Sunday, August 22, 2010

Army Sgt. Tristan H. Southworth

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Tristan H. Southworth, 21, of West Danville, Vt.

Sgt. Southworth was assigned to 172nd Infantry Regiment, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Jericho, Vt.; died Aug. 22, 2010 in Paktya Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Also killed was Army Sgt. Steven J. Deluzio.

Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie was brought to tears announcing the deaths of Sgt. Tristan Southworth, 21, of Walden, Vt., and Sgt. Steven Deluzio, 25, of South Glastonbury, Conn. They were killed early Sunday morning in Afghanistan.

"This is a tough time in Afghanistan for our brigade," Dubie said.

Guard officials say the soldiers were killed when two platoons of Vermont soldiers out of Jericho along with Afghan Border Police convoyed to Paktiya, where they exited their vehicles and went on a foot patrol in an area of known insurgents. While they were there they came under attack from a large number of enemy fighters.

"Without going into more operational detail, generally speaking Paktiya where the incident took place on Sunday," Col. Terry Lambert said.

Insurgents in the mountainous area attacked the platoons with small firearms and rocket-propelled grenades.

"It was an extended amount of time, it sounds like it was a couple hours of a firefight so it was a very prolonged engagement from what we're use to," Dubie said. Dubie says Sgt. Southworth was extricating another wounded soldier when he was hit. "From reports from their Sergeant Major, everyone's taking it pretty tough. They were very well liked and made a very positive impact," Dubie said.

Tristan Southworth was remembered across the state Tuesday as a first-class student-athlete and a competitive teammate who loved to share a joke but could quickly get down to business at practice or in a game.

The former three-sport standout at Hazen Union High School was killed during a firefight in Afghanistan while on deployment with the Vermont National Guard on Sunday.

Southworth, 21, of Walden, was attempting to extricate another solider when killed, according to Maj. General Michael Dubie, Vermont’s adjutant general, during a Tuesday news conference. Dubie said it reflected “great credit on himself and the unit for courage under fire.”

Former Hazen teammate Troy Lemay said Southworth’s death reflected how he lived his life: trying to help somebody in need. “That was classic Tristan. He always had my back. He would never leave anybody behind,” said Lemay, who graduated from Hazen in 2006, a year before Southworth.

“The biggest thing about Tristan is we could tell each other anything. We played every sport. We were always battling on the same team. We were trying to outdo each other to make us work harder.”

Lemay said he last saw Southworth on New Year’s Eve at a party as he prepared to deploy with the guard, which he had joined in his junior year at Hazen. “I told him to be safe. That was the last time I saw him,” said Lemay, who acknowledged he has considering joining the military, possibly the national guard. That plan is now on hold.

Dubie reported that because of his heroic actions, Southworth was posthumously promoted from specialist to sergeant. Dubie explained the firefight lasted about two hours, but when asked to describe his meeting with the Southworth family on Tuesday morning, Dubie was at a loss for words. Dubie’s eyes began to water. His face turned more grim and he softly said “I can’t really say.”

Hardwick Gazette Sports Editor Dave Morse said Southworth was an unforgettable student-athlete whom everybody loved.

“Opponents, fans, entire communities embraced that boy,” said Morse, who noted Hazen coaches loved his work ethic.

“I called him a four-sport athlete. Besides playing soccer, basketball and baseball, he also dabbled in golf. He would play when he didn’t have a game,” Morse said.

The all-league player in baseball and soccer is listed as the 18th-leading scorer in basketball in the 100 years of Hardwick Academy and Hazen Union as compiled by coach Aaron Hill, Morse said. Southworth helped the Wildcats win a basketball state title in 2006.

Hazen boys soccer coach Mike Noyes said Southworth led by example. “He is what we want our kids to be. You cannot meet a better man than Tristan Southworth. He even volunteered to coach with me. He stayed on to help the younger kids. That’s just the guy he is,” said Noyes, who said Southworth was expected to be home for two weeks around Sept. 10. “He was looking forward to coming home to be with the guys.”

The flag at Hazen was at half staff after word of Southworth’s death began to spread among family, friends and other members of the military families Monday.

Among the long-distance admirers was longtime Northfield baseball coach and athletic director Frank Pecora.

Northfield nipped Hazen 1-0 in the 2007 state baseball championship despite Southworth’s three-hitter with 11 strikeouts and no walks.

“That was one best games that both team ever played. A1-0 game in high school is pretty rare,” said Pecora, who acknowledged that he had feared such a showdown since seeing Southworth pitch as a freshman.

“I knew it was going to come down at some point to a state championship,” Pecora said. The game now is insignificant,” he said.

Pecora said he began e-mailing his former Northfield players after reading about Southworth’s death in the Free Press on Tuesday. “They are pretty upset. They had a lot of respect for Tristan. He was a tremendous kid. It’s an absolute shame.”

Pecora, as the athletic director, also saw how Southworth carried himself in soccer and basketball and could tell he had so much going for him. “He paid the ultimate price and I feel very badly for his parents, family and the community. It shows in a small town what a kid like that can mean. He was a class act.”

Army Sgt. Tristan H. Southworth was killed in action on 8/22/10.

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