World & Nation

Army Spc. Marques I. Knight, 24, San Juan Capistrano; killed in ambush in Afghanistan

Marques I. Knight had a tough childhood. As his sister, Summer, recalled, their parents died when they were both young in Alabama.

The siblings spent a brief time with a grandmother in Idaho and eventually were adopted by an uncle, Jerry Knight, in Florida.

“He refused to be what life had dealt him,” Summer Knight wrote of her brother in an e-mail. “He wanted better and he wasn’t gonna stop til he got it.”

Part of that desire led Knight to California. With the help of a friend’s mother, Kathi Conroy, he was beginning to establish roots in California in recent years.

Knight met her in 2002 while he and Conroy’s son, Chris Naganuma, served in the same Army unit stationed at Ft. Lewis, Wash. Both eventually served together in Iraq in 2004.

With little left to do after his first stint in the military ended, Knight moved to Washington with Naganuma and eventually to San Juan Capistrano at the end of 2005.

Conroy said Knight was a man with varying talents and interests -- beaches, laughing, cooking and playing with her younger sons.

“How many grown men bounce on a trampoline with a huge smile on their face?” said Conroy, whom Knight occasionally called “mom.”

Knight held down a brief job performing maintenance on homes and tried studying at Saddleback Community College for a semester.

When he rejoined the Army in late 2007, family and friends said, it was a chance for him to solidify finances and, eventually, complete a college degree.

Instead of psychology and physiology, Knight realized that he wanted to major in computer animation -- “what I should have done all along,” he wrote on a personal Web page. The goal: to run a Pixar-type business but also with a focus on Web design and gaming, another one of his loves.

In late July, while he was in Afghanistan, his sister sent him an e-mail: “Hey buddy. Please be safe and make it home. I dunno if ur still into the church thing -- but pray too.”

Less than two months later, Spc. Marques I. Knight, 24, was fatally shot Sept. 6 in Aliabad in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz province.

An uncle, Shelp Knight, said the Army told him that his nephew and fellow soldiers were ambushed while on foot patrol near the Pakistani border.

A day after the ambush, Shelp Knight, who lives in Dothan, Ala., got a call from his brother Charles with the news. “I hung up,” he said. “I didn’t want to hear it.”

To his sister, Knight was a beautiful and funny man, who would be your best friend, once he warmed to you. As Shelp Knight put it: “He’s a kid everybody needs to know.”

Marques Knight was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas. It was his second tour of duty.

He had long been interested in the military. He participated in the ROTC at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla. Family members also recalled that, as a boy, Knight dreamed about drawing and animation -- a hobby he loved but relegated to his free time.

Knight cared as much for his body as for his drawings. He ordered nutritional supplements and weight gainers to supplement his weightlifting, he told his sister in an e-mail.

He would ask Conroy to ship him foods high in protein -- tuna, sardines and salmon. He wanted to bulk up his lean, 6-foot-5 frame. Knight would easily run nine to 12 miles a day and lift weights twice a day, she said.

In addition to his sister and adoptive parents, Jerry and Addie Knight, he is survived by a large extended family, including brothers Jerry G. Knight and Jeffery D. Knight.

Knight was buried at Gardens of Memory Cemetery in Kinsey, Ala.

Wagner is a Times staff writer.

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