Monday, September 25, 2006

Army Cpl. Casey L. Mellen

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Casey L. Mellen, 21, of Huachuca City, Ariz.,

Died on Sept. 25 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries suffered when his mounted patrol came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations in Mosul, Iraq. Mellen was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash.

Coming home: Fallen soldier Mellen greeted by mourners
Sierra Vista Herald, Sierra Vista Arizona ^ | Bill Hess

TUCSON — Case is home.

The body of Army Cpl. Casey Lee “Case” Mellen came back to Arizona around 2 p.m. Monday as a Navy cargo aircraft landed at Tucson International Airport and taxied to the executive terminal. Although it was a sad day, the soldier’s father, Casey Edward Mellen, said, “I’m happy my son’s home.”

The war is claiming many American men and women, he said.

Case is just one of the dead and is part “of all the future dead soldiers,” Mellen said.

It was not a political statement against the war, just a reality as GIs remain in harm’s way.

Case was killed Sept. 25, when his patrol came in contact with enemy forces using small arms near Mosul, Iraq. The elder Mellen said his son died in defense of freedom, and he and the family are proud of Case as a soldier, son, brother and uncle.

Monday was a long day for Mellen; Case’s mother, Regine McClammy; and his sister, Michelle Hall, and her son, the soldier’s nephew, Jason.

Waiting for a convoy to leave the senior Mellen’s Huachuca City home for the drive to Tucson, the mother was comforted by Pastor Tommy Simpson, who will officiate at Wednesday’s funeral on Fort Huachuca and at the burial at the Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista.

Michelle held her 30-month-old son, whose middle name, Lee, is the same as his uncle’s.

The boy was oblivious to what was happening around him.

He did not know the small T-shirt he wore, which had his uncle’s photo on with an American flag in the background, was meant as a memorial for Case, as the family called the 21-year-old soldier.

As the living room filled with 35 members of American Legion Riders from Sierra Post 52, Michelle had to leave the area as tears flowed down her cheeks in heavy torrents.

It was a somber ride to Tucson, with Huachuca City Police Lt. J. Glowacki leading the convoy that included a hearse, a van carrying members of the Fort Huachuca honor guard, the casualty assistance officer, a chaplain and family members, a vehicle in which Huachuca City Mayor George Nerhan was a passenger, another vehicle with a Sierra Vista Herald/Bisbee Daily Review reporter and photography team and the American Legion motorcyclists.

The Navy C-9 was 45 minutes out from landing when the group arrived at airport’s executive terminal.

Soon the two-engined jet landed and made its way to the parking area near the terminal.

People stood under the terminal’s canopy to get away from the heat rising off the concrete tarmac.

A black and gold butterfly flitted around some bushes.

The color of the insect was the same as two stripes that graced the length of the Navy aircraft’s fuselage.

Far in the background, dust could be seen rising as a backhoe operator did some work.

A Southwest Airlines plane taxied behind the Navy C-9, its bright blue, red, orange and yellow paint scheme more brilliant than the Navy aircraft’s.

Two Fort Huachuca soldiers marched to the airborne hearse.

One carried the American flag, folded in its traditional triangle.

The flag was for Case’s casket.

Soon, a soldier from the Case’s unit got off the plane, he was the escort for the corporal’s remains.

Case was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), from Fort Lewis, Wash. Traditionally, the escorting soldier is from the same unit. Today, there will be a memorial service in his honor at the Washington state Army post.

The preparations over, a large cargo door on the plane opened and an automatic conveyor device, similar to ones used to remove baggage from commercial airplanes, was elevated to receive just one package — the one carrying Case’s earthly remains.

Soon, the red and white stripes of the U.S flag and the blue and white union, representing each state, became visible as the casket was placed on the conveyor.

Active duty soldiers at the airplane slowly raised their right hands in salute, leading one of the riders to order “present arms,” as his compatriots complied.

Except for a slight breeze rustling leaves on bushes under the executive terminal’s canopy, it was silent.

Even the noise of aircraft landing and taking off seemed muted.

As the casket was placed inside the Hatfield hearse, Maria Mena, Mellen’s future bride reached in and touched it.

The father did the same thing, seemingly holding on to the flag draping the coffin for a long time.

Pastor Simpson said the soldier’s mother and sister were asked if they too wanted to touch the coffin but they declined.

It was much too emotional at that time, he said.

The soldiers at the side of the plane lowered their salutes and the motorcycle rider directed “order arms.”

The fort soldiers, slowly led the hearse from the plane.

Following the vehicle holding Case’s body was Mellen and Capt. Kendrick De Vera, a Signal Corps soldier from Fort Huachuca who is the family’s casualty assistance officer. Mellen is a civilian employee at the Network Enterprise Technology Command. The rest of the family were driven in a golf-cart like vehicle.

As the small procession left the area, an American Airline plane passed behind the military aircraft, its red, white and blue fuselage stripes adding a touch of additional patriotism.

While the trip to Tucson was a convoy, the return was a cortege.

As the vehicles passed the entrance to Kartchner Caverns, a lone woman stood by the side of the road, holding an American flag.

Further down Highway 90, a man had his right hand over his heart.

As the vehicles entered Huachuca City proper, a number of people stood outside the town’s administrative complex. Some had flags and others stood at attention, with hats and hands over their hearts.

As the traffic continued down the highway a pair of Air Force F-16s passed over the hearse. While unplanned — they were in a training mode using the fort’s Libby Army Airfield for touch-and-go’s at that fleeting moment — it appeared as a salute to Case.

The cortege entered Sierra Vista, where people stood along Fry Boulevard, paying respect to a young man most had never met.

Monday was the first day of honors for Case.

Today, people may pay their respects to him at Hatfield Funeral Home from 6 to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, there will be a noon service in the Main Post Chapel on the fort, followed by burial with military honors at the Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

When the burial is over, it will really mean Case is home — forever.

Army Cpl. Casey L. Mellen was killed in action on 09/25/06.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Army Sgt. Velton Locklear III

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Velton Locklear III, 29, of Lacey, Wash.

Sgt. Locklear was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Sept. 23, 2006 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations in Riyadh, Iraq. Also killed was Pfc. Kenneth E. Kincaid IV.

El Paso soldier killed while on patrol in Iraq
By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times

A 1995 Eastwood High School graduate who followed his father's footsteps into the U.S. Army was killed Saturday when a bomb exploded while he was on patrol in Iraq, his family said Monday.

Sgt. Velton Locklear III was a husband, the father of two boys and a dedicated soldier who last month started his second tour of duty in Iraq, relatives said.

Locklear, 29, of the 25th Infantry, 3rd Brigade 2-27th Infantry Battalion, was killed when an improvised explosive device destroyed the vehicle in which he was riding while on patrol near the city of Kirkuk, his family said.

"He wanted to be an infantry soldier. He was interested in being up front where all the action is," his father, retired Sgt. Maj. Velton Locklear Jr., said via telephone from Laredo.

Locklear was born in El Paso while his dad was stationed at Fort Bliss. He was the only son of three children. In high school, he was a standout wide receiver, wearing No. 4 for the Eastwood Troopers.

"I've had so many kids, but a few stick out that you really remember. He was one of those. Everybody liked him," said Wade Ardoin, Eastwood's head football coach who was the school's offensive coordinator in 1995.

After a semester in college, Locklear joined the Army, his father said.

"I was extremely proud he joined the military. I encouraged him to do that and sometimes I feel guilty for doing that. (But) he definitely enjoyed the military life," the elder Locklear, a Junior ROTC instructor in Laredo, said.

The senior Locklear recalled his son's passion for the Army displayed in a telephone call one night.

"He called me from the range and he said, 'Dad, I want you to hear something.' He put the phone up in the air. They were firing semi-automatic weapons in the range. He loved the Army. He ate it up. The camaraderie. All that Hoo-ah stuff."

His father said Locklear didn't talk much about his first tour in Iraq from April 2004 to February 2005 but did say that even though Iraq was a dangerous place he felt it was making progress when the elections took place.

Williams of El Paso described his cousin Velton as an athlete with "a heart of gold. He was a very kind person, very humble. He was a brave soldier who loved what he did."

The funeral will take place in El Paso, where much of the family resides.

Service arrangements are pending.

Locklear's wife, Denise, and sons, 5-year-old Nathan and 7-year-old Velton IV, are coming into town from Hawaii, where Locklear was stationed.

"Velton, he is a living legacy," his father said. "He served his country courageously and we are extremely proud of him, and his family can be proud of him. He paid the ultimate price for his family and his country, and we will always love him for that."

Army Sgt. Velton Locklear III was killed in action on 9/23/06.

Army Pfc. Kenneth E. Kincaid IV

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Kenneth E. Kincaid IV, 25, of Lilburn, Ga.

Pfc Kincaid was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Sept. 23 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations in Riyadh, Iraq. Also killed was Sgt. Velton Locklear III.

Kincaid, Aaron
Aaron Kincaid 1981 - 2006

His legacy is one of Faith, Love for all, Patriotism for the country he served and Honor in Duty. YOU ARE MY SUNSET Forever Our Son NO FEAR, Aaron, NO FEAR PFC Kenneth E. “Aaron” Kincaid, IV 1 April 1981 - 23 September 2006

Aaron was born in Wheeling, WV and raised in West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Georgia. Attending schools in all these states, he graduated from Faith Academy of Loganville, Georgia in 1999.

