Sunday, December 31, 2006

Army Specialist Richard A. Smith

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Richard A. Smith, 20, of Grand Prairie, Texas

Spc. Smith was assigned to the 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Dec. 31 in Baqubah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated while on a combat patrol. Also killed was Cpl. Jonathan E. Schiller.

Dallas Morning News --During the short time he served in the Army, Spc. Richard Anthony Smith gained recognition as the 1st Cavalry Division's soldier of the year.

Spc. Smith, 20, who believed he was called by God to serve in the Army, was killed by a roadside bomb on New Year's Day while driving a Humvee with his unit northeast of Baghdad. Another soldier also died in the attack, which injured two other soldiers.

Spc. Smith had started his tour of duty in Iraq in October and was a driver for a commander. He had been trained as a dietitian and cook, but that work is done by civilians in Iraq.

He and his wife, Amber Smith of Arlington, were expecting their first child in three months. Spc. Smith married his high school sweetheart in July 2005 after completing boot camp.

"He loved her so much," said his mother, Barbara Speer of Grand Prairie. "He told me that the worst thing he could think of was if he died there ... because he wouldn't want to hurt her."

She said her son had transformed his life since marrying Ms. Smith.

"He became very passionate about the Army and about doing what God was trying to tell him to do," his mother said. "I cried because I didn't want him to go into the service at first. Then he told me, 'Mom, I'm going because God called me, and you can't cry.' "

Spc. Smith was born in Arlington, where he grew up, with the exception of time his family spent in Whitehouse in East Texas.

Spc. Smith was taking college courses and intended to get a degree after his military service was complete, his mother-in-law said.

In 2004, Spc. Smith graduated from Summit High School in Mansfield, where he met his wife-to-be when they were both juniors.

"They'd known each other for five years," said his mother-in-law, Diane Hipple.

In addition to his wife and mother, Spc. Smith is survived by his father and stepmother, James and Tammy Smith of Frisco; a brother, Andy Preston of Grand Prairie; and two sisters, Denise Thompson of Arlington and Jessica Preston of Grand Prairie.

Army Specialist Richard A. Smith was killed in action on 12/31/06.

Army Cpl. Jonathan E. Schiller

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Army Cpl. Jonathan E. Schiller, 20, of Ottumwa, Iowa

Cpl. Schiller was assigned to the 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Dec. 31 in Baqubah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated while on a combat patrol. Also killed was Spc. Richard A. Smith.

OTTUMWA, Iowa -- An Ottumwa soldier was laid to rest on Monday.

Cpl. Jonathan Schiller, 20, died on New Year's Eve when a bomb exploded near his Humvee.

Mourners gathered at Ottumwa High School to say goodbye to Schiller. Patriot Guard Riders stood at attention outside Ottumwa High School holding American flags in Schiller's honor.

"We came out to show our respect for the fallen and the families and the communities in which they live," said Ken Dieken of the Patriot Guard Riders.

Several hundred people gathered inside the packed auditorium at 10 a.m.

Schiller was a 2004 graduate of Ottumwa High School. He joined the Army in March 2005.

"Jon was full of life, full of spirit, full of love and full of laughter," said the Rev. Paul Smith.

Schiller was remembered as someone who liked to laugh and loved to serve his country.

Friends said that in high school, Schiller was involved in video production and that he enjoyed playing basketball.

Sgt. Stanley Struthers read notes from Schiller's fellow soldiers.

"This is one from Spc. Bargus: Truth be told, Schiller wondered why were here. … We all asked it at one time. We would debate for hours. My reasons were different from his. We were here to watch each others' backs. We have plans after Army life. No matter how bad the situation became, he always made me laugh," Struthers said.

Second Lt. John Paluska fought in Iraq and was injured. He also attended the services.

"He loved what he did and he loved to make people smile and Jon had that natural charismatic charm about him," he said.

The funeral procession traveled to Monroe where Schiller was buried. More attendees turned out to show their respect.

"The young man was fighting for my country; for my family's freedom," said Laura Frana, who attended the service.

His family said Schiller died doing what he loved: serving his country and fighting for freedom.

