Sunday, December 07, 2003

Army Pfc. Ray J. Hutchinson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Ray J. Hutchinson, 20, of League City, Texas

Pfc. Hutchinson was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based at Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Dec. 7 when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle as he was returning from patrol in Mosul, Iraq.

For a soldier, Pfc. Ray Joseph Hutchinson was known as a remarkably gentle and sensitive young man.

"He wouldn't even kill an insect, which is so strange given the military career he went into," said his older brother, Lee.

But when Hutchinson set his mind to something, he dedicated himself entirely, said his father, Michael.

"He was selfless and was more than willing to give his all for others, and he did that all throughout his life," Michael Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson, 20, of League City, Texas, was killed in Iraq on Dec. 7 when he drove a Humvee over an explosive device that was detonated by remote control. He was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Hutchinson graduated from high school in 2000 and attended what is now Texas State University in San Marcos. After a year or so, he decided to join the Army.

His family had gained approval for him to return home in December for his grandmother's heart surgery, which took place the day after he was killed.

— Associated Press

Army Pfc. Ray J. Hutchinson was killed in action on 12/07/03.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Army Spc. Robert D. Roberts

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Robert D. Roberts, 21, of Winter Park, Fla.

Spc Roberts was assigned to A Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, based in Armstrong Barracks, Germany; killed Nov. 22 when a tank collided with his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq.

The same day she learned of her husband's death in Iraq, Jill Roberts received three cards in the mail from him, two of them for their 3-year-old son, Jacob.

In one card, Robert Roberts told his son to "take care of Mommy until Daddy gets home."

"Bobby went into the Army to be sure he could provide for his son, and he always did provide for us," Jill Roberts said.

Spc. Roberts, 21, of Winter Park, Fla., died Nov. 22 when his vehicle was crushed by a tank during a night mission in Baghdad. His unit had been based in Hanau, Germany, before being sent to Iraq.

Roberts played high school football, and worked at an Italian restaurant and as a carpenter before enlisting.

His brother returned home from serving in Iraq in August.

"We want him remembered as the hero he was," said Jill Roberts, 20. "He was very proud of the job he was doing."

Army Spc. Robert D. Roberts was killed in action on 11/22/03.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Army Specialist Eugene A. Uhl III

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Eugene A. Uhl III, 21, of Amherst, Wis.

Spc. Uhl was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Nov. 15 when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq.

Community gathers to remember latest casualty of war

Associated Press

AMHERST, Wis. — The community gathered to mourn the death of a young soldier who died in the crash of two Black Hawk helicopters in Iraq.

Flags flew at half-staff outside Amherst High School, Staff Sgt. Eugene Uhl III’s alma mater, where a community memorial service was held Nov. 25 in the gym. A funeral was planned for the following day.

“What we honor here today is a young man who took a different direction,” Chaplain Daniel Farley told a crowd of about 450 who gathered to remember the 21-year-old Uhl. He died Nov. 15 in Mosul, Iraq, in a crash that killed 17 soldiers.

“He knew the risks, but he also knew it was a wonderful opportunity to make a difference,” said Farley, a captain who served as Uhl’s chaplain with the Wisconsin National Guard in Stevens Point.

Uhl’s parents, Eugene Jr. and Joan Uhl, stood with his sisters and other relatives in front of a flag-draped casket. A portrait of Uhl sat on a nearby easel, and slides of his life flashed on a screen.

Capt. Brian Leahy recalled hearing Uhl tell stories about his grandfather, the late Eugene “Bud” Uhl, who served in the same National Guard unit and was a decorated World War II combat veteran.

Leahy said Uhl left for active duty in July 2002, despite the uncertain times, because of his love for the country.

“The simple fact that you wear the uniform puts you in harm’s way,” he added.

National Guard soldiers in olive green dotted the crowd. Sgt. 1st Class Paul Peplinski said many of the younger unit members were good friends with Uhl.

Amherst principal Pete Sippel said a somber mood hung over the school throughout the week as students were reminded of the sacrifices of others.

Wisconsin soldier mourned at funeral

Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday to pay tribute to Army Staff Sgt. Eugene A. Uhl III, killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Iraq.

Gov. Jim Doyle, attending the services at Amherst High School, said people throughout the state shared in the loss. Uhl would have turned 22 on Thanksgiving.

“We are understanding what we have to be thankful for and finding inspiration in the life of a 21-year-old man,” Doyle said. “It demonstrates to us what it means to live in a free country and the sacrifice it takes.”

The Bronze Star and Purple Heart were posthumously awarded to Uhl and presented to his parents by Gen. Nathaniel Thompson, representing the Army chief of staff at the funeral.

Uhl served with the Army’s 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment of the Division Artillery Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.

Uhl wrote in a letter to his father that he had seen some horrible things in Iraq, said Capt. Daniel Farley, the chaplain who co-presided at the funeral with the Rev. Robert Pedretti of St. James Catholic Church in Amherst.

“But he knew he had to be there,” Farley said. “There is ongoing praise of him that he was a man filled with life and enjoyed sharing that life. ... Eugene said, ‘I want to make a difference.’ He knew what his choice involved, and he knew it might involve going to Iraq.”

More than 600 relatives, friends and others attended the service in the high school gymnasium. Many went by bus afterward to Greenwood Cemetery in Amherst, where Uhl was buried with full military honors.

Students from the Tomorrow River School District were allowed to be released from classes with a note from their parents to attend the funeral, said Principal Pete Sippel.

“It’s an opportunity for them to see the show of respect for Eugene,” Sippel said.

Uhl was a 2000 graduate of Amherst High School and president of the Student Council.

— Associated Press

Army Specialist Eugene A. Uhl III was killed in action on 11/15/03.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Army Sgt. Jay A. Blessing

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jay A. Blessing, 23, Tacoma, Wash.

Sgt. Blessing was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash.; killed in action by an improvised explosive device, on Nov. 14 in Asadabad, Afghanistan.

Sgt. Jay Anthony Blessing was born January 4, 1980 in Washington and claimed Tacoma as home. He volunteered for Army service in August 1998.

He completed basic combat training and advanced individual training in the military operational specialty of Infantryman at Fort Benning, Ga. Sgt. Blessing continued his military training at Fort Benning when he attended the Basic Airborne Course in November 1998 and then graduated from the Ranger Indoctrination Program in January 1999. On January 28, 1999, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Lewis, Wash. He went on to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger Course and the Primary Leadership Development Course and was promoted to sergeant in June 2002.

Sgt. Blessing was an armorer with 2nd Battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company. He was wounded and later died of his injuries Nov. 14 when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

His awards and decorations include the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Parachutist Badge, the 2nd Bn., 75th Ranger Rgt. Combat Shoulder Sleeve Insignia and the Ranger tab.

Sergeant Blessing deployed with his Ranger battalion in support of the Global War on Terrorism and participated in combat operations in Afghanistan.

He is survived by his father, James A. Blessing, of Tacoma, Wash., and his brother, Jason Blessing, also of Tacoma. His mother, Carol Lee M. Blessing, is deceased.

As a Ranger, Sgt. Blessing distinguished himself as a member of the Army’s premier light-infantry unit, traveled to all corners of the world in support of the Global War on Terrorism, and fought valiantly to “uphold the prestige, honor, and high ‘esprit de corps’ of my Ranger Regiment.”

~Night Stalker Memorial

Army Sgt. Jay A. Blessing was killed in action on 11/14/03.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Army Sgt. Joseph Minucci

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Joseph Minucci, 23, of Richeyville, Pa.

Sgt. Minucci was assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Camp Ederle, Italy; killed Nov. 13 when an improvised explosive device exploded next to the bus on which he was riding in Samara, Iraq.

At 17, Sgt. Joseph Minucci II knew he wasn't headed to college, and the National Guard offered him some purpose in his life.

"He told me the reason he did what he did was that he felt that he was keeping his family safe. He was not only protecting his country, but keeping us all safe," Marcella Minucci said.

The 23-year-old soldier from Richeyville, Pa., was killed by an explosive Nov. 13 in Samara, Iraq. He was based at Camp Ederle, Italy, and is survived by his parents.

Minucci was a high school varsity football player and a soccer co-captain when he joined the National Guard. About a year later, he enlisted in the Army, and he earned his paratrooper wings at Fort Campbell, Ky.

"He was a proud soldier," Marcella Minucci said. "He was proud to be serving in Iraq."

Army Sgt. Joseph Minucci was killed in action on 11/13/03.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Army National Guard Spc. Robert A. Wise

Remember Our Heroes

Florida Army National Guard Spc. Robert A. Wise, 21, of Tallahassee, Fla.

Spc. Wise was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, 53rd Infantry Brigade, Florida National Guard, Tallahassee, Fla.; killed while on mounted patrol Nov. 12, 2003 when an improvised explosive device exploded in Baghdad.

Tallahassee family shares memories of dead Florida guardsman
Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Robert Allen Wise, the young infantryman killed in Iraq, had to get his mother’s signature to join the Florida National Guard when he was 17 — a decision his mom said Monday she almost denied.

“I drove over to the school with the full intention of telling him I could not do this,” Tammy Wise said.

But when she picked up her son that fateful day from a high school class, he said, “Mom, we’ve got to talk.”

And she told him to go first.

Robert Wise told his mother that while many of his buddies had no idea what they were going to do after finishing school, he knew where he was headed — to boot camp and a military career.

“I looked at him and said, ‘Son, you said the only thing possible that you could have said to get me to walk into that office and sign those papers,”’ she related. “He never once said he regretted what he was doing.”

The young soldier’s unit, assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, was activated in January and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in February.

And his mom worried.

“Every second of every hour of everyday,” she said at a media availability at a National Guard armory. “The only time that it goes away is when you’re on the phone with him.”

In the e-mails they exchanged, he would constantly try to reassure his mother that everything was OK.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry, things here are fine,”’ Tammy Wise said.

“If anything major happens you’ll be the last to know,” she said he teased. “I don’t want you worrying on my behalf.”

Wise, 21, was killed Nov. 12 when a combat vehicle he was riding in was blown up by a bomb in Baghdad.

