Thursday, June 30, 2011

Marine Sgt. Chad D. Frokjer

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Chad D. Frokjer, 27, of Maplewood, Minn.

Sgt Frokjer was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died June 30, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.


Marine leaves behind new wife, unborn son
The Associated Press

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — The father of a Marine killed while serving in Afghanistan said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks motivated his son to join the service.

Sgt. Chad Frokjer, 27, was killed June 30 in Helmand province after he stepped on an improvised explosive device while on patrol. Brian Frokjer said his son signed up for the Marines “right after 9/11 because he wanted to make sure nothing like that ever happened again.”

The Marine’s sister, Nikki Frokjer, said her brother married Leslie Jaroscak in November 2010. She’s expecting their child in September. Nikki Frokjer said her brother will “leave a legacy with the love of his life.”


Leslie Frokjer with baby Eli born Oct. 6, 2011


According to an article written in May for the Marine Corps' website, Frokjer was a convoy commander for a Mobile Assault Team for the Battalion's Alpha Company - dubbed a "quick reaction force and combat logistics unit."

At that time, he was stationed at Patrol Base Jamil.

"As a (quick reaction force), you can be launched in five- to 20-minute notice to respond to any contact, incident, disturbance or causality in any area within the company's battlespace," Frokjer was quoted as saying.

The article noted the Mobile Assault Team worked long hours and covered great distances, and often supplied isolated platoons with such things as water, food, and ammunition.

"A lot of times we are responding to the company's needs and it seems like we are a combat taxi," Frokjer added.

On Sunday, Frokjer wrote a message on his Facebook page to family and friends: "Word up from the stan! (referring to Afghanistan) miss all of you.. love you wife, baby, and family."

Frokjer graduated from North High School in North St. Paul in 2002.

He was married in November.

Sgt Frokjer is survived by loving wife, Leslie; son, Eli; parents, Brian and Arlene; sister, Nichole; grandmother, Margaret Vick; his Marine brothers; many other relatives and friends.

Marine Sgt. Chad D. Frokjer was killed in action on 6/30/11.

Marine Cpl. Kyle R. Schneider

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Kyle R. Schneider, 23, of Phoenix, N.Y.

Cpl. Schneider was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died June 30, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.

Nothing was going to stop Kyle Schneider from becoming a Marine and going to war.


Richard and Lorie Schneider, with their son, Kyle R. Schneider, after his graduation from basic training as a U.S. Marine at Parris Island, S.C. in June 2008.

Not the urgings of his family to go to college. He attended Onondaga Community College for one year. Not the offer from his great aunt to buy him a new car if he didn’t enlist.

The 2006 graduate of Baldwinsville’s Baker High School saw his life goal through. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps and graduated near the top of his class. He was offered training for a presidential security assignment in Washington, D.C., his grandparents said. He turned that down, too. He wanted to fight.

Cpl. Kyle R. Schneider, of Phoenix, Oswego County, died Thursday in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, killed by an improvised explosive device. He was 23.

Schneider was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

He was the 45th U.S. soldier to die in Afghanistan in June, and the eighth last week. That brought the U.S. death toll for the war in Afghanistan to 1,649.

The improvised explosive device was the second he’d encountered in a month, said his grandfather, Richard Vrotny, of Van Buren. The first blast knocked him unconscious, sent him to a hospital and left him with a concussion, hearing loss and headaches. Within 48 hours, he was back in the fight.

His parents, Richard and Lorie Schneider, and his brother, Kevin, were at Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, Saturday, for the return of his remains. A memorial service will be scheduled for him in Baldwinsville, his grandparents said.

His grandparents remember him smiling, always smiling — the countenance of a positive disposition.

That relaxed smile appears over and over in family photos, right up through this past Christmas.

“That’s not a staged smile,” his grandfather said.

It was Christmas Eve when he proposed to his girlfriend, Theresa Dodge, an Air Force medic from West Columbia, Texas. They’d met when both were on assignment in Washington, D.C. Schneider had placed a diamond ring on the Christmas tree at his parents’ house, and directed Dodge’s attention to that “beautiful ornament,” the story goes.

Schneider took the Marine motto “Honor, courage, commitment” to heart, his grandparents and his great aunt, Carole Ozark, of Weedsport, said.

He called them all from Afghanistan, just checking in, connecting with them. He called from the hospital after his first bomb blast and told his grandfather “the good thing is, I’ve had my first bath in six weeks,” Richard Vrotny recalled.

The Vrotnys still have one of his quick, 30-second messages on their answering machine.

“Just want to say I love you guys and want to keep in contact as much as I can,” he says in the message.

On June 16, a few weeks after his first bomb blast, he called his great aunt, Carole Ozark.

How are you? she asked.

“I’m doing OK,” he said. “It’s so beautiful over here. I look to the west and I see mountains. I look to the left and I see desert.”

Kyle, when are you coming home?

“Aunt Carole,” he said, “I can’t tell you that.”

Marine Cpl. Kyle R. Schneider was killed in action on 6/30/11.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Army Spc. Robert G. Tenney

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Robert G. Tenney, 29, of Warner Robins, Ga.

Spc Tenney was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas; died June 29, 2011 in Badrah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire. Also killed was Army Capt. David E. Van Camp.


By Mike Morris
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A soldier from Warner Robins was killed last week in Iraq, the Department of Defense said Saturday.

Spc. Robert G. Tenney Jr., 29, died Wednesday of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit in Badrah, Iraq.

Also killed in the attack were Capt. David E. Van Camp, 29, of Wheeling, W.Va. and Capt. Matthew G. Nielson, 27, of Jefferson, Iowa.

They were assigned to 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas.

The Macon Telegraph reported that Tenney, who entered the service in 2006, had received numerous awards and decorations, including an Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal with combat service star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and an Overseas Service Ribbon.

Army Spc. Robert G. Tenney was killed in action on 6/29/11.

Army Capt. David E. Van Camp

Remember Our Heroes

Army Capt. David E. Van Camp, 29, of Wheeling, W.Va.

Capt. Van Camp was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas; died June 29, 2011 in Badrah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire. Also killed was Army Spc. Robert G. Tenney Jr.


WHEELING, W.Va. -- Friends of Capt. David Van Camp are remembering him after he was killed earlier this week while serving in Iraq.

Ryan Butler and Matt Davis grew up Van Camp and the three friends attended Wheeling Park High School together. Butler and Davis said they couldn't believe the news when they heard of Van Camp's death.

"It's still shocking to me, The first person I called was Ryan, and I still can't believe it. It is really hard to deal with," said Matt Davis.

Van Camp was a 2000 graduate of Wheeling Park High School and a decorated Army soldier. While serving, he received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

Van Camp's friends said they couldn't be more proud of him.

"He died doing something that he loved, something that was worth dying for, (is) what I believe. He is part of the reason why we can do the things we do today," said Butler.

The Department of Defense said that Van Camp and two other soldiers were killed Wednesday when enemy forces attacked their unit with indirect fire in Badrah, Iraq.

Saturday, Van Camp's friends gathered at Patterson baseball field in Elm Grove. They said it is a place that has a lot of memories for them.

"He loved baseball, and it's ironic that it is the Beast of the East weekend, because we know that he would be here watching it with us," said Butler.

Van Camp's body is being returned to the United States. Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time. Family and friends told NEWS9 that Van Camp will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia once a funeral is held in the Ohio Valley.

Army Capt. David E. Van Camp was killed in action on 6/29/11.

Army Capt. Matthew G. Nielson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Capt. Matthew G. Nielson, 27, of Jefferson, Iowa

Capt. Nielson was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas; died June 29, 2011 in Badrah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire.


JOHNSTON (AP) — A U.S. Army captain from Iowa loved the military and wanted to spend his life in service to others, family members said four days after he was killed by Iraqi insurgents.

The Iowa National Guard released a statement Sunday evening from the family of Matthew Nielson, 27, of Jefferson. Nielson was killed June 29 in Badrah, Iraq, during a fire attack by insurgents.

"Since Matt was a small boy he loved anything military, so he died doing what he loved best," the statement said. "Serving others was of the utmost importance to him and how he wanted to spend his life. He always gave his all, whatever he was doing. Matthew was a beloved son, brother, friend and soldier. He's already home, and we know we'll be together against someday. Apart, but forever in our hearts."

