started planning a welcome-home party when they got the news. James Andrews, a cousin, had just talked to Alford on the phone last week.

“He was looking forward to coming home and having the party with his kids,” Andrews said. “The family’s really taking it hard. We all are. He wasn’t in combat, and that makes it harder to understand. He was everything you could want in a person.”

Alford’s friends remember him as a bright, fun-loving father of two who sang in the church choir at First Calvary Baptist Church in Lonsdale and landed a helicopter on South-Doyle’s lawn during a visit in December 2008. He spent four years in the school’s ROTC program and earned the title of “Wittiest” from his senior class.

Alford continued his ROTC studies at Carson-Newman College, where he graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems.

“He was a great kid, and he had such potential,” said Missy Ballenger, who taught him in ninth grade. “Every Thursday, he wore his ROTC uniform, and his chest was covered with all the decorations he’d gotten. He could be a handful, and sometimes you’d have to scold him – but you’d be covering your face to keep from laughing.”

A memorial to South-Doyle’s fallen alumni stands on the school campus. Woodcock, the ROTC instructor, said he expects to see Alford’s name added there soon.

“This doesn’t get any easier,” Woodcock said. “It just gets harder every time.”

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