As a child, his love of life and nature surfaced early - he was the first human I ever noticed a savvy barn cat actually “Hugging” - around his neck, claws retracted and purring! Full of energy, sometimes to his own dismay, he learned many things from facing frustration - he became the most persistent worker and yet patient Father I ever was blessed to know.

Aaron loved motorcycles and had a dream of his own “Road King” upon completion of his Army mission. I know he is riding with our riders today, trying out the feel of any Road Kings first, but then eagerly every other bike equally.

His passion for nature took him fishing so many times and so many places I often felt he was inventing these small lakes where he'd say he fished - until I saw fish! Fishing became the best hobby I ever saw him love - and he has passed that love to his darling girls, Keni & Abi who both have enjoyed wetting a line with their Daddio both in Georgia and Hawaii.

Being a West Virginian, he also loved the mountains and visits to WV to see family and friends. He is also unique in that he had a love for a certain 4WD Chevy truck in Pickens, WV but then soon became an avid Ford truck owner. Aaron could do just that - try everything, and master anything he tried.

He is survived by his Mother, Marcia, of Lilburn, GA; his Father, Kenneth (III), of Acworth, GA; his brother, Marc, of Miami, FL; and his wife, Rachel, and daughters, Kennedy Nicole (Keni) and Abigail McLain (Abi) who will relocate to Georgia. His extended family also includes many loving grandparents, uncles, an aunt and cousins who will miss him dearly.

A funeral mass will be held Thursday, October 5, 2006 at 10 am, at St. Marguerite D'Youville Catholic Church, Lawrenceville, GA. Interment with Military Honors will follow at 3 pm at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, GA. The family will receive friends Wednesday from 6-8 pm at the funeral home.

Army Pfc. Kenneth E. Kincaid IV was killed in action on 09/23/06.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Army Specialist Jared J. Raymond

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Jared J. Raymond, 20, of Swampscott, Mass.

Specialist Raymond was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Sept. 19 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M1A2 Abrams Tank during combat operations in Taji, Iraq.

Swampscott mourns fallen son
By Peter Gelzinis
Boston Herald Columnist

War came home to Swampscott today, and for several hours this North Shore community held its breath in tribute to Jared John Raymond, the quintessential boy next door who made one last hero’s journey through the broken heart of a town he called home.

Ten days ago, and half a world away in Taji, Iraq, an improvised explosive device went off underneath the tank Army Specialist Raymond was driving. It ended the dream this gregarious 20-year-old kid had so carefully nurtured. Jared Raymond wanted to become a police officer.

Legions of police officers and firefighters guided his flag-draped coffin on a procession to the cemetery early this afternoon, amid the sounds of muffled drums and stifled sobs.

Life in Swampscott stopped as thousands of Jared Raymond’s neighbors raised their hands in salute, placed them over their hearts, or tried in vain to stop the flow of tears.

Swampscott names traffic square after fallen soldier
By Debra Glidden
Thursday, October 5, 2006

SWAMPSCOTT -- The corner of Essex and Burrill Streets is officially named after Army Specialist Jared Raymond, who is the first soldier in town killed in the Iraq War.

Raymond, who grew up not far from the intersection now named in his honor, was killed Sept. 19 when he was responding to an attack on a convoy. According to the Army, an improvised explosive device blew up the tank he was riding in. He joined the Army in July of 2004, less than a month after his graduation from Swampscott High School.His classmates, family and friends described the only child as a kid with a heart of gold and a real hero who wanted to serve his country.

At its meeting Wednesday evening the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to name the intersection "Jared Raymond Square."

The petition to name the intersection was submitted by Veterans Agent James Schultz, who said Raymond should never be forgotten.

Several of Raymond's relatives were present at the meeting when the vote was taken to honor the memory of a native son, who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Jaclyn Raymond, who is the mother of the fallen soldier, said she is grateful for the outpouring of support she received from the community when she lost her only child.She said the students in town who lined the route with signs and flags between the church and cemetery touched her.

"It was beautiful," she said.

Agnes Raymond was also present to witness the vote that named the intersection of Essex and Burrill Streets after her grandson. She said Jared would have been a little embarrassed by all the attention.

"He never wanted any fuss," she said.

Airman Michael Dunnigan, who graduated from SHS with Jared in 2004, was home on leave for the funeral was also in attendance. He said he was pleased the town chose to honor his classmate in this manner.

"He was a real hero," he said.

Schultz said he would order a bronze plaque and he hopes to have a dedication service on Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day.

Army Specialist Jared J. Raymond was killed in action on 09/19/06.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Army Sgt. James R. Worster

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. James R. Worster, 24, of Broadview Heights, Ohio

Sgt. Worster was assigned to the 10th Combat Support Hospital, 43rd Area Support Group, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Sept. 18 from a non-combat related incident in Baghdad.

By Hector Gutierrez, Rocky Mountain News
September 20, 2006

Sgt. James Worster never reached his goal of becoming a doctor, but he fulfilled his dream of touching the lives of the sick, the injured and the needy as an Army medic.
The 24-year-old Fort Carson soldier died Monday in Iraq of natural causes, three weeks shy of his scheduled return to the United States, his mother, Donna Thornton, said from her home in North Pole, Alaska.

He was assigned to the 10th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad.

The loss six years ago of his father and hero, Richard Malcom, who died from hepatitis C, made him want to become a doctor, Thornton said.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were a factor in Worster's decision to enlist.

"He didn't want to see us attacked again," Thornton said.

His unit eventually deployed to Baghdad where it operated a trauma center.

"He did tell us he had a lot of times that he had to work on little kids who had been shot and injured," Thornton said. "He was glad he was there for them and comforted them, and he was glad he was there for his soldiers."

Army Sgt. James R. Worster died of cardiac arrest on 09/18/06.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan A. Miller

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan A. Miller, 19, of Pearland, Texas

Lance Cpl Miller was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died Sept. 14 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Anbar province, Iraq.

The Houston native had intended to join the police department as his parents had

Associated Press HOUSTON

After his military career was over, Lance Cpl. Ryan Adam Miller planned to add to the combined 60 years of service his parents gave to the Houston Police Department.

But the third-generation Marine didn't make it to his 20th birthday.

Miller, a 19-year-old based out of Hawaii, was killed Thursday in action in Iraq, just a few weeks from the end of a tour that started in March. He died in combat against enemy forces in Anbar province, the U.S. Department of Defense said yesterday.

"He followed his dad into the Marines, and planned to wear his mother's badge when he joined the police department," said Katie King, a childhood friend of Miller's.

His parents, Jeannine Maughmer-Miller and Frank Miller, both retired after long careers with Houston police. Frank Miller worked in narcotics for more than 34 years, and Maughmer-Miller was a juvenile investigator for 25 years.

"Ryan would have made a fine police officer," said Assistant Police Chief Vicki King, acting as a spokeswoman for the family.

Miller attended Pearland High School but finished his secondary education as a home-schooled student so he could enlist when he turned 18. He was barely a year removed from his Marine Corps graduation when he died.

"Ryan may have seemed to be a regular kid when he played baseball and attended school in Pearland. But he was no ordinary kid, and this is no ordinary family," said Vicki King, Katie's mother. "These two dedicated parents pledged their lives to fight the crime that threatens our city. Their son pledged his life to our country."

Katie King said Miller hadn't decided whether to re-enlist, but he was planning to attend her November wedding. Miller's 22-year-old sister, Meghan, is a bridesmaid. Miller is also survived by his brother, Brandon.

"He really was a great guy," said Katie King. "He really would do anything to help someone."

Miller was known for his love of junk food -- especially Skittles -- and the Houston Astros. In fact, Katie King knew what her final salute would be.

"I am going to Sam's to buy a 3-pound bag of Skittles to bury with him," she said.

Miller was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, in Kaneohe.

Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan A. Miller was killed in action on 09/14/06.

Army Sgt. Aaron A. Smith

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Aaron A. Smith, 31, Killeen, Texas

Sgt. Smith was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany.

Sgt. Aaron A. Smith, 31, of Killeen, Texas, died in Baghdad Sept. 14 when a dump truck loaded with explosives and covered by sand exploded near a West Baghdad power substation he was guarding. Smith was a member of the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment

Capt. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, rear detachment commander of the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, said at the ceremony that Smith was the soldier that every unit has: “Everyone’s favorite.”

Rodriguez said Smith, who was born in Ghana, “was also one of the best tower guards in the power plant.”

“Although Sgt. Smith loved his job and his friends, he loved his family most. While deployed, he would always take the time to call and talk to his wife, Fran, as often as possible,” Rodriguez said. “Sgt. Smith would constantly brag to everyone about AJ, his 14-month-old son.”

Army Sgt. Aaron A. Smith was killed in action on 09/14/06.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Army Pfc. Jeffrey P. Shaffer

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Jeffrey P. Shaffer, 21, of Harrison, Ark.

Pfc. Shaffer was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Bamberg, Germany; died Sept. 13 of injuries sustained in Ramadi, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle during combat operations.

By Tim Woods
Tribune-Herald staff writer

Lisa Adams cried as she talked about the death of her son, Army Pfc. Jeffrey Shaffer, killed in action in Iraq on Wednesday when a Hummer he was riding in passed over a roadside bomb.

She laughed heartily as she recalled her son’s fun-loving, prankster ways. Then she flashed a sheepish smile as she pondered what he would think of her reaction.