Also killed were Capt. David E. Van Camp, 29, of Wheeling, W. Va., and Spc. Robert G. Tenney Jr., 29, of Warner Robins, Ga. All three soldiers were assigned to the 2nd squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The attack remains under investigation.

Funeral arrangements are pending. The National Guard says details will be released as they become available.

Nielson was born in Omaha, Neb., and raised in Lincoln, Neb., Ogden, Iowa, and Jefferson, Iowa, where he was homeschooled. He graduated cum laude from the University of Northern Iowa in 2008, with a bachelor of arts degree in history.

In a statement, the Iowa National Guard said Nielson was a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Academic Honor Society, the UNI Ultimate Frisbee Team and the UNI Alumni Association.

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with bronze service star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Air Assault Badge, and Combat Action Badge.

Nielson is survived by his mother and father, Christine and Roger Nielson of Jefferson, three brothers and four sisters.

My Father's Voice

Army Capt. Matthew G. Nielson was killed in action on 6/29/11.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marine Lance Cpl. Mark R. Goyet

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Mark R. Goyet, 22, of Sinton, Texas

LCpl Goyet was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; died June 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.

SINTON, Texas -- Mark Goyet, 22, was killed in action while conducting combat operations in the Nahr-E Savaj district of Helmand Province, Afghanistan on June 28, 2011.

Mark was born in Hampton, Va., on April 23, 1989, and although he lived in Mayport, Fla., for the first six years of his life, he considered himself a Texan to his core.

In the last letter sent to his mother, received just prior to his untimely death, he specifically requested a Texas flag so he could proudly display his Texan heritage in front of his tent.

Mark was a Sinton Pirate. He graduated from Sinton High School in 2007 where he excelled at sports which included football, basketball, tennis and track. He was a first team all-district selection for both football and basketball during his senior year.

Mark always embraced and enjoyed life like there was no tomorrow. He devoted his life to making others happy, and when he walked into a room, everyone knew he was there. His family and friends will always remember Mark for his joyful smile and wonderful hugs.

Goyet was on his second combat deployment since he enlisted on Feb. 25, 2008, according to the 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton.

His personal service awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

LCpl Goyet is survived by his parents, Commander Raymond and Martha Goyet of St. Paul, Texas; two sisters, Jenna (Joshua) Cordy of 29 Palms, Calif., and Brianne (John) Schumann of Rivera, Texas; maternal grandparents, Philip and Nancy Curran of Westbrook; nieces, Mia Lane Cordy and Madelyn Schumann, and nephews, Ryan Schumann and Calvin Schumann. Preceding in death are paternal grandparents, Raymond and Muriel Goyet.

Marine Lance Cpl. Mark R. Goyet was killed in action on 6/28/11.

Marine Lance Cpl. John F. Farias

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. John F. Farias, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas

LCpl Farias was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died June 28, 2011 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

San Antonio television station KENS 5 spoke with Farias’ parents, Felix and Penny, soon after they learned the news of their son’s death. The Farias, who live in New Braunfels, Texas, said John sent them a video of himself just two weeks ago. In the video, he told his family how his violent surroundings forced him to grow up quickly. He looked forward to returning home in October.

"I'm starting to change a lot. I'm kind of forced to grow up here," Farias said in the first video he sent home to New Braunfels, Texas, since deploying in April to southern Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province.

They were among his final words for his family. Farias was one of two Marines killed during combat operations in the province Tuesday, the Department of Defense said.

The deaths of Farias, 20, and Lance Cpl. Mark R. Goyet, 22, raise the death toll to at least 18 Marines killed this month in combat in Afghanistan, primarily in the southern provinces, according to an analysis of Department of Defense figures.

Southern Afghanistan's Helmand province has been the scene of fierce fighting following the poppy harvest, which has seen Taliban forces launch attacks against NATO troops.

Farias detailed some of his experiences for his parents, telling them about firefights that lasted between four and six hours. He told them about his fellow Marines, his buddies, asking that they "keep them in their prayers."

Just weeks from turning 21, Farias sounded older than his years. He talked about the experiences in "my short 21-year life."

"He is self-confident. He is assertive," Farias' father, Felix, said of his son's tone and appearance in the video. "He has matured, yes."

Farias' father alternated between present tense and past tense as he recalled his son's achievements during an interview with CNN, struggling with the realization that his son had been killed.

"He always wanted to go into the Marines. He always wanted to go infantry," he said late Wednesday night. "Nobody could imagine this could happen to him. He is so strong."

Farias joined the Marines in August 2009, enlisting as a private first class because he had earned the rank of Eagle Scout -- the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America.

With a backdrop of a blue Afghan sky, Farias told his family in the video that he "kind of took a look back at my life" in recent months and was taking on more responsibility in his life.

"I love ya'll," he said. "Take care. Take care of each other. I'll be home soon. "

Farias' mother, Penny, flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Wednesday to be on hand when her son's body arrived from Afghanistan. His father was scheduled to fly to the base as early as Thursday to escort his son's body home.

"I'm flying with him. I'm bringing my boy home," he said.

Marine Lance Cpl. John F. Farias was killed in action on 6/28/11.

Army Staff Sgt. Donald V. Stacy

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Donald V. Stacy, 23, of Avondale, Ariz.

SSgt Stacy was assigned to 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died June 28, 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Avondale soldier honored for compassion, ambition
By Eugene Scott, The Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)

Staff Sgt. Donald Stacy showed a strong work ethic at a very young age. That, combined with his compassion and generosity, led him to serve two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Stacy died June 28 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered during an insurgent attack.

The Avondale resident, who joined the Army in 2005, would have turned 24 on July 10. About 200 people gathered in the Agua Fria High School gymnasium Saturday for Stacy’s funeral. Guests shared memories while celebrating his many awards, which include a Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

As a high school student, Stacy was a member of the Avondale Youth Advisory Commission. The city of Avondale flew all flags at half-staff Saturday, and officials presented his family with a proclamation from the mayor to honor his service to the city and the United States.

Jacob Vela was one of Stacy’s closest friends. They met on a school bus and the two were pretty much inseparable from then on. When Stacy was committed to doing something, he didn’t waver. “There was no stopping him, no telling him no, he can’t,” said Vela, a Marine. “That only made him push harder.”

In addition to being ambitious, Stacy was always mindful of those around him, his stepfather Bernie Escobedo said.

Stacy’s biological father died when Stacy was young. When a 5-year-old Stacy found out that Escobedo’s father also was dead, Stacy attempted to comfort his stepfather.

“We just sat there and cried and embraced,” Escobedo said. “Even as a kid, he was compassionate. We’re going to miss him very much.”

Denise Escobedo, Stacy’s mother, remembered her son as a mischievous kid who snuck a sip of beer while on a family cruise and a stylish boy who hated when she bought his clothes from Kmart.

She said that all she has now are memories of him. “I am able to cope, because I have a hope that I will see you again,” she said during the service. “You made a sacrifice and you paid the ultimate price (with your life).”

Vincent Gonzales, Stacy’s uncle, encouraged guests never to forget the sacrifice Stacy and others make, adding: “Whenever the Fourth of July comes around and you’re watching the fireworks, I want you to think of Donald and our boys fighting overseas.”

Army Staff Sgt. Donald V. Stacy was killed in action on 6/28/11.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Marine Cpl. Michael C. Nolen

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Marine Cpl. Michael C. Nolen, 22, of Spring Valley, Wis.

Cpl Nolen was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died June 27, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.

Those who knew Cpl. Michael C. Nolen are feeling a sense of shock, loss and helplessness following the news of his death, said the principal at his former high school.

Nolen, a 22-year-old Marine from Spring Valley, Wis., died Monday of wounds he suffered while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan's Helmand province, according to the 2nd Marine Division.

Nolen was a "nice, nice guy" who was "very well-liked by students and staff," said Gretchen Cipriano, principal at Spring Valley High School.

Nolen spent only his senior year at the school but returned after graduating in 2007.

"He would come back to school in uniform when he was on leave," Cipriano said Wednesday. "He was very proud to be a Marine."

While at Spring Valley High School, Nolen was involved in cross country and a school play - playing the role of a sheriff in "Honeymoon at Graveside Manor," Cipriano said.

