Sunday, October 30, 2005

Marine Staff Sgt. Joel Preston Dameron

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Staff Sgt. Joel P. Dameron, 27, of Ellabell, Georgia.

SSG Dameron died from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations in the vicinity of Al Amiriyah, Iraq. He was assigned to the 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Force Service Support Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution -- Joel Preston Dameron was a stoic "Marine's Marine" on duty and a prankster around friends and family, his widow, Logyn Butler Dameron, said Wednesday from the family home in South Georgia.

Staff Sgt. Dameron, 27, of Ellabell, Ga., was killed Sunday by an improvised bomb that exploded while he was on patrol near Al Amiriyah, Iraq, the Department of Defense said.

He was assigned to the 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Force Service Support Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Dameron is the 61st Georgian killed in military operations during the Iraq war, according to statistics on the Web site

Joel and Logyn Dameron were sweethearts at Bryan County High School and married two years ago, said Logyn.

Joel Dameron's parents, who are separated, live in Claxton and Woodstock. He has two brothers, in Savannah and North Carolina respectively, and two half-brothers in Woodstock.

Logyn Dameron, who has a four-year-old son, Riley, and is now seven months pregnant, recalled Wednesday how his warm attitude around family belied the battle-hardened Marine underneath.

"Around people he knows he's got a really outrageous, fun-loving attitude. He's always doing crazy stuff, getting his nephews into trouble — and my son," she said from her home in Pembroke, near Fort Stewart.

"As a Marine, he was a very brave person, not very emotional but stoic and reserved.

"When he got over there [to Iraq], he realized how bad it was. It was his duty to be a Marine and had no patience for people who weren't doing their job."

Logyn Dameron said her husband was also a huge Florida Gators football fan, who revelled in the team's most recent victory against the Georgia Bulldogs, the team she roots for.

"The last time I talked to him was Saturday night after the Georgia-Florida game," she said. "He had to call and rub that in my face."

Dameron left Sept. 3 for his second tour in Iraq, his wife said. His first tour lasted from Aug. 2004 to March 2005.

She said her husband told her the violence appeared to have increased during his second term.

"He said it was either really quiet and boring or nonstop — that it was never in between," she said. "Especially during Ramadan . . . he said it was a lot worse."

Marine Staff Sgt. Joel P. Dameron was killed in action on 10/30/05.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Army Capt. Raymond D. Hill II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Capt. Raymond D. Hill II, 39, of Turlock, California.

Capt Hill died in Baghdad, Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during patrol operations. He was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, Modesto, California.

He was an inquisitive child who liked to wear his dad's fatigues. He was a big brother who would both tease and protect. He was a track stand-out, baritone player, college graduate, and a captain in the National Guard. He was a father who took his daughters to 4-H meetings and he was a husband who occasionally burned the chicken on the barbecue. He was Capt. Raymond Dwayne Hill II, 39, and he was one of the latest soldiers to die in combat in Iraq.

Ray was killed in Iraq Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded near his humvee while on patrol in Baghdad. He had been serving in Iraq since February as a Fire Support and Public Affairs Officer with the California Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment.

Ray believed wholeheartedly in his duty to serve and protect his country and that's why, despite the heartache of separating from his family, Ray volunteered to go to Iraq.

“He wanted to go. He believed in the effort 100 percent and had been training for 18 years for this,” Dena, his wife said. “He compared it to football. He said it was like going to practice everyday but never getting in the game. He always said that if he didn't go, somebody else would have to.”

“He was very passionate about his service and he looked after the soldiers under his command,” Major Dan Markert of the 184th Infantry Regiment said.

Born for the Army

A love of the military developed in Ray at a young age. He and his three brothers, Ron, Rod, and Russ would accompany their dad, 1st Sgt. Raymond Hill (retired) during his weekend drills with the 184th.

“He liked to play army and had one of the original G.I Joe's as a kid,” Raymond said.

When they returned home from these outings, Ray would organize his brothers into their own military unit.

“We'd all dress in our dad's fatigues, which were too big, and have our own drills,” Rod said. “He liked to be precise and meticulous.”