"I liked what his Dad said, 'The army made my son into a man,'" Smith said.

Schiller was awarded several awards including the bronze star and Purple Heart.

After the funeral, Schiller was buried in Monroe with full military honors.

Army Cpl. Jonathan E. Schiller was killed in action on 12/31/06.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Army Sgt. Christopher P. Messer

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Christopher P. Messer, 28, of Petersburg, Fla.

Sgt. Messer was assigned to 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Dec. 27 in Baghdad of wounds received from an improvised explosive device that detonated near him while on dismounted patrol. Also killed was Pfc. Nathaniel A. Given.

Standing near the casket draped in the American flag, family and friends said their final goodbyes to Army Sgt. Christopher Messer Monday.

Burial services were held at Pleasant View Cemetery in Summerfield Township and included a 21-gun salute and a bugler playing "Taps." About 200 family and friends gathered around the family, who sat under a canopy on the cold, breezy winter afternoon.

Sgt. Messer, 28, was killed in action Dec. 27 while serving in Iraq. He died from injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was on combat patrol. He was an infantryman assigned to Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment based in Fort Drum, N.Y.

Raised in Dundee Township, he is survived by his wife, Amie, and 2-year-old daughter, Skyle. The family had recently moved to Raisinville Township from Monroe.

Funeral services were held Monday at Bacarella Funeral Home, where the Rev. Harold Raymond, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Ida, officiated. Some family members briefly spoke about Sgt. Messer, including the games they would play while growing up.

"He would laugh without effort ... we all had a lot of fun times together," a cousin said at the funeral home. "Our family was poor in (the sense of) money, but rich in laughter. We have the best memories."

Nearly 400 family, friends and members of local police and sheriff's departments attended the service. The swell of the crowd spilled into the hallway, and many people filled a second room where a speaker system was set up.

Immediate family members, sitting in the front row, wept as "Proud to be an American" and "American Soldier" played during the service.

The Rev. Raymond spoke to the crowd about Sgt. Messer's life rather than his tragic death.

"This doesn't have to be the end. He's full of glory and focused on Jesus Christ," he said. "He now has an eternal relationship with the Lord. Trust that he's with the Lord. Don't leave here without hope. I know you ask why, why this had to happen. I cannot answer that. Only God knows why."

The Rev. Raymond held up a laminated prayer card, containing the words to the "Prayer of Salvation," that Sgt. Messer always kept with him. The pastor read some of the prayer, which proclaims faith in God.

"He read it so many times, it's blurred," the pastor said after reading a portion. "Chris had faith and hope. He did not perish. He now has eternal life with his Savior."

Following the sermon, Army Gen. Thomas Cole spoke about the fallen soldier.

"He was a fun-loving soldier and a natural leader," he said. "He is an American hero who sacrificed everything he loved so we can live in a free country."

Gen. Cole then presented the Messer family with Sgt. Messer's medals: the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Joining the Army in 2003, Sgt. Messer was serving his second tour of duty when he was killed. He had served from February, 2004, to March, 2005, in Samarra, Iraq.

After he completed basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment at Ledward Barracks in Germany. In 2005, he was reassigned to Fort Drum, N.Y.

He attended Ida Public Schools and graduated from Dundee Alternative High School in 1997.

He is the eighth soldier with Monroe County ties to die in the war.

After serving for his country, Sgt. Messer is now serving the Lord, the Rev. Raymond said.

"He has been ushered by angels to the presence of the Lord," he said at the funeral service. "His spirit is alive forever."

Army Sgt. Christopher P. Messer was killed in action on 12/27/06.

Army Pvt. Clinton T. McCormick

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Army Pvt. Clinton T. McCormick, 20, of Jacksonville, Fla.

Pvt. McCormick was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Dec. 27 of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated during combat operations in Baghdad.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A Jacksonville man is coping with the death of his brother, a local soldier who was killed in Iraq earlier this week.

The day after Christmas, 20-year-old Tyler McCormick died when a roadside bomb exploded during his patrol in Iraq.

