Thursday, April 29, 2010

Army 1st Lt. Salvatore S. Corma II

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Salvatore S. Corma II, 24, of Wenonah, N.J.

1st Lt. Corma was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died April 29, 2010 at Forward Operating Base Bullard, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using improvised explosive devices.

Town stops to remember fallen O-2

By Shruti Mathur Desai
(Camden, N.J.) Courier-Post

WOODBURY HEIGHTS, N.J. — Friends and family of 1st Lt. Salvatore Corma gathered to pay their last respects to the fallen soldier during religious and military ceremonies May 12.

It was a day when faith and mission convened, where the “Ave Maria” was immediately followed by “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That’s because Corma loved the church and the military, friends and family said.

“He did what he loved and he loved what he did,” said his uncle, Martin Keeney, before reading Psalm 23. “He loved his brothers and sisters in arms.”

Corma died April 29 in Afghanistan, after waving aside 18 other soldiers to isolate an improvised explosive device. He was 24.

Before the start of Mass at Infant Jesus Parish at St. Margaret’s Church in Woodbury Heights, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, who serves as the commanding general of Fort Bragg where Corma served, held a private ceremony with the family.

He presented several posthumous medals, including the Purple Heart and a recommendation that Corma receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The bells of the church tolled as Corma’s coffin was escorted out. The American flag was carefully draped across as his parents watched.

The mile-long funeral procession that snaked between Infant Jesus Parish and the Gloucester County Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Monroe was watched by dozens of mourners.

Fire departments brought out their rigs and hung American flags across the roadway, while firefighters and emergency medical personnel stood at attention at the side of the road. Police cars blocked traffic, the officers standing respectfully.

One man, caught by surprise by the procession, swept his weathered brown cap off his head, and stood on the sidewalk in salute, his hat and hand over his heart.

The students of St. Margaret’s School, which Corma attended, lined the street holding small American flags as the hearse carrying Corma’s coffin went by. It was preceded by an honor guard of police and motorcycle riders.

Corma’s mother, Trudy, smiled and waved at the children as she went by. That smile stayed on her face throughout the day.

It was from his mother that Corma learned his optimism, said Rev. Paul Galetto, president of St. Augustine’s Preparatory School, where Corma graduated in 2004.

Galetto, who presided over Mass, advised mourners to banish such thoughts as “Why do the good die young and why did Salvatore die?” Instead he encouraged them to remember Corma’s endless optimism, a trait that kept him smiling from the moment he walked in the doors of the school until the day he left.

“Sal was irrepressively happy,” Galetto said. “Sal never knew how to do anything but his best.”

Galetto said Corma embodied the spirit of service and good deeds, not for his own sake, but to earn the honor of friends, family and “a grateful nation who gives thanks for men and women like Salvatore Corma.”

At the veterans’ cemetery, Corma, a 2008 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, was given military honors, with a 21-gun salute and a bugler playing “Taps.”

Corma would have appreciated the military pomp, said his best friend, Robert Cahall.

“There’s nothing he loved more than the military honors.”

Army 1st Lt. Salvatore S. Corma II was killed in action on 4/29/10.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Marine Lance Cpl. Thomas E. Rivers Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Thomas E. Rivers Jr., 22, of Birmingham, Ala.

LCpl. Rivers was assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died April 28, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

‘He wanted that tough challenge and he wanted the action’
The Associated Press

Thomas Rivers had no doubts in his mind that he wanted to be a Marine when he graduated, friends said.

Fred Yancey, who coached Rivers on Briarwood Christian School’s varsity football team, said Rivers was mature and hard-working.

“I see Thomas Rivers as a young man of dedication, a leader of men, a big team, little me kind of guy,” Yancey said. “I knew God had given Thomas a great plan as a U.S. Marine.”

Rivers, 22, of Hoover, Ala., was killed by a roadside bomb April 28 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune, N.C. He graduated from Briarwood in 2007 and had previously served in Afghanistan.

Yancey said Rivers was always excited about becoming a Marine.

“They have a reputation of being the toughest and that’s what drew Thomas to the Marines, I’m positive,” Yancey said. “He wanted that tough challenge and he wanted the action.”

Among Rivers’ survivors are his parents and a sister.

A U.S. Marine from Hoover died from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan this morning, according to a minister for the soldier's family.

It’s been a somber day for family and friends of Thomas Rivers. The Lance Corporal from Hoover had always wanted to be a Marine. That goal helped him mature from a teen with a tough life, to a man on a mission.

Lance Cpl. Thomas Rivers, 22, was serving his second tour of duty in the Middle East when he was killed, said the Rev. Dave Lewis, shepherding pastor at Briarwood Presbyterian Church.

The 22 year old Marine from Hoover was a 2007 graduate of Briarwood Christian School. Thomas Rivers came to family friend and spokesperson, Reverand Dave Lewis, for advice, once he had decided to become a Marine. Lewis said Rivers’ death has been tough on Rivers’ family.

Rev. Lewis said, “They were proud of him and while they will not get over this, will get through this and we’ve been doing a lot of praying together.“

Also praying for Rivers’ family the students and staff at Briarwood, specifically, this prayer from Psalm 91. The last two verses read, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him and shew him my salvation.“ (Psalm 91: 15-16 KJV) This chapter was on Rivers’ prayer card.

"It's difficult because on one hand, we're so sad and on the other hand, we're so proud because Thomas Rivers was a real hero," said Fred Yancey, who serves as Briarwood's Dean of Students. He also coached Rivers who was part of the football team all four years he was at Briarwood.

Yancey said he died doing what he loved. "They have a reputation of being the toughest and that's what drew Thomas to the Marines, I'm positive," Yancey said. "He wanted that tough challenge and he wanted the action."

Rivers’ History Teacher, Dr. Bob Crandall said, “This is a good story, not a bad story in terms of the man that he became.“

Dr. Crandall said, “And frankly if we’re to survive as a nation we got to have kids like Thomas Rivers in time of war and in time of peace.“

Rev Lewis said, “Thomas had always wanted to be a Marine and God meant his life to be short, obviously. But Thomas was one of those young men, he always knew he wanted to be a Marine and he went and he did a job and I’m proud of him.“

Pride for a young man who Lewis said went to bootcamp as a boy and came back a man.

Services will be held at Briarwood Presbyterian but funeral arrangements are still pending. The family is considering the Military Cemetery in Montevallo for burial.

In honor of Lance Corporal Thomas Rivers, the flags at all of the Briarwood schools, in North Shelby County, are flying at half staff.

Marine Lance Cpl. Thomas E. Rivers Jr. was killed in action on 4/28/10.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Army Sgt. Anthony O. Magee

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Anthony O. Magee, 29, of Hattiesburg, Miss.

Sgt. Magee was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.; died April 27, 2010 at Landstul Regional Medical Center, Germany of wounds sustained April 24 at Contingency Operating Base Kalsu, Iskandariyah, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire.

‘He had a great sense of humor, he had the biggest heart’
The Associated Press

Anthony Magee was always laughing and making other people smile, friends and family said.

“He was a great man with a big heart,” said Courtney Magee, his wife of two months. “Whoever needed help, he was there to help them. He touched a lot of people’s lives because he had such a big heart.”

The 29-year-old soldier from Hattiesburg, Miss., died April 27 from wounds he suffered three days earlier when his unit was attacked in Iskandariyah, Iraq. He was assigned to Fort Benning, N.C.

Magee graduated from Hattiesburg High School in 2000. His brother said he was serving his second tour in Iraq.

The soldier’s ninth-grade algebra teacher, Leisha Weathersby, said he was a sincere and hard-working young man.

“It was an honor and privilege to teach him, and I wish I had 101 students like him,” Weathersby said.

Magee’s uncle, Dennis Davis, said the soldier was “one of the nicest young men you’d ever want to come into contact with.”

“He had a great sense of humor, he had the biggest heart, which you can see by him being an organ donor,” Davis said.

Among Magee’s survivors are a 5-year-old son, his parents and three siblings.

Army Sgt. Anthony O. Magee died 4/27/10 of wounds recieved in action on 4/24/10.

Army Sgt. Nathan P. Kennedy

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Nathan P. Kennedy, 24, of Claysville, Pa.

Sgt. Kennedy was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died April 27, 2010 near Quarando Village, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit using small-arms fire.

A flag outside American Legion Post 639 in Claysville is flying at half-staff today for Army Sgt. Nathan Kennedy, a third-generation soldier and high school wrestling star who was killed this week during combat operations in Afghanistan.

"Nathan was a typical 24-year-old. He liked to party; he enjoyed people; he had such a smile. He loved life," his aunt, Jane Kennedy, said Wednesday at her Claysville home, adorned with an American flag and yellow ribbon.

Soldiers arrived at the home of Nathan Kennedy's father, Joseph Kennedy, late Tuesday afternoon to tell him that his son had been killed, she said.

"Nathan was a wonderful boy, very smart, very intelligent, very good-looking," said his grandmother, Mary Lou Kennedy, who shares her home with Jane Kennedy. "He was never in trouble, no drugs, no nothing; just a good hometown boy."

Nathan Kennedy of Claysville, a 2004 graduate of McGuffey High School, would have turned 25 on May 5. He was stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., which bills itself "The Best 'Hometown' in the Army."

He enlisted four years ago, saw combat operations in Iraq and had just re-enlisted for another four-year term, his aunt said.

The women said Kennedy, a trained sniper and Army Ranger, was deployed to Afghanistan on June 5 and was scheduled to return to the United States in two weeks.

"I think he felt very strongly about doing something positive with his life," said Gary Six, a family friend.

"Nathan never really said why he joined the Army. That's what he wanted to do," Jane Kennedy said. "His grandfather, Henry, was in the military, and my brother was in Vietnam."

"He called his dad every week, sometimes twice a week," Mary Lou Kennedy said. "Once in awhile he'd call, and you'd hear gunfire in the background, but he'd never talk about it."