“He looked at life and saw the winding road and he kind of took aim at it,” said Marie Hildinger, Wise’s older sister.

Wise, who sent home several photos with his arms around young Iraqi children, loved kids — especially his sister’s two youngsters.

“Robert had a special affinity for children because he knew how to act like them,” Hildinger said. “If there was a game in town he wanted to be part of it.”

Hildinger, who spent three years as a military policewoman in the Army, said she often talked with her brother about the dangers of war.

“Before he left, he told me if he was going to die, he was going to die honorably for his country, for us and my children, his niece and nephew ... and he did,” she said tearfully.

Wise’s family and girlfriend, Jenny Walsh, all wore T-shirts with ‘Operation Iraqi’ across the front — shirts the specialist sent from Qatar during a recent four-day R&R.

“He actually had his life mapped out,” said David Wise of Key West, the guardsman’s father, noting the son has a new role.

David Wise alluded to the collision of two Army Black Hawk helicopters as they tried to escape enemy fire. The collision killed 17 soldiers.

“Seventeen more soldiers,” David Wise said. “We just think Robert’s greeting them. Making it better on them ... you know, with that goofy grin that he had.”

Army National Guard Spc. Robert A. Wise was killed in action on 11/12/03.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Army Sgt. Scott C. Rose

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Scott C. Rose, 30, of Fayetteville, N.C.;

Sgt. Rose was assigned to 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based in Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Nov. 7 when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Tikrit, Iraq.

Soldier killed in Iraq remembered in Vermont

Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Army Staff Sgt. Scott Rose told his wife Michele last year that if he were killed in Iraq he wanted his funeral to be held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in her hometown.

On Nov. 22 Rose, who was killed when the helicopter he was in went down near Tikrit, Iraq, got his wish.

The Rev. Peter Williams recalls Rose was struck by the church and its community when he and his wife visited last Christmas.

There was something about the church, with its stained glass windows honoring the saints, and its vaulted painted ceiling, overlooking the Black River and downtown Springfield, that spoke to Rose, who was born in Massachusetts and grew up in North Carolina.

Or maybe it was that the church’s previous priest was a retired military chaplain.

Williams said the couple, who met at North Carolina State University and were married in Mendon in 1996, often came to Vermont.

Michele Basso Rose and her parents don’t belong to St. Mary’s Church, but her husband and his family were devout Catholics, so the pair went to Christmas Mass, Williams said outside the church before the requiem Mass.

Strangers held flags as the coffin was carried to the church by soldiers from Fort Drum, N.Y., marching into the church with tiny steps.

And strangers cried, moved by the tragedy of a soldier dying in a distant war, and leaving behind a baby daughter he had never met.

Rose was honored on a bright sunny and mild November morning, hundreds of miles from his parents’ home in North Carolina, and thousands of miles from Tikrit, Iraq, where the 30-year-old Army sergeant died when his Black Hawk helicopter exploded and fell to the ground, killing all six GIs aboard.

Sgt. Rose’s father, retired Lt. Col. Alfred F. Rose, who wore his Army uniform for his son’s funeral, accompanied his wife, daughter and daughter-in-law.

After the Mass, family and friends stood silently on the steps of the church, as a final military farewell was held and the Army presented boxes holding his Purple Heart and his Silver Star to the widow.

Shots were fired into the air, making babies cry, and the American flag covering his maple casket was folded with careful precision by an honor guard from the 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum.

Soldier dies in helicopter crash

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A soldier reportedly from Cumberland County was one of six people who died when a helicopter was shot down Friday in Tikrit, Iraq, the Department of Defense said on Sunday.

Sgt. Scott C. Rose was a member of the 101st Airborne Division, based in Fort Campbell, Ky. Rose was 30. The 101st is part of the 18th Airborne Corps, which has its headquarters at Fort Bragg.

Rose’s hometown wasn’t released by the Army, but a press release from Fort Campbell said he was a native of Massachusetts. The Defense Department said in a release on Sunday that Rose was from Fayetteville.

Rose had been in Iraq since spring. He never held is baby girl, born July 31. The closest he got was watching Meghan Louise through a computer monitor. His wife, Michele, and father-in-law had hooked up a Web camer so that Rose could watch her fussing and cooing from Rose’s home in Fort Campbell.

He was good at his job, said his father, retired Lt. Col. Alfred “Butch” Rose, who lives in Fayetteville.

“I could not be more proud of a son,” his father said. “There was no way, when I looked at what he did, I could not have done what he did. He was better than me.”

Rose was looking forward to his next assignment: teaching other crew chiefs stateside in Fort Eustis, Va., where he could be near his wife and daughter.

Rose and his wife met at North Carolina State University, said Paula Basso, Rose’s mother-in-law, in a phone interview from her home in Vermont.

She said Michele, who was from Vermont, had found a perfect Southern gentleman. Rose was friendly, thoughtful and quiet, Basso said.

Michele, contacted in Tennessee, had no comment.

The Black Hawk was apparently shot down by insurgents. A total of six soldiers, including two from the Department of the Army headquarters at the Pentagon, were killed.

An investigation was under way Sunday to determine whether mechanical failure or hostile fire caused the crash, but several officers believed the Black Hawk was shot down.

Tikrit is Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The Black Hawk’s crash underscores the danger American troops face in Iraq, especially in areas north and west of Baghdad dominated by Sunni Muslim Arabs. Anti-American sentiments are strong in the “Sunni Triangle,” and attacks against coalition forces have recently intensified.

— Associated Press

Army Sgt. Scott C. Rose was killed in action on 11/07/03.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Mississippi Army National Guard Spc. James A. Chance III

Remember Our Heroes

Mississippi Army National Guard Spc. James A. Chance III, 25, of Kokomo, Miss.

Spc. Chance assigned to C Company, 890th Engineer Battalion, Army National Guard, based in Columbia, Miss.; killed Nov. 6 when his vehicle struck a landmine in Husaybah, Iraq.

Spc. James A. Chance III didn't want his counterparts with spouses or children to risk themselves driving through dangerous territory in Iraq, family pastor Jimmy Jones said.

So the Mississippi National Guardsman volunteered to lead his convoy.

"He would do without so that someone could have. That's the way he was raised," older brother Allen Chance said.

The 25-year-old from Kokomo, Miss., was killed Nov. 6 when his truck hit a land mine near the Syrian border.

Chance usually stayed close to his parents' home, helping to care for his father, who is in a wheelchair and had served in Vietnam.

The last conversation Allen Chance had with his brother was about their ailing grandmother. "He was worried about her and he was trying to get it where he could come home for a few days to see her," he said. "He never could get around to it."

He is survived by his father, James Jr., and his mother, Patricia Ann.

— Associated Press

Mississippi Army National Guard Spc. James A. Chance III was killed in action on 11/06/03.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Army 2nd Lt. Todd J. Bryant

Remember Our Heroes

Army 2nd Lt. Todd J. Bryant, 23, of Riverside, Calif.

Lt. Bryant was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; killed while on patrol Oct. 31 when an improvised explosive device exploded in Fallujah, Iraq.

War hits home for students after teacher’s husband killed

Associated Press

ABILENE, Kan. — When the Army officers marched into Abilene High School on Friday, the war in Iraq suddenly hit a personal note for students.

The soldiers brought the news that first-year teacher Jenifer Bryant’s husband of less than two months, 2nd Lt. Todd Bryant, had been killed while on patrol in Al Fallujah when an improvised explosive device detonated. He was 23.

“Knowing someone who was over there gave a little connection to the students,” Principal Jason Webb said. “It really hit home for the kids the last couple of days. This took some of those things we talk about in an educational setting and put it in terms of what it means in real people’s lives.”

Webb said Jenifer and Todd Bryant met in college. Todd Bryant, who originally was from Riverside, Calif., graduated from West Point and was commissioned in the Army in 2002. In January, he was sent to Fort Riley.

Webb said Bryant joined her husband at Fort Riley after she graduated in May. The two were married in September, two weeks before his deployment to Iraq. He was a tank platoon leader assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 34th Armor, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

“He was a wonderfully charismatic young man,” Webb said. “He was only 23, but a West Point graduate and a platoon leader and an officer. He was young-looking, but very good at what he did.”

A memorial service was Wednesday at Fort Riley, and Webb said Bryant will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery, Va.

Bryant was the 11th Fort Riley soldier to be killed while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. About 6,500 of the 10,000 troops assigned to For Riley have been deployed to Iraq, post officials said.

Webb said some classes have discussed buying books for the school library in Todd Bryant’s name, and students have talked about collecting such items as magazines, puzzle books and lip balm and sending them to soldiers in Iraq.

Army 2nd Lt. Todd J. Bryant was killed in action on 10/31/03.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Army Pfc. Rachel K. Bosveld

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Rachel K. Bosveld, 19, of Waupun, Wis.

Pfc. Bosveld was assigned to the 527th Military Police Company, V Corps, Giesen, Germany; killed Oct. 26 during a mortar attack on the Abu Ghraib Police Station in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

Wisconsin soldier dies in Iraq

By Colleen Kottke
The (Fond Du Lac, Wis.) Reporter

WAUPUN, Wis. — The news of Rachel Bosveld’s death has brought the reality of the conflict in Iraq home to Waupun.

Bosveld, a member of the 527th Military Police, was killed Sunday during a mortar attack at a Baghdad police station.

As the word of the 19-year-old’s death filtered through the community, friends who knew the fun-loving brunette sought out one another to grieve and relive memories spent with their fallen friend.

Although Bosveld attended Waupun High School for only two years after transferring from Oshkosh West High School, it is clear that she made a lasting impression in the lives of those who knew her.

“She was energetic and always laughing,” said Krissy Beske, UW-Fond du Lac student and former classmate. “When she first came to school, we just kind of pulled her into our circle and took her under our wing.”

Beske says that Bosveld was very independent and comfortable with who she was.

“She was really unique and had her own style and wasn’t embarrassed to show it,” said Beske, who also tells of Bosveld’s sense of humor. “Sometimes we would just do silly stuff, like dress up like boys and then go out in public.”

