Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Army Cpl. Joshua C. Blaney

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Joshua C. Blaney, 25, of Matthews, N.C.

Cpl. Blaney was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade, Camp Ederle, Italy; died Dec. 12, 2007 at Forward Operating Base Curry, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Staff Sgt. Michael J. Gabel.

The State -- FORT MILL — Only death comes in uniform after dark.

It came after 9 p.m. Wednesday. Dianne Massey opened her Fort Mill front door to an Army beret. She screamed, “No, not Josh!”

But it was.

Her son, Cpl. Joshua Blaney, 25, had been killed in eastern Afghanistan earlier that day. A bomb blew up the vehicle he was riding in, Army officials confirmed Friday. Blaney was in the lead truck in a convoy.

Massey learned her son was dead as she stood a few feet from his Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal. Blaney somehow had previously survived, though with leg shrapnel and scars, a convoy bomb in Iraq on an earlier tour. He was in the lead truck that day, too.

“I immediately remembered his fifth birthday party, the GI Joe cake,” Massey said Friday. “He would pitch a tent and play Army with his uncle who was in the Special Forces. They would eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat.) There was the time at Wal-Mart. He was 8, or 9. We walked out, and he had this bulge in his pocket. I asked him, ‘Josh, what’s in the pocket?’ Out comes the GI Joe. I marched him right inside and made him give it back.”

A paratrooper with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Blaney was based at Forward Operating Base Curry in Afghanistan, said Maj. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman. Another soldier, Michael Gabel of Louisiana, died when the vehicle ran over the bomb, Banks said.

Blaney grew up in Matthews, N.C., and graduated from Butler High School in 2002. After enlisting, he lived the past five-plus years in Italy at Camp Ederle when not deployed. He was five months into his second tour in Afghanistan after the Iraq deployment and recently had signed re-enlistment papers for two more years.

“He told me he would make a career out of it,” Massey said.

Blaney was part of the paratrooper drop into northern Iraq in 2003 that was the first of its kind for the Army since Vietnam, his mother said. Since Blaney’s death, e-mails have poured in to family members from his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan, calling him a top-notch paratrooper and friend.

Other e-mails described him as compassionate to his fellow soldiers and a mentor to younger men.

“A leader,” said his sister, Carley.

Blaney was divorced and had no children. He’s Massey’s middle child. He joined the Army after his mother and stepfather, Air Force veteran Eric Massey of Fort Mill, urged Blaney to try college. The Masseys then pushed the Air Force.

“He told me the Army would give him the discipline he needed, the focus he needed to figure out what he wanted to do with his life,” Massey said.

Blaney’s sister said her brother was a humble, gracious man who rarely talked about what he had seen or done in the wars.

Dianne Massey’s sister, Amy, whose husband is that Special Forces uncle that Blaney played “Army” with all the time, said, “Josh went in the Army a boy, and he came out a man.”

Blaney’s grandfather, Sid Belk, is an 84-year-old World War II Army Air Corps veteran.

“I know what my grandson was doing,” he said. “He was a fine soldier. Brave. I am proud of him.”

Army Cpl. Joshua C. Blaney was killed in action on 12/12/07.

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