The Kennedys are a close-knit family who gather every Sunday for dinner at Grandma's house. "He rarely called me Grandma. He usually called me 'Mary Lou' just to torment me. I loved it. That's just the kind of kid he was," Kennedy said of Nathan Kennedy.

Six said Kennedy shared his love of wrestling with his father, vice president of the McGuffey Wrestling Boosters.

"He was the (WPIAL) section champ his freshman, sophomore and junior years. He didn't wrestle his senior year because of a serious knee injury," Six said.

Kennedy won the PIAA Southwestern Regional championship in the 135-pound weight class in his junior year and advanced to the PIAA Championships in Hershey.

He also wrestled with national freestyle wrestling teams during the summer, often traveling to places such as Fargo, N.D., to compete, Six said. "He was a darn good wrestler, that's for sure."

The last time Kennedy saw his family was in February when he came home for a week or so when his twin sister, Noelle Pattison, gave birth to her first child, Emily.

"A lot of times when he came home, he spent much of it with his buddies and friends," Jane Kennedy said. "This time he spent a lot of time with the family. It was nice."

Kennedy was devastated when his mother, Penelope, died nine years ago. Her birthday was April 27, the same day his family learned of his death.

"I think he took it the hardest," Mary Lou Kennedy said. "She's buried in Claysville Cemetery. Now he'll be buried right beside her."

His father and sisters were in Delaware last night to await the return of his body. The family hopes to conduct services at the Post 639 hall.

American flags and yellow ribbons waved outside the Claysville, Washington County, home of Mary Lou Kennedy as the news that her grandson had been killed in Afghanistan was still setting in.

"I couldn't believe it. It's just … unbelievable," said Kennedy.

"That's when it'll hit me, when I see his body," said Kennedy. "It hasn't sunk in yet. You just can't believe that he's gone."

Kennedy will receive full military honors and will be buried in Claysville Cemetery in Washington County next to his mom, who died nine years ago from cancer.

Army Sgt. Nathan P. Kennedy was killed in action on 4/27/10.

Army Sgt. Keith A. Coe

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Keith A. Coe, 30, of Auburndale, Fla.

Sgt. Coe was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; died April 27, 2010 in Khalis, Iraq, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an explosive device.

Sgt. Keith A. Coe, 30, died of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an explosive device. He died in the city of Khalis in the eastern province of Diyala, north of Baghdad.

The family currently lives in Washington state, where Keith Coe was based.

Keith Coe enlisted in the Army in 2007 and reported to Fort Lewis in Washington state in March 2008, the News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash, reported.

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. His unit deployed last August as part of the 3rd Brigade.

Friend Jason Hutchinson, of Fulton, N.Y., said Thursday night that Keith Coe was born in Fulton but moved to Auburndale with his family in about the 10th grade.

"He was a fun-loving, crazy guy. He'd do anything for anybody," Hutchinson said. "He was definitely a free spirit. He'd just enter a room and crack a joke and everybody would laugh."

The two grew up together in Fulton but grew apart after Keith Coe's move to Florida. The former close friends recently reunited on Facebook, right before Keith Coe was deployed.

Keith Coe was to return to the United States in January, according to Hutchinson.

Hutchinson created a Facebook page in honor of Keith Coe on Wednesday after learning of his death. By Thursday night, the group had collected more than 600 members.

"He loved his job," Hutchinson said. "People who don't even know him are sharing their condolences. Sharing similar experiences they've had with people they've lost."

Army Sgt. Keith A. Coe was killed in action on 4/27/10.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Army Staff Sgt. Ian M. Deutch

Remember Our Heroes

SSG Ian M. Deutch, 27, was killed during a shootout at the Terrible’s Lakeside RV Resort in Pahrump NV. Deutch had been back on the job two days following a brief vacation and a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan with the First Squadron 221st Cavalry, also known as the Wildhorse Squadron.

A helicopter flew Deutch to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, but he did not survive, in spite of emergency surgery.

The Nye County Sheriff’s deputy killed outside a Pahrump casino was a decorated soldier who had recently completed 10 years of service in the Nevada National Guard.

Staff Sgt. Ian Deutch, 27, joined the service in March 2000. He was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant in May 2009. Deutch was assigned to the First Squadron 221st Cavalry, also known as the Wildhorse Squadron. The team returned from a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan last month.

Deutch’s brother, Richard, served alongside him. They were among nine sets of brothers in the Wildhorse Squadron. In the field, Deutch worked as a Fire Support Specialist, a forward observer for artillery strikes.

FOX5 followed the Wildhorse Squadron’s journey from the training grounds to the battlefield last year. The Deutch brothers can be seen in some of the raw footage taken before their deployment.

On the second day after his return to the Nye County Sheriff's Office, the 27-year-old deputy was shot and killed in the line of duty. He was shot five times -- once in the knee, once in the pelvic area, and three times in the upper chest.

"It's horrible," said his mother, Suzy Deutch, speaking by phone from her Las Vegas home. "He was finally safe. In our country. And somebody here kills him."

“It's hard to comprehend he'd only just returned from the high-threat environment of Afghanistan almost one month to the day of his loss. He will be sorely missed,” said Nevada Army Guard Chief of Staff Col. Michael Carlson.

Suzy Deutch said hospital staff called the family into the hallway outside his room at 9 p.m. to explain the extent of his injuries. It would take a miracle for her son to recover, doctors told Deutch.

"We stood in the hallway, watching the doctors jumping on his chest, trying to get him to come back," she said, crying as she recalled the event. "And he couldn't come back. He couldn't come back. They tried so hard."

The gunman, whose name and age were not released Tuesday morning, was shot and killed by another deputy, whose name has not yet been released.

More than 100 friends, family and fellow soldiers were stationed outside of UMC Monday night awaiting updates on the fallen deputy's condition.

One of those was his brother, Nye County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Jason Deutch, who served alongside his sibling in Pahrump and Afghanistan -- one of nine sets of brothers who served together in Nevada's squadron.

Suzy Deutch said Richard wasn't involved in the casino shootout Monday because he hadn't yet returned to work. "His brother is devastated," she said. "They'd been together as deputies and as soldiers."

Cunningham described Ian Deutch as a soldier who never shied away from risk. "He put himself right up front. His whole personality was, 'If somebody has to do it, It'll be me, I'll do it,' " he said. "For a guy like that to end up getting killed is tragic."

Deutch found himself on the front lines of risk again on Monday, when he and fellow deputies responded to a woman who called 911 to report being shot at.

The woman told police that about 3:45 p.m., she tried to retrieve belongings from a home on Cajon Lane, a block away from Terrible's Casino. The suspect, who was at the home, immediately fired a weapon at her, she told police.

Sheriff Tony DeMeo said she fled and called 911. While on the phone, she told dispatchers she was going to the casino to be safe. The suspect followed her, DeMeo said, and the two entered the casino. The gunman walked outside carrying an SKS rifle just as two deputies were pulling up in a department pickup, DeMeo said.

"The deputies were actually exiting the vehicle, and that's when he opened up on the deputies," he said.

Suzy Deutch said her son left behind a wife, Vicky, a 5-year-old daughter, Savonya, and an 18-year-old stepson, Jon. Ian and Vicky had wed in March of 2009, shortly before his deployment to Afghanistan, she said. "He wanted everything to be set, so that if something happened to him, she was OK," she said.

He was a 2001 graduate of Chaparral High School who signed up for the National Guard when he was 17, between his junior and senior years, Deutch said. He loved his family, he loved law enforcement, and he loved his police dog, Chico, she said.

She said she wished she'd been able to spend more time with her son, especially after his safe return from Afghanistan. "We only had him home for 27 days," she said. "And then he was gone."

Throughout his military career, Ian Deutch collected more than one dozen medals and decorations, including: Afghanistan Campaign medal with campaign star, NATO Afghanistan Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Army Sgt. Grant A. Wichmann

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Grant A. Wichmann, 27, of Golden, Colo.

Sgt. Wichmann was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died April 24, 2010 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., of wounds sustained March 12 when enemy forces attacked his unit using small arms fire at Out Post Bari Alai, Afghanistan.

Wichmann joined the U.S. Army in September 2007 and his current unit in January 2008. He worked as an infantryman. He deployed to Afghanistan May 2009.

Grant A. Wichmann grew up in Golden, Colorado. A high school friend remembered Grant as, "a very kind, friendly, and funny person." Grant fought for his life for six weeks, but finally could not recover from his severe injuries. His uncle Jim commented at KKTV.com, "I thank all in his unit who helped him, and all the doctors at Walter Reed. Our family will carry on. I will miss my nephew."

Posted by: John Rozelle Location: Golden, Colorado on Apr 30, 2010 at 10:48 AM
I had the priviledge of knowing Grant and coaching him as a youth in soccer. He was close friends with my youngest son, Jeremy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Wichmann family and friends for thier loss. Grant was a joy to have as a member of the soccer team and I am confident that he was also an excellent soldier. It is because of Grant and all the other service personnel in our country that we have the freedoms and blessings we enjoy. Mere words can never convey our gratitude and sense of loss. May the God andf Father of our Lord Jesus Christ richly bless you and keep you at this time of your loss. John Rozelle

Posted by: Megan Location: Golden, Co on Apr 30, 2010 at 04:22 PM
I went to High School with Grant.. He was a very kind, friendly,and funny person.. I will cherish the pictures that I have of Grant from High School.. Grant will never be forgotten.. My thoughts and prayers go out to his loving family.. I also would like to thank the drs who tried to Help Grant at Walter Reed.. RIP Grant you will be TRULY missed and never forgotten... Thank you for being brave for us, and fighting the fight that you did for us.

Awards and Decorations include, The Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Expert Infantry Badge Army.

He is survived by his wife Michelle, a 10 month old son, parents Robert and Lenora, and one brother, Keith. Burial will be at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado

Army Sgt. Grant A. Wichmann died 4/24/10 from wounds received in action on 3/12/10.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Army Sgt. Jason A. Santora

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jason A. Santora, 25, of Farmingville, N.Y.