After she learned of Bosveld’s death, she spent time with friend Jessica Gruening, looking over old pictures of themselves and Bosveld in happier times.

“Because she had been away for so long, the news didn’t really hit me at first, but when we began looking at old pictures and wishing she was here, it came over us big time,” said Beske. “(Rachel) was such a strong person and I looked up to her. She knew what she wanted and where she wanted to go in life. I will always remember that about her.”

WAUPUN, Wis. — All Rachel Bosveld wanted was to come home.

She never complained, but after eight months in the sands of Iraq, barely surviving a roadside ambush and patrolling anti-American riots, the 19-year-old military policewoman from Waupun had had enough.

“More and more people want us to go home,” she wrote in a letter to her father. “Believe me, we want to go home.”

Rachel Bosveld died Sunday in a mortar attack at a Baghdad police station, becoming the first Wisconsin woman killed in the Iraqi conflict and the fifth soldier from the state to die in that country this year.

Marvin Bosveld said he supported the invasion at first, but now he isn’t sure.

“That war killed her,” Marvin Bosveld said. “I’m not so sure what I’ll support now.”

Craig Bosveld, 32, described his sister as an artist who loved to draw forest scenes, play her violin and act in Waupun High School’s drama club. She played Frieda in the school rendition of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” She hoped one day to become a graphic artist, he said.

“Can’t believe it,” he said. “The chances are one in a hundred thousand. She did what she had to do and never complained. We’re all proud of her.”

Reporters, photographers and cameramen descended on the Bosvelds’ modest white house Tuesday as a cold rain fell outside. A red Marine Corps flag hung outside the door in honor of Rachel’s stepbrother, 19-year-old Aaron Krebs.

The other Wisconsin soldiers who died in Iraq were Army Spc. Paul J. Sturino, 21, of Rice Lake; Army Reservist Dan Gabrielson, 40, of Frederic; Army Maj. Mathew Schram, 36, of Brookfield; and Marine Sgt. Kirk Straseskie, 23, of Beaver Dam.

Marvin Bosveld sat on the couch and told the story of his daughter’s short life.

Marvin Bosveld and his former wife, Mary, were serving as foster parents when Rachel came to them as a neglected baby. The couple adopted her. After they separated, she lived in Oshkosh with her mother but moved to Waupun with her father for her junior and senior years in high school.

She enlisted in the Army when she graduated in June 2002, following in the footsteps of her father, who served in the Army in Italy from 1967-1969, and Craig, who served in the Army in Alaska.

“She idolized her brother,” Marvin Bosveld said, pointing to a photograph of Craig holding a toddler-sized Rachel on a tree branch. “I had some reservation because she was a girl. She asked me not to worry about it. She was as good as anyone.”

Her mother said she desperately tried to talk her daughter out of it.

“I would have done anything to have her choose a different career,” Mary Bosveld said. “She said, ‘I know, Mom, but I have to do this. … I want to keep up the family tradition. Except, Mom, I’m going to be the first girl in our entire family.”’

Rachel graduated from boot camp in October 2002. Her father rode his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri to see her graduate. She asked for a ride on the back. That, Marvin said, was his last real memory of her.

When she first got to Iraq, she was ready to “kick butt,” her father said.

Until Sept. 12. That was the day a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee she was driving.

Craig Bosveld said the Humvee burned up from the inside. His sister dislocated her shoulder trying to open the door. When she did free herself, her unit started taking small-arms fire until another Humvee arrived to help.

From then on, her father said, her opinion changed.

She counted the days until she could leave in her letters. One focused on all the dead and abused horses she saw in Baghdad. Another talked about anti-American riots and people chanting “USA go home.”

She transferred from night patrol to day patrol. She hoped she might live longer that way, Craig Bosveld said.

Mary Bosveld said her daughter wrote to her and asked her to ask newspapers in Wisconsin to do a story on the real hardships troops there face.

She got three letters from her daughter Tuesday, the day after the family learned she had been killed.

“Mom, don’t worry so much about me,” one letter said.

Mary Bosveld said Rachel hoped to write a book about her experiences. Now she has to pass on her daughter’s story to reporters, as much as she hates it, she said.

“I’m doing this for Rachel because this is her story,” she said.

Marvin Bosveld said the hardest part for him will be dealing with unopened birthday cards when they return. Rachel would have turned 20 on Nov. 7.

“She kept assuring me she was getting her sleep, staying alert, keeping her head down and looking over her shoulder,” Bosveld said.

“I can hardly believe it yet today,” he said. “That was my daughter.”

— Associated Press

Army Pfc. Rachel K. Bosveld was killed in action on 10/26/03.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Army Pfc. John D. Hart

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. John D. Hart, 20, of Bedford, Mass.

Pfc. Hart was assigned to 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry Battalion, 173rd Infantry Brigade, Camp Ederle, Italy; killed in action Oct. 18 when enemy forces, using rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, ambushed his patrol in Taza, Iraq.

Pfc. John D. Hart was as loving as he was lovable, sure to one day become a teacher or a counselor, his family said.

But Hart wanted to be in the military, a resolve strengthened after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said his father, Brian Hart.

Hart, 20, who enlisted in the Army after high school, was killed Oct. 18 when his patrol came under fire 160 miles north of Baghdad.

"I know you had a warrior's heart. You dreamed of being a soldier and you lived your dream," the elder Hart said at a memorial service for his son in their hometown of Bedford, Mass. "I presumed you'd come back and become a teacher or a counselor. You already were a counselor to many."

Brian Hart said he wished his son knew how his death had brought an entire town together in grief _ "a town united now in sorrow."

He is also survived by his mother, Alma, and two sisters.

Army Pfc. John D. Hart was killed in action on 10/18/03.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Army Sgt. Andrew Joseph Baddick

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Andrew Joseph Baddick, 26, of Jim Thorpe, Pa.

Sgt. Baddick was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fort Bragg, N.C.; drowned Sept. 29, 2003 as he tried to rescue another soldier whose vehicle had entered a canal near Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq.

As his older sister remembers it, Sgt. Andrew Joseph Baddick never thought twice before rushing to help someone. “He feared nothing,” Elizabeth Hoherchak said. “Nothing. There was no hesitation in him.”

Baddick, 26, of Jim Thorpe, Pa., drowned Sept. 29 when he tried to rescue another soldier whose vehicle had plunged into a canal in Iraq. He was stationed at Fort Bragg.

Baddick had been serving in Afghanistan before going to Iraq, said Charles McHugh, a family friend.

“I knew the boy all his life; I watched him grow up,” McHugh said. “All he wanted to do was be in the Army and be a paratrooper, and he succeeded.”

Paratrooper from Pa. killed in Iraq

Associated Press

A paratrooper stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., drowned while trying to save another soldier in Iraq, the Defense Department said Wednesday, and a Veterans Affairs official said he was from Pennsylvania.

Sgt. Andrew J. Baddick, 26, died Monday, according to both a Pentagon news release and Charles McHugh, director of the Carbon County, Pa., Veterans Affairs Office.

According to the Pentagon, Baddick was trying to rescue another soldier whose vehicle had entered a canal near Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq when he drowned.

Military authorities did not say where Baddick was from, but McHugh said Baddick was from Jim Thorpe. McHugh, a friend of the family, said the military had informed Baddick’s mother, Ann, of his death.

“I knew the boy all his life; I watched him grow up,” McHugh said. “All he wanted to do was be in the Army and be a paratrooper, and he succeeded.”

McHugh said Baddick, a paratrooper with Headquarters Company, 82nd Airborne Division, had been stationed in Afghanistan before coming to Iraq one or two months ago.

Baddick, a 1997 graduate of Jim Thorpe Area Senior High School, enlisted in the Army in 1999 and re-enlisted for another six years in 2001, McHugh said.

Army Sgt. Andrew Joseph Baddick died saving another on 9/29/03.

Kentucky Army National Guard Sgt. Darrin K. Potter

Remember Our Heroes

Kentucky Army National Guard Sgt. Darrin K. Potter, 24, of Louisville, Ky.

Sgt Potter was assigned to the 223rd Military Police Company, Army National Guard, Louisville, Ky.; killed Sept. 29, 2003 when his vehicle left a road and went into a canal during a mission to search an area near Abu Ghraib Prison, outside Baghdad, Iraq.

Family, friends mourn guardsman killed in Iraq
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Bagpipes and a solemn drumbeat rang through Southeast Christian Church as family, friends and comrades gathered Oct 8 to remember the first Kentucky Army National Guardsman to die in combat since Vietnam.

Sgt. Darrin K. Potter, 24, was “a very compassionate, loving, selfless person who always had a calm demeanor,” Mike Koenig, a friend and Louisville police officer, said during the funeral.

One by one, military and police officers stood before Potter’s casket and bade him farewell with slow salutes after the service that drew about 300 mourners.

Potter wanted to be a police officer — his dream since high school — when he was deployed with the 223rd Military Police Company to Iraq.

He served as a peacekeeper in Bosnia with the 223rd in December 2000. Potter’s deployment to Iraq was to have been his last before returning with hopes of re-entering the police force.

Potter died Sept. 29 when his military vehicle overturned and was submerged in a canal in Baghdad. He was in a four-vehicle convoy on patrol. A Humvee carrying Potter and other soldiers failed to make a turn and plunged into the canal while responding to a mortar attack by Iraqi insurgents.

Sgt. Matthew Staples said Potter was more concerned about the safety of his comrades than about himself.

“When his vehicle rolled into the canal, he made sure his troops made it out of the vehicle,” said Staples, one of Potter’s closest friends in the unit.

All the occupants got out, and two made it to shallow water, but Potter was swept away by swift currents. A soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division, Sgt. Andrew Baddick of Jim Thorpe, Pa., died trying to rescue Potter.

Potter’s company was supporting elements of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Potter was born in Flemingsburg and grew up in Maysville, Frankfort and finally Louisville. He became interested in sports and the outdoors at an early age. In elementary school, he would clip empty Final Four brackets printed in the newspaper and sell copies to classmates for a quarter a piece, said the Rev. Larry Pope in a eulogy.

Potter had many friends but was especially close to his sister, Anita. Though four years his junior, Anita “was a mother hen to him,” doting over him and trying to pick his girlfriends for him, said Dennis Romans, their uncle.

Potter was buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville. He was honored with a 21-gun salute and a flyover by three Black Hawk helicopters.

He is survived by his father, David Potter; his mother, Lynn Romans; and his sister.

Guardsman killed in Iraq is remembered by his parents

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky’s first Army National Guard combat casualty in a generation died a “hero’s death” while responding to a mortar attack in Iraq, his mother said Friday.

Sgt. Darrin Potter was remembered by his parents as a warm, compassionate man devoted to family and his military mission.

Potter, 24, a member of the 223rd Military Police Company, died Monday when his military vehicle overturned and submerged in a canal in Baghdad.

“He died serving his country,” said his mother, Lynn Romans. “He died a hero’s death, and I think that’s how we need to remember him.”

In Iraq, Potter’s fellow guardsmen paid tribute to their fallen comrade at memorial services, said Kentucky Adjutant General D. Allen Youngman. The guardsmen received a short break from duties so they could “catch up a little bit emotionally and physically,” he said.

Youngman provided more details about the Kentucky Army National Guard’s first combat death since the Vietnam War.

Potter was in a four-vehicle convoy on patrol. A Humvee carrying Potter and other soldiers failed to make a turn and plunged into the canal while responding to a mortar attack by Iraqi insurgents, Youngman said.

All the occupants got out of the vehicle and two made it to shallow water, Youngman said, but Potter was swept away by the swift currents. A soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division also died while trying to rescue Potter, he said. Potter was part of a military police squad supporting elements of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Potter’s parents offered condolences to the family of Sgt. Andrew Baddick of Jim Thorpe, Penn., the soldier who tried to rescue Potter.

Potter’s father, David Potter, said he last spoke with his son the morning of his death. It was a brief conversation — his son had two minutes left on his phone card. Potter gave his father instructions to carry out some of his business back home, his father said.

David Potter said his son was always reluctant to discuss what was happening in Iraq. Potter’s unit arrived in the Persian Gulf in February.

“I think he was very content,” David Potter said. “He was a military man, he knew his mission and he went there to do a job. He was very positive in his outlook.”

Asked his thoughts about the war, David Potter replied, “We have decided to leave it to the intelligence of the nation to argue the pros and cons of the war.” Darrin Potter’s mother said the war was “the route our country has chosen, and that was his role.”

Potter joined the guard unit because of his interest in law enforcement, his father said.

Romans said her son was a “very likable, easy going person.” Potter’s father remembered him as an “outstanding, all-around person.”

She said the family doesn’t yet know when Potter’s body will be returned to Louisville. She said his funeral will be at Southeast Christian Church. Potter also is survived by a 20-year-old sister.

Potter’s mother said his death was “part of a much larger plan,” and that he continues to touch many lives even after death.

“In his 24 years of life he had a lot of opportunities and a lot of privileges,” she said. “He had a goal and he went for that, and he worked for that goal. He did accomplish a lot in his life, a lot more than maybe a lot of us in our entire lifetime.”

Romans learned of her son’s death while at work. She was alerted in a phone call from her ex-husband, Potter’s father, that something was wrong before a military team told her of her son’s death.

“It’s just something that you really can’t fathom, and you never want to see,” Romans told reporters at the Buechel Armory, where her son’s unit is stationed. “And even now it feels unreal.”

Kentucky Army National Guard Sgt. Darrin K. Potter was killed in action on 9/29/03.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Army Specialist Paul J. Sturino

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Paul J. Sturino, 21, of Rice Lake, Wis.

Spc. Sturino was assigned to B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Sept. 22 from a non-combat weapons discharge in Quest, Iraq.

Brother takes different road after death of sibling in Iraq

Associated Press

RACINE, Wis. — Army Spc. Alonzo Sturino arranged his little brother’s hair in his casket at the Hanson Funeral Home, carefully placed rosary beads in his hands and made sure all other details were perfect.

They were things Sturino wished he didn’t have to do Sunday for his 21-year-old brother Spc. Paul J. Sturino, who died Sept. 22 in Quest, Iraq.

Paul Sturino had been assigned to B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment out of Fort Campbell, Ky. Family members say he died as the result of an accidental discharge from another soldier’s firearm.

Alonzo Sturino also had escorted his brother’s body to Wisconsin, first to Racine, where area relatives gathered for services, and then to the Sturino brothers’ hometown, Rice Lake.

After years of Alonzo leading and Paul following — from high school wrestling at Rice Lake High School, joining the Army, then going to Iraq — Paul’s death now sets the brothers on separate journeys.

Duane Sturino of Kenosha, the brothers’ uncle, said his nephews were having a friendly race to see who would be the first promoted to sergeant.

“Alonzo said he is even more motivated now because of Paul’s death,” Duane Sturino said.

Overcast skies and rain reflected the somber gathering at the funeral home, where the American flag flew at half-staff. Red, white and blue was the theme for the flower sprays that surrounded the casket, which was also draped in a flag.

Family members reminisced about the happy boy who often spent summers in Kenosha, where the Sturino family is widely known and well-loved. Paul’s grandparents, George and Gloria, ran a family restaurant in Kenosha for years. Paul also spent three summers on the Barracuda Swim Team in Kenosha.

“He was a fun-loving, well-liked young man,” Duane Sturino said.

The Rev. Jeffrey Thielen, who officiated at the slain soldier’s memorial service, reminded the Sturino family that Paul will always be in their hearts.

“He dedicated his life to make the world better for us, and for that we say, ‘Thank you, Paul,”’ Thielen said.

A burial with full military honors at the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery was planned, Spooner said.

Family says 21-year-old Wisconsin soldier accidentally shot

ELM GROVE, Wis. — The fourth soldier from Wisconsin killed in Iraq was fatally shot in some kind of accident, his family said Sept. 23.

Christine Straate, the fiancée of the soldier’s father who lives in Elm Grove, said the family has been told some of the details surrounding the incident that killed Army Spc. Paul J. Sturino, 21, but she did not want to comment further.

“It was an accident,” she said.

Sturino, who graduated from Rice Lake High School in 2001, died Monday from what the Army called a “non-combat weapons discharge.”

He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and was in an area south of Mosul in northern Iraq.

Lt. Col. Kevin Curry, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said Wednesday the incident that killed Sturino remained under investigation.

The military’s labeling of the cause of Sturino’s death means only that there was no enemy contact at the time a weapon was fired killing him, Curry said.

“It doesn’t really fill in all the blanks yet. That is why it is under investigation,” he said.

Curry said it was unknown how long the official probe into Sturino’s death would take.

Three American flags fluttered in the breeze outside the home of Sturino’s mother, Christine Wetzel, near Rice Lake. A woman who answered the telephone at the home Wednesday said the family wanted to be left alone for now.

Randy Drost, one of Sturino’s high school teachers and his wrestling coach, said he was awaiting word about exactly what happened to the soldier. “We know what they’ve said can mean multiple things,” Drost said.

Army Specialist Paul J. Sturino was killed on 09/22/03.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Army Spc. Lunsford B. Brown II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Lunsford B. Brown II, 27, of Creedmore, N.C.

Spc Brown was assigned to A Company, 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion, Patton Barracks, Germany; killed Sept. 20, 2003 in a mortar attack in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.Spc. Lunsford B. Brown II may have been a bit unpolished as a high school football player, but his hard work helped his team in Henderson, N.C., win the conference championship.

“He was raw, since he hadn’t played much,” said coach Randy Long. “But he was a strong guy, and he moved well and ended up being a contributor to the team as a defensive lineman.” He also made an impression in other ways: “I vividly remember him coming to the locker room with his ROTC uniform on to get dressed for practice,” Long said.

Brown, 27, was killed Sept. 20 when mortars struck an Iraqi prison outside Baghdad. He was based in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Brown’s younger brother, Jason, is the star center for the University of North Carolina’s football team. Long said Lunsford Brown was “a very likable person. He had the same good demeanor as the rest of his family. I thought a lot of him.”

Survivors include his wife, Sherrie Wheeler Brown of Greensboro, N.C., and 3-month-old daughter, Amber.

Army Spc. Lunsford B. Brown II was killed in action on 9/20/03.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bruce E. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bruce E. Brown, 32, of Coatopa, Ala.

TSgt Brown was assigned to the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Robins Air Force Base, Ga.; killed in a motor vehicle accident on Sept. 4 near Udeid, Qatar.

Bruce Brown had a loving nickname for his wife of nine years. "He would call me Candy because he said I would sweeten up his day," Candice Brown said.

Bruce Brown, 32, of Coatopa, Ala., died Sept. 4 in a motor vehicle accident near Al Udeid, Qatar. He was stationed at Robins Air Force Base, Ohio.

Candice Brown said she met her husband in London in the 1990s while he was on assignment in Europe. She took him to catch the plane that took him to Iraq in July. "I prayed he would come home safely," she said.

The couple would have celebrated their ninth anniversary on Dec. 19. He is also survived by a daughter. "Dealing with his passing has been pretty hard," Candice Brown said. "You can't imagine all the things he did for me and his daughter."

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bruce E. Brown was killed in a vehicle accident on 9/4/03.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

North Carolina Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Bobby C. Franklin

Remember Our Heroes

North Carolina Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Bobby C. Franklin, 38, of Mineral Bluff, Ga.

SSgt. Franklin was assigned to the 210th Military Police Company, Army National Guard, Murphy N.C.; killed by an improvised explosive device Aug. 20 in Baghdad, Iraq.

N.C. Guard soldier killed was prison worker at home

Associated Press

Family members of a North Carolina National Guard soldier who died in Iraq said they knew something was wrong even before the military came to their door to give them the bad news.

Staff Sgt. Bobby Franklin, 38, a member of the 210th Military Police Company based in Murphy, was killed Aug. 20 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle, according to the military.

Franklin’s death marks the first time in more than three decades that the North Carolina National Guard has lost a soldier to hostile fire, guard officials said.

Two other soldiers with Franklin were injured. By the night of Aug. 20, Franklin’s family knew something was wrong.

“The other two guys that were always with him had already called in and checked with their wives,” said Tim Nicholson, Franklin’s brother-in-law. Franklin’s wife, Brenda, didn’t receive a call.

By the morning of the 21st, soldiers had arrived in Mineral Bluff, Ga., the town just across the border where the Franklins lived to tell Brenda what happened.

When not in the guard, Franklin worked at the Carlton Colwell Probation and Detention Center in Blairsville, Ga. He supervised inmates working on construction projects in the community.

When the reservist was called up, his co-workers made sure he periodically received care packages filled with comforts from home.

Family members tried to talk the longtime reservist into calling it quits last year as the nation’s war of words with Iraq increased.

“He was within a year of retirement,” Nicholson said. “That’s why he went back this time.”

More than 1,300 North Carolina Guardsmen are on active duty, many overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers in his unit are trying to make sense of what happened to Franklin, a father of two children.

“Their morale is low,” said Kim Johnson, the family coordinator for the 210th. “They feel guilty they’re not home to give Bobby the burial he deserves. It’s hard for them to focus on their mission.”

Georgia man killed in explosion in Iraq

ATLANTA — A Georgia man was killed and two other soldiers from the same North Carolina National Guard unit were wounded Aug. 20 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle.

Staff Sgt. Bobby Franklin, 38, of Mineral Bluff, and the two wounded men — who were not identified — were assigned to the 210th Military Police Company of Murphy, N.C.

The bombing happened in the Karkah district of Baghdad late Aug. 20, according to U.S. Central Command. Franklin was from the 1st Armored Division.

The wounded soldiers weren’t seriously injured, and one already has returned to duty, said Capt. Robert N. Carver, spokesman for the North Carolina National Guard.

Carver said the family asked reporters to not contact them.

“This is the time to ask all North Carolinians to not only express their gratitude for Staff Sgt. Bobby Franklin’s service, but to pray for his family, his wife, his son and his daughter,” North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley said.

— Associated Press

North Carolina Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Bobby C. Franklin was killed in action on 08/20/03.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Army Pfc. Timmy R. Brown Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Timmy R. Brown Jr., 21, of Conway, Pa.

Pfc Brown was assigned to D Company, 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Bragg, N.C.; killed by an explosive device while traveling in a convoy in Taji, Iraq, on Aug. 12, 2003.

Soldier killed in Iraq to receive Purple Heart, Bronze Star
Associated Press

CONWAY, Pa. — A 21-year-old soldier killed in Iraq will receive the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and other honors posthumously, the Army announced.

The medals will be sent in time for the Aug. 20 funeral of Army Pfc. Timothy R. Brown Jr., according to Maj. Steven Chung, deputy provost marshal for the 99th Regional Readiness Command in Moon Township.

Brown, a native of Conway, about 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, was assigned to D Company, 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was killed by an explosive device while traveling in a convoy Aug. 12 just north of Baghdad.

On Aug. 17, more than 250 people gathered at the Conway War Memorial to pay tribute to Brown. Candles were passed through the crowd and friends and families left flowers on the memorial. Some held American flags and a bell was struck to honor Brown.

Brown’s father, Timothy Brown Sr., and his stepmother, Pam Brown, were presented with a flag.

“He was a spectacular human being,” said Bryan Revelant, 19, one of Brown’s friend. “He would give you the shirt off his back if you asked him to.”

Pennsylvania soldier killed by explosive device in Iraq

PITTSBURGH — A western Pennsylvania man was killed by an explosive device while traveling in a convoy in Iraq, the Defense Department.

Pfc. Timothy R. Brown Jr., 21, a native of Conway, about 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, was assigned to D Company, 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. He died Aug. 12 in Taji, about 12 miles north of Baghdad.

Brown’s stepmother, Pam Brown Lois, said Thursday she was “devastated.” She said did not want to talk about her stepson until she heard more about his death from the military.

Brown’s friend, Bryan Revelant, 19, described the 2001 graduate of Freedom Area High School as a prankster who was popular with his peers.

“This is real tough. We were so close because I knew him all my life. He was like my brother,” Revelant said.

Brown decided to enlist in the Army on April 1, 2001, just to see his friends’ reactions, Revelant said.

“He thought it’d be funny to do it on April Fools’ Day. He was one of those jokesters,” said Revelant, a 2002 graduate of Freedom Area High School.

Brown signed up for two years of military service and was scheduled to be discharged in February. But Revelant said Brown was having second thoughts about leaving the Army.

“He wanted to go to Iraq ... When he got over there, he said he wanted to stay,” Revelant said.

Since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat over in Iraq, 60 American soldiers have died in attacks. Eight Britons have been killed in combat in the same period.

Army Pfc. Timmy R. Brown Jr. was killed in action on 8/12/03.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Army Specialist Justin W. Hebert

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Justin W. Hebert, 20, of Arlington, Washington.

Spc. Hebert was on patrol when his vehicle was struck by a rocket propelled grenade in Kirkuk, Iraq. Hebert was assigned to the 319th Field Artillery, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Camp Ederle, Italy. Died on August 1, 2003.

Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Wash. — Years ago, Justin Hebert played basketball and took physical education classes in the wood-floored gymnasium at Post Middle School.

More than 200 people filed into that same gymnasium on Aug. 16 to honor him, two weeks after a rocket-propelled grenade took his life near Kirkuk, Iraq.

“You are a brother unlike any other,” said his sister, Jessica, sobbing. “Nobody else could compete.”

Family members and friends, high school buddies and fellow soldiers attended the service. Afterward, he was buried beside a small white church on a hillside overlooking a dairy farm in nearby Silvana, the tiny town where he grew up.

“I am proud to be the one who brought Justin home,” said Sgt. Nicholas Lewis, who helped return Hebert’s body. “In doing so I have fulfilled a promise to him and helped ease my own pain.

"I ask God to protect him, to keep his music loud and his steaks well-done.”

Army Spc. Hebert, barely 20 years old and a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was on a nighttime patrol when the grenade struck his vehicle, killing him and wounding three others.

He was the 250th American to die in Iraq, the 114th since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major hostilities.

Army Spc. Bret Rickard was one of Hebert’s best friends growing up in Silvana. The two met at Post Middle School in the seventh grade, then both enlisted immediately after graduating from Arlington High School.

Hebert’s parents had to sign the paperwork for him because he was only 17, too young to sign it himself.

“I was thinking about joining the Army because of the college money — they were going to give me $50,000 for college,” Rickard said after the funeral. “He also didn’t have the money but wanted to go to college, so we both signed up.

“He was really proud of what he did. It was something he was good at.”

Rickard, with a maroon beret and forest green uniform, said he tried not to cry during the memorial, but “then they showed the movie and you see the pictures of the day-to-day life with your best friend and he’s not here anymore, and I just cried.”

The Army presented Hebert’s family with his posthumous Purple Heart and Bronze Star, as well as the American flag that draped his casket.

His death reverberated through Silvana. Willow & Jim’s, the town’s only restaurant, took up a collection for the family, and co-owner Willow Payne gave the Heberts a copy of a plaque bearing Justin’s likeness. The plaque will be placed next to the restaurant’s flagpole.

Silvana residents and rodeo enthusiasts Kory and Rachel Johnson held a bull-riding benefit for the family at their ranch. Bill Hebert, Justin’s father, directed that the proceeds instead be given to 2-year-old Jessica Fisher, a Tacoma girl receiving a bone marrow transplant from her older brother at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.

“In a small town like this you get to know pretty much everybody in the community,” Kory Johnson said. “Something like this is real hard. Everybody just tries to pull together to support the family.”

Army Specialist Justin W. Hebert was killed in action on 08/01/03.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Army Specialist Jonathan P. Barnes

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Jonathan P. Barnes, 21, Anderson, Mo.

Spc. Barnes was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; killed July 26 as a result of a grenade being thrown from a window of an Iraqi civilian hospital he was helping guard in Baqubah, Iraq.

Spc. Jonathan P. Barnes wanted what was best for his family, and figured the military was the best way to accomplish that. He took law enforcement classes in the service and hoped to eventually become a state trooper.

“He wanted to find a way to better his education and also support his family better,” said his sister, Kim Riley. “He chose to join the military. He thought, that way, not only would he have housing for them but that he would be a better provider.”

Barnes, 21, died July 26 in a grenade attack while guarding a hospital in Iraq. He was based at Fort Hood, and is survived by his wife, Amanda, and 2-year-old daughter.

“He wrote several letters and always said there was nothing to worry about,” Riley said. “He asked every time about his house because we were to take care of the grass and the bills. And he always asked about family.”

— Associated Press

Coweta soldier killed in Iraqi grenade attack

Associated Press

COWETA, Okla. — An Oklahoma soldier is among three U.S. servicemen killed in a grenade attack in Iraq.

Spc. Jonathan Paul Barnes, 21, died July 26 while guarding a children’s hospital in Baqoubau, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, said Kim Riley, Barnes’ sister.

Barnes was a member of the 4th Infantry Division, his sister said.

“What are the odds that out of the whole the 4th Infantry, one of the three (killed) would be him?” Riley said.

She heard news of the attack the day it happened, and military officials notified her family of Barnes’ death a day later, Riley said.

Barnes and two other soldiers were killed after a grenade was thrown from a window of an Iraqi civilian hospital, according to a statement from the Department of Defense.

“He was assigned to the children’s hospital because they were storing weapons there,” Riley said.

Barnes was born in Muskogee and attended school in Coweta. The married father of a 2-year-old girl, joined the military after a recruiting visit to Joplin, Mo., and underwent basic training in Fort Benning, Ga., Riley said.

Barnes served in Korea and Kuwait before being sent to Iraq.

He had taken law enforcement classes while in the military and wanted to become a state trooper, Riley said.

“He wanted to find a way to better his education and also support his family better,” Riley said. “He chose to join the military. He thought that way, not only would he have housing for them but that he would be a better provider.”

Barnes’ wife has requested that Barnes be buried in a cemetery in Anderson, Mo., Riley said.

Barnes is believed to be the first person from Coweta to have died in Iraq.

