Friday, February 08, 2008

Army Sgt. Gary D. Willett

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Gary D. Willett, 34, of Alamogordo, N.M.

Sgt. Willett was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Feb. 8, 2008 in Taji, Iraq, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Sgt. Timothy P. Martin, Spc. Michael T. Manibog and Staff Sgt. Jerald A. Whisenhunt.

Iraq bomb kills son of Tucson parents
Sergeant lived in N.M. but often visited our city
By Aaron Mackey
Arizona Daily Star

A soldier with ties to Tucson was killed in Iraq earlier this month by a roadside bomb, officials confirmed on Monday.

Army Sgt. Gary D. Willett, 34, whose parents live in Tucson, died on Feb. 8 along with three other soldiers when the roadside bomb struck their Stryker combat vehicle, said Lt. Daniel O'Connor, a member of Willett's unit.

Several other soldiers were injured in the blast, which occurred in Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad.

Willett was a member of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

When Defense Department officials identified Willett last week, they listed his hometown as Alamogordo, N.M.

Willett's former wife and his son live in Alamogordo, according to a report in the Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News.

New Mexico was his home, though he often used leave time to visit his parents in Tucson, where they moved in 2002, O'Connor said.

Family members declined an interview request through O'Connor, who is in Tucson this week to help with Willett's memorial services.

Willett served as a squad leader assigned to 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, in the unit.

He was a dedicated soldier who looked out for the troops he commanded, O'Connor said.

"The example he set for other soldiers was second to none," O'Connor said. "He loved the Army, and he loved his job. He died doing what he loved."

Willett also was a gunner on a Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle, a 20-ton armored troop transport that has eight wheels.

The Stryker gets its name from two unrelated enlisted soldiers — both of whom had the last name Stryker — who each received the Medal of Honor.

Willett enlisted in the Army in 1995 and was serving his second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom when he was killed, O'Connor said.

Also killed in the incident were Spc. Michael T. Manibog, 31, of Alameda, Calif.; Sgt. Timothy P. Martin, 27, of Pixley, Calif.; and Staff Sgt. Jerald A. Whisenhunt, 32, of Orrick, Mo.

Army Sgt. Gary D. Willett was killed in action on 2/8/08.

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