Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Virginia.

Sgt Russell died while conducting combat operations when the MH-47 helicopter that he was aboard crashed in the vicinity of Asadabad, Afghanistan in Kumar Province. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Air Field, Georgia.

It was appropriate that National Guard medic Sgt. Russell Collier was unarmed and tending to a fallen comrade when he was killed in Iraq, his sister said.

“He died doing what he loved and if he had to die, he would have wanted it this way,” said Carolyn Pfaus, 39, of Conway, talking about an older brother she described as protective.

When Sgt. Christopher Potts, a member of Collier’s brigade from Tiverton, R.I., was hit by small-arms fire, Collier handed his rifle to another soldier and ran to Potts’ side, with only his medic’s bag in tow, Pfaus said. He was killed before he got to Potts.

Pfaus said she revered Collier’s lifelong dedication to the military, savored his cooking and admired his skills as a father of two grown children in North Carolina, Mary Virginia and Wayne, and 9-year-old Hunter, who lives with Collier’s wife, Rocky, in Harrison, Ark.

Collier and Pfaus grew up in a military family and followed their late father as he served on Army bases around the world. Collier was born in Crossett and joined the Army as soon as he graduated from high school in Wuerzburg, Germany, in 1975.

He later transferred to the Navy, and after a short time out of the military, joined the Arkansas National Guard in 1999. He had 18 years of service and was planning on retiring next year, after his tour in Iraq was to end in March.

But Collier wasn’t really cut out for retirement anyway, Pfaus said.

“He didn’t like the civilian life much,” Pfaus said. “The military was all he’d ever known.”

That made it hard for Pfaus to blame the military for Collier’s death, even though she was angry and questioned why the United States was pursuing the war in Iraq.

“I’m a little angry, of course. Part of me says, ‘Why do we have to have it?’ and I want to lash out, but I have to support the war,” she said. Later she added: “I don’t have to necessarily agree with it, but our country is based on fighting for weaker people and I’d never say anything against it.”

Collier enjoyed cooking, art and music, but otherwise had few interests beyond the military, Pfaus said. He worked at a factory in Harrison and had just received his emergency medical technician license before he was called up to Iraq with the 39th Infantry Brigade in April

Army Sgt 1st Class Michael L. Russell was killed in action on 06/28/05.

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