Besides an early love for the military, Raymond said his son Ray was an inquisitive child and liked to know how things worked.

“In sixth grade he had the nickname of the redheaded walking encyclopedia because he knew so much,” Rod said.

“He loved to play with tools and take things apart and put them back together again, sometimes with pieces left over,” Raymond said.

That early habit got Ray started in restoring classic cars. In an email he sent to his wife, he wrote that when he returned, he wanted to start working on his 1965 Mustang again, a project his oldest daughter BreeAnna would occasionally help him with.

“I'll miss doing that with him,” BreeAnna said.

As the oldest of four boys, Ray was often looked upon to guide his brothers in the right direction, but that doesn't mean he didn't sometimes take advantage of his older brother status.

“On Saturday mornings he would want to watch “American Bandstand” and we all wanted to watch “Scooby Doo.” He'd have three little kids ganging up on him, but we'd still end up watching “American Bandstand,” Rod said.

Army Capt. Raymond D. Hill II was killed in action on 10/29/05.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Army Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander, Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander, Jr., 34, of Clanton, Alabama.

Alexander died at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, of injuries sustained in Samarra, Iraq, on October 17, 2005 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Georgia.

Staff Sgt. George Alexander, 34, a 1989 graduate of Chilton County High School, became death number 2000 in the Iraqi conflict according to a count conducted by the Associated Press and Reuters.

Alexander, who was wounded Oct. 17 in Samarra by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, died in Texas last weekend.

Alexander was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, of Fort Benning, Ga. and was no stranger to the Iraqi landscape.

"He had been to Iraq about nine times," said Alexander's sister, Sasha Spence. "He had just went back over there in August."

Alexander, who enlisted in October 1991, was suited well for the Army, Spence said, and saw enlisting as a way to serve his community.

"He really enjoyed being in the Army. He loved it," she said. "He just wanted to make a difference. That was his thing - just make a difference. He was very loving. He was never down and he always smiled.

Even though Alexander's role with the Army suited him well, Spence joked that upon his graduation from CCHS, Alexander

Army Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander, Jr. was killed in action on 10/22/05.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher W. Thompson

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher W. Thompson, 25, of N. Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

Petty Officer Thompson was killed in action from an IED explosion while conducting Combat operations against enemy forces in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. He was assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 8th Regimental Combat Team, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

"I can't let my Marines go without me," Chris Thompson, 25, told his father, just before shipping out on his second combat tour. "I take care of them."

A corpsman - similar to a medic in the Army - goes on patrol with the Marines and tries to keep the wounded alive. Thompson was a petty officer hospitalman third class. Thompson and another member of the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) were killed in the bombing near Amiriyah, 25 miles west of Baghdad. Thompson was riding in the left rear seat of an armored vehicle when someone set off an improvised explosive device, his parents said.

Larry and Geraldine Thompson were home at 9:25 p.m. Friday when they got the news. She was already in bed reading. While he was in the living room, Larry Thompson looked up from the television and through the front door's glass panel to see Navy officers in dress blues. He knew immediately why they were there, Larry Thompson said.

Churches throughout Wilkes County offered up prayers for Chris Thompson and his family yesterday as news of his death spread. Mourners offered condolences at the family's home beside a road off N.C. 16 in the Millers Creek community.

His brother, David, also a Navy hospital corpsman assigned to the Marines, said that Chris Thompson's executive officer told him he was proud to go to war with Chris.

"He knew if something happened he'd take care of them," David said. "If things were worst, he'd be the first one to step up."

David Thompson, 35, hugged his parents before leaving yesterday to return to Camp Lejeune. He is scheduled to travel to Iraq on Nov. 4 and expects to meet with his commanding officer today to see if he will still do that.

Larry and Geraldine Thompson sat at their kitchen table as they talked about their son. They wore yellow bracelets with the message "Support Our Troops."

The bracelets were a gift from Chris, presented as they all stood in the rain July 21 at Camp Lejeune and he boarded the bus that would take him to the plane back to Iraq.

"We promised him we wouldn't take them off until he got back and they haven't been off," Larry Thompson said.

"Mine neither," Geraldine Thompson said.

While he had been home from his first combat tour, someone asked him how he could manage to insert an IV in someone's arm on a battlefield, while bullets were crackling by and bombs exploding.

"He said, 'All I can tell you is I haven't missed yet. When you've got somebody dying, you've got to do what you can do,'" Larry Thompson recalled.

During his first tour, from March 2004 to October 2004, Thompson used those skills to help four Marines seriously hurt when a bomb exploded beside the Humvee in front of his. One man was blinded. Another lost his right leg. Another lost his right arm. Another had a head injury.

Thompson attended to them, and held a fifth Marine, his best friend, who died in his arms.

When the fight was over, they would find two bullets inside Thompson's medical pack. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal with valor for his actions.

When he was home, he talked to his father about still seeing the faces of those who had died.

Larry Thompson, an Army veteran, understood. Larry said he still sees faces of those lost when he was in Vietnam in 1967-68.

"I don't want to forget them," he says he told his son. "I want to remember them and honor them.... You do the best you can and come home. That's all you can do."

His mother remembers a funny boy. She told the story of how as a teenager he would sneak her convertible out to take his buddies for a ride. He would think she didn't notice when she'd crank up and the gas needle would be on empty and the radio blaring. She never told him she knew.

She remembers the time he was wrestling for fun with his oldest brother, Jimmy Epley, who is now 42. Epley pinned him against the wall, but Chris got the last word by saying he would still be young when Epley was old.

Chris Thompson played football and baseball at North Wilkes High School. He grew up in the Mulberry area, and the family only recently moved to Millers Creek.

He joined the Navy when he was 21, and finished basic training three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He didn't get to go to his promised school, but was sent straight to the fleet as a seaman aboard the USS Austin.

Eighteen months later, he finally started the corpsman training that he had wanted.

Because Wilkes County was relatively close to Camp Lejeune, it wasn't uncommon for the Thompsons to come home and find tents hanging outside to dry. Their son and several Marine friends would be sprawled asleep inside the house.

Chris Thompson wanted to become a coach and teacher. Once his military duty ended in July 2006, he hoped to study at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C.

In his parent's last phone conversation with him Thursday, Thompson asked them to send some clear lenses for his sunglasses. He also wanted some Kool-Aid mix because the water there tasted nasty.

They talked for only five minutes.

"He said 'Dad, I'm awfully tired, I can't stay long, I'm going out on another patrol,'" Larry Thompson remembers. "He said, 'I love you,' and we said 'We love you.'"

They talked about Coastal Carolina's overtime football win against Gardner-Webb University the previous weekend.

"He said, 'I'll go down there and go to school and you may see me on the sideline next year,'" his father recalled.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher W. Thompson was killed in action on 10/21/05.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Army Specialist Lucas A. Frantz

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Lucas A. Frantz, 22, of Tonganoxie, Kansas.

Spc Frantz died in Mosul, Iraq when he was hit by enemy fire while performing a combat mission. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Sryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Frantz's platoon was conducting an operation in an area of Mosul known as "Bedrock." Frantz was in his Stryker vehicle protecting dismounted members of his platoon when he was attacked.

Frantz was an infantryman and Stryker vehicle commander assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry. He turned 22 on Tuesday.

Frantz's hometown of Tonganoxie, Kan., rallied around his family after his wife, Kelly, got word of his death. Kelly Frantz said in a Wednesday phone interview that flags around the small town were flying at half-staff. Even the Sonic Drive-in had changed its sign to read, "Thank you for serving our country Lucas."

Frantz's fellow squad members remembered him Wednesday in a news release issued by U.S. Army Alaska.

"Spc. Frantz was the kind of guy who would always help you out," said his platoon leader, 1st Lt. Randy Lewis. "He would never ask you for help, no matter what, but he was always helping others."

Spc. Toby Alsip said Frantz could fix anything.

"He was the biggest, strongest guy I ever knew," he said

Kelly Frantz said her husband was known for his build. It earned him the nickname "Killer" as a star linebacker on the Tonganoxie High School football team.