Tyler McCormick's older brother Daniel McCormick said the two were best friends growing up and that it's still difficult for him to talk about the moment he found out his brother was dead.

Daniel was driving to work on Wednesday when he got a call from his mother.

"I didn't believe her until I talked to the guy and he told me," Daniel McCormick said.

"That guy" was an Army chaplain who had to break the difficult news to Daniel McCormick and his family.

Tyler McCormick had been in Iraq since October. Daniel McCormick said his younger brother was a little scared when he first arrived in Iraq, but since then, he concentrated on the mission and helped his unit.

"He never changed his mind. He was ready to go over there and fight," Daniel McCormick said. "He always wanted to be in the military. He loved it."

Growing up and living most of his life in Jacksonville, Tyler McCormick went to school at Crystal Springs Elementary and then to Joseph Stillwell Middle School. Even back then, his brother said he had one dream -- to be in the military.

"He was a kid, 8 or 9 years old. We both wanted to go," Daniel McCormick said.

A bad knee kept Daniel McCormick from joining, but Tyler McCormick joined in August 2005.

In Colorado for training and also in Iraq, Tyler McCormick kept in touch with his brother and his friends via the Internet.

Word of the tragedy spread to Tyler McCormick's page on Wednesday, and entries talking about his death and how much his friends miss him and other written statements have been left to honor the solder.

"He loved doing it. He was proud of it," Daniel McCormick said.

Army Pvt. Clinton T. McCormick was killed in action on 12/27/06.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Army Sgt. John T. Bubeck

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Army Sgt. John T. Bubeck, 25, of Collegeville, Pa.

Sgt. Bubeck was assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; died Dec. 26 of wounds sustained Dec. 25 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad. Also killed were: Spc. Aaron L. Preston and Pfc. Andrew H. Nelson.

Soldier called home for Christmas, then died Judith L. Bubeck of Collegeville spoke with her son before his fatal injury.
By Kera Ritter
Inquirer Staff Writer

Between missions in Baghdad, Sgt. John T. Bubeck found time Monday to make a brief phone call to his mother in Collegeville to wish her a Merry Christmas.

"He was talking about sheep running loose in the street, and then he said, 'I gotta go because we're going out,' " Judith L. Bubeck, his mother, recalled last night.

The 25-year-old soldier rarely wrote home, but he called on holidays, and his mother transcribed the conversations to share with his brother, Jim, and sister, Kathryn.

He ended the call with: "I'll go hassle the neighbors now, and preserve freedom, and save the world."

Shortly after that phone call, Bubeck and two other soldiers were fatally wounded after an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense. Bubeck died the next day.

Military representatives delivered the news to Judith Bubeck around noon on Tuesday, Dec. 26 - her birthday.

Bubeck and the other soldiers were assigned to the Ninth Engineer Battalion, Second Brigade Combat Team, of the Army's First Infantry Division out of Schweinfurt, Germany. He had been in Iraq less than three months.

Bubeck enlisted in the Army in August 2002 after a string of jobs cooking in mom-and-pop restaurants. Always the joker, Bubeck had trouble convincing his mother that he was trading in his electric guitar and nights with friends listening to the Grateful Dead for basic training.

He preferred dirty work to paperwork, and became a combat engineer. Although he was proud of being a soldier, he was less than pleased with his military photograph.

"He said he looked like a Chihuahua," Judith Bubeck said.

After stops in South Korea, Texas and Germany, Bubeck's battalion was sent to Kuwait at the end of August, and then to Iraq in October.

"I was very proud of him, more proud than scared," his mother said. "I knew he'd done basic training and he was prepared.

"He was looking forward to it. He kept saying, 'I'm tired of sitting on the bench in the game. I want to get in.' "

His mother recalled a recent conversation in which he talked excitedly about a ride he had taken in a Black Hawk helicopter.

"He was my risk-taker. He liked the adventure, and he liked to be where the action was," she said.

"I could just picture him in his Superman cape," she continued.

On Bubeck's MySpace Web page, he wrote about life in the military and posted snapshots of himself and other soldiers in his unit.