Army Specialist Jonathan P. Barnes was killed in action on 07/26/03.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Army Capt. Paul J. Cassidy

Remember Our Heroes

Army Capt. Paul J. Cassidy, 36, of Laingsburg, Mich.

Capt. Cassidy was assigned to the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Wis.; died July 13, 2003 as a result of non-combat injuries at Camp Babylon, Iraq.

Paul J. Cassidy had made a life out of helping people in troubled regions. His mission to Iraq with the Army Reserves was similar to previous duties in Kosovo, Bosnia and Kuwait, where he distributed food and blankets and helped reconstruct power grids, improve phone lines, re-establish farms, provide water and repair houses.

“He was basically in there to help people, doing humanitarian deeds, the nice things,” said Meridian Township, Mich., clerk Mary Helmbrecht.

Cassidy, 36, of Laingsburg, Mich., died July 13 as a result of non-combat injuries in Iraq.

Helmbrecht said Cassidy’s involvement with the humanitarian aspects of war and his dedication to his work reflected his personality.

“He had an outstanding dry wit,” she said. “He was just an incredibly dedicated, detail-oriented, phenomenal employee.”

— Associated Press

A July 18 memorial service for a Michigan soldier who died in Iraq promised to bring his unit — 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion — closer together.

According to the Department of Defense, Capt. Paul J. Cassidy, 36, of Laingsburg, Mich. died July 13 from non-combat injuries in Camp Babylon, Iraq. His death is still being investigated, said Ben Abel, public affairs liaison for the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“Our unit is running the gamut of emotions. Shock, mostly a lot of sadness,” Maj. Jeff Ponkratz of Green Bay wrote in an e-mail to the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Wednesday. “It’s safe to say this has made us appreciate each other and has pulled us together.”

Ponkratz said members of the unit scattered across Southern Iraq will attend Friday’s service. The 432nd is made up of reservists from around the Great Lakes region.

Cassidy, a graduate of Ripon College, joined the 432nd in October 1985 and served as the unit’s Dislocated Civilians Control Officer until Feb. 1992. Although he later transferred to the 415th battalion of Kalamazoo, Mich., Cassidy was deployed with the 432nd on several occasions.

He once again volunteered to serve with the 432nd in Operation Iraqi Freedom on Feb. 28.

Cassidy is the 12th Michigan soldier to die in Iraq. He is survived by his wife Susan and their 10-month-old son Colin.

“He was working very hard on restoring the sewer and water systems in Al Hillah when he grew increasingly tired,” Ponkratz wrote. “We want Colin to know how hard his dad worked and how many lives Paul has helped over his lifetime during these deployments.”

Army Capt. Paul J. Cassidy was killed in a non-combat related incident on 7/13/03.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Army Pfc. Kevin C. Ott

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Kevin C. Ott, 27, of Columbus, Ohio

Pfc Ott was assigned to Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Sill, Okla.; killed in action in Iraq sometime between June 25, 2003 and June 28.

Ott and Sgt. 1st Class Gladimir Philippe, with the same unit, had been listed as missing in action after they failed to respond to a radio check June 25 south of Balad, Iraq. A search party was sent to the location of their last radio transmission, but was unable to find the soldiers. Their remains were located in Taji, Iraq, on June 28.

Pfc. Kevin Ott had worked with a youth group and sang in the church choir in his hometown of Orient, Ohio. He decided to join the military after the Sept. 11 attacks, and even when he was deployed to Iraq, his father says, he wasn’t afraid of dying.

“He was completely at peace,” said Charles Ott.

Ott’s body along with that of another soldier were discovered June 28 near Baghdad, three days after they were reported missing some 25 miles away. Ott was part of an artillery unit based at Fort Sill.

Pam Condo, 49, remembered the time her brother gave her a ride on his beloved motorcycle. “I was afraid because I knew he loved to go really fast, but to my surprise, he went really slow because he knew I was scared,” she said.

Ott played defensive end for a season at Bluffton College, was on the football and basketball teams in high school, and coached his nephew’s Little League team, Condo said.

His calls and letters during the war were reserved, but his family could tell he was proud. “He absolutely loved Army life,” Charles Ott said.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Army Specialist Joseph D. Suell

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Joseph D. Suell, 24, of Lufkin, Texas

Spc. Suell was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters and Service Battery, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Sill, Okla.; killed June 16 in Todjie, Iraq. He died from a non-combat related cause.

Lufkin soldier killed in Iraq

Associated Press

LUFKIN, Texas — Fort Hood officials have notified family members that a 24-year-old Lufkin man was killed in Iraq.

Fort Hood spokesman Cecil Green said personnel from the Central Texas post went to Lufkin to notify relatives of Spc. Joseph Suell’s death. Suell was assigned to 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery at Fort Sill, Okla., Green said.

The Defense Department said Suell’s death was from a non-combat related cause. According to a news release on the CENTCOM Web site, the soldier died in the Taji area of Iraq.

He was evacuated to an Army medical facility for treatment, where he later died.

Suell had written a letter to his mother, Rena Mathis, that she received the day he died, The Lufkin Daily News reported June 18.

Suell’s aunt, Deborah McKay, said Suell told his mother he was ready to come home. McKay said Suell wrote that he and his comrades did not have electricity, or water to bathe, and that he was afraid for his life because of snipers.

“He had things on there like, People think the war is over, and it’s not,’’ she said.

Suell is survived by his wife, Rebecca, and their two daughters.

He graduated from Lufkin High School in 1997, and had been a member of the Panther basketball team. McKay said she believed Suell was in his third year in the Army.

Army Specialist Joseph D. Suell was killed on 06/16/03.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Army Sgt. Atanacio Haro Marin

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Atanacio Haro Marin, 27, of Baldwin Park, Calif.

Sgt. Haro-Marin was assigned to Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas; killed by enemy south of Balad, Iraq, June 3. Marin was manning a checkpoint when his unit came under enemy fire from rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.

Baldwin Park soldier died from enemy fire in Iraq

Associated Press

BALDWIN PARK, Calif. — An Army sergeant ambushed and killed this week in Iraq was remembered by his family as a proud and courageous soldier who was living out a long-held dream of serving in the U.S. military.

Atanasio Haro Marin Jr. — whose name was spelled Atanacio Haromarin in a military announcement — died June 3 when his checkpoint was attacked with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades.

“It takes a lot of courage to serve,” said Ismael Haro Marin, his older brother. “We are all going to miss him, we are missing him already. We wish it was a dream. We are trying to wake up to reality. There is so much pain.”

Marin, 27, known as “Nacho” to his family, was born in Momax, Mexico, and lived there with his mother while his father, Atanasio, worked in California picking fruit and doing construction jobs to support seven children.

The family reunited in Los Angeles when he was 2, later moving to suburban Baldwin Park east of the city.

He competed on the Sierra Vista High School track team and also ran in a Los Angeles Marathon.

Upon graduation, he joined the National Guard over the objections of his parents, the family told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. When his tour of duty ended, he transferred to the Army, and was making the military a career.

“I want to run from here and go to wherever he is at,” his distraught mother, Catalina, told KMEX-TV. “I want to see him even if he is dead, I want to kiss him.”

Marin was assigned to Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas.

He last saw his family during a January leave, two months before he left for the Middle East.

He managed to call home twice in April and had sent a Mother’s Day card that read: “Don’t worry, be happy.”

“He was never unhappy,” said his sister-in-law, Aracely Haro Marin. “He would say, ‘Don’t worry about it, there will be better times.’ ”

Army Sgt. Atanacio Haro Marin was killed in action on 06/03/03.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Marine Sgt. Jonathan W. Lambert

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Jonathan W. Lambert, 28, of New Site, Miss.

Sgt. Lambert was assigned to the Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died June 1 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, as a result of injuries he suffered May 26 when his Humvee rolled over in Iraq.

Jonathan Lambert joined the Marine Corps in January 1995 and was assigned to the Headquarters Battalion of the 1st Marine Division since January 2001. He died at Lansdstulh hospital in Germany from injuries he received in a Humvee accident in southern Iraq.

His division was traveling by convoy from Baghdad to Kuwait to prepare to return to their home base in Camp Pendleton, Calif., when the May 26 accident occurred.

A 1993 Booneville High School graduate, Lambert worked in wireless data communications as a member of the 1st Marine Division.

In a message e-mailed to his hometown newspaper, The Banner-Independent of Booneville, Lambert had written: “I am hard and thorough with my Marines to make sure the job is done right. Many other Marines depend on us for their survival in combat. I will not let them down.”

Survivors include his wife, Betty; a 2-year-old daughter, Kinsey; and his parents, Becky and Johnny Lambert of Booneville, Miss.

— Associated Press

Marine Sgt. Jonathan W. Lambert was killed in action on 06/01/03.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Army Maj. Mathew E. Schram

Remember Our Heroes

Army Maj. Mathew E. Schram, 36, of Brookfield, Wis.

Maj. Schram was assigned to the Headquarters & Headquarters Troop Support Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colo.; killed by enemy fire May 26 in Hadithah, Iraq.

Maj. Mathew E. Schram, the fifth of six children of Earl and Sarah Schram, always wanted to be a soldier, said his older sister, Susan Kuske. He joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater before joining the Army in 1989.

“He made it his career and loved it,” Kuske said. “He rose in the ranks and worked hard to get there.”

Schram, 36, of Brookfield, Wis., was killed May 26 near the town of Hadithah, about 120 miles north of Baghdad, when gunmen ambushed a military convoy on a resupply mission.

“He felt he was doing the right thing,” said Susan Kuske. “We all felt the same way.”

Army Maj. Mathew E. Schram was killed in action on 05/26/03.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Army Pfc. John E. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. John E. Brown, 21, of Troy, Ala.

Pfc Brown was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed April 14, 2003 when a grenade exploded inside his Humvee in Iraq.

The last words from John Brown to his family came in a message sent last week.

“He just e-mailed to let us know he was OK and that they were winding down and he hoped to be home soon,” his sister, Jessica Brown-Tatum, said. “He told us he was doing what he loved and not to worry about him, and should anything happen to just know he was doing what he loved.”