The Frantzes' love story also began in high school. Kelly Frantz said she was two years ahead of Lucas in school, where they knew each other but didn't date.

"But he always had a little bit of a crush on me," she said.

After Lucas graduated in 2002, he began working at the same grocery store as Kelly. She said they became friends, she eventually became interested in him and teased him about when he was going to ask her out. On their first date, they went to Taco Johns and walked around the high school track until 3 a.m.

"We knew we were meant to be," she said.

Kelly Frantz said her husband joined the Army Reserves in 2000 and went on active duty in May 2003. When Lucas returned from advanced individual training, he had two weeks in Tonganoxie before leaving for Fort Wainwright. Kelly said in those two weeks they got engaged and then married.

"It was a perfect love," Kelly said.

The two were together in Fairbanks until Lucas left with the rest of the brigade in August for a yearlong deployment. She returned to Tonganoxie and was able to talk to Lucas in Iraq once or twice a week.

She last spoke to him on Oct. 12 when they each had access to a Web cam and were able to see each other for the first time since Frantz left.

Kelly Frantz said the Tonganoxie High football team will retire Frantz's No. 69 at its game Friday. She said there are no plans for a memorial service or funeral yet, but she hopes to hold a service on the Veterans of Foreign Wars grounds to honor Frantz's service. It was where the couple had their wedding pictures taken and had planned to renew their vows when Frantz returned from Iraq.

Kelly Frantz spoke in a strong voice and said she had already talked to several newspapers and members of the media about her husband. She sometimes cried while talking about special memories but kept talking, adamant that she wanted to tell the story of her husband's life and service.

"He was a perfect soldier if there ever could be one," she said. "When he needed to be a husband, he was one. When he needed to be a friend, he was one. He went over there and fought and he died for our country and I don't want people to forget that."

Army Specialist Lucas A. Frantz was killed in action on 10/18/05.

Army National Guard SSG Tommy I. Folks, Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army National Guard SSG Tommy I. Folks, Jr., 31, of Amarillo, Texas.

SSG Folks was assigned to the Army National Guard, 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 56th Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Amarillo, Texas.

The Prairie
By Krissy Mailman

Just recently, Army Staff Sgt. Tommy Folks, Jr., a resident of Amarillo, and a student at WTAMU, was killed in Iraq on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

According to KAMR's Web site, Tommy Folks Sr. said his son was someone you could always depend on.

"He was a quiet, reserved man, a very private person, but a solid citizen," Folks Sr. said.

"(I) Had an e-mail from him last week that he had lost the hearing on his right side, and we knew that he was close to an explosion then.

"And he said, `I`m just knocking out the days until I come home.` And then of course yesterday, (Oct. 19) the casualty officer showed up, and I knew, I knew he was gone," Folks said.

"A part of me is gone, but we'll survive. We'll go ahead and make it. He served his country very well, he was dedicated to his work and he believed on the cause of what we are trying to do over there," he said.

According to the Amarillo Globe-News, Tommy Folks was born Jan. 22, 1974.

He graduated from Amarillo High School in 1992. He was an honor student and was a member of the National Honor Society.

Dr. Eddie Henderson, head of the division of education, said Folks was a student in the teacher preparation program at the time of his deployment to Iraq.

He was registered for class in the fall of 2004.

The division of education is accepting contributions to the Division of Education Scholarship Fund in Sgt. Folks’ memory from the faculty and staff of the department.

Jim Rutledge, instructor of instructional technology & e-mentoring, said he had Folks in class.

"He was a very good student," Rutledge said.

"This is a very sad occasion."

Rutledge grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, where Folks’ grandparents lived right across the street from him.

"I knew of some of his family," Rutledge said. "I have known his step-mother all of my life."

Rutledge said that this unfortunate event could be a wake up call to students.

"Students need to pay attention to what is going on in the world and get involved in the process," he said.

According to the Amarillo Globe-News, some of Folks’ achievements while serving for the military include the Combat Infantry Badge, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expedition Medal and the Southwest Asia Combat Medal.

