Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Army Spc. Kevin R. Shumaker

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Kevin R. Shumaker, 24, of Livermore, Calif.

Spc Shumaker was assigned to Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 31, 2011 in a stateside hospital of rabies believed to have been contracted while he was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

By DANIEL WOOLFOLK
TIMES STAFF WRITER

FORT DRUM — The family of a 10th Mountain Division soldier who died of rabies last month wants to know why he died of the treatable disease.

The soldier, Spc. Kevin R. Shumaker, 24, Livermore, Calif., died Aug. 31 at Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, days after being assigned to the post.

While deployed with a Germany-based Army unit to Afghanistan eight months before dying, the soldier was bitten by a dog, his mother, Elaine Taylor of Castro Valley, Calif., told the Contra Costa Times, adding that a series of blood tests at the Syracuse hospital indicated her son may not have received the proper doses of vaccines that, according to the World Health Organization, can save a bite victim from rabies before the symptoms begin to show.

The soldier was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s Special Troops Battalion and began showing symptoms of rabies shortly after arriving last month.

“He was only there for a couple of days,” his stepfather, David Taylor of Castro Valley, told the Watertown Daily Times.

The battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. Rhett R. Cox, and other unit leaders were especially helpful once family members flew to New York to be with the dying soldier, Mr. Taylor said.

“They supported the family,” he said. “Col. Cox performed brilliantly.”

The soldier’s Fort Drum unit held a memorial service for him last week at the division chapel.

The Department of Defense is investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.

Army Spc. Kevin R. Shumaker died of a non-combat related illness on 8/31/11.

Army Spc. Dennis James Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Dennis James Jr., 21, of Deltona, Fla.

Spc. James was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.; died Aug. 31, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Spc James graduated from Pine Ridge High School where he participated in basketball, football and track. He enlisted in the Army in June 2008. Arrived at Fort Polk in November 2009. He deployed to Afghanistan in October 2010.

Dean of Students, Madsen Cange, who had lost touch with Dennis about three years ago, said James was very popular among his classmates and was a good student in the classroom. "it's a very sad day. I found out this week he was in the Armed Forces...but in the same sentence, I had found out he had been killed.

Adam Coniglio, who was an acquaintance of James and former teammate, said he knew him as a hard worker from their days on the football field.

"From what I knew of him, he was a great guy," Coniglio said before the game. "What can you say about someone who gave his life for his country? I'm very proud to have known him."

Aunt and guardian, Rhonda Willams, said, "He was going to make his career in the Army. His career was cut short."

She described her nephew as a generous and kind man with a sense of humor, who loved to play basketball with his much taller cousins.

"You couldn't tell him that he wasn't the big dog of the group. When he wasn't driving to the hoop, he was working on his car, the Dodge Magnum with the big wheels."

Spc James' awards and decorations include:

Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Army Achievement Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Combat Action Badge

Army Spc. Dennis James Jr. was killed in action on 8/31/11.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Army Spc. Gary R. Pilardi Jr

Remember Our Heroes

Gary was 28 years old when he passed. He had 2 years of college but really, since he was a small child wanted to be a soldier. He enlisted and was sent to Iraq. He spent 13 months there and was a excellent soldier.


Gary was a very fun loving guy, with alot of friends and family who loved him alot.

He was everyone's hero. He will be missed by many.

PILARDI GARY ROBERT, JR.
Age 28, of Penn Twp., on Tuesday, August 30, 2011.

Beloved son of Gary and Winnie (Branigan) Pilardi, Sr.; dear brother of Denise (Joseph) Whidden and Jennifer (Thomas) Kingerski; loving uncle of Tommy, Joey, Mackenzie, Victoria and Laci.

Gary was an Infantry Specialist serving in the the US Army 4th Division in Iraq.

He will forever be in the hearts of his loving family and friends.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Army Spc. Douglas J. Green

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Douglas J. Green, 23, of Sterling, Va.

Spc Green was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; died Aug. 28, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire.

Washington Post
By Martin Weil, Published: August 29

People could not stop recalling good things on Tuesday night about Douglas J. Green, who grew up in Northern Virginia and was known for caring about his high school and its students and teachers and the community that surrounded it.

He also cared about his country, and shortly after graduation from Potomac Falls High School in Sterling, he joined the Army.

Spc. Douglas J. Green, 23, was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday, the Pentagon said, when insurgents attacked his unit using a makeshift bomb and small arms fire.

“It’s pretty devastating,” said his aunt, Stacy Dinkel. “Doug was one of the nicest human beings on the face of the Earth. He was an amazing person.”

In the hours after news of his death began to spread, hundreds of people posted remembrances on a Facebook page created in his memory.

“Everybody loved Doug,” said his mother, Suni Erlanger. “Everybody loved him.”

Chad Runfola, who was an assistant principal at Potomac Falls while Green was there, recalled that he “was just so genuinely nice to others.”

He “always communicated a sense of caring for his teachers, his classmates and his school,” Runfola said.

In the eastern Loudoun County community, “this was a very special young man,” said John P. Murray, a Newspaper Association of America executive and Loudoun resident.

“He was a pretty selfless kid,” said David Spage, who was principal at Potomac Falls during Green’s years there. His ethic of service was such that “when he decided he wanted to go serve his country, it wasn’t a surprise.”

His family had tried to dissuade him from enlisting, his mother said. His maternal grandfather, Jay Chabrow, a technology consultant, said he wanted Green to work for him. But, Erlanger said, “he loved his country and nothing was going to stop him.”

Green was “my hero,” Chabrow said.

After enlisting in 2007, Green served a tour in Iraq. He was sent to Afghanistan in April as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Family members said he had played football at Potomac Falls, probably as much out of a sense of obligation to the school as anything else. He was also prominent in drama, and, his mother said, he “played the bad guy” in a school production of “Footloose.”

Many remembered Green for his sense of humor. He was “quite a character,” Spage said. His mother thought that made him something of an atypical soldier. “He was a stand-up comedian,” she said.

Even in difficult times for Green and his unit in Afghanistan, Erlanger said, “he made them all laugh.” In times of peril, she said, Green would assure his fellow soldiers “that everything’s going to be okay.”

Erlanger said her son’s enlistment was to be up before the end of the year. She said he planned to return home and marry his sweetheart, attend college, work for the Secret Service or the CIA and, perhaps, enter politics.

Other survivors include his father, Douglas Green of Sterling, and two sisters.

“You were an awesome dude,” read one comment on the memorial Facebook page. “You always knew how to make me feel better,” read another.

“You impacted so many lives with your goodness, humor, and positive attitude,” read yet another. “You had an inexplicable way of drawing people toward you."

Army Spc. Douglas J. Green was killed in action on 8/28/11.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Army Spc. Michael C. Roberts

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Michael C. Roberts, 23, of Watauga, Texas

Spc Roberts was assigned to 561st Military Police Company, 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Aug. 27, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

Michael C. Roberts, 23, an Army specialist, was killed in action Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011, while serving our country.

Michael was born Nov. 24, 1987, in Lexington, Ky. He was the third son of Dave and Kathy Roberts.

His brother Patrick, 28, served his country in an air defense battery at Fort Bliss during his time in the Army. His brother Brian, 25, just completed his advanced training, earning honors grad and will be assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Benning, Ga., upon his return this month in the Army.

Michael's family moved to Texas in 1992 when he was 4 and has resided here since.

Growing up, he competed in soccer leagues for many years and was also active in Scouting. He enjoyed fishing and camping and had a love for the great outdoors.

Michael graduated from Richland High School in 2006. During high school Michael was a varsity wrestler and tuba player in both the marching band and concert bands.

After attending the University of North Texas for a semester, Michael decided he wanted to make a difference for others and enlisted in the Army in 2007. After his training he was assigned to the 1st Cavalry based at Fort Hood as a communications specialist. He deployed to Iraq from 2009-2010 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He re-enlisted in 2010 and was retrained at Fort Leonard Wood and became part of the 561st Military Police Company based at Fort Campbell, Ky. Michael's unit deployed to Afghanistan in July 2011 and was based in the city of Kandahar.

On Aug. 27, Michael was protecting a secured area outside a police station when a vehicle attempted to breach the area. He heroically engaged the enemy and prevented them from harming a large number of soldiers. The vehicle exploded, killing Michael instantly and injured approximately 20 others.

Although tragic, his comrades survived, greatly due to Michael's swift and decisive actions.

He was recognized for his actions with being awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, NATO Medal and Combat Action Badge.

Michael lived his life putting others first and demonstrated that daily. It was common for Michael to greet you with a smile and a big bear hug showing his genuine concern that you were having a good day. He made it his mission to bring a smile to all he encountered, even those who he just met and offered whatever he could to make that person's day special.

Michael spent his days checking back with friends, former schoolmates, Army buddies and knowing his genuine concerns for them, made their day better.

Michael will be sorely missed by many but his legacy lives on for all of us to stop, take time from our day and show the type of compassion for others as he did.

Survivors: Parents, David and Kathy Roberts; brothers, Patrick Roberts and wife, Brittany, and Brian Roberts; nephew dog, Cooper Roberts; grandmothers, Mary Jane Ryan and Martha Roberts; aunts and uncles, Cathy Witchek, Donna La Tour, Tim and Diane Roberts, Joanne Ryan, Charles Ryan and wife, Sharon, and Mary Ellen Ryan; cousins; fiancee, Rachel Pledger; and many friends and brothers in arms.

Army Spc. Michael C. Roberts was killed in action on 8/27/11.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Army Pfc. Jesse W. Dietrich

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Jesse W. Dietrich, 20, of Venus, Texas

Pfc Dietrich was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 25, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire.

Star Telegram
By Sarah Bahari

A 20-year-old Army private from the Johnson County town of Venus was killed in Afghanistan last week, the Defense Department announced Saturday.

Pfc. Jesse W. Dietrich's survivors include his father, Paul Dietrich, who was serving with the Army in Iraq when he was given the news, said A.J. Hillin, pastor at Cahill United Methodist Church in Alvarado, who knows the family. The slain soldier also leaves a child, the Army said.

No further details were given.

Jesse Dietrich died Thursday in Kandahar province from injuries he suffered when insurgents attacked with small arms, the department said. A 24-year-old sergeant in the unit was also killed in Kandahar province, it said.

Dietrich enlisted in March 2009 and arrived at Fort Drum, N.Y., in July 2010 to join the 10th Mountain Division, the base's public affairs office said. He deployed in March to Afghanistan with his unit, the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

His awards and decorations include the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.

Venus is about 25 miles southeast of Fort Worth between Alvarado and Midlothian

Jesse Wayne Dietrich, 20, a U.S. Army specialist and a great American hero, paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Kandahar province, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011.

Celebration of a hero will take place at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at First Baptist Church, Mansfield. Interment: Diamond J Youth Ranch in Gustine. Visitation: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Skyvue Funeral Home. Jesse resided with his aunt and uncle in Mansfield and attended Mansfield ISD schools until a semester before his graduation when he then moved to Venus. Survivors: Son, Kevin Wayne Dietrich; father, Paul Dietrich and wife, Sherri, and their children, Kolton and Laronda; mother, Natasha Bullard and husband, Larry; sister, Jocelyn Dietrich; cherished Aunt Neta and Uncle Rex Southern; and numerous other family and friends.

Army Pfc. Jesse W. Dietrich was killed in action on 8/25/11.

Army Sgt. Devin J. Daniels

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Devin J. Daniels, 22, of Kuna, Idaho

Sgt Daniels was assigned to 546th Transportation Company, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Aug. 25 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle using an improvised explosive device.

Sgt. Daniels was posthumously promoted to sergeant from the rank of corporal.

Sgt Daniels graduated from Eagle High School in 2007. He joined the Army in 2008 and was an Army Ranger. He served at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Fort Leonard-Wood, Missouri. He served as a heavy vehicle operator, deploying to Afghanistan in August 2010.

Sgt Daniels loved the outdoors and loved hunting with his dad.

Devin Daniels and his wife Samantha welcomed their first child, born in January this year. He was able to come home on leave for 17 days meet and hold his daughter, Olivia Lynn.

In a statement released through the Idaho National Guard, his family said:
“Devin was our family’s pride and joy. Growing up, he was a wonderful young man who was a good student, good athlete and who was never in trouble. He lived by the motto, ‘Winners never quit and quitters never win.’

Sgt Devin's awards and decorations include:
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal (2)
Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Bronze Service Star
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Action Badge
Drivers Badge

To the wife, daughter, and parents of Sgt Daniels. I was honored as a Patriot Guard Riders member to escort Sgt Daniels on 2 separate occasions. First from his arrival at Gowen Field to Payette then later from Payette to Council then returning to Payette. Sgt Daniels became a part of my life when I moved him as a pallbearer in Payette and that is when the reality of his ultimate sacrifice touched my heart very deeply. The ride to Council was tearful for me on many occasions as we passed through towns along the way and people showed their respect with flags, salutes, and hands over their hearts. Police and Fire equipment had their lights flashing to show their honor and appreciation for his sacrifice. People came from homes far off the roadway to honor a hero they did not know. What impressed me deeply was a little boy about 6 or 7 standing alone, all alone on the sidewalk when we arrived back to Payette from Council. He was at attention with his right hand over his heart. Three of our riders later spoke with him and his father and commended him for the respect he paid to the procession. I will long remember your Son, Husband, and Father~ Nick B., Boise, Idaho

Army Sgt. Devin J. Daniels was killed in action on 8/25/11.

Army Sgt. Colby L. Richmond

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Colby L. Richmond, 28, of Providence, N.C.

Sgt Richmond was assigned to 546th Transportation Company, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Aug. 25, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle using an improvised explosive device.

Mother, Cynthia, said her only son Colby was a hard worker "who loved people" and had "the biggest smile."

While Sgt Richmond did not have any siblings, his mother said that he had an extended "family" of close friends.

"He really embraced people," his mother said. "He loved meeting people. Everyone became family."

Sgt. Colby's unit was scheduled to return home in mid-October.

His mother said news of her only son's death came as a shock. "I was devastated. Just very devastated," she said. "It's like I'm numb. I can't believe it."

She was angry about her son's death at first. "We all make choices, and we know the risks," she said. "He wanted to serve his country, and he wanted to make a difference. I want people to remember him as my hero and their hero. He was doing what he loved to do. He was trying to help his country."

Sgt Richmond's awards and decorations include:

Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Noncommissioned Professional Development Ribbon
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Action Badge
Drivers Badge

Army Sgt. Colby L. Richmond was killed in action on 8/25/11.

Army Pfc. Brandon S. Mullins

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Brandon S. Mullins, 21, of Owensboro, Ky.

Pfc Mullins was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; died Aug. 25, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

SPC Brandon Scott Mullins, 21, of Owensboro, Kentucky died in service to his country in Kandahar province in southeast Afghanistan on August 25, 2011. He graduated from Apollo High School in 2008, participated in hockey and youth football and was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing. PFC Mullins joined the Army in 2010 and had been assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents, Rev. Thomas C. Mullins and Mary Mullins and his maternal grandparents, Gerald Heald and Sara Davis Heald.

Survivors include his parents, Thomas and Catherine Mullins of Owensboro; a brother, PFC Shaun Erik Mullins and his wife Ashley of Fort Bragg, NC; a sister, Bethany Rose Mullins of Owensboro; uncles, Bob Mullins of Lexington, David Mullins and his wife Kathy of Irvine, CA and James Heald of Thailand; aunt, Elizabeth Wright of Ashland, KY; and cousins, Stephanie Mullins Sweatt, Brian Mullins, Tori Mullins, Alexis Mullins, Madison Mullins, Jake Wright, and Daniel Berry.

‘He wanted to serve and was proud to serve’
The Associated Press

OWENSBORO, Ky. — A solider killed in Afghanistan has been remembered as a selfless young man who made a difference in the lives of others.

Army Gen. Steve Lyons told hundreds of people who attended a funeral service on Sept. 11 for 21-year-old Spc. Brandon Scott Mullins of Owensboro that he was the heart of his platoon and the epitome of service. Lyons said those were just two reasons Mullins has been nominated to receive the Bronze Star, the Messenger-Inquirer of Owensboro reported.

“Some people can live their entire lives wondering, did they make a difference,” Lyons said. “We never have to wonder about Brandon’s life.”

Mullins was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Kandahar province on Aug. 25. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

David Mullins said his nephew knew the risks of enlisting, but decided to follow in the steps of his older brother, father and grandfather.

“He wanted to serve and was proud to serve,” Mullins said, adding that his nephew had planned to re-enlist.

Youth pastor Damian Schoonmaker said Mullins has found himself in the Army.

“He became such a man — faithful, stalwart, servant-hearted and passionate.”

Christy Chaney of Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, which handled the service at Good Shepherd Church in Owensboro, said about 1,500 people signed a register in remembrance of the soldier.

He was buried in Owensboro Memorial Gardens.

Army Pfc. Brandon S. Mullins was killed in action on 8/25/11.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Army Sgt. Andrew R. Tobin

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Andrew R. Tobin, 24, of Jacksonville, Ill.

Sgt Tobin was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 24, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit using small arms fire.

Sgt Tobin, born in Glendora, CA, raised in Woodland Hills, CA moved to Manteno, IL at some point. He graduated from Manteno High School in 2005 and attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL where he participated in the wrestling program. He enlisted in the Army in January 2008.

This was his second deployment to Afghanistan.

Friends described Andrew as an outgoing and personalbe young man who was always wearing a smile. He loved to spend time with his friends and family. He enjoyed target shooting and trying to master the "Call of Duty" video game. He loved cooking outdoors and believed anything tasted better with BBQ sauce.

