Sunday, May 30, 2004

Army Sgt. Aaron C. Elandt

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Aaron C. Elandt, 23, of Lowell, Mich.

Sgt. Elandt was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany; killed May 30 when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Musayyib, Iraq.

Michigan soldier killed in Iraq

Associated Press

PORT HOPE, Mich. — A Michigan man was killed in a land mine blast in Iraq, the Department of Defense and his family said.

Sgt. Aaron Elandt, 23, of Port Hope, died Sunday evening when the Humvee he was in struck a land mine while responding to a mortar attack, his brother Matt Elandt said. The explosion happened in Musayyib, Iraq, south of Baghdad.

“My favorite word for him was irreverent,” his mother, Linda Elandt, told the Detroit Free Press for a Wednesday story. “He did his own thing.”

Elandt was a cavalry scout with the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division and had been in Iraq for about 14 months. Lt. Col. Diane Battaglia, with the Army Public Affairs office, said Elandt’s death will be investigated, as is the case with every soldier’s death in Iraq.

The youngest of four children, he joined the military in 2000 after graduating from Harbor Beach High School in 1999.

He followed a family tradition started by his father, Paul Elandt, who served two years in Vietnam. His older sister and two older brothers also served in the Army.

Paul Elandt, 58, said he encouraged his son to travel and broaden his horizons.

“Linda said, ‘I can’t stand another one in the military.’ I told them get out of Huron County and see a bit of the world,” he said.

Harbor Beach Community Schools Superintendent Ron Kraft called Elandt “a courageous young man” dedicated to serving his country.

“He was a solid young man as a student and as a citizen,” Kraft told the Huron Daily Tribune of Bad Axe. “Our prayers and condolences go to his family during this very trying time.”

At the bar in the Port Hope Hotel, residents of the tiny community in Michigan’s Thumb mourned the death of one of their own.

Jim Hunley, 56, of Port Hope, said his son graduated from high school with Elandt.

“I’m just shocked, but that’s what he wanted to do and he gave it his all. He was a good kid. He never got into trouble. He just said, ‘It’s my time to go and serve my country,”’ Hunley said.

Army Sgt. Aaron C. Elandt was killed in action on 05/30/04.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Army Pfc. Joseph A. Jeffries

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Army Pfc. Joseph A. Jeffries, 21, of Beaverton, Ore.

Pfc Jeffries was assigned to the 329th Psychological Operations Company, Army Reserve, Portland, Ore.; killed May 29, 2004 when his vehicle hit a land mine in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Jeffries was the first son of Oregon to die while serving in Afghanistan. He was born in Portland and graduated from Sunset High School. He joined the Army Reserve in 2002. The following year he was sent to Bosnia. When he returned, he married Betsy Fiddler - a co-worker at a day care center. At the time of his death, Betsy was expecting their first child.

Jeffries loved his wife, racing cars, basketball, skiing and had always wanted to be an "Army Guy." He raced his cars at the River City Speedway in St Helens, Oregon with his father. When his father received word of his death, he was 'covered in grease' preparing a car to race as his son's proxy.

His father said that Jeffries felt that the Afghan civilians wanted the soldiers there and were volunteering important information. "In Afghanistan, he felt we were making a difference, and he was glad he was there. And, from a father's standpont, I'm glad we had that discussion."

Joseph Jefferies was survived by his wife, Betsy, his father, Mark Jeffries, his mother, Linda Lock, sisters Heidi and Terri Jeffries, and grandparents Betty and Rick Smith.

Pictures of his service are here:

Joseph Jeffries was buried with honors at Willamette National Cemetery. At the River City Speedway, he was honored with a memorial race.

Betsy Jeffries was five months pregnant when her husband, Joseph Jeffries was killed in Afghanistan.

"Numbness, denial" are the words she used to describe her feelings when she was told her husband had been killed in action. "I still live in denial," she said. "I didn't want to believe it - still don't."

She said the Gold Star Wives helps her to cope with her loss. "I live next door to another Gold Star wife," Jefferies noted. "It's good to have her there and to be able to talk to these other women. I can go online and write how I feel, and people will tell me that I'm normal. I don't need to stress out about what stage I'm at, because all of it is normal. Knowing that I'm not weird, or wrong, it's just normal. I'm not odd for feeling or doing or anything."

Jefferies said being a member of the Gold Star Wives makes her feel sane. She advises other young widows to seek out the organization. "And find someone, especially your own age," she said. "For me being married five months is different from someone who has been married for 15 years. They grieve for something they've lost. I grieve for something that I never had and I long to have - wish I could have had."

"His main goal in life was to have a family," Jefferies said, as she fought back tears. "He just wanted to be a dad. That's all he wanted. His main goal was to provide for his children.

"After we found out that we were pregnant, he was going to switch over to active duty to finish out his five years from the reserves," she said. "After that, he was thinking about being a firefighter or a policeman."

Army Pfc. Joseph A. Jeffries was killed in action on 5/29/04.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy R. Horton

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Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy R. Horton, 24, of Erie, Pa.

SSgt Horton was assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany; killed May 21, 2004 by an improvised explosive device near Iskandariyah, Iraq.

Pennsylvania soldier killed in Iraq
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — A soldier from Erie, Penn., whose tour was extended last year, was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb, according to his family.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy R. Horton, 24, died Friday near Iskandariyah, Iraq. Defense officials did not release further details, but relatives said Horton apparently was killed when his convoy was stopped for another roadside bomb.

Horton reportedly stepped from his vehicle and a second bomb went off, killing him and wounding three other soldiers, said his uncle, Rich Wittenburg, 54, of Erie. Horton died from shrapnel in his head, Wittenburg said.

Horton joined the Army right out of high school, hoping to get money for college, but ended up finding his place in the military. He was a member of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, based in Baumholder, Germany.

“He certainly loved his family and loved his country and loved being in the military. It was what he wanted to do. We need more like him,” Wittenburg said.

Horton played both the saxophone and drums in high school and played in bands where he was stationed, his uncle said.

Horton is survived by his wife, Christie, whom he married shortly after joining the Army.

Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy R. Horton was killed in action on 5/21/04.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Army Spc. Michael C. Campbell

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Army Spc. Michael C. Campbell, 34, of Marshfield, Mo.

Spc Campbell was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; killed May 19 when his convoy hit an improvised explosive device in Samarra, Iraq.

In the months after the 2001 terror attacks, Michael C. Campbell drove trucks hauling debris from what used to be the World Trade Center.

"That really played hard on him," said Donna Gann, who with her husband took in Campbell during his high school years in the mid-1980s.

The lack of blood relation to the Ganns didn't matter, said their daughter, Sherry Wilson, "He was our brother and my mom's son," she said.

A Navy and National Guard veteran from Marshfield, Mo., Spc. Campbell, 34, deployed to Iraq with the Army. He was killed May 19 by a roadside bomb in Samarra.

The decision to serve in Iraq wasn't easy for Campbell, Wilson said.

"He made sure it was OK with the family and that everybody was all right with it," she said. "We didn't like it, but we supported him 100 percent."

Campbell last spoke to his family after Mother's Day and thanked Gann for sending packages with candies and cookies, which he shared with fellow soldiers and Iraqi children.

Army Spc. Michael C. Campbell was killed in action on 5/19/04.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

North Dakota Army National Guard Spc. Philip D. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

North Dakota Army National Guard Spc. Philip D. Brown, 21, of Jamestown, N.D.

Spc. Brown was assigned to Company B, 141st Engineer Combat Battalion, Army National Guard, Jamestown, N.D.; died May 8, 2004 in Balad, Iraq, from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device went off west of Samarra, Iraq.

Jamestown remembers slain soldier
Associated Press

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — The father of soldier who died of wounds suffered in Iraq says he’s grateful for the hundreds of people who have stopped by to offer sympathy and tell stories about his son’s life.

“It helps us take away the pain,” said Richard Brown.

Philip Brown, 21, was a specialist with the North Dakota National Guard’s 141st Engineer Combat Battalion. He and Spc. James Holmes, 28, of East Grand Forks, Minn., another member of the 141st, died May 8 of wounds suffered in separate attacks.

Richard Brown said his son’s body had been returned to the United States on May 9.

Holmes’ family lives in Arizona. His funeral is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday in National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix, said Patty Fusco, a close friend and a spokeswoman for the family.

Jamestown Mayor Charlie Kourajian said he would order flags in Jamestown at half-staff from the time Brown’s body arrives home until after the funeral.

“Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family,” he said. “We certainly are thinking about them.”

