Monday, March 17, 2008

Army Staff Sgt. Michael D. Elledge

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Michael D. Elledge, 41, of Brownsburg, Ind.

SSgt. Elledge was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died March 17, 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device during combat operations. Also killed was Spc. Christopher C. Simpson.

DAILY PRESS & ARGUS — A U.S. Army staff sergeant with Livingston County ties died Monday in Baghdad, Iraq, when his Humvee struck an improvised explosive device during combat operations.

Staff Sgt. Michael Duane Elledge, 41, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. He is survived by his wife, Carleen; and their children, Christopher, 18, Caleb, 8, and Cassidy, 6, all of Colorado Springs, Colo.

The soldier's sister, Pinckney resident Linda Swarthout, remembers her younger brother as a "caring, kind person."

"He felt that he was making a difference in the world, that he was helping the people in Iraq, and it would help secure freedom," she said.

A memorial service will be held for friends and family at 11 a.m. Monday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4357, 10590 E. Grand River Ave. in the Brighton area.

Brother Tim Elledge, who is two years younger than Michael Elledge, described his brother as a very devoted Christian who would lead Bible studies with his fellow soldiers as well as the Iraqi people.

It was fate that his brother was driving the Humvee when it struck the roadside bomb, Tim Elledge said.

Michael Elledge, who will posthumously receive the Purple Heart, typically was assigned to sit in the turret of a machine gun, but the Humvee driver was sick last Monday and he was reassigned to the driver's position of the Humvee.

"We're all firm in our Christian beliefs, and we think your life is planned from day one," said Tim Elledge, who lives in White Lake Township. "It was (Michael's) time. That was the reason he wasn't on the machine gun."

The soldier assigned to Michael Elledge's job on the machine gun survived, but one passenger in Michael Elledge's Humvee also was killed.

The Department of Defense identified that soldier as Spc. Christopher C. Simpson, 23, of Hampton, Va.

"It's been a tough couple days; everyone is just numb," Tim Elledge noted. "We appreciate everyone's support."

Tim Elledge said his older brother was very giving, very outgoing and an "extremist" who gave 100 percent to everything he did. As children, the older Elledge brother oftentimes allowed the younger brother to tag along, which Tim Elledge found special because most older brothers would not want to bother with a younger sibling.

Michael Elledge played guitar and was in a band at Dexter High School, where he graduated in 1985.

Upon graduating, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served four years of active duty before being honorably discharged. Upon completing basic training, Michael Elledge was instantly promoted in recognition of excelling above all others in his class.

After leaving the Marine Corps, Michael Elledge earned his airframe and powerplant license, which is needed for those working on civilian or military aircraft, and began working for United Airlines as an aircraft mechanic.

He worked for the company for about 14 years, until he was laid off when the airlines suffered after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Financially struggling, Michael Elledge decided to re-enlist, but was too old to rejoin the Marine Corps. At 38, he barely qualified for the U.S. Army, Tim Elledge said.

"He made it through boot camp, schooling and was deployed for the first 12-month tour in 2005," Tim Elledge explained.

Michael Elledge returned home, but was deployed again in December for a 15-month tour. His tour was to end in March 2009.

"He was very devoted to his wife and children. They meant everything to him," Tim Elledge noted.

Michael Elledge was the son of Lynn Gordon and Marion Elledge. He also is survived by three brothers, including Jessie Ortlieb of Hamburg Township, Lynn Elledge of Ypsilanti and Tom Young of White Lake Township; and two sisters, Cheryl Elledge of Ypsilanti, and Marsha Johnson of Dearborn Heights.

==Additional information==

Staff Sgt. Michael D. Elledge, 41, of Brownsburg, Ind.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Mar. 17 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device during combat operations. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

Elledge was considered an old man in his company. The two-tour Iraq veteran was a Marine as a teenager, left the military and joined the Army a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

"When 9/11 hit, he felt a real need to re-enlist," his sister, Marsha Johnson, said by telephone from Detroit. "He was a real patriot."

While he loved his country, Elledge managed to put his wife and three children first in his life, Johnson said.

"The biggest thing for him was his family," she said.

Elledge's unit had moved in recent weeks from Camp Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad, to a combat outpost closer to the city's core. There, Elledge served as a father figure for younger soldiers far from home.

"He was always proud of what he did, but he didn't flaunt it," Johnson said. "That was just his nature."

His dedication to duty had earned him the Army Commendation Medal.

From a young age, family members knew Elledge would grow up to do great things. He was thoughtful and showed a curiosity and level of caring about the world that other children often lack.

"I always called him a deep spirit," Johnson said.

Army Staff Sgt. Michael D. Elledge was killed in action on 3/17/08.

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