Nolen's family could not be reached Thursday, but family friend Jean Cunningham said they are "coping as well as can be expected."

"It's been very difficult on them," Cunningham said, adding that the family is "very appreciative of people's concerns and sympathy."

"It makes them feel very good that there are so many people who have expressed condolences," she said.

Cunningham said her son Sam was very good friends with Nolen and the two discussed going into the military. Sam Cunningham is stationed in Hawaii with the Army.

"This is the first close friend he's lost to the war," Cunningham said of her son.

She added Nolen was "just a really good kid."

"This is what he wanted to do with his life - he wanted to be a Marine," Cunningham said.

Nolen joined the Marine Corps in November 2007. He was an infantryman assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

In December 2009, he was promoted to corporal. He was deployed to Afghanistan in March.

Nolen's awards from the military include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

"Wisconsin is extraordinarily grateful for the service and sacrifice of Cpl. Michael Nolen," Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement this week. "As our nation heads into a holiday weekend, Cpl. Nolen's death is a reminder of the men and women who put their lives on the line for us, who won't be with their friends and family. We are honored by the service of those in uniform, particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

Marine Cpl. Michael C. Nolen was killed in action on 6/27/11.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Army Pfc. Dylan J. Johnson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Dylan J. Johnson, 20, of Tulsa, Okla.

Pfc Johnson was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died June 26, 2011 in Diyala province, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Staff Sgt. Russell J. Proctor.


Family members of a fallen Tulsa soldier are grieving.

Army Spec. Dylan Johnson, 20, was killed in action in Iraq Sunday.

Dylan went to Iraq as a Private First Class. Thursday, he was promoted to specialist and received a Bronze Star.

"I've never been more proud of my soldier," said Jeff Johnson, Dylan's father.

Dylan served in Iraq for a short 25 days before he was killed in an attack Sunday.

"He was driving and the sergeant was in the vehicle at the time and from what the army told us it was an improvised explosive device. It was most likely thrown and they died instantly," said Jeff.

He says it still doesn't feel real. Dylan's mother is too upset to talk about it. They were flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be there when Dylan's body arrived on U.S. soil.

"Really, he was doing what he loved to do more than anything, you know. I can't say the same thing, everybody's gotta die at some point, I can't think of a better time than when you are truly happy," said Jeff.

He said Dylan wanted to be in the military from the time he was a little boy.

"He dressed up like an Army man for, I don't know, five or six Halloweens in a row," said Jeff.

His family says he was lighthearted and a comedian, even overseas.

"I got a recent message from one of his buddies there and they're still finding remnants of practical jokes that he played on them. That was just the type of guy he was, he enjoyed life to it's fullest," said Jeff.

Jeff talked to Dylan for the last time Friday. He says his life changed forever when Army representatives knocked on his door Sunday night, but he says he truly could not be more proud of Dylan and his sacrifice.

"When your kid is born, he belongs to the parents. When he gets older he belongs to your parents and your friends. And when they go into the Army they belong to the Army. But when they die, they belong to all of us," said Jeff.

He will be laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery later this month.

Army Pfc. Dylan J. Johnson was killed in action on 6/26/11.

Army Staff Sgt. Russell J. Proctor

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Russell J. Proctor, 25, of Oroville, Calif.

SSgt Proctor was assigned to 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died June 26, 2011 in Diyala province, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.


Russell J. Proctor, 25, of Oroville was one of two soldiers killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq's Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.

By Jason Song, Los Angeles Times
September 18, 2011

When Russell Jeremiah Proctor was a child, his father often pushed him to excel because he thought his son could grow up to be a leader, according to family members.

Proctor, 25, of Oroville, north of Sacramento, eventually joined the Army and became a staff sergeant.

He was on his third deployment to Iraq when he was killed in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, on June 26. Army officials said Proctor and another soldier were killed by an improvised explosive device.

Proctor was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas.

His sister, Charia Brott Murphy, paid tribute to her brother soon after he died.

"He was the type of person who made you want to be something more, made you want to be a good person," she wrote in a statement published in Proctor's hometown newspaper, the Oroville Mercury-Register.

Murphy and other family members declined to comment for this article.

Proctor was adopted as a child by a Rio Linda family, Murphy told the Oroville newspaper, but reconnected with his birth family later in life, according to other reports.

In an interview with the Mercury-Register, Proctor's birth father, also named Russell, said his son enjoyed singing, football and playing the guitar.

"He loved the Army and he loved his job," he said.

Proctor graduated from Rio Linda High School in 2003 and enlisted in the Army two years later. He was married with a young child, media accounts said.


In online forums, Proctor's fellow soldiers praised him as a good leader and friend. "You motivated me like no other," one person wrote.

Proctor's sister wrote in the Mercury-Register that he was looking forward to making his mark on the world.

"If you're content with just sitting back in the darkness, not being remembered, then fine," he said, according to Murphy. "But I'm not."

Army Staff Sgt. Russell J. Proctor was killed in action on 6/26/11.

Army Spc. Matthew R. Gallagher

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Matthew R. Gallagher, 22, of North Falmouth, Mass.

Spc. Gallagher was assigned to 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died June 26, 2011 in Wasit province, Iraq, of injuries suffered from a non-combat incident.


Army Sgt. Matthew R. Gallagher of North Falmouth was killed in Iraq Saturday. He was 22 years old.

"He really found his niche in the Army. He loved being a soldier," said his mother, Cheryl Ruggerio of North Falmouth, in an interview today. "He gave it his all, and his fellow soldiers loved him, too."

Ruggerio said her son Matthew, who was completing his second tour in Iraq after joining the Army in 2009, had advanced through the ranks "very quickly" and had just recently received a promotion—a fact that he had proudly announced on his Facebook page.

"The Army tells you 'be all you can be,' and he lived it," Ruggerio said. "He was just a great soldier."

Ruggerio added that her son was "very intelligent" and had won the Abigail Adams Scholarship award for excellence in the state MCAS tests.

Ruggerio said the Army told her that her son was with a fellow soldier Saturday doing a sweep of housing units when shots were fired at them. The soldier he was with called a medic, but Sgt. Gallagher died before they could make it to the hospital.

Ruggerio said the Army was conducting an investigation into her son's death, but that it could take as long as six months to a year to complete.

Gallagher leaves behind his wife, Katie Hall of North Falmouth. Ruggerio said they were married a year and a half ago, and had been dating for six years before that.

The funeral will be held at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in North Falmouth, and Gallagher will be buried at the National Cemetery in Bourne. Ruggerio said the dates are not yet set, as she was planning to fly down to Dover, Delaware to receive the body.

"We were going to bypass [Dover] and go straight to Hansom [Air Force Base], where there will be a bigger service," Ruggerio said tearfully. "But I don't want him coming to Dover and nobody being there. Katie and my other son and I are going to go to Dover to meet him there and bring him home."

Army Spc. Matthew R. Gallagher was killed in action on 6/26/11.

Army Spc. Kevin J. Hilaman

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Kevin J. Hilaman, 28, of Albany, Calif.

Spc Hilaman was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died June 26, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire.


A soldier from Citrus Heights died when his unit was attacked in Kunar province of Afghanistan on June 26.

Army Specialist Kevin Hilaman died when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire, according to a press release issued by the Department of Defense.

But his father, Bernie, wants the community to know his son, and every other soldier killed overseas, is not just another number.

"He loved his country, he loved defending our freedoms," Bernie said.

Kevin enlisted in the Army immediately after he graduated from Mesa Verde High School in Citrus Heights.

Kevin served seven years in the Army and did two deployments in Iraq; but that was just the first time.

Bernie said Kevin came home to be with his wife, Sara, and his 10-year-old step-son Ben. But, he soon realized the economy wouldn't allow him to find a job -- and his true passion was defending this country.

Kevin re-enlisted after a year of civilian life and was deployed to Afghanistan in April. He was killed a day before his 29th birthday.

His death is bittersweet to Bernie, who also served in the Army, as did his father.

"I'm sad, I'm very sad," he said as he fought back tears. "But this is what we do, we knew the risks."

Unfortunately, Kevin knew them all to well.