“He just loved life,” Lisa said. “I know he’d be mad at me for being so upset, but he’s my baby and I can’t help but be upset. But, above all, he’d be upset if he thought that people thought he died in vain. He didn’t.”

Lisa and her husband, Mark Adams, were told of their son’s death Wednesday afternoon. On Friday, the Waco couple spent the day doing what no parent should be burdened with.

“We had to plan our son’s funeral today,” Lisa said, “and you just shouldn’t have to do that for your child.”

Despite their grief, the couple willingly spoke of Jeff’s life, his goals, his good times and bad. Most of all, they spoke about the characteristics that made their son so special to his family and everybody he came in contact with.

“He was humble and shy,” Lisa said. “He didn’t want attention on him, unless he was goofing off.”

“He was pulling pranks and goofing all the time,” Mark recalled with a pained smile. “He had a really sweet, warm face and smile. He tried to act tough, but he had a really sweet heart.”

Jeff Shaffer, 21, who attended West High School, surprised his mother with a phone call in February 2005, when he asked her to dig up his birth certificate and fax it to him.

“What number should I fax it to?” Lisa remembered asking her son. “Then he said, ‘Staff Sergeant. . . . ’ and I said, ‘What have you done? Have you signed any papers yet?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ I asked him if it was anything he could take back and he said, ‘No.’ He wouldn’t have done it anyway.”

That was the day Jeff enlisted in the Army. Mark said that Jeff had been looking forward to that day since Sept. 11, 2001, when Jeff decided he was going to do everything he could to help prevent another attack on the United States. He went to Iraq about a year ago as an infantryman, part of the famed 1st Armored Division.

Lisa said her son told her he planned to stay in the Army for about 20 years “and then he’d still be young enough to open his own business.” A talented artist, Jeff had his eye on starting up his own computer games graphics company.

But while serving in the Army, Jeff made the most of his time, dedicating himself to his duties while maintaining his concern for others.

“He had a sergeant who lost his leg and he said, ‘Momma, he’ll never run with his kids again,’ ” Lisa said. “I said, ‘But at least he’ll be able to see them graduate,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, but he’ll never get to run with his kids again.’ That’s just how he was, always thinking of other people.”

Although Jeff knew the pain that war can bring — Mark and Lisa say his best friend, Brett Tribble, of Lake Jackson, Texas, was killed in action just four days before his own death — he still enjoyed joking with fellow servicemen and sharing his Big Red soda, a prized possession, with other Texans longing for a taste of home.

He also stayed true to those he loved back in Texas, making a surprise visit home in January for Lisa’s birthday. The secret visit was leaked before his arrival, Mark said, but it didn’t diminish its impact.

It was during that visit that Jeff’s playful spirit emerged again. Mark said that he and Jeff were playing a round of golf at James Connally Municipal Golf Course “and we were playing so bad, he just stripped down to his shorts and jumped in the water and started grabbing golf balls. . . . When we were done, he said, ‘I’ve never had more fun playing golf.’ ”

Jeff Shaffer also grasped the realities of war. Lisa said that in one of the last e-mails she received from her son, he wrote: “Momma, don’t be upset if anything happens to me because it’ll be God’s will.”

But even that grim mental preparedness didn’t stop Jeff from putting his family’s well-being first.

“He had it in his papers that if anything were to happen to him, to make sure that his dad was there and, ‘Do not tell my momma by herself.’ He was looking out for his momma,” Lisa said.

The grief-stricken parents struggled to find words to sum up their son’s legacy.

“By his example, he showed everybody that if you’re going to really live life, at least have fun, regardless of your situation,” Lisa said.

“And then take care of business,” Mark added.

They said that Jeff, who leaves behind two younger brothers, ages 14 and 6, and a 2-year-old daughter in Arkansas, was pained by protesters at home, including peace activist Cindy Sheehan and her questioning of what “noble cause” U.S. military personnel are fighting for in Iraq.

Mark said Jeff told him “when people protest a war, they’re disgracing the memory of those who have fallen for them.”

Jeff’s parents say they’re convinced that their son died for a noble cause.

“As bad as it hurts and as much pain as we’re going through and even knowing that I’ll never hold my baby again, he didn’t die in vain,” Lisa said tearfully.

Army Pfc. Jeffrey P. Shaffer was killed in action on 09/13/06.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Army 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez

Remember Our Heroes

Army 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez, 23, of Texas

2nd Lt. Perez was assigned to the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Sept. 12 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near her Humvee during combat operations in Kifl, Iraq.

Army officer, 23, leapt high in life cut short by war
Lt. Emily Perez, a star student, killed in Iraq

By Rona Marech
Sun reporter
Originally published September 22, 2006

Quick and intense. That's how Emily J.T. Perez performed on the track, one coach said - and the same could be said for the rest of her short life. She was a star student and talented athlete. She was a captain of her high school track team and a leader at her alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She helped start an AIDS ministry at her church.

A 23-year-old soldier from Fort Washington in Prince George's County, 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez was killed while on duty in Al Kifl, Iraq, on Sept. 12. A Medical Service Corps officer, she died during combat after an improvised explosive device detonated near her Humvee, according to the Department of Defense.

"She was just the kind of kid you want your own children to be like," said Joe Rogers, the assistant track coach at West Point.

"Emily, as far as I'm concerned, was one of the most brilliant people I ever met. She was the consummate intellectual," said the Rev. Michael Bell, executive pastor at Peace Baptist Church in Washington. "But she was not the kind of person who was only book-oriented. ... She always wanted to help someone, to help the community."

When she was in high school, Lieutenant Perez was instrumental in starting the HIV/AIDS ministry at her church. She was also an HIV/AIDS educator with the Red Cross.

Her desire to help led to personal sacrifices: Shortly before shipping out to Iraq, Lieutenant Perez flew from Texas to Maryland to be a bone marrow donor to a stranger who was a match, Pastor Bell said.

Lieutenant Perez, who came from a military family, spent much of her youth in Germany. She returned to the United States in 1998 and graduated from Oxon Hill High School in 2001. She excelled at West Point, where she was a medal-winning athlete and a top-ranked cadet, said Jerry Quiller, the head track coach. She also had one of the highest grade-point averages of all the students on the track team, he said.

"You know the old advertisement - 'Be all you can be,'" Mr. Quiller said. "You probably couldn't do better than that."

In her junior year, when the track team was sorely in need of a triple-jump competitor, Emily Perez - who had never attempted the event - volunteered to give it a try, Mr. Rogers said. She practiced the way she did everything, with intensity, and competed within a few weeks.

After a particularly good jump in an Army-Navy meet, she threw her arms around Mr. Rogers' neck. "It was one of those spontaneous moments of joy for both of us," he said.

That was Lieutenant Perez, friends said - bubbly, dedicated, talented, opinionated, confident.

Another West Point classmate, Tanesha Love, who sometimes sought tutoring help from Lieutenant Perez, said, "You could hear her laugh from probably miles away. There was no doubt in your mind who that was as soon as you heard it."

Lieutenant Perez's family is establishing a scholarship fund for African-American and Hispanic women who share the soldier's passion for medical services and sociology.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington. Lieutenant Perez will be buried Tuesday at the West Point cemetery in New York.

Survivors include her parents, Daniel and Vicki Perez of Fort Washington; and a brother, Kevyn, of Fayetteville, N.C.

Army 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez was killed in action on 09/12/06.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Marine Cpl. Johnathan L. Benson

Remember Our Heroes

Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends... -- Tattoo on Cpl. Benson's back.

Marine Cpl. Johnathan L. Benson, 21, of North Branch, Minn.

Cpl. Benson died Sept. 9 from wounds suffered on June 17 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Marine, hurt in June in Iraq, dies
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Pioneer Press

September 10, 2006

Sir! Yes, sir! I will always be a Marine! Cpl. Johnathan Benson, of North Branch, lay in his Texas Army hospital bed, his left leg gone, most of his left arm, too, from midway between his elbow and shoulder.

The 21-year-old Marine had been wounded by a roadside bomb June 17 during his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was in rough shape and feeling down one day, uncharacteristic for the usually upbeat young man, his family said.

One of his superiors visiting him that day asked him, 'John, are you still a Marine?'

'Sir! Yes, sir! I will always be a Marine!' he responded. 'I will live as a Marine, and I will die as a Marine!'

His mother, Marjorie Benson, recalled that scene Sunday as she and her husband, Steve, reminisced about their son. Johnathan Benson, the youngest of their six children, died from his wounds Saturday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

His family is making arrangements to bring his body home later this week for burial in his hometown, where friends and family remember an enthusiastic young man with an infectious smile, a prankster's heart and a love for adventure.

'We're extremely proud of him,' Marjorie Benson said from the Army hospital residence Sunday night. 'He's our hero, he's North Branch's hero, he's Minnesota's hero, and he's the world's hero.'

Benson, who served with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, was injured nearly three months ago when a bomb exploded under his vehicle near Habbaniyah. He lost his left leg and part of his left arm and was paralyzed from the waist down, according to the CaringBridge Web site created for him. After he was hospitalized, Benson had a stroke on both sides of his brain.

He was awarded a Purple Heart, which was pinned on him by a Marine commandant while he was at the hospital.

While hospitalized, many relatives and friends, including his Marine comrades, visited him. His birth mother, Dawn Schubert, whom he sought out after high school, had visited him as well, his family said.