"For the last few years, I've been off the local scene doing the do for Uncle Sam," Bubeck's personal entry reads.

"My talent as a bulls- artist paid off when they awarded me Sergeant stripes. Suckers! I'm currently on a long-term 'business trip' to the Middle East until next summer."

Army Sgt. John T. Bubeck was killed in action on 12/26/06.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Army Specialist Aaron L. Preston

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Army Specialist Aaron L. Preston, 29, of Dallas, TX

Spc. Preston was assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; died Dec. 26 of wounds sustained Dec. 25 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad. Also killed were: Sgt. John T. Bubeck and Pfc. Andrew H. Nelson.

Aaron L. Preston: For soldier, service was a family tradition

09:21 AM CST on Saturday, December 30, 2006
By JON NIELSEN / The Dallas Morning News

Aaron L. Preston sustained a family tradition that saw his relatives on battlefields on Iwo Jima and in Europe, Vietnam and Korea.

Three years ago, at age 26, it was his turn to serve. He enlisted in the Army.

"Aaron felt an inherent sense of pride," said his younger brother, Richard Preston. "Deep down he wanted to do his duty to the country, and at the same time he felt a sense of obligation."

Before enlisting, Mr. Preston, a 1995 graduate of W.T. White High School in Dallas, attended Texas State University part time and found activities around San Marcos that connected him to the outdoors. He worked part time on ranches and spent days fishing in the Hill Country's waterways.

Mr. Preston was deployed to Iraq this year, following a path to combat blazed by his uncle and grandfather. The soldier achieved the rank of specialist and hoped to earn enough experience to start a career in the oilfields or mines as a demolitions expert.

"He wanted to help out and get ahead, and the only place he could learn about demolitions was in the military," said his brother-in-law Noel Coward. "He was really waiting to come home and start doing these things."

He was to be released from duty in eight months, his family said. But on Christmas Day, Spc. Preston died from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad. He died just before midnight.

"They must've caught him by surprise because that boy was smart," Mr. Coward said.

Spc. Preston, a combat engineer, was precise when it came to the minutiae of his job. He knew his life depended on it, as did those of his military brothers, most of them five to 10 years younger than he was.

Stationed in Germany for much of his military career, Spc. Preston missed the burnt-orange sunsets that settle over the Texas horizon. He remained in touch with his family via telephone or e-mail. But in Germany, he found a new family.

They called Spc. Preston "Pops" or "Gramps," terms they used frequently as a joke but also as a sign of respect for the 29-year-old serviceman. He often said that he had to help his colleagues because they were so young and didn't always follow protocol. But Spc. Preston, a details guy, did.

"He watched over those young men," said Mr. Coward, "and he enjoyed that, and they enjoyed that. They depended on him."

Two other members of Spc. Preston's company were also killed in Monday's blast: Sgt. John T. Bubeck, 25, of Collegeville, Pa., and Pfc. Andrew H. Nelson, 19, of St. Johns, Mich. They were assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany.

Army Specialist Aaron L. Preston was killed in action on 12/25/06.

Army Pfc. Andrew H. Nelson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Andrew H. Nelson, 19, of Saint Johns, Mich.

Pfc. Nelson was assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; died Dec. 26 of wounds sustained Dec. 25 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad. Also killed were: Sgt. John T. Bubeck and Spc. Aaron L. Preston.

Community Honors Local Fallen Soldier

An outpouring of support in Clinton County as a community bands together honoring one of its own. Visitation was held for 19-year-old Andrew Nelson of St. Johns, an Army Private First Class killed in Iraq.

His sacrifice is being felt all across the tight-knit community. It is a moment of tribute for private Andrew Nelson, the first Saint John's soldier killed in combat since Vietnam.

Martha Leavitt, family friend of PFC Andrew Nelson: "Knowing that he sacrificed himself for our freedom is such a statement, he's such a hero."
All across Saint Johns there are signs of tribute, a makeshift memorial downtown, a black ribbon as the city pays its respects, honoring the life of Andrew Nelson, forever marking his name in their history.