On Monday, the Brown’s home was filled with friends and family. The yard and inside of the home were decorated with photos, flags and other reminders of his life.

“My son is a brave, strong, courageous man who believed in duty, honor and country more than I can express,” Diedra Brown said.

“We’re sorry that God took him away from us but we don’t question why things happen,” the elder Brown said, in tears. “And we are grateful to have had him on this earth for 21 years and four months.”

Philip Brown was injured by a bomb while on foot patrol, officials said.

“The wounds were just too much for his strong young body to overcome,” his father said.

Jamestown High School Principal Larry Ukestad and Bill Nold, assistant principal, said Brown played football, basketball and baseball. He also was the disc jockey for some school dances.

“He enjoyed life in general,” Ukestad said.

“He had kind of a magnetism, charisma about him,” Nold said.

Many people knew him from Jack Brown Stadium, which is named after his grandfather.

“He was always a fixture,” Nold said. “If it wasn’t chasing a fly ball it was selling a hot dog.”

Jamestown College students wore yellow ribbons and observed a moment of silence to remember Brown on the weekend of their commencement.

“We unfortunately lost a terrific student,” College President Bob Badal said at Sunday’s ceremony.

North Dakota Army National Guard Spc. Philip D. Brown was killed in action on 5/8/04.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Marine Cpl. Jeffrey G. Green

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Jeffrey G. Green, 20, of Dallas

Cpl Green was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, at Camp Pendleton, Calif.; found dead in the Euphrates River on May 5, 2004 in Anbar province, Iraq. The cause is under investigation.

Jeffrey Green was so focused on becoming a Marine in high school that he helped talk another student into joining the service instead of the seminary.

"I think his whole outlook was to a future with the Marines," said his grandmother, Virginia Green.

"He liked the excitement and loved the training."

Green, 20, of Irving, Texas, was found dead May 5, 2004 in Iraq’s Anbar province after he tried to swim across the Euphrates River on a covert operation. He was based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Green was an avid "Star Wars" fan who enjoyed camping, fast cars and motorcycles. He was a Boy Scout who achieved Life Scout rank.

Though he was excited about the military, Nancy DeStefano, who was Green's adviser in high school, said she believes the inquisitive boy had other motives as well. "I think the military was a place for him to continue this search for himself," she said.

He is survived by his parents, Richard and Wendy Green.

Marine Cpl. Jeffrey G. Green was killed in action on 5/5/04.

Army Pfc. Jesse R. Buryj

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Army Pfc. Jesse R. Buryj, 21, of Canton, Ohio

Pfc. Buryj was assigned to the 66th Military Police Company, Fort Lewis, Wash.; killed May 5, 2004 when his military vehicle was struck by a dump truck whose driver had been shot while trying to run through a control point in Karbala, Iraq.

Associated Press

CANTON, Ohio — An Ohio soldier killed in Iraq died while heroically trying to stop an attack on an Army checkpoint, family members said.

Jesse Buryj, 21, of Canton, fired more than 400 rounds at a dump truck trying to crash the checkpoint near Karbala. He shot the driver of the truck, which then crashed into the Humvee in which he was riding, an Army sergeant told his mother, Peggy Buryj, on Wednesday morning.

“Everyone was fine, but Jesse’s stomach was hurting him,” she was told. “They took him to a hospital where they found he had massive internal injuries, and he died on the operating table.”

His mother said Army representatives were expected to tell her more Thursday.

Buryj was a soldier with the 66th MP Company at Fort Lewis, Wash., in October when he married his high school sweetheart, Amber Tichenor.

“They were just married a few months and he had to leave,” she said.

Buryj was a member of the Canton City Police Youth Corps before he joined the Army during his senior year.

“He told the Army, ‘If I can’t be an MP (military police officer) and a paratrooper, I’m not going,”’ she recalled. “He went to jump school and he got his wings.”

His mother said he wanted to be a military police officer so he could become a Canton police officer.

“That’s all he wanted — to be a Canton police officer. But he couldn’t be a Canton police officer until he was 21. So he joined the Army,” she said, adding that to her, “My son was a police officer — always.”

Ohio soldier remembered for his bravery, compassion

CANTON, Ohio — Pfc. Jesse Buryj was remembered at his funeral Saturday for his life-saving bravery and friendly, caring personality.

Buryj, 21, of Canton, died May 5. He was credited with saving at least three lives when he fired more than 400 rounds at a dump truck trying to crash a checkpoint near Karbala, the military and family members have said.

An Army sergeant said Buryj shot the driver of the truck, which then crashed into his Humvee, said Peggy Buryj, the soldier’s mother. He later died of injuries from the crash.

Buryj was with the 66th Military Police Company at Fort Lewis, Wash., and was one of 24 Ohioans who have been killed in Iraq.

“He is a soldier. He is too young to be gone,” Gen. Dennis Moran told about 250 mourners inside Eleventh Street Church of God.

“As a military police officer, his first job was to serve and protect” fellow soldiers, Moran said. “He trusted his life to those soldiers as they trusted theirs to him.”

Moran presented Buryj’s family with his medals — the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Matthew Beadoin, who was best man at Buryj’s wedding, gave the eulogy and said Buryj was “the bravest person, friend and soldier” he had ever known.

The Canton McKinley High School graduate enlisted in the Army out of high school because he was too young to be a Canton police officer, which remained his career goal. Buryj married his high school sweetheart, Amber Tichenor, in October.

Outside the church, people waited in the rain with flags and signs to show their support for Buryj’s family. Among them were family and friends of Cpl. Andrew Brownfield, of nearby Akron, who was killed in Iraq on March 18.

“We’re here to support this family,” said Brownfield’s mother, Melody Roop. “They’re going through what we went through, and we’re here for them.”

A few minutes later, she and her family burst into tears when the song “You Raise Me Up” blared from the church’s loudspeakers across the street. The same song was played at her son’s funeral.

— Associated Press

Army Pfc. Jesse R. Buryj was killed in action on 05/05/04.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert B. Jenkins

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Remember Our Heroes

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert B. Jenkins, 35, of Stuart, Florida.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jenkins died in the Al Anbar Province as a result of hostile fire. He was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14, Jacksonville, Florida.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert B. Jenkins received Navy commendations for his Reserve work on a hospital in Orlando, Fla., and for building schools in Haiti. He belonged to a Seabee unit based in Jacksonville, Fla. Jenkins and his wife bought a home in Stuart a little more than a year ago and were trying to start a family.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert B. Jenkins was killed in action 05/02/04.

Army Pfc. Jeremy L. Drexler

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Jeremy L. Drexler, 23, of Topeka, Kansas.

Pfc Drexler died in Baghdad, Iraq, when his convoy vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to 91st Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

For Deborah Drexler, the moment she and husband Karl feared most since her son Jeremy was deployed to Iraq came on May 2: An Army major in full dress uniform, accompanied by a chaplain, was at the door of their Topeka home.

“Jeremy was trained to be a fighter and he died a fighter,” Deborah Drexler said. “He felt it was his duty.”

“Jeremy was the kindest fellow who ever lived,” Deborah Drexler said. “He was a very giving person, goodhearted. He would give the shirt off his back if it would help somebody. He was the finest young man you could ever meet.”

Drexler graduated from Washburn Rural High School in 1999, enlisting in the Army three years later. The school’s principal, Bill Edwards, said Drexler was an intelligent young man who “marched to the tune of a different drummer.”

“He was fearless,” Edwards said. “He was not afraid to stand up to somebody bigger than him if he felt he had been wronged.”

Edwards said Drexler didn’t dress like other students, wore his hair differently and occasionally got into trouble that resulted in a few visits to the principal’s office. But he also spent an hour each day at the middle school serving as a teacher’s aide in German class, Edwards said, and knew early on that he wanted to be in the military.

“Sometimes people would look at him and think he was unusual,” the principal said. “He surprised people by how caring and loyal he was.”

Deborah Drexler, whose father was a military chaplain, said her son knew she didn’t want him to go to Iraq, but he felt it was his duty. “He knew how much I loved him and cared for him and didn’t want him to go,” she said.

She said she last spoke with her son about a month before he died, when she sent a care package that included shampoo, soap and snacks. She encouraged others to send similar care packages to the troops.

“Jeremy hated it over there,” Deborah Drexler said. “The Iraqi people were being rude to him, and it was hot and uncomfortable for the soldiers. His main goal was to get in there and help people and try to make life more comfortable for them.”

Drexler was posthumously promoted to Private First Class on May 2, 2004.

Army Pfc Jeremy L. Drexler was killed in action on 05/02/04.