When Benson was injured, he was two months away from completing his second tour of duty in Iraq. He joined the Marines in 2003 after graduating from North Branch Area High School.

'He was a good guy, a good friend. He always wanted to help people out,' said Brian Meskimen, a high school classmate of Benson's.

Meskimen described Benson as someone who liked to have fun but was 'very excited' about joining the Marines as a young man.

He played sports and acted in high school plays, strummed a guitar well and knew how to make people laugh, his parents said. He joined the Marines, his father, Steve, said, 'because he saw them as the best.'

'Johnathan liked adventure,' his mother said. 'He was what you call a 'point man' - it was a very dangerous job, but it was a very adventurous job.'

Family members were planning a funeral service for next weekend in North Branch, with burial in Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Marine Cpl. Johnathan L. Benson, wounded in action, died on 09/09/06.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Army Sgt. 1st Class Merideth L. Howard

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Merideth L. Howard, 52, of Alameda, Calif.

Sgt. Howard was assigned to the 405th Civil Affairs Battalion, Army Reserve, Fort Bragg, N.C.; killed Sept. 8 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near her Humvee in Kabul, Afghanistan. Also killed was Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul.

At 52, Slain Soldier Never Slowed Down

MILWAUKEE (Sept. 28) - At 52, Sgt. 1st Class Merideth Howard worked hard to keep up with comrades half her age.

While at home on leave from Afghanistan in February, she told her husband she wasn't satisfied with her ability to take apart and reassemble her M-16 rifle as per Army regulations. So the couple bought a civilian version for her to use for practice. Within four days she could do it flawlessly - blindfolded.

Howard, a turret gunner in the Army Reserve's 405th Civil Affairs Battalion, became on Sept. 8 the oldest female U.S. soldier killed in action since military operations began in Afghanistan. A car bomber slammed into her vehicle, killing her and Staff Sgt. Robert Paul, 43, of The Dalles, Ore.

For Howard, age was never an issue, said her husband, Hugh Hvolboll, who moved with her to the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha in 2004.

"She did anything she wanted to," he said.

"That's the way Merideth approached everything," said Loren Parkhurst, a family friend of 15 years from Concord, Calif. "She wanted to be perfect at everything she did."

Howard held undergraduate and master's degrees in marine biology. When she discovered she was prone to seasickness, she switched careers and became a firefighter in Bryan, Texas, becoming the city's first female firefighter in 1978.

She was about 5-foot-4 but she made up for her size with determination and a strength that matched her burly co-workers, recalled Bryan Fire Department Chief Mike Donoho.

Even so, some question why a woman her age would be called up to active duty. Her 78-year-old uncle, Herbert Kurtz, said he felt Howard was too old to dodge bullets.

"I was drafted in the Korean War. Heck, at this rate, maybe they'll draft me again," he said.

Of the 66 women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, 51 are 30 or younger, according to Judy Bellafaire, chief historian for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. Four women, aged 41 to 44, were the oldest casualties before Howard.

Howard's friends and family say she knew the risks when she joined the Army Reserves in 1988. She planned to retire in two years at the 20-year mark, they say.

"She knew that was her responsibility," said Lorraine Stevenson, a cousin from Corpus Christi. "She called me and said, 'I'll go and do the very best I can and I'll see you in a year.' She was never a person to complain."

After she worked as a firefighter in Bryan for 3 1/2 years, she opened a fire-safety consulting business in California where she met her future husband in 1991.

"She had beautiful blue eyes," Hvolboll said. "We hit it off right away, like we'd known each other for years."

The couple dated for 14 years, marrying in December 2005 only when Howard found out she was being called up.

Howard's lasting legacy, her husband said, is the love she had for friends, family and life.

"Life with her was an adventure," he said.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Merideth L. Howard was killed in action on 09/08/06.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Army Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman, 20, of Redlands, Calif.

Pfc. Gunterman was assigned to the 542nd Maintenance Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion, Fort Lewis, Wash.; died Sept. 4 from a non-combat related cause in Taji, Iraq. This incident is under investigation.

Loss in Iraq grieved

by Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
San Bernardino County Sun

In pitch darkness early Monday, Army Pfc. Hannah Leah McKinney of Redlands climbed down from a guard tower at Fort Taji, Iraq, and headed across a dusty road to a latrine.

She never made it.

As she walked across the road, a Humvee drove out of the darkness, ran over the young soldier, then sped away, leaving her small crumpled body lying in the dirt, according to family members.

More than an hour later, a tank driver found her and rushed her to the base medical center, where she died of internal injuries.

Death came two months before McKinney, 20, was due to return to the Redlands family the young mother had pined for during her deployment.

"The war had been taking a toll. She had been depressed and calling home a lot," said her mother, Barbie Heavrin. "All she wanted was to come home and start a new life."

Since her deployment to Iraq in November 2005 with the 542nd Maintenance Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion, McKinney served as a quartermaster at Fort Taji.

Her duties included order processing and manning a machine gun on a guard tower at the base, the job she was doing when she was killed.

Sgt. Jeremy Pitcher, a spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq in Baghdad, refused to comment further on her death, saying it was still under investigation.

McKinney was born to Matt and Barbie Heavrin in 1985 at Western Medical Center in Tustin.

Growing up in Colton and Redlands as one of the couple's four children, she was a cheerful child nicknamed Happy Hannah.

"She was always making us laugh. One time at Huntington Beach, she was sitting by a campfire eating potato chips when she said, `Dad, these chips don't want me to eat them anymore,' " recalled Matt Heavrin.

At Paul J. Rogers Elementary School in Colton, she read every book she could get her hands on.

Her favorite was "Gone With the Wind."

"She read it about 12 times," said Matt Heavrin. "I think she identified with Scarlett O'Hara because they were both very decisive and strong-headed."

But for chance, McKinney's life might have ended nine years before she died in Iraq.

While riding her bicycle in Redlands at age 11, she was struck by a car. The impact split her helmet in three places and sent her flying into the windshield.

"She was so excited about starting school at Arrowhead Christian Academy that she nearly left without her helmet that day," said her father. "Thank goodness she remembered because she only ended up with a concussion, scrapes and bruises."

At the academy, she joined the choir and drama department, where she would have loved to play Scarlett but never got the chance, said Barbie Heavrin.

She continued to belt out tunes as a student at Redlands High School and also pursued an interest in fashion design.

Against her father's wishes McKinney joined the Army right out of high school to earn the money to go to The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

"I tried to talk her out of it because she was more of a free spirit than a regimented person," he said. "The thought that she might get sent to Iraq was also in the back of my mind."

At Fort Lee in Virginia she dated a fellow soldier and became pregnant with his child. She was discharged from the Army in 2004.

She returned to active duty in 2005, and a long friendship she had with fellow Redlands High School graduate Christopher McKinney blossomed into romance when both were stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash. They were married just a month when the Army shipped her out to Iraq.

Now, her husband, 22-month-old son Todd Avery Gunterman, parents and siblings mourn her loss. Christopher McKinney, still stationed at Fort Lewis, was is in Redlands to make arrangements for the funeral.

"I will miss her beautiful dimples when she smiled, but at least we still have her son," said her mother.

At Fort Taji she will be remembered as the young soldier who started a library on the base.

"I'm sure it has a lot of copies of `Gone With the Wind,' " said Barbie Heavrin.

Army Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman was killed supporting Iraqi Freedom on 09/04/06.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard J. Henkes II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard J. Henkes II, 32, of Portland Ore.

Sgt. Henkes was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.; died Sept. 3 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sergeant’s love for family made him platoon father
NCO from 2-3 Inf. Bn. was on second Iraq tour

By Bob Reinert, Northwest Guardian
Published: September 14th, 2006 12:34 PM

According to his sister, Sgt. 1st Class Richard J. Henkes II was a man with two families — his own and the Army.
“And he loved them both,” said Army Capt. Linda Bass, who spoke at her brother’s memorial service Tuesday afternoon in the Fort Lewis Main Post Chapel, where friends, family and fellow Soldiers gathered to honor his memory.

“He was the best, the finest noncommissioned officer I’ve ever met in my life,” Bass said. “He was a tough but fair leader.”

Henkes, 32, was with C Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Bridgade, 2nd Infantry Division (SBCT) in Mosul, Iraq, Sept. 3 when he was killed by an improvised explosive device that detonated near his Stryker vehicle. His sister accompanied his body home to Oregon from Dover Air Force Base.

“It was a very long and arduous journey,” Bass recalled. “It’s the hardest duty I’ve ever had to perform in my life.”

In addition to Bass, Henkes’ family included his 6-year-old daughter, Isabel, his sister, Tammy Henkes, his father, Richard Henkes Sr., and his mother, Christine Stanton.

Henkes’ funeral had been held Monday at the National Guard Armory in Woodburn, Ore. He was a graduate of Clackamas, Ore. High School. Bass said Henkes struggled at times living up to his commitments to his family and the Army. She added, however, that Isabel always came first. “She was the No. 1,” Bass said.

Henkes was part of a military family whose members also served in World War I and World War II. He had entered the Army in June 1992, served for a time in the Army National Guard and then went back on active duty. He arrived at Fort Lewis in August 1997. He was recently promoted to sergeant first class. He led 2nd Platoon in Iraq.

“It takes a special leader, a platoon sergeant, to hold those guys together as a team,” said Maj. Robert J. Bennett, 3rd Bde., 2nd Div. rear detachment commander. Bennett called Henkes “one of the best platoon sergeants we have had.”