Erick Richards, St. Johns VFW Commander: "He wanted to go so that others could come home. He knew the responsibilities. He knew the dangers and he did his job."

To those who knew him best, the 19 year old was a man of unlimited potential, , but in pictures, you can see Private Nelson found his calling very early in life.

Cody Stinnett, best friend of PFC Andrew Nelson: "Ever since the day I knew him, since the day anyone knew him, all he ever wanted to do was go into the Army, and that's what he did."

Friends and family began visitation at the Keck-Coleman Funeral Home saying goodbye to a young man who made his community proud, a Saint Johns soldier finally home. Nelson's survived by his parents, two sisters and his high-school sweetheart who he married last year. Visitation continues from 2-4 and 6-8pm. A funeral service and a full-military burial are planned for Saturday morning.

Army Pfc. Andrew H. Nelson was killed in action on 12/25/06.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Army Specialist Michael J. Crutchfield

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Army Specialist Michael J. Crutchfield, 21, of Stockton, Calif.

Spc. Crutchfield was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Dec. 23 of a non-combat related injury in Balad, Iraq. Crutchfield's death is under investigation.

A wrenching farewell
As Stockton soldier laid to rest, mother has doubts about suicide

By Daniel Thigpen
Record Staff Writer

TRACY - Standing just a few feet from her son's open casket, Anna Alford was not ready to concede that he had put himself there.

Not the soldier, the chess master, the video-game whiz; the young man friends said constantly pushed people to better themselves.

"His life was bright. And his life was brighter than many people may think," she told a small crowd of family, friends and even a few strangers at a Saturday morning memorial service for her son, Army Spc. Michael J. Crutchfield.

In July, the 21-year-old Crutchfield left with his Fort Bragg, N.C., unit for Iraq. He died Dec. 23 in Balad, north of Baghdad.

Days later, the Department of Defense reported his death was noncombat-related and under investigation. An Army spokesman at Fort Bragg said Crutchfield killed himself.

But during a somber gathering at a Tracy chapel Saturday, Crutchfield's mother said she still has her doubts.

"I'm not certain if it is suicide," Alford said. "I haven't seen a piece of paper in front of me that says it is."

Mostly, however, those close to him chose to focus not on the way he died but instead on the way he lived.

Nicholas Pedercini, 19, who said Crutchfield moved in with him and his family for more than a year, recalled an enthusiastic friend who would wake the house up to join him in whatever he had chosen to pursue that day, whether it was jogging or spending hours at a mall arcade.

"He was always trying to lift everybody else up, but apparently none of us were around to help him," he said.

Crutchfield grew up in his mother's house in French Camp but left home when he was 16 and entered the foster care system, said his sister, Amber Crutchfield. She said she was not sure why he left; he did not confide in her or other family members the reasons.

"It just happened," she said outside the chapel. "He wanted to do that."

Michael Crutchfield enlisted in the Army when he was 19, said his father, Steve Crutchfield, who lives in Nevada.

The last time he saw his son was during a visit in April, just a few months before Michael was deployed to Iraq. He said his son seemed to be in good spirits and excited about serving overseas.

"He was great. He was ready to go," Steve Crutchfield said after the funeral.

Friends said Michael Crutchfield did not talk about his problems or his childhood.

Instead, he appeared to be the one they often depended on. His comrades in the Army nicknamed him "Crutch," because they leaned on him for information in his unit, said Brig. Gen. John McMahon.

Outside the memorial service Saturday, more than a dozen members of a motorcycle club for Vietnam War veterans stood in the parking lot, each clutching an American flag.

Another dozen uniformed service members assembled in the back of the chapel. Sobs from a female friend grew louder with each rifle shot during the three-volley salute.

Before the service was over, Crutchfield's mother appealed to the people before her to seek help for whatever trials they may endure but to remember to reach out as well.

"Let's help people out there who do need an extra hand," she said. "It's not such a lonely world."

Army Specialist Michael J. Crutchfield died on 12/23/06.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hospitalman Kyle A. Nolen

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Hospitalman Kyle A. Nolen, 21, of Ennis, Texas

Hospitalman Nolen was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; killed Dec. 21 as a result of enemy action in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Pact to join military led fallen medic to Iraq

ENNIS, Texas - As a boy, Kyle Nolen made a pact with his best friends that they'd all join the military.

