CHARLOTTESVILLE — On what would have been his 43rd birthday, a Charlottesville post office was renamed after fallen Army Capt. Humayun Khan.
Dignitaries, comrades and family members gathered underneath a white tent in the center of the Barracks Road Shopping Center on Monday to honor Khan. The University of Virginia graduate was killed in Iraq in 2004 when a vehicle packed with improvised explosives drove into the gate of his compound. Khan, who was 27 when he died, was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
"Every American must know how to serve," said his father, Khizr Khan. "He always said, whenever we expressed our concerns to him, 'I am doing what I think I am made for.' His life ended abruptly, but in service."
Khan's name and service are cited on a black plaque that will be hung at the post office. The legislation calling for the renaming of the facility, also cited on the plaque, took a circuitous route.
In July 2017, then-Rep. Tom Garrett, R-5th, filed two bills to honor two local service members who died in the line of duty: Khan and U.S. Navy Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, who was killed in 2017. The Rigsby bill was signed by President Donald Trump in July 2018, and a dedication ceremony was held in March.
Trump signed the Khan bill in December. But, as The Daily Progress reported in November, the Khan bill mistakenly renamed a contract postal unit on McCormick Road near UVA. Garrett and his staff said that they submitted an amendment to rename the correct post office, but that the original bill was still voted on and approved by mistake.
Legislation correcting the post office address was submitted by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. The fix passed the Senate in January and was signed by Trump in April.
Kaine attended Monday's ceremony and was joined by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, and staff members of Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-5th, and Warner, as well as current and hopeful state senators and delegates.
"It's an emotional moment," Kaine said in remarks. "It's a moment of celebration of a beautiful life and the birthday of their son. It's a moment of sadness as we think about missing him and his sacrifice. It's a moment of pride for the family who are so proud of their son and for those who knew Capt. Khan and for the UVA Army ROTC, who were proud to claim him as a role model."
Humayun Khan was born in the United Arab Emirates and immigrated to the United States with his family, Kaine said. His parents are originally from Pakistan.
Khan was a Muslim American. And he was a college graduate and a member of the military.
"He really believed deeply in the two words, 'for all,' at the end of that Pledge [of Allegiance]," Kaine said. "If we really want to commemorate him, then what we need to do is focus on those two words, 'for all,' and make sure we act and live and treat each other in a way that shows we understand how important that value is to our nation."
Lt. Col. Kelly Montgomery, who commands UVA's Army ROTC, praised Khan's commitment to his values up through the final moments of his life.
"By his demonstration of the Army's values, Capt. Khan proved himself to be the very best of us," Montgomery said. "I am thankful to live in a community and in a nation that values the sacrifices of its heroes and seeks to remember their names. Forever this post office will stand in recognition of Capt. Khan's selfless service and remind all those who enter that there are courageous soldiers ready and willing to serve on their behalf both locally and in faraway lands."