Before deploying to Afghanistan he called his father four times; every time to say he didn't think was coming home.

"He was very afraid," Bernie said. "He said, 'Dad, I don't think I'm coming home this time'. I told him, 'Of course you're coming home'. I just didn't think he'd come home in a coffin."

Kevin and Sara lived in Berkeley, and Albany for a time before moving to Hawaii. He was based there, in a group called "Tropic Lightning".

Bernie also made it a point to thank the United States Army for their support. He said a liaison officer has been with the family ever since they heard of Kevin's death.

"I couldn't have done this without him," Bernie said.

Army Spc. Kevin J. Hilaman was killed in action on 6/26/11.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Douville

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Douville, 33, of Harvey, La.

TSgt Douville was assigned to 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; died June 26, 2011 on the border of the Nad Ali district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, as a result of injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device.


A Harvey native who returned last month to Afghanistan for his second tour of duty in the war-torn country was killed Sunday in the dangerous Nad ‘Ali district, the Department of Defense said.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel Douville, a Harvey native, was killed in Afghanistan Sunday. His wife, LsShana, described him as the ideal family man. "He wanted to build a good life for his family. His job was really strictly to take care of us," his wife said.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Douville, a 33-year-old career airman, died from injuries he suffered from an improvised explosive device.

Douville spent the last seven months with his family vacationing in the Bahamas and cheering on his three children at sporting events near their Fort Walton Beach, Fla., home before his redeployment.

Family was the only thing Douville loved more than his military life, said LaShana Douville, his wife of 14 years.

Daniel Douville joined the service to build a good life for his family, LaShana Douville, 33, said by phone Monday night. “His job was really strictly to take care of us.”


While he was an intensely focused airman, he was just as focused on his family when not deployed.

He was passionate about cheering on his children, 14-year-old Jadelynn, 12-year-old Ayjah-Danielle, and 9-year-old Daniel “Deuce” Jr., as they took to the field for athletic events.

“He focused on us,” while at home, his wife said. “He said work is work. Home is home.”

While his wife and children were his world, the West Jefferson High School class of 1995 graduate also kept busy with various hobbies he developed.

The man who originally worked toward a pre-med biology degree at Southeastern University in order to fulfill a dream of practicing sports medicine also loved to play the keyboard.

“One of the biggest things he was into was music,” LaShana Douville said. “It was in his blood.” In fact, he was in the process of building himself a recording studio at his home, his wife — his high-school sweetheart — said.

He also developed an interesting in brewing his own beer in recent years.

“He did a lot ... to pass the time,” LaShana Douville said. “But one his main hobbies were the kids.”

Douville was assigned to the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Douville joined the Air Force after graduating from the Community College of the Air Force, LaShana Douville said.

Douville was working toward a pre-med biology degree at Southeastern University in order to fulfill a dream of practicing sports medicine. He had an interest in other cultures, liked to brew beer, and loved to cook. He also loved to play the guitar and keyboard was in the process of building a recording studio at his home.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Douville was killed in action on 6/26/11.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ralph E. Pate Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ralph E. Pate Jr., 29, of Mullins, S.C.

GSgt Pate was assigned to 2nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died June 26, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.

The family of a Mullins Marine killed Sunday in Afghanistan says he wanted to be a Marine ever since he was a boy.

Gunnery Sergeant Ralph Pate Jr., 29, couldn't wait to join the US Marine Corps. He enlisted right after graduating from Mullins High School at age 17.


Gunnery Sgt. E.J. Pate posed for a picture with his mother, Erma Inez Stroud during a military ball during his many years of service.


The home where Pate grew up on Park Street in Mullins is decorated with American flags and patriotic bows.

"EJ" as he was affectionately called was due to come home in September from his deployment in Afghanistan.

He died Sunday in combat operations.

"It was heart crushing. It was so surreal. It was almost like it could not be happening," said his cousin Lisa Collins.

Pate's family says they always knew it was a possibility, but they never expected him to be killed because he had served overseas so many times.

He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, 2006, and 2008 and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009 and 2011.

Pate's family says they never heard him complain about going to war.

Collins said, "His main goal in life was to become a Marine, and that's what he really wanted to do, and that's what he loved doing. He loved his job. He loved his country and he wanted to protect all the rights that we have in the United States."

His sacrifice has given his family a new found respect for the upcoming Independence Day.

"That is one of the true reasons why we do have our own independence now. People like EJ that gave all he had for us and of our freedoms, so he is the true face of Independence Day," said Collins.

Pate served in the Marines for 12 years.

He is survived by his wife and two children, ages 8 and 10.

A private memorial service will be held for him later this week

From a Department of Defense release:

The US Marine Corps says Gunnery Sgt. Ralph E. Pate Jr., 29, of Marion, died Sunday while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The Marine Corps says Pate was an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to 2nd EOD Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Pate received the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Action Ribbon with Gold Star in lieu of second award, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with three gold stars in lieu of fourth award.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ralph E. Pate Jr.was killed in action on 6/26/11.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Marine Sgt. Marlon E. Myrie

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Marlon E. Myrie, 25, of Oakland Park, Fla.

Sgt Myrie was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died June 25, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.


South Florida Marine Sgt. Marlon Myrie laid to rest. In a now-familiar ritual, a South Florida Marine is laid to rest as his loved ones choke back tears.

BY ELINOR J. BRECHER
ebrecher@MiamiHerald.com

It’s hard for a boy who’ll be 4 in a few weeks to sit still for anything, even his father’s funeral.

As his mother, grandmother and dozens of mourners spent their final minutes with Sgt. Marlon Earl Myrie on Friday, his son, Kareem, wriggled and giggled in a funeral-home chapel’s front pew.

Through the soaring solemnity of a recorded Ave Maria, the tear-choked eulogy of his grandma’s foster father, and the congregation’s baleful rendition of It Is Well With My Soul, Kareem held a monopoly on good cheer.

Later, in the thick afternoon heat at a veterans’ cemetery, as his fellow U.S. Marines bid Myrie farewell with a 21-gun salute and the 24 haunting notes of Taps, Kareem grew somber.

His grin faded, erasing his dimples. From his grandmother’s lap, he pointed at the pewter-colored casket, now closed on the six-foot Marine in dress blues and white gloves.

“Why is Daddy in there?’’ Kareem asked no one in particular. And when no one answered, he asked again.

“Why is Daddy in there?’’

Someday, someone will tell him that his father died during a firefight in Afghanistan on June 25, 2011. The Marines won’t say much about the incident, only that it involved a hand grenade, and that Myrie reached a field hospital in Helmand province alive.

Myrie , known as Troy in his sprawling, multiracial family, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on Dec. 17, 1985. Orphaned at 11 then adopted by his mother’s sister, Myrie joined the Marines in 2004 after graduating from Fort Lauderdale’s Northeast High School.

An anti-tank missileman, he was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. He was 25, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and had survived two deployments to Iraq.

“Troy loved his job,’’ said his mother, Yvette Myrie of Oakland Park. “He loved to blow things up.’’

He was due home in late August, and planned on separating from the Marine Corps next year.

In addition to mother and son, Myrie leaves a 24-year-old widow, Maria James Myrie, of Jacksonville, N.C., and two sisters in Jamaica.


He was shy, polite and a homebody, Yvette Myrie said. On Sunday evenings, he’d cook Jamaican chicken for her.

And after he married, he stopped hanging out with the guys.

“He felt it would be disrespectful to his wife,’’ Yvette Myrie said.

The 51-year-old federal-government linguist calls Larry and Jill Horist, a white, suburban Chicago couple, “Mom’’ and “Dad,’’ their three kids — Caroline, Bill and Alex— her sister and brothers.

The Horists call her “our daughter,’’ and Marlon “our grandson.’’

“Our family portrait looks like a Benetton ad from the ‘90s,’’ said Bill, 39, a Seattle musician.

Initially the Horists’ babysitter, Yvette Myrie joined the family at 16. She earned an undergraduate degree in biology from Knox College, spent two years in the ’80s teaching fish farming in Zaire with the Peace Corps, then earned a master’s degree from Michigan State.

After her sister died a widow in 1996, Yvette Myrie took five years to slog through the bureaucracy of an international adoption before she could bring Marlon to the United States.