Even his wife couldn't dissuade him from fulfilling that vow when Nolen joined the Navy last year. He became a medic and was deployed in August to Iraq, where he died Thursday after his vehicle went over a land mine.

"I was scared for this reason," said his wife, Cassie. "I am proud of him, and I supported him, but I would have chosen something different."

Kyle Nolen, 21, graduated from Ennis High School in 2003. He loved to fish, spend time with his family and play soccer, said his father, Michael Nolen.

"He always thought about everybody and he loved his family," said his mother, Frances Nolen.

He also leaves behind a 3-year-old son, a 5-month-old daughter, four sisters and a brother.

The Nolens lived in Twentynine Palms, Calif., where Kyle Nolen was based. He was assigned to H Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Division.

Cassie Nolen said she plans to move her family back to Ennis to live in a house she and her husband built before he enlisted.

Ennis mourns its fallen son
By CANDIE BECK-ADAMS Ennis Journal Managing Editor

A horse drawn carriage carried a fallen Ennis soldier to his final resting place Tuesday, as funeral services were held for Navy corpsman Kyle Anthony Nolen, 21.

Nolen was killed in the line of duty in Iraq on Dec. 21, 2006. He and his family have been lifelong residents of Ennis and the standing room only crowd that gathered at the chapel remembered him as a kind and happy young man who always strived to go the next step and face the obstacles in his life.

“Kyle did not run from difficulties, he met them head on and tried to conquer them,” said Nolen’s uncle, Army Sgt. First Class Marty Moreno.

He went on to share with the crowd that Nolen had been offered a job that would have placed him in less danger, but he did not take the position because it would have meant leaving his fellow men behind.

Nolen’s dedication and loyalty to those around him was a common theme as members of his family and friends shared their memories of him with the crowd.

Moreno stressed everyone that Nolen was so dedicated to his wife and family that when other members of his unit were going out for entertainment, that he could be found on the telephone with his wife, Cassie for hours.

“Members of his unit actually got him dressed and tied him up to take him out bowling, but when their attention was on the game and off of him, he slipped away from them. When they got back Kyle was on the phone with Cassie,” he said.

Navy Chaplain Barrett Craig reminded the crowd of the importance of the mission Nolen was on and how his death, while difficult to understand, wasn’t in vain.

“Kyle did something, he died in defense of the God-given freedoms we are all entitled to,” Craig said. “There is evil in this world that wishes to take those freedoms from us and from the people we are trying to help, if we give up at the sound of their first bullet, we’d be giving in to evil.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, spoke and expressed how proud he was to be part of Nolen’s service, calling him “the best of the best” and saying that Nolen died doing what he wanted to do and what he had made a choice to do.

“He was there because he felt called to be there. He was a medic because he wanted a career in medicine to help ease pain and suffering,” Barton said. “He made a choice to volunteer and protect the freedoms we all enjoy.”

Barton also said Nolen was among a very small group of volunteers as less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the people in the country volunteers for the military.

He went on to remind the crowd that Nolen’s death marked the third military member from Ennis to be killed in the line of duty in recent years.

“The War on Terror is not a joke, it is very real. We are believers of tolerance, religious freedoms etc., and the radical, militant Islamic fundamentalists are against everything we stand for. We are fighting a war worth fighting. Kyle’s death was a tragedy but it was for a cause worth defending,” Barton said.

Admiral Brian Brannman echoed Barton’s sentiments, calling Nolen “not just a cog in the wheel but a treasure of the nation,” as he presented Nolen’s Purple Heart medal to his wife Cassie.

Moreno expressed to the crowd how difficult it was for Nolen’s family to understand why he was killed but that they understood how important the decision to enlist was to him.

“It is hard for us to understand why Kyle was taken from us, but he really gave us all in this room, the greatest gift anyone can give and his family supported his decisions,” Moreno said.

