Sunday, July 31, 2011

Marine Sgt. Christopher M. Wrinkle

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Christopher M. Wrinkle, 29, of Dallastown, Pa.

Sgt. Wrinkle was assigned to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died July 31, 2011 in Herat province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Dolphin and Sgt. Dennis E. Kancler.


Sgt Wrinkle graduated from Dallastown High School in 2001.

Dallastown Area High School Principal Alan Fauth said he served as assistant principal when Wrinkle attended the school. He recalled Wrinkle as a mature student, who, on occasion asked Fauth in the hallway how his day was going. "He was a nice kid; he was concerned about others," he said.

Patti Bream, assistant pastor at Christ Lutheran Church in Dallastown, where Wrinkle and his family attended church, said, "He was a wonderful young man. He was very caring. He had a very strong faith in God."

Bream said that, when Wrinkle was younger, he was involved in the church's children's choir and, later, its junior and senior youth programs.

She said that since hearing of Wrinkle's death, the church has reached out to its members through a phone prayer chain.

"I think the majority of people are still in shock," Bream said. "He was such a wonderful young man, and people had such respect for him. It's hard to understand. We are, as a congregation, proud of his dedication to our country, and we will sorely miss him."

The Rev. Lawrence Cunnings, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, released a statement after Wrinkle's death:

"Christ Lutheran Church has been blessed to have Chris Wrinkle as a member of our church. He has shown exemplary and outstanding service to his country over the past 10 years serving in all major conflicts that have occurred in that time period, oftentimes more than once. We grieve at the tragic loss of this son of our congregation. We express our condolences to his family and friends."

Dallastown Area High School Principal Alan Fauth said he served as assistant principal when Wrinkle attended the school. He recalled Wrinkle as a mature student, who, on occasion asked Fauth in the hallway how his day was going. "He was a nice kid; he was concerned about others," he said.

A member of Wrinkle’s unit struggled to find words to describe the bond shared by Sgt. Wrinkle and his beloved canine partner, Tosca. They were inseparable.


A fellow Sergeant said that when the fire broke out in their Herat province barracks, Wrinkle called out for him. When he answered and Wrinkle knew he was safe, his colleague watched as Wrinkle turned back, disappearing into the fire in a search for his partner. It was the last time he was seen alive – both he and Tosca perished in the blaze.

Wrinkle’s colleague says he knew exactly what Wrinkle was doing when he ran back into that burning building, trying to save Tosca He took a chance on his own life to get her. "Chris died a hero.”

The pews at Christ Lutheran Church in Dallastown were full Tuesday, with many of Wrinkle’s brothers from the Corps in attendance. To the right of Wrinkle’s casket sat a smaller vessel – containing the remains of Tosca.

Marine Sgt. Christopher M. Wrinkle was killed in action on 7/31/11.

Marine Sgt. Dennis Kancler

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Dennis Kancler, 26, of Brecksville, Ohio

Sgt. Kancler was assigned to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died July 31, 2011 in Herat province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Dolphin and Sgt. Christopher M. Wrinkle.


Sgt Kancler was a "joint terminal attack controller," a highly skilled job in which Kancler ordered military firepower from the air or the ground, said Maj. Jeff Landis, a spokesman for the specials operations command.

Sgt Kancler enlisted in the Marines after graduating Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School in 2003. He left the Marines after a few years, but then decided to re-enlist.

Sgt Kancler was two months into his third deployment. He had previously been deployed twice to Iraq.

His father, Dennis A. Kancler, former Brecksville Police Chief who retired this past January, says his son was a private person who liked working out and spending time in the woods deer hunting, and was hoping to finish his degree in sports medicine. He joined the Marines because he wanted to serve his country after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Kancler said his son also was influenced by his wife's brother, who served in the Marines, and a fellow Leatherneck, Capt. Mike Carlin of the Brecksville police.

His son left the Marines after the Iraq deployments, according to Kancler, but only lasted about six months in the civilian world. "He said, 'Dad, there's nothing like being with the team. I'm a Marine. I belong over there. It's what I do. It's who I am.'

"He re-upped with absolute pride, knowing what could happen," he added. "We're very proud of him. He loved his team, and we loved being part of the Marine family."

Kancler said before the latest deployment in June, his son took his mother, Paula, and sisters Colleen and Stephanie (who are married to Marines) skydiving. His sister Nicole also joined the gathering, but did not go parachuting.

Mother, Paula, says she does not like heights, but for her son she figured, "I’d mom up and do it," because the jump was important to him. "It was an awesome experience . . . he was so proud of us."

She said that while she will always remember him for the wonderful son that he was, she knows he will widely be recalled as one of the many who died in the service of their country. "I thank the Marine Corps for allowing my son to be one of a few good men," she said

"My son absolutely is a hero and to us he always was," Paula said

Father and son took a motorcycle trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, including the renowned "Tail of the dragon" section in Tennessee with 318 curves in 11 miles.

Kancler recalled walking with his son back to the base for deployment to Afghanistan, and "I watched him transition into all-business. He was quite the professional.

"He no longer looked like my son," he said. "He looked like the man he became."

Sgt Kancler's body arrived Aug. 9. accompanied by his brother-in-law Ken Blonski, also a Marine.

Sgt Kancler was laid to rest on August 11 at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.

Sgt Kancler is survived by parents, Paula and Dennis; 3 year old son, Jack; sisters, Colleen, Stephanie and Nichole.

Marine Sgt. Dennis Kancler was killed in action on 7/31/11.

Marine Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Dolphin

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Dolphin, 29, of Moscow, Pa.

SSgt Dolphin was assigned to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died July 31, 2011 in Herat province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations. Also killed were Sgt. Dennis E. Kancler and Sgt. Christopher M. Wrinkle.


SSgt Dolphin graduated from North Pocono High School in 2000. Shortly after graduating high school, he enlisted in the Marines. He enjoyed flying, having earned his Private Pilot License which he attained as a civilian.

This was his second tour in Afghanistan. He had previously been deployed to Iraq twice.

His grandmother, Irene Golden, knew he was a perfect fit for the Marines. Ever since he was a child, he wanted to be a soldier or Marine

"From the moment he was born, he was a Marine," Irene said, recalling memories of Sgt. Dolphin running through the woods near his childhood home playing soldier with a toy gun.

He had a happy life; he was dedicated to being a serviceman," she said. "He made a beautiful, handsome Marine."

Mother, Jean Uffalussy, said her son always wanted to be in the military and signed up with the Marines when he turned 17. He was off to boot camp as soon as he graduated high school.

“All his life he wanted to be in the military,” she said. “He deserves a hero's welcome.”

"He was hardcore, a non-stop Jarhead," friend Nick Butler recalled of his friend and fellow Marine. "Once you're a Marine, you're a Marine for life. We're a different breed."

Nick suffered an injury while serving two tours of duty in Iraq. He said the Sgt. Dolphin he enlisted and served with was dedicated to his cause and his military family, making the loss that much harder.

"This hits close too home, growing up with the guy," Nick said. "My heart is torn out for Lindsey and Tommy," he added.

Funeral services were held on August 10th with iInternment at Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton.

SSgt Dolphin is survived by his mother, Jean; wife of two years, Lindsey; brother, Thomas; grandparents, Irene and Edward.

He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, William L. Dolphin and two uncles, James J. “Chopsey” Igoe, U.S. Navy and Patrick Igoe, U.S. Marine; both of whom Patrick was close with and will be interned near them in the Cathedral Cemetery.

Marine Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Dolphin was killed in action on 7/31/11.

Army Pfc. Brice M. Scott

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Brice M. Scott, 22, of Columbus, Ga.

Pfc. Scott was assigned to 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died July 31, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire.


Pfc Scott and two others were working a security checkpoint when they were ambushed by eight fighters.

This was his first deployment. He deployed in March and was last stateside in May for a two-week visit with his wife and daughters in Kansas.

Pfc Scott graduated from North Eugene High School in Oregon, where he was a football player and became interested in the Job Corps (free federal education and training program that helps young people find jobs).

After training at a Job Corps site in Yachats, Scott got a degree in carpentry in 2006 through the organization. He worked as a carpenter in Newport and Albany, but
lost his job about two years ago in the economic crash. Continuing a family tradition and to support his family, he joined the military.

