Sunday, June 04, 2006

Army Sgt. Daniel R. Gionet

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Daniel R. Gionet, 23, of Pelham, N.H.

Sgt. Gionet was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; killed June 4 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M1A2 tank during combat operations in Baghdad. Also killed was 1st Lt. Ryan T. Sanders. -- PELHAM – Daniel Gionet Sr. is grateful for the call he received from his son on his birthday.

Gionet, 50, of Lowell, Mass., hadn’t spoken to his 24-year-old namesake, an Army specialist with the 1-66AR 4th Infantry Division, since December. The younger Gionet managed to call his father’s cell phone from Taji, Iraq, where he had been deployed since that time.

"Something stupid" had caused an icy rift that stopped the father and son from talking.

That day, May 28, Gionet, a former Marine, was on his motorcycle heading to North Conway when his cell phone rang during a stop at the bank.

"He said, ‘Dad, I love you, and I forgive you. Will you forgive me?’ "

Tears were shed between the two men, then the conversation led to the obvious concerns Gionet had of his son’s situation.

"He was trying to hide the truth from me, by not telling me how bad it was," Gionet said.

"I said, ‘Dan, it’s all over the news, it’s real bad over there, don’t tell me it’s not.’ "

Gionet, listened as his son explained that the 36-hour patrols he had been doing every three days had been cut down to 12-hour patrols.

"That was good news," Gionet said of the relief he felt upon hearing that comforting information.

The relief was premature, however. On Sunday night, Gionet got the call he had been dreading since February 2002 when his son first left for action.

Daniel R. Gionet died after the tank he was riding in hit an explosive device at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, his family said.

"I got to make amends with him," the elder Gionet said, his eyes tearing up.

"If I was on the highway, I would never have gotten the call."

On Monday, at Gionet’s mother’s 1 Gumpas Hill Road house, neighbors flew their flags at half- staff in honor of their fallen neighbor.

At about 6:30 p.m. an Army official arrived to the home to provide a bit more information to the family.

"The burning questions are not yet answered," his mother Denise Gionet, 47, said, referring to whether her son suffered or was killed instantly.

The explosion happened in Taji, where Gionet, a medic, had been doing patrols, she said.

Denise Gionet could not say if anyone else was killed or injured in the explosion, but said her son typically patrolled with a four-man crew.

He was expected to come home on leave in July, she said.

Daniel Gionet attended Pelham High School, where he was a good student and excelled in sports, joining the school wrestling team and baseball team, his father said.

He joined the Army shortly after his 2001 high school graduation and was sent to Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan, where he worked as a cook.

"My work here is important to my country," Gionet told a reporter in March 2004.

"As a cook, I contribute greatly to the morale of the soldiers who eat at the dining facility," he said.

Gionet had joined the military with the idea of getting money to go to school to be a chef, his father said, but when his tour of duty ended in 2004, he surprised the family with the news that he would be re-enlisting in to serve as a medic.

"Some of the experiences he had there made him want to be a medic," his father said.

"He really wanted to help people anyway," he said.

After re-enlisting, Gionet was sent to Fort Hood in Texas, where he received his medical training. He last came home to New Hampshire last Thanksgiving, shortly after marrying his wife Katrina, 19, whom he met while stationed at Fort Drum in New York.

"He was basically the greatest person ever," Katrina Gionet said by telephone Monday night. "He always wanted to do the right thing for everybody, even staying in the military. He never complained."

Denise Gionet was sitting on her couch when a uniformed soldier came to her house at about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, she said.

Her fiance, Peter Daniels, answered the door, and she watched as he dropped to his knees.

"I knew," she said.

Daniel was the first of her three children, followed by his brother, Darren, 20, and sister, Alycia, 18.

"He was always happy and always helpful," Gionet said of her oldest son.

His parents’ divorce was difficult for Daniel, who was 10 years old at the time, his mother said, but the two remained close for the kids.

Daniel became protective of his mother at that time, she said, but seemed to adjust well when she and the kids moved from his hometown of Lowell, Mass., to Pelham in 1994.

"He made some good friends here in town," she said.

"The only ones who were not his friends were the people he hadn’t met yet."

Childhood friend Amanda Treadwell, 19, was among several of Gionet’s many friends who stood together on his mother’s lawn trading stories about him Monday afternoon.

"Amanda-bear. That’s what he called me," said Treadwell, who was one of a family of kids who grew up around the corner from his Daniel’s home in Lowell.

Treadwell said she was upset when she found out the older boy who used to toss her around in the pool had decided to join the military during such a dangerous time.

"I thought he was nuts. I didn’t like it, not at all," she said.

Next to Treadwell, Gionet’s brother, Darren, struggled to rationalize the death of his older brother.

Darren Gionet had recently begun to plan a camping trip to Maine with his brother, for when he finished his duty in Iraq.

"I was waiting for him to come home. It was going to be a surprise," Darren Gionet said.

Military officials are investigating the incident and an autopsy has been scheduled, Denise Gionet said.

The family will receive Gionet’s body in about a week, she said.

It is too soon for details about Gionet’s funeral or where he is to be buried, she said.

"My gut instinct is to keep him right here in town so people can visit him," Denise Gionet said.

Shortly after the Army official arrived to the home, Pelham Police Chief Evan Haglund, state Sen. Chuck Morse and Selectman Jean-Guy Bergeron also arrived to the home to offer their condolences.

"We are all very sorry for their loss," Haglund said later by telephone.

"We are offering anything that the family needs at this point," he said.

Denise Gionet said the community response to her son’s death has been overwhelming.

"It’s been intense and it has been strengthening and it makes me realize how much of a hero he really is," she said.

Army Sgt. Daniel R. Gionet was killed in action on 06/04/06.

1 comment:

Kyle Beattie said...

Thinking of you this Memorial Day. I am sorry I couldn't have done more that day for you. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about that day and how it could have turned out differently.