With a voice thick with emotion he added, “I would like to think that God chooses who he wants in heaven and I’m not sure if he has a navy, but I know that Kyle is in God’s army now.”

Nolen leaves behind his wife Cassie, children Ryan and Railey Nolen, and numerous other family and friends.

Hospitalman Kyle A. Nolen was killed in action on 12/21/06.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Army Specialist Robert J. Volker

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Robert J. Volker, 21, of Big Spring, Texas

Spc. Volker was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. He died Dec. 20 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV.

Big Spring Herald -- By STEVE REAGAN Staff Writer.

The war in Iraq has claimed one of Big Spring’s own. U.S. Army Spec. Robert J. "R.J." Volker, 21, died Wednesday when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Two other soldiers traveling with Volker were injured in the incident.

Volker was a life-long resident of Big Spring and a 2003 graduate of Big Spring High School, where he played French horn in the band.

"He was a very fine young man," BSHS Band Director Rocky Harris recalled. "He was just outstanding for us ... We have great memories of him and were very touched by his loss. We definitely feel for his family."

Volker also had a brief flirtation with sports.

"He tried to play football, until he realized he was smaller than everyone else out there," said his mother, Melissa.

"R.J." was remembered as a young man who enjoyed having fun, but also had a serious, caring side. That sense of caring is one factor that led him to Iraq, his mother said.

"He was always in and out of our house when he was growing up," said family friend Adrian Ayala. "He was just a good kid ... playful, lively. He enjoyed things."

Melissa Volker said her son joined the service soon after his younger brother, Johnathan, enlisted into the Navy in September 2005.

"Three days (after Johnathan enlisted), R.J. told me to go with him because he was joining the Army," Melissa said. "He just couldn’t let his little brother go without him."

After completing basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Volker completed combat engineer school before shipping overseas in October of this year.

He was assigned to the First Calvary Division. His duties included finding IEDs and snipers.

"He just missed this one," Melissa Volker said of the incident that took her son’s life. The other two passengers in Volker’s vehicle were injured — one critically — but both were expected to survive.

His mother said Volker realized the controversial nature of the war in Iraq, but believed in the cause which eventually took his life.

"He did not like being there. We called it ‘the catbox.’ Every time I talked to him, I asked him if he cleaned the catbox," she said. "But he was protecting a people ... who had been beaten up and bullied for a long time. My son always tried to help people. He heard the cry (in Iraq), so he went to help."

Volker is also survived by his wife, Martha, and his father, Robert. Funeral services are pending at Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home.

Army Specialist Robert J. Volker was killed in action on 12/20/06.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Army Specialist Andrew P. Daul

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Andrew P. Daul, Sgt. Andrew P. Daul, 21, of Brighton, Mich.

Spc. Daul was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Friedberg, Germany. He died Dec. 19 in Hit, Iraq, of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Abrams tank during combat operations.

Soldier killed in Iraq was avid, competitive bodybuilder

Associated Press

BRIGHTON -- U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Patrick Daul wasn't looking to make the military his lifelong career, his family said.

He was to leave Iraq in February following two tours, but died after an improvised explosive device went off near his tank.

"Everyone is very, very proud of Andrew," his father told the Ann Arbor News.

"Even though we always knew this is something that could happen, it's still shocking. We felt he was in a relatively safe place, if there is such a thing in Iraq."

Daul, 21, of Brighton died Tuesday Dec. 19, 2006, in Hit, Iraq, from the blast that went off near his Abrams tank, the Defense Department said in a statement.

While Daul worried about the hazards of war, he reassured his family he would be fine.

"We were obviously pretty much brought to our knees when soldiers came to our door," Daul's older brother, Michael, said about being notified of his brother's death.

"But we're surrounded by lots of family and friends."

Andrew Daul became interested in serving with the military during his senior year at Brighton High School.

He had served three and a half years and was looking forward to a discharge in July.

Daul was an avid and competitive bodybuilder.

He was fascinated by extreme sports such as skiing and snowboarding.

Along with his brother and parents, Daul is survived by two sisters and other relatives.

Daul served with the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, based in Friedberg, Germany.

He would have returned to the base in