According to his father, Steven Scott, a former tank commander, more than a half-dozen ancestors and relatives have served overseas with distinction.

“Brice was a super soldier,” father, Steven, said. “He did what he was supposed to do. He did it in an outstanding fashion, and he lived up to the expectation of all of us who have gone before.”

“For a young man, he was the best father I’d ever seen,” his father said.

Pfc Scott spent summers in Florence with a grandfather, Tim Robins, where Scott liked to ride the sand dunes in an ATV and tool around in his sports car, a Nissan 300ZX.

Described by his grandfather as a “tall, good-looking” young man, he said Scott grew up playing paintball and other war games, and was virtually unbeatable at the simulation-shooter video game, “Halo.”and had became an excellent marksman in the Army.

Scott was the “baby doll” of the family on whom relatives doted, said his cousin, Sarah Hemple.

Sarah recalled a recent conversation she had with Scott, who In response to a comment by Scott that explosions were going off as he was typing at a computer keyboard, Sarah told him that he should have gone into the military “to be a cook.”

Scott replied, “I joined the Army first and foremost to support myself and family, but I am not someone that can sit behind a desk all day. This is the best job in the world, I don’t care what anyone says.”

Pfc Scott is survived by his mother, Carol; father, Steven; wife, Dell and their daughters, Celina, age 3, and Mia, age 1.

Army Pfc. Brice M. Scott was killed in action on 7/31/11.

Army Sgt. William B. GrossPaniagua

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. William B. GrossPaniagua, 28, of Daly City, Calif.

Sgt. GrossPaniagua was assigned to 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died July 31, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.


Mercury News.com

Army Sgt. William GrossPaniagua worked one of the most dangerous jobs a soldier can perform -- he cleared roadside bombs.

On Sunday, the grim odds of that assignment caught up with him in the rugged, mountainous Kunar Province of northeastern Afghanistan. The 28-year-old Daly City resident died in the early morning hours when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle.

"Sgt. Gross' job was very difficult and oftentimes nerve-racking, but the importance of it was immeasurable," Army spokesman Maj. David Eastburn said in an interview Tuesday from Afghanistan. "He made the roads safe for not only the U.S. military and Afghan security forces to travel but also the good people of Afghanistan. His dedication to his job and belief in the cause (are) something that will never be forgotten."

GrossPaniagua was part of a "route-clearance package" that removes IEDs from roads to allow humanitarian aid to pass through an area safely, Eastburn said.

He was driving a mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle when the bomb exploded, Eastburn said. Two other soldiers were injured.

Last year, CBS reported that roadside bombs posed the biggest threat to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

According to the report, the makeshift explosives accounted for about 60 percent of military deaths there.

"The thing about what we do over here is that there are multiple threats at any given time," Eastburn said. "A finance clerk or cook could

be killed by an enemy mortar attack just as a pilot could be killed when a helicopter is shot down or a route-clearance package is hit with an IED."

GrossPaniagua was a combat engineer and had just been promoted to sergeant, the military said. He belonged to Alpha Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

A grieving sibling answered the door Tuesday at his Daly City home, a two-story house off Mission Street that was still adorned with Christmas decorations.

"We just want people to pray for the whole family," said a woman who identified herself as his sister but declined to give her name. "He was a good guy everybody loved. He was a sweet guy."


The woman said her brother was born in Nicaragua and came to the U.S. when he was 9 years old.

She declined to talk further.

GrossPaniagua enlisted in the Army in 2005. At the time of his death he was on his third tour of duty, the military said.

His first two deployments were to Iraq.

He earned numerous military citations, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Army Sgt. William B. GrossPaniagua was killed in action on 7/31/11.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Army Spc. Augustus J. Vicari

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Augustus J. Vicari, 22, of Broken Arrow, Okla.

Spc Augustus was assigned to 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, Tulsa, Okla.; died July 29, 2011 in Paktya province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was 2nd Lt. Jered W. Ewy.


Services pending for soldiers in last week's attack
Funeral services are still pending for two Oklahoma Army National Guard soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan last Friday.

Second Lt. Jered W. Ewy, 33, of Edmond and Spc. Augustus J. Vicari, 22, of Broken Arrow were killed in a bomb attack while conducting a dismounted patrol in Janak Kheyl, Afghanistan.

Both were attached to the Sand Springs-based 279th Infantry Regiment of the Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Although Vicari lived in Broken Arrow, his funeral services will be held in his native Indiana. He grew up in Lowell, Ind., which is about 35 miles south of Chicago.

After graduating from Lowell High School in 2008, Vicari and his fiancée, Holly Peters, moved to Oklahoma, settling in Broken Arrow.

Evelyn Vicari, the soldier's mother, described her son as an adventuresome person, so she encouraged him to move from Lowell to discover what life was like elsewhere.

Vicari and Peters were married last Sept. 25 in Lowell.


Holly Vicari said she and her husband chose Broken Arrow as their new home largely at the suggestion of her father, Charles Peters, a retired Army sergeant first class.

"My dad had moved to Broken Arrow a couple of years ago, and he said it was beautiful there," she said.

"We loved living in Oklahoma."

While in Broken Arrow, Augustus Vicari was a supervisor for a company that performed maintenance work for Tulsa's Woodland Hills Mall, she said.

He joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard because "it was something he was thinking of doing for a long time, and he felt the time had come," she said.

Holly Vicari said her husband left for Afghanistan in the third week of June.

Army Spc. Augustus J. Vicari was killed in action on 7/29/11.

Army 2nd Lt. Jered W. Ewy

Remember Our Heroes

Army 2nd Lt. Jered W. Ewy, 33, of Edmond, Okla.

2nd Lt. Ewy was assigned to 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, Tulsa, Okla.; died July 29, 2011 in Paktya province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Spc. Augustus J. Vicari.


Before joining the National Guard, Jered Ewy was a U.S. Army Ranger.

After he left the active-duty military, Jered Ewy joined the Guard, planning to finish his college degree in criminal justice.

“What I wanted him to do was take the degree and get into law enforcement with the Department of Justice,” John Ewy said. “He turned it down because he missed the camaraderie.”

Instead, Jered Ewy went full-time with the National Guard and graduated Officer Candidate School, earning a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

“He was extremely proud of that.”

John Ewy said his son didn't talk much about his three deployments but did enjoy his work.

“He talked a lot about the Afghan people and how he enjoyed helping them, especially the children,” John Ewy said.

Ewy died while he was serving on his third tour in Afghanistan.

Ewy, who was very involved in Edmond as a gymnastics coach to many children in the metro area, graduated from Putnam City North High School and later the University of Central Oklahoma with a degree in criminal justice. He entered the military in 1998, and quickly became an Army Ranger; he was one of the first members in the military to serve in Afghanistan.

In 2003, he transferred to the Oklahoma National Guard and served as an instructor. In January 2011, he graduated from Officer Candidate School and became a second lieutenant.

“Jered was a man of integrity, discipline and honor who put everyone else first,” family members wrote in his obituary. “He cared deeply about the men he served with but his true passion in his life was his wife Megan and infant daughter Kyla.”


Family members have established the Jered Ewy Foundation to help the soldier’s wife and daughter. Donations can be made at any Bank of America location nationwide. Make checks payable to the Kyla Ewy Trust. Checks also can be mailed to 2600 S.W. 113th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73170. Donations also may be made online at www.ewyfoundation.org.

Army 2nd Lt. Jered W. Ewy was killed in action on 7/29/11.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Army Master Sgt. Benjamin Stevenson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Master Sgt. Benjamin Stevenson, 36, of Canyon Lake, Texas

MSgt Stevenson was assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died July 21, 2011 in Paktika province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire.

MSgt Stevenson was part of a U.S. and Afghan special operations mission that went in to attack the area in Afghanistan's Paktika province.

The camp they attacked and the fighters there were part of the so-called Haqqanni network, which is responsible for many recent attacks in Afghanistan and is closely tied to al Qaeda. The Haqqanis traditionally rely on Afghan and Pakistani fighters. In this instance, most of the fighters there who were killed, were Arabs and Chechens, brought into Afghanistan from Pakistan.