Brown, 21, of Troy, Ala., was killed April 14 in a grenade explosion near Baghdad while serving with the 101st Airborne Division. The incident is under investigation.

A former reservist, Brown joined the Army in October, and was based a month later at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. He was a radio communications specialist.

Tatum recalled how much her brother loved the military. “That was just his life.” She also remembered his kindness. “He was a big teddy bear and would do anything for you,” she said. “He had a heart of gold.

Army Pfc. John E. Brown was killed in action on 4/14/03.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Army Cpl. Henry L. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Henry L. Brown, 22, of Natchez, Miss.

Cpl Brown was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Stewart, Ga.; died April 8, 2003 of wounds received in action that same day south of Baghdad.When Henry Brown left for the war, his mom made sure the onetime Sunday school teacher from Natchez, Miss., packed his Bible. Every time they talked, she’d ask him whether he was praying and reading the Good Book. She raised him to stand strong, but to lean on God.

The 22-year-old Army corporal died April 8 from injuries he received in an enemy rocket attack south of Baghdad.

Now his mother is trying to practice what she always preached to her only child. “I didn’t have him long, but I thank God for the years I did have him,” said Rhonda James-Brown, 50. “I’m crying, but I have an inner peace. I just know that Henry is with the Lord and his grandma.”

Brown graduated in 1999 from Natchez High School. He joined the Junior ROTC in high school, planning even then to go into the Army. He enlisted after graduation.

Brown met and married his wife, JoDona, in the Army. They were married less than a year. His wife was serving in Kuwait and is now making her way home, Brown’s mother said.

Army Cpl. Henry L. Brown was killed in action on 4/8/03.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Army Spc. Larry K. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Larry K. Brown, 22, of Jackson, Miss.

Spc Brown was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, Fort Riley, Kan.; killed in action in Iraq on April 5, 2003.

LaKeidra Davis remembers older brother Larry Brown’s passion for basketball and his sense of humor.

“He was very comforting at bad times. He always had the right thing to say,” said Davis, 16. “He used to make me laugh. ... He’d make a joke about anything; it would be so funny.”

Brown, 22, a track and basketball athlete as a student at Bailey Magnet High School in Jackson, Miss., was killed in action in Iraq April 5.

Davis said her brother seemed happy when he called her from Kuwait on March 12. “He was doing what he wanted to do,” said his mother, Rosemary Brown. “We were all proud.”

Dorothy Terry, principal of Brown’s high school, also remembers his humor. “He was a kind of funny guy when he wanted to be,” she said. “But for the most part, he was a real serious young man.”

Army Spc. Larry K. Brown was killed in action on 4/5/03.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, 33, of Tampa, Fla.

Sgt. Smith was assigned to 11th Engineer Battalion, Fort Stewart, Ga.; killed leading a counterattack against the enemy at Baghdad Airport in Iraq.

Soldier’s son accepts Medal of Honor for dad’s valor in Iraq

By Matthew Cox
Army Times staff writer

If young David Smith was scared, he didn’t show it.

The wide-eyed, 11-year-old boy let go of his mother’s hand and stood tall as President Bush presented him with the Medal of Honor Monday for his father’s heroism in Iraq.

David took the wood-framed plaque, holding the nation’s highest award for valor, and gazed at it briefly before silently lifting his head to face the roomful of generals, lawmakers, service members and journalists in the cramped room of the White House.

His father, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, died exactly two years before he received the honor for leading a counterattack against the Iraqi Republican Guard that saved 100 of his fellow soldiers’ lives.

“The Medal of Honor is the highest award for bravery a president can bestow; it is given for gallantry above and beyond the call of duty,” Bush said in a speech before presenting the prestigious award.

Smith, 33, was a platoon sergeant with Bravo Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, during the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

On April 4, 2003, Smith was setting up a temporary enemy prisoner of war holding area during the seizure of Saddam International Airport when his unit came under attack.

Smith kept his soldiers focused during the fight while engaging the Iraqi force of around 100 men with his M16, a hand grenade and an AT4 anti-armor weapon.

At one point in the battle, Smith manned a .50 caliber machinegun in the exposed turret of a damaged M113 armored personnel carrier and began firing at the main force of the enemy.

He fired about 400 rounds, giving his soldiers time to regroup and mount an attack of their own.

When the shooting stopped, the Iraqi force had been defeated, but not before Smith had suffered an enemy bullet to the head.

Smith is the first Medal of Honor recipient since the two medals awarded to Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart, who died during the battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Oct. 3, 1993.

“On this day, two years ago, Sergeant Smith gave his all for his men. Five days later Baghdad fell, and the Iraqi people were liberated,” Bush said. “Today we bestow on Sergeant Smith the first Medal of Honor in the war on terrorism. … We count ourselves blessed that we have soldiers like Sergeant Smith.”

Smith is also the first to be awarded the new Medal of Honor Flag, recently authorized by Congress.

In addition to David, Smith’s wife, Birgit, and his 18-year-old daughter, Jessica, also stood on the small stage to accept the award.

Following the ceremony, Birgit told reporters it wasn’t hard to make the decision to have David accept the honor for his father.

“He is now the man in our household, so David deserves to have this Medal of Honor,” she said.

• • • • •

Medal of Honor recipient enshrined at Pentagon

A day after being honored at the White House, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith posthumously took his place in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, where his German-born wife said his actions have inspired her to seek American citizenship.

Smith received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, for combat actions near Baghdad airport on April 4, 2003. A combat engineer, he was mortally wounded while manning a .50-caliber machine gun on a disabled vehicle, killing an estimated 20 to 50 enemy fighters and allowing the evacuation of numerous wounded Americans.

During a ceremony April 4, President Bush presented his Medal of Honor to Smith’s wife, Birgit, and two children, Jessica, 18, and David, 11.

“My family and I continue to be overwhelmed by the American people’s appreciation of his service,” said Birgit Smith, who met her husband while he was stationed in Bamberg, Germany, in the early 1990s. They married when he returned to Germany from the 1991 Gulf War.

“I’m sure Paul would be proud to know that I have begun the process of becoming an American citizen,” Birgit Smith said at the Pentagon Hall of Heroes ceremony, attended by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior dignitaries.

She currently lives in Holiday, Fla., near Tampa, where her late husband grew up and where his parents, Donald and Janice Pvirre, still live.

“Sixty years ago, American soldiers liberated the German people from tyranny in World War II,” Smith said. “Today, another generation of American soldiers has given the Iraqi and Afghani peoples a path of freedom. This is an ideal that Paul truly believed in.”

She also thanked “all of the soldiers who influenced Paul as he advanced through his military career.”

The Pentagon Hall of Heroes contains plaques bearing the names of all the nation’s Medal of Honor recipients. Smith’s son and daughter unveiled a new plaque with the inscription “War on Terrorism,” which bears Paul Smith’s name.

In his remarks, Rumsfeld noted that President Harry Truman once told a recipient: “‘I’d rather have this medal than be president.’”

Two living Medal of Honor recipients also attended Smith’s ceremony.

“Every soldier has a story,” Birgit Smith said, sometimes striving to hold back the emotion in her voice. “Because of this award, Paul’s story of uncommon valor will forever be remembered.”

She added: “As soldiers, I encourage you to tell your stories because the American people and the world will better understand the sacrifice of Paul and others like him, one soldier story at a time.”

Vince Crawley, Army Times staff

• • • • •

Tampa soldier to be awarded posthumous Medal of Honor

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A soldier credited with saving dozens of lives by beating back an Iraqi attack before he was killed will receive the first Medal of Honor awarded since 1993, according to the officer who nominated him.

Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, 33, of the Tampa Bay area, was killed in action when his outnumbered unit was attacked by Iraqi forces at the Baghdad airport on April 4, 2003.

Lt. Col. Thomas Smith on Tuesday notified the soldier’s wife, Birgit, that President Bush would present the nation’s highest award to her and their children, Jessica, 18, and David, 10, at a White House ceremony, possibly in March.

No official announcement had been made by the Pentagon as of Wednesday.

“This is a guy whose whole life experience seemed building toward putting him in the position where he could something like this,” said Thomas Smith, who is not related to the fallen soldier. “He was demanding on his soldiers all the time and was a stickler for all the things we try to enforce. It’s just an amazing story.”

Paul Smith, with Bravo Company of the 11th Engineer Battalion from Fort Stewart, Ga., was helping build a holding pen for a growing number of prisoners when he climbed aboard an armored personnel carrier and manned its .50-caliber machine gun to cover for fellow troops.

Smith fired more than 300 rounds and the ceramic breast plate in his flak jacket was shattered as he took return fire from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

He was the only American who died in the attack.

“People know what he’s done,” Smith’s wife said. “People know that to get a Medal of Honor you have to be a special person or do something really great.”

Since the Civil War, 3,439 men and one woman have received the Medal of Honor, awarded for bravery “above and beyond the call of duty.”

It was last presented to two soldiers killed in Somalia during action described in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.”

— Associated Press

• • • • •

Baghdad Airport, April 4, 2003.

On April 4, 2003, the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, attacked to seize Objective Lions, the Baghdad International Airport.

As part of the Brigade scheme of maneuver, Task Force 2-7 Infantry was tasked to establish a blocking position against a brigade-sized counterattack on the main entrance to the airfield. Task Force 2-7 had been fighting for three consecutive days and had moved through the night before reaching the blocking position. Morale was high, but Soldiers were experiencing fatigue.

B Company, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment (Knight) was in the east-most position oriented along the main avenue of approach ready for the main enemy counterattack. A Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment (Rage) was attacking to the southeast of the Highway.

The main entrance to the airfield was a four-lane highway with a median to separate incoming and outgoing traffic. Large masonry walls with towers approximately 100 meters apart bound the highway. On the morning of April 4, 2003, more than 100 soldiers from the Task Force 2-7 Forward Aid Station, mortars, scouts and portions of B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion were in the median behind the forward most blocking positions. The B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion 2nd Platoon Leader was on a reconnaissance mission with the B Company, Task Force 2-7 Infantry Commander. During his absence, 2nd Platoon received the mission to construct an Enemy Prisoner of War holding area. Sgt. 1st Class Smith was in charge of 2nd Platoon.