Army National Guard SSG Tommy I, Folks, Jr., was killed in action on 10/18/05.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Army Staff Sgt. Gary R. Harper Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Gary R. Harper Jr., 29, of Virden, Ill.

SSgt Harper was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Oct. 9, 2005 when his reconnaissance mission was attacked by enemy forces in Baghdad.

Special Forces medic from central Illinois killed Iraq
Associated Press

VIRDEN, Ill. — An Army Special Forces medic from central Illinois has been killed in Iraq, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Staff Sgt. Gary R. Harper Jr., 29, of Virden was killed Sunday when insurgents ambushed his unit during a reconnaissance mission near Baghdad, said Lt. Col. Hans Bush, a spokesman for Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Linda Morrison, Harper’s mother, said her son told his three children he was going to Iraq to protect them.

“He was a family man. He told his children he was going to go over to fight so they don’t come over here to hurt us,” Morrison told The (Springfield) State Journal-Register. “That’s who Gary was.”

Harper, who joined the Army in 1993 and deployed to Iraq in June, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Brad Paisley, who coached Harper when he played football at Virden High School about 30 miles south of Springfield, said Harper had a positive attitude.

“He’d take the rough job, the dirty job. He was a real great, hardworking kid,” Paisley told the newspaper.

In addition to his children and mother, Harper’s other survivors include his wife.

Army Staff Sgt. Gary R. Harper Jr. was killed in action on 10/09/05.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Army Spc. Jeremiah W. Robinson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Jeremiah W. Robinson, 20, of Mesa, Ariz.

Spc Robinson was assigned to the 860th Military Police Company, Arizona Army National Guard, Phoenix; died Oct. 6, 2005 in Baghdad of injuries sustained Oct. 5 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during convoy operations in Baghdad.

Jeremiah Robinson - American Patriot
Family of Mesa soldier refuses to 'wallow in self-pity'
Jim Walsh
The Arizona Republic

Chandler police Sgt. Burt Robinson served in Iraq and returned home unharmed. His son, Jeremiah, 20, wasn't as fortunate.

But Jeremiah, a graduate of Mesa's Skyline High School, died living his dream, following his father's footsteps into the military. Eventually, he wanted to become a police officer.

"Jeremiah, his mission in life was to be a soldier, to be a copper," Burt Robinson, 43, said Tuesday. "It was his privilege to serve in that war. Unfortunately, we have to pay the ultimate sacrifice. There's no reason for it. It just is."

Burt Robinson, a Chandler officer for 21 years, was on active duty, awaiting deployment on a prisoner interrogation mission when informed of his son's death last Thursday.

He had just returned home after a training session at Fort Huachuca.

Robinson, of Mesa, won't be going back to Iraq. The risks are too high for his wife, Amy, and his tight-knit family, his source of strength and support. He also won't give Iraqi insurgents the satisfaction of mortally wounding his family.

"You can't wallow in self-pity. I refuse to let my family go into despair," Robinson said. "They killed my son, but they're not going to kill our spirit."

Jeremiah Robinson was killed last Thursday in Baghdad. He was driving a Humvee when an explosive device was detonated during convey operations. He was a member of the Army National Guard's 860th Military Police Company, based in Phoenix.

Ten days before Jeremiah's death, he completed a two-week leave in the Valley.

"That was the toughest thing we had to do, to put him back on the plane," Burt Robinson said.

During the week of Jeremiah's death, his unit came under enemy fire daily, his father said. A couple of months earlier, a sniper's bullet passed within inches of his face.

Sgt. Kevin Carpenter, Jeremiah's supervisor in Iraq, traded leave with another soldier so he could come to the Robinsons' home to describe the young man's death.

Carpenter also is escorting Jeremiah's remains from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Arizona.

Jeremiah was the 61st soldier with Arizona ties to die in Iraq and Afghanistan. His services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at Word of Grace Church, 655 E. University Drive, Mesa.

Lucas Robinson, 16, the couple's youngest son, played football for Desert Ridge High School the same day he learned of Jeremiah's death. His brother Jake, 17, played quarterback a day later for Skyline High School.

