Army Sgt. 1st Class Edward C. Kramer, 39, of Wilmington, N.C.
SFC Kramer was assigned to the 120th Combined Arms Battalion, North Carolina National Guard, Wilmington, N.C.; died from wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle June 29, 2009 in Baghdad. Also killed were Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., Sgt. Juan C. Baldeosingh and Spc. Robert L. Bittiker.
Star News Online -- Wilmington | As a firefighter and a soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Edward Kramer was the kind of man who always wanted to be in the middle of the action.
But when he wasn’t on duty, friends say, he enjoyed curling his toes in the sand and casting a fishing line into the surf.
“He was really outgoing,” said Ryan Young, who worked with Kramer at the Wilmington Fire Department. “He was one of those special people when he walked in a room, you felt like you knew him.”
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the 39-year-old Kramer, a former Wilmington firefighter and veteran of two wars, was one of four soldiers killed in Iraq this week.
Kramer and three others died from wounds sustained Monday night when an improvised explosive device detonated in Baghdad, near the humvee they were riding in, according to a statement from the defense department. It was the last day of regular combat operations for U.S. forces in Iraqi cities.
This is the North Carolina National Guard’s largest single combat loss since World War II, said Maj. Matthew Handley a North Carolina National Guard spokesman. The deaths bring to 15 the total number of North Carolina National Guard soldiers killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001.
The others killed were Sgt. Juan C. Baldeosingh, 30, of Newport; Spc. Robert L. Bittiker, 39, and Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., 36, both of Jacksonville.
The men were serving with the 120th Combined Arms Battalion, which is headquartered in Wilmington.
Kramer was a decorated soldier, and worked at WFD for nine years before taking a firefighting job at Sunny Point Fire Rescue in Brunswick County.
He leaves behind his wife Vicki and two daughters – Erica, 9, and Megan, 7.
Life of service
A former Marine, Kramer was a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991. He joined the N.C. Army National Guard in 1994 and served in Kuwait and Iraq from February 2004 to December 2004.
He earned the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal and numerous other honors, according to the statement.
Most recently, he was deployed to Iraq in April for his second tour of the war.
Battalion Chief David Hines, spokesman for WFD, said Kramer was a dedicated employee and firefighter. He was employed by the city of Wilmington from March 1999 until January 2008.
Kramer began his firefighting career at the Seagate Fire Department and also worked with the Camp Lejeune Fire Department.
Although his death was not officially announced until Thursday, Kramer’s flag-draped coffin was photographed Wednesday as he was returned to the United States.
In an interview Thursday, Young, the Wilmington firefighter, said Kramer’s friends and family are mourning a genuine and good man who loved his work.
When they weren’t fighting fires, Young said, he and Kramer would head for the coast.
“He really enjoyed the fish and having his feet in the sand,” Young said.
While In Iraq, Kramer and Young kept in touch through e-mail and social networking sites. Young posted fishing photos for his friend to see.
And he had purchased materials to build Kramer custom fishing rods, which they planned to work on together when he came home.
On Thursday, the N.C. National Guard said friends gathered at Kramer’s home and remembered a man dedicated to serving however he could.
“He was always there to help somebody if they needed it,” the statement said. “Even when the person didn’t want help.”
Firefighters and family shared memories of Kramer fishing, fighting fire and riding his motorcycle.
He was a family man who could always be counted on, the statement said.
“He loved us very much,” Kramer’s wife Vicki said in the statement. “He did this for his children, so they wouldn’t have to.”
His mother-in-law Sandy Fazzi said, “He loved his girls and he loved his country.”
Kramer’s funeral arrangements have not been announced, but at least one other memorial has been planned in his honor.
Tom Russell, founder of Step up for Soldiers, is organizing a memorial walk at 6 p.m. Sunday. The walk will begin at the Wilmington Fire Department headquarters and Market Street, and end at the memorial at the National Guard Armory on North Kerr Avenue.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Edward C. Kramer was killed in action on 6/29/09.