Larry Horist recalled meeting “little Troy’ during his first Christmas in the U.S., when Yvette took him to Chicago.

“We were anticipating ‘little Troy’s’ arrival for years,’’ Horist said. Miming the double-take he did at the time, he said: “I opened the door, and little Troy was already into manhood.’’

The teen couldn’t figure out what was wrong with his skin, Horist said.

There was nothing wrong; Troy had never been cold before.

Fighting his emotions, Horist added: “Family is not about blood. That’s what Troy brought us on Christmas.’’

His remains arrived Wednesday at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport from the Dover, Del., Air Force base.

A motorcycle escort of Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies, members of the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club and the Patriot Guard Riders accompanied the flag-draped coffin to Forest Lawn North in Pompano Beach, where friends, relatives and strangers paid their respect on Thursday.

Marine Sgt. Marlon E. Myrie was killed in action on 6/25/11.

Army Spc. Nicholas P. Bernier

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Nicholas P. Bernier, 21, of East Kingston, N.H.

Spc Bernier was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.; died June 25, 2011 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, of injuries suffered June 22 when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire in Kherwar, Afghanistan.


LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Nicholas P. Bernier’s leaders and comrades gathered to honor him as a positive-thinker and a true warrior, hero and friend, on Forward Operating Base Altimur, July 4.

Bernier was a 21-year-old combat medic from East Kingston, N.H. assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team,10th Mountain Division. In the presence of his family, Bernier died June 28 in Landstuhl, Germany from wounds suffered during an enemy engagement at Combat Outpost Kherwar in Logar Province, Afghanistan, June 22.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christopher Ramsey, battalion commander of 2nd Bn., 30th Inf.’s Task force Storm, said Bernier died augmenting force protection and providing medical attention to other wounded Soldiers.

“Nick is an American hero, and we will remember him that way,” said Ramsey, a Greenville, N.C. native. “Nick was an outstanding Soldier, a great teammate and a loving son. He will be missed by all those who served with and cared for him.”

Ramsey said Bernier was an extremely competent and natural-born leader who was mature beyond his years and fulfilled his responsibilities in a quiet and professional manner. Bernier always succeeded at every task laid before him, he said.

“Nick was the epitome of a combat medic. He was handpicked by his leadership to perform these duties in Kherwar,” said Ramsey. “The forces needed someone who was competent, a self-starter, able to operate with minimal guidance, could take on other roles and responsibilities as directed and able to operate in chaotic situations without it affecting his performance.”

Ramsey said Bernier was the obvious choice for the job. Bernier always went above and beyond the call of duty, rarely needed to be told what to do and was not only dedicated to his job but also was committed to excellence, he said.

“Our unit motto is ‘Our Country, Not Ourselves.’ I think that is probably the best motto in the Army,” said Ramsey. “Nicholas Bernier epitomized our unit motto, and this was is not something that he learned in the Army; it was from the Soldiers he served with ... good upbringing and his desire to make a difference.”

U.S. Army Capt. Bixler Benson, commander of TF Storm’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said Bernier did not question or complain when he received the news about going to Kherwar to support and provide security for forces there. He said Bernier was a Soldier who not only understood but also embraced the “Warrior Ethos.”

“Spc. Nicholas P. Bernier has earned the honor, and our pride, as a warrior, said Benson, a Fort Wayne, Ind. native. “His name is added to the ranks of our heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice. He has sacrificed his life defending his brothers and sisters who stood at his side. He is my hero.

“Nicholas was a medic by duty, but he was a warrior first,” continued Benson.

Benson said he will always remember Bernier’s humor and positive attitude. He recalled a special moment when Bernier performed an impromptu, a cappella rendition of a song entitled “The Safety Dance” during a mission readiness exercise.

“It was complete with a dance routine. It had the entire aid station (and me) rolling on the floor with laugher,” said Benson. “This was exactly what we needed .... Nicholas always knew what we needed. He always gave every mission task everything he had.

“Today we honor Nicholas Bernier’s life. We thank him for standing next to us, and we grieve for our brother and friend,” continued Benson. “Well done. Be thou at rest - ‘Our Country, Not Ourselves.’”

U.S. Army Sgt. Carleton Thrall of Crown Point, Ind. is a medical treatment noncommissioned officer for TF Storm’s HHC who is attached to Co. C. Thrall said he met Bernier – or Bernie, as Thrall and other comrades affectionately called him – at Fort Sam Houston, Texas before Bernier volunteered for an assignment with 4th BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. at Fort Polk, La.

“I thought to myself, I need to find out why on God’s Earth this kid would want to leave Fort Sam Houston and go to Fort Polk,” said Thrall. “His response: ‘I don’t want to ride around in an armored coffin with the cav (cavalry), and I like my knees the way they are, so the Airborne is out; and, I’d like to see the infantry.’”

Thrall said Bernier proved to be one of the hardest working Soldiers he ever worked with and is the single most positive man he has ever met. Bernier never had a bad thing to say about anyone and could not even conceive of making fun of people, he said. Bernier had a lot of friends in his platoon because he knew how to be a friend and how to listen, and people listened to him, he said.

“I miss you,” Thrall said, speaking to Bernier. “I am grateful you came downrange with me. You knew what you were getting into, and you did well. I am forever proud.”

U.S. Army Spc. Sean Monk, a combat medic from Buffalo, N.Y. assigned to TF Storm’s Co. D, said Bernier was a good Soldier who would do anything asked of him without any complaints. Monk explained the significance he assigns to July 4, calling it “our country’s most revered holiday,” and how it applies to honor his fallen friend.

“Today is the day we remember those who fought for the freedoms and independence that are forged in every American,” said Monk. “Today we gather as a family, brothers and sisters in arms, to honor one of our own who served, fought and gave his life so others may have those same liberties and freedoms.

“I am honored to stand here today; and, on behalf of all the junior medics, I would like to express how deeply Bernie will be missed,” Monk continued. “He was a friend, a brother and, most of all, an American hero.”

Bernier’s awards and decorations include the following: Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghan Campaign Medal, with campaign star; Global War on Terror Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Combat Medical Badge; Driver and Mechanic Badge, Wheeled Vehicles.

Army Staff Sgt. Nigel D. Kelly

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Nigel D. Kelly, 26, of Menifee, Calif.

SSgt Kelly was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died June 25 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

A highly decorated U.S. Army staff sergeant from Menifee has been killed in fighting in Afghanistan's violent and rugged Kunar province.

Staff Sgt. Nigel D. Kelly, 26, died Saturday after being shot during a battle with anti-government Taliban forces, the Pentagon said Tuesday morning.

An Army spokesman, Maj. David Bolender, said Kelly and a fellow troop were killed during clearing operations. He had no additional details.

No one answered a telephone call to a Menifee residence where Kelly's family lives. Neighbors said they saw Army officials at the house Monday morning informing the residents of Kelly's death.

"The military showed up and then all the family started coming over," said neighbor Chris Ellis. "It's a sad affair."

Kelly was assigned to 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

His deployment history included two combat tours in Iraq and one to Afghanistan.

He joined the Army in August 2003 as a combat engineer and was the recipient of numerous awards, including two Bronze Stars, the Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, a Valorous Unit Award and many other citations.

Kelly played basketball at Temescal Canyon High School. A couple of months before he enlisted, he played in a 2003 High School All-Star Classic in which he scored 13 points.

He was named to The Californian's All-Valley Boys Basketball Team for the 2002-03 season.

Mark Williams coached Kelly and recalled him as a serious-minded, hardworking player and student.

"He was very well-liked," said Williams, now the school's athletic director. "It's very sad and makes you reflect on what an outstanding young man he was.

"We'll miss him and wish the best for his family, which must be very proud of him."

Army Staff Sgt. Nigel D. Kelly was killed in action on 6/25/11.

Army 1st Lt. Dimitri A. Del Castillo

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Dimitri A. Del Castillo, 24, of Tampa, Fla.

1st Lt. Del Castillo died June 25, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Tampa, Florida - A 24-year-old soldier from Tampa was killed in Afghanistan over the weekend, but his father says his son wouldn't want people to dwell on his death instead he'd want everyone to throw their support behind the troops still fighting.