Sgt. Santora was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; died April 23, 2010 in Logar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained while conducting combat operations. Also killed was Sgt. Ronald A. Kubik.

A Sachem alum and Farmingville native was killed Friday in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Jason Anthony Santora, 25, a member of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based in Fort Benning, Ga., died in Logar province.


In a statement Friday, NATO said five insurgents were killed in a battle and that the casualties came during a joint military operation with Afghan forces at a compound in the Puli Alam district.

Santora, who graduated from Sachem in 2003 and enlisted in March 2006, was on his fourth deployment, with one previously in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. For more than three years, he was a mortar platoon ammunition bearer and a rifle team leader. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal. His remains arrived at Dover Air Force Base, Del. on Sunday.

"Sergeant Kubik and Sergeant Santora were warriors, true patriots and absolute heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation," said Col. Michael E. Kurilla, commander, 75th Ranger Regiment, in a Special Operations Command (SOCOM) release. "They were the epitome of the Ranger Fire Team Leader – fearless, leading from the front, and always concerned for their men."

His awards and decorations include the Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and Parachutist Badge. He has also been awarded the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with combat star, Iraq Campaign Medal with two combat stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon, according to his biography on the SOCOM website.

"Sergerants Kubik and Santora were Ranger leaders of the highest caliber and brothers-in-arms who died fighting together," said Col. Dan Walrath, commander of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. "Their actions exemplify the fighting spirit of the Army Rangers and we will be eternally grateful for the examples they gave us in life."

Santora graduated from Sachem North High School in 2003. Family members said he had good grades and liked to play football and soccer.

His father, Gary Santora, 52, of Medford, said he was watching the news on TV early Friday when he saw a ticker item on the deaths of two troops and five militants in Afghanistan. "I didn't think twice of it," he said. "As long as I don't have any knocks at the door, I know he's OK. And that morning, I got that knock.

"They start off with, 'We regret to inform you,' " he said of the visit by the uniformed military. "Once they said that, I knew that he wasn't just hurt. They don't come to the door if your son's hurt."

Santora's family said he was so committed to his comrades in arms that he declined to return to Long Island this month after his grandmother died.

"He said, 'If I leave now, it's going to be difficult for my team, and I can't leave them,' " his mother, Theresa Santora, 49, of Massapequa Park, said. "I knew he made up his mind to be an Army Ranger. I wasn't happy about it. If I could've talked him out of it, I would have, but he loved what he did."

In the past year, Logar Province, which has access routes to Kabul, has seen an uptick in insurgent activity as the enemy seeks to gain a foothold in and around the capital, according to published reports.

Sunday, NATO-led forces captured a Taliban subcommander and killed several insurgents in Logar, Western military officials said. Hours later, hundreds of people blocked a main road in the province and protested what they said were civilian deaths in NATO operations, according to The Associated Press.

"Things really need to change in this world," Santora's mother said. "It's really sad that our young men have to go over there and be killed and come home in a casket. It's my baby."

He was a wonderful boy," said his grandmother Marie Santora. "He was a great kid, never got in trouble."

"His sister is a mess. They were very, very close," his grandmother said. Jason Santora and his little sister Gina had always been tight. When Gina turned 16 and their parents couldn't throw her a party due to personal problems, Jason, then 20, stepped up to plan the event.

With his modest wages from a job with a pool company, he sprung for the cost of her birthday bash.

"I danced with my brother," Gina Santora, 21, of Medford, said Sunday, just hours after seeing his flag-draped coffin reach Dover Air Force Base. "I always said that every girl should have a big brother like him."

Added Sachem Superintendent James Nolan, "I truly cannot think of anything worse than the tragic loss of a young life. It's just not supposed to be that way. I know that I can speak for the entire Sachem family when I say that Jason and his family are certainly in our thoughts and prayers. Jason is a true hero because he gave his life to help make the lives of others better."

Army Sgt. Jason A. Santora was killed in action on 4/23/10.

Army Sgt. Ronald A. Kubik

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Ronald A. Kubik, 21, of Brielle, N.J.

Sgt. Kubik was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; died April 23, 2010 in Logar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained while conducting combat operations. Also killed was Sgt. Jason A. Santora.

Army Sgt. Ronald Alan Kubik packed a large amount of life in his short 21 years.

"I'm a super-proud father. You couldn't ask for a better son," said his dad, Ronald A. Kubik. "He accomplished a lot in a short period of time. He did what he loved to do."

Kubik was killed in action Friday during combat operations in Logar Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom while assigned to Company D, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

"It's a shock and a half," Kubik said of his son's death. "You know there's a chance it can happen, but it really has not quite sunk in."

"He was adventurous and very creative," Amy Kubik said. "In the short time God gave him to us, he made a difference and impacted so many lives."

Kubik's family was on hand at at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware early Sunday to watch as his body was carried off a military plane by an honor guard made up of seven U.S. Army soldiers, in a transfer case draped with an American flag, officials said.

"His ranger battalion is so amazing," Amy Kubik said. "They stayed with us all day, walking us through the procedure. They sat with us for hours. We are all just like a giant family right now."

Kubik's body was placed into a waiting vehicle and driven to the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs at Dover Air Force Base, where he will be prepared for burial.

Kubik, who enlisted in the Army in March 2007 after attending Brookdale Community College for a few months, served for more than two years as an assistant machine gunner and as a rifle team leader with Company D.

Kubik was on his third deployment in support of the war on terror with one previous deployment to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. He was treated by unit medical personnel and evacuated to the nearest treatment facility where he later succumbed to his wounds, Army officials said.

Kubik transferred from Manchester High School in Ocean County to Manasquan High School where he graduated in 2006.

"He came into school his junior year," said Manasquan educator John Driscoll. "He fit in within a week; it was as if he had gone there his whole life."
An avid electric guitarist who was a part of a metal band, Kubik joined his high school football and wrestling teams, wrote a column for the school newspaper, took an acting class, and liked whitewater rafting and skydiving.

Among his most noted high school accomplishments was getting the district's Board of Education to change its policy and allow him to keep his Mohawk haircut.

"Distracting haircuts were against school policy," said Harry Harvey, his drama and Advanced Placement English teacher. "He proved them wrong, that it wasn't a distraction."

But shortly after, Kubik cut his hair short, saying he had proved his point.

His eldest sibling, Mary, said she was not surprised when her brother joined the military. "He was always the one who wouldn't stop pushing you until he knew you were pushing to be your best," she said. "He was that instigator, that motivator."

His commendations include the Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Parachutist Badge. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal.

"Sgts. Kubik and Santora were Ranger leaders of the highest caliber and brothers-in-arms who died fighting together," said Col. Dan Walrath, commander of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, in a prepared statement. "Their actions exemplify the fighting spirit of the Army Rangers and we will be eternally grateful for the examples they gave us in life."

Army Sgt. Ronald A. Kubik was killed in action on 4/23/10.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Worrell

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Worrell, 35, of Virginia Beach, Va.

SSgt. Worrell was assigned to the 702nd Combat Support Battalion, 4th Stryker Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; died April 22, 2010 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained in a non-combat-related incident.

Chris Worrell loved being in the Army. In the 13 years since he signed up, the 35-year-old loved everything he did, his brother said.

“He planned on it being what he did with his life,” Patrick Worrell said. “He was just very happy to serve.”

Chris Worrell died Thursday in Baghdad, the Department of Defense announced Sunday.

The release said SSGT. Christopher Worrell died of “injuries sustained during a non-combat related incident” but did not provide additional information.

His brother, in a phone interview Sunday, said it’s not yet clear how he died.

Staff Sgt. Worrell, was assigned to the 702nd Combat Support Battalion, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Chris was born and raised in Virginia Beach and graduated from Green Run High School in 1995, his brother said.

Several family members – including mother, Deborah Worrell, brother Patrick , and a sister – still live in the city.

He signed up for the Army two years after graduation.

“He just decided that’s what he wanted to do,” Patrick Worrell said. “He talked about wanting to do it, talked to a recruiter, and joined up.”

Chris Worrell, an automated logistical specialist, completed his initial training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and his advanced training at Fort Lee.

He was then transferred to Fort Lewis, Wash., where he spent most of his career, according to a release from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

His family said that he had served in Korea and was in the midst of his third tour in Iraq.

His latest deployment to Iraq began in September.

During his time in the Army, SSgt. Worrell received numerous awards, including two Army Commendation Medals and four Army Achievement Medals.

He said the family is planning a funeral service in Washington state as well as a local memorial service in Virginia.

Chris Worrell's family released a statement to WAVY.com late Sunday night.

"Christopher will live on through the people he helped, the service he believed in, the country he stood for and in the hearts he touched," the statement said. "Christopher is a beloved husband, father, son, brother and friend. After graduating from Green Run High School in 1995, Christopher joined the Army in 1997. He was a dedicated soldier for 12 years who was proud to serve our country and took great pride in what he did and the men and women he served with." Other than this statement, SSgt. Worrell's family did not want to talk any further about the incident. No other statements will be released to the press or media according to WAVY.com.

The statement said SSgt. Worrell is survived by his wife Laura and two sons, ages 12 and 5 of WA.; his parents Deborah S. Worrell and Kevin Rand; a sister and brother Patrick all of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

A funeral and burial will be held in Washington state. A memorial service will be held in Virginia Beach. Arrangements are still being made.

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Worrell was killed in a non-combat related incident on 4/22/10.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. John K. Laborde

Remember Our Heroes

Army Command Sgt. Maj. John K. Laborde, 53, of Waterloo, Iowa

Command Sgt. Maj. Laborde was assigned to the 649th Regional Support Group, U.S. Army Reserve, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; died April 22, 2010 at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained in a non-combat-related incident.

Command Sgt. Major John “Keith” Laborde, 53, died Thursday at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan from non-combat related incident, according to officials. Details about the incident have not been released. Laborde was part of the 649th Regional Support Group in Cedar Rapids.

