Thursday, September 30, 2004

Army Staff Sgt Darren J. Cunningham

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt Darren J. Cunningham, 40, of Groton, Massachusetts.

SSG Cunningham died in Baghdad, Iraq, when his unit came under mortar attack. He was assigned to the 89th Military Police Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas.

A 28-year veteran soldier, Army Staff Sergeant Darren J. Cunningham was killed in his sleep during a mortar attack in Baghdad, Iraq. The shell struck the trailer in which he was housed as part of the 545th Military Police Company of the First Cavalry Division.

Darren Cunningham, 40, of Groton joined the Army at 18 and had served in the military ever since. He was a veteran of the first Gulf War in 1991.

“Darren died doing what he wanted to do,” said his sister, Kelly Sumpter. “This was his choice.” He leaves a wife, a 12-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son.

Cunningham was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, before being deployed to Iraq. His sister, Tracy Cunningham-Hammond, told the Lowell Sun that her brother had called home on Wednesday to say he’d be coming home in November, a month earlier than scheduled.

Cunningham-Hammond described her brother as a well-liked “clown” who loved his job with the military.

“He was the family jokester,” she said. “Just a fun-loving kind of guy, but he was always concerned about other people and made sure everyone was OK.”

She said her brother stayed in touch with his old high school friends and even befriended his first wife’s new husband, who was serving with him in Iraq.

Army Staff Sgt Darren J. Cunningham was killed in action on 09/30/04.

Army Specialist Rodney A. Jones

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Rodney A. Jones, 21, of Philadelphia, PA

Spc. Jones was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; killed Sept. 30 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device exploded near his dismounted patrol in Baghdad.

Rodney A. Jones had a clear plan for his life: He was going to join the Army, go to college, then become a politician.

"He was going to be president one day," said Jones' sister, Felicia Devine. "He told me when he was like 16. I believe, really believe, that he would have been. He was just that smart and intelligent."

Jones, 21, of Philadelphia, died Sept. 30 in a suicide bombing in Baghdad. He was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

Jones read voraciously and graduated high school at 16. He wrote poetry and listened to classical music.

"He was very analytical and very intelligent," Devine said. "A lot of people thought he was really old for his age."

Devine said that when her brother learned he was going to Iraq, he started trolling the Internet to pick up some of the language. It paid off: When Jones returned home for a one-week break, he struck up a conversation in Arabic at a fast-food restaurant.

He is survived by his mother, Renee Jones, and his high school sweetheart, Terricka Willis.

"I'll get married to him in heaven," Willis said. "It'll probably be better there anyway."

— Associated Press

Army Spc. Rodney A. Jones was killed in action on 09/30/04.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Army Sgt. 1st Class Joselito O. Villanueva

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Joselito O. Villanueva, 36, of Los Angeles

SFC Villanueva was assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; killed Sept. 27, 2004 when a sniper shot him while he was at his observation post in Balad, Iraq.

An Army sergeant who was lucky to escape alive after his Humvee rolled over an explosive device last spring saw his luck run out when he was struck by a sniper's bullet in Balad, Iraq, last week.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Joselito O. Villanueva was killed Sept. 27 during an ambush, U.S. military officials said. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star to go with the two National Defense medals, four good conduct medals, four Army achievement medals and one Purple Heart he'd already received.

The former Los Angeles resident had narrowly avoided death during another ambush last spring when the Humvee he was riding in ran over the explosive. The blast that followed sent a piece of shrapnel the size of a half dollar through his neck.

''He's lucky it didn't kill him,'' recalled 1st Sgt. David L. Morgan.

On Monday, Villanueva, known to his colleagues as Sgt. V, was on a routine patrol when his convoy saw a truck driven by an Iraqi civilian crash. They were fired on after they stopped to help. Only Villanueva was hit.

The 36-year-old soldier was a combat engineer who worked with an armored division defusing explosives, setting up mine fields and tearing down obstacles. The 11-year Army veteran had been in Iraq since February.

Joselito O. Villanueva's sunny personality quickly endeared "Sergeant V" to many of his fellow soldiers and their families.

"Joe was a very sweet guy, and he had such a big heart," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Robinson. "He was also sociable, and he loved hanging out at the Irish pub with all his friends. I don't think Joe realized how special he made people feel."

Villanueva, 36, of Los Angeles, was killed Sept. 27 in an ambush in Balad, Iraq.

The 11-year Army veteran was based in Germany.

Villanueva earned a Purple Heart in April when a roadside bomb exploded next to his Humvee, killing one of his soldiers. A piece of shrapnel the size of a half dollar pierced his neck.

He was a combat engineer who worked defusing explosives, setting up mine fields and tearing down obstacles.

"He was well-trained and believed deeply in what he was doing," said Sgt. Michael Anderson. "He was always there for his solders and his friends."

Villanueva is survived by his parents, Edito and Pklarita.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Joselito O. Villanueva was killed in action on 9/27/04.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Army 1st Lt. Tyler H. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Tyler H. Brown, 26, of Atlanta

1st Lt Brown was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Hovey, Tongduchon City, Korea; killed Sept. 14, 2004 when his unit was attacked by small-arms fire in Ramadi, Iraq.

Brent Brown said his kid brother Tyler "fell in love with politics and our political system" on a trip to Washington while the older brother worked as a summer intern for the late Sen. Paul Coverdell.

High school classmates considered Tyler H. Brown a "politician in the making."

"He was patriotic, red, white and blue to the core, and we figured he could be president someday," said Jonathan Cooper, a friend.

Brown, of Atlanta, was killed Sept. 14 when his unit came under attack in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, Iraq. He was 26.

"He died for the country he loved, doing what he wanted to do," Brent Brown said. "He became a role model to me."

Tyler Brown became student body president at Georgia Tech, where he joined the ROTC and graduated with dual degrees in management and in history, society and technology. Commissioned from the ROTC program, he was stationed in Tongduchon City, Korea. He is survived by his parents, Carey and Sally Brown. His family has established a scholarship fund in his name at Georgia Tech.

Officer praises Atlanta soldier killed in Iraq sniper fire

ATLANTA — A soldier who was killed in Iraq last week saved the lives of his men by warning them about the sniper fire while lying mortally wounded, his commanding officer said.

Army 1st Lt. Tyler Hall Brown was “an inspirational leader, both on the field of battle and off. In numerous enemy contacts, he was calm, leading his men with bravery and aplomb,” Capt. Daniel M. Gade said in e-mails to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week.

Brown, 26, was killed Sept. 14 in the town of Ramadi, about 70 miles east of Baghdad, when he was hit in the upper thigh and bled to death, Gade said. “He died of his wounds rather quickly,” he wrote from Iraq.

The sniper, who fired at long range, got away, Gade added.

The former Georgia Tech student body president was honored Sept. 22 in a funeral at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. Brown will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 28.

Gade, 29, said he and Brown became friends in South Korea, where their 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, had been deployed before going to Iraq. The Army unit had been in the Middle East for only two weeks before the sniper attack.

Brown had been approved for service in the 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as the Old Guard, which patrols the Tomb of the Unknowns and serves as an escort on military burials at Arlington, but he instead chose to join his battalion in Iraq “over this prestigious assignment,” Gade said.

“Tyler was the finest officer I’ve ever known ... he loved his men, and they loved him in return,” he said.

Army 1st Lt. Tyler H. Brown was killed in action on 9/14/04.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Marine Lance Cpl. Dominic C. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Dominic C. Brown, 19, of Austin, Texas

LCpl Brown was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; killed Sept. 13, 2004 in a non-combat-related incident in Anbar province, Iraq.

Dominic C. Brown's last care package was to have included his favorites: John Grisham books, red licorice, Goldfish crackers and pictures from home.

"I just never got it sent," said Brigette Brown, his mother.

Brown, 19, of Austin, Texas, died Sept. 13 from non-combat injuries near Iraq’s Anbar province.

He graduated high school last year and was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"He was loving, friendly, hard-working, energetic," his mother said. "Anything he ever did, he did 100 percent. He was a great artist. He loved art. He was great at drawing. He felt things from the heart."

Christina Srisen, 19, knew Brown since sixth grade. "There were plenty of girls who had crushes on him," she said. "He flirted all the time with all the girls. He was just a goofy person. He always made you laugh."

Staff Sgt. Jose Cansino, who attended Brown's funeral, also saw another side: "He stood out from other Marines. He was unique. He could've done something with his life."

Brown also is survived by his father, Ken, and brother Stewart.

Marine Lance Cpl. Dominic C. Brown was killed in a non-combat related incident on 9/13/04.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Army Spc. Chad H. Drake

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Chad H. Drake, 23, of Garland, Texas

Spc Drake was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; killed Sept. 7, 2004 when his patrol vehicle came under attack by small-arms fire in Baghdad.

Even though he was shipping out to war, Chad H. Drake told his family not to worry.

"He said, "You have your job, and this is mine," said his wife, Randi Drake.

He was more concerned about "his girls": his wife, daughter, sister and mother.

Drake, 23, of Garland, Texas, died Sept. 7 when his patrol vehicle was hit by small-arms fire in Baghdad. He was based at Fort Hood, Texas, and left for Iraq on March 13, his 23rd birthday.

A 1999 high school graduate, his future plans included possibly becoming a teacher and coaching middle school football.

He was to receive a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for an earlier act of valor: helping rescue two pilots when his Humvee was ambushed. He got out of the vehicle and returned twice to free the driver and hatch gunner. Drake didn't realize that he had been wounded in the leg and neck until later.

He thought at the time of the ambush that the cold sensation on his neck was from the cold air of the Humvee.

"He was well-respected," his wife said. "People looked up to him." He also is survived by his daughter, Kaylee.

Army Spc. Chad H. Drake was killed in action on 9/07/04.