Sgt. 1st Class Smith assessed the best location to be behind the masonry wall bounding the highway. Two guard towers along the wall were ideally situated to provide overwatch to the holding area. An M9 armored combat earthmover (ACE) knocked a hole in the wall to create an opening to a large courtyard with a louvered metal gate on the north side. With the help of a squad leader and team leader, Sgt. 1st Class Smith checked the far side of the courtyard for enemy, found none, and posted two guards. From the guard post at the gate small groupings of buildings were 100-200 meters to the northeast. To the northwest, a large white building with a white dome was visible. The location seemed perfect as the courtyard was along the northern flank of the blocking position and enemy actions to this point were mostly from the east.

While an engineer squad began to clear debris in the courtyard, one of the guards saw 10-15 enemy soldiers with small arms, 60mm mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG). These were the lead elements of an organized company-sized force making a deliberate attack on the flank of Task Force 2-7.

Sgt. 1st Class Smith came to the position and identified 25-50 more soldiers moving into prepared fighting positions. Sgt. 1st Class Smith instructed a squad leader to get a nearby Bradley Fighting Vehicle for support. While waiting for the Bradley, Sgt. 1st Class Smith had members of 2nd platoon retrieve AT-4 weapons and form a skirmish line outside the gate. By this time, the number of enemy identified rose to 100 soldiers, now a confirmed company-sized attack. Three of B Company’s M113A3 armored personnel carriers (APC) oriented .50-cal. machineguns toward the opening in the wall and the surrounding guard towers, now occupied by enemy soldiers.

Sgt. 1st Class Smith’s actions to organize a defense against the deliberate attack were not only effective, but inspired the B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion Soldiers. He then began to lead by example. As the Bradley arrived on site and moved through the hole in the wall toward the gate, Sgt. 1st Class Smith ran to the gate wall and threw a fragmentation grenade at the enemy. He then took two Soldiers forward to join the guards and directed their engagement of the enemy with small arms. The enemy continued to fire rifles, RPGs, and 60mm mortars at the Soldiers on the street and within the courtyard. Enemy soldiers began moving along the buildings on the north side of the clearing to get into position to climb into the towers.

Sgt. 1st Class Smith called for an APC to move forward to provide additional fire support. Sgt. 1st Class Smith then fired an AT-4 at the enemy while directing his fire team assembled near the front line of the engagement area.

Running low on ammunition and having taken RPG hits, the Bradley withdrew to reload. The lead APC in the area received a direct hit from a mortar, wounding the three occupants. The enemy attack was at its strongest point and every action counted. Not only were the wounded Soldiers threatened but also more than 100 Soldiers from B Company, the Task Force Aid Station, and the Mortar Platoon were at risk.

Sgt. 1st Class Smith ordered one of his Soldiers to back the damaged APC back into the courtyard after the wounded men had been evacuated. Knowing the APC’s .50-cal. machinegun was the largest weapon between the enemy and the friendly position, Sgt. 1st Class Smith immediately assumed the track commander’s position behind the weapon, and told a soldier who accompanied him to “feed me ammunition whenever you hear the gun get quiet.”

Sgt. 1st Class Smith fired on the advancing enemy from the unprotected position atop the APC and expended at least three boxes of ammunition before being mortally wounded by enemy fire.

The enemy attack was defeated. Sgt. 1st Class Smith’s actions saved the lives of at least 100 Soldiers, caused the failure of a deliberate enemy attack hours after 1st Brigade seized the Baghdad Airport, and resulted in an estimated 20-50 enemy soldiers killed. His actions inspired his platoon, his Company, the 11th Engineer Battalion and Task Force 2-7 Infantry.

Sgt. 1st Class Smith’s actions to lead Soldiers in direct contact with a numerically superior enemy — to personally engage the enemy with a fragmentation grenade, AT-4, and individual weapon, to ultimately assume the track commander’s position to fire the .50-cal. machinegun through at least three boxes of ammunition before being mortally wounded — demonstrates conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.

His actions prevented a penetration in the Task Force 2-7 sector, defended the aid station, mortars, and scouts, and allowed the evacuation of Soldiers wounded by indirect enemy fire.

Smith had a plan, and completed his missions

Like any good military man, Paul Smith had a plan: become a professional soldier and have a family.

He completed both missions long before he was killed in action April 4 at age 33.

Smith, a 14-year Army veteran and father of two, enlisted shortly after graduating from Tampa Bay Technical High School in 1989. Within a year, he was in the Gulf, serving in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Later, he went to another of the world’s hot spots, Bosnia.

“He had his life mapped out since he was 18,” his stepfather, Donald Pvirre, told The Tampa Tribune. “That’s what he wanted to do.”

He did it well. Pvirre said Smith had “earned medals from all over.”

“He did not die in vain, and we know that,” Smith’s sister, Lisa DeVane of South Georgia, said in a statement released by the family.

“Paul died serving his country with pride, honor and integrity, and believing in the just cause of this war,” she said. “Our nation was fortunate to have him as a soldier. We as a family were blessed to have him as a son, brother, husband, father and uncle. He will be missed greatly.

“Paul made it clear that it was privilege for him to lead 25 of America’s finest soldiers into war, and he was prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure their safe return, and he did.”

Smith is survived by his wife, Brigit, and two children, Jessica and David.

USA Today and The Associated Press

Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith was killed in action on 04/04/03.

Army Pfc. Wilfred D. Bellard

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Wilfred D. Bellard, 20, of Lake Charles, La.

Pfc. Bellard was assigned to 41st Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Stewart, Ga.; killed April 4, 2003 in a vehicle accident in Iraq.

Pfc. Wilfred Bellard, 20, of Lake Charles, La., was married weeks before he deployed to the Middle East. His wife, Latricia, is expecting their second child on Easter Sunday. The couple also have a 1-year-old son.

Bellard and two other soldiers out of Fort Stewart, Ga., were in a Humvee, carrying munitions and supplies to front-line forces in Baghdad, when they plunged into a ravine April 4 while swerving to avoid mortars and military fire, according to relatives briefed by the military. All three men died.

Named after his grandfather, Bellard attended Lake Charles Boston High School but graduated from a high school in Georgia, his mother, Janet Brooks, said.

He was killed April 4 when the vehicle he was riding in fell into an Iraqi ravine.

“My son was proud of his job in the military. He told me he loved it and was ready to go to Iraq and get the job done,” Brooks said. “To me, my son is a hero. To me, all of those guys are heroes, both the living and the dead.”

— USA Today

Monday, March 31, 2003

Army Spc. William A. Jeffries

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. William A. Jeffries, 39, of Evansville, Ind.

Spc Jeffries was assigned to D Company, 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, Indiana Army National Guard; evacuated from Kuwait to Rota, Spain, where he died as a result of a sudden illness.Spc. William A. Jeffries graduated from Evansville (Ind.) Reitz High School in 1982, was married and spent a decade with the Air Force before joining the Indiana National Guard.

His family said a military official told them he suffered a blood clot in his lung and acute pancreatitis. He died March 31, 2003 at a hospital in Spain after falling ill in Kuwait.

Army Spc. William A. Jeffries died of a non-combat related illness on 3/31/03.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Marine Capt. Aaron J. Contreras

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Capt. Aaron J. Contreras, 31, of Sherwood, Ore.

Capt Contreras was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA)-169, Marine Aircraft Group-39, Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif.; killed March 30, 2003 in a helicopter crash in southern Iraq.

Religious father of three was ‘determined at everything’
By Patrick McMahon
USA Today

To his hometown parish priest, Marine Capt. Aaron Contreras, 31, was a devout Catholic who knew his Bible inside and out.

“He was a very unusual young man in a spiritual way,” recalled the Rev. Tom McCarthy, a priest at St. Francis Catholic Church in Sherwood, Ore., a suburb of Portland.

“Aaron was very religious, and believed in his church,” said his father Edward, a Vietnam veteran.

Contreras played football, basketball and ran some track in high school.

“He was determined in everything he did,” his father said.

Contreras and two others died when their UH-1 Huey helicopter crashed Sunday, March 30, at a supply and refueling point in southern Iraq, the Defense Department said.

On Friday, a private memorial service will be held for the three Marines at Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Calif., where their helicopter squadron is based.

Contreras was born in San Jose, Calif. on July 4, 1971. His family moved to the Portland, Ore., suburb of Sherwood in 1979.

One of five brothers, he is remembered at Sherwood High School as a student-athlete. After high school, he attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

He and his wife, Janelle, had three children — one boy and two girls. In recent years the family lived in San Diego.

“The rest of us are going to miss him terribly,” Contreras’ mother, Rosary, told Portland television station KOIN.

“We just hope this war ends soon. I mean for both sides, there are families losing sons, husbands and fathers. We want peace and I know our president is doing the best he can.”

Marine Capt. Aaron J. Contreras was killed in action on 3/30/03.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Army Pfc. Michael Russell Creighton Weldon

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Michael Russell Creighton Weldon, 20, of Conyers, Ga.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.; killed in a suicide car-bombing near Najaf, Iraq.

Private became engaged prior to Iraq deployment

From wire reports

Pfc. Michael Russell Creighton Weldon, 20, followed in the footsteps of his mother, Sgt. Maj. Jean Weldon, who recently retired from the military.

“He chose infantry because he’s a tough guy,” Jean Weldon said from her home in Palm Bay, Fla.

Weldon died Saturday, March 29, in the suicide car bombing near Najaf.

He had a 23-year-old sister and a 15-year-old brother.

He became engaged before leaving for Iraq in January. His fiancée, Kerri, would often drive to his family’s home when he called so his brother and mother could talk to him on her cell phone.

“My son was the strength of the household,” Jean Weldon said. “After I got divorced, Michael was the man of the house.”

A muscular man who often lifted weights, Weldon lavished attention on his truck and enjoyed video games, particularly Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

“He was quite a looker,” his mother added.

Army Pfc. Michael Russell Creighton Weldon was killed in action on 03/29/03.