Sgt Tobin's awards and decorations include:

Army Achievement Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge
Air Assault Badge
Marksmanship Qualification Badge-Sharpshooter with Machingun
Marksmanship Qualification Badge-Sharpshooter with Pistol

September 12, 2011
I will remember Drew for being someone who could do anything he set his mind to. Also being a very kind & thoughtful person, that everyone liked. He was very kind to his Grandma Smith & my daughter "His Cousin" Paris Smith. Going to Jacksonville & seeing everything & everybody there, I seen how Drew touched everyone & how he will be remembered & missed!I've always been Proud of him since he was a little kid (to) Wrestling in HighSchool (to) College (to) The Military & then, getting Married.I used to say " Drew is my Nephew " now... I'm Proud to say " I'm Drews Uncle" He truly is a HERO! Thank you Drew for everything! I LOVE YOU! Your Uncle Aaron.~ Aaron S., Bradley, Illinois
September 12, 2011

I would like everyone to know that SGT Andrew 'Floater' Tobin was an EXCEPTIONAL soldier. It was nothing short of an honor serving with SGT Tobin in Afghanistan. Not many could just 'turn it on' before a patrol and then just 'turn it off' as soon as he came in. As a Platoon Leader, I'm so grateful to have had the chance to listen to Tobin's advice. As a friend, I'm even more grateful to have had the chance to hear his jokes and share some great laughs. Floater...take care of us up there. ~ Kevin P., Williamsport, Maryland

September 07, 2011
I miss you my friend and Brother. You will forever be in my heart and in my thoughts. We all miss you and wish you were still with us. ~
SPC Andrew Jones, Ft. Drum, New York

September 06, 2011
I had the honor of being one of Andrew's high school teachers. I still remember his smile, his friendliness, and the character he showed each and every day. He was a wonderful young man. ~ Donna E., Manteno, Illinois

September 02, 2011
My heart stopped for a moment when I saw your obituary and I flashed back to the year when I was in your corner at the Cal. state wrestling championships cheering you on. I remembered your toughness on the mat, your encouragement to your teammates.Thank you Lord for letting us have Andrew for a season. Thank you Andrew for your service to our country RIP.Deepest Sympathy to Katie,and Lee Ann and the family.~
Ron M., Woodland Hills, California

September 01, 2011
I knew Andrew, always called him Toby to him calling me Gonzo. He was one of the genuine people that I had considered my friend while with our unit. To know that his smile and his personality will not be with any of us anymore is a tragedy. I am so sorry for your sacrifice. We will all miss him deeply.
~ Carlos Gonzales, Perth Amboy, New Jersey

August 31, 2011
I was one of Andrew's teachers at Manteno High School. His death came as a shock to many of us as we remember Andrew from his student days as a fun loving and happy young man. My thoughts and prayers are with Andrew and his family during this difficult time. ~ Brent Z., Galesburg, Illinois

August 31, 2011
Something I read a few days ago touches this life so exactly, I want to share it with you all. "There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even when they are gone the light remains." [author unknown] Andrew was such a person. His life brings a glow to our hearts that will remember him always. Our sympathy to his wife, mother, brother, and family and friends. We were all so blessed to have shared this light in knowing Andrew.
~ Margaret & John M., Saucier, Mississippi

August 30, 2011
Andrew you are always going to be a smile in my heart. I love you so very much, and you are truly going to be missed by this grandmother. You have always been one very special grandson to me. There is nothing I can say or do for you now but just knowing you are up there watching over all of us here. I love you so much. ~ Grandmother Dee Schreiber, Mt. Vernon, Illinois

August 29, 2011
We met by chance in the street. your buddies bet you couldnt get a hug frm the next girl that passd you. It was me. That hug turnd into a great friendship! As you would say, "good times " i'll always be one of your P.I.C.'s I will never forget you or your electric smile and personality. Forever and always in my heart. Goodbye...... ~ Shannon M, White Hall, Illinois

August 28, 2011
I didn't think that day when you left and you said i will catch you later, that that would be the last time i would ever see you.... Tobin you were a true hero to me. thank you for keeping this country safe and free. I'll miss you Tobin. ~ Ryan N., Chapin, Illinois


Sgt Tobin was laid to rest at Asbury Cemetery in IL.

Sgt Tobin is survived by his mother, Lee Ann; father, Nicholas; wife, Katie Lynn; brother, Nicholas; adoptive grandparents, Deonna and David.

Illinois soldier, 24, killed in Afghanistan
The Associated Press

KANKAKEE, Ill. — An Illinois soldier has been killed while serving in Afghanistan, U.S. Army officials said.

Officials at Fort Drum in New York say 24-year-old Sgt. Andrew Tobin was killed Wednesday in Kandahar province when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.

Tobin, who is survived by his wife, Katie, most recently lived in Jacksonville.

An infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Tobin joined the Army in January 2008. He'd been deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and returned there in March 2011.

"He was sitting on a couch in my living room three weeks ago, talking about going back there," Manteno High School wrestling teammate Larry George told the Daily Journal of Kankakee (http://bit.ly/oRiNMg). "He was the kind of person you wanted to surround yourself with. This was going to be his last tour of duty."

Tobin was described by friends as a "jokester," ''goofball" and "class clown." People also say they were impressed with his modesty, amiability and dedication.

"He sat around with my dad and talked about the military," cousin Pam Thompson, of Bradley, told The Daily Journal. "I think he liked (the military), because he never complained about it. He wanted to become a recruiter so he could work 9 to 5 and be able to stay home with his wife. He loved his wife. He loved his whole family."

In addition to his wife, Tobin is survived by his mother, Lee Ann Smith, of Los Angeles; his father, Nicholas D, Tobin, Sr., also of California; and a brother, Nicholas Jr., of Riverside, Calif.

Army Sgt. Andrew R. Tobin was killed in action on 8/24/11.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Army 1st Lt. Timothy J. Steele

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Timothy J. Steele, 25, of Duxbury, Mass.

1st Lt Steele was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 23, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

Lt Steele graduated from Duxbury High School in 2004 where he was a star athlete, class president and an Honor student. He went on to graduate from West Point and was commissioned in 2009. He was assigned to Fort Drum in 2010. He deployed to Afghanistan in March.

His family said that even as a teenager, he knew he wanted to be in the military. He carried the American flag during his final cross-country race and wore military fatigues in his senior picture.

Lt Steel's awards and decorations include:

National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
Afghanistan Campagn Medal
NATO Medal
Air Assault Medal
Infantryman's Badge
Parachutist's Badge
Ranger Tab

September 09, 2011
We are praying for you all.....we love you all......Tim will never be forgotten~The Quatrevingts, Houma, Louisiana

August 27, 2011
You do not know me, but felt a need to express my sympathies. My girls went to high school with Joseph. May God Bless you and comfort the Steele family. So sorry for your loss.~ Janet Pierce, Duxbury, Massachusetts


Funeral services were held at the Catholic Chapel, West Point. Burial and final honors were at the West Point Cemetery. A memorial mass was held at the Holy Family Parish in Duxbury.

Lt Steele is survived by his parents, Mary Ellen and John; wife, Meaghan and their daughter, Liberty; siblings, John, Christopher, Major Julie Maxwell, Jessica, Anne Marie and Theresa. He was preceded in death by his brother, Joseph, who died in an auto accident in 2001.

Army 1st Lt. Timothy J. Steele was killed in action on 8/23/11.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Army Pfc. Douglas L. Cordo

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Douglas L. Cordo, 20, of Kingston, N.Y.

Pfc Cordo was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; died Aug. 19, 2011 in Zabul, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Fallen soldier ‘wanted to be right out’ on front lines
By Susan Campriello
The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal

KINGSTON, N.Y. — Tracy Karson, the mother of Army Pvt. 1st Class Douglas L. Cordo, said she hopes her son’s body will be home in the coming days.

Cordo, a Kingston native, died Aug. 19 of injuries he suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated while his unit patrolled the Zabul Province village of Shah Joy in Afghanistan.

Cordo was an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division, out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Days after Cordo’s death, Karson, 43, of Hurleyville, Sullivan County, expressed mixed feelings about the departure of American troops from Afghanistan and the continuing conflict there.

“I want it to end. I want to bring those guys home,” she said. “But what’s the alternative?”

Karson said she does not want America to experience another 9/11-type attack or for fighting to take place in the United States. Karson said she has discussed the drawdown of troops and her mixed feelings with an Army major assigned to her.

Cordo arrived in Afghanistan for a yearlong tour in April, and would not have been among the troops to leave by the end of this year.

Cordo was expected to return home for 15 days in mid-September, Karson said.

He had returned in March and attended her wedding, and had traveled from Fort Wainwright for Christmas, she said.

Karson and Cordo’s father, also named Douglas Cordo, of Ballston Spa, Saratoga County, said their son was a natural leader and had wanted to join the military as a child.

Karson said her son discussed with her his desire to join the Army or the Marines after he briefly attended SUNY Ulster.

Cordo grew up in Kingston and graduated from Kingston High School in 2009.

Karson said she supported her son’s decision to join the Army in 2010 “100 percent.”

However, she wished that he had joined to do something away from the front line instead of the infantry, she said.

“He wanted to be right out there,” she said.

‘There’s nothing you can really say about this’
By Emily Stewart
The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal

KINGSTON, N.Y. — Army Pfc. Douglas L. Cordo was laid to rest Aug. 31 in St. Remy Cemetery following a funeral service at the Old Dutch Church.

Cordo, 20, a Kingston native, died Aug. 19 of injuries he sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated while his unit patrolled the Zabul province village of Shah Joy.

Cordo was an infantryman with the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Four of Cordo’s friends and a friend’s mother spoke at the funeral, recollecting antics and stories about a class clown — and sometime troublemaker — who put his friends before girls and transformed into a brave soldier who died for his country.

“There’s just so many stories,” said Mike Campbell, 21. “There’s nothing you can really say about this. It’s something — all you can do is think about it.”

A crowd stood somberly in front of the uptown post office, across the street from the church.

Troy Boutilette, 43, watched as six Army pallbearers from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point carried Cordo’s flag-draped coffin. Boutilette said he served with the Marines in Afghanistan in 2003-04.

“These kids are making a big sacrifice,” he said. “He had his whole life ahead of him.”

Michelle Elise and her daughter, Sylvan Garesche, 6, each held a small American flag. Elise said she didn’t know Cordo but felt compassion for his mother after reading about the death in newspapers.

“He was an only child,” she said.

About three dozen motorcycle riders accompanied the funeral procession. Most were members of the Patriot Guard Riders and Rolling Thunder, two groups that support fallen service members.

“We’re believers in freedom,” said Mike Kubiak, 52, a Patriot Guard Rider. “And they gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.”