The Department of Defense says Army Soldier 1st Lieutenant Dimitri del Castillo died from wounds he suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire on June 25 in Kunar province, Afghanistan.

Castillo was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

His father, Carlos del Castillo, who lives in Tampa says, "He was very much at peace doing what he was doing. He knew he was in God's hands and not worried. He wasn't worried."

Carlos says his son knew the risk, but wanted to serve his country. Dimitri was inspired by his uncle who is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Dimitri wanted to follow in his footsteps. Carlos says, "He earned his Airborne patch at the academy and then, after he graduated, went on to officer training school through the Army and then on to Ranger school and became a Ranger."

Dimitri joined the Army on May 23, 2009. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantry Badge, Expert Infantry Badge, Parachutist Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Overseas Ribbon, Army Good Conduct Medal and the NATO Medal.

He was deployed to Afghanistan back in April.

Dimitri del Castillo was married. He met his wife, Katie, at West Point. She is also a 1st Lieutenant in the Army and is stationed in Afghanistan. Carlos says the couple had a chance to see each other on Dimitri's birthday which was on June 9.

He says although the two got married at City Hall in Tampa they were planning a big church wedding in 2012 in Tampa. Here's an engagement announcement in the Rockdale Citizen.

Carlos says his son lived his life to the fullest but was always pushing himself to try new things, but he adds he always put his fellow soldiers needs first. "He wanted to lead his men in combat and do his best to try to help them achieve the mission and get back home safely."

Army 1st Lt. Dimitri A. Del Castillo was killed in action on 6/25/11.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Army Spc. Nicholas C. D. Hensley

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Nicholas C. D. Hensley, 28, of Prattville, Ala.

Spc Hensley was assigned to 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died June 24,2011 in Landstuhl, Germany, from injuries sustained in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on June 15 when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.


Spc. Nicholas Hensley was severely injured in the roadside bomb attack, which happened June 15. He was transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and his family was at his bedside when he died.

Hensley, a 28-year-old from Prattville, Ala., was a cavalry scout. He enlisted in the military in 2001 and joined the active component of the Army in November 2005.

Hensley was on his third combat deployment. He previously deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, to Iraq for seven months from May to November 2006 and for 15 months from June 2008 to September 2009. He deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Brigade from Fort Riley in February 2011.

Hensley earned the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (twice), Army Achievement Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal and Combat Action Badge.

Hensley was the 186th Fort Riley soldier killed while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Nicholas Charlie David Hensley, 28, son of retired Air Force Maj. Terry Hensley, formerly of Cawood and a 1972 graduate of James A. Cawood High School.

Hensley was serving with the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division when enemy forces reportedly attacked his unit with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) causing his death. Two other soldiers with Hensley were severely injured.

Hensley, who initially was also severely injured, was transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Hensley’s family was at his bedside when he died nine days later on June 24.

Hensley, living in Prattville, Ala., was a cavalry scout, enlisted in the military in 2001 and joined the active component of the U.S. Army in November 2005. This was Hensley’s third combat deployment having previously served seven months in Iraq and Afghanistan in February in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Nick and I played together as children,” said cousin Steven Hatfield, of Harlan. “I remember he wanted to be a magician when we were young and he’d bring his magic tricks to Harlan County to impress us all. Nick will be sadly missed. You realize soldiers are killed in war but when it’s someone near and dear, it really hits home the sacrifices a soldier makes for all of us.”

Hensley’s aunt, Kathy Burns, said ever since Nick was a child he would visit Harlan County with his dad to see his grandparents Charlie and Cora Hensley, along with lots of other relatives.

“He was a wonderful husband and father,” said Burns. “He was so devoted to his wife and children. This is such a great loss for our family. Our hearts are so heavy right now. The one thing that comes to my mind right now is no greater love hath any man than to lay down his life for his brother — that says it all.”

Hensley’s awards include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (awarded twice), Army Achievement Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Hensley is survived by his parents, Terry and Joan Hensley, of Prattsville, Ala., his wife, Gloria, and three children, twin daughters Nora and Ella, age 6, and Anna Love, age 2. Hensley was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents Charlie and Cora Hensley and maternal grandparents David and Charly Swan. Aunts and uncles left to mourn his passing from Harlan County are Edith Powell, Ruby Sutton, Flo and Merle Shell and Kathy and Bob Burns. He also leaves many cousins and friends.

Army Spc. Nicholas C. D. Hensley was killed in action on 6/24/11.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Marine Cpl. Gurpreet Singh

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Gurpreet Singh, 21, of Antelope, Calif.

Cpl Singh was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died June 22, 2011 from wounds received while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.


Gurpreet Singh was born on September 28, 1989 in India. His family came to the United States in 2000, when he was 11.

His sister said he always wanted to be a soldier because he wanted to help people.

Cpl. Singh, a Sikh-American enlisted on November 5, 2007 and he served two combat deployments.

His service awards include:

Purple Heart
Combat Action Ribbon
National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Medal
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal

A fellow Marine, Cpl. Fort said Singh was someone everyone could get along with.

Whether it be another patrol in hostile territory, or just a morning greeting, Gurpreet would always have a positive attitude.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement last Friday morning, extending his deepest condolences to Cpl. Singh's family and friends. In memorial, Brown ordered the flags over the State Capitol to be flown at half-staff last Friday. Marine Cpl.

Gurpreet Singh is survived by his parents, Nirmal Singh and Satnam Kaur; his sister Manpreet Kaur; his grandmother Nasib Kaur; grandfather Ajit Singh; and many aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends who will deeply miss him.

Marine Cpl. Gurpreet Singh was killed in action on 6/22/11.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Marine Lance Cpl. Jared C. Verbeek

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Jared C. Verbeek, 22, of Visalia, Calif.

LCpl Verbeek wsa assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died June 21, 2011 from wounds sustained while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.


Joining Corps fulfilled his lifelong dream

By David Castellon
Visalia (Calif.) Times-Delta

VISALIA, Calif. — A Marine from Visalia is the latest casualty in the war in Afghanistan.

Family members said Lance Cpl. Jared C. Verbeek, 22, a 2007 Mt. Whitney High School graduate and married father of an 18-month-old son, died June 21 from injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device.

A Defense Department news release stated that Verbeek died while involved in combat operations in Helmand province in the southwest part of the country.

His cousin by marriage, Joshua Wallace of Visalia, said that from what the family has been told, Verbeek was a member of the Corps’ military police involved in training Afghan law enforcement.

He said the family didn’t know the nature of the patrol he was on or if he or somebody else stepped on the IED. Wallace added that the Marines wouldn’t disclose whether anybody else was injured.

“He was evacuated to a safe zone, and at that point, he succumbed” to his wounds, Wallace said.

Verbeek’s parents, Travis and Rosalia Verbeek, were notified early June 21, local time, of his death by a pair of Marines and a Navy chaplain who showed up at their east Visalia home.

Jared’s wife, Vanessa, was notified later that morning, Wallace said. She’s a 2007 Golden West High School graduate who had moved to her parents’ home in Visalia with the couple’s son, Jacob, from Camp Pendleton so they wouldn’t be alone after Jared deployed in March to Afghanistan.


It was his second deployment, according to officials with the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton.

Verbeek enlisted in the Marines in September 2007 shortly after graduating from high school. Family members said joining the Corps was a goal since he was a little boy.

“He comes from four generations of service members,” said his aunt, Marilu Sisto.

She and Wallace recounted a family story of how Jared would dress in his father’s fatigues and combat boots as a boy, when the elder Verbeek was a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton.

They said Jared asked his mother to shrink one of his father’s T-shirts so he could decorate it with ribbons to simulate medals and stripes and wear it.

Wallace said an officer stopped 7-year-old Jared in the outfit and asked playfully if he was a sergeant.

“He said, ‘No sir, I’m a general,’ ” and received a salute from the officer, Wallace said.

Jared had two older sisters. Sisto said other family members declined to be interviewed.

Wallace said the last time the family saw Jared was just before he deployed in March and if he was concerned for his safety in such a dangerous part of the world, he didn’t let on about it.

“Jared was really private, and he never, ever, would have said anything like that,” he said.

But his mother didn’t hide her worry, Sisto said, noting that her sister urged Jared not to join the Marines in the first place.

“But he had it in his head this was something he had to do,” Wallace said.