Bennett said Henkes was sought out by Soldiers for more than his teaching ability or expertise.

“He was the guy they (went) to to keep their spirits up,” Bennett said. “Overseas in Iraq, he truly became the father of the platoon.”

First Sgt. Robert C. Braddock read a number of e-mails sent from Iraq by Henke’s Soldiers. They related that Henke was a man with a good heart who gave candy, water and MREs to Iraqi children, a man who was good at his job.

“I would ask all of you just to remember him for who he was,” Bass said.

His awards and decorations included the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (1 Oak-Leaf Cluster), Army Achievement Medal (4 Oak-Leaf Cluster), Army Good Conduct Medal (4th Award) , National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal (2nd Award), Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge and the Air Assault Badge.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard J. Henkes II was killed in action on 9/03/06.

Marine Lance Cpl. Philip A. Johnson

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Philip A. Johnson, 19, of Hartford, Conn.

Lance Cpl. Johnson was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Sept. 3 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

ENFIELD -- Lance Cpl. Philip A. Johnson of Enfield, a member of the Young Marines from the age of 11, was killed Sept. 2, 2006 by a roadside bomb near Ramadi, Iraq. He was 19 years old.

A 19-year-old Marine from Enfield was killed Saturday morning in Iraq when a roadside bomb detonated as his unit traveled from Ramadi to Habina, a family friend said Monday.

Lance Cpl. Philip A. Johnson's parents, Louis and Kathy Johnson, learned of his death Sunday evening when a Marine Corps casualty assistance team visited their Few Street home.

Word of the young Marine's death spread quickly in Enfield, where Johnson, a 2005 Enfield High School graduate, was remembered Monday as a "focused and thoughtful" young man whose dream since childhood was to become a Marine.

"He was hell-bent on being a Marine," said Ron Jackman of Longmeadow, Mass., a family friend who was serving as the Johnson family spokesman. "When he found out he was going to Iraq, he was hell-bent on going. He had no fear whatsoever."

The Marines declined to comment about Johnson until the Department of Defense formally announces his death. There have been 33 servicemen and civilians with Connecticut ties who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.

Johnson is the second serviceman from Enfield to die in Iraq. Marine Staff Sgt. Phillip A. Jordan, 42, of Enfield, was killed in battle March 23, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Jordan was promoted to gunnery sergeant posthumously.

Johnson served with weapons company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, from Camp Lejeune, N.C. He arrived in Iraq in mid-July.

And while Johnson's family was supportive of his deep desire to be a Marine, they also had some reservations about his service in Iraq.

His mother was afraid of getting "that knock on the door," Jackman said. "That's what they got - the knock on the door."

The Rev. Michael J. Coons, pastor of Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Enfield, said he spent time with Johnson's family Sunday night. Many church members learned of Johnson's death during a prayer circle on Monday.

"Their faith in the Lord Jesus is strong," Coons said of Johnson's family. "They know he's in heaven with Jesus and they know they will see him again. The pain of separation, the pain and the grief of loss is very real."

Coons said he found Johnson to be an impressive young man who was active in church and committed to his faith.

"I had the privilege of baptizing him and confirming him in the Christian faith," Coons recalled. "Sometimes teenagers complain about going to confirmation class."

Johnson, however, never did. "We always enjoyed talking about our Lord and savior," Coons said.

Johnson's other passion was the Marines, and he prepared himself for his service by joining a Young Marines detachment at Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts when he was 11.

The Young Marines, founded in 1958 in Waterbury, is a youth education and service program for boys and girls ages 8 through completion of high school that promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members.

"This is pretty sad," said Edward C. Mitrook, commanding officer of the Westover Young Marines detachment and a retired Marine Corps sergeant major. "He did touch a lot of people. He probably thought he didn't, but he did."

Johnson attained the rank of staff sergeant in the Young Marines and was a role model to younger members, Mitrook said. Johnson is the first alumnus of the Westover detachment to be lost in combat, he added.

But Johnson understood what he was getting involved in when he joined the Marines, Mitrook said. He knew he'd likely see combat. "He was living his dream," added Patrick Droney, an Enfield police lieutenant and friend of Johnson through church.

Mark Durfee, the head elder at Johnson's church and a retired Army lieutenant colonel, recalled Johnson as a kind and thoughtful young man.

"You'd love to have him as your own such - such a gentleman," said Durfee, who teaches in the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at New Britain High School. "Kids today think about themselves first and foremost. He was not like that. He's got to be in the top 1 percent of kids today. He was so focused and thoughtful."

Durfee said he spoke to Johnson's father Monday morning and he recalled for him a conversation father and son had had a few days ago.

"He said [Iraq] is where he belonged and he knew where he was supposed to be," Durfee recalled. "I believe it was deep in his faith, in his being. He knew this was something that was important."

Still, Johnson's death has been difficult, Durfee said.

"Our whole church is quite overwhelmed," he said. "We know he's in a better place. The sad part is not being around to see him grow up. The sadness is seeing his mom and dad in their situation."

Jackman said that he saw Johnson about 10 weeks ago, when he visited Enfield after completing boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., and his transformation into a Marine.

"You could see it come out in him - the haircut, the pushed-back shoulders, trim and tan," Jackman said. "And he was proud of it. You could tell."

Johnson's next goal was to become an elite Marine Corps scout-sniper, Mitrook said. He hoped to attend sniper school upon his unit's return from Iraq.

Durfee said it's important to remember the sacrifice so many young people make.

"I thank God that there are still young people out there willing to do what they do," Durfee said. "We would not be where we are today as a free country without many Phil Johnsons."

Marine Lance Cpl. Philip A. Johnson was killed in action on 09/03/06.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Army Staff Sgt. Michael L. Deason

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Michael L. Deason, 28, of Farmington, Mo.

SSgt. Deason was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Aug 31 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Ad War, Iraq.

Childhood friend to lead service for soldier
A day Brad Dush never thought would come
By DONNA HICKMAN\Daily Journal Staff Writer

It seemed an odd question for two friends on their way to the movies. Last December, Mike Deason asked Brad Dush to perform his funeral.

“He said, ‘If anything happens to me in Iraq, would you do my funeral?'” Dush recalled Tuesday. “We hadn't been talking about it or anything. It just came out of nowhere. I told him I'd be honored, but there was no reason to think about that now. I never thought that day would come.”

But now, the 26-year-old Dush, a Methodist minister, is preparing the funeral service for Deason, an Army staff sergeant killed last week in Iraq. Deason grew up in Desloge. Dush grew up near Park Hills. They are lifelong friends who last saw each other during that holiday trip to the movies.

Deason was killed in Iraq last Thursday as he rode in a convoy. His Humvee was struck by an armor-piercing grenade. He was one week shy of coming home.

Deason was a year older than Dush, two years ahead of him in school. The two became "cousins" when Michael's dad married Brad's aunt. Over the years, they became fast friends and Dush can't remember a time when Michael wasn't part of his life.

“We traded baseball cards and I remember he was always wanting any Cal Ripken, Jr. I had,” said Dush. “We played sports - especially basketball - and some baseball - and we were both competitive. We listened to a lot of music over the years. Whenever my mom and dad went out of town, I was over at their house in Desloge,”

Sometimes, the two boys took Deason's King James Bible out of the night stand where he kept it and read through the book of Revelation.

"We were trying to figure it out," said Dush, with a chuckle. "Like two 11 and 12-year-old boys could figure out that stuff!"

In 1999, Dush decided to go into the ministry. A year later, Deason enlisted in the Army. Dush recalls how they talked years later about how they'd each found their niche in life. Secure in their careers, married with children, they were content. While they hadn't spent as much time together over the last few years, they did celebrate Christmas together last year. On Christmas Eve, they got together at Brad's house for a "Double D Christmas."

"It was the Deasons and the Dushes together," said Brad. “They came to my church and I gave communion to him. I said a prayer for him in Iraq. I don't remember what I said, but I remember everybody was crying."

It was after that visit, Michael asked his friend about his funeral. It's a request Brad never told anyone about, but Michael's family must have known he would want his cousin to lead the service.

"I've been sitting here thinking about all our times together," said Dush Tuesday. "He had a crazy, loud laugh. His whole body shook when he laughed. I'll always remember that. He loved his kids. You never want to think about this young father dying. You never think it would happen to someone you know."

Brad says the Army made changes in Michael. Stationed at Ft. Campbell, Ky., he was a member of the 101st Airborne Division and the elite Army Rangers. Dush says he was confident about his job as a soldier, though he didn't enjoy being in Iraq.

"He was a soldier and he was doing his job," said Dush. "And he was good at it."

Dush said he'd hoped to help Michael's family move back to Ft. Campbell when he came home. He had hoped to restore the close relationship they'd had in the past.

The funeral for Michael Deason has been moved back to 1 p.m. Saturday at Farmington First Assembly of God Church, with Rev. Hugh Cerutti assisting Dush in leading the service. The time is still tentative as changes in the Army's timetable for returning Deason to the Parkland could result in changes in the times. Deason will be buried with full military honors at the Big River Cemetery in Irondale. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Jayden and Kayler Deason Trust Fund for Michael's two children.

‘He fought for me and I appreciate it'
County residents line procession route honoring SSG Deason
By PAULA BARR\Daily Journal Staff Writer

It seemed as though every flag in St. Francois County was waving good-bye to Staff Sgt. Michael Deason Sunday as his funeral procession made its way from the Farmington First Assembly of God Church in Farmington to Big River Cemetery in Irondale.