First Lt. for the 103rd Expeditionary Support Command Michael Meyer confirmed the death. “Command Sergeant Major Laborde led a distinguished career of over 31 years in the military. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family here in Iowa, and to his comrades-in-arms still serving in Afghanistan,” Meyer said in a statement.

Laborde, who was deployed overseas 10 times and claimed to have never lost a soldier, enlisted in the Marine Corps in July of 1975. He enlisted in Camp Pendleton, Calif., as an infantry assualtman and served in active duty in Europe, Africa and southwest Asia.

He enlisted in the Army in 1985 and was part of the 1st 389th Engineer Battalion in Middleton and worked as a construction equipment repairer. He transferred to the 649th Regional Support Group in Cedar Rapids in 2007 and was promoted to Command Sergeant Major.

Laborde was deployed with 50 soldiers from the 649th in August to provide management and support operations for forces in Afghanistan.

In a letter to members of Iowa's Bravest in December, Laborde thanked volunteers for taking the time to send care packages: "... Your kindness and support has brought smiles to many soldiers in our area of operations. The packages that you sent went to the (Army Reserve) 649th Regional Support Group, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and they have shared the generosity to many others within our region. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are enjoying the fruits of your labor, and are sending their thanks and appreciation for all that you are doing back home."

Laborde was born in Louisiana, according to Army officials. He was an active member of the Reinbeck Lions Club, American Legion Post 242, Holy Family Parish Catholic Church, and was a High School Catechist/Teacher.

Laborde is the 74th person with Iowa ties killed in Iraq, Afghanistan or other places from combat, illness or accident since the Iraq war began in March 2003.

Iner Larsen, who lives across the street from the Labordes, called him a “terrific serviceman” who had dedicated his life to the military. Laborde grew up in Louisiana and had lived in Reinbeck for at least a decade, Larsen said.

He is survived by his wife Lori Laborde, five children and two grandchildren. His family, through Meyer, requested privacy and declined Saturday to speak with the media. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. John K. Laborde was killed in a non-combat related incident on 4/22/10.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Army Sgt. Robert J. Barrett

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Robert J. Barrett, 21, of Fall River, Mass.

Sgt. Barrett was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, Massachusetts National Guard, Fall River, Mass.; died April 19, 2010 near Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained in the explosion of an improvised explosive device while on dismounted patrol.

Five women comfort one another on the small deck of the Barrett family home, where two huge oak trees shade the backyard. Fall River has many rundown neighborhoods, but this one, Flint Village, is not one of them. The Barrett home is the only single-family house on a street of well-maintained triple-deckers clad in aluminum and vinyl siding. It’s always been a good place. One of the women says, “Nothing ever goes wrong here.”

Family and friends have gathered here because the Barretts’ son, Robert, 20, was killed serving in Afghanistan. They are awaiting word from the Army about when his body will be repatriated so that they can make funeral arrangements.

Choosing A Military Life

Carlene Barrett says her son, Robert, was fascinated by the military when his big sister joined ROTC and he was just eight-years-old.

“He just got interested in it from there, and when he joined high school, I mean, he just walked into it, and the military’s always been him,” Carlene says. Carlene and her husband knew their son would be a soldier someday, and there was no turning him around.

“I hated it, but I knew that’s what he wanted to do, and I knew once he turned 18, that there was nothing I could do about it,” Carlene remembers. “It was his choice. It was his life. We brought them up to make their own decisions, and to do what they felt they had to do, and that’s what he did.”

Robert himself had mixed feelings about going to Afghanistan. “He was scared. He was hoping for those people to see what we have over here, and he was hoping that he could somehow, someway, do the same thing for them,” Carlene says.

Melissa Baracewicc, Robert’s girlfriend, remembers the last time she talked to him. It was on Sunday. “He was excited. He didn’t like to stay back when all the other guys went off. He didn’t want to let his guys go out without him,” Baracewicc says.

Barrett was due for leave in June. The family found out on Monday that he was killed.

A Soldier And A Mentor

Robert’s father, Paul, has just come home. He’s holding a copy of his son’s birth certificate. “This sure wasn’t on my to-do list today,” he says. He says for two years in the Army, his son had worked for the honor guard, a ceremonial unit in the military.

“At the end, he buried three people in one day, and one of them was a friend of his. He was really broken up about that,” Paul says. “That’s when he decided he wanted to go. He wanted to make a difference.”

And so Robert asked to go to Afghanistan. Carlene says she was scared. “But, because he was going to mentor, we thought he was going to be safe, but I guess man makes plans and God makes others.”

Paul says a suicide bomber infiltrated the class of police officers his son was training at an Afghan base outside Kabul.

“This guy snuck in with stolen clothes, stolen uniform, was with them,” Paul says. “My son was mentoring like 20 of their Army guards. He was turning them into policemen. This guy had the vest under his uniform, and I’m assuming while my son was talking to him, he just decided to pop the button.”

Remembering Robert Barrett

Carlene remembers that growing up, her son was “your typical pain-in-the-butt kid.”

“He was there for anybody and everybody. He’d take his shirt off his back and give it to you if you needed it. He was just a wholehearted good kid,” Carlene says. Heather Ealy, Robert’s ex and the mother of his two-year-old daughter, says he was “a giant goof.”

“His favorite songs were ‘A Pocketful of Sunshine’ and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry.’ And every time he had talked about joining, I would start to cry and yell at him for going, and he would start singing that in a very high-pitched voice trying to be Fergie,” Ealy said.

"You can't be prepared when they come knocking on your door. There were two gentlemen from the Army," Barrett's father, Paul Barrett, said. "And as soon as I opened the door, what can you say? And he said, 'Can we come in?' I said, 'I know what you are going to say, and I won't hear it.'"

Robert Barrett had been in Afghanistan only since March. In a poem he wrote before shipping off, he spoke of danger and hope.

"I volunteered to put my life on the line for freedom and country. For my fellow soldiers, for my little girl, for my weeping mother and father," Robert Barrett wrote. "I am going to a land where American freedom is just a dream, a hope, a slow reality. I am an American soldier."

"(He was) hoping to make a difference. Not for us but for them to have what we have," Robert Barrett's mother, Carlene Barrett said.

During his free time, the soldier was working at an orphanage in Kabul. His parents had just sent him care packages filled with flip-flops and toys for the kids.

A funeral with full honors is planned for next week.

"May the family of Sgt. Barrett find solace in knowing that this brave soldier gave the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Carter. "We also extend our heartfelt condolences to Sgt. Barrett's comrades in the 101st Field Artillery Regiment, particularly those injured alongside him. The entire Massachusetts National Guard family deeply mourns the tragic loss of this loyal and young patriot."

Army Sgt. Robert J. Barrett was killed in action on 4/19/10.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Army Pfc. Charlie C. Antonio

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Charlie C. Antonio, 28, of Kahului, Hawaii

Pfc. Antonio was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died April 18, 2010 in Annassar, Iraq, of injuries sustained in a non-combat-related incident.

A Maui man who worked two hotel jobs and then joined the Army for a better life died in Iraq on Sunday, his brother said today

Pfc. Charlie Antonio had been in the Army about a year and deployed from Colorado to Kuwait and then Iraq, his younger brother, Marlon, 25, said by phone.
Two soldiers came to the family's Kahului home early Monday morning to break the news, he said.

"Of course (we're) kind of shocked. It's like disbelief what happened," Marlon Antonio said.

His older brother "was a good person," he said. "He never smoked cigarettes or drank. What he (did) here before, he just worked, worked, worked. Two jobs. Two hotels."

Charlie Antonio had worked at the Grand Wailea Resort and the Four Seasons Maui, his brother said, but he was not sure what he did.

"He wanted to do anything just to make his life better" and that's why he joined the Army, his brother said.

The Pentagon said Antonio, 28, died in Annassar, Iraq, of injuries suffered in a "noncombat related incident." He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colo.

The details of what happened in Iraq are still being sorted out, Marlon Antonio said.

"We only know that he died because of a gunshot. But we don't know yet about what really happened, (or) how it happened."

Charlie Antonio had gone to high school in the Philippines, his brother said. He came to Hawaii around 1998, Marlon Antonio thought.

Separately, the Hawaii National Guard said a wake service for one of its soldiers who also died in Iraq will be held on Friday.

A wake will be held Friday at Mililani Downtown Mortuary at 20 S. Kukui St. The wake service will begin at 7 p.m. and the public viewing is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m., officials said.

The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, also at Mililani Downtown Mortuary. Burial will be at 1:30 p.m. at Mililani Memorial Park.

The Army said Antonio enlisted on April 1, 2009, and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade three months later as an infantryman. The unit deployed to Iraq on March 18. He is the second soldier with Hawaii ties to die in Iraq this year.

He had been in the Army just more than a year and deployed to Iraq for only a month.

Pfc. Antonio is survived by his parents Demetrio and Lilia Antonio, a brother Marlon Antonio and a sister Arlene C. Antonio all of Kuhului, Hawaii.

Army Pfc. Charlie C. Antonio was killed in a non-combat related incident on 4/18/10.

Army Staff Sgt. James R. Patton

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. James R. Patton, 23, of Fort Benning, Ga.

SSgt. Patton was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; died April 18, 2010 in Tikrit, Iraq, of injuries sustained as the result of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash.

A Fort Benning Ranger died Sunday in Iraq while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. Department of Defense said.

Staff Sgt. James R. Patton, 23, died from injuries sustained when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter he was in crashed during a combat operation.

Patton was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

"Staff Sergeant Jimmy Patton was the life of his platoon and the epitome of a selfless servant," said Col. Dan Walrath, 3rd Battalion, Ranger Regiment commander. "He made the best of every situation regardless of circumstance and he always exuded an easy confidence that ‘it could be done.'"

Patton was on his seventh deployment in support of the War on Terror. He had previously deployed twice to Iraq and four times to Afghanistan.

"Staff Sergeant James Patton was the epitome of the American Ranger - Warrior, Patriot, and dedicated to mission accomplishment. Staff Sgt. Patton was killed in a helicopter crash on one of the most significant missions since the beginning of the Iraq War," said Col. Michael E. Kurilla, 75th Ranger Regiment commander.