And Rosalia Verbeek was particularly scared that she might lose her son if he deployed to Afghanistan, Sisto said. “He said, ‘Mom, it’s always going to be somebody’s son. Why not me?’ ”

She said that since Jared deployed, her sister rarely left home, so as not to miss any calls or online MySpace postings from Jared.

Sisto said Jared posted a note of congratulations on her daughter’s Facebook account when she graduated high school, and on Father’s Day, he was on the phone with his wife planning a cruise with her and their son after his deployment, which was scheduled to end in October.

Still, Rosalia Verbeek worried.

In fact, Sisto said, her sister told her earlier this week that she knew something was wrong with Jared.

“She just knew,” well before being notified her son had died, Sisto said.

Repeating her sister’s words after learning of the death, Sisto said, “I hope that this country appreciates my son’s sacrifice.”

“The Marines and sailors of the 1st Marine Division mourn the loss of Lance Cpl. Verbeek. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family,” division officials stated in a news release.

Verbeek’s service awards include the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

Wallace said Verbeek has been nominated posthumously for another Purple Heart.

His body is scheduled to be flown to the military aerial port mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del., to be processed and prepared prior to being flown home.
Sisto said some members of the family planned to fly to Dover to view Jared’s remains and accompany him on the flight west.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jared C. Verbeek was killed in action on 6/21/11.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Army Pfc. Joshua L. Jetton

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Joshua L. Jetton, 21, of Sebring, Fla.

Pfc Jetton was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died June 20, 2011 of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire in Kunar province, Afghanistan.


Family and friends paid their respects today to U.S. Army Pfc. Joshua L. Jetton, who died June 20 in Afghanistan after insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.

The funeral service was held at First Baptist Church of Sebring. Jetton was buried with full military honors at Lakeview Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Avon Park.

Jetton joined the Army in August 2010 as an infantryman. He moved to Sebring after graduating in 2008 from an Indiana high school. In March, he married a woman he met in Sebring. Alicia Jetton is expecting fraternal twins in August.

Jetton was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the National Defense Service Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the Army Service Medal.


Alicia Jetton delivered twins, a son, Carter Mac, and a daughter, Hayden Olivia, on Monday at Florida Hospital Heartland Division.RYAN PELHAM/.

Highlands Today staff
Published: August 18, 2011

Alicia Jetton, widow of U.S. Army Pfc. Joshua L. Jetton, delivered twins Monday at Florida Hospital Heartland Center.

The Jetton twins arrived ahead of schedule.

Baby boy, Carter Mac Jetton, came first, weighing 5 pounds, 3 ounces at 8:41 p.m. His sister, Hayden Olivia, followed a 1 minute later, weighing 5 pounds, 15 ounces.

Alicia is feeling doubly blessed.

"I just want to thank the Heartland community for providing such loving support during this difficult and exciting time in our lives," she said in a news release. "Thanks to all the donations of diapers, toys, formula and gift cards, I can just focus on loving my new two bundles of joy."

Joshua Jetton was killed in June in Afghanistan after insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.

Alicia Jetton told Highlands Today she is scheduled to be discharged from the hospital today.

Women's Wellness Center obstetrician and family friend Dr. Guinevere Bullard delivered the twins.

"As I said when I first saw them, 'Oh, Alicia, they're perfect.' May God continue to watch over you, the twins and your family," she said in a news release.

Army Pfc. Joshua L. Jetton was killed in action on 6/20/11.

Army Sgt. James W. Harvey II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. James W. Harvey II, 23, of Toms River, N.J.

Sgt Harvey was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.; died June 20, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.


Soldier who lived in Toms River killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan

By Stephanie Loder

Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

TOMS RIVER — On the eve of President Obama’s address to the nation announcing plans for troop withdrawals came news that a soldier from Toms River was killed when his Army unit was attacked in Afghanistan.

Cpl. James W. Harvey II, 23, of Bayview Drive here, formerly of Clark, the youngest of four children, died June 20 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.

The announcement of Harvey’s death Tuesday came as Obama prepares to tell the nation tonight his plans for reducing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. There are about 100,000 now. Governor Chris Christie today ordered all State buildings to fly flags at half-staff on Friday to honor the service and sacrifice of Harvey.

Harvey’s father, also named James Harvey, a network administrator for an automobile corporation, said the troops should have been home from Afghanistan already.

“I was just talking about this the other day at work. The troops need to come back,” he said. “When we went over there, it was to get the guy who plotted to take down the World Trade Center and we got him. Mission accomplished. Why are we still there?”

Harvey’s sister, Tracey, who is 25, said her brother treated her as if he were an older brother.

“He took care of me, and I took care of him,” said Tracey Harvey. “I didn’t want him to go into the Army, but it was for selfish reasons. But I knew it would be good for him.”


In addition to Tracey Harvey, Harvey is survived by two other sisters, Robin Faffaele, 29, and Christine Douglas, 35, and his mother, Susan. He would have celebrated his 24th birthday on July 21.

Harvey’s father said an Army captain and a chaplain arrived Monday to tell the family of their son’s death. Details were still sketchy and the information about his death is still coming in, his father said.

Harvey enlisted in the Army at the age of 21, went through basic training in Kentucky and was deployed to Andar province in January, his father said.

“He came home in May and he was very despondent. He had lost a couple of friends, and he took it very hard,” he said. “The first thing he did was lower the flag, and then a few days later he put it back up.”

His son asked his father twice to enlist after high school. Each time, Harvey told his son that even though he registered with the draft during the Vietnam War, he didn’t see it as a good move.

In January, Harvey, whose specialties included Airborne and Airborne Assault, relieved the 101st Airborne in January. Harvey communicated to his father through Facebook.

“I talked to him last Wednesday. I told him I had not heard from him in a long time,” Harvey said of his son. “Then he said it was better for him to be off base than on base because of the insurgents attacking them.

“We would message and chat,” he said.

James — known to his family and friends as “Jimmy” — worked in his civilian job at Public Service Electric & Gas, his father said.

He said his son worked in the Metro Division underground as a cable splicer helper and as a substation operator. He said officials told him they were looking to promote him into management.

His father said he worried that his son was so anxious to become a soldier.

“He didn’t seem to have a grasp of the consequences,” he said.

James said he and his wife picked out cemetery plots and a funeral home for their son on Tuesday.

“This was something that we had not even done for ourselves,” he said. “We moved here four years ago for our retirement, to enjoy things a little and enjoy our family. Not this.”

He said the family will head to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware today where a plane carrying their son’s body will land. Funeral services are still in the planning stages.

He said the Army told him that his son will be awarded posthumously a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

“It has hit us. My wife doesn’t want to talk about it. I keep busy because if I don’t, I sit there and I feel sorry for myself,” he said. “I just want people to remember him and maybe think about how we need to bring these soldiers home.”

Army Sgt. James W. Harvey II was killed in action on 6/20/11.

Army Pfc. Gustavo A. Rios-Ordonez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Gustavo A. Rios-Ordonez, 25, of Englewood, Ohio

Pfc Rios-Ordonez was assigned to 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died June 20, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Tiffani Rios and her two young daughters were outside of her mother's home in Eaton last Monday, June 20, preparing to leave when two United States Military personnel drove up.

When they exited their vehicle, Rios knew something bad had happened.

Rios was informed her husband of two years, Pfc. Gustavo A. Rios-Ordonez, 25, had been killed in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Rios-Ordonez has been assigned to the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas.


"I really didn't want to believe it all. I saw the guys getting out of the car because I was outside and I knew they were coming," she said. "The guy that told me was almost in tears. That didn't help me. I just really didn't want to believe it all."

During a phone interview Monday, June 27, Rios described her husband as "outgoing, caring, athletic and funny. Just everything in a good way. He also loved playing soccer."

She said their daughters, Isabella and Elizabeth, were part of the reason Rios-Ordonez, who was from Colombia, joined the military.

"He loved our daughters more than anything," she said.

The two met just before Rios' 19th birthday. Soon after they married and moved to Englewood.

"I met him about a week before my 19th birthday and we just started hanging out," she said. "It's kind of funny. I thought he was Mexican because of being at a Mexican restaurant, but he's actually from Colombia."