"You can't quit living," Burt Robinson said as he watched Lucas return a kickoff Tuesday night in a junior varsity game against Chandler High School. "The dead are going to stay dead. It takes more courage to get on with life than crawl into a hole."

Ken Ehle, Jeremiah's grandfather, said his grandson decorated his room with pictures of planes and military helmets, not cars like other boys.

"I was proud of him. That's exactly where he needed to be," said Amy, a Starbucks assistant manager. "He wasn't the partying type of kid. He knew what the real world was about. He didn't want to waste any time."

She said Jeremiah preferred the company of adults his father's age rather than his peers. He loved the camaraderie of hunting with his father and doing construction work with his uncle, Steve Ehle.

By the time he graduated from Skyline in 2003, Jeremiah was a journeyman roofer and framer. He had plans to marry his girlfriend, Rachelle Figueroa, 19.

"People are saying he put in 40 years of living in a 20-year span," Amy said.

Figueroa said she met Jeremiah in a communications class at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. The two dated for 13 months. She said Jeremiah wouldn't have been satisfied with a safer assignment.

"He made sure the 860th was going to war. He wanted the action," she said.

Figueroa said she would never forget Jeremiah.

"He was the best thing that ever happened to me," she said. "He made me want to be a better person. He made you want to be like him."

In May, Jeremiah Robinson wrote a letter to Amy for Mother's Day from his post in Iraq. She had it laminated after learning of his death.

"I'm sure you probably don't like the fact that your husband and your son are going to be over here," Jeremiah wrote, thanking his mother for her support.

"This is something we had to do for ourselves and our duty to our country. That's what patriots do."

Army Spc. Jeremiah W. Robinson was killed in action on 10/6/05.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Army Pfc. Roberto C. Baez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Roberto C. Baez, 19, of Tampa, Florida.

Pfc Baez died in Al Haqlaniyah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

St Petersburg Times

TAMPA - There was regret in Army Pfc. Roberto C. Baez's bedroom Wednesday.

His mother wished she never let her 19-year-old son join the military. His brother wished he would have coaxed Baez into the Navy.

But it's unlikely either could have persuaded the headstrong and confident Baez differently. The Army was his first job. He signed up for six years until his mother went back to the recruiter and changed his enlistment to three years. He slept next to a checklist that included running, pushups and situps, things to do to prepare for boot camp. He was proud of his meager pay and came home always asking his mother what she wanted to buy.

Baez died in Haqlaniyah, Iraq, on Monday, when an explosive device blew up near his Humvee, according to the Defense Department. He had three diplomas - infantry training, javelin course and airborne course - framed on his dresser. He had a can of spray starch on his entertainment center. He had an "Army of One" bumper sticker above his bed.

Baez was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

"We did not enjoy our son after high school," Baez's mother, Jeannette Carrasco, 48, wailed from a hallway. The recruiter had stolen him away too quickly after his graduation from Tampa's Alonso High School.

Now, there is a blue candle pooling wax in the living room where Baez's picture sits on a small stand. He wears Army fatigues behind a stretched tight American Flag.

Nearby a stack of pictures are tossed on the dining room table. A picture of mother wrapping her arms around the neck of her youngest son, "Robertcito," little Robert, stands out.

"He really had everything," said Carlos Baez, 57, Roberto's father and Carrasco's husband. "A good friend; a good son."

Juan Carlos Baez, 28, said his brother wanted to join the military after Sept. 11, 2001. He used to quiz Juan about the Navy.

"He wanted me to talk to him about the Navy," Juan Carlos said. "I wasn't ready. I was going through some hard times, and I didn't open up about it."

So Roberto joined the Army when his time came.

"I would have rather he joined the Navy," Juan Carlos said, standing in his room, where baseball trophies and an apple-shaped pigg y bank sits on his dresser. "I just would have wanted to talk to him about the Navy or veer him to the Navy."

Roberto Baez's mother said he wanted the Army to pay for college so he could be a psychiatrist. He was good with people. He would befriend children. He would speak to seniors. He would give up his television for his young niece.