"Jimmy trained his Rangers well; those that were not injured secured the crash site, evacuated the wounded, and then successfully completed the mission. Staff Sgt. Patton's spirit lives on in the Rangers he led in combat and the friends and families he touched throughout his life."

Patton enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 2004, and following completion of One Station Unit Training and the Ranger Indoctrination Program, he was assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga. During his service with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, he served as a grenadier, fire team leader, and rifle squad leader.

Patton was on his seventh deployment in support of the War on Terror. He had previously deployed twice to Iraq and four times to Afghanistan.

Patton is survived by his wife Beatriz and daughter Cecilia of Columbus, Ga., and his parents Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory and Sheila Patton of Indian Mound, Tenn.

Army Staff Sgt. James R. Patton was killed in action on 4/18/10.

Army Sgt. Randolph A. Sigley

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Randolph A. Sigley, 28, of Richmond, Ky.

Sgt. Sigley was assigned to the 2123rd Transportation Company, Kentucky National Guard, Richmond, Ky.; died April 18, 2010 in Bagram, Afghanistan. He was found dead in his quarters, and the circumstances are under investigation.

A Kentucky Army National Guard soldier who lived in Richmond died Sunday while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Randolph “Randy” Sigley Jr., 28, was found dead in his quarters at Bagram Airbase where he was serving with the National Guard’s Richmond-based 2123rd Transportation Company.

The cause of death has not been determined and is under investigation, according to a statement from Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht.

Sigley, whose family lives in Casey County, had attended Eastern Kentucky University and lived in Richmond, where he worked full-time with the Guard, before deploying to Afghanistan on March 18, said David Altom, a Guard spokesperson.

Sigley had commanded a mine-resistant, ambush-protected Humvee that helped protect military convoys in Afghanistan, Altom said.

“The death of Sgt. Sigley is a tremendous loss to us all,” said Capt. John Moore, who commands Sigley’s unit. “His professionalism, selfless service and devotion was contagious to all who served with him. Randy was not only a great soldier but a fantastic human being who cared deeply for his brothers and sisters in arms. He was a true patriot who loved his country, state and unit.”

“Sgt. Sigley’s family is in our thoughts and prayers as we grieve his loss,” said Moore. “He was a fine soldier and a Kentuckian in the true pioneer spirit.”

A member of the Kentucky Army National Guard since 2006, Sigley served from 2000-2004 with the United States Marine Corps. He had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Marines.

“The entire Kentucky National Guard is saddened by the news of Sgt. Sigley’s death,” said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky adjutant general. “We want to recognize in particular Randy’s family as they grieve for the loss of this wonderful son and brother. They are part of our Kentucky National Guard family, and so we will extend to them all of the assistance and support in our power.”

Sigley is survived by his mother, Mrs. Rhonda L. Hardin, his stepfather, Alton A. Hardin, and his sister, Kristin Mattingly.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Army Sgt. Michael K. Ingram Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Michael K. Ingram Jr., 23, of Monroe, Mich.

Sgt. Ingram was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died April 17, 2010 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol.

Ingram was a native of Monroe, Michigan. Michael was a 2005 graduate of Monroe High School with a bright, promising future. Now, he is being called a hero by his friends and family.

Michael's father says he stepped on an improvised explosive device that took his life. He says Michael had been looking forward to returning home. Despite an injury allowing him to return early, he chose to stay until his tour of duty ended in early June.

Ever since he was about 4 or 5 years old he said 'I want to be an army man when I grow up," said Michael Ingram, Senior, the soldier's father.

Ingram joined the service right after graduating from Monroe High School in 2005. His plan was to eventually be in law enforcement.

His father tried to talk him out of joining during war-time but there was no changing his mind.

Getting the news of the corporal's death was his father's biggest fear.

"It's my worst nightmare come true that's by far," said Ingram, Sr. "I feared this from the time he got deployed. I feared the two guys at my driveway. He's got a lot of support from family and friends and he was just loved so much. Everybody was waiting for him to come home."

Ingram was scheduled to come home in less than a month and a half: June 5th. "He'd been wanting to come home real bad here lately," said Ingram, Sr. The soldier actually had the opportunity to leave early but he stayed out of loyalty.

"He could have come home about a month ago because he injured himself--a torn muscle in his groin--but he said he wasn't leaving his boys," said Ingram, Sr. "They went there together and he was coming home with his boys." But that plan just was not meant to be.

Now his father is making plans of a different kind: funeral arrangements. But he says he could not be more proud of the well-liked, brave man he raised.

"He's a fallen hero but he's also still my son," said Ingram, Sr. "He joined the army because that's something he wanted to do and he was so proud of himself."

Ingram joined the U.S. Army in February 2006, his current unit in March 2006, and was deployed to Afghanistan on May 24, 2009. He worked as an infantryman.

Ingram received the following awards during his service: Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal and Combat Infantry Badge.

Army Sgt. Michael K. Ingram Jr. was killed in action on 4/17/10.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Army Spc. Joseph T. Caron

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Joseph T. Caron, 21, of Tacoma, Wash.

Spc. Caron was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died April 11, 2010 in Char Bagh, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

Joseph T. Caron was headstrong and driven, the kind of guy who knew what he wanted to do and did it. More than anything else, he wanted to be in the military. It was his career of choice.

He came from a family with a long history of military and law-enforcement duty; both his father and grandfather had served.

"He wanted to be just like his dad, just like his papa," said his uncle, Patrick Caron, a construction worker in Roy, Pierce County.

Because the two were so close in age, Patrick, who is 24, knew Spc. Caron — or "Joey," as he was called — more as a brother than as his nephew. Along with Spc. Caron's younger brother Josh, "we were always getting in trouble together, getting spanked together, always doing stuff we weren't supposed to," he said.

Growing up, they were outdoors boys, he said, their minds often meandering toward thoughts of hunting, camping or paintball.

Spc. Caron enlisted in the Army shortly after graduating from Spanaway's Washington High, where he'd wrestled and played football. He rooted for the NFL's Denver Broncos and loved to fish.

"He didn't like to lose, didn't like to come in second," his uncle said.

Spc. Caron talked about going to college someday with Army assistance. Sometime down the road, he talked of maybe becoming a law-enforcement officer in small-town Montana.

During a leave last summer, Spc. Caron, along with his father and uncle, went fishing on the Columbia River and exhibited the competitive nature that for many defined his character. "He had to outdo everybody, had to catch the biggest fish out of the three of us," Patrick Caron said.

At day's end, it was Jeffrey Caron, Spc. Caron's father, who was certain he'd landed the top prize. But sure enough, when the fish were put on the scale, "Joey had the biggest one out of 12 people on the boat. That put a big smile on his face."

On his Facebook page, Spc. Caron chronicled his grueling military experience, honoring fallen comrades and dropping tidbits of inspirational military lore. On Sunday, he said he'd forgotten what it was like to sleep. His last post was a snippet from a song by the Steve Miller Band.

"He was a good soldier," Patrick Caron said. "He knew the risks. He had accepted those risks. He just wanted to fight his way through it."

"Spc. Caron was loved by his fellow Paratroopers and leaders alike," said Capt. Adam W. Armstrong, commander of Bravo Company, 2-508th PIR. "Always there with a joke when you needed it most and always putting forth 110 percent with fiery intensity, we knew we could depend on him in times when he was needed most."

Caron enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in August 2007, attended airborne school at Ft. Benning, Ga., and then reported to Ft. Bragg. He deployed to southern Afghanistan in September, according to the Pentagon.

While he never was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in his home town, he was killed in a place and in a manner that's become all-too-familiar for local Stryker soldiers and their loved ones. The Arghandab Valley, a violent area of Kandahar province, is where several members of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division have been wounded or killed, mostly in bombings.

Caron's survivors include his father, Jeffrey Caron; his mother, Tani Hubbard; stepmother, Karen Caron; sister, Cassandra Caron; and brother Josh Caron.

Army Spc. Joseph T. Caron was killed in action on 4/11/10.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Army Sgt. Sean M. Durkin

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Sean M. Durkin, 24, of Aurora, Colo.

Sgt Durkin was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, Fort Carson, Colo.; died April 9, 2010 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device near Forward Operating Base Wilson, Afghanistan, on March 27.

Mary Ann Durkin thought her son, U.S. Army Sgt. Sean Michael Durkin, 24, was doing OK despite losing both legs when his vehicle was struck with an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on March 27.

However, Durkin, who grew up on South Side Easton and also lived in Bethlehem Township, Pa., contracted a fungal infection and died from the injuries Friday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington, D.C.

“He was doing really good,” said Mary Ann Durkin, now of Arizona. “He even told me about what happened to him.”

Childhood friend Joseph Anastasi, of Easton, remembers playing war games with Durkin in their Easton neighborhood. His family couldn't have imagined anything other than a military career for him. “He was a very strong person,” Anastasi said. “He died doing what he wanted to do. He fought and died defending his country.”

Sean Durkin will be buried alongside his father, Vietnam War veteran William Durkin, in Hays Cemetery on South Side after services at the Phillipsburg Alliance Church.

Army Sgt. Sean Durkin of Aurora was born to be a soldier, his mother said Monday evening. "Whenever he drew or did anything for school when he was a child, it was always about the Army," said Mary Ann Durkin of her late son. "That's just who he was."

The 24-year-old died Friday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., from injuries sustained in a roadside attack in Afghanistan on March 27, the Defense Department reported Monday. He was stationed at Fort Carson.

Durkin's convoy was rocked by an initial blast near Forward Operating Base Wilson. As Durkin and two other soldiers got out of their vehicle to inspect the damage, a second bomb went off, Mary Ann Durkin said. The sergeant lost both legs and died from complications of an infection. His fellow soldiers had lesser injuries, his mother said.

The day before he was injured, he had sent her a message on Facebook about a mission he could not elaborate on. "He said, 'We'll be out for a week and a half, and when I get back, I'll tell you when I'm coming home,' " his mother recalled.

On Tuesday night, a Colorado newspaper reported that President Obama personally delivered a Purple Heart to Durkin the day after the explosion.

The commander-in-chief presented the honor during his visit to a hospital in the Afghan capital of Kabul, where Sgt. Durkin was located.

He had been recuperating at Walter Reed after losing both legs to amputation, and his family and doctors were cautiously optimistic about his recovery, said Michael Yount, pastor of Phillipsburg Alliance Church, where the Durkins were active before moving from the area.

But Durkin's condition rapidly worsened from an apparent fungal infection, said Yount, who visited Durkin last week.

''Up until Thursday, it looked like he was going to make it,'' the pastor said.

Yount said Durkin had to repeat basic training because he broke his foot during his first effort. Then, at the end of his second go-around, he broke it again. Those injuries never quenched his ambition to serve.

Yount said his church will hold a memorial service in about 30 days. It hasn't yet been scheduled because Durkin's sister is expecting a baby.

Durkin joined the Army in February 2006. He had grown up in Pennsylvania but completed his senior year at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial in 2004, then attended Denver Auto Diesel College, his mother said. He loved to work on two Honda Civic hatchbacks he owned. After he found out that he lost his legs, "the first thing he asked was whether he would still be able to drive his car," she recalled.

According to Fort Carson, Durkin had been in Afghanistan since August. He was deployed in Iraq from March to November in 2007, according to the base. He received numerous commendations and medals, including the Expert Infantry Badge, the Driver Mechanic Badge and the Parachutist Badge.

Army Sgt. Sean M. Durkin died 4/9/10 of wounds received in action on 3/27/10.

Army Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz, 23, of Ramsey, N.J.

Cpl. Jankiewicz was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; died April 9, 2010 in Zabul, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when the CV-22 Osprey he was flying in crashed.

A 23-year-old Army Ranger from Ramsey was killed in Afghanistan last week, along with three others, when a U.S. Air Force Osprey crashed in Zabul Province, about 200 miles southwest of Kabul.

On Saturday, Cpl. Michael Jankiewicz’s father, Anthony, went to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive Michael’s body.

“It was just a tragic accident,” Anthony Jankiewicz, of East Stroudsburg, Pa., said Sunday, although Army officials “in the know” have been unable to provide details about the Thursday crash. Two other military personnel and a civilian contractor were also killed in the crash, the tilt-rotor aircraft’s first within a combat zone, according to NATO officials.

A Taliban spokesman initially said militants had shot down the aircraft, but officials in Afghanistan have discounted that claim.

Anthony Jankiewicz said he learned that something had happened to Michael while at work Friday at his trucking firm in Elizabeth. “I only prayed that he was not in the enemy’s hands,” he said.

On Sunday, Michael Jankiewicz’s family said that in his four years in the military, Michael never talked about his work. He was an Army Ranger, a member of the military’s elite rapid-strike force that specializes in covert missions.

“They do stuff they just don’t want the enemy to know about,” Anthony Jankiewicz said. “Michael, being the good Ranger, would only say, ‘I can’t wait to get back to my platoon.’ “

Michael, serving with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, had just left for his second tour of Afghanistan in March, after having served twice in Iraq.

“My brother had a love for this country … he’s a hero,” said his sister, Michelle Jankiewicz, 27, of Midland Park.

Michael graduated from Ramsey High School in 2006. Never the “greatest” student, according to his father, he played a little golf, loved history and knew he wanted to be a soldier as a child. “He could have been 3 years old when he was talking about it,” said his father.

“There were countless times I was called to [high school] counselors who said, ‘He is so damn smart, but he doesn’t want to be here,’ “ Anthony Jankiewicz said. “He kind of thought he knew more history than anybody who worked at the school. He was more into world politics, a history buff. He could tell you anything you needed to know about American history.”

Michael was never injured overseas, but he did suffer a broken femur during an airborne exercise in Savannah, Ga., while landing hard with a .50-caliber machine gun. Though the Rangers’ tough training regimen apparently never bothered the 6-footer.

“He was fit as a fiddle,” his father said. “I swear to God, I thought he had super human powers.”

At the family’s house in Ramsey on Sunday, and on Michael’s Facebook page, friends paid their respects throughout the day.

“He once told my mother that if anything happened to him at least he would be doing what he loved,” Michelle Jankiewicz said.

She said an Army buddy is bringing “Hans,” Michael’s German shepherd, home to Ramsey from Fort Benning, Ga. “He always wanted a German Shepherd … he had a stuffed German Shepherd as a youngster, and finally got a real one he named Hans six months ago,” Michelle said.

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, but will be handled by the Van Emburg-Sneider-Pernice Funeral Home in Ramsey. Michael Jankiewicz will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.

Air Force Maj. Randall “Randy” Voas, 43, of Minneapolis-St. Paul and 45-year-old Senior Master Sgt. James B. Lackey of Green Cove Springs, Fla., were also killed in the crash, according to the Department of Defense. Officials have not identified the fourth victim.

He is survived by his mother, Serena, of Ramsey, his father, Anthony, of East Stroudsburg, Pa., and his sister Michelle.

Army Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz was killed in action on 4/9/10.

Air Force Maj. Randell D. Voas

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Maj. Randell D. Voas, 43, of Lakeville, Minn.

Major Voas was assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.; died April 9, 2010 near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in a crash of a CV-22 Osprey.

Father recalls son’s path to Air Force

By Dinesh Ramde
The Associated Press

An airman who grew up in Minnesota died after his aircraft plunged to the ground in Afghanistan, the man’s father said April 10.

Maj. Randy D. Voas, 43, died April 9 when his Air Force Osprey crashed near Kandahar, Dwaine Voas told The Associated Press. The Defense Department said three other people aboard also died.

Randy Voas lived in Shalimar, Fla., but he was raised in Minnesota, his father said. Voas was an honor student and avid runner who always had a can-do attitude, his dad said.

“He just had a zest for life,” Dwaine Voas said. He spoke by telephone from Dover, Del., where his son’s remains were scheduled to arrive late April 10.

Also killed in the crash was 45-year-old Senior Master Sgt. James B. Lackey of Green Clove Springs, Fla., the Pentagon said. Another service member and a civilian contractor also died in the crash; the Pentagon wouldn’t identify them.

It was the first time the costly tilt-rotor aircraft had crashed in a combat zone.

Voas and Lackey were assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., the military said.

Dwaine Voas, himself an Army veteran, sounded matter-of-fact as he spoke of his son’s death. He said he always knew this day could come.

“You hope in your heart it would never happen,” he said.

Randy was a member of the National Honor Society at Eden Prairie High School, where he graduated about 1985, his father said. Randy also ran cross-country, discovering a passion for running that stayed with him.

Randy ran four or five marathons and did an occasional triathlon, Dwaine Voas said. He planned to be a podiatrist, but his father said chemistry classes at the University of Minnesota proved to be his undoing.

So with a biology degree in hand and unclear on his career direction, Randy passed the time with a handful of “fill-in jobs” until he decided to join the military.

He came home one day and told his father he’d spoken with a recruiter about joining a flight program.

Randy Voas became a standout pilot, earning an Air Force award in 2003 for his role in a combat air drop in northern Iraq that was the largest since the Vietnam War.

Dwaine Voas said he never heard his son’s colleagues say anything bad about him.

“They’d always say he’s an excellent pilot, they enjoyed working with him and serving with him, they liked the way he led his units,” his father said.

Randy Voas is survived by his wife, Jill, and two children. A memorial service is tentatively planned for April 15 in Florida, Dwaine Voas said.

Dwaine Voas said there’s no describing the pain of losing a child, but at least he took pride in knowing his son died with honor.

“If there’s anybody who I’d trust to do a military job,” he said, “it was him.”

Air Force Maj. Randell D. Voas was killed in action on 4/9/10.

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. James B. Lackey

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. James B. Lackey, 45, of Green Clove Springs, Fla.

Senior MSgt Lackey was assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.; died April 9, 2010 near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in a crash of a CV-22 Osprey.

Sergeant Lackey, 45, was a CV-22 evaluator flight engineer and a former MH-53 flight engineer. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1986 and became an aircraft maintenance crew chief. In 1992, he began MH-53 flight engineer training and flew on the PAVE LOW for 14 years before becoming a CV-22 flight engineer student in 2006. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross in 2002 for acts of heroism in combat.

When Air Force personnel went to deliver the news of J.B. Lackey’s death to his family at their home in Fort Walton Beach, the family’s pastor, Roger Peadro, came to help them grieve.

“It’s a shock – even though you know it’s a possibility, you never anticipate an incident that will take their life,” said Peadro, a pastor at First Christian Church in Fort Walton Beach.

He described J.B. as “very attentive” to his family, and said he was “a person you would want to be with you in critical times.”

Peadro said J.B.’s mother, Kathleen, was proud of him and knew he was involved in missions he wasn’t able to talk about.

Attempts to reach the Lackey family Sunday were unsuccessful.

The 8th SOS completed its first CV-22 combat deployment in November 2009, and returned to Afghanistan in March for its second deployment.

“The Hurlburt Field community shares in the sorrow felt by the Voas and Lackey families, and our efforts are focused on seeing them through this difficult time,” said Col. Greg Lengyel. “We must not forget the valuable contributions Randy and “JB” made to their country and community.”

The CV-22 is a tiltrotor aircraft which enables U.S. Special Operations Command to conduct night-time, long-range, infiltration and exfiltration missions. Its versatility, speed and vertical-lift capability is not met by any other existing fixed- or rotary-wing platform.

The cause of the crash is unknown at this time. The Air Force is committed to a thorough investigation and more information will be released as it becomes available.

Lackey leaves behind his wife Cassie and three sons, Brandon, Alex and Nick.

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. James B. Lackey was killed in action on 4/9/10.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Army Pfc. Jonathon D. Hall

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Jonathon D. Hall, 23, of Chattanooga, Tenn.

Pfc Hall was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died April 8, 2010 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device at Contingency Outpost Khayr-Kot-Castle, Afghanistan.

Jonathan David Hall was so intent on serving his country as a medic that he enlisted the help of his East Brainerd grandfather, a 40-year military veteran, to get into an elite Tennessee National Guard "active first" program.

For seven months, Pfc. Hall, who grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, lived with his grandparents, Jan and Don Priddy. With Mr. Priddy's help, he prepared for his enlistment, military testing and eventual acceptance as a medic. On Valentine's Day he was deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army's 3rd of 187th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Pfc. Hall, 23, was fatally injured April 8 when an improvised explosive device blasted his vehicle.

His grandparents and family will lay him to rest Monday in Chattanooga National Cemetery.

"He loved Chattanooga," said his grandmother Wednesday, struggling not to cry.

Tennessee Army National Guard Capt. Jim Ridings helped Mr. Priddy get Pfc. Hall in uniform, signing him up first in the Tennessee National Guard. Recruits commit to 36 months of full-time Army service, then they can opt to return to the Guard or re-enlist in the Army.

"Very few qualify for the 'active first' program because it has a higher standard," Capt. Ridings said. "He was dedicated to becoming the best he could be ... and his focus was to help other people, whether that meant treating blisters on their feet or patching up open wounds."

Mr. Priddy said he often worked with his grandson to help prepare him for the Army and for combat.

Pfc. Hall loved the service and talked about making the military a career, his grandfather said.

"Even on this patrol, he volunteered to go because he wanted to be with his men. As it turned out, he was the one who did not survive the attack," Mr. Priddy said.

Life support was removed April 11, 2010, upon request of the family for vital organ removal. Pfc. Hall had signed an organ donor form, and his organs were given to six people. Pfc. Hall now lives through six young German men who are the recipients of his heart, lungs, a kidney and pancreas, the other kidney, with two sharing his liver.

In addition, a number of individuals benefited from miscellaneous blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments."

"He gave life even in his death," Mr. Priddy said.

From PFC Hall's obituary:

He grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and attended Northwest High School for one year. He was a combat medic assigned to Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment Rakkasan, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assualt). He was awarded the following medals: Bronze Star Medal (posthumous), Purple Heart Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Medal Badge, Weapons Qualification Badge Rife Expert, and Overseas Service Bar.

Survivors include his father, Lt. Col. Steven D. Hall, Anchorage, Alaska; his mother, Robynn K. Harrison, Rocky Face, Ga.; sister, Tristyn E. Hall, Ashland City, Tenn.; paternal grandparents, Mary and Hugh Hall, of Woodlawn; paternal great-grandmother, Ruby Johnson, Indian Mound, Tenn.; and maternal grandparents, retired CW5 Don and Jan Priddy, Chattanooga.

Army Pfc. Jonathon D. Hall was killed in action on 4/8/10.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Army Pfc. William A. Blount

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. William A. Blount, 21, of Petal, Miss.

Pfc. Blount was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Stewart, Ga.; died April 7, 2010 in Mosul, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

JACKSON — Army Pfc. Anthony Blount was looking forward to coming home next month for the birth his first child, a little girl to be named Avery Elizabeth.

However, the 21-year-old Petal, Miss., resident won't get the chance. He and another soldier died Wednesday in Iraq after the vehicle they were in hit a roadside bomb, according to Blount's brother-in-law, Nate McRae.

The U.S. military announced Wednesday that two American soldiers died while conducting a patrol in northern Iraq. The names were not immediately released, which follows Defense Department policy of withholding identities until a time after relatives have been notified.

"Anthony was one of most the hilarious people I've ever met. The guy was funny as hell," McRae said. "He was a really great spirit. And he was the last boy that could carry on his grandparents' name."

McRae said he tried to discourage Blount from the joining the Army nearly two years ago, but the Petal High School graduate was intent on serving in the military.

"He's extremely honorable," McRae said. "All of his commanding officers said he was just an amazing soldier. It's a tremendous loss."

William Blount's wife, Amanda, is eight months pregnant.

Stephen Garrard, a director at Moore Funeral Home in Petal, confirmed Blount's death but said arrangements had not been completed.

Pfc. Blount was outgoing and popular, McRae said.

"He was an amazing guitar player. He taught himself to play. He loved video games and hanging out with his friends," McRae recalled.

Pfc. Blount was serving with the 164th Infantry Bravo Company. He joined the Army roughly a year ago, his father, Billy Blount, said.

“It’s been pretty rough, a lot of our cell phones have been going off,” Billy Blount said. “It’s great, I mean, the morning after we found out... a guy from his unit who was on leave came and talked with us and cried with us.”

Pfc. Blount is survived by his wife Amanda and unborn daughter Avery (due next month), parents Billy and Kay Blount of Petal, sisters Laken Blount and Lori McRae both of MS.

Army Pfc. William A. Blount was killed in action on 4/7/10.

Army 1st Lt. Robert W. Collins

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Robert W. Collins, 24, of Tyrone, Ga.

1st Lt Collins was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Stewart, Ga.; died April 7, 2010 in Mosul, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

Army Lt. Robert Collins died Wednesday in Iraq when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device, The Citizen has confirmed.

Besides Lt. Collins, who was the platoon commander, the roadside explosion also killed the vehicle's driver and injured five others, according to a source familiar with the situation. The military has not yet released information on Collins' death.

Today, neighbors have lined the Collins' Tyrone area neighborhood with flags in a tribute to Lt. Collins and also to provide moral support for the family.

The incident happened near Tal Abdah, northern Iraq (near Mosul) on April 7.

1st Lt. Collins was a 2004 graduate of Sandy Creek High School and a 2008 graduate of West Point Military Academy. He was also engaged to be married to his long time girlfriend Nicole. Robert Collins was also a member of American Legion Post 105 in Fayetteville.

Fayette County Sheriff Wayne Hannah issued the following statement Saturday afternoon:

“The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office would like to express our deepest sympathy to the family of Lt. Robert Collins who has been tragically killed in Iraq while serving our country.

“Lt. Collins was a resident and high school graduate of Fayette County.

“We recently were contacted by Lt. Collins’ family who appreciate all the support from the community and the media. However, at this time they would like to request that you consider them as they try and mourn this tragic loss.

“They want to convey to you in the media that the best way to honor their loved one is to allow them to privately grieve.

“We at the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office would like to honor this family’s wish and encourage you to take consideration into this matter.”

The Patriot Guard Riders have been invited by the family of Lt. Robert W. Collins to honor their hero.

1st. Lt. Collins is survived by his parents Deacon and Sharon Collins of Tyrone, GA as well as his fiancee Nicole.

Army 1st Lt. Robert W. Collins was killed in action on 4/7/10.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Army Spc. Randall Landstedt

Remember Our Heroes

A young Pollock Pines CA man who wanted more than anything else to have a lifetime career in the military was tragically struck down April 6 in a vehicle accident while on leave in Florida.

Spc. Randall R.C. Landstedt, 22, who already had completed a tour in Afghanistan and had re-enlisted and was stationed at Ft. Drum, N.Y., was struck and killed in Crestview, Fla., earlier this month.

“He had just gotten to Florida that day,” said his mother Joanne Landstedt, 60, of Pollock Pines, wiping a tissue under her slightly swollen eyes this week as she spoke of her son to the Mountain Democrat.

“We lived in Pollock Pines, in Sierra Springs, since Randall was 6 years old,” said Joanne, who added that Randall attended local elementary and high schools, including Pinewood, Sierra Ridge, El Dorado High and Independence High. She pointed with pride to a photo that shows her son in 2002, one of three teen-aged boys among a group of a dozen lovely young ladies on a cheerleading squad that performed at the USA Regional Cheer Competition in Modesto.

Joanne and her husband, Daniel Landstedt, 55, last saw Randall in February, home on leave before reporting for his second tour after reenlisting last autumn.

“He loved it,” Joanne said of her son's feelings about the military and deciding to serve again. “He wanted to make a career of it. From second grade on, he said he wanted to join the Army.

“Randall kept a book that he wrote about family and friends, and it there we just discovered that at the age of 17 he wrote that he wished his dad would sign the paper so that he could enlist at that age,” said Joanne, showing the first small smile she could muster Tuesday afternoon. “His friends called him 'Lanny two-clips,'” she added, showing the Democrat a photo of a strong-featured youth crouched down, clutching the controls to a military automatic weapon.

Brother-in-law Neil Bronstein, 38, who is married to Randall's 44-year-old sister Rickie, said, “His friends knew him as a kind, generous, considerate, loyal, good friend.” Bronstein had traveled from the couple's home in San Diego to help his in-laws through the difficult time.

Mom Joanne said she wants to let the public know how much support the family has received from the military, including the Patriot Guard Riders who were to meet the plane carrying her son's body at Sacramento International Airport this week and then escort the hearse on its trip to Marysville for the funeral Saturday. Randall Ray Charles Landstedt was born in Yuba City Feb. 1, 1988, and will be laid to rest there.

“I have received so many phone calls from Ft. Drum,” Joanne continued. “I want to express that — how wonderful they have been. They're even having a memorial ceremony at the fort, and they are flying our family to New York for the unveiling of a plaque that will name a room for our son.”

Army Specialist Randall Landstedt twice received the Army Commendation Medal and received the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, an Army Service Ribbon, an Overseas Service Ribbon and the NATO Medal with an International Security Assistance Force bar.

From his obituary:
Specialist Randall Landstedt Born February 1, 1988 and passed away on April 6, 2010. Randall lived in Ft. Drum, NY, and spent the majority of his life in Pollock Pines, CA. He was born in Yuba City, CA. Randall is a decorated combat veteran who received two Army Commendation Medals, a Afghanistan Campaign Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, a Overseas Service Ribbon and a NATO Medal with ISAF bar. In addition to his military career, Randall also excelled in wrestling and motocross quad racing, and had a deep love for his family and rap music. He also loved visiting new places. Randall was an amazing son, brother, uncle and friend.

Randall is survived by his parents Joanne and Danny Landstedt of Pollock Pines, CA; his brother James Copeland, his nephew Andrew, and his niece Sarah also of Pollock Pines, CA; his sister Rickie Bronstein of San Diego, CA and his grandmother Elizabeth Musholt of Dobbins, CA.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Army Sgt. Kurt E. Kruize

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Kurt E. Kruize, 35, of Hancock, Minn.

Sgt. Kruize was assigned to the 367th Engineer Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, St. Cloud, Minn.; died April 4, 2010 in Baghdad of wounds sustained in a noncombat-related incident.

Dad: Reservist loved civilian job, his 4 children

By Steve Karnowski
The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A 35-year-old soldier from St. Cloud who had four children died in Iraq a month after returning for his second tour of duty there, his father said.

Army Reserve Sgt. Kurt E. Kruize, 35, died April 4 in Baghdad of a noncombat-related injury, said his father, Lyle Kruize, of Hancock — the western Minnesota town where Kurt Kruize grew up.

Lyle Kruize said the Army hasn’t provided his family with further details about how his son died, but said that it is still investigating.

Kurt Kruize’s body arrived April 6 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. His wife, Billie Kruize, was flying back from Dover on April 7, his father said.

Funeral arrangements have not been set. Lyle Kruize said the Defense Department would fly his son’s body to St. Cloud once they are.

“I know one thing, he’s getting a full military funeral,” his father said.

Kurt Kruize was a 1993 graduate of Hancock High School, where he played football and basketball. He joined the Army Reserve when he was still in high school, Lyle Kruize said.

After graduating, he studied automotive mechanics at the technical college in Detroit Lakes and worked as a mechanic for several years. But he wanted to get out of that, and loved his job at the Viking Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in St. Cloud, Lyle Kruize said. The company’s human relations director said he was a forklift operator.

Lyle Kruize said his son and Billie Kruize got married in 1996 and had four children, who are ages 13, 10, 5 and 2. The family had been living in St. Cloud for at least three or four years, he said.

“He loved spending time with those kids,” Lyle Kruize said. “He did a lot of things with those kids.”

He also liked to hunt and fish, and loved being in the military, his father said.

Kurt Kruize is also survived by his mother, Beverly Kruize, of Hancock, a brother and two sisters.

Army Sgt. Kurt E. Kruize was killed in a non-combat related injury on 4/4/10.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Army Staff Sgt. Jason C. Russo

Remember Our Heroes

A former member of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center staff, Army Staff Sergeant Jason C. Russo, died April 2, 2010 while on his way home from work as a corrections officer in Orlando, Florida.

Before moving back to the U.S. to be closer to his family, SSG Russo served for two years at LRMC as an LNO for the 316th and 3d ESCs. In his capacity as a Liaison, he tracked nearly 2000 Wounded Warriors - meeting them upon arrival at Landstuhl, guiding them through their stay, making sure they had everything they needed, talking with them, providing a flow of information to both their Rear Detachments back home and their COs downrange, and, when necessary, assisting their family members flown to Germany.

He touched many thousands of lives, smoothing the way during a time of extreme stress and uncertainty. "The Army has lost a very dedicated, loyal and honorable NCO", said former LRMC colleague 1LT Chris Kolbosky.

During his military career SSG Russo received many decorations including a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq prior to being stationed at Landstuhl. He was also a first responder to the Pentagon on 9/11, helping to identify the victims.

Orlando police said Army Staff Sgt. Jason Russo, 38, died after he was knocked off his motorcycle near the intersection of Cypress Lake Glen Boulevard and Chuluota Road.

Police said the driver who struck Russo's motorcycle has a history of alcohol-related offenses, and they suspect alcohol was involved in this latest crash.

Investigators said that while Russo was riding that motorcycle home on Thursday night, he was cut off by Okevin Moradian, thrown from his bike and killed instantly.

"He felt very patriotic," said Jill Gelber, the victim's mother. "He felt very strong about right and wrong, and he believed in doing the right thing."

According to the family, Jason Russo felt the right thing to do after his latest tour was spend more time with his family. Recently, he bought a house in Deltona near his parents and his brothers. He also bought a motorcycle so he could save money commuting to his new job as a corrections officer.

"The family has a hard time understanding that he can serve his country and go to war and come home and get killed by a drunk driver," said Josh Russo, the victim's brother.

Despite their grief, the Russos said they do not want the public to focus on Moradian, who has been convicted of at least two other alcohol-related offenses and is on probation for other crimes including burglary and grand theft. Instead, they said they want people to see the pain and emptiness that can result from a bad decision.

The Russos said a great and dedicated man was lost in a "senseless" mistake. "He loved his family, and he loved life. He lived it to the fullest," said Josh Russo.

“There's nothing that's going to get my brother back, but he shouldn't have been taken away in the first place,” Josh Russo said.

Marine Lance Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson, 20, of Rochester, Minn.

LCpl Swenson was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died April 2, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

The last time U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson played for his church's youth softball team, the Bethel Believers, he smashed two home runs, one of them a grand slam.

That was just one of the memories friends and family have been sharing as they mourn the 20-year-old Rochester resident who died Friday in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations.

"He was a good mentor for our younger youth—people looked up to him," said the Rev. Norman Wahl of Bethel Lutheran Church in Rochester, where Swenson was active in youth activities.

More than 1,600 people have joined a Facebook page in Swenson's memory created by his younger sister Emily, who attended Mayo High School with him. Funeral arrangements are still being scheduled.

Among those posting messages on Swenson's Facebook page was Cpl. Cody Wright, who said a memorial service for Swenson will be held April 10 at COP (combat outpost) Sullivan in Afghanistan.

"He was a good man and a damn fine marine," wrote Wright, who said he trained Swenson as a mortar man.

Swenson was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. The Department of Defense today confirmed Swenson's death.

Others posting messages on the Facebook page included young people who knew Curtis through ski trips and other youth activities at Bethel, Wahl said.

"He was involved with pretty much everything we did," said Michael Beckmann, Bethel's youth director. "He was a good listener as well as a good friend to the younger kids in our youth group."

Wahl called Swenson a "quiet leader," a description Beckmann said was fitting. Swenson had a good outlook on life, Beckmann said, and set a positive example through his actions and how he responded to different situations.

"If he was around friends, he always had a good sense of humor and was able to make a lot of people laugh," Beckmann said.

Swenson was a good student who was well-liked by his classmates, the Rochester school district said Monday in a statement.

"We are proud of Curtis and thankful to him for his service to our country," the statement says. "The thoughts of the entire Mayo High School community are with his family, friends and loved ones."

Emily Swenson said her family would like to share their memories of Curtis at a later date.

A Facebook memorial page set up in his honor by his sister, Emily Swenson, 19, a 2009 Rochester Mayo graduate, had more than 1,500 members late Monday and was drawing hundreds of sorrowful comments from friends and strangers alike.

"Everyone who knew and loved him is welcome to join, along with anyone else," Emily wrote on the page, which is called RIP LCPL Curtis Michael Swenson. "Every thought and prayer means so much to my family and I."

After getting support from more than 2,000 people on Facebook in recent days, the family of a Rochester Marine killed in Afghanistan last week say they are overwhelmed by kind words from friends, family and people they've never met.

"It's mind-boggling," said Kay Swenson, the mother of Lance Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson, 20, a 2007 Mayo High School graduate. "It's really been a comfort."

Swenson's family returned to Rochester on Monday night from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where they attended a ceremony marking the return of the soldier's body to American soil. Swenson is the 1,037th American solider to die in Afghanistan since 2001, according to icasualties.org, a site that tracks coalition deaths.

"It was devastating," Swenson's father, Dave, said Tuesday as he recalled the experience of seeing his son's flag-draped coffin.

News of Curtis' death arrived for the Swensons on Friday afternoon when a black SUV parked in the driveway of their southeast Rochester home and two Marines got out.

Dave Swenson recalls standing frozen with his hands in a questioning gesture as they approached. No words needed to be spoken, he said, for him to realize his son had passed away.

Curtis died while serving as a turret gunner assisting a military vehicle damaged by a roadside bomb, Dave Swenson said. Curtis's Humvee hit another, very powerful explosive device, he said. The explosion flipped his vehicle and crushed his chest.

On Tuesday, Swenson's family talked about the many memories they have of Curtis. Family camping trips, his dimples, deer hunting, and his wedding last August to a woman who made his eyes light up when he talked about her.

One by one, the stories brought laughter and tears.

"We News of Curtis' death arrived for the Swensons on Friday afternoon when a black SUV parked in the driveway of their southeast Rochester home and two Marines got out.

Dave Swenson recalls standing frozen with his hands in a questioning gesture as they approached. No words needed to be spoken, he said, for him to realize his son had passed away.

Curtis died while serving as a turret gunner assisting a military vehicle damaged by a roadside bomb, Dave Swenson said. Curtis's Humvee hit another, very powerful explosive device, he said. The explosion flipped his vehicle and crushed his chest.

On Tuesday, Swenson's family talked about the many memories they have of Curtis. Family camping trips, his dimples, deer hunting, and his wedding last August to a woman who made his eyes light up when he talked about her.

One by one, the stories brought laughter and tears.

"We spent a lot of time with him, and now we know why," Dave Swenson said.

Curtis Swenson's body is tentatively set to arrive in Rochester at 4 p.m. Friday. Details aren't final, but the visitation could be at 6 or 7 p.m. Friday and the church service Saturday morning, both at Bethel Lutheran Church. Burial is possible Saturday afternoon at the Stone Church near Houston, where Swenson's grandfather is buried. The church is also near a family farm and a spot where he and his father hunted deer.

"That's where he belongs," Dave Swenson said. "He loved it down there."

In the meantime, Swenson's family is banding together for support and getting comfort from friends and others. The many condolences have helped the family deal with its grief, Dave Swenson said, but he has a hard time answering when people ask him how they can help.

"There's one thing I want and no one can give it to me," he said. "I want my son back."

Marine Lance Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson was killed in action on 4/2/10.