Hundreds of supporters lined Route D and Karsch Boulevard in Farmington, Desloge Drive in Desloge, Highway 8 in Park Hills and Route M in Leadwood. As bikers from Patriot Guard Riders led the motorcycle-driven hearse into Washington County and into Big River Cemetery Road, additional groups of residents gathered in front of their homes to raise signs and flags, and wave their thanks.

“We're just showing our support for a fallen comrade,” said Carter Kohlenhoefer of Farmington, an Army veteran who waited along Karsch Boulevard to show respect. “He gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Mourners arriving at the church drove between lines of flag-bearing members of the Patriot Guard Riders. The organization is comprised of motorcycle riders from all over the country who offer their services to families of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. Ride captains list an upcoming need on the Internet, and all those who are able to help show up for the ceremonies.

Sunday's Ride Captain Randy Dunn of Cape Girardeau said the group can escort bodies home from the airport, protect families from protesters and escort the funeral procession. The group escorted Deason home from Lambert International Airport Friday night as well as to the cemetery. There were no protesters at Deason's services.

Dunn said he can't recall a family declining their offer to help, but the group's services are not always the same.

“Each family is different,” Dunn said. Some families want something quieter than this. We are not here unless the family wants us, however.”

Members at Deason's funeral included Vietnam veterans, Christian Bikers and American Legion Riders. Approximately 150 bikers, many wearing leathers and red, white and blue bandanas showed up Sunday from several states. Among them were Wendi and Brandon Jones of St. Louis, who joined the Patriot Guard Riders in April. They drive the support goods for the motorcycle riders - coolers, beverages, medical supplies and other items.

Brandon Jones said they joined to show respect for fallen soldiers. Wendi Jones said her reason was closer to home.

“I have a daughter in the Marines,” she explained. “If anything - God forbid - happened to her, I would want the PGA to be there for support.”

Joining the Patriot Guard Riders outside the church were neighbors, including Charlie Berry of Desloge and Lisa Brenneke of Bonne Terre. Berry said he went to North County with Deason and came to the funeral to support the family.

Brenneke said her son and Deason were friends.

“He was always a lot of fun,” she said of Deason, who became a Staff Sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division and a member of the elite Army Rangers. “He was always trying to make people laugh.”

Several “flag bikes” rode in front of the hearse. The remaining motorcycles rode behind the hearse or behind the family. They headed down Route D to the intersection and Karsch Boulevard, where a large crowd was waiting.

Misty Halter and Tiffany McCarron took their lunch break from Harris Manor so they could join the supports on the funeral route.

“I went to school with him,” Halter said. “He was a good kid who died for his country.”

Twelve-year-olds Briana Fisher and Jessica Russ of Park Hills joined Dylan Wright, 12, of St. Louis, on the curb of Karsch Boulevard. Dylan was in town visiting his grandmother, Alma Burnside of Farmington. The three youths waved flags in support of Deason and his family.

Near them, approximately 50 members of the American Legion Post stood waiting for their fallen comrade. The Boy Scouts of Troop 999 handed out flags that the American Legion had provided for holiday display so that every one along the route would be able to wave a flag as the procession drove by.

Another crowd waited at Desloge Drive and U.S. 67, where fire trucks from De Soto and Farmington had erected a large flag over the funeral route. Law enforcement officers, ambulance personnel and firefighters from departments throughout St. Francois County, gathered along the intersection to wait for the procession. As the hearse appeared at the end of the exit ramp, Desloge Fire Chief Larry Gremminger gave the command to come to attention.

Further up the hill, the Harvell family of Desloge gathered in patriotic garb to waive flags at the funeral procession.

“We want to show our patriotism,” said Janna Harvell-Williford.

Other onlookers included members of the 220th Engineer Company from Festus and the 735th Quartermaster in De Soto.

“We're here to represent the 220th and give Sgt. Deason respect,” said Sgt. John Pace.

Several Wal-Mart employees scheduled their lunch and breaks so they could wait for the procession. They stood by Dean Gamblin and Karen Macklay, who held a Native American flag. The flag combined the U.S. stars and stripes with the depiction of a dream catcher and an eagle. Gamblin said the eagle soaring to catch the dream catcher symbolizes bringing someone home.

Gamblin summed up the feeling of many onlookers that explains why they turned out to say good-bye to a man many of them never knew.

“He fought for me,” Gamblin said. “And I appreciate it.”

Army Staff Sgt. Michael L. Deason was killed in action on 8/31/06.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Army Sgt. Joshua R. Hanson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Joshua R. Hanson, 27, of West St. Paul, Minn.

Sgt. Hanson was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry, Minnesota National Guard, Detroit Lakes, Minn.; died Aug. 30 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations, in Khaldea, Iraq.

Rural Minnesota town mourns death of National Guard soldier

SOLDIER:Staff Sgt. Joshua Hanson of Dent, Minn., was the 43rd soldier with ties to Minnesota to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Six other soldiers were injured in the same attack.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - Residents of nearby Dent are remembering Staff Sgt. Joshua Robert Hanson, a National Guard soldier who died when a roadside bomb ripped through his Humvee in Iraq.

Hanson died Wednesday near Khalidiyah, the National Guard said Friday. The attack wounded six other National Guard soldiers from Minnesota, though they were able to return to duty.

"Josh was a wonderful and loving son and a great friend," said Lt. Col. Kevin Gutknecht, reading from a family statement. "He was proud to serve his country as duty called. We can't express enough how proud we are that he was willing to lay down his life for all of us. He and his comrades are real heroes."

Hanson's parents and brother attended a news conference at the armory here but didn't speak. Hanson was assigned to Company A, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry, which is based in Detroit Lakes.

Dave Knopf, whose son, Justin Knopf, 24, was injured in the explosion, described Hanson as quiet and soft spoken.

"But I'm sure he was very determined, and he was there to do his job," he said. "The last time I saw him I gave him a hug, so that was the last time I'll have that opportunity."

Hanson's death affects the entire community because nearly everyone knows someone who's serving in Iraq, Knopf said. Dent, a town of just 200 people, is about 20 miles south of Detroit Lakes.

He was the 43rd person with Minnesota ties to have died in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also Thursday, the Pentagon reported the death of 20-year-old Spc. Qixing Lee of Minneapolis, who was part of the 4th Infantry Division, based in Fort Hood, Texas. He died Sunday, also after an improvised explosive device exploded near his vehicle.

Hanson joined the National Guard between his junior and senior years at Pelican Rapids High School.

He was a team leader responsible for two or three other soldiers and would have been in charge of the Humvee in which he was riding, a 3-ton armored Humvee with bulletproof glass, military officials said.

Jessica Fahje, a high school classmate and friend of Hanson, said she last saw him around Christmas at a going-away party. She kept in e-mail contact with him while he was in Iraq and said he constantly told her not to worry about him.

"We were going to see him in October. He was going to come home for a little leave," she said. "He didn't know his dates, yet. We were going to plan a little hayride for him and get all the classmates together, but we're going to be getting together for a different reason now."

Army Sgt. Joshua R. Hanson was killed in action on 08/30/06.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Army Sgt. Matthew J. Vosbein

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Matthew J. Vosbein, 30, of Metairie, La.

Sgt. Vosbein was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Aug. 29 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol during combat operations in Sadr Al Yusifiyah, Iraq.


WEST FRANKFORT - Sgt. Matthew J. Vosbein dreamed all his young life of being a soldier in the U.S. Army.

"That's all he ever wanted to be," said his mother, Anna Williams. "He grew up, joined the Army and he became a sergeant in under two years. Not too many people can live their dreams, but Matthew did."

Those dreams died when Vosbein, on his second tour of duty in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, 502nd Infantry Regiment, was killed at age 30 in a roadside bombing, his mother said.

"He died doing what he loved," said Williams, who learned of her son's death earlier this week. "He could have been done after his first tour, but he wanted to go back. It was his choice. He said he wanted to go back for the freedom of the Iraqi children."

Children were important to Vosbein; he leaves behind two sons and a stepson who, along with his wife, were the light of his life, Williams said.

"When he went over the first time, all the children were scared of the soldiers. They took it upon themselves to do things for the children in their down time. They built swing sets and played with the kids so they would realize the U.S. soldiers were there to help them, not hurt them," she said. "When he had the chance to go back again, he wanted to. He wanted to finish what he started for the kids, so they wouldn't have to live under the oppression any more. He had such a good heart. He was the type who would stop and help anyone whether he knew them or not."

Vosbein, the son of Williams and her husband Gene, and Tim and Amy Lingle, lived and attended school in West Frankfort until he was 10, when the Williams family moved to Louisiana. He made frequent visits back to the Franklin County city to visit relatives, including his mother and Gene Williams, who had moved back to West Frankfort after 20 years.

Vosbein was corps commander of his ROTC unit when he was in school, his mother said, and also served in law enforcement in Jefferson Parrish, La.

He was killed, Williams said, as he was walking alongside a truck, just a few weeks before he was scheduled to return to the states. Because of the extent of his injuries, she said, Army officials told her Vosbein may not make his final trip home for 10 to 14 days.

Funeral arrangements are pending, but Williams said her son would be buried in his native city.

