Thursday, April 08, 2004

Army Spc. Isaac Michael Nieves

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Isaac Michael Nieves, 20, of Unadilla, N.Y.

Spc Nieves was assigned to the Army’s 82nd Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, Bamberg, Germany; killed April 8, 2004 when individuals using an improvised explosive devise and small-arms fire attacked his combat patrol in Bani Saad, Iraq.

Fallen 20-year-old soldier remembered as a hero
By John Kekis
Associated Press

SIDNEY N.Y. — Gil Nieves smiled at the thought of how his big brother might have reacted.

“Isaac would have been crying if he were here seeing all these people,” Gil said Tuesday.

Instead, tears flowed from the eyes of many of the more than 300 people who attended a memorial mass for Spc. Isaac Michael Nieves. He was killed April 8 while on combat patrol in Bani Saad, Iraq.

“He was my brother and role model,” said Gil, a 19-year-old plebe at West Point. “Those memories will never fade away.”

Nieves, of Unadilla, was assigned to the 82nd Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, in Bamberg, Germany. He was supposed to be rotated back to Fort Hood, Texas in December and wanted to come home. Instead, the Army invoked a stop-loss program aimed at keeping the number of U.S. forces overseas steady.

Nieves, 20, was sent to Iraq in February. He was patrolling about 25 miles northeast of Baghdad when his detachment came under fire from small arms and a homemade bomb.

“At West Point, we live by three words — duty, honor, country. Until recently, those words were without much meaning,” Gil said. “Isaac lived by my motto and gave the ultimate sacrifice. I can only hope to be half the leader.”

Nieves was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal and the Go To War On Terrorism Medal posthumously.

“These are our heroes,” Rev. Gordon Polenz said in his homily. “Isaac brings it close to us. I’m sure he’d do it again.”

Nieves, one of Gilbert and Maria Nieves’ 10 children, dreamed of being an architectural engineer. But his family has a strong history of military service, so he enlisted after graduating from Sidney High School in 2001, where he played football, ran track, and captained the wrestling team.

“He was an altar boy in this church with his brother, and they weren’t the most pious altar boys. There were times I had to speak to them,” Polenz said with a smile. “There is no age that is old enough to die, but we have to be prepared for it. We hope Isaac kept a twinkle in his eye. Now his spirit is free.”

“I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be giving this speech,” Nieves’ sister, Maria, said. “But as long as that flag stands strong, his memory will live on forever. I love you little man.”

Gil was one of six pallbearers who slowly pushed the flag-draped casket carrying his brother the short distance from the funeral home to the church. Family members followed in a solemn procession.

“I’m a military man myself,” said Isaac’s father, who served five months in Vietnam. “I guess I’m not mourning him no more. I’m just celebrating his legacy.”

“I’m doing OK,” said Isaac’s 10-year-old brother, Kevin. “I’m stronger than before. I’m proud of him now.”

American flags decorated several porches and freshly tied yellow ribbons hugged every tree trunk along Main Street in Sidney, a poignant reminder of what happens in war.

“It’s a trying time for the whole community,” said 59-year-old James Barnhart, owner of the funeral home that handled the arrangements for Nieves. “We had seven die in Vietnam, and this brings a lot of that memory back.”

Nieves is survived by his wife, Amy. He will be buried Wednesday at Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville, N.Y.

Upstate soldier killed in Iraq
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — A 20-year-old soldier from upstate New York was among those killed in fighting this week in Iraq, according to the Defense Department.

Spc. Isaac Michael Nieves, of Unadilla, was patrolling Bani Saad, about 25 miles northeast of Baghdad, when his detachment came under fire from small arms and a homemade bomb, the Department of Defense reported Saturday.

Nieves died Thursday, becoming the first service member from the Southern Tier to die in action since President Bush began military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was assigned to the 82nd Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, in Bamberg, Germany.

His wife returned from a trip out of town and her parents met her to break the news.

“I opened my mouth to say something and all that came out were these horrid screams,” she said.

Amy Nieves met her husband in 1995, when they were in fifth grade. Their older sisters conspired to get them together, and he asked her to a dance.

They went even though she had the flu. She spent most of the night in the bathroom and didn’t dance until the party was over.

“He grabbed me and started dancing,” she said. “I said, ‘You can’t dance without music.”’ He sang “Stand by Me” in her ear.

Soon after graduating from high school in 2001, Nieves proposed.

He wanted to be an architectural engineering, but his family has a strong history of military service. His father is a Vietnam veteran; his brother-in-law Daniel Wayman is an Air Force senior airman. His younger brother, 19-year-old Gil, is a cadet at West Point.

When he got out of the Army, he was going to go to college, maybe to become a biology teacher.

“He wished he had gone to college and done things differently,” Amy Nieves said.

Still, he was proud of his work as a demolitions expert. Combat engineers are often ahead of other units, clearing the way of minefields and building bridges. And they’re often the last units to leave, blowing up the bridges and laying minefields to protect retreating troops.

Isaac Nieves was supposed to be rotated back to Fort Hood in Texas in December and wanted to come home. Instead, the Army invoked a stop-loss program and kept him in Bamberg, Germany, with the 1st Infantry Division. Then it sent him to Iraq. That was last month.

Nieves and her husband’s family — Gilbert and Maria Nieves of Unadilla and their nine surviving children — have met with U.S. Army officials to begin the process of bringing Isaac’s body home to a funeral, but arrangements are incomplete.

— Associated Press

Army Spc. Isaac Michael Nieves was killed in action on 04/08/04.

No comments: