Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Marine Lance Cpl. Brian C. Hopper

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Brian C. Hopper, 21, of Wynne, Ark.

LCpl. Hopper was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii; killed Jan. 26, 2005 when the CH-53E helicopter in which he was riding crashed near Rutbah, Iraq. Twenty-nine Marines and one sailor also were killed.

Chopper crash claims life of Arkansas Marine
By Rainer Sabin
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas Marine killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq was due to leave the country soon, his family said Friday.

Lance Cpl. Brian C. Hopper, 21, of Wynne, was among 31 Marines killed in the crash of a CH-53E military helicopter in western Iraq on Wednesday. Hopper’s brother, Lance Cpl. Patrick Hopper, is also serving in Iraq and will fly into Memphis, Tenn., on Saturday, according to their father, Robert Hopper. Patrick Hopper is currently in Kuwait, the elder Hopper said.

The father had said Friday morning he wasn’t aware of the whereabouts of Patrick Hopper, who was supposed to escort his brother’s body to an air base at Dover, Del. Brian Hopper’s casket arrived at that base Friday morning, and his brother made a special request to accompany it. Both brothers had been in Iraq since last summer and were expected to come home in the coming weeks.

“Brian was due back next week,” Robert Hopper said. “Patrick is due back February 19th.”

Donald Hopper, a cousin of the younger Hoppers, said Brian Hopper’s presence on the mission that ended in disaster was surprising.

“We were under the impression that he was going to be out of Iraq,” he said. “We thought this was supposed to be his last week. We thought he was on a bus going to Kuwait.”

Donald Hopper said Brian Hopper had been wounded twice in Iraq before the crash.

Most of those aboard the aircraft, a CH-53E helicopter, were assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, the Pentagon said.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, said the helicopter was on a routine mission in support of Sunday’s elections in Iraq. Abizaid, in Washington to brief members of Congress on the war effort, said the cause of the crash was still under investigation, but there was severe weather in the area at the time.

For Hopper’s family, the news has been difficult.

“When the Marines pulled into the yard, (Robert) knew, but he didn’t know which (son was killed),” Donald Hopper said.

Brian Hopper was remembered by his family as a person who rose above the call of duty.

“To me he was a hero, because he wouldn’t leave his men,” Donald Hopper said. “He was my hunting and fishing buddy.”

Wynne Mayor Paul Nichols taught Patrick Hopper in school and said he got to know his brother as a result. He said the town was troubled by Brian Hopper’s death.

“He was a fine young man,” Nichols said. “There is a lot of concern. People I have come into contact with have expressed sorrow.”

• • • • •
Arkansas Marine laid to rest in hometown

WYNNE, Ark. — A Hawaii-based Marine who was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq was laid to rest Thursday.

Lance Cpl. Brian C. Hopper, 21, of Wynne, was among 30 Marines and one sailor killed in the crash of a CH-53E military helicopter in western Iraq on Jan. 26.

“This is the way we operate together to take care of any fallen Marine,” Minister Robbie McMaster said. “It’s only befitting that we do that.”

Hopper earned three Purple Hearts, one posthumously, for injuries suffered.

His brother, Lance Cpl. Patrick Hopper, also serving in Iraq, accompanied Brian Hopper’s body home Tuesday.

Most of those aboard the aircraft were assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, the Pentagon said. Officials said the helicopter was on a routine mission in support of Sunday’s elections in Iraq. There was severe weather in the area.

Hopper’s family said he had returned to active duty so he could stay in Iraq to serve with his comrades.

Marine Lance Cpl. Brian C. Hopper was killed in action on 1/26/05.

Army Specialist Taylor J. Burk

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Army Specialist Taylor J. Burk, 21, of Amarillo, Texas.

Spc. Burk died in Baghdad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Spc. Burk was born Aug. 26, 1983, and raised in Amarillo. In his youth he developed a great love of sports, playing both soccer and football. Taylor deeply loved his family and as a young man was nurtured by his "Mom," Tracy and mentored by his "Dad," Larry. Wheeler, Taylor's brother, was his best friend and Taylor was truly a "big brother" to his sister Julie. Taylor's youth was filled with both the love of his family and many close friends. He graduated from Randall High School before enlisting in the Army, attending boot camp at Fort Sill, Okla. Taylor trained as a medic at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and was later stationed at Fort Hood prior to his deployment to Baghdad, Iraq.

Last year, Private Taylor Burk, a medic, was riding with a group of Humvees on a nighttime patrol when Iraqi gunmen suddenly raked his vehicle with gunfire. Burk, a rural Amarillo native, was riding in an unprotected Humvee when a tracer bullet ricocheted through his boot and lodged in his foot, family members said.

Another soldier called out to Burk and said he'd been hit. Private Joseph Bridges had been shot in the thigh and suffered severe bleeding. Although wounded himself and under enemy fire, Burk worked quickly saving the soldier's life as the gunfire continued striking Private Bridges again.

Burk insisted to his commander that they take the soldier directly to a surgical hospital in unfamiliar territory. The Humvees rushed through Baghdad streets with their lights off to the medical facility.

Burk's actions were credited with saving his friend's life, and he was awarded the Bronze Star for his valor in combat, the Combat Medic Badge and the Purple Heart.

Taylor returned to Fort Hood for rehabilitation of the wounds he sustained during that conflict. He received a 30-day medical leave and enjoyed quality time with his family and friends. Taylor was a young man with a pure heart and deep spiritual conviction. He was honored to serve this nation and demonstrated courage and valor in his duties. At the time of his death, he was serving his second tour of duty in Baghdad. Taylor was killed while on patrol in a heated area when a homemade bomb detonated.

He will be dearly missed by his family and friends. He will never be forgotten by Company C, 1-8 Calvary for his courage and bravery as a hero in the line of duty.

Army Specialist Taylor J. Burk was killed in action on 01/26/05.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Army Capt. Christopher J. Sullivan

Remember Our Heroes

Army Capt. Christopher J. Sullivan, 29, of Princeton, Mass.

Capt. Sullivan was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; killed Jan. 18, 2005 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his parked vehicle in Baghdad.

Army captain killed in Iraq
By Kaitlin M. Thaney, Globe Correspondent | January 21, 2005

Army Captain Christopher J. Sullivan was a protector, his sister said. The 29-year-old Princeton native always tried to keep his family and friends from worrying, often telling them the situation was not as grim as it appeared in Iraq, where he had been sent one January ago.

Amy Lilley, Sullivan's sister from Scarborough, Maine, said she had heard from her brother on Jan. 10. ''We were passing around joke e-mails," she said.

Lilley was still trying to let the news sink in yesterday that her brother, a committed career soldier, was killed on Tuesday in Baghdad, while serving as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Department of Defense confirmed yesterday that Sullivan died when an improvised explosive device detonated near his parked vehicle.

He was scheduled to return home to his wife and son in a few weeks, the government reported.

Sullivan had been working as an armor officer, in charge of the tanks and vehicles in the field, said Maureen Ramsey, a public affairs specialist for the Defense Department.

He had entered the Army in March 1998 and just this month had taken on the responsibility of company commander, leaving a job at headquarters.

He also had served in Kosovo and Germany and in November had participated from Fallujah via satellite phone link in the Veterans Day ceremony held in Shirley.

Sullivan felt it was important to thank veterans who had preceded him and always emphasized that soldiers in Iraq were proud to serve, his family said.

Sullivan's interest in military service started early. At age 14, he joined the Civil Air Patrol. He served in the ROTC while attending the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, where he majored in mechanical engineering. He sought to continue the family tradition of military service, following the path of his grandfather, father, and two uncles.

His parents, longtime Princeton residents James and Dorothy Sullivan, could not be reached for comment. Yesterday, they were with Sullivan's widow, Sandy, and his 19-month-old son, David, in Fort Hood, Texas, where he was based.

Sullivan also leaves an older sister, Jennifer Orr, who lives in Epsom, N.H.

Lilley said Sandy Sullivan had talked to her husband on Saturday.

''This is the worst thing that we could imagine," she said.

Army Capt. Christopher J. Sullivan was killed in action on 01/1/05.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew W. Holloway

Remember Our Heroes

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew W. Holloway, 21, of Fulton, Texas.

Lance Cpl. Holloway died from injuries received as a result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve's 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Hundreds of people came to remember an adventurous young man, who found his latest challenge in Iraq. But after this adventure he won't be coming home to young wife Amie whom Reverend Jim Daniel called a gift to Matthew.

"You have given all you have lived, have loved, and you have died for a purpose," said Rev. Daniel. His sacrifice earned him the oldest combat medal awarded. Some came to mourn Lance Corporal Holloway. Others came to remember him as a kid catching a quick nap, or riding his bike, or a young patriot who gave his life in service of his country.

As the Marine Hymn played, marines who have made it home safely honored Matthew's sacrifice. One they vow will not be in vein.

Bryan Holloway remembers exactly when his younger brother was born, the day after his own birthday.

"So my birthday present was a day late," said Bryan Holloway. "I still haven't forgiven mom and dad for that. But what a present it was I had a little brother." Like all little brothers Matthew looked up to his older brother. After the attacks of September 11th 2001, he decided to become a Marine like his father and older brother Bryan, who's been overwhelmed by the outpour of sympathy from the community.

"It amazes me just how many people have told me how much they loved Matt. How much he affected so many lives in a positive way. Everyone who knew him liked him and most grew to love him." Bryan also tried to console Matthew's widow Amie who was a new bride just eight short months ago. "I know how very much Matthew loved you and I am so glad you were a part of his life."

His father also talked to the congregation saying his son would appreciate all the flowers and condolences, and would urge them not to forget his buddies who are still at war.

"I would ask them that they give those prayers for my fellow devil dogs in Charlie Company 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines so that they all return safely home to their families," said Wayne Holloway. Tragically there was not a safe return for Matthew who paid the ultimate price for his country and freedom.

"Thank you Matthew for your love, strength, courage and kindness," said Bryan. "Thank you for being that shining light to so many. I love you Matthew and goodnight little brother. God bless America and Semper Fi."