"This is how they are expanding their capabilities," an undisclosed official said. The U.S. believes this camp was an assembly and training point for these foreign fighters to stage attacks across Afghanistan.

During the two-day firefight against the camp, the U.S. troops found several caves and fortified bunkers. Airstrikes were called in using missile-equipped helicopters, fighter jets dropping precision weapons and unmanned drones. Coalition forces were led to the camp by former insurgents. It's not clear if the extent of the opposition was immediately clear to the coalition.

MSgt Stevenson was the only fatality. This was his 10th deployment.

MSgt Stevenson graduated from Smithson Valley High School in 1993. He enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in June that year.

MSgt Stevenson first served with the 325th Infantry Battalion at Fort Bragg as a gunner firing anti-tank missiles and a squad leader. He then went on to become an aircraft power plant repairman with the 601st Aviation Support Battalion at Katterbach, Germany.

He completed Special Forces training in January 2000. As part of his training, MSgt Stevenson was educated in jungle and mountain warfare, the Russian language, air assault, and free fall. He was assigned to 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Ky., where he served as a weapons and intelligence sergeant. He deployed with the unit three times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan

In May 2006, MSgt Stevenson was assigned as a special operations team member with Special Operations Command, where he deployed to Iraq four more times and twice more to Afghanistan.

MSgt Stevenson was transfered to become a part of a special operations team in May of 2006, and was deployed to Iraq four more times and twice more to Afghanistan.

MSgt Stevenson's awards and decorations include:

Bronze Star (5)
Purple Heart
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor
Army Commendation Medal with Valor
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal
Presidential Unit citation
Joint Meritorious Unit award
Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Kosovo Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three campaign stars
Iraq Campaign Medal with six campaign stars
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal with Bronze Arrowhead
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

Stevenson was posthumously awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Purple Heart.

MSgt Stevenson is interred at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery, Spring Lake, NC.

MSgt Stevenson is survived by his mother, Laura; wife, Heather and two young sons.

Army Master Sgt. Benjamin Stevenson was killed in action on 7/21/11.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Army Sgt. Jacob Molina

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jacob Molina, 27, of Houston,

Sgt Molina was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died July 19, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Staff Sgt. James M. Christen.


Sgt Molina attended Eastwood High School, where he started a rugby team. He later transferred to Houston Can! Academy, where he met his future wife, Stephanie.

Sgt Molina enlisted in the Army in February 2007. This was his second overseas combat tour. He had previously served in Iraq.

Sgt Molina was a big fan of mixed marshal arts and such an action movie fanatic that his mother, Janie Torres, nicknamed him Vin Diesel.

“He liked anything physical, full contact,” brother Javier, said.

His mother, Janie Torre, said her son had wanted to be in the military ever since becoming a teenager. She knew it was his destiny, but never expected he wouldn’t come back alive.

"He’s tough," said Janie. "And, I’ve always known Jacob to get out of everything, not this time."

Sgt Molina's uncle, Joe Campos Torres, was killed in one of the most notorious cases of police brutality in Houston's history.

Joe Campos Torres was wearing his Army fatigues and combat boots when Houston police arrested him after a bar disturbance in May 1977. He drowned after being severely beaten by officers and thrown into Buffalo Bayou. His body was found floating in the water a few days later.

Molina never met his uncle, a Vietnam veteran, but grew up hearing stories about him and looking at pictures of him in uniform. Relatives say Molina's decision to join the Army was motivated in part by his uncle's service.

The officers were convicted in state court of negligent homicide and received one year probation. Federal charges resulted in prison sentences of a year and a day for civil rights violations, and a decade of probation for conspiracy.

"There's no greater pain to a mom than losing one of your own," she said. "No matter what the circumstances are, the pain is still the same,"

“We came from a strong military family and he wanted to be part of something bigger than he was,” said Javier. “He wanted to make a difference.”

“It made him happy,” he said. “He enjoyed what he was doing and he told me he wouldn’t want it any other way. If he was going to go out, he wanted to go out doing what he loved.”

Javier last talked to his brother online the day before. Molina asked Javier about his plan to follow in his footsteps and join the Army after graduation. “He said it would be the best life choice to make,” said Javier.

The next day, Molina’s mother was hanging laundry in her backyard when Army officers came to the house. At first she thought they were recruiters who had dropped by to visit Javier.

“When he called me by my son’s last name, I knew,” said his mother, who goes by her maiden name. “I dropped everything and ran into the house.”

“I want people to know what he did for them, what he did for us,” she said. “That was his destiny, his passion. He was a hero to us when he was here and he was a hero when he was there."

When people tell Javier that he should reconsider enlisting, he says, “What I like to tell them is it makes more determined than ever."

“He always wanted to make sure I grew up strong and brave like him. He was everything I wanted to be. He was my hero.”

Army Sgt. Jacob Molina was killed in action on 7/19/11.

Army Staff Sgt. James M. Christen

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. James M. Christen, 29, of Loomis, Calif.

SSgt Christen was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died July 19, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Sgt. Jacob Molina.


Two days after Army Staff Sgt. James M. Christen's death in Afghanistan this summer, his family and friends created a memorial page on Facebook.

They shared photos and memories of Christen, 29, from the Placer County town of Loomis, northeast of Sacramento, as well of words of encouragement to his wife, Lauren, to whom he was married for eight years.

"I will forever be proud of my husband for all [he] did and will miss him every second of everyday," his wife wrote on the website.

"James was the definition of Patriot," wrote another commenter, Jade Salazar, who said she was a longtime friend of Lauren. "He had such a strong conviction for protecting the nation. He was smart. He was absolutely hilarious. He was in Love… He was a soldier. I know that I am not alone when I say, I love you James. And I will truly miss you forever. HOOAH."

Christen had previously served two tours in Iraq. He was on his third deployment, this time in Afghanistan, when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle July 19 in eastern Kunar province, on the Pakistani border. Military officials said Christen died of his wounds. Also killed was Army Sgt. Jacob Molina, 27, of Houston.

Both men were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Christen attended Del Oro High School in Loomis, where as a senior he received the Army College Fund Award, according to the local newspaper, the Loomis News. Christen graduated in 2000 and enlisted in the Army as an infantryman, the Pentagon said.

Christen was buried in August at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., according to online postings by his loved ones.

"I love and miss my son," his mother, Gwen Murray, wrote on The Times' California War Dead database, which collects stories about the state's service members who have died during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. "He was a great son and his family will miss him greatly."

SSgt Christen's awards and decorations include:

Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal
Army Good conduct Medal
National Defnese Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with star
Iraq Campaign Medal with star
Global War on Terrorism Medal
Army Service Medal
Non-commissioned Offficer Profession Development ribbon
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge
Parachutist Badge

SSgt Christen is survived by his foster mother, Gwen; wife, Lauren.

Army Staff Sgt. James M. Christen was killed in action on 7/19/11.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Army Sgt. Brian K. Mowery

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Brian K. Mowery, 49, of Halifax, Pa.

Sgt Mowery was assigned to 131st Transportation Company, 213th Area Support Group, Pennsylvania National Guard, Williamstown, Pa., died July 18, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his convoy with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. VanGiesen and Army Sgt. Edward W. Koehler.


Sgt Mowery graduated Central Dauphin High in 1980. He started his military career in the Marines Corps Reserves from 1979 to 1985. After a 15 year break, he joined the Pennsylvania National Guard in 2000 as an infantry team leader and motor transport operator. He served for several months in Kosovo from 2003 to 2004

He was active during the Kosovo Peacekeeping Mission from 2003-2004 and Katrina Relief in 2005. He was deployed to Afghanistan this past January.

Sgt Mowery was home on leave last month when his daughter graduated high school. As a graduation present, he took his daughter to get a tattoo. Before the week was out, he was back at the same place getting one for himself.

“He would have been 50,” Sgt. First Class Harry Shipman said, “but he had the heart of a 21-year-old.”

“Don’t get all depressed for him,” Spec. Don DeLoach said. “It would piss him off. He’d want us to drink a beer.”