Rios, whose maiden name is Salisbury, is a 2007 graduate of Eaton High School.

She said the past week has been rough.

"I've been in denial most of it. I really don't believe that is him," she said. "It's just been hard. I don't want to believe it."

Rios said her husband, who moved to the United States in August of 2007, joined the military to make his daughters proud, as well as better himself.

"He just really wanted something different. He wanted both of our daughters to be proud of him," Rios said. "It's just something that would have helped him go forward in a career. He just wanted the girls mostly to be proud of him. "

Rios said her husband has always been her hero.

"He's always been my hero just for everything he's ever wanted to do for the girls," she said. "Not just because of this and everything that has happened. If other people want to call him a hero then, fine, whatever, I don't really care. But he's just always been mine and the girls' hero."

Rios said spending time alone is extra hard.

"It's just been really hard. Every time I'm alone I constantly cry," she said. "When the girls are around I hide it. They have no idea what's going on right now."

The girls are 2-years old and 7-months.

"I've had a lot of support, even from girls I've never met, other Army wives and girlfriends and stuff," she said. "They're like mothers. They've just been really supportive. My family and Gustavo's family, they've all been really supportive."

Army Pfc. Gustavo A. Rios-Ordonez was killed in action on 6/20/11.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Marine Pfc. Josue Ibarra

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Pfc. Josue Ibarra, 21, of Midland, Texas

Pfc Ibarra was assigned to 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died June 19, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, from wounds received while conducting combat operations.


Friends Remember Fallen Marine From Midland

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Close friends remember a Midland marine killed in combat over the weekend while serving his country.

Pfc. Josue Ibarra passed away in Afghanistan on Sunday. Now friends of the fallen Marine are sharing their memories of him as they await for his return home.

"He was a great young man. He was an example to many," Pastor Abel Torres, said. "He just loved God and he was always willing to serve."

Whether that be serving his country or serving his church, Josue Ibarra did it with a smile on his face.

On Sunday, the 21-year-old passed away from wounds he received while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan. Pastor Torres said the family is holding up but it's been especially hard on Ibarra's mother.

"She had a room there at the house that was ready for him when he came back, so it's very difficult for her," Pastor Torres said. "He was the youngest so she's taking it pretty hard."

Ibarra enlisted in the Marine Corps last June and was just deployed in April. Close friend, Aracely Sanchez, spoke with him two weeks ago.

"He said it wasn't really what he expected but he was still glad he joined," she said. "He just missed home. He wanted to do something that was going to change the world, either by becoming a Marine and help the United States or in God's kingdom, to be a missionary."

Ibarra was a youth director and then went a step further and became a deacon at Abundant Living Christian Center in Midland.

Both Sanchez and Torres said he was well known within the congregation.

"He was just a funny guy," Sanchez said. "Always at church, always a good person."

"People fell in love with him, his personality, his character," Pastor Torres said.

All of those things people will remember about their hometown hero who was taken too soon.

"I wish I had one more day to spend with him," Sanchez said. "At least 24 more hours and I would tell him and let him know how much people love him."

"He had the courage to be willing to serve his country and lay his life down," Pastor Torres said. "He'll be missed, definitely, he'll be missed."

Funeral services are still pending for Ibarra. Pastor Torres said they're making special arrangements for the Marine because they expect a very large crowd.

Marine Pfc. Josue Ibarra was killed in action on 6/19/11.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Army Pfc. Brian J. Backus

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Brian J. Backus, 21, of Saginaw Township, Mich.

Pfc Backus was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., died June 18, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.


HARBOR BEACH — Inside the United Methodist Church here this past spring, Pfc. Brian J. Backus appeared in uniform before leaving for war, and the townsfolk said a prayer for him.

On Monday, they awaited details of his funeral.

“Brian was a beautiful young man, and this is really hitting us hard,” said Rev. Paula M. Timm, 49, pastor of Harbor Beach United Methodist Church, where Backus, 21, went to church.

Backus, a 2008 graduate of Harbor Beach High School, died Saturday of wounds suffered when his unit came under attack by small arms fire that day in Afghanistan. The Department of Defense lists his address as Saginaw Township, and friends said he attended college in the Saginaw area for a time.

“He was just in church a few months ago looking all handsome, and we sort of prayed over him and blessed him,” Timm said. “I call him a beautiful young man because he had a tender spirit, he was good-hearted and giving.

“He had that twinkle in his eye and he was just a sweetheart. This is just breaking our hearts.”

Ramsey Funeral Home in Harbor Beach will handle funeral arrangements, though no details have been announced yet.

Backus is survived by a 2-year-old son, Jack, and by his parents, Alan and Anne Backus, and by a brother, Paul.

He was his class president and was in the Top Ten of his class at Harbor Beach High. He was a combat medic in the Army, and was considering a career in the medical field, according to Timm.

“He was a high achiever, a smart young man,” Timm said. “He wasn’t a kid in trouble that the (military) service is good at straightening out. That’s not what he was about.”

Backus’ father works for DTE Energy in Harbor Beach and his mother works for the Harbor Beach Area District Library, where library clerk Cindy A. Stevenson, 57, said workers learned of Brian’s death this morning.

“We’re all in shock,” Stevenson said. “Brian used to come in the library and harass his mom a little bit and play around, so he had a sense of humor.”

Alan and Anne Backus, the late soldier’s parents, were on vacation in Alaska when they received word of their son’s death, according to Timm and Stevenson.

Timm called the Backuses a “church-going family” who enjoyed the outdoors. Stevenson said she and her husband drove a car to Port Huron, where Brian Backus was waiting to take it late last year, so he could have a car at Fort Drum, N.Y. in the months before he deployed to Afghanistan.

“I told him to be safe,” Stevenson said. “He said he was gonna try. He was dedicated.”

Army Pfc. Brian J. Backus was killed in action on 6/18/11.

Army Sgt. Edward F. Dixon III

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Edward F. Dixon III, 37, of Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

Sgt Dixon was assigned to 4th Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Baumholder, Germany; died June 18, 2011 in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered during a vehicle rollover. Also killed were Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvin A. Boatwright, Army Sgt. Alan L. Snyder and Army Spc. Tyler R. Kreinz.


From the Joplin Globe:

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon issued a declaration that flags at all state buildings be flown at half-staff on Thursday to honor the sacrifice of Staff Sgt. Edward F. Dixon III, 37, who was killed June 18 while on a mission in Uruzgan Province in central Afghanistan.

In a statement, Nixon said: “Staff Sergeant Dixon served our country with bravery and dedication. I ask all Missourians to remember his sacrifice when they see the lowered flags.”

Dixon served almost 20 years in the Air Force and Army. He enlisted in the Air Force after graduating in 1992 from Joplin High School and served in South Korea. Later, he transferred to the Army as part of the “Blue to Green” program.

Dixon’s father, Edward Dixon Jr., said his son wanted to be a tanker (armored crewman) for the Army. After receiving armored training at Fort Knox, Ky., Dixon was stationed in Baumholder, Germany. In 2003, he was deployed to Iraq and Baghdad’s Sadr City, the scene of intense fighting. Over the course of 15 months, Dixon and his comrades gained control of the 8-square-mile area of roughly 2 million people.

Dixon was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 as part of a troop surge intended to reverse gains made by the Taliban. Dixon’s unit, the 170th Infantry Brigade, was assigned to train Afghan forces in cooperation with Australian troops stationed in Uruzgan Province. He died of injuries he suffered when his vehicle rolled over while crossing a river during a mission with Afghan forces. According to a Pentagon spokesman, the accident remains under investigation.

Edward Dixon Jr. said his son loved the outdoors, especially the woods along Shoal Creek. As a military veteran of the Vietnam era himself, he said the support his family has received since traveling to Dover, Del., to receive his son’s body has been “fantastic.”

He pointed to organizations such as the USO and the Patriot Guard, which help families cope with the loss of their loved-ones-in-arms.

“The support we’ve received has been fantastic,” Dixon said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Dixon said that while the past week has been a difficult time for his family, he is comforted by the knowledge that his son was doing something he believed in.

“I can’t be any more proud of him,” Dixon said. “He was proud of what he was doing, and he was proud to serve.”

Army Sgt. Edward F. Dixon III was killed in action on 6/18/11.