But his best friend of 16 years, Brian Pena, 18, said he was content finishing his career in the Army. He wanted to put in 20 years, Pena said.

"He wanted it to be his career," Pena said. "It was his first job, and he was proud of it."

Nearby are Baez's books: The U.S. Army Infantry Training Brigade. The Iraq War. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six.

His mother knows he was meant for the military. He used to shut off the ceiling fan and air conditioner on Saturday mornings just to sweep his room when other teens would be sleeping.

"He was like a little big boy," she said.

"I'm upset," Carrasco added. "Being so young, they send him over there, and I don't agree with that. They're young kids."

Then she got tired of talking.

"I never get tired of talking unless someone hurt me," Carrasco said.

"It hurts me not to have him here."

Army Pfc. Roberto C. Baez was killed in action on 10/03/05.

Army Sgt. Bryan W. Large

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Bryan W. Large, 31, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

Sgt Large died in Al Haqlaniyah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Cleveland Plain Dealer -- Sgt. Bryan W. Large of Cuyahoga Falls was among three U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq on Tuesday, according to the Department of Defense.

The soldiers, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee in Haqlaniyah.

Large, stationed at Fort Bragg for the past four years, was a health care specialist, Army officials told The Plain Dealer Wednesday night, and was on his third tour of duty in Iraq.

Late Monday and early Tuesday, 2,500 U.S. troops along with Iraqi forces launched Operation River Gate with an air assault on Haqlaniyah, Haditha and Parwana, about 140 miles northwest of Baghdad.

"They were proud of what they were doing and rendered the ultimate sacrifice for our nation," Col. Bryan Owens, commander of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, said in a statement.

Relatives of the 31-year-old Large, who played football at Cuyahoga Falls High School, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Large was first assigned to the 307th Forward Medical Company of the 82nd in September 2002 and moved to the 504th in January 2004.

He is survived by his father, Larry, mother, Linda, and two daughters.

Army Sgt. Bryan W. Large was killed in action on 10/03/05.

Kylie Large

Devon Large

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Army Sgt. Marshall A. Westbrook

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Marshall A. Westbrook, 43, of Farmington, N.M.

Sgt. Westbrook was assigned to the 126th Military Police Company, New Mexico Army National Guard, Albuquerque, N.M.; killed Oct. 1, 2005 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee in Baghdad.

Family grieves for fallen soldier

FARMINGTON, N.M. — Relatives and friends of Sgt. Marshal A. Westbrook, the first New Mexico National Guardsman killed during combat in Iraq, gathered at his Farmington home to remember him and celebrate his life.

“He was a good man. He loved his family. He loved fighting for his country,” Dave Westbrook, the fallen soldier’s brother, told The Daily Times newspaper Oct. 7.

Westbrook, 43, was a member of the Albuquerque-based 126th Military Police Company. He died on the morning of Oct. 1 in Baghdad after being struck in the head by shrapnel from an explosive device.

Ken Nava, a New Mexico National Guard casualty assistant, said Westbrook worked for Public Service Company of New Mexico and was a longtime resident of Farmington.

Brig. Gen. Kenny Montoya, head of the New Mexico National Guard, spent the day Monday with Westbrook’s family.

“He loved his family. He loved his soldiers. This gentle giant, Sgt. Allen Westbrook, will rest in peace,” Montoya said.

Westbrook, born July 25, 1962 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., was married and the father of five children.

Relatives declined to say much to reporters.

“Right now, we are hurting too much,” Dave Westbrook said. “But he loved doing what he was doing.”

The 126th Military Police Company was activated a year ago and was expected to return to New Mexico next March.

Gov. Bill Richardson has ordered flags at state office buildings flown at half staff to honor Westbrook, the 17th service member from New Mexico killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“I am deeply saddened by his death and I ask all New Mexicans to join me in honoring his passing,” the governor said.

Army Sgt. Marshall A. Westbrook was killed in action on 10/1/05.

Sgt. Westbrook's brother, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth W. Westbrook, died 10/7/09 from wounds recieved in Afghanistan in September of that year. God bless this family of Heroes.