Cordo arrived in Afghanistan in April for a yearlong tour. He would not have been among the troops scheduled to leave by the end of this year.

His family said he intended to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Army Pfc. Douglas L. Cordo was killed in action on 8/19/11.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marine Lance Cpl. Travis M. Nelson

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Travis M. Nelson, 19, of Pace, Fla.

LCpl Nelson was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Aug. 18, 2011 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Lcpl Nelson graduated from Pace High School in 2010 where he was in Navy Junior ROTC. He was also in the Young Marines of Pensacola. He joined the Marines in September last year, following in the footsteps of his father, Scott, Army veteran, mother, Becie, who retired from the Navy and his grandfather who was in the U.S. Air Force.

He deployed to Afghanistan in March and was promoted to Lance Corporal in June.

"I can’t describe in words the kind of young man Travis was in terms of his patriotism," father, Scott Nelson said. "His willingness to defend his country was very strong."

On July Fourth, when the Nelson family gathered with Travis before he shipped out for Afghanistan, the young Marine, said his father, was "a little nervous, anxious, and very proud."

"We’re getting through this with prayer," said father, Scott, "a lot of friends, a lot of supporters. And then there’s a sense of knowing that Travis was doing what his life dream was."

Father, Scott, described his son has having had "a great love for the outdoors. He was always outside fishing and hunting. And he was a comical young man. He loved to make people laugh."

Lcpl Nelson was laid to rest at Oak Hill Cemetery where he was buried next to his grandfather.

Lcpl Nelson is survived by his parents, Beckie and Scott; siblings, Daniel, Chandler, Jenna and Anna; and fiancee, Madelina, who was his high school sweetheart.

Marine Lance Cpl. Travis M. Nelson nwas killed in action on 8/18/11.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Army Spc. Dennis G. Jensen

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Dennis G. Jensen, 21, of Vermillion, S.D.

Spc. Jensen was assigned to 153rd Engineer Battalion, 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Sioux Falls, S.D.; died Aug. 16, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat incident.

Spc Jensen was working with bridge materials when he was hit by two steel bridge decking panels that fell from a forklift when a strap securing them to the machine had broken. He was taken to Bastion Airfield Hospital where he died. Officials said Jensen was wearing all appropriate safety gear at the time.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Specialist Dennis Jensen,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a statement. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends for their loss, and we offer our gratitude for Specialist Jensen’s service to our state and nation.”

Spc Jensen, born in Omaha, Neb., grew up in southeast South Dakota from the age of 2. He graduated from Vermillion High School.

Friends say Dennis always had a smile on his face. He loved cars, music, computers, video games, history, being a soldier and hunting with his Dad.

Spc Jensen served as a combat engineer with the 211th Engineer Company of Madison and De Smet. He volunteered to deploy with the 200th Engineer Company out of Pierre, which deployed in May for a one-year mission to maintain, repair and replace military bridges throughout Afghanistan. This was his first deployment.

Spc Jensen was laid to rest August 25 at Black Hills National Cemetery.

Spc Jensen is survived by his mother and stepfather, Christine and William; father, Glenn; and sister Melissa.

Army Spc. Dennis G. Jensen was killed in a non-combat related incident on 8/16/11.

Army Spc. Joshua M. Seals

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Joshua M. Seals, 21, of Porter, Okla.

Spc Seals was assigned to 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma National Guard, Tulsa, Okla.; died Aug. 16, 2011 in Paktya province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat incident.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the Seals family and friends," said Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, Oklahoma's adjutant general. "As we mourn his loss in the days ahead, we will be forever honored and proud that he chose to serve his country and the people of Oklahoma in the National Guard."

"Today, our family grieves with the Seals family on the loss of their son, Josh. The loss of our brother in arms, while difficult, can never compare to the loss of a child, son or brother," said Col. Mike Chase, deputy brigade commander for the 45th Infantry Brigade. "We offer our most sincere condolences and stand ready to assist the Seals family during this difficult time."

Spc Seals graduated from Porter High School in 2008 where he played football. He was an honor roll student and a member of the academic team. He played basketball when he was younger. He was also active in Wagoner County 4-H and showed Dutch rabbits.

Spc Seals joined the Guard in 2008 as a truck driver while still in high school. At the time of his death, Seals was assigned as a machine gunner. This was his first deployment.

Aunt, Trina Seals, said her nephew joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard while he was still in high school. "His mother and father served in the Army, and he felt it was just something he wanted to do."

She stated the family was told her nephew died of a gunshot wound.

"He was the sweetest kid you'd ever want to meet," she said of her 21-year-old nephew.

Principal Larry Shackelford described Seals as a great student and a wonderful young man with a bright outlook.

Residents got a hint that something was wrong when two Army officials came into town on Tuesday, according to Joy Hendrix, town treasurer. "They came into town hall looking for an address. They didn't say which address, but we pointed them to a town map. They looked at the map and then left," she said.

"He was well-liked in town. He was a very respectful young man, a great kid," Hendrix said. She said this was a devastating tragedy for Porter, a close-knit community of about 600.

Services were held Saturday, August 27th.The Fort Sill, Oklahoma Honor Guard served as Pallbearers. His brother, Spc James Seals, of Fort Drum, served as Honorary Pallbearer.

Spc Seals was laid to rest at Greenwood Cemetery in Porter, OK.

Spc Seals is survived by his parents, Rhonda and Stanley; wife, Andrina; and siblings, Jeremy, Sarah and James.

Army Spc. Joshua M. Seals was killed in a non-combat related incident on 8/16/11.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Army 1st Lt. Damon T. Leehan

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Damon T. Leehan, 30, of Edmond, Okla.

1st Lt Leehan was assigned to 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma National Guard, Stillwater, Okla.; died Aug. 14, 2011 in Laghman province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

“Oklahoma has lost an outstanding citizen-soldier who was committed to defending our nation and protecting our way of life,” said Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, adjutant general for Oklahoma. “Lt. Leehan served this nation and our state with great honor and distinction for more than a decade. His sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

Lt. Leehan was a platoon leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 179 Infantry Regiment of the Edmond-based 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Lt Damon was to have celebrated his 31st birthday on September 11 and sixth wedding anniversary on September 17.

Lt Damon graduated from Edmond North High School and attended Oklahoma University. He joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1998. He had previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004. In 2008 he successfully completed Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Ashley Hale, director of radiology at Integris Southwest Medical Center, was the soldier’s supervisor. She said Lt. Leehan, who began working at the hospital in 2001, was an X-ray technician. During a six-year period she got to know him fairly well, Hale said. He was a hard-working, outgoing, well-known, well-liked co-worker.

He had many friends here,” Hale said. Hale said Tuesday a patient was in the emergency room when an employee became emotional. When the patient was told an employee had been killed, she asked, “Was it Damon?” Then she started crying, Hale said. Other co-workers are also struggling with the loss. Integris Southwest Medical Center is accepting donations to help the family. To contribute through the hospital, call 636-7048, the phone number for Hale’s secretary.

Hale said Lt. Leehan was a family man who loved his country. For example, he carried a patriotic-themed coffee mug and had a U.S. flag on his locker. “His family, his children, can know when they grow up that he was a hero and died serving his country,” Hale said.

Lt Leehan was laid to rest at Resthaven Memory Gardens.

Lt. Leehan is survived by his mother, Marina; Father and stepmom, Dennis and Marci; his wife Audrey, and their two children, Emma, 4, and Ethan, 1.

Army 1st Lt. Damon T. Leehan was killed in action on 8/14/11.

Army Sgt. Matthew A. Harmon

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Matthew A. Harmon, 29, of Bagley, Minn.

Sgt Harmon was assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade Grafenwoehr, Germany; died Aug. 14, 2011 in Paktika province, Afghanistan, while conducting vehicle recovery operations and encountered a secondary explosion while dismounted. Also killed was Spc. Joseph A. VanDreumel.

Sgt Harmon graduated from Fosston High School in 2000 where he was on the track team.

He enlisted in the Army in March 2005, training at Fort Jackson, SC before serving in Germany from September 2005 to July 2011. This was his third deployment, having previously deployed to Iraq twice.

Harmon met his wife, Nicole, at the University of North Dakota before he decided to enlist in the military full-time.

Classmate Collin Gravalin said they both ran track together. Gravalin was a sprinter, Harmon was a distance runner. "He could run forever, that's for sure.

He was always a positive guy; always in a good mood. And as far as track goes, he worked as hard as anyone on the team. So, he definitely put forth the effort."

Father, Tom Harmon, last spoke to his son in July, shortly before his son deployed.

"We realize he's gone and we realize that nobody forced him to do what he was doing. So we don't hold any ill-will," Harmon said. "We're mostly concerned with the children. Now they've lost their father, and it's going to be tough with them."

Sgt Harmon's awards and decorations include:

Purple Heart
Bronze Star
Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Army Achievement Medal
NATO Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three combat stars
Naval Unit Citation
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Ribbon
Driver and Mechanic Badge
Combat Action BAdge

Sgt Harmon was laid to rest at St. Paul Lutheran Cemetary in Lengby, MN.

Sgt Harmon is survived by his parents, Irene and Tom; wife Nicole and their three children, Danika, Vincent and Elsie; and siblings, Dean, Mark and Melissa.

Army Sgt. Matthew A. Harmon was killed in action on 8/14/11.

Army Spc. Joseph A. VanDreumel

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Joseph A. VanDreumel, 32, of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Spc VanDreumel was assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade Grafenwoehr, Germany; died Aug. 14, 2011 in Paktika province, Afghanistan, while conducting vehicle recovery operations and encountered a secondary explosion while dismounted. Also killed was Sgt. Matthew A. Harmon.

Capt. Mark Gerasimas described the pair as “dedicated soldiers. ... Both of these men worked tirelessly at all hours to fill the requirements the company placed on them. Even when solicited for honest feedback, I never once heard either of these soldiers complain about a tasking or workload.”

Gerasimas said the pair “gave of themselves to the end” as they executed the vehicle recovery mission.

Cpl VanDreumel graduated from Jenison High School in 1997.

Father, Dennis, said his son enjoyed fishing and tearing apart a car and putting it back together.

“He liked to tear things down. He was going to tear out the engine of his Bonneville when he got back. Nothing scared him about cars.”

The waters off Ludington were his son’s “second home” during salmon season. “He would go salmon fishing anytime he possibly could,” he said.

VanDreumel's second career choice pleased his father, Dennis. The elder VanDreumel retired from the Navy after 24 years, Joseph VanDreumel’s grandfather, Ken Phillips, served in the Air Force’s Presidential Flight Crew.

“Joe just took me by surprise,” Dennis said of his son’s decision to join the Army last year after he lost his job. The married father of two had been building office systems for Zeeland-based office furniture and accessories maker Herman Miller Inc.

“He was laid off with the big downturn in 2008. He was going to support his family all costs. He called me up one day and said, ‘Dad, I’m going to join the Army.’”

Father, Dennis, said he spoke to his son just a couple days before his final mission. “He loved his job. I told him I was proud of him and he thanked me.

“There was no finer man in my life. He did what he needed to do to take care of his family every time. He was loved, and he knew he was loved.”

VanDreumel’s father-in-law, Allen Greiner, said it was particularly hard because Sgt. Harmon was “Joe’s close friend,” he said.

VanDreumel had been stationed in Germany since August 2010. He had been deployed to Afghanistan about six weeks.

“He was very happy,” said his mother, North Carolina resident Karen VanDreumel. “He was talking about re-enlisting when we were visiting in June.”

Brother, Adam, said, “He told us he was heading to one of the safest areas and that we had nothing to worry about. He was a mechanic, and he told us he was pretty sure he was going to be safe and working on machines.”

Army Spc. Joseph A. VanDreumel was killed in action on 8/14/11.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Army 2nd Lt. Joe L. Cunningham

Remember Our Heroes

Army 2nd Lt. Joe L. Cunningham, 27, of Kingston, Okla.

2nd Lt Cunningham was assigned to 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, Stillwater, Okla.; died Aug. 13, 2011 in Laghman province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained in a non-combat incident.

Lt Cunningham was raised in Kingston, OK, where he graduated from High School in 2003.

He worked at the Texoma Land Fun Park, CM Trailers and Marshall County Sheriff's Office as a jailer. In November of 2001, he joined the Army Reserves as a Military Policeman.

In 2005 he moved to Okla. City to attend college with plans to apply for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. He attended Oklahoma City Community College, received his Associate Degree from Oklahoma State University-OKC, and was currently attending the University of Central Oklahoma, working for his Bachelor Degree in Sociology.

He volunteered to go to Iraq in 2005, where he served as a Team Leader. After returning from Iraq, he served as a Weapons Instructor for deploying soldiers. In 2008, he switched to the Oklahoma National Guard, serving 18 months in the Air Guard before moving on to the Army Guard, where he was accepted to Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant last year.

Lt. Col. Max Moss of the Oklahoma Army National Guard said about 2Lt. Cunningham: “After earning the rank of sergeant and demonstrating outstanding character and leadership potential, he was selected to attend Officer Candidate School. He will be greatly missed by all of us in uniform that knew him and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they cope with his loss,”

He enjoyed hunting, fishing and sports. Joe was a big Oklahoma Sooners fan and held season tickets for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Everybody just thought the world of him,’ said Natalie Cheairs, family friend. ‘We all grew up in Soldier Creek,” Cheairs said. “Joe rode his bike around when he got older and he always had a smile on his face.”

Joe you were a great Sgt and I will be there to say my goodbyes tomorrow, but you will never be forgotten!! You were one of the best that I had deployed with in Iraq!! 26 August, 2011

September 01, 2011
I can't believe you are actually gone. I miss getting a text message every morning or you poking me on Facebook.I know your in a better place and you get to see your mom and grandmother agian i know they are proud of you for everything you have done in your life.I will miss you dearly wish we could have went out like we having been planning forever but i will see you agian and see that smile on your sweet face. love and miss you a lot Joe you were a great person and i am very proud to say i knew you. ~ sarah c., del city, Oklahoma

August 28, 2011
I knew Joe he was an ispiration to the soldiers of Bco. 1/179 he always put soldiers first he is what a soldier wanted to be professional thru and thru in the short time I had to work with him he truly opened my eyes and changed my views on things he was and always will be a great friend and a soldier that will be greatly missed
God Bless Joe Cunningham may god watch and protect you thru the gates of heaven you shall be missed ~ John B., Tishomingo, Oklahoma

August 25, 2011
I worked with Joe at the Marshall County Jail. He was a great young man and will be greatly missed. I'm praying for you Joe.......

August 20, 2011
Joe,
You will be missed by all. It was pleasure and an honor to have you as troop under my supervision while assigned to the 138th Security Forces Squadron. RIP friend and brother. ~ MSgt Carl S., Tulsa, Oklahoma


Lt Cunningham's awards and decorations include the following:
Iraq Campaign Medal
Overseas Service Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M device
Global War on Terrorism Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal

Lt Cunningham is survived by father, Kirk Tucker, Kingston; siblings, Tracy, Terri, Bethany, Ashton, Ricky and Taylor. He was preceded in death by his mother, Dorothy Cunningham.

Army 2nd Lt. Joe L. Cunningham died 8/13/11.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Army Master Sgt. Charles L. Price III

Remember Our Heroes

Army Master Sgt. Charles L. Price III, 40, of Milam, Texas

MSgt Price was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Aug. 12, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

MSgt Price graduated from Yoe High School in 1989. He joined the Army in 1989. He became a drill sergeant in 2003. He deployed to Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Balkans and Saudi Arabia for the Persian Gulf War before deploying to Afghanistan in June, 2011.

"MSgt Price used his experience and knowledge to mentor," said 1st Lieutenant Andrew Mc Kay. "His soldiers respected him because they knew what he was doing and always had their best interests at heart."

"MSgt Price trained me and mentored me to be the soldier and noncommissioned officer I am today," said Sgt. Matthew Jardine,paralegal, 2nd BCT, 4th Infantry Division. "I was honored to becalled his soldier."

"He always put his soldiers first and offered hope at every turn," said 1st Lieutenant Zachary Finehout, Executive Officer, SFAT. "I learned more from him in a short time that I thought was possible. I will always miss him."

MSgt Price's awards and decorations include:

Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Meritorious Service Medal
NATO Medal
Combat Infantry Badge
Expert Infantry Badge
Army Achievement Medals (9)
Army Commendation Medals (5)

Funeral service was held Saturday, Aug. 27, he was laid to rest at Cameron Rest Cemetery.

MSgt Price is survived by his mother, Grace; wife, Staff Sergeant Helen Clark-Price; and seven children, Lakrishia, Shameka, Shaninya, Joshlynn, Donavon, Michael, and Rashaw; and siblings, Eric, Marvin, Iperia and Roshunda.

Army Master Sgt. Charles L. Price III was killed in action on 8/12/11.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Army Sgt. Jameel T. Freeman

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jameel T. Freeman, 26, of Baltimore

Sgt Freeman was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 11, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, Spc. Patrick L. Lay II, Spc. Jordan M. Morris and Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez.

Sgt Freeman had been at Fort Drum in April 2010. He had previously deployed to Iraq 2007 and had been in Afghanistan since March.

Del Ali Rawlings, 46, a longtime friend and mentor, remembered Freeman’s discipline and dedication to his wife and two young children..

“He was a courageous, brave individual, an all-around good guy,” said Rawlings, who taught and trained Freeman in kuntao, a form of martial arts practiced in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Rawlings met Freeman when the two worked together as security officers for the University of Maryland when Freeman was 19, Rawlings said.

“He constantly bugged me to teach him [kuntao],” said Rawlings, who founded the Black Tiger Kuntao Academy in Baltimore in 2005.

Freeman trained three hours a day, four days a week with Rawlings, completing rigorous routines including 2,000 jumping jacks and 800 push-ups. He competed in world championships held in New Orleans and Chicago, Rawlings said.

“I demand a whole lot from my students, and he was the first one to reach a black belt,” Rawlings said. Photos of Freeman and his fighting trophies decorate Rawlings’ studio in Windsor Mill, he said.

August 30, 2011
Black Belt Freeman (as my family and I know you) it was nice to have gotten to know you and your family. I thank you for all the years of experince you have taught my son in the form of martail arts. I know my wife and I have told you before but you are one of the reasons why Dj has matured in the art in the ways that he has. That longggg ride to chicago for the tournament was crazy but I got to know a real good guy. And I will never forget you or what you stand for.

Much Love, from The DeRamus Family...P.S. Dj says thank you and he really misses you.~ Derrick Deramus, Baltimore, Maryland


Sgt Freeman's awards and decorations include:
Commendation Medal
Good Conduct Medal
Army Reserve Component Achievements (2)
National Defense Service Medal
Iraq Campaign Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
NATO Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge

Services for Sgt Freeman were held at Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church on Thursday, 1 Sep 2011. He was laid to rest at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery.

Sgt Freeman is survived by his mother (no name mentioned);wife, Jennifer; and two children, Jameel Jr., age 5, and Jenessa, age 2.

Army Sgt. Jameel T. Freeman was killed in action on 8/11/11.

Navy Hospitalman Ryley Gallinger-Long

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Hospitalman Ryley Gallinger-Long, 19, of Cornelius, Ore.

Navy Hospitalman Gallinger-Long was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Aug. 11, 2011 in Marjah district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting a dismounted patrol.

Ryley Gallinger-Long, 19, of Cornelius, Oregon passed away on August 11, 2011 in Marja in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan while serving with the 1/6 Marine Division as a hospital corpsman in the US Navy. Ryley was conducting a dismounted patrol in the Helmand province and was assigned to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina before being deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom last month. He was less than a month into his first overseas deployment when he was killed in action. Ryley will be awarded the Purple Heart.

Funeral Services will be held on Saturday, August 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Forest Grove Stake Center, 3661 Brooke Street in Forest Grove, Oregon, with Bishop Greg Ballard, of the Forest Grove First Ward, presiding. Dedication of the Grave with Full Military Honors will follow at Ryley's final resting place at Willamette National Cemetery, 11800 S.E. Mt. Scott Blvd. in Portland, Oregon in which family and friends are invited to attend.

Ryley Gallinger-Long was born on Independence Day in 1992, the son of Jeff Gallinger and Susan Blanchard. He was raised in the Cornelius community and received his education at Forest Grove High School, having been a graduate of the Class of 2010. While in high school, Riley served as a cadet at the Forest Grove Fire Department and hoped the military would prepare him for a future as a fire chief or emergency medical technician.

He was united in marriage to Hope, his high school sweetheart on March 12, 2011. They lived in Jacksonville, North Carolina before Ryley was deployed.

Ryley enjoyed the outdoors especially camping, fishing at Hagg Lake, hiking saddle mountain, white-water rafting with his brothers and spending time with his family and friends. Ryley loved his jeep, cared deeply for his friends and even earned the title of Doc Gallinger from those he served with in the Navy. He was loved and respected by all who knew him and was known by his signature half smile and wonderful huge hugs. He is described as being a selfless person who loved animals and had a sincere desire to serve others. His family supported his life long goal to serve his country and to be in the service. He had a genuine willingness to help any and every one he could. Ryley is considered by many to be a hero but his family knows that he would say he was just doing his job.

Survivors include his wife, Hope Gallinger-Long, of Jacksonville, North Carolina; his mother, Susan Blanchard, of Cornelius, Oregon; his father, Jeff Gallinger, of Seaside, Oregon; and his identical twin brother, Wyatt Gallinger-Long, currently serving in the United States Navy, training at the Naval Station in Great Lakes, Illinois; his brother, Zack Gallinger-Long, of Hillsboro, Oregon and extended family and friends.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations the Wounded Warrior Project (which helps severely injured service members during their transition to civilian life), 1120 G. Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005, in his memory. (www.woundedwarriorproject.org)

Navy Hospitalman Ryley Gallinger-Long was killed in action on 8/11/11.

Army Sgt. Edward J. Frank II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, 26, of Yonkers, N.Y.

Sgt Frank was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 11, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Spc. Jameel T. Freeman, Spc. Patrick L. Lay II, Spc. Jordan M. Morris and Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez.

The house was decorated for Army Sgt. Edward J. Frank II's return home. But the Yonkers 26-year-old, a father of three, would not survive his tour in Afghanistan. He was killed, along with four other soldiers, while on patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

The trail of loss continues, stretching from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 9/11, through Afghanistan and Iraq, to the hometowns of service members — like Frank's native Hartford, Conn., and Yonkers. Even with the nascent beginnings of the long end of lingering war, the threats, and the echoes of loss, remain.

Frank was almost home. His wife, Selena, had decorated their home for a joyous homecoming, when he could once again hold his three young children, a daughter and two sons. But Frank, known as Jeffrey, had volunteered for another patrol, delaying his return home, staff writer Ned P. Rauch reports. On a Facebook tribute page, fellow soldiers express the mixed emotions of deep gratitude and crushing sadness that Frank's gesture, taking that last mission, cost the sergeant his life but saved others.

Frank, Spc. Jameel T. Freeman, 26, of Baltimore, Md.; Spc. Patrick L. Lay II, 21, of Fletcher, N.C.; Spc. Jordan M. Morris, 23, of Stillwater, Okla.; and Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez, 27, of Williams, Calif., died after their vehicles hit roadside bombs. Frank and his fellow soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. He had been in the Army for six years and had two tours of Iraq under his belt. Frank had earned medals and commendations for his service.

His troops respected his authority, enjoyed his jovial personality and admired his devotion to family, according to the hundreds of comments on a Facebook page dedicated to his memory. Yonkers friends and Army buddies to complete strangers visited the online tribute, to express gratitude for his service, heartbreak for his family and frustration that he was so close to coming back home.

Instead of that warm homecoming, there was the knock on the door Thursday by three men in uniform; just the word, "sorry," signaled the grim news they bore. Instead of a greeting her husband with a welcome-home embrace, Selena Frank made a weekend trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware , to meet his casket.

Army Sgt. Edward J. Frank II was killed in action on 8/11/11.

Army Spc. Patrick L. Lay II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Patrick L. Lay II, 21, of Fletcher, N.C.

Spc Lay was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 11, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, Sgt. Jameel T. Freeman, Spc. Jordan M. Morris and Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez.

MANATEE -- Bradenton’s native son U.S. Army Spec. 4 Patrick L. Lay II received a hero’s farewell Sunday, complete with full military honors, a “Going Home” service that focused as much on how fully the young man lived life and the lives he touched, as it did the gallantry he displayed on the field of battle as a combat infantryman.

Lay, 21, was killed in action Aug. 11 by an IED strike while on combat operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. His unit was deployed to Afghanistan in March in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

His funeral, held at the Life Covenant Sanctuary, drew more than 700 people, including family, friends, fellow active-duty soldiers, church members and hundreds of veterans whom he’d never met, who came because they felt it was their way to honor his service and support his grieving family.

Jason Gillard of Ellenton was one of more than a hundred members of the Patriot Guard who watched over the funeral and escorted the procession on their motorcycles.

Gillard, a former member of the Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion who saw combat in Panama, said he was there to “honor and respect the troops.”

“They stood for us,” he said. “Now it’s time for us to stand for them.”

Harold Garrett of Palmetto said he was standing watch on the sidewalk with an American flag because “one generation of veterans never leaves another behind.”

“Specialist Lay accomplished his mission,” Garrett said. “Now it’s our honor to support his family.

That theme -- selflessness -- resounded throughout the funeral, and was one of the scriptures chosen for the service: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”: John 15:13.

A trio of clergy officiated at the service, including The Rev. Sidney L. Poe, who described Patrick as “a child of the most idyllic, and a son raised in this community.”

“We want this to be a memorial to Patrick and his achievements, here, surrounded by symbols of color and design, both military and civilian,” the Rev. Poe said.

The Rev. James K. McDaniel reminisced about Lay, whom he had know since birth. The two men used to wrestle in McDaniel’s front yard.

“I was an integral part of his combat training,” he said.

The Rev. McDaniel was struck by the irony inherent in those who choose military service.

“They love America, yet they spend years away from her shores,” he said. “They value life, yet so bravely they ready themselves to die in the service of their country.”

Lay, the Rev. McDaniel said, just received new orders.

“He just got a promotion. He’s now a general in God’s army,” he said. “I find a huge amount of comfort in that.”

Brig. Gen. Bob Nash was the most senior soldier at the service. Although he did not know Lay personally, he read the words of those who served with him in combat. The remembrances were gathered during a memorial service held Saturday by Lay’s battalion commander in Afghanistan.

Army Spc. Patrick L. Lay II was killed in action on 8/11/11.

Army Spc. Jordan M. Morris

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Army Spc. Jordan M. Morris, 23, of Stillwater, Okla.

Spc Morris was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 11, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, Spc. Jameel T. Freeman, Spc. Patrick L. Lay II and Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez.

Stillwater-area native was one of five U.S. soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, military officials said on Sunday.

Army Spc. Jordan M. Morris, 23, was killed Thursday in Kandahar province.

Morris grew up in Ripley, a town 15 miles southeast of Stillwater and 60 miles west of Tulsa.

The town of about 500 people was shaken after hearing of Morris' death, said Doug Scott, assistant principal of Ripley High School, in a phone interview.

"He was just a super young man," Scott said.

Morris was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

According to Fort Drum's website, Morris was an infantryman who joined the Army in January, completed training at Fort Benning, Ga., and came to Fort Drum in March.

Morris deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in June, the military said.

Scott said Morris was intelligent, had a great sense of humor and was very popular in school. He also excelled at baseball.

"He showed his unselfish side by going overseas," Scott said.

Morris, whose father is on the Ripley school board, graduated as a valedictorian from Ripley High School in 2006, said baseball coach Donnie Hoffman, who coached Morris for six years.

Morris was a great leader to his teammates and a great example to his two younger brothers, said Hoffman, who described Morris as highly intelligent and highly motivated.

Friend Caleb Eytcheson, 21, said Morris began thinking about attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when he was a junior at Ripley High School.

"He wanted to be the best, and he knew West Point is where they trained the best," Eytcheson said. "He wanted to serve his country," he said.

Morris studied mechanical engineering at West Point and may have been only a few hours short of graduation when he entered the Army.

Eytcheson said he and Morris were best friends since seventh grade.

They played on the same baseball team in high school and spent a lot of time going on camping trips with others.

"He was a lot of fun to be around all the time," Eytcheson said. "It was never like being around someone who was cranky. He was always positive."

Eytcheson said he was used to Morris coming home every so often. He said he feels like his friend is still overseas and will be coming home soon.

"Everybody that I talk to are sad and upset," he said. "We're just remembering the good times. That's how Jordan would have wanted it."

Morris' awards and decorations include the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon and the Combat Infantryman Badge, the military said.

Other soldiers killed by the improvised explosive device were Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, 26, of Yonkers, N.Y.; Spc. Jameel T. Freeman, 26, of Baltimore, Md.; Spc. Patrick L. Lay II, 21, of Fletcher, N.C.; and Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez, 27, of Williams, Calif.

Army Spc. Jordan M. Morris was killed in action on 8/11/11.

Army Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez, 27, of Williams, Calif.

Pfc Lopez was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Aug. 11, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, Spc. Jameel T. Freeman, Spc. Patrick L. Lay II and Spc. Jordan M. Morris.

A fire siren will sound in Williams on Monday when Army Pfc. Rueben "Boy" Lopez comes home. Lopez was killed on Aug. 11 in southern Afghanistan with four other soldiers from the Army's 10th Mountain Division when an explosive device detonated near their vehicle.

Local law enforcement will escort Lopez's casket from Beale Air Force Base through Colusa to Williams.

The plane carrying Lopez is scheduled to land at Beale at 12:30 p.m. Monday and the casket is slated to leave the base by 1 p.m. and travel through Marysville and Yuba City and on to Colusa County. The casket will be escorted by Yuba City police and Yuba-Sutter California Highway Patrol officers to the outskirts of Yuba City, where it will be handed off to Williams CHP officers and the Williams Fire Department and Police Department.

The procession will travel down Husted Road to E Street, through Williams and past his former school and home before connecting back to Highway 20 to return to Colusa.

A public service will be held for Lopez at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Bernadette's Hall at the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish School.

Since his death, Williams, Colusa County and the state have recognized Lopez for his bravery and service to his country, and have rallied to support his grieving family and friends.

The flag over the state Capitol in Sacramento flew at half-staff Wednesday to honor Lopez, who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom when he was killed in combat operations.

The lowering of the flag was ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown, who sent a letter of condolence to Lopez's family.

The state Senate recognized Lopez's service and that of his family, and was adjourned in his memory on Wednesday.

"His family has a long rich history in service to our nation," said Sen. Doug LaMalfa, on the senate floor.

LaMalfa said Lopez was yet another victim of a roadside bomb.

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen adjourned Thursday's Assembly session in Lopez's memory, and called Lopez a "warrior and pillar of the community."

The Williams City Council honored Lopez with a moment of silence during its regular meeting on Wednesday, and praised the community for its continued support of the grieving family.

"I am a fourth-generation resident of Williams, and I have never been so proud of this community," said Williams Councilwoman Pat Ash.

Since his death on Aug. 11, family, friends and community members have remembered Lopez at a makeshift memorial in the new Town Square, where more than 300 people attended a candlelight vigil.

Williams officials hope to eventually honor Lopez, Williams military veterans and its five other soldiers killed in action by constructing a permanent Veterans Memorial Park on C Street.

Thursday's final summer concert in Venice Park was publicly dedicated to Lopez.

"Rueben loved music," Ash said. "What better way to honor and remember the boy who dressed up like Elvis than with music and laughter."

Lopez enlisted in the U.S. Army on Aug. 10, 2010. After completing training at Fort Benning, Ga. he was assigned to Fort Drum, NY.

He was deployed to Afghanistan in April 2011, assigned to the 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Combat Team.

Lopez's awards and decorations include the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the NATO Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Lopez is the latest serviceman from Williams to have died in the line of duty.

Williams lost one active-duty soldier in Vietnam and four in World War II.

More than 300 men and women buried in the Williams cemetery served in the U.S. armed forces, officials said.

Lopez is the son of Reuben Lopez and Gloria Estrada of Williams.

He is survived by four sisters, Leticia, Monica, Kelly and Renee, and grandparents Margaret Del Rio of Williams and Alex and Rita Estrada of Colusa.

Kelly Lopez is an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Army Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez was killed in action on 8/11/11.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Marine Cpl. Nicholas S. Ott

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Marine Cpl. Nicholas S. Ott, 23, of Manchester, N.J.

Cpl Ott was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died Aug. 10, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.


Cpl Ott graduated from Manchester Township High School in 2005 where he lettered in football, wrestling and track.

Cpl Ott's death also comes a year after another former Manchester High School student, Army Sgt. Ron Kubik, was killed in Afghanistan.

After graduating high school, Ott enrolled at Ocean County College, but there was no doubt he wanted to join the military, friend Ashley Nowakowski said. It was what Ott wanted to do and where he wanted to be. "He was gung-ho. He was a real soldier," she said.

His battalion deployed in April and was assigned to the Garmsir District of the country. There, Marines helped maintain roads and bridges, and took part in community-building operations such as school and soccer field construction.

Every time Ott returned home to New Jersey, he would make sure to visit his high school friends. We’d all get together and have a party for him," Ashley said. "He was just such a fun-loving guy, a lovable guy. He was big teddy bear."

Cpl Ott joined the Marines in September 2007. He was assigned to his unit in 2010. He had previously been deployed, but this was his first deployment to Afghanistan.

Alexander George, principal of Manchester Township High School, said that Ott always had a smile on his face. "He was just a great kid," George said. "He was a kid who had a contagious smile."


George said that Ott was "taken from us so soon." George said that a sense of "tremendous sadness" was sensed through the office.

"Everybody's just remembering what a fun-loving, always-smiling, happy kid he was at the high school, and what a big part of the school he was while he was there," he said.

"He had so much to offer and so much to give. But certainly, there's a tremendous sense of pride in regards to his defending his country and what it stands for. He had so much to offer and was such a good kid."

"To lose another student like this. It’s very difficult," said Keith Lister, the high school’s athletic director. "He was a hard-working kid, team-oriented and willing to do whatever the coaches asked of him," he said.

Former high school football coach, Gerard O'Donnell, said, "When we teach them, we see them as high school kids and they do high school things. Now, he was an adult, a man. He was focused."

Friend and former teammate, Jeff Moore said, "There was a time when I ran into some problems, and was thinking about quitting the team," said Moore. "He talked to me about it, helped me through it, and I stayed."

Cpl Ott's awards and decorations include:

Purple Heart
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals (2)
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Combat Action Ribbon
Good Conduct Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one Bronze Campaign Star
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbons with Two Bronze Stars
NATO Medal-ISAF
Rifle Marksman Badge
Pistol Marksman Badge

Cpl Ott is survived by his parents, Debra and Stephen; sister Julia; maternal grandmother Janet; paternal grandparents, Paul and Jacqueline.

Marine Cpl. Nicholas S. Ott was killed in action on 8/10/11.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Army Sgt. Alessandro L. Plutino

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Alessandro L. Plutino, 28, of Pitman, N.J.

Sgt Plutino was assigned to 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.; died Aug. 8, 2011 in Paktya province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire.


PITMAN — Looking down at a military photo of his son Sandrino on Monday, Sandro Plutino said softly, “He was so proud.”

Sgt. Alessandro 'Sandrino' Plutino, a U.S. Army Ranger from Pitman, was killed in action in Afghanistan Monday.

Alessandro “Sandrino” Plutino, 28, was in the final weeks of his sixth tour of duty as a U.S. Army Ranger when he was killed by enemy gunfire Monday in Afghanistan while leading his fellow Rangers in an assault.

Plutino — a Rifle Team Leader in B Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment according to the U.S. Army Ranger Association — was serving his third tour in Afghanistan after serving three tours in Iraq.

“He should have been out in March, but he left on this special mission March 7 — he said he had to,” said Plutino’s mother, Dianne Hammond. “He always wanted to be in the Army. On his good-bye cake there was a picture of him at four years old with his wooden gun and camouflage. He wanted to leave high school when he turned 18 to serve, but I wouldn’t let him. Then when 9/11 happened, he tried to leave college, but his uncle talked him out of it. After college, he signed up.”

Hammond said she and her family spoke to Plutino Sunday night when he called to reassure them he hadn’t been involved in Saturday’s helicopter crash in which 30 U.S. troops were killed. Twenty-two of them were Navy SEALs that were rushing to help Army Rangers who had come under fire.

Plutino’s fiancee, Natalie Layton of Glassboro, said he seemed excited to come home.

“We’ve been together 10 years. We were supposed to get married next summer so we were planning everything out,” said Layton. “He was supposed to be done in the spring, but he went on this mission. His country meant more to him than anything else. If it was up to him he would’ve quit high school to go. He always said ‘This is my calling.’”

Layton said Plutino was “the strongest person I ever met.”

“We balanced each other out,” said Layton. “I’m so vulnerable, and he was always the strong one. When he loved something, he really put his mind to it. He loved his country, he loved his family, he loved all of us.”

“And we couldn’t have been prouder of him,” added Plutino’s older sister Brenna.

Hammond said, in addition to his commitment and patriotism, her son could be remembered as the kid who always had a smile on his face.

“Even when he was very young, he could just walk into a room and capture it,” said Hammond. “He was special. And I know every mother’s son is special, but he really was. People have been coming here to the house all day, his friends, his buddies from the motorcycle group he rode with. He loved to ride, he played football and wrestled, he was an all-American boy.”

Army Sgt. Alessandro L. Plutino was killed in action on 8/08/11.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Marine Sgt. Joshua J. Robinson

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Marine Sgt. Joshua J. Robinson

29, of Omaha, Neb.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Aug. 7, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations. Also killed was Marine Sgt. Adan Gonzales Jr.

Pentagon: Nebraska Marine killed in Afghanistan
By Josh Funk
The Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. — A 29-year-old Nebraska man who decided to join the Marines because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Officials said Tuesday that Sgt. Joshua Robinson died after being shot twice in the left side of his chest while on patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. His mother said family members would remember him as a talented athlete and skilled hunter.

Robinson was on his first deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed, but had been deployed to Iraq twice before. Robinson was an infantryman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, which is based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Robinson's parents and wife declined interviews Tuesday, but his mother, Misi Robinson, provided a four-page handwritten biography of her son. Misi Robinson said her son decided to enlist in the Marines in 2003 because of the threat the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks represented to the country. "Our freedom was put on the line. It takes young men like Josh to enlist and protect the USA," she wrote.

Robinson earned a Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon during his military career.

Robinson's wife, Rhonda, and two sons, ages 4 and 5, moved back to Bennington, Neb., earlier this year to be close to family while he was deployed.

Robinson was proud of his Nebraska roots, and his mother said he put skills he acquired during childhood hunting trips to use in the Marines as a sniper and tracking expert. He had taught courses in tracking, mountain survival and sniper skills to his fellow Marines.

When Robinson was younger, his family lived on a 100-acre farm near Oak, Neb., in the south-central part of the state. It was there that Robinson learned to shoot — first BB guns, and later, rifles — while hunting, fishing and taking care of animals for 4-H competitions.

Robinson's mother said he loved being out in nature and became good at tracking animals.

The family moved to Colorado for a several years, where Robinson learned to water-ski and scuba dive and competed on his high school wrestling team.

The family moved back to Nebraska, and Robinson attended Metropolitan Community College for two years before enlisting. He married his wife the next year in November 2004.

Marine Sgt. Joshua J. Robinson was killed in action on 8/7/11.

Marine Sgt. Adan Gonzales Jr

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Adan Gonzales Jr., 28, of Bakersfield, Calif.

Sgt Gonzales was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Aug. 7, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations. Also killed was Marine Sgt. Joshua J. Robinson.


Sgt. Gonzales remembered as 'a good man'
BY STEVEN MAYER, Californian staff writer

Robert Otto plays the taps at the funeral for Marine Sgt. Adan Gonzalez at Hillcrest Memorial Park on Wednesday afternoon. It was perfectly fitting that the funeral of U.S. Marine Sgt. Adan Gonzales Jr. was held at the east Bakersfield church where he grew from a boy into a man.

And it was doubly so when Father John Warburton, who served at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church back when Gonzales was in youth ministry, was able to return Wednesday to officiate at his funeral.

Warburton spoke to the hundreds of mourners who crowded into the church -- many wearing military uniforms -- of the value of the shared experience.

"Over time our grief will fade," he promised. "But the faith, hope and love that we share will last forever."

The Mass, punctuated by sometimes mournful, sometimes joyful Mariachi-style hymns, was a chance for Gonzales' family, friends and his entire hometown to say goodbye to the 28-year-old father of three. The veteran of one combat tour in Iraq was shot and killed in a firefight Aug. 7, several months into his second deployment, this one to Afghanistan.

Those who gathered in the old church sat in hushed silence as Marine Staff Sgt. Pablo Avalos read aloud from a letter Gonzales wrote to his grandmother in April.

In it, he spoke of his faith and his desire to share God's promise with his comrades. And he welcomed each day as a gift.

"I marvel at his creation every day," Avalos recited from the letter. "With every sunrise and every sunset ... I look out into the distance and see the serene landscape of mountains and the beautiful Helmand River that flows through the land, keeping it green and fertile.

"I thank him every day I am here, and I thank you for your prayer," Gonzales wrote. "But Grandma, it's not just me that could use your prayer... Every man here can use your prayer. From the highest ranking to the lowest. Especially the lowest, because they are the youngest and newest Marines that take the most risks."

Cpl. Madison Jefferson, who was with Gonzales' unit in Afghanistan before being wounded in June, spoke about his friend's quiet strength.

"He never said much," Jefferson recalled. "He let his actions speak on his behalf."

Now his brother Marine is "in that ultimate guardian angel position," Jefferson said, to watch over those who need it most.

"It was an honor to serve with you, Sgt. Gonzales," he said. "You will always be our brother."

Following the funeral Mass, a graveside service was held on the Hill of Valor at Hillcrest Memorial Park east of Bakersfield.

Even as the punishing August sun rose high overhead, a cooling breeze occasionally washed over the mourners, causing a small set of wind chimes in a nearby tree to ring softly.

Babies tested their new voices in the near silence. And prayers were recited.

"May we who mourn be united some day with our brother," Father Warburton prayed.

Soon a seven-man Marine rifle team aimed its guns skyward and fired three volleys in honor of its fallen brother. Military veteran and longtime VFW volunteer Bob Otto played a mournful rendition of taps on his cornet. And in a touching display of tenderness and respect, a team of Marines presented several American flags to various members of the Gonzales family.

Tears flowed. Hugs were shared. Final respects were offered.

Anjelina Bravo, who attended the service with her daughter, Cristina Subia, said she has shared a friendship with Gonzales' mom, Yolanda Gonzales, for nearly 30 years.

"He came to see me two days before he deployed," she said of Sgt. Gonzales. "He brought his kids."

Wednesday was a difficult day in a difficult week, she acknowledged. The loss of such a fine young man is almost too much to bear.

"But I don't have to wonder where he's at," Bravo said. "I know where he's at. That comforts me. That comforts his family.

"He was a good kid," she said. "He was a good man."

As the service wound down, close to a dozen white birds were released from their cages. Their wings beat against the warm air, lifting them through the trees. They climbed higher, moving westward toward the horizon like a swirling puff of smoke.

Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian


And then they were gone.

Marine Sgt. Adan Gonzales Jr was killed in action on 8/07/11.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla.; assigned to an East Coast-based SEAL team; died Aug. 6, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter in which he was riding was shot down.

Fallen SEAL remembered as 'tough warrior, gentle man'
The Associated Press

Elite Navy SEALs member Aaron Carson Vaughn had asked the military to return him to combat and shipped out just six weeks before he was killed.

Vaughn’s grandmother, Geneva Vaughn of Union City, Tenn., told The Associated Press that her grandson, a Tennessee native, had wanted to be a SEAL since he was a child and returned to combat just two weeks after his 2-month-old daughter was born this summer.

“Aaron was a Christian and he’s with Jesus today,” Vaughn said. “He told us when we saw him last November that he wasn’t afraid because he knew where he was going, and he said, ‘Granny, don’t worry about me.’

“He was a tough warrior, but he was a gentle man.”

Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla., leaves behind his wife, Kimberly, and two children, 2-year-old son Reagan and 2-month-old daughter Chamberlyn. Vaughn had been based in Virginia Beach, Va., and had also seen postings in Coronado, Calif., Guam, Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan, his grandmother said.

Aaron Vaughn enlisted in November 2002, according to the Navy, and he joined the SEALs straight out of boot camp. He completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School, Coronado, Calif., in April 2004. Vaughn served in a West Coast based special warfare unit from November 2004 to June 2008, then moved to the East Coast-based SEAL team in June 2008.

Vaughn was already a decorated fighter when he was asked by the Navy to return stateside to become an instructor, his grandmother said. But he chafed under the assignment and applied to SEAL Team Six after two years, earning his way onto the squad in 2010. Geneva Vaughn said he was one of the few SEALs who performed well enough to get his name on the “First Time Every Time Wall,” a benchmark of honor for the few SEALs who pass every test on their first try.

“The last time he was in Afghanistan he received a medal because his team was under fire and couldn’t see the enemy. He left the ones he was with and drew fire and killed the enemy to save the men he was with. We couldn’t tell any of this stuff when he was alive because it was a secret,” Geneva Vaughn said.

Vaughn met his wife, Kimberly, while she was on a USO tour entertaining troops in Guam as a Washington Redskins cheerleader. They married about four years ago.

“Aaron’s hard to miss — 6-feet-4, beautiful guy,” Kimberly told WTTG-TV in Washington from her parents’ home in Burke, Va., where she was when she learned her husband was one of the troops killed in the helicopter crash.

Kimberly said she talked with her husband about the dangers inherent in his job, but she usually tried to put it out of her mind.

“You could sit there and worry yourself to pieces, thinking that they’re constantly going to get hurt,” Kimberly said. Aaron believed that “his time, if it were to come early, that it was meant to be. Aaron wouldn’t have wanted to leave this earth any other way than the way he did, and that’s laying down his life serving his country.”

Aaron Vaughn grew up in rural Obion County outside of Union City in northwestern Tennessee and briefly moved with his parents to Stuart as a teen. He returned to Obion County to finish his senior year of high school, then attended two years of college before joining the Navy.

“He was doing what he loved to do and he was a true warrior,” Geneva Vaughn said.

Vaughn’s decorations include the Purple Heart; Defense Meritorious Service Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal with ‘V’ for valor; two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one with ‘V’ for valor; Presidential Unit Citation; two Navy Good Conduct Medals; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons; Navy Expert Rifleman Medal and Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal.

Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn was killed in action on 8/6/11.