"He got his orders and was supposed to come home sometime between Sept. 16 and 26," she said. "For those who have children or loved ones serving in Iraq, send them more letters and care packages. Let them know how much they are loved. You may not get another chance."

Army Sgt. Matthew J. Vosbein was killed in action on 08/29/06.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Army Specialist Matthew E. Schneider

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Matthew E. Schneider, 23, of Gorham, N.H.

Spc. Schneider was assigned to the 141st Signal Battalion, 1st Armored Division, Wiesbaden, Germany; died Aug. 28 from a non-combat related cause in Ramadi, Iraq.

Soldier from Gorham dies in Iraq of apparent cardiac arrest

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The New Hampshire soldier who died of an apparent heart attack in Iraq this week was born with a heart condition that his parents said seemed to disappear during his childhood.

Spc. Matthew Schneider of Gorham was found dead in his bunk on Monday in Ar Ramadi.

His mother, Cynthia Tardiff of Lunenberg, Vt., said the condition causes heart muscle to grow abnormally, but that it apparently had cleared up by the time Schneider was two years old.

The soldier's father, Andrew Schneider, of Kittery, Maine, said his son was cleared for military service and had not shown symptoms of heart trouble since he was an infant.

Schneider was taken to a medical treatment center in Ar Ramadi, but could not be revived, authorities said.

Schneider, 23, was assigned to the 141st Signal Battalion of the 1st Armored Division based in Wiesbaden, Germany.

"He was a soldier who cared about his country and liked the fact that the people of Iraq liked the coalition being there," his father said.

Schneider was a 2001 graduate of Gorham High School and was well liked by his teachers and classmates, according to Principal Keith Parent. Teachers said he excelled at computer skills and created a Web page for the students.

"Matt was more than a student, though. He was a friend, a helping hand, an individual who you could count on for a smile, a laugh or a kind word. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Schneider family," Parent said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, and U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both R-Maine, also expressed their sympathy to Schneider's family.

"Although his death was apparently of natural causes, it does not diminish their loss or the fact that he died while serving our nation in Iraq," Allen said. "Like hundreds of thousands of American service personnel, Specialist Schneider left the safety and comfort of home to travel to a hostile land half way around the world on our behalf. We honor his devotion to duty and his sacrifice."

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Army Specialist Matthew E. Schneider died on 8/28/06.

Army Cpl. Shannon L. Squires

Remember Our Heroes

Cpl. Shannon L. Squires, 25, of Virginia Beach, Va.,

Cpl. Squires died in Brooke Army Medial Center, San Antonio, Texas on Aug. 28, of injuries sustained along Main Supply Route Tampa, Iraq on Apr. 21, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy vehicle during combat operations. Squires was assigned to the Army's 3rd Battalion, 321 Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Field Artillery Brigade, XVIIIth Airborne Corps Artillery, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Cpl. Shannon Lee Squires, 25, died Aug. 28, 2006, at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, as a result of injuries sustained in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This was Cpl. Squires’ second tour of duty in Iraq.

He was a member of St. Gregory The Great Catholic Church and a graduate of Tallwood High School, Class of 1999.

He was a native of Alexandria, Va., and was the son of Ralph and Velma Squires.

He is survived by his brother, Mark Shane Squires of Virginia Beach; his paternal grandparents, Ralph and Kim Squires of Alexandria; maternal grandmother, Teresa Cruz; five aunts, Dale Gagliano, Daisy Reynoso, Zeny Sistoza, Linda Sistoza and Bessie Guzman; and six uncles, Henry Sistoza, Candido Sistoza, Rafael Sistoza, Elwood Guzman, Ronnie Reynoso and Kim Squires. He is also survived by nine cousins, Carol Garcia, Rachel Sistoza, Vincent Guzman, Ralph Sistoza, Ryan Reynoso, Brian Guzman, George Sistoza, Danny Sistoza and Edward Sistoza.

A Mass of the Resurrection will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Gregory The Great Catholic Church by Father Mario Fulgenzi, OSB. Burial with full military honors will be in Colonial Grove Memorial Park.

Cpl. Shannon L. Squires died from combat injuries on 08/28/06.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Army Specialist Shaun A. Novak

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Shaun A. Novak, 21, of Two Rivers, Wis.

Spc. Novak and 3 other Soldiers died in Taji, Iraq, on Aug 27, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their M2A3 Bradley Vehicle during combat operations. All soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Also killed were Sgt. Moises Jazmin, 25, of Providence, R.I., Spc. Qixing Lee, 20, of Minneapolis, Minn., and Spc. Tristan C. Smith, 23, of Bryn Athyn, Pa.

Herald Times News -- TWO RIVERS — News of the death in Iraq of Army Pfc. Shaun Novak, 21, rolled across his hometown Monday, shocking and saddening those who knew him.

Novak died when his armored vehicle was hit by a roadside explosion, family members said. His parents, Randy and Brenda Novak, said they were notified Sunday, but declined further comment.

One former teacher characterized Novak's death as a "devastating loss."

"He had so much potential," said Ruth Kadow, who was Novak's fifth-grade teacher at J.F. Magee Elementary School in Two Rivers.

The father of Novak's best friend said the news was "very difficult" to take.

"Shaun was the greatest kid in the world," said John Monka, a Vietnam veteran whose son, Brandon, was a lifelong friend of Novak and is serving a tour of duty in Baghdad. "He was a kid who had everything going for him, and he was very personable and intelligent."

Monka said his son "followed Shaun into the service (Army) last summer."

"They grew up together from little kids on," Monka said. "They worked, played, hung out together."

Monka said he visited Randy and Brenda Novak on Monday afternoon.

"I stopped over to see the parents," Monka said. "They're grieving. They were both young when they had their kids. Two very nice children.

"I was talking with Randy and saying we expect, as parents, that our kids will bury us, not the other way around. They're taking it very, very hard."

Monka sent an e-mail to his son Monday, and said Brandon usually calls when he's able. He wasn't sure if Brandon had heard news of Novak's death, and said he's been worried about both boys since they were sent overseas.

"He was well-liked," Monka said of Shaun. "People are shocked. With how small the community is, lots of people have ties; it's shocking."

Monka said his son and Novak wanted to attend college when their military duties were complete.

"I'm having a hard time with it," Monka said. "It makes me very scared as a father. I pray that nothing happens to Brandon. I don't know how I could take it."

Novak's aunt, Sheila Halverson, said her nephew had been in Iraq since last December.

Halverson did not know what unit Novak was serving in, but said it was out of Fort Hood, Texas, and he had been in the infantry.

Novak's father, Randy, is a Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department deputy; his mother, Brenda, is an employee of the Manitowoc County Human Services Department; and a brother, Danny, 15, enters Two Rivers High School this fall, Halverson said.

Shaun Novak enlisted in the Army in 2004 and was shipped to Iraq in December 2005, his aunt said. Novak was a 2003 graduate of Two Rivers High School. Halverson says he attended the UW-Center in Manitowoc for a year before enlisting and had plans to pursue his education in accounting or marketing.

Novak was "a very strong business student" and had "a love for business," said Cathy Lambries, Novak's business education teacher at Two Rivers High School.

Lambries said that Novak was "very quiet," but always had his work done.

"His work ethic is beyond what you find in the youth today," Lambries said.

Lambries said she tried to get Novak to join the Future Business Leaders of America at school, but he preferred to work and earn money.

Novak worked at Port Sandy Bay, a restaurant in Two Rivers, for a little more than two years and was an "all-around worker" who represented the business well, said Kadow, who is one of the owners of the restaurant.

"He was very dependable, awesome with customers and a joy to work with," Kadow said. "He was an excellent role-model for other employees."

She said she'll miss seeing him mature and grow as an adult.

Hinhlina Phouybanhdyt, Novak's high school math teacher, said Novak also loved cars, spending his salary on his Dodge Neon. They exchanged tips, ideas and stories about cars, Phouybanhdyt said.

Ridgley Schott, Two Rivers High School principal, said he learned of Novak's death when he arrived at the high school early Monday.

Schott said he was shocked and had hoped such news would never come to Two Rivers.

"But here we are," Schott said. "When something like this happens, you just don't quite know what to say."

Novak enjoyed working on cars outside of school, Schott said.

"He was all excited about driving a Hummer" in the military, added Ellen Johnson, the high school's attendance secretary whose son Kurt was Novak's friend.

Schott said Novak had done particularly well in business education at Two Rivers High School.

"He was a quiet, solid student," the principal said. "If he was a soldier like he was a student, he did it well."

Johnson said Novak had last visited home in April.

"He was glad to be there and do what he had to do" in Iraq, she said. "But he was looking forward to coming home."

Novak had expected to return from Iraq for good at Thanksgiving, Halverson said, but was supposed to serve another year in the Army at Fort Hood.

Municipal and school flags were hung at half-staff Monday by a special order, said Fire Chief Kevin Timm, who has some connections to the Novak family. An uncle stood up in his wedding, he said, and his family also knows the family of Novak's girlfriend.

"I think having hit so close to home changes people's perspective," he said. "Just like the firefighter who died in Green Bay, it heightens awareness."

Firefighter and paramedic Arnie Wolff died Aug. 13 fighting a fire in a Green Bay home. People from all over the state attended his funeral later that week.

Phil Rohrer, who owns a Two Rivers diner, said casualties are never easy to take.

"It's too bad," he said. "It's the price of freedom that my grandpa and father paid.

"I remember when one of my high school buddies was killed in the Vietnam War. It was one of the first war casualties to hit me personally.