“Brian Mowery exemplified what it means to be a noncommissioned officer and served as an example to the younger soldiers around him. He demonstrated leadership potential far above his rank and never hesitated to assume responsibility, no matter how big the challenge.”

“The impact of the tragic loss of our three soldiers is felt throughout the entire Pennsylvania National Guard. We will honor their service by caring for their families left behind, and by increasing our determination to accomplish the mission they set out to do.”

Dad, Pops, Pappy,
There will never be a day i don't remind my girls, how brave, loving, and loyal a grandfather they had. My heart aches with the pure fact that I'll miss you till it's my turn. God has used your life and death in ways I don't think you could have ever imagined. Love,"your favorite daughter in law" ~ Emily Mowery, Halifax, Pennsylvania

July 28, 2011
Not a football star, or a baseball star or a basketball star, but a true American Hero who was willing to die for his country. You are and always will be a life time friend of mine. I will never forget Marine Corps bootcamp. you were tough when you first got to Parris Island and one of the toughest when you left Parris Island. Once a Marine, Always a Marine. U-Rah Marine! Miss ya buddy. Eric M., Mechanicsburg, PA

While In C company, Brian and I served together as team leaders in the same squad. Despite sharing the same rank, I always looked up to him personally and professionally. He often times provided the comic relief needed during stressful times. May you rest in peace my brother.~Robert S., Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania



SSgt Mowery's awards and decorations include:

Purple Heart
Bronze Star
Army Commendation Medal (2)
Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal
Army Achievement Medal
NATO Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Driver and Mechanic Badge
Kosovo Campaign Medal
Governor's Unit Citation

SSgt Mowery was laid to rest at Ft. Indiantown Gap National Cemetery.

SSgt Mowery is survived by father, Harry; wife of 32 years, Sharon; children, Brian, Brandon, Nichole and Kaitlyn; siblings, Shawn, Michael,Terry and Kathy. He is preceded in death by his mother, Patricia.

Army Sgt. Brian K. Mowery was killed in action on 7/18/11.

Army Sgt. Edward W. Koehler

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Edward W. Koehler, 47, of Lebanon, Pa.

Sgt Koehler was assigned to 131st Transportation Company, 213th Area Support Group, Pennsylvania National Guard, Williamstown, Pa., died July 18, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his convoy with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. VanGiesen and Army Sgt. Brian K. Mowery.


Sgt Koehler graduated from Lebanon High School in 1982. He served six years in the Marines, took 10 year break and enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1997 as a motor transport operator.

This was Sgt. Koehler's first tour of duty in Afghanistan. He had also served with the 131st in Kuwait and Iraq.

In civilian life, he was a long-haul trucker delivering goods across the country. After marrying his wife, Cheryl, Koehler moved to Georgia. Wanting to stay with and retire from the unit rather than transfer, Koehler drove more than 680 miles each way for monthly training the year before the 131st deployed. After Koehler deployed in November, Cheryl continued to make the trip as president of the company’s family readiness group

“He was a wonderful person to be around,” Lt Col McHugh said. “When you were deployed and missing home he was the kind that always made you smile. He was always joking and laughing. Generally there’s a handful of people you truly remember and can visualize. He’s one of those guys.”

“As a former Marine noncommissioned officer, Edward Koehler was known for his impeccable military bearing and eagerness to challenge himself and those around him,” said Maj. Gen. Craig. “When he was a private in the Marine Corps, Koehler took pride in playing Taps at the end of each day while his company was deployed to Diego Garcia. Unfortunately it is now our solemn duty to play Taps for him.”

The family of Sgt. Edward Koehler released the following statement:

"The family would like to express their appreciation for the heartfelt condolences and prayers. Please know this thoughtfulness is providing much needed comfort. Continue to pray for all of our troops and their safety. Their daily sacrifices must not go unnoticed."

Sgt Koehler's awards include:

Purple Heart
Combat Action Badge
Army Reserve Component Achievement Medals (3)
Army Achievement Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals
Driver and Mechanic Badge
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
Governor’s Unit Citation

Sgt Koehler was laid to rest in Anderson Memorial Gardens in Ringgold, GA.

Sgt Koehler is survived by his mother, Ruthie Koehler; wife, Cheryl, three daughters, Shelby, Tobi and Kayla; two sisters, Elaine and Nicole.

Army Sgt. Edward W. Koehler was killed in action on 7/18/11.

Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. VanGiesen

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. VanGiesen, 30, of Erie, Pa.

SSgt VanGiesen was assigned to 131st Transportation Company, 213th Area Support Group, Pennsylvania National Guard, Williamstown, Pa., died July 18, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his convoy with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Army Sgt. Edward W. Koehler and Army Sgt. Brian K. Mowery.


SSgt VanGiesen was assigned to the 131st for this mission because of his mechanical skills. He was two weeks and two days away from turning 31 when he was killed.

The soldiers were transporting supplies and equipment when they were killed in the same vehicle. The company is primarily in charge of convoys and convoy security.

None of the five other soldiers who were sustained life-threatening injuries.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these brave young men who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of this country, as well as those soldiers who must now fight another battle as they recover from their injuries,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. “This tragic incident is a stark reminder of the dangers our troops face on a daily basis for the cause of freedom. We owe them our respect, our support and our gratitude.”

SSgt VanGiesen graduated from Kane Area High School in 1999 where he was a three year letterman in football. After graduation, he followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard as a Technical Mechanic. After basic training, he attended Edinboro University with his girlfriend, Erin. He completed about 2 1/2 years before being sent to Germany.

SSgt VanGiesen never returned to college after he came back from Germany. Instead, he worked at a restaurant in Erie to be with Erin as she completed her degree in developmental disabilities.

In addition to Germany, he was deployed to Iraq twice and this last time to Afghanistan.

"I was 15 and he was 16," girlfriend, Erin said, recalling the Homecoming Dance Ken took her to on October 3, 1997, a date that has become their anniversary.

"We started dating and have been together since then. We just fit together."

They purchased a house together four years ago near Erie where Erin works.

VanGiesen was assigned to the Kane unit of National Guard, but worked full-time as a mechanic technician at the new Guard complex in Cambridge Springs near Erie.

Erin said VanGiesen received just a 10-day notice that he was being deployed in Afghanistan with a Guard unit based in Williamstown and Philadelphia. He left for training in March and went to Afghanistan April 3."He said he'd be back in November or December," she said.

Erin said that VanGiesen was deployed overseas for about four years of their 14-year relationship.

"He was patriotic and that's what he wanted to do," Erin said in reference to his deployments. "He wanted to go to all of them."

SSgt VanGiesen was a member of the American Legion Riders and took part in patriotic motorcycle parades and visits to veterans' hospitals.

"He originally had a Honda motorcycle, then purchased a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle to "keep up with his friends." said Erin.

"I couldn't have picked a better mate for my daughter," Frank Sirianni, Erin's father, said. "He has every quality you'd want. We thought of Ken as a son."

"We loved him a lot," Sherry Sirianni, Erin's mother, said. "We couldn't have known a better man."

“Kenneth VanGiesen was an enthusiastic soldier who never shied away from the call to duty,” Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania adjutant general, said. “During his 12 years in the National Guard, VanGiesen served more than four total years on active duty. His selfless dedication to serving our country will be sorely missed.”

SSgt VanGiesen's awards and decorations include:

Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medals (2)
Combat Action Badge
Iraq Campaign Medals (2)
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Navy Unit Commendations (2)

SSgt VanGiesen was laid to rest in Gibbs Hill Cemetery, Ludlow, PA.

SSgt VanGiesen is survived by parents, Thomas A. and Susan J. Proashas VanGiesen; long time girlfriend, Erin Sirianni; brother, Matt; sister Amie and his beloved dog and companion, Bandit.

Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. VanGiesen was killed in action on 7/18/11.

Navy Petty Officer First Class Stacy O. Johnson

Remember Our Heroes

The Department of Defense announced the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Petty Officer First Class Stacy O. Johnson, 35, of Rolling Fork, Miss., died July 18, 2011 while supporting operations in Bahrain. Johnson was a master-at-arms assigned to Naval Security Force Bahrain.