Lance Corporal Holloway was laid to rest with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew W. Holloway was killed in action on 01/13/05.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Marine Lance Cpl. Eric S. Freeman

Remember Our Heroes

Marine's death in car accident rattles family, neighborhood
Staff Writer

Monday, January 03, 2005 - Marine Lance Cpl. Eric S. Freeman was in Baghdad when American military toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein. He survived the assault on the restless Iraqi city of Fallujah in April. A week before deploying for his third tour of duty, he died when his sedan overturned on Interstate 10 in Calimesa and hit a tree.

"After two deployments, you get in your mind that he is untouchable. He can't die,' said Tiara Wentworth, Freeman's girlfriend who spent Monday with his family in Thousand Oaks. "And then to have him die in a car accident three hours after I say goodbye,' drawing out a long pause, "It's really strange.'

Lance Cpl. Nathan Olig was driving the car when it rolled on the 20-year-old men. Freeman died at the scene early Monday morning. Olig broke his collarbone and suffered a concussion.

He was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center on Monday, surrounded by other members of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.

Capt. Chad Walton, the spokesman for the base, would not release any information Monday.

Olig was recovering well, a Marine said in the hospital's hallway. He was not ready to speak about the car crash.

"It's not his fault,' Brenda Freeman, Eric's mother, said of Olig, who had been at her home Sunday. "It could have happened to anybody.'

The collision sent a shock wave through the Freemans' tight-knit upper-middle class neighborhood.

"Oh no! Oh my God! Oh my God! He was a great kid,' neighbor Jean Castaing, 65, cried out when she found out.

Hours later, Jody Tiefel drove onto Windersong Street and noticed the Marines flag missing from a pole on the front of the Freeman house. In its place was an American flag.

"I thought, 'Well, he's still in the states. He's not in Iraq. What happened?'' Tiefel, 58, recalled. "This was really a shock. When they are in Iraq, you brace for it, but not when they are at home.'

The public support Brenda Freeman showed her Marine son only added to the grief. At the start of the war in Iraq, she and other Thousand Oaks residents tied yellow ribbons around scores of trees along Lynn Road to support the troops. The city then took them down.

Residents responded with outrage, and more ribbons appeared throughout town. City officials backed down and let the ribbons stay.

"The community really rallied behind her and said, 'This isn't fair. We want those ribbons. We want to remember the guys,'' Tiefel said.

Since combat began in March 2003, 1,335 American military men and women have died in Iraq. Others have died here in the United States while resting from one tour of duty and awaiting their next.

Army Spc. Daniel Maldonado, 20, fought in Afghanistan once and Iraq twice before returning home to Victorville to recover from a broken back he suffered when he fell out of a helicopter, dropping 60 feet. Days before he was set to board a plane to train in Fort Bragg, N.C., he was shot dead while sitting on the lawn of his mother's home.

"My life changed,' said his mother, Rosa Maldonado, 56. Her heart went out to the Freemans on Monday. "I feel so bad for that family. I know how that mom feels.'

Broken is one way Brenda Freeman feels. As she spoke by phone, her voice quivered and ebbed. She paused at times for 30 seconds or more when talking. It sounded as if she was shaking violently.

"He was a good boy,' she said of her son, one of five children. "He was brave and honorable. And he had a good future ahead of him.'

Scott Freeman said his son first decided he would be a Marine at age 15. After graduating from The High School at Moorpark College, a program for gifted students who don't fit well in traditional schooling, Freeman began his service.

"He embodied ... the goals of the U.S. Marine Corps,' said Taylor Gilbert, a teacher at the school. "Loyalty, fidelity, honesty and integrity were the goals he strived to deal with.'

He was an infantryman regularly on the front line of major battles, said Gilbert, who saw him last week. A bout in Fallujah earned him the Purple Heart. The wounds he suffered from the improvised-explosive device sidelined him only a few days.

His parents were scared every minute he spent overseas.

"But I was proud of him, too,' his mother said.

The Marines at Twentynine Palms were given time during December to see family and friends, or just relax. Miraculously, the whole Freeman clan was able to connect. They visited Lake Tahoe for Christmas. For New Year's, they spent the night with a relative who lives on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Eric had a perfect seat for his first trip to the Rose Parade.

He spent Sunday packing for Iraq. He and Olig departed from Thousand Oaks in the middle of the night. He kissed goodbye Wentworth, his 17-year-old "drama queen' who he wanted to marry. He gave his family his love.

At about 2:20 a.m. Monday, 117 miles from Thousand Oaks, Lance Cpl. Olig dropped his drink. When he looked down for the cup he bought during a snack stop in Redlands, the car drifted off the freeway, CHP Officer Chris Blondon said. Olig overcorrected when he swung it back onto the road. The car flipped and slammed into a tree.

Both men wore seat belts, Blondon said, but the trauma caused by the tree took Freeman's life.

"The Marine Corps' most precious asset has always been the individual Marine,' said Maj. Nathaniel Fahy, a spokesman for Marine headquarters at the Pentagon. "Anytime one of our own is taken from us by a senseless tragedy like this, it is truly heart wrenching. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones during this difficult time.'

Marine Lance Cpl. Eric S. Freeman died on 01/03/05.