"I was shocked. But we're also glad these soldiers are willing to pay the price for freedom. It seems like every generation has to go through their sadness for freedom."

Two Rivers resident Walter Vogl expressed sympathy for the family.

"Even though we didn't know him, that news is always sad," he said. "We all hope these boys haven't died in vain."

"It's heartbreaking," said Janice Puls of Two Rivers. "Your heart goes out to the family. When it hits home, you feel like it's family."

Specialist Shaun A. Novak was killed in action on 08/27/06.

Army Specialist Kenneth M. Cross

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Kenneth M. Cross, 21, of Superior, Wis.

Spc. Cross was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash.; killed Aug 27 when his M1126 Stryker Vehicle came in contact with enemy forces using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire during combat operations in Baghdad. Also killed was Pfc. Daniel G. Dolan.

A roadside bomb killed Kenneth Cross, who knew he wanted to be a soldier at age 8

Bob King/News Tribune
Friends decorated the Cross family’s mailbox in honor of their fallen son, Kenneth Cross, who died Sunday in an attack in Iraq.

PARKLAND, Wis. - Cpl. Kenneth Cross proposed to his girlfriend after two weeks of dating. He enlisted in the U.S. Army without discussing it with his parents. Cross, 21, was a man who knew what he wanted in life and made it happen.

Cross was killed Sunday in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq, his parents, Michael and Elizabeth Cross of Parkland, east of Superior, said Monday.

Based in Fort Lewis, Wash., Kenneth had been in the Middle East for two months, stationed in Kuwait and then Baghdad. As a driver of a Stryker tank, he was trained in frontline combat duties.

"He was a fun kid - always smiling, laughing, joking - you never knew what he was going to do," Michael said.

"He was up to mischief most of the time," said his mother, laughing. She added that he loved kids and animals, and they loved him in return.

As he drove down a road in Iraq recently, a young girl walking nearby with her mother blew Kenneth a kiss, Elizabeth said. He caught it in his hand and smiled at her.

"Everywhere he goes, little kids warm up to him," Michael said.

Kenneth Cross is the second former Superior High School student killed while serving in Iraq. Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Van Alstine of Superior suffered fatal wounds from a roadside bomb in February.

Kenneth dropped out of high school during his senior year and earned his general education diploma, "because he wanted to go right into the service," Elizabeth said.

Influenced by a grandfather who served in World War II, he knew he wanted to be a soldier since he was 8 years old.

"He was determined; he was going to be in the infantry and you couldn't talk him out of it," Elizabeth said. "I didn't think it was the right time for him to go into the service."

Kenneth met his future wife, Heidi, of Steilacoom, Wash., through an online dating service about two years ago. The two were friends for some time before dating; they married in April. The couple had planned to start a family when he returned from Iraq next year, and a reception for those who missed their wedding in Washington was in the works.

"He was always doing something goofy to make me laugh, even on the bad days," Heidi Cross said in a phone interview. "He treated me like a queen and an angel. I don't think we ever had a bad moment."

Kenneth could be trusted with anything, she said, and he wanted a big family like his own, with five brothers and one sister.

She spoke to her husband two hours before his death.

"People say I'm pretty lucky to have talked to him right before it happened," she said, grateful she was able to tell him she loved him. "I don't know how many times."

Kenneth's brother, Cliff Hoyt, said he was "a character."

"A great little brother," Hoyt said. "I used to chase him around the yard, but I could never catch him."

Kenneth liked to play guitar and video games, watch horror movies and jog. He got used to doing push-ups in basic training, his mother said, because his sense of humor often got him in trouble.

But he was intelligent, his father said, and he loved what he did.

The Cross family, possessing a rich military history, was still afraid for Kenneth as he worked in Iraq.

"I told him when he went over there it took me nine months to put him together perfectly, and there better not be any more holes in him than when he left," Elizabeth said. "He didn't listen."

The family was told by military personnel that he didn't suffer.

"That was a big thing," Elizabeth said. "But there are too many wasted lives over there."

Funeral arrangements are pending. The family is unsure when his remains will be returned to the United States or where he will be buried.

The Crosses had just learned his address in Baghdad and had begun assembling a care package filled with drawings from his nieces and nephews, beef jerky and dill pickle-flavored chips, his favorite.

"We weren't prepared for the worst," his mother said. "Kids are supposed to grow up and have grandchildren for you. Hopefully, you live to see the great-grandchildren, and then they carry on. It's not supposed to happen this way."

Army Specialist Kenneth M. Cross was killed in action on 08/27/06.

Army Specialist Joshua D. Jones

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Joshua D. Jones, 24, of Pomeroy, Ohio

Spc. Jones was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Aug 27 of injuries sustained when his Humvee came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations in Baghdad.

He fought so others didn’t have to, says dad of fallen soldier
Meigs County native, 24, killed Sunday in Iraq
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Holly Zachariah

Spc. Joshua D. Jones was in a Humvee hit by small-arms fire and died of his injuries. He leaves a wife, who is pregnant, and a 2-year-old daughter.

As the oldest of six children, Joshua D. Jones had always taken on the role of family protector.

That sense of responsibility was also behind the southeastern Ohio native’s decision to sign up for military service nearly three years ago.

"Whenever he was talking about the Army, he always said he was going to go fight so that his siblings would never have to," Jones’ father, Gary, said yesterday from his home in Langsville, in Meigs County. "I was just so proud of him for everything."

The Department of Defense says that Jones, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed Sunday in Baghdad when his Humvee was attacked by small-arms fire. Jones was assigned to the 3 rd Battalion, 67 th Armor Regiment, 4 th Brigade Combat Team, 4 th Infantry Division, in Fort Hood, Texas.

Now that word of the death is spreading through the tightknit Appalachian community where Joshua Jones was raised, his father says he has been overwhelmed by the support of others.

Jones and his wife, Tiffany, had moved to Georgia just before he enlisted in the Army in January 2004. There, he earned his general educational development diploma. After finishing boot camp at Fort Knox, he was stationed in Louisiana, and then at Fort Hood. He shipped to Iraq on Dec. 6 last year, his dad’s birthday.

He last visited home in June, and spent some quality time with his 2-year-old daughter, Cami, the elder Jones said.

"And then not long after he was home, we got the call.

"His wife is expecting again," Gary Jones said. After pausing to collect himself, he added: "He was a great husband, and a great father. I wish this second child would have at least gotten the chance to know that."

Gary Jones said his son most cherished his role as protector, but he also was passionate about his hobbies, which included riding all-terrain vehicles in the rough Meigs County countryside and racing remotecontrolled cars.

"If it had wheels, he loved it," Gary Jones said. "That’s all he loved until his daughter came along, and then he understood the joys of being a dad."

He said he’s still awaiting word from the Army on when his son’s body will arrive home. Whenever that is, he said, the whole family will be there waiting.

Army Specialist Joshua D. Jones was killed in action on 08/27/06.

For Cami

Cami Jones

For Sadi

Sadi Jones

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Army Sgt. Darry Benson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Darry Benson, 46, of Winterville, N.C.

Sgt. Benson was assigned the 730th Quartermaster Battalion, North Carolina Army National Guard, Ahoskie, N.C.; died Aug 27 from a non-combat related cause in Camp Virginia, Kuwait. -- WINTERVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- A National Guardsman from North Carolina has died in Kuwait from a non-combat related cause, the Department of Defense said Tuesday.

Sgt. Darry Benson, 46, of Winterville, N.C., died Sunday, in Camp Virginia, Kuwait. Benson, who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, was assigned the Army National Guard's 730th Quartermaster Battalion in Ahoskie.

His death is under investigation. -- An Ahoskie, NC-based soldier has died in Kuwait.

The Department of Defense said Sgt. Darry Benson, 46, of Winterville, N.C., died on Aug 27, in Camp Virginia, Kuwait.

Officials said he died "of apparent natural causes" but didn't elaborate. He was pronounced dead at the Troop Medical Clinic Sunday morning after fellow soldiers reported that he was non-responsive.

Benson was assigned the Army National Guard's 730th Quartermaster Battalion, Ahoskie, N.C.

The incident is under investigation.

A military funeral will be held at St. John's Missionary Baptist Church 2921 Briery Swamp Road, Stokes NC 27884 with burial following in Brown Cemetery, Engelhard NC.

The nearly 60 Soldiers of Sgt. Benson's unit were mobilized in late April to provide command and control for base operations at Camp Virginia.

A statement released by his family said, "We the family of Darry Benson would like to thank everyone for their support during this time of our grieving. He was a very humble and lovable person and all who met him new they could trust him. He will be truly missed, he was our best friend."


Sgt. Benson was a 15-year military veteran with 4 years in the North Carolina Army National Guard starting in 2002. His awards and decorations include five Army Achievement Medals, the Global War on Terror Service Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

This was Sgt. Benson's second deployment in support of the Global War on Terror. He previously deployed to Iraq with A Company, 230th Support Battalion, 30th Brigade Combat Team in 2004 as Heavy Equipment Transport truck driver.

"Sgt. Darry Benson was an outstanding Soldier; he served his country and his state of North Carolina with honor," said Lt. Col. George F. Robinson, III, Commander, 730th Quartermaster Battalion. "He believed in his country, a patriot. He was a true gentlemen and a good friend to all the soldiers in the 730th."

Army Sgt. Darry Benson was killed in action on 08/27/06.