The Navy has reclassified the death of PO Johnson, who died in a motorcycle accident in July, to reflect that he was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The reclassification caused the Navy to announce his death more than five months after he died. An ongoing review eventually determined that Johnson played a direct role supporting the operation, said Jen Stride, a Navy spokeswoman in Bahrain.

PO Johson of San Diego, CA, formerly of Hollandale, MS died as a result of a motorcycle accident in Bahrain. He was killed July 18 in an accident 18 miles southwest of Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

PO Johnson was a master-at-arms and had been assigned to Naval Security Force Bahrain.

Known as "The Bone", he was a member of the New Breed Black Sabbath Motorcycle Club of San Diego.

PO Johnson joined the Navy in November 1993. He served on the amphibious ships Ogden and Peleliu, and the carrier Nimitz. He also served in Texas and Hawaii, but spent most of his career in San Diego.

He reported to Naval Security Force Bahrain in September 2010 after spending a year at Region Southwest Security Detachment San Diego.

PO Johnson was laid to rest in Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Rolling Fork, MS.

Army Sgt. Omar A. Jones

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Omar A. Jones, 28, of Crook, Colo.

Sgt Jones was assigned to 126th Chemical Battalion, 92nd Troop Command, Nebraska Army National Guard, Wahoo, Neb.; died July 18, 2011 in Balkh province, Afghanistan, of injuries received in a noncombat incident.


Sgt Jones grew up in Mississippi before moving with his family to Colombia. They later moved back to Cheyenne, WY when he was 14.

He graduated from Crook High School in 2001, where he was active in wrestling and football. He turned down a football scholarship to Colorado State, choosing to enter the Army instead.

Sgt Jones completed his active duty tour. He later joined the Nebraska National Guard in 2005, as an infantry scout. Wanting to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, he transferred through several Nebraska units, where he worked as a truck driver in National Guard Transportation companies.

He served two tours in Iraq, one in the infantry and one in a transportation unit. In this deployment to Afghanistan, he was with an engineering unit.

Sgt Jones met his future wife, Ava, in 2001, after his brother married her sister. They married December 8, 2008. They have two children.


According to his wife, Sgt Jones was killed four days before he was due to come home on leave.

"Sgt. Omar Jones was a very caring person," said Capt. Chris Pelchat, 623rd Eng. Co., commander. "He would go out of his way to help anyone. His presence always brought a smile to all around him and his sense of humor kept the soldiers in high spirits. He truly was a great person to have in the 623rd Engineer Co. He always went above and beyond any task that was given to him."

Sgt Jones was laid to rest at Fort McPherson National Cemetery.

Sgt Jones is survived by his mother and adoptive father, Luz and Dennis; father, Daniel; wife, Ava and their children, Airiana and Malachi; brothers, Ethan, Christopher, John and Paul.

Army Sgt. Omar A. Jones was killed in a non-combat incident on 7/18/11.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Army Sgt. Mark A. Cofield

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Mark A. Cofield, 25, of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Sgt Cofield was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died July 17, 2011 in Baghdad of injuries sustained in a non-combat incident.


Sgt Cofield tragically died from a head injury. No details were given.

Sgt. Cofield excelled at everything, especially athletics. A hockey player for most of his life, he was his school's hockey team. He also participated in art and drama while at Rampart High.

Sgt. Cofield came from a military family. His father served in the Air Force and recently re-enlisted in the Army where he is a Major. His brother is also in the Army and served two tours overseas.

Sgt Cofield joined the Army in February 2009 in Military Intelligence. He graduated at the top of his class in training courses. He loved being an airborne paratrooper and working in the human intelligence field. He was training for, and dreamed of joining his brother in Special Forces training so they could serve together.

Sgt Cofield was promoted to Sergeant just 18 months after basic training. He deployed to Iraq in October of 2010.

"Never thought it'd be us, we always thought we were the lucky ones to have all three of them come back. So that was hard," Sara said.

"I'm proud to say that my brother served, that's a good thing. He not only was a soldier and served our country and will be missed as a part of it, but he'll be missed as a brother, and as a son, and as a friend," Sara said.

Family friend, Suzi Dixon said, "His death just comes so close to home and just hits your heart and makes it all real."

"There's going to be such a hole in this community's heart because Mark was all about love," neighbor Liz Cameron said.

Mother, Tari Cofield, is an active member of Blue Star Mothers of America and was an integral part of creating a chapter for the Southern Colorado area.

sgt cofield,
i will miss you bro and i will never forget all the great things you taught me not only about being a soldier but also an amazing friend. i find myself wondering and wishing i could see you one more time to get that awesome smile or hear your crazy laugh but i kno one day i will see you again my friend... i love u buddy and you will never be forgotten... "it does what it's told, it puts the rucksack on it's back!!!" goodbye my friend ~ SGT Justin allison, hope mills, North Carolina

July 23, 2011
SGT Cofield,
You will always be the greatest soldier, brother, and friend i have ever met. I miss you so much. I wish i could give you a huge hug and tell you how much you mean to me. You will always be remembered SGT Cofield.~Kirenjeet K., San Jose, California

July 23, 2011
My deepest condolences go out to the Cofield family. SGT Cofield was an outstanding soldier and always had a warm loving smile on his face I served with him at Ft Bragg. He will truly be missed.~Christina O.

July 22, 2011
SGT Cofield,
You were more than a great soldier, you were a great friend. You will be truly missed. Without your help I wouldn't have came as far as I have.-Spc. Brandon C., Iraq


Sgt Cofield had mentioned numerous times about wanting a big party to celebrate his life if the time came. Multiple celebrations went on showing the "mark" that Mark left in this world.

Mother, Tari said, "The folks at Peterson AFB lined the main avenue when we left the flight line. All the way out the main gate, all different branches of service, Colonels to admin assistants, active duty to contractors, saluting our son as he traveled to the funeral home."

The Patriot Guard Riders were in attendance for the dignified arrival, funeral and interment of SGT Cofield.

Sgt Cofield's funeral took place Friday, July 29 at the Soldier's Memorial Chapel, Fort Carson.

Sgt Cofield was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO.

Sgt Cofield is survived by his parents, Tari and John; brothers, Sgt John Cofield, Matthew and sister Sara Grace.

Army Sgt. Mark A. Cofield died in a non-combat related incident on 7/17/11.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jabari N. Thompson

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Jabari N. Thompson, 22, of Brooklyn, N.Y.

LCpl Thompson was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died July 17, 2011 of wounds sustained July 13 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.


In a heroic rush to aid a friend who had been shot, Lcpl Thompson stepped on a landmine and was badly injured, losing both his legs. He died four days later.

Lcpl Thompson's dad, Gregory, his big sister, Chekesha, and his fiancée, Shemiah Louis, having flown to Germany, were at his bedside when he died.

Lcpl Thompson, who graduated from South Shore High School, moved to Brooklyn from Florida after his mom passed away when he was a child. He wanted to be with her family and go to school in the city.

Lcpl Thompson, always wanting to be a Marine just like his dad, joined the Marines in January 2008. He was promoted to Lcpl March 2009. Having previously deployed to Haiti in 2010, he was deployed to Afghanistan in February this year. He served as a machine gunner.


"The last thing I told him when he came home for Thanksgiving was, 'Be safe, Jabari. I want you to come back home alive.' And he smiled -- he had a lovely smile," said stepmom, Njaye Shinhoster.

"He said he loved us and that he'd be back," she said.

I was always so worried about him, but he would tell me not to worry. He said, 'Auntie, it's OK. I'll be back," sais Thompson's aunt, Novlete Hanson. She said she had received a letter from her nephew the week prior and in it he said he be back the first week of August.

"I just told him that I loved him and that I wanted him to try to make it because I knew he had a strong heart," said sister, Chekesha.

"He had gone through so much," she said, stating that their beloved mother had died more than 10 years ago. "The City of New York did so much for him."

I miss my little brother so much. Words cant express how I feel but I know he is in better place alongside with my mom. I'm so proud of my brother's accomplishments and I'm proud that he was a true hero for our country. He will never been forgotten. He will always be in my heart and the hearts of others. I love you so much. May you rest in peace. ~ Chekesha Thompson, Atlanta, Georgia

Lcpl Thompson is survived by his father, Gregory and stepmom, Njaye; sister, Chekesha; fiancee, Shemiah Louis; aunt, Novlette Hanson. He is preceded in death by his mother.

Army Pfc. Tyler M. Springmann

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Tyler M. Springmann, 19, of Hartland, Maine

Pfc Springmann was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; died July 17, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth B. Elwell.


Pfc Springmann's father, Robert, who is in the Army and deployed to Afghanistan as well, escorted his son's body back to the U.S.

When he was 14, Tyler went to live with his father in Texas. He returned to Maine when he was 16 and spent his junior and senior year at Nokomis Regional High School where he graduated in 2010.

Wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, Tyler joined the Army in June 2010, after graduating. Mother, Tina Stratton, signed her 17-year-old son's paperwork for military enlistment.

"That was his dream," she said. "That was the one thing he wanted to do and I wasn't about to stand in his way of it, and I wasn't going to let anybody else do it, either."

"He wanted to make a career out of the military," step-father, Ben Martin added. "When he turned 18 he had his life all planned out. He was so happy -- was going to make a good life for himself."

"It's definitely hard; it's hard for everybody," Ben said. "We just wanted him back here in the United States. That's what going to bother us now -- he was looking so forward to coming home this December."

Pfc Springmann had married his high school sweetheart, Brittney, five and a half months ago and was looking forward to coming home for leave in December.

During his deployment, Springmann called home nearly every day, said brother Zachary. "He'd tell us how it was going and the new people he would meet. He was enjoying it because it was a new challenge for him."

Recalling her last phone call with her son, mother, Tina Stratton said, "He was in a really good mood; he had a really good day. He found a couple of roadside bombs before anyone could get hurt from them."


"I loved hearing his voice. When I hear his voice, it always made me feel so much better,' his mother said.

Her son was killed the next day.

This past October, Springmann surprised his mother when he used leave time from boot camp to visit home in Hartland. Stratton knocked the coffee table over in amazement when her son walked through the door.

"I had no idea he was coming home. I got to spend nine days with him and then he went back to Alaska," she said. "That was the biggest surprise I had ever had in my entire life. It was so awesome to see him walk through that door in his green uniform and his hat and big old Army boots. It was nice."

"I was so proud of him," she said. "He may not be here, but his spirit will always live on in my heart. He'll always be my hero. He'll always be my family's hero."

Zachary Martin said his brother taught him a lot of things, helped him study, volunteered with him to assist the elderly, and spent time with him skateboarding and riding their bicycles. He was more like a father than a brother, Zachary said.

"He helped me with everything," Zachary said.

Aunt, Theresa Martin, who lives next door to Stratton and Martin, said she will always hold onto a memory: his love of a white chocolate birthday cake from last year.

"He loved that cake; he so happy," she said. "He talked about it all the time, bragged about it every day. He asked if he'd get another one next year."
Springmann left for deployment to Afghanistan May 4, according to Martin and Stratton.

Funeral services will be held July 29 in the gymnasium of Nokomis Regional High School in Newport. He will be buried in Newport.

Pfc Springmann is survived by his mother, Tina & stepfather, Ben; father, Robert; stepmother, Brittney; brother, Zachary and sister, Keana.

Army Pfc. Tyler M. Springmann was killed in action on 7/17/11.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth B. Elwell

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth B. Elwell, 33, of Holland, Pa.

SFC Elwell was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; died July 17, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Army Pfc. Tyler M. Springmann.


Mother, Janice said, “The phone rang and I answered it. Kristen said, ‘Did you get the call? ... Kenny’s dead.’ I said ‘Oh no, my baby.’ “

His mother said that her son wanted this tour in Afghanistan to be his last.wanted to spend more time with his wife of eight years, Kristen, and his son Nicholas, 4, and daughter, Elise, 6.

“They were getting to be that age,” Elwell’s mother, Janice, said “He wanted to be home with his family.”

SFC Elwell spent some of his military career as a drill sergeant, although “to look at him, you wouldn’t think he had it in him,” his mother said.


When he and his family stayed at his mother’s home in Holland, he’d wake up early, before his wife and kids, read the paper and do the laundry. He had his hair cut every week or two, she said, and was fussy about his appearance.

“I used to say, ‘You might be a sergeant, pal, but I’m the general.’ And he’d smile out of the corner of his mouth,” recalled his mother. His father died when he was an infant.

“He didn’t really change,” said brother, Michael. “When he came home, we wanted to talk about brother things — the Phillies and our kids.”

He didn’t really talk about his time in the military, much less his time in a war zone.

The family never talked about the possibility that Ken might die, Michael said.

“He didn’t tell me nothing because he knows I worry about everything all the time,” his mother said.

SFC Elwell is survived by his mother, Janice; wife, Kristen and their two children, Elise and Nicholas; and brother, Michael.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth B. Elwell was killed in action on 7/17/11.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Army Cpl. Raphael R. Arruda

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Raphael R. Arruda, 21, of Ogden, Utah

Cpl. Arruda was assigned to 416th Theater Engineer Command, U.S. Army Reserve, Ogden, Utah; died July 16, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.


Cpl Arruda, a combat engineer, was patrolling in a mine-resistant vehicle when it was struck by a roadside bomb. He died as a result of the blunt force trauma caused by the blast.

Cpl Arruda was the lead driver on the night he was killed. He only had a couple more mission to complete, after which he was to attend classes and briefings before returning home to Utah. He was the third Utah serviceman killed in Afghanistan this month.

Having deployed last fall, this was Cpl Arruda's first deployment to Afghanistan. He was killed seven days before his 22nd birthday.

Born in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, Raphael and his family came to the United States in 2001 and eventually settled in Utah.

Cpl. Arruda grew up in South Ogden, Utah and graduated from Bonneville High School in 2008. A few days after graduating, Raphael shipped off to basic training, most likely inspired by his older brother’s service in the Brazilian army.

Raphael Arruda loved soccer, dancing and playing guitar.

The family last saw Raphael in February when he returned home for two weeks leave.

Father, Sergio Arruda De Souza was in Brazil laying his mother to rest when he learned his son had been killed in Afghanistan.

“They died within 10 days of each other,” said Sergio Arruda, describing the loss as “a double kick to the stomach.”

On Saturday, July 23, his father put aside his grief to celebrate what would have been “Rapha’s” 22nd birthday with family and friends, a barbecue, a rousing birthday chant in Portuguese and forró, a form of traditional country music popular in their hometown in northeastern Brazil.

“We are here to be happy, to commemorate life, his joy for life. We are here to love each other,” Arruda told those who came to pay their respects. “Freedom is not free. It is generally paid for with blood and generally young blood. My son did what he believed and I am comforted by small acts of kindness from our community, this country, our family.”

"He was a happy person," said younger brother Andrey. "He liked having a good time. He really hates sad moments. He kind of made anywhere he was fun to be at. He always had a good mood, good jokes."

“We used to climb this tall tree in our backyard to see who could get highest, and I remember him falling one day 20 or 30 feet and just laughing,” said Andrey. “He was the fun one. If it were up to me, I’d probably prefer a quiet moment to reflect. But this today was more for him than for us."

Andrey said his brother liked what he did in the military and planned on studying engineering at the University of Utah after completing his service. Both he and his Raphael planned to find an appartment this fall and finish college.

Although not born in this country, Andrey said both brothers feel a sense of duty to their adopted homeland.

"Somebody has take care of it," Andrey said.

Andrey said his brother made his own decision to join the U.S. Army Reserve easier, lending support and guiding him through the recruitment process. Andrey is currently serving as a combat medic.

"He was a good example," Andrey said. "He always tried to do the right thing. He was a good friend."

“He was the life of the party, the guy who pushed everyone and made everyone laugh,” said Rick Maxfield, of West Point, the father of a soldier in Arruda’s 744th Engineering Company of the U.S. Army Reserves. “They’re having a hard time staying motivated back there.”

"He was the replacement driver for my son who was injured last March,” said Amy Miller. “That could easily have been us getting the knock on the door.”

“He did probably over 100 missions and suffered two concussions and never shied from driving the lead truck. He was scared, but did it because he was asked to. He was proud to be in Afghanistan,” said Cpl Rome Essex

Andrey said the death of his brother creates a whole that can't be filled, but in the wake of this family tragedy he remains dedicated to performing his duties in the military.

"We go in knowing this might happen," he said. "I try to go there to help people and if they do get harmed I want to make sure they make it back OK."

Cpl Arruda's body arrived here at Hill AFB this morning. He was escorted home to Ogden by the Patriot Guard Riders.

Cpl Arruda will be laid to rest at Lindquist’s Washington Heights Memorial Park in Ogden.

Cpl Arruda is survived by his parents, Carmen and Sergio; brothers, Andrey and Sergio.

Army Cpl. Raphael R. Arruda was killed in action on 7/16/11.

Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross, 25, of Oldsmar, Fla.

Cpl. Gross was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas; died July 16, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained in Khost province when an improvised explosive device caused a military vehicle rollover.


In 1999, at age 13, Cpl Gross played with his hero, Cal Ripken Jr., at a baseball camp in St. Petersburg. Highlight was when Ripken pitched to him. In 1998, he hit a home run at Dreams Park, the ballfield at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., as part of a Florida team playing there for a week.

"We lived, ate and drank baseball," he wrote in an account then for the St. Petersburg Times.

Cpl Gross, an avid photographer, guitarist, and surfer, was home schooled through the 8th grade, then attended and graduated from Indian Rocks Christian High School in 2003 where he was a star pitcher and baseball player.

Receiving a baseball scholarship, he attended Trinity University in Illinois, then transferred to Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, where he was also on the baseball team.

Deciding that his chances of making the big leagues were slim, he transferred to Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida where he received his undergraduate degree in digital arts in 2008 and his master's in entertainment business in 2009. He celebrated by skydiving in California.

Following in the footsteps of his grandfathers who had served in the Army and the Navy, Cpl Gross joined the Army in 2010. The master's degree he earned could have put him on the fast track to becoming an officer, but instead, he opted to be a front line soldier.

"Frankie chose not to go into officer training, but to go through boot camp to experience everything every other person would experience in the military as a respect issue," said school superintendent, Don Mayes.

"Frankie was a typical student. All-America boy, loved life," Mayes said. "If you had a conversation with him, you could tell he was a highly intelligent student who would be able to excel at anything he would put his mind to."

The marquee outside Indian Rocks Christian High is honoring Gross.

Art Giannetti, who lives next door to the Gross family, said he cried like a baby when he heard Gross was killed, but Monday morning, he decided to replace his tears with flags.

"Just a tribute to Frank. I knew him very well. We're all going to miss him," Gianetti said.

He and his neighbors bought 125 American flags and walked their quiet streets with purpose, placing a flag on every mailbox. The neighbors hope the flags send a message that words can't.

"A smile and let them know the neighborhood loves them and cares about them," Lange said.

Remembers the last time he saw Spc. Gross, Giannetti said, "As he was preparing to ship out, I shook his hand and told him how proud I was. Last thing I did, I saluted him.'

Frank was not just a young boy that I watched at a distance grow into a man; he was a friend to my children, the only son of dear Christian friends, and he was also an Army brother. We are very proud of Frank's service to our nation, and of all his other many accomplishments in life. None of us will know all the lives he touched during his 25 years. Many people are comfortable sitting back and watching others live life to its fullest; Frank was not one of those people. ~ COL(ret) Emery M., Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

Cpl Gross will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery where his grandfathers are laid to rest as well.

Cpl Gross is survived by his parents, Antonia and Craig, and sister, Natalie.

Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross was killed in action on 7/16/11.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Camero

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Camero, 19, of Kailua Kona, Hawaii

LCpl Camero was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; died July 15, 2011 of wounds suffered July 6 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.


The 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines had replaced a battalion landing team temporarily assigned to the area while U.S. Marines moved into violent opium poppy-growing regions of northern Helmand.

In June, Taliban insurgents increased attacks against coalition forces in northern Helmand, in an apparent bid to regain lost territory. Lcpl Camero is the third Marine from the battalion killed since June.

Lcpl Camero is the first Big Island soldier to die as a result of the war in Afghanistan.

Lcpl Camero graduated from Honokaa High School in 2010. He always wanted to be a Marine and joined after graduating high school in June. This was his first deployment.

Lcpl Camero came from a military family. In the Philippines, his father was a soldier for 20 years. His mother's brothers were also in the military. When he was a young boy, Camero was always saluting.

Lcpl Camero chronicled his deployment to Afghanistan on his Facebook page, posting photos of himself on a plane heading for Germany, then Kyrgyzstan, arriving in Afghanistan on 12th April.

According to friends, Lcpl Camero had stepped on a homemade bomb while on a patrol, his legs had to be amputated and that he had been on life support since being wounded. He died nine days later.

His aunt, Florida Ballio, said Camero emigrated from the Philippines at about age five and grew up in Waimea, where he enjoyed to cook, fish and play football, judo and wrestling.

"He always goes fishing with his father whenever he gets time," said Ballio.


"I'm really trying to cope with it. He's a very, very good boy. Very active."

A friend who attended boot camp with Camero wrote on his website "His lifelong goal was to become a Marine, and his childhood dream came true. On July 6th, I heard you were hit bad by an IED and I prayed for you. I will never forget you or any of the stunts we pulled."

July 24, 2011
Camero Family: My son,Brock,is a tow gunner with CATT BLUE Weapons Co. He was with your son Christopher on July 4th. I talked to my son yesterday. Lance Cpl Camero was one tough Marine. Our family grieves with you. LCpl Camero will always be remembered in our house in Danville, CA. God bless you all. Mark Marcotte ~ Danville

Lcpl Camero's awards and decorations include:

Purple Heart
Combat Action Ribbon
Global War on Terrorism Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
Afghanistan Campaign Medal

Lcpl Camero is survived by his parents, Norma and Carlos; sister, Sarrah and aunt Florida

Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Camero was killed in action on 7/15/11.

Army Reserve Spc. Daniel L. Elliott

Remember Our Heroes

Army Reserve Spc. Daniel L. Elliott, 21, of Youngsville, N.C.

Spc. Elliott was assigned to the 290th Military Police Brigade, 200th Military Police Command, U.S. Army Reserve, Cary, N.C.; died July 15, 2011 in Basra, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.


Spc Elliott was riding in a vehicle when it was hit by an IED. Four other soldiers were injured. He had served five years and this was second deployment to Iraq as an Army Reserve military police specialist.

Known as "Lucas" by his family, he would have celebrated his 22nd birthday on the 18th, three days after being killed. The family celebrated his homecoming and birthday with his favorite meal and celebrated his life.

"He's back in the U.S., home for his birthday and that's important to us," mother, Patty Elliott said. "His favorite meal was barbeque ribs, so we will have that today and celebrate his life. "I still worry and I want everyone to pray for his brothers and sisters who witnessed his death and have to carry on with the mission."

Mother, Patti, said, "Lucas is not in pain. Lucas doesn't need anything right now, but the kids who are still over there who are in his unit, those boys and girls need our prayers."

Patti had dedicated herself to helping families grieve over loved ones who were killed while fighting overseas.

"I know what to say to families in situations like this. I know how to help them through. I know what resources to refer them too. It's hard to take your own medicine," said Patti.

She was featured in an ABC 11 Armed Forces Salute, December last year. She was interviewed while she and volunteers stuffed care packages for troops. "All of these kids are my kids, you know, whether they're 19 and in uniform or 49 and in uniform, they're somebody's kids and as a military mom, they're my kids."

Elliott's mother and brother, Patti and Bradley Elliott, remember him as a hero called to serve his country after America was attacked nearly 10 years ago.

"He look at the TV as we watched everything happen, and said 'I want to be a soldier, I want to serve my country. I don't want this to happen again,'" Elliott's mother Patti said.

Spc Lucas is the son of a North Carolina Patriot Guard Riders member. They participated in a memorial service on Saturday, July 23rd.

Spc Lucas was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Spc Elliott is survived by his parents, Patti and Ed; wife, Trisha; and brother, Brad.

Army Reserve Spc. Daniel L. Elliott was killed in action on 7/15/11.

Army SSgt. Lex L. Lewis

Remember Our Heroes

Army SSgt. Lex L. Lewis, 40, of Rapid City, S.D.

SSgt Lewis was assigned to 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died July 15, 2011 in Farah province, Afghanistan, from injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.


After SSgt Lewis graduated from Rapid City Central High, he joined the Navy, serving four years and was stationed in Japan. He joined the Army in 1999 and deployed to Iraq in 2003.

SSgt Lewis returned to Rapid City, where he worked as a security guard at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

He served in the South Dakota National Guard from 2006-2007, then decided to return to active duty with the Army. He was deployed to Iraq a second time in September 2008.

This was his first deployment to Afghanistan, having just deployed there last month.

SSgt Lewis enjoyed charcoal drawing and painting abstract art. He enjoyed watching movies, especially the Star Wars series, and collected Star Wars memorabilia.

Mother, Betty, said, “He absolutely loved the Army, and the Army life fit him well. He wanted to serve his country. He just liked being a soldier. He played Army when he was a little boy all the time, and this is what he wanted to do."

Sgt. 1st Class Kurt Gross, who supervised Lewis during his time with the 935th Aviation Support Battalion in Rapid City, said, “He was a good soldier for us and he did anything we needed done. He was always on time and professional." Gross said that after serving for a year in the National Guard, Lewis decided he wanted to return to an active-duty assignment in the Army.

“Some people just like that structure, and active duty is pretty structured,” he said.

Sgt. Dwayne Graves said he had spent considerable free time with Lewis. He said the two enjoyed shooting at targets in Farmingdale.

“Special was the word for him,” Graves said. “He was just a real likeable guy. He’d do anything for you. You definitely want him watching your back.”

“He wasn’t one to sit around. He had to be doing something all the time,” Graves said. “He showed no fear. I know he had some, but he certainly didn’t show it.”

“He was very laid back. Never got excited or got rowdy, we just talked and cracked jokes and had a good time,” Graves said. “He’ll be well missed. I’m supposed to be going to Iraq next spring, but I’ll be thinking about him while I’m there.”

As SSgt Lewis's body was on enroute back to the US, a military group on the same plane decided on the spur of the moment during a stopover in Kuwait to sing “An Irish Blessing” in his honor.

It was a moment that military chaplain Rives Duncan said he will never forget.

“As the words, melody and harmony reverberated in my ears and my chest, I realized that they were not just singing. They were singing to the young man on the cargo deck beneath his nation’s, their nation’s flag,” Duncan. “They were pronouncing a blessing more powerful than one I have ever given, and there is no doubt in my mind that the soldier not only heard it, but received it and experienced its fullness.”

During the song for Lewis, Duncan said, “More than one cheek had shining tracks of tears down them.”

An Air Force entertainment director for Tops in Blue said the group was on a deployment tour through Kuwait and decided to sing to the soldier since they were traveling on the same plane.

SSgt Lewis's awards and decorations include:
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Army Commendation medal (2)
Army Achievement medal (5)
Meritorious Unit Citation (2)
Army Good Conduct medal (2)
Navy Good Conduct medal
National Defense Service medal
Southwest Asia Service medal
Afghanistan Campaign medal
Iraq Campaign medal with campaign star
Global War on Terrorism expeditionary medal
Global War on Terrorism service medal
Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development
Army Service ribbonOverseas Service ribbons (2)
Navy Sea Service Deployment ribbon
Navy Sea Service Deployment ribbon
NATO medalAir Assault badge
Driver's badge

Lewis is survived by his wife, Molly, six-year-old stepdaughter, Ariel; mother Betty Lewis; brother Frank mcCormick and half-sister, Lacy. He was preceded in death by his father, Stan Lewis, and his maternal grandparents, Patrick and Ester Mudlin.

Army SSgt. Lex L. Lewis was killed in action on 7/15/11.

Army Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith, 28, of Colville, Wash.

SSgt Goldsmith was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; died July 15, 2011 at Camp Bastion Hospital, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenade fire in Helmand province.


SSgt Goldsmith was serving his third deployment at the time of his death. He was treating an Afghan commando at the time of the attack.

Goldsmith was a heavily decorated Green Beret. He received his first Purple Heart in 2010 when he was shot in the foot by insurgents. He ignored the wound and continued to treat other soldiers.

SSgt Goldsmith was a graduate of Colville High School where he played on the soccer team. He joined the Army in 2004 as a Special Forces recruit. He completed Basic Training in October 2004 at Fort Benning, and went on to complete his training as a medical sergeant in the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2008.

SSgt Goldsmith's military education includes the Special Forces Medical Sergeant Course; Military Freefall Parachutist Course; Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course; Basic Airborne Course; Advanced Leaders Course, and the Warrior Leader Course.

David Rarrick, Goldsmith’s former soccer coach said,

“All of the great things he did in high school were amplified as an adult, his service to his country, fighting for a lot of things we take for granted."

"It was a pleasure to have known him,” said Ryan Egland, a high school friend and teammate.


SSgt Goldsmith's awards and decorations include:

Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device
Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal (2)
Army Good conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one campaign star
Iraqi Campaign Medal with two campaign stars
Global War on Terrorism Medal
Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon
Army Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Parachutist Bedge
Military Freefall Parachutist Badge
Special Forces Tab
Combat Infantryman Badge

SSgt Goldsmith is survived by his parents, Lorie and John and sister, Nicole.

Army Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith was killed in action on 7/15/11.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Army Sgt. Jeremy R. Summers

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jeremy R. Summers, 27, of Mount Olivet, Ky.

Sgt Summers was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; died July 14, 2011 in Paktia province, Afghanistan, after enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire on July 13.


Sgt Summers graduated from Bracken County High School in 2002. He attended college before joining the Army in 2005.

Sgt Summers had previously been deployed to Iraq and had served in Korea. He was due to come home in one week when he was killed.

Great aunt, Rita Salaimeh, said Jeremy has been doing what he wanted to do, serving in the military. "He was a good boy", she said.

"I cannot say it in words of how appreciative, how thankful, and how proud of Jeremy that I am," said his father, Mike Summers, who retired from the Army. "I am so honored that he followed in our footsteps and went into the military," said his father.

"You can't really prepare yourself for something like this, but we are doing the best we can," said mother, Laura Jo, who had served four years. "I've always been proud of him, he's always worked hard at everything he's ever wanted to do," his mother said.

Sgt Summers' awards and decorations include:

Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Army Achievement Medal
Army Good conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korea Defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
Combat Action Badge

Sgt Summers is survived by his parents, Laura and Mike; brother, Austin and sister, Jessica.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Navy Hospitalman Aaron D. Ullom

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Hospitalman Aaron D. Ullom, 20, of Midland, Mich.

Seaman Ullom was assigned 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died July 12, 2011 in the Now Zad district of Afghanistan while conducting a dismounted patrol.


Seaman "Doc" Ullom, a Navy corpsman (medic), was killed when the Marine unit he was serving with came under fire during a foot patrol.

Seaman Ullom deployed to Afghanistan this past February. This was his first deployment. He was promoted to Seaman in April.

Seaman Ullom had just celebrated his 20th birthday, 17 days prior, on June 25. He was due to return home in less than three months and was most looking forward to getting a Pathfinder truck when he returned.

While he was a high school student, Aaron worked at Genji Japanese Steak House. He graduated from Midland High School in 2009, where he played on the football and track team. He joined the Navy during his senior year of high school after a recruiter visited the school.

"We are very proud of him", his mother said. "He loved doing what he did. He loved being a Navy man. He will be missed by many."

"I remember the little boy who accidentally ran into our garage door with his skateboard. He waited on our porch until we got home so he could confess and show us the damage", said Jeanine Noveroske. "He had only left a dent. He was all of about 9 years old. He showed such fine character then, it shouldn't be a surprise that he would die a hero, although much, much too soon."

“He was caring, humorous, strong, smart, and most of all brave,” best friend Arielle “If you met him once, he is someone you will never forget about. He died for our freedom, and will always be our hero.”

"He was our hero, he is this town's hero," said brother, Sean Bartley. "He was the type of person who just completely helped people."

Seaman Ullom leaves behind his parents,and brother, Sean.

Navy Hospitalman Aaron D. Ullom was killed in action on 7/12/11.