Thursday, September 29, 2011

Army Spc. Adrian G. Mills

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Adrian G. Mills, 23, of Newnan, Ga.

Spc Mills was assigned to 272nd Military Police Company, 519th Military Police Battalion, Fort Polk, La., died Sept. 29 in Kirkuk, Iraq, of wounds caused by indirect fire.


Spc Mills is the first casualty killed in Iraq since July. In a teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon, U.S. Maj. Gen. David Perkins said the solider was about to go on a military operation when he was fatally struck.

Spc Mills graduated from Northgate High School in 2007 where he served in the Air Force Junior ROTC. “That kid wanted to go in and help his country since he was in 7th grade,” Mr. Blehschmidt said.

Air Force Master Sgt. Ron Wolfe, who oversees Northgate’s Junior ROTC program, said the young man’s leadership abilities were readily apparent. “He was a quiet leader. He wasn’t demanding. He led by a positive example,” Master Sgt. Wolfe said.

Spc Mills was the first to be involved in the school’s color guard and its Saber Team special events squad. “We didn’t even have uniforms yet, nothing more than an Air Force T-shirt, and he was doing our first color guards at football games,” Master Sgt. Wolfe said.

Cassie McDonald, who grew up a few doors down from her friend and served with him in Northgate’s ROTC program, said, “When it came to organizing different events to help the community, A.J. was one of the first ones to jump in, which illustrated how big his heart was.”

"A.J.," McDonald said, "wanted everybody to remember what their freedom is worth and that life is short, so live it with no regrets.”

After Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Spc. Mills helped lead a school-wide drive to gather items desperately needed by the survivors – more than 15,000 pounds of “clothing, toys, diapers, wipes, water, anything and everything,” Master Sgt. Wolfe said.

In 2009, Spc Mills, stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, was one of more than 1,000 service members from posts and bases throughout Europe and the US who took part in the 65th anniversary ceremonies in Normandy, recalling the bravery of US troop at St. Mere Eglise, the Omaha and Utah Beaches and small viallages in the are in 1944.

In a 2009 interview, Mills spoke of "the sacrifice and courage of the soldiers who fought and died" in France. "I was honored to be a part of this," he said.

Spc Mills was laid to rest on October 11 at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, GA. next to his friend, Army Pvt Colman Joseph Meadows III, who died in Afghanistan in December 2008.

Spc Mills had left this message in a memorial for his friend Pvt. Meadows

June 29, 2011
Spc Mills
Joe was like a brother to me, we grew up together and was always the life of the group. He is missed greatly and I know that he is watching over all of us. I miss you bro, one day we will cause havoc together again. Until then, I will keep fighting the good fight.


I imagine today they are wreaking that havoc!

Spc Mills is survived by his mother and stepfather, Marie and Jeffrey; wife, Sandra, who he met while stationed in Germany; sister, Maegon; grandparents, Gladiola Dowell and C.A. and Wanda Mills.

By David Ibata
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Every evening for the past week, family members and friends have come to light candles at a memorial on the front lawn of the house where Adrian Mills grew up in Newnan.

“I just can’t tell you how kind the people are from Coweta County. They are still lighting candles … [and] a vigil will be every evening at dusk until Sunday,” said Jeff Blehschmidt, stepfather of Adrian Mills. “That candlelight vigil they’re doing here is being done around the globe every night in his memory.”

Army Spc. Adrian Glyn "A.J." Mills, 23, died Sept. 29 in Kirkuk, Iraq, from wounds sustained when his unit came under insurgent mortar fire, the Army said. Spc. Mills was assigned to the 272nd Military Police Company, 519th Military Police Battalion, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at Fort Polk.


The soldier’s body has been flown home, and visitation is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday in McKoon Funeral Home, Newnan. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the chapel of the funeral home. McKoon is handling arrangements.

Mr. Blehschmidt set up the memorial to his son, a series of full-size American flags and dozens of smaller ones. Visitors have added candles, flowers and other items to the display.

As a teen, Spc. Mills served in the Civil Air Patrol and Northgate High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC. “That kid wanted to go in and help his country since he was in 7th grade,” Mr. Blehschmidt said.

But instead of joining the Air Force after graduating from Northgate in 2007, Spc. Mills joined the Army.

“He wanted more action than I think the Air Force would give him – and the Air Force couldn’t give him a guaranteed job as a military policeman, and that’s what he wanted to do,” Mr. Blehschmidt said.

Air Force Master Sgt. Ron Wolfe, who oversees Northgate’s Junior ROTC program, said the young man’s leadership abilities were readily apparent. “He was a quiet leader. He wasn’t demanding. He led by a positive example,” Master Sgt. Wolfe said.

A student when Northgate’s ROTC was being started, Spc. Mills was the first to be involved in the school’s color guard and its Saber Team special events squad. “We didn’t even have uniforms yet – nothing more than an Air Force T-shirt – and he was doing our first color guards at football games,” Master Sgt. Wolfe said.

Cassie McDonald, who grew up a few doors down from her friend and served with him in Northgate’s ROTC program, said, “When it came to organizing different events to help the community, A.J. was one of the first ones to jump in, which illustrated how big his heart was.”

For example, after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Spc. Mills helped lead a school-wide drive to gather items desperately needed by the survivors – more than 15,000 pounds of “clothing, toys, diapers, wipes, water, anything and everything,” Master Sgt. Wolfe said.

Spc. Mills also is survived by his mother, Marie Elaine Blehschmidt, his wife, Sandra, who he met while stationed in Germany, and his sister, Maegon Mills of Houston. The military has flown Sandra’s parents, Franz and Doris Abel, to the United States from Heidelberg to attend the funeral.

The young soldier will be buried at Georgia National Cemetery, Canton, next to his friend Army Pvt. 2nd Colman Joseph Meadows III, who died in Afghanistan in December 2008.

"A.J.," Ms. McDonald said, "wanted everybody to remember what their freedom is worth and that life is short, so live it with no regrets.”

Army Spc. Adrian G. Mills was killed in action on 9/29/11.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marine Lance Cpl. John R. Wimpey Cagle

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. John R. Wimpey Cagle, 19, of Tucker, Ga.

LCpl Cagle was assigned to 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations.


Lcpl Cagle graduated from Chamblee Charter High School in 2010 where he participated in JROTC. He joined the Marines June 2010 just after he graduated. He was promoted to lance corporal in March.

As a child, Cagle was full of energy and extremely loyal, his former youth pastor said Friday. That fierce loyalty to family and friends made him an ideal candidate for the Marines.

Adam Barker, who served as Cagle's youth pastor for several years at Pleasantdale Church of God, said as a young boy Cagle had a unique personality that set him apart.

"He was a very excited child," Barker said. "He had a lot of energy and was extremely loyal to other kids."

"No matter what you did, it never got him down," Barker said. "He always was in a good mood. Always encouraging.”

Sometimes, Cagle's energy was hard to contain, Barker said, remembering a time when he told a rambunctious Cagle to sit in the hall so he wouldn't cause a disruption to the youth group.

Cagle followed the order, but stood outside the door and peered through the window. When the youth group sang a song, complete with hand motions, Cagle followed along. Through the glass, Barker watched Cagle singing and moving his arms, not letting his punishment stop him.

Longtime neighbor, Gilbert Archuleta, "I didn't expect it to hit me so hard, I was in tears myself," Archuleta said. "I couldn't even begin to imagine the loss."

Lcpl Cagle's awards and decorations include:
National Defense Service Medal
Afganistan Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

Marine Lance Cpl. John R. Wimpey Cagle was killed in action on 9/28/11.

Marine Capt. Ryan K. Iannelli

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Capt. Ryan K. Iannelli, 27, of Clarksboro, N.J.

Capt. Iannelli was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Air Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.; died Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.


Capt Iannelli, an AH-1W Super Cobra pilot, graduated from Kingsway Regional High School in 2002, where he was in the National Honor Society and was caption of the baseball team and played the positions of centerfield and second base. He graduated from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., where he also played ball. He earned a degree in public relations and advertising. He also received an MBA from Felician College in Lodi.

A lifelong Philadelphia Phillies fan, Iannelli coached an American Legion baseball team in Williamstown as recently as 2007, but by 2009 had joined the Marine Corps.

Coach Jim Ambrosius said Iannelli served as team captain for two years. “I never saw any reluctance or fear in him,” the coach said. “He was just a person of tremendous character.

“The most touching thing about him was that when he put his mind to something, it was total commitment,” Ambrosius continued. “Ryan was the ultimate achiever.”

“He loved baseball, but he always said if things didn’t work out on the baseball field, he’d follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and join the military. He knew the risks, but he had such a love of his family and a love of his country. He had a very deep belief in God. Ryan and his whole family are very spiritual, " Ambrosius said.

“Anyone who came across Ryan knew what a special kid he was,” he said. “He was a special kid who turned into a special man.

“When you enter the field of teaching and coaching,” Ambrosius said, “you think of what you can impart on the kids you work with, but you get to a point at which you’re learning from one of them.”

Oral Roberts University baseball coach Rob Walton, a fellow Jersey native, said, “We both missed the food. We were always looking for a place to get a good (pizza) pie,” Walton said. The two eventually did find a place to get some good New York style pizza, and the would make weekly trips to get a fix.

When Walton got sick and had to be taken from baseball practice to the hospital where he eventually had his gallbladder removed, Iannelli decided to do something special for his coach.

“After a few hours he swings by and he has a slice of pizza from the pizza shop,” Walton said. “In a nutshell that’s the kind of guy he was and the relationship we had. I’ll never forget him walking into the hospital with that slice of pizza, it was hilarious.”

Walton plans on memorializing his former player by dedicating the Oral Roberts’ baseball team’s season to him and his family — and the team will wear his number on their jerseys — because although Iannelli didn’t get a lot of playing time at the school, he still had a major impact on his team.

“The guys gravitated to him a bit,” Walton said. “Even tough he wasn’t a major role player on the team, he was an emotional role player for the guys on the team.”
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Mary Foster, his third grade teacher, remembers the young boy that she taught and how he was always very focused.

“I just remember this little boy with dark, dark hair and a very determined look on his face, always doing his work, hand raised, asking questions if he wasn’t sure, but otherwise very quiet,” she said. “I am just sad beyond words.”

Another teacher at the school, Cindy Morris, said, “I don’t think anybody could have ever said a mean thing about him,” she said. “He was the kind of student you want your kid to be.”

“Whether you knew him for five minutes or five years, he impacted you in a positive way,” said Capt. Scott Neidecker, a Super Cobra pilot with the squadron. “He was the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone.”

Neidecker said he had known Iannelli since they met at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., for flight school.

“We worked in [operations], writing the schedule together,” Neidecker said. “After I checked in with the squadron, he came out here, too, and we still wrote the schedule together. We were really good friends. He was my best friend here.”

Days before Iannelli’s death, Col. Ben Hancock, the assistant wing commander for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), traveled to Camp Dwyer to fly with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. There he met the young captain. Hancock flew a mission that Iannelli had been slated to go on.

“Here comes this old colonel, taking his flight time,” Hancock said. “A lot of guys would have been upset, but he was very gracious, very sharp, very motivated and very helpful.”

Hancock said Iannelli lent him his helmet, his flight vest, his supply of cold water and even his rifle.

“We all know that this is a part of our profession, we all understand there’s an element of potential risk and sacrifice,” said Hancock. “We’re all hopeful that we will grow old and be alive and well, but we all know there are a lot of very great young Marines and exceptional people who die in the line of duty.”

Capt Iannelli was laid to rest at Gloucester County Veterans memorial Cemetery in Williamstown, New Jersey.

Capt Iannelli is survived by his parents, Donna and Kenneth; sister, Amanda.

Marine Capt. Ryan K. Iannelli was killed in action on 9/28/11.

Army 1st Sgt. Billy J. Siercks

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Sgt. Billy J. Siercks, 32, of Velda Village, Mo.

Sgt Siercks was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., died Sept. 28, 2011 in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered Sept. 27 in Logar, Afghanistan when insurgents attacked his unit using indirect fire.


Sgt Siercks suffered severe injuries from shrapnel to the back of the neck, head and spine. Tests confirmed that he was no longer with us on Wednesday, September 28th. All five soldiers stayed at his side every chance they got until his family arrived in Germany on Thursday. He was taken off life support on Friday.

The DOD gave his hometown in St. Louis County, but his mother said he was born and raised in Lincoln, MO.

Sgt Siercks graduated from Lincoln High School in 1997. He enlisted in the Army his senior year in May, just before he graduated.

He's been deployed to Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Afghanistan again in October 2010. He was due to come home in a few weeks.

"He loved the camaraderie and the closeness of the guys. They loved him and he love them to death," Toni Siercks said. "He believed in what he was doing."

Parents were told that when the missiles were coming in, Siercks was trying to round up the other soldiers and herd them into a bunker.

Mother Toni, said some of his friends in the military grew up in rough environments and didn't come from strong families like her son did, his mother said. "He wanted to be their protector and their leader."

Ultimately, his plans were to return to Lincoln, Mo., open a small business and build a home on the family farm, his mother said.

Sgt Siercks' awards and decorations include:
Bronze Star (2)
Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal (2)
Army Achievement Medal (3)
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Army Good Conduct Medal (4)
Kosovo Campaign Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal (2)
Iraqi Campaign Medal
Global War on Terriorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terriorism Service Medal
Non Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons (2)
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbons (2)
NATO Medals (3)
Drill Sergeant Identifiction Badge
Ranger Tab
Combat Infantryman Badge
Expert Infantryman Badge
Pathfinder Badge
Parachutist Badge
Senior Parachutist Badge

October 15, 2011
You will be missed my friend. You were a great friend and mentor. I am proud to have known you and learned from you. Your a true hero. My sympathies go out to the Siercks family, I am very sorry for your loss. Billy was a great American and his passing is truly a loss for us all.~ John Hawes, New York

Billy Siercks, my brother you will truly be missed. I am honored to have served with you on three different deployments. Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. You are a true leader and a awesome friend.~Adones Flores


Sgt Siercks will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on November 10.

Sgt Siercks is survived by his parents, Toni and Joe; wife, Georganne and their sons ages 3 and 7.

Army 1st Sgt. Billy J. Siercks was killed in action on 9/28/11.

Army Spc. James A. Butz

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. James A. Butz, 21, of Porter, Ind.

Spc Butz was assigned to 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C., died Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of injuries caused by an improvised explosive device.


Spc Butz, a combat medic, was killed by an improvised explosive device when running to assist two wounded servicemen, who also died in the attack.

Spc Butz graduated from Cherstefield High School in 2009 where he played football and wrestled. He was certified national firefighter and was a Porter Fire Dept. cadet. He joined the Army in 2009. He deployed to Afghanistan in June. This was his first deployment.

Adjutant Gen. Marty Umbarger called Butz a true American hero and told his parents, John and Mary Jane, and brothers John and Will, "You should be very proud of your son and brother."

"Medics are an interesting breed," Chaplain David Meyer, of the 3rd Brigade combat team of the 82nd Airborne, said during a graveside service at Chesterton Cemetery.

"(Medics) are guys who are designed, trained, wired to help others," Meyer said. "They don't focus on their own safety. There is no higher commendation for a medic than he gave his life helping others."

Chris Richardson, freshman football coach for Chesterton said, "Jim was an energetic young man who worked really hard, was always punctual and made everyone around him a better person because of his work ethic."

"Jim is a man who raced to save two others," said Rev. Jane Aicher during the sermon. "Jim ran the race of a hero. Jim's race has been run, and Jesus met him at the finish line."

"Jim knew his reason for being, and he acted on it," Aicher said.

In their last conversation two weeks prior to his son being killed, Jim told his father, "Dad, I really, really love what I'm doing."

"He was a great kid," his father said. "He had a wonderful personality. He was strong. He was bright. He had a gift of gab. He was a born leader."

"I think we knew the possibility existed. We knew for the past two years he could be deployed," he said. "It's a tragedy, but he died doing what he liked. He'll always be my hero."

Members of Chesterton High's football team wore their jerseys and lined up along the procession route with their coaches to support the former Trojan player when he was brought home for burial.

Spc Butz's awards and decorations include:
Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Action Badge

Spc Butz was laid to rest on October 11 at Chesterton Cemetery.

He is survived by his parents, Mary Jane and John; brothers, William and John; grandparents, John Butz and James and Elizabeth Frommer.

Army Spc. James A. Butz was killed in action on 9/28/11.

Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz, 27, of Albuquerque, N.M.

SSgt Diaz was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., died Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan while conducting combat operations.


SSgt Diaz graduated from La Cueva High school where he was in ROTC.

SSgt Diaz joined the Marines eight years ago. His family has a long history of military service. Diaz’s father and grandfather are both Marine veterans. His second brother is also currently serving.

Sgt. Diaz deployed to Afghanistan in May. He was one of the most experienced dog handlers in the Marine Corps.

Friends and family said Sgt. Diaz was always upbeat, and always up for adventures, ready to see the positive side of things.

Diaz's younger brother, Jeromie, said his family was touched by the community's support.

"It shows he is loved and how strong that service bond is with military members," Jeromie Diaz said. "It touches your heart to see this.

"I expected people to be here, but to see all the extra people show up and make signs saying they love my brother, that was overwhelming."

"He was an amazing person, just an all-around great guy. He could get along with anybody. He walked in the door and he would make you smile."

"He was the top dog. Once he got out of Afghanistan, he was going to go to San Diego to be a drill instructor for K-9 handlers."

Jaime Rosales, a friend of the family, said Diaz's dog, Dino, survived the explosion that killed both Marines.

"Mr. (Salvador) Diaz wants to adopt the dog," Rosales said. "That dog was with Christopher when he died."

Sgt Diaz's awards and decorations include:
Combat Action Ribbon
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon
Iraq Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
Certificate of Commendation (Individual Award)
Letter of Appreciation

Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz, assigned to a battalion from Twentynine Palms, was one of the most experienced dog-handlers in the Marine Corps.

Marine dogs do a variety of high-risk combat chores: sniffing out weapons and drugs and helping in the take-down of suspects. The bond between dog and handler is exceptional, each trusting his life to the other.

When the 27-year-old Diaz, a third-generation Marine, deployed to Afghanistan, he was selected to support reconnaissance and special forces units on raids to kill or capture Taliban leaders in their Helmand province stronghold.

He was killed last week on one such raid -- mortally wounded while rushing to help a wounded Marine.

Over the weekend, the many Marines who respected Diaz gathered at Camp Leatherneck, the Marines' headquarters in Helmand province, to honor his memory and mourn his loss.


And in the front row, in a place of honor, was Dino, Diaz's working dog, maintaining a disciplined posture but seemingly unable to look at the large picture of Diaz at the front of the makeshift chapel.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Sgt Diaz was laid to rest at Fort Bliss National Cemetery .

He is survived by his mother, Sandra; father, Salvado; children Jeremy and Mia; brothers, Raynaldo and Jeromie; and fiancee, Tonya.

Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz was killed in action on 9/28/11.

Marine Staff Sgt. Nicholas A. Sprovtsoff

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Staff Sgt. Nicholas A. Sprovtsoff, 28, of Davison, Mich.

SSgt Sprovtsoff was assigned to 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Pendleton, Calif., died Sept. 28, 211 in Helmand province, Afghanistan while conducting combat operations.


SSgt Sprovtsoff graduated from Davison High School in 2001 and joined the Marines. He attended the Amphibious Assault Vehicle Crewman School at Camp Pendleton in 2002 and served his first six years as an AAV crew man. In November 2008, he joined MARSOC as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician.

Former high school tennis coach, Walt White, said Nicholas always talked about being a Marine. “It doesn’t surprise me that he died in honor because he was such a wonderful human being. He was a great kid.”

Chidhood friend, Bill Tenny, “Nick never cared much for academics, but he was a hard worker,” said Tenny. “He had his own snow removal business when he was still in high school and also spent some time working for a roofing company.

Tenny said Nick decided to become a Marine in high school. “Nick entertained the idea of becoming a Marine and looking back, it fit him perfectly. Even at a young age he exemplified many of the qualities of a Marine”.

SSgt Sprovtsoff's awards and decorations include:
Bronze Star with combat V
Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal
Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat V
Army Achievement Medals (2)
Combat Action Ribbons (2)
Good Conduct Medals (2)

SSgt Sprovtsoff was laid to rest on October 6 in Arlington National Cemetery.

He is survived by his mother and stepfather, Sandra and Mark; father, Jack; wife, Tasha, their daughter, Lanie and another child due in November; and his sister, Jessica.

Marine was dedicated to serving the military
The Associated Press

DAVISON, Mich. — A Marine from Michigan who was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan had a dedication to the military that went back to when he was a high school student, a former coach said.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, of Davison died Sept. 28 in Helmand province along with Sgt. Christopher Diaz, 27, of Albuquerque, N.M., the Defense Department said. He was assigned to the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Sprovtsoff graduated in 2001 from Davison High School, about 50 miles north of Detroit. His former high school tennis coach at the school, Walt White told, The Flint Journal that Sprovtsoff always talked about wanting to be a Marine.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he died in honor because he was such a wonderful human being,” White said. “He was a great kid.”

Sprovtsoff, a 10-year veteran of the Marines, is survived by his wife, Tasha, and a daughter, Lanie, who live near where he was stationed, the military said.

Sprovtsoff, who most recently served as an explosive ordnance disposal technician, completed his Marine basic training following his graduation from high school.

His mother, Sandee, told the newspaper in 2003 that she was impressed with her son’s commitment.

“That’s a lot for a 19-year-old,” she said at the time. “He thought he was doing the right thing and he’s really committed to his nation and the people who have trained him — we’re behind him 100 percent.”

Sprovtsoff had been deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Marine Staff Sgt. Nicholas A. Sprovtsoff was killed in action on 9/28/11.

Army Pfc. David A. Drake

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. David A. Drake, 21, of Lumberton, Texas

Pfc. Drake was assigned to 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; died Sept. 28, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.


Pfc Drake graduated Lumberton High School in 2008. After graduation, he attended Lamar Institute of Technology, receiving his certificate for Fire Protection Technology.

He loved football and was a volunteer firefighter before joining the Army in January 2011. He graduated Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training as part of Company C, 31st Engineer Battalion and graduated in May before moving to the 5th Engineer Battalion to serve as a combat engineer in the 515th Sapper Company in June. He deployed to Afghanistan in July.

Pfc. Drake had only been in the Army for eight months. He was killed nine days before his 22nd birthday.

Brother, William, who was also serving in the Army , had been home on leave when he heard the devastating news, an IED over 200 lbs. had killed his brother and two others.

"Got a call saying there was two people in military uniforms. I rushed to the house. I kinda knew. It really didn't sink in till they actually told me the new," he said.

"I believe he was doing what he wanted to do. For him it was pride serving our country. Serving the people. Keeping our freedom," said William.

Mother, Tommye Clark-Rivers, "He was fun. He was my serious child but he was fun-loving. He was a good boy. Just somebody you'd be proud of. Since he was in grade school or junior high, he wanted to be in the military and then be a cop."

"Means a lot for us to be out here," said 1st Lt. Aaron Peterson. "Obviously want to honor one of our fallen brothers."

"It's...hard to see the family and how they're hurting. But he was proud to serve his country and we are proud to serve our country," said Peterson.

"I really felt like I needed to come and respect him and show him how much I loved him," said longtime friend Courtney Northcutt. She graduated with Drake from Lumberton High School in 2008. She says he'd be thankful for all the community support.

"He would be overjoyed. He was a very loving person and everyone loved him that knew him. He was a really great person."

"It is probably the most support I've seen anywhere I've been. So this is, it's really nice to see everyone come out to support him and his family," said Peterson.

"On that fateful day, David lost his life for us," said Maj. Gen. David Rubenstein at the funeral.

"He was a son, a brother, a brave hero who lost his life for our country and our way of life. Our fond memories and heartfelt words of sympathy never fully relieve the grief of your loss of David."

Friend, Betty Pender Oliver, said he was a, "Wonderful, wonderful person. He put anybody before himself. He believed and wanted to do something with his life. Just making this world a better place the best way he could."

Pfc Drakes's awards and decorations include:
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Action Badge

Pfc Drake was laid to rest on October 11 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park

Pfc Drake is survived by his mother and step-father, Tommye Ann and Steve; father, David; brother, PFC William Terence; sister, Tori; grandparents, Sissy and Herbert Clark.

Army Pfc. David A. Drake was killed in action on 9/28/11.

Army Spc. Steven E. Gutowski

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Steven E. Gutowski, 24, of Plymouth, Mass.

Spc Gutowski was assigned to 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; died Sept. 28, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.


Spc Gutowski graduated from Plymouth North High School in 2005, where he played several sports including football and track. He attended Cape Cod Community College before deciding to join the US Army in December 2008.

He was the middle child of three children, with two sisters. His mother, Joan, said she would always joke that he was her favorite son.

“We actually put that in his yearbook,” she said, recalling the woman’s reaction before she explained that he was her only son.


Deployed since February, Spc Gutowski had recently made a trip home on leave in August for his sister’s wedding, after another soldier switched leaves with him, mother Joan said.

“He lived for his family,” his mother said. “He couldn’t wait to come home and just sit and be with us.”

Uncle, Bob Gutowski, said his nephew had survived two other explosions near his vehicle while in Afghanistan. He described his nephew as a "guy who loved life and always stood up for what's right."

Sister, Cheryl, 27, said her brother was looking forward to coming home and was starting to seriously consider becoming a police officer. He was looking into taking the Civil Service exams upon his return to the US next spring. But if that did not work out, he wanted to return to working with youth, as he did for the recreation center in Plymouth prior to leaving for Afghanistan.

“Everybody is seriously feeling a hole in their soul with this loss, nobody can believe it,” said Cheryl.

Sister Cheryl’s mother in-law, Pamela Chamallas, said, “He was a sincere young man, full of energy. I really think that at 24, he had his idea of where he wanted to go in life. He was full of energy and ideas. It was exciting to see him mature. I think the service had really done good things for him.”

“Before he went into the Army, he was doing a lot of soul searching. The Army really seemed to help him," she said.

Spc Gutowski's awards and decorations include:
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Action Badge

Spc Gutowski is survived by parents, Joan and Edward; and sisters, Cheryl and Karen.

Army Spc. Steven E. Gutowski was killed in action on 9/28/11.

Army 1st Lt. Ivan D. Lechowich

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Ivan D. Lechowich, 27, of Valrico, Fla.

Lt. Lechowich was assigned to 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; died Sept. 28, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device.


Lt Lechowich graduated from King High School in 2002 where he played baritone saxophone in the band. He attended the University of Florida where he majored in history. He thought about becoming a lawyer.

Lt Lechowich enlisted in the Army in July of 2009. He entered officer candidate school and was commissioned at Fort Benning, Ga., in January 2010. After completing Engineer Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Leonard Wood, he was assigned to 554th Engineer Battalion Sapper Leader Course as the company executive officer. In December 2010, he was assigned to the 5th Engineer Battalion. He deployed to Afghanistan in April of 2011.

Lt Lechowich was killed one week after he witnessed his daughter's birth on Skype. If Natalie Marie had come into the world on her due date, her father would have never seen her face.

"It's a beautiful thing, it's a sad thing," said the Rev. Bill Swengros of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Valrico, where the couple was married last November.
He had been scheduled to soon christen their daughter.

"He had a great sense of humor and was very mature for his age," said Swengros. "He was smart and funny, a family man and a patriot. This is just very, very sad, an unbelievable tragedy."

"He described himself to me as being a class clown," Swengros said. "I just saw it more as an easy-going personality, not uptight. I saw him as a very gentle, very intelligent person. Somebody who really loved serving his country. He had his head on straight."

Younger sister, Erika said their father, Richard, is a retired lieutenant colonel and that the family wasn't surprised when Ivan decided to join the Army two years ago.

"He was all about it," Erika said. "He really enjoyed what he did. He was excited about the opportunity to be deployed."

Wife, Jennifer, met Ivan while working at Papa John's when he took a job there after college. She remembers a charming co-worker who finally talked her into having a drink with him. She said she loved him ever since.


"He's, like, invincible," said Jen. "You can't get Ivan down. He was what you want to be. He's just unstoppable. He could do anything he wanted to do."

After her husband was deployed, a pregnant Jen moved back to Valrico to stay with his parents. She said she and Ivan had made plans. One more baby, maybe two. See where the Army would take them. Meet new people. Live in places she had only read about. Then come home to Florida. "We loved the life," she said.

Jen said the last time she and her father-in-law got on the computer with Ivan, he didn't have much time to talk. He was packing up. He had to go out on a mission. They hung up, but she knew he would call when he got back.

Lt Lechowich's awards and decorations include:
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Action Badge
Sapper Tab (engineer equivalent to the Ranger Tab)

Lt Lechowich is survived by his parents, Richard and Gina; wife, Jennifer and their newborn daughter, Natalie Marie; and sister, Erika.

Army 1st Lt. Ivan D. Lechowich was killed in action on 9/28/11.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Army Spc. Garrett A. Fant

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Garrett A. Fant, 21, of American Canyon, Calif.

Spc. Fant was assigned to 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Sept. 26, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device.


Spc Fant graduated from South Tahoe High School in 2008. He joined the Army in March 2009 and served as an indirect fire infantryman. This was his first deployment.

He first came to live in American Canyon when he was 2 years old, said grandfather, Robert Fant. He alternated living with his father and mother.

“He was proud of his uniform. He was dedicated,” his grandfather said.

“He was a very deep thinker, very mature for his age,” said Maria Cisneros, principal of Valley Oaks High School. “He was a very serious young man, a stand-up young man. He was quite the intellectual. He stayed after school to talk to teachers. He was passionate about serving his country.”

Spc Fant had come home in June for a few days on his 21st birthday.

Mother, Julia, says her son had hoped to teach history at his high school in South Lake Tahoe after completing his service.

She said her son Fant would always try to call her whenever there was news of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. He wanted to reassure her that he would be fine and reduce her stress.

Spc Fant’s awards and decorations include:
Combat Infantryman’s Badge
NATO Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one Campaign Star
Army Service Ribbon

Spc Fant was laid to rest on October 7 at Happy Homestead Cemetery in South Lake Tahoe, CA.

Spc Fant is survived by his mother, Julia; father, John; sister, Shawna and brother, Ricky, who is stationed in San Diego.

Army Spc. Garrett A. Fant was killed in action on 9/26/11.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Army 1st Lt. Andres Zermeno

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Andres Zermeno, 26, of San Antonio

1st Lt Zermeno was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.; died Sept. 25, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds caused by a rocket-propelled grenade.


Lt Zermeno was born in Brownsville, TX and moved to San Antonio to attend university. He loved music and taught himself to play guitar.

He graduated from St. Mary's University with a degree in psychology. He was active in the ROTC and campus ministry. He met his wife Rachel while attending the university.

Lt Zermeno served in the National Guard while attending St Mary's and was commissioned into the Army upon graduation. This was his first deployment. He had been in Afghanistan for 11 months and was due home in about a month.

“His love for his wife Rachel was shown daily by the way he looked at his wedding ring, the way he talked about her and the way he talked with her on the phone,” said Army 1st Lt. Chad Presser in a message from Zermeño's unit in Afghanistan. “Not a day went by that he didn't brag or have a story about what his kids were doing back home."

Zermeño, known as “Z” and “Andy,” was remembered as an inspiration and “a gift to us” by university chaplain Charles “Kip” Stander, who co-officiated at the bilingual services with the deceased's brother Joaquin Zermeño, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in San Juan.

A message from Army 1st Lt. Peter Houhoulis in Iraq said, “You were one of the best leaders I have ever seen,” he wrote. “You earned the respect of your peers and subordinates by your willingness to take on the tough jobs and see them through.”

1st Army Lt. Stephen Moreno recalled Zermeño as a mentor and caring friend who helped him survive rigorous ROTC training.
“His sense of humor and down-to-earth mentality always kept the mood positive,” Moreno said.

Lt Zermeno's awards and decorations include:
Bronze Stars (2)
Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Action Badge

Lt Zermeno was laid to rest on October 8th at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

Lt Zermeno is survived by parents, Dolores and Juan; wife, Rachel and their children, 3-year-old Steven and 20 month-old, Madeline; sister, Isabel and brothers, Juan, Joaquin and Adrian.

Army 1st Lt. Andres Zermeno was killed in action on 9/25/11.

Army Spc. Francisco Briseno-Alvarez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Francisco Briseno-Alvarez, 27, of Oklahoma City, Okla.

Spc. Briseno-Alvarez was assigned to 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma National Guard, Stillwater, Okla. died Sept. 25, 2011 in Laghman province, Afghanistan, of injuries caused by an improvise dexplosive device.


Sgt Briseno-Alvarez graduated from U.S. Grant High School in 2003. He joined the Army National Guard on Sept. 11, 2010, and served as a truck driver.

Major General Myles Deering, from the Oklahoma Army National Guard, said, “My thoughts and prayers are with the Briseno-Alvarez family and those of our wounded heroes. Spc. Briseno-Alvarez answered the call to serve this great Nation and help defend it. His loyalty and ultimate sacrifice for the sake of our Country will never be forgotten.”

Briseno-Alvarez's cousin Juan Cerano said that "he died doing the right thing. He died serving and protecting his country."

"He was like the brother I never had," Cerano said. "I'm really going to miss him. I only have four sisters. I don't have an actual brother, so it's hard to lose somebody like that. There's always going to be part of him in our hearts," Cerano said.

Another cousin, Sarai Cerano, said she remembers him as "always smiling."

"He could lighten up a room," she said, describing him as "just the sweetest, most caring guy ever."

His death is "devastating for our family," she said.

Sarai said her cousin had worked as a delivery driver for a soda company before he was deployed to Afghanistan.

The last time Sarai saw her cousin was when he was in town for a week in the summer.

“He was a bundle of sunshine in every person's path that he crossed. He just had a fire that could ignite anyone's world,” she said.

Briseno-Alvarez is survived by his father, Javier Briseno; his mother, Lurdes Alvarez; a brother, Adrian and sister, Diana.

Army Spc. Francisco Briseno-Alvarez was killed in action on 9/25/11.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Marine Lance Cpl. Franklin N. Watson

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Franklin N. Watson, 21, of Vonore, Tenn.

LCpl Watson was assigned to 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, Knoxville, Tenn.; died Sept. 24, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.


Lance Cpl Franklin N. Watson dreamed of one day guarding the President of the United States. He believed that his excelling in the Marine Corps would assist him in achieving that goal.

Lcpl Watson graduated from Swquoyah High School in 2008 where he played football. He was employed at the Madisonville Police Department. His law enforcement career began as a part time deputy with the Monroe County Sheriff's Department. He joined the Marines in 2010.

Madison Police Chief Gregg Breeden, "Frankie was too young to die. He had a lot of life to live and a lot of good things to do, but in his time he was just inspirational as far as his attitude and outlook towards life. I think that's somethingthat will carry on."

Sheriff Bill Bivens, "We've got sadness in our heart. We will miss him. Our department will miss him. I've seen a lot of teary eyes and a lot of folks calling me over the weekend. It's just bad, and we hate to see this happen."

Family friend, Lowell Russel said a competitive drive prompted Watson to join the Marines. When Russel asked why he chose the Marine Corps, Watson answered, "I wanted to go through the hardest one I could get in."

Cousin, Miriam Watson wrote the following, which the family asked the news media to print:

It takes a real man to do what you've done. You've not only inspired your friends and family, but the world. You showed them that you're brave enough, to risk your own life, to give us freedom. You were our hero before you left, and you still will be. You mean everything in this world to us, and you'll be missed so much. That great personality of yours, that beautiful smile; everything. You were pretty much my brother! You're truly a great young man, who had a brave heart. You stand out, over so many people in this world, Frankie. You had a wonderful heart, and put it to great use! Some people come into our lives and leave footprints in our hearts and we are never ever the same again. You left footprints in my heart, that will always be there. You're in a much better place that this, and with a man who is gonna make everything better for you. I know you wouldn't wanna see me with tears streaming down my face, so I may cry, but I'm gonna keep smiling because that's what you would want, and I'm gonna do exactly what you would hope for, no matter how sad I am, or how much I cry. Although this is my "goodbye" letter, goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I'll miss you, until we meet again! So, when God is ready for me to see you again, I'll be ready. I love you more than anything in this world, Frankie, and you will be missed!

Lcpl Watson was laid to rest on September 3 at Hiwassee Church of God Cemetery in Madisonville.

He is survived by his mother and step-father, Stacy and Jack; father and step-mother, Troy N., Jr. and Katie Watson; grandparents, Troy N., Sr. and Edith Watson.

Marine Lance Cpl. Franklin N. Watson was killed in action on 9/24/11.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Army Pfc. Carlos A. Aparicio

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Carlos A. Aparicio, 19, of San Bernadino, Calif.;

Pfc Aparicio was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.; died Sept. 23, 2011 in Wardak province of injuries caused by an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Sgt. Rafael E. Bigai Baez.

SAN BERNARDINO - Army Pfc. Carlos Aparicio will keep a promise he made to his mom in the weeks leading up to his return from Afghanistan.

Giving into the gentle nudges of Connie Aparicio, the 19-year-old infantryman in his last email to her said he would wear the more formal Army service uniform in which she always wanted to see him.

"He said mom, when I come home, I'm going to be in my dress uniform," Connie Aparicio said. "Make sure you have a camera ready because that's the last time you're going to see me in that uniform."

Known for his piercing brown eyes, softened by a warm smile and the dimples his mother gave him, Carlos Aparicio will come home Wednesday. The youngest of three children, he was killed Sept. 23 in Wardak province. His body will arrive at L.A./Ontario International Airport.

"It's the first time we're going to be able to see him," Connie Aparicio said. "Really see him."

Born to Connie and Hugo Aparicio, Carlos Aparicio was the little brother of Miguel Aparicio, 28, and Maricela Aparicio, 26.

He was marked out at an early age as a high achiever who could accomplish whatever he wanted in life.

His family recalled how, at the age of two, Carlos Aparicio grabbed a pen and tried as hard as he could to help his big sister with homework.

They cherish a report card from Redlands East Valley High School that their youngest boy filled with A's.

But Carlos Aparicio was not an introverted bookworm.

Looking over photos of her son Tuesday night, Connie Aparicio said: "He was a ham. He loved the camera."

Indeed, one could see the soldier mugging for the camera in several photographs - many times posing like a statue gazing off in the distance, his jaw firm, his stout frame thick with young man's muscle.

And he was a jokester too.

Asked if he was taller than his older siblings, they both yelled "Yes!"

He often reminded them of his stature.

"He was always joshing with me, telling me, `How you doing, little brother?"' Miguel Aparicio said.

Carlos Aparicio also excelled as an athlete at Fontana High School, and at Redlands East Valley, where he graduated in 2010.

Upon hearing the news of his death, emails poured into the Aparicio family, including those from coaches at both schools who lauded him as a wrestler, and more so as a young man.

"I felt like I was punched in the chest when I heard the news of his death," wrote Elliott Anderson, a wrestling coach at Redlands East Valley.

It was in his senior year that Carlos Aparicio committed himself to a military life. He wanted combat experience, saying it would make him a better officer, and then he considered a career in law enforcement after the Army.

"He always said `This is what I want..."' Connie Aparicio said. "He knew what he wanted."

He enlisted out of high school in June last year.

Carlos Aparicio was an infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La., according to the Fort Drum Public Affairs Office in New York.

After training at Fort Benning, Ga., he went to Fort Polk in January. He deployed to Afghanistan in February.

"From the moment he went over there, all we could do was just have that faith that God would bring him back alive, and if he didn't, we had 19 beautiful years with him," Connie Aparicio said.

It was a cool and overcast Saturday morning at 6 a.m. when a knock at the door stirred Connie Aparicio from her sleep.

She walked into the living room and looked out the window.

"As soon as I saw the two uniforms...I went hysterical," she said. "All I could say was `no, no, no' because I knew."

An Army chaplain and casualty assistance officer stood on the porch.

"It took me a little while to open the door," Connie Aparicio said.

Army Pfc. Carlos A. Aparicio was killed in action on 9/23/11.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Army Sgt. Andy Morales

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Andy Morales, 32, of Longwood, Fla.

Sgt Morales was assigned to the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), Orlando, Fla. He died Sept. 22, 2011 in Baghdad, Iraq.

The body of U.S. Army Sgt. Andy C. Morales was buried today after a funeral service at River of Life Church in Oviedo.

Morales was killed in Iraq Sept. 22, the 2-month-anniversary of the birth of his daughter.

The 32-year-old soldier, who was killed in Baghdad, was assigned to the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) of Orlando and was serving in Operation New Dawn, according to the Department of Defense.

When Army officials delivered the news to his wife, Mariela Caraballo-Morales, she could hardly believe it, said sister-in-law Mercian Lesser said from her Sarasota home.

Just five months before, the best friends were married in a celebration that brought together a family that had seen its share of hardships. The young soldier spent just nine days with his newborn, Naiara Morales, before he was deployed, his wife said.

Morales was the second of five children born to a single mother from Puerto Rico who struggled to keep her family safe and secure in Brooklyn, N.Y., family members said.

The close-knit siblings — each born just a year apart — celebrated all their November birthdays together in one party more out of necessity than novelty. Their tightness kept each other out of trouble in the inner city despite the enormous obstacles they faced as a family, they said.

'We were always la familia," she said. "We had to stick together."

Sgt. Morales was the warrior of the clan, always fighting to protect his family and work toward their collective success, his brother and sisters said.

"We were always just skating by," Lesser said. "He always felt the need to fight for us."

He was also the family comic, transforming the most heartbreaking occasions into laughing marathons.

"Andy didn't believe in being angry. He hated it when people were angry with him," said older brother Robert Morales. "He loved seeing people smile, and that's probably the one thing I'm going to miss the most — his smile."

Morales recalled a time when his brother took off his shoes and walked home barefoot with a friend who had had his shoes stolen. "That's the kind of person Andy was," he said.

Younger sister Glorian Morales said her brother was not only her dance partner and a cheating board games opponent, but he also was the father figure of the dad she never had. He was everything to his little sisters, twins Mercian and Glorian, and the youngest Jeannie.

"I am angry at the world, at the military, at myself. I'm angry at the things we had to live through and the constant struggle we faced," she said. "Even though he's gone, we all have a part of him that comes out in us. Sometimes it's his funny jokes or his temper … He's a hero and an awesome brother."

Morales joined the Marines in 2002 but left as a sergeant after four years of active duty at bases in Japan and California.

The family drifted apart as they lived their lives separately in other states, but Sgt. Morales' near-fatal car accident in North Carolina in 2009 helped draw them back together, family said.

Through all of Morales' carefree adventures in life, his relationship with then-friend and now wife Mariela was constant. They kept in touch throughout the years and made their union official when he relocated to Central Florida where she lived.

After his wife became pregnant and several unsuccessful attempts to find work, he rejoined the military — this time with the Army in October 2010. They married April 25 during a small, intimate ceremony.

When his daughter was born, Andy Morales' world changed and he was determined to take care of her and his wife's 11-year-old daughter, Nyobi, said Robert Morales.

On the day he deployed, Glorian Morales said her brother promised to come back. In turn, she made a promise to take care of his family if anything happened.

She has vowed to keep her end of the bargain even if Sgt. Morales didn't, she said.

The family was told the 32-year-old soldier was on a mission when he was shot and killed, but the incident is under investigation, they said.

"Last thing he said was he couldn't wait to see his children," his wife, Mariela, said. "Let the world know he died for his children."

Army Sgt. Andy Morales was killed in action on 9/22/11.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Marine Lance Cpl. Terry C. Wright

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Terry C. Wright, 21, of Scio, Ohio

LCpl Wright was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Sept. 21, 2011 in Helmand province while supporting combat operations.

An investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense into the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Terry C. Wright, 21, of the Scio area, who died Wednesday while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Wright was the son of Dawn Seabolt of the Scio area. He graduated in 2008 from Carrollton High School and Buckeye Career Center in New Philadelphia.

“The circumstances surrounding Lance Cpl. Wright’s death are still being determined,” 2nd Lt. D. Oliver David, public affairs officer for the 2nd Marine Division, said Friday night.

“His death occurred due to wounds sustained while conducting combat operations and in the course of duty. I can’t release specific information until the investigation is complete. At this point, there’s certainly no indication of friendly fire.

“It’s always unfortunate when we lose a member of our team and our family. We’re working to ensure that we are able to provide his family and his loved ones with the best care that we can.”

Wright joined the Marine Corps in July 2008 and was promoted to lance corporal in April 2009.

He deployed to Afghanistan in December 2009 for his first tour of duty, with his second tour beginning in July 2011.

“He always wanted to be in the military,” 1st Sgt. Lowell Hilty, Army instructor of the ROTC program at Carrollton High School, told The Times-Reporter.

“He was small in stature, like me, but that didn’t deter him from wanting to serve his country and be a Marine. He was probably about 5-foot-5 and 110 pounds. Size doesn’t matter when you want to serve your country.”

“He was always happy-go-lucky — it was a rare day when he was down in the dumps about anything,” Hilty said. “He enjoyed life and wanted to excel. The Marine Corps gave him that opportunity, and he excelled more so than many Americans ever get the opportunity to do. It’s young people like him who allow us to go to bed at night and sleep knowing we’re in good hands. I would tell him ‘thank you’ for serving our country and making the ultimate sacrifice.”

Hilty said that none of the current R.O.T.C. students were in high school with him, but “we’ll offer them the opportunity to go to the funeral as a group. We would assist the family in any way they ask. The whole family was in R.O.T.C., which is kind of neat.”

Wright’s family “is very patriotic,” Hilty said, adding that an older sister served in the Army and an older brother, Adam, is currently serving in the Marine Corps.

“It makes for a somber day,” James “Bucky” Myers of Uhrichsville said after he received a phone message about Wright’s death.

Myers is an instructor in the law enforcement and criminal justice program at Buckeye Career Center. Wright was a student there as a junior and senior in high school.

“I remember that he would accept any challenge that I gave him,” Myers said. “He would accept whatever came his way and never offered excuses.”

Myers said Wright’s “class was a rather small class, with maybe 10 to 12 in it. They were all close, almost like brothers and sisters.”

Buckeye Career Center Superintendent Roger Bond said the flag at the school will be lowered to half-staff when Wright’s body is returned to the area.

Wright’s awards include the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and the NATO Medal for Afghanistan.

Carrollton High Principal Dave Davis remembered Wright as a freshman and sophomore.

“He was a real likable kid and all his teachers appreciated having him in class,” he said. “His friends could always count on him to be there for them. He had a goal and vision that he wanted to serve his country, wanted to be a Marine. We are all very proud of him. Obviously, we mourn his loss and pray for his family. His family has given a lot to everyone and given more now, for sure, with his loss.”

Marine Lance Cpl. Terry C. Wright was killed in action on 9/21/11.

Army Spc. Jakob J. Roelli

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Jakob J. Roelli, 24, of Darlington, Wis.

Spc Roelli was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Sept. 21, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

It wasn't enough for Jakob Roelli to join the Army, putting college and dreams of law school on hold. He wanted to be in the Special Forces, whose members undergo the most grueling training and carry out some of the most dangerous missions.

"When Jake decided to join the Army, he fully embraced all aspects of what it meant to be a soldier," said his former girlfriend, Amy Siegenthaler, a UW-Madison senior. "His summer before basic training, you could find him running around Darlington in his Army boots and a backpack full of rocks or bricks.

"When he found out his scores were high enough for him to be in Special Forces, he was beyond happy. He wanted to be right in the middle of all the action. He was a fearless man who would take on any challenge."

Earlier this week, that dream ended when the 24-year-old Army specialist was killed in Afghanistan. His father and brother traveled Thursday to Dover Air Force Base to bring Roelli's remains home to Wisconsin. An Army spokeswoman said details of his death were not yet being released.

Jakob Roelli grew up on a farm outside of Darlington and graduated from Darlington High School in 2006. He played football, ran cross country, wrestled, was on the forensics team, acted in school plays and musicals, including Beauty and the Beast and The Sting, and enjoyed pastimes including sliding down the moss-covered dam at Ludden Lake in Mineral Point.

"He was a young man who was not afraid to try new things," Principal Doug McArthur

Family members were notified Wednesday that Army Spc. Jakob Roelli of Darlington, died while serving in Afghanistan. His father, Richard Roelli, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his 24-year-old son was “the best of the best” and was in the Army Special Forces for two years.

His uncle, Greg Roelli, said his nephew was a “fine young man” who was always there to lend a hand to his acquaintances.

His aunt, Kathy Roelli, said he grew up on a farm, graduated from Darlington High School in 2006 and attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh before joining the military. She said he was active in his Baptist church.

The Roelli family traveled Thursday to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive his remains.

Darlington had not lost a resident in combat since the Vietnam War. His name is expected to be added to a new veterans memorial the town hopes to install by 2013.

“We've been very fortunate to avoid some of that grief but it fell on us yesterday,” Darlington High School Principal Doug McArthur told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Roelli was remembered at his school as someone who would try just about anything. He played football two years and was active in theater.

McArthur said Roelli sang and danced in “Beauty and the Beast” and starred in “The Sting,” acting the part played by Paul Newman in the film.

“He was a good singer, good actor, just a fun-loving kid,” McArthur said. “Obviously a person that wasn't afraid to try something new.”

The principal said Roelli studied business and pre-law at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh but joined the Army after a year of college.

“I believe his desire was to move up in ranking in the military and I heard he asked to be deployed to Afghanistan with the special forces,” McArthur said.

Army Spc. Jakob J. Roelli was killed in action on 9/21/11.

Army Spc. Robert E. Dyas

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Robert E. Dyas, 21, of Nampa, Idaho

Spc Dyas was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Sept. 21, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

NAMPA — The parents of U.S. Army Spc. Robert E. Dyas announced Thursday that their son was killed in combat in Afghanistan.

The military had not confirmed the death, but Melissa and Jerry Nowland held a press conference in their Nampa front yard to notify the public. Other family members cried as they stood behind the couple in front of their modest home with a U.S. flag at half mast and a makeshift memorial with pictures of Dyas.

According to his family, Dyas died Wednesday from wounds in the abdomen received during a small arms fire fight in the Kandahar Province.

Melissa Nowland called Dyas, 21, a “true hero” who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

“He is a son, he is a friend and he is a brother,” she said, “and he is going to be so missed, so missed.”

Dyas was a fire support specialist in the 34th Regiment, 1st Brigade, out of Fort Riley, Kansas. Melissa said Dyas’s civilian job was eliminated before he enlisted.

“He didn’t want to just sit around and wait and look for jobs,” she said. “He thought he wanted the security of the military.”

Dyas planned to go back to school and learn a trade when he got out of the military, Jerry Nowland said. He liked to bird hunt with his stepfather and said considered hunting his lifetime training. Jerry said what Dyas learned hunting helped him in Afghanistan.

Dyas had recently purchased a 1966 Pontiac LeMans, like the one his step father owns, on eBay. He told Jerry that the two could cruise together in their classic cars.

“That car’s going to be so special to us,” Jerry said.

Jerry also expressed his opinion that the soldiers still in Afghanistan should come home.

“We need to bring them home,” he said. “Nobody needs to feel this kind of pain.”

Melissa planned to travel to Dover, Del., Thursday for the return of Dyas’s remains.

Family members said they plan to set up foundation representing Dyas.

Army Spc. Robert E. Dyas was killed in action on 9/21/11.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Army Sgt. Timothy D. Sayne

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Timothy D. Sayne, 31, of Reno, Nev.

Sgt Sayne was assigned to 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; died Sept. 18, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.


Sgt Sayne was killed by an improvised explosive device while on a dismounted patrol in the district of Shah Wali in Afghanistan, where he had been deployed since April to train Afghanistan Army personnel and police.

Sgt Sayne was born in Kentucky. At some point, family moved to Illinois where he graduated from Effingham High School. He joined the Army in February 2008, reporting to Fort Wainwright six months later in August.

This was Sgt Sayne's second deployment, having previously been deployed to Iraq for 12 months in September 2008.

“It’s the kind of thing you see on TV around the country. You don’t think of it happening to someone you know so close to home,” said friend, Todd Cisna. "We had supper three or four weeks ago to get caught up on the kids. She (his mother) was so proud of him,” he recalled. “He was a good kid. It’s a shame something like this had to happen.”

Linda Matte, a Captain with the Illinois Patriot Guard Riders said, "Because he gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us, this is the least we could do for his family. I know Timothy's family, not well, but I knew them and it really hits home when you lose one of your own but they’re all our brothers, our soldiers whether we knew them or not."

Major Gen. Gregory Couch, who spoke at the eulogy, said officers and fellow soldiers remembered Sayne during a memorial service in Afghanistan as someone who always looked at the positive side of life and always accomplished the mission.

In a message from Sayne's squadron commander, Couch read, “He is strong, brave, always tries his hardest. He is the eternal optimist. I have watched Sayne mature into an effective, charismatic and determined young leader. The type of leader who walks in the front to clear the way.”

From Sayne’s platoon leader, Couch read, “What I learned through knowing Sgt. Sayne is what makes a hero is the way they lived their life leading up to those fateful moments. I am truly indebted to Sgt. Sayne because he will always be a hero of mine. He was a person with a presence and personality that left an indelible mark on those he met and especially those with whom he served. His devotion to his family was unmistakable and only strengthened the deep sense of respect that those who knew him will share.”

According to both officers, Sayne embodied the Army’s core values of courage, selfless service, loyalty, respect, honor, integrity and duty.

“His integrity was of utmost importance as he always chose the hard right over the easy wrong,” Couch read.

Sgt Sayne is survived by his mother, Kathy; wife, Thania, 1-year-old son, Timothy with another child due in January; siblings, Cory, Joey and Paige.

Army Sgt. Timothy D. Sayne was killed in action on 9/18/11.

Army Staff Sgt. Estevan Altamirano

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Estevan Altamirano, 30, of Edcouch, Texas

SSgt Altamirano was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Sept. 18, 2011 in Tikrit, Iraq, of injuries suffered in a non-combat incident.


SSgt Altamirano died from a non-combat weapon malfunction. In another report, wife, Pamela, stated that her husband accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun.

Altamirano was posthumously promoted from Sergeant to Staff Sergeant.

SSgt Altamirano graduated from Edcouch Elsa High School in 1999. He joined the Army in January 2001 and served as an armor crewman. This was his fourth deployment to Iraq, having deployed in May.

Fellow soldiers called him "Speedy". Brig Gen Stephen B. Leisenring said, "The nickname says something about his dedication to his unit and his family because he tried to spend as much time as possible with both."

Even though he spent months away from his family, Altamirano did not complain when one of his superiors told him that his leave to come home from Iraq would be postponed, Leisenring said. "He was a selfless soldier," Leisenring said.

Wife, Pamela, said her husband loved the military and his fellow servicemen.

“His war brothers were his everything. I asked him not to go this time because he had some injuries from other deployments. He said he couldn't leave his brothers behind,” said Pamela Altamirano.

Edcouch Mayor Robert Schmalzried ordered that flags be flown at half-staff until two weeks after SSgt Altamirano's burial in memory of the valiant young man.

"Soldiers often go unannounced and they don’t get the respect that they deserve. They do so much for our country and they do so much for their families and their friends. They need to have all the respect that they can get,” said Edcouch Mayor Robert Schmalzried.

Stepdaughter Kayla,16, presented a slideshow of family photos at his funeral.

“I love him and he was a wonderful man,” she said. “And there is no one who will ever be like him.”

SSgt Altamirano's awards and decorations include the following:
Meritorious Service Medal
Army Commendation Medals (4)
Army Achievement Medals (4)
Valorous Unit Award
Meritorious Unit Award
Army Good conduct Medals (3)
National Defense Service Medal
Iraqi Campaign Medal with 4 Campaign Stars
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon (3)
Combat Action Badge

Army Staff Sgt. Estevan Altamirano was killed in non-combat related accident on 9/18/11.

Army Spc. Chazray C. Clark

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Chazray C. Clark, 24, of Ecorse, Mich.

Spc Clark was assigned to 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Sept. 18, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

SPC Clark was home on leave about two weeks before he was killed.

SPC Clark graduated from Ecorse High School in 2005 where he participated in football, basketball and baseball. He joined the Army in September 2009. He was a highly skilled combat engineer and planned to make a career of the military. He deployed to Afghanistan in February 2011. This was his first deployment.

He met his wife, Christina Clark, in 2003. They both worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Lincoln Park. He was a cook and she was a drive through cashier. They were married seven years later.

Wife, Christina, said, “He was proud to serve his country. I know he’s with God and that he died for his country. He was brave enough to go over there and fight for our country and he died for that.

I talked to him three hours before he went on his last mission. He said, ‘I'm going out on a mission and will call in 48 hours.’ I never heard from him again.

Family was important to him. The two of us had a great marriage and he just adored his son.”

SPC Clark’s awards and decorations include the following:

Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Good Conduct Medal
NATO Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Service Medal with Bronze Service Star
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
Combat Action Badge
Combat and Special Skill Badge
Basic Marksmanship Qualifications Badge
Rifle Expert Marksmanship Badge
Overseas Service Bar

Army Spc. Chazray C. Clark was killed in action on 9/18/11.

Army Spc. Ryan J. Cook

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Ryan J. Cook, 29, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Spc Cook was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; died Sept. 18, 2011 in Takhar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

SPC Cook was born in Danvers, MA. He moved to Fort Walton Beach when he was seven. He graduated from Choctawhatchee High School, where he played football.

Spc Cook joined the Army in March 2008. This was his second deployment, having previously been deployed to Iraq.

As a little boy, Ryan never passed up an opportunity to protect his younger siblings or save an injured animal. As a soldier, he showed the same compassion and loyalty to others.

Despite being injured and offered a chance to go home, SPC Cook stayed with his unit and embarked upon what would be his last mission.

“He was the last guy out, always,” said his mom, Kathleen Silva. “He was just always soft-hearted and sweet. He had the bluest eyes, the most disarming smile and the softest heart in the world,” she said.

Kathleen said she last spoke to her son about a month ago. She said she since learned that he chose not to call her before he left on what would be his last mission. He was afraid she would hear it in his voice.

“This was a really bad mission,” she said, “And he knew I would know.”

Kathleen, wears the dog tags of both her son and daughter (who's in the Air Force) around her neck.

“He loved his Army,” his mother said. “He said he was doing what he needed to do.”

Army Spc. Ryan J. Cook was killed in action on 9/18/11.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Staff Sgt. Michael W. Hosey

Remember Our Heroes

Staff Sgt. Michael W. Hosey, 27, of Birmingham, Ala.

SSgt Hosey was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; died Sept. 17, 2011 in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire.

SSgt Hosey graduated from Clay-Chalkville High School in 2001.

"No matter how the class was going he could put a smile on your face," said Erin Kinnaird, who graduated with Hosey from Clay-Chalkville High School in 2001.

On days students were allowed to dress up in costumes in high school, Hosey would wear military uniforms, Kinnaird said. "He had always wanted to be in the military," she said.

After graduating high school Hosey joined the Army and became a communications intelligence specialist. After attending basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and then the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California, He attended Advanced Individual Training at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo Texas.

Hosey's first duty assignment was with Company B, 304th Military Intelligence Battalion, 111th MI Brigade where he instructed officers in the MI Officer Basic Course and Officer Training Corps, in the proper deployment of a Signal Intelligence Company on the battlefield. He also instructed Air Force Surface Weather Officer assigned to Army units and worked with US Border Patrol in the emplacement of Remote Battlefield Sensor System for joint task forces.

In 2003, he was assigned to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where he served as a communications intelligence specialist. In 2005, Hosey was assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington.

Hosey's military education included the Defense Language Institute-Korean, Warrior Leader Course, Airborne School, Survival Evasion Resistance Escape School, and the Advanced Leader Course.

SSgt Hosey's awards and decorations include:

Purple Heart
Bronze Star
Meritorious Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster
Army Good Conduct Medal with bronze clasp (two Loops)
National Defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with Campaign Star)
Iraq Campaign Medal (with Campaign Star)
Global War on Terror Service Medal
Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with the Numeral 2
Army Service Ribbon
NATO Medal

Staff Sgt. Michael W. Hosey was killed in action on 9/17/11.

Army Sgt. Garrick L. Eppinger Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Garrick L. Eppinger Jr., 25, of Appleton, Wis.

Sgt Eppinger was assigned to 395th Ordnance Company, 687th Combat Sustainment Support Brigade, 646th Regional Support Group, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserve, Wausau, Wis.; died Sept. 17, 2011 in Parwan province, Afghanistan.

Sgt Eppinger was a supply specialist for the munitions post at Bagram Air Base.

The youngest of five children. Sisters, Shandra, Robbyn and Amy said their brother worked a desk job when he was found dead at Bagram Airbase.

“Garrick wasn’t infantry,” Shandra said. “He wasn’t in the line of fire. He wasn’t in one of the valley areas where there’s fighting. You would almost expect then that something could happen, but he was on a base, near where he worked.”

Shandra said her brother was shot but that the circumstances of his death were unknown. She said a death on base was “highly irregular” and that an investigation by military police was ongoing.

“They found him behind the ammunitions post where he worked. That’s all we know,” she said. “We won’t know any details until they
complete their investigation.”

Sgt Eppinger graduated from Appleton North High School in 2005 and joined the Army shortly afterwards. He had been deployed for about 1 1/2 months. This was his third deployment, having previously served in Iraq in 2005 and 2009.

Mother, Linda, last spoke with her son the Friday before he was killed. He told her everything was OK. On Saturday morning, two Army officers arrived at her home to inform her that her son had been shot and killed in the line of duty.

Linda and Garrick Eppinger Sr., both Navy veterans, knew the risks of serving in the military. That doesn't make the loss of their son any easier.

"It's really rough right now," said mother, Linda. "We've had a lot of support from our family and friends, but it's just not something you expect to land on your doorstep."

She said the details of their son's death were not immediately known. "All we know is he was shot in Afghanistan," she said.

Garrick Sr. said he was at peace with his son's death because he told him, in a letter and in a conversation, that he loved him and that he was proud of him.

"I got a chance to state my peace with him before he left," he said. "A lot of parents tend to think of things that they should have said. If they're in earnest and try to put as much of that (down), knowing full well that the child may not come back, then they're at peace when something like this happens."

He said his son had strong faith in God and "a strong love of country."

Army Sgt. Garrick L. Eppinger Jr. was killed in action on 9/17/11.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Marine Cpl Gregory W. Courtney

Remember Our Heroes

Cpl Gregory W. Courtney, 22, of Allegan, MI.

Cpl Courtney was killed in a car crash on September 16, 2011 when he failed to negotiate a curve, ran off the road and struck two trees. Deputies stated that after running off the road, Courtney's car “continued to roll and tumble, ejecting the driver” and then struck some smaller trees before catching fire. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators were not clear if Courtney was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash due to the extensive damage to his vehicle.

Cpl Courtney joined the Marines after graduating from Allegan High School in 2007 where he was on the wrestling team and gone on to state championship his senior year.

Cpl Courtney had just returned home in early August after being deployed to Afghanistan for a year.

“I'm still numb, I don't have any emotion right now because I just can't believe it,” Courtney's aunt, Shirlee Boitnott. “I didn't expect this to happen because he made it through Afghanistan.”

“He was pretty much one of a kind,” Boitnott said. “He's the type of person, he would give the shirt off his back for anybody. He'd go up and give anyone a hug.”

Boitnott said her brother left his home for work Friday and saw deputies' cruisers at the scene of the crash, but didn't know his son was involved until he got a call at work later in the day from one of his other sons.
Cpl Courtney was laid to rest at Ft. Custer National Cemetery in Augusta.

Cpl Courtney is survived by his mother, Lauri; father, Joseph; as well as three brothers, one sister; aunt Shirlee and a grandmother.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Army Sgt. Mycal L. Prince

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Mycal L. Prince, 28, of Minco, Okla.

Sgt Prince was assigned to 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma National Guard, Stillwater, Okla.; died Sept. 15, 2011 in Laghman province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

He was to have celebrated his sixth wedding anniversary in October.

Sgt Prince graduated from Ninnekah High School in 1997. He joined the National Guard shortly after his 17th birthday. This was his third deployment.

Sgt Prince served as a police officer in Alex for three years before he and his wife, Surana, moved to Minco in 2009. On the Minco police force, Prince was a K-9 officer. He and his K-9 partner, Bayca, helped fight the drug trade.

Sgt Prince was a respected leader in his company. Friends said he exemplified leadership to younger soldiers.

“Mycal Prince was a soldier. He wasn't looking for glory or fame. He was simply willing and ready when his country called,” said Capt. Jeremy Dunn, an Army chaplain.

Dunn said being a police officer fit with the mentality Prince developed as a soldier, willing to give everything for his country and his neighbors.

“He was a true servant to his community,” Dunn said. “Mycal wasn't content to stand on the sidelines. He was a doer, and he was always looking for ways to make a difference in someone's life.”

“Mycal Prince left his home, his wife and daughters and gave his life to create a better life for people he didn't even know,” Dunn said. “That's a hero in my book.”

Prince's third deployment, having previously deployed to Iraq and served in Saudi Arabia. He was a respected leader in his company. Friends said he exemplified leadership to younger soldiers.

Army Sgt. Mycal L. Prince was killed in action on 9/15/11.

Marine Cpl. Michael J. Dutcher

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Michael J. Dutcher, 22, of Asheville, N.C.

Cpl Dutcher was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Sept. 15, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.

Cpl Dutcher graduated from Asheville High School in 2007 where he was a member of the marching band and a member of the Marine Corps JROTC, which was one of the reasons he chose to join the Marines. He joined the Marines after graduation.

Cpl Dutcher deployed to Afghanistan for the second time in April and served as an infantryman. He was scheduled to come home in three weeks.

He had planned to ride his motorcycle across the country from California to North Carolina, then he planned to go to college. He wanted to be a history teacher.

Greg Townsend, family friend and Principal of Asheville High School, said, "He was such a natural leader. It's sad to see him go."

Mother, Teresa Dutcher, described Michael as having a good outlook on life. "He was loving and caring. He was an awesome dude."

Cpl Dutcher's awards and decorations include:

Purple Heart
Combat Action Ribbon
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Sea Service Deployment with three Bronze Stars
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
NATO Medal ISAF-Afghanistan

Marine Cpl. Michael J. Dutcher was killed in action on 9/15/11.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Army Sgt. Rodolfo Rodriguez Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Rodolfo Rodriguez Jr., 26, of Pharr, Texas

Sgt Rodriguez was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; died Sep. 14, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Sgt Rodriguez graduated from Weslaco High School in 2003 where he was a varsity basketball and football player. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in his district as a senior.

Sgt Rodriguez joined the Army in March of 2006. After basic at Fort Benning in Georgia, he served three years with the 2nd Battalion, 505th Infantry at Fort Bragg before arriving at Fort Wainwright in March of last year.

This was his third deployment, having previosly been deployed to Iraq in November 2006 and December 2008. He deployed to Afghanistan in August.

Cousin, Leann Rodriguez, hoped it would be his last tour of duty. He was expected to return home in December.

She described her cousin as a gregarious man who loved fishing, sports and his family, whose future he would plan every day.

Mark Aguilar, one of the soldiers who served along side Rudy in Iraq, said, “That was my boy, man. I just want everybody to know he was a good f---ing leader.”

“He would joke around with them,” he said. “But when it came time to work, he would work. And he always made sure his guys were taken care of first.”

Sgt Rodriguez was laid to rest on September 26 at Rio Grande Valley State Veteran's cemetery in Mission.

He is survived by his mother, Cristela; father, Rodolfo Rodriguez Sr; wife, Melissa and their children, Derek, 7, and Katelyn, 5; siblings, Rodzie, Cristy and Danny; paternal grandparents, Juan and Isabel; maternal grandmother, Carolina.

Army Sgt. Rodolfo Rodriguez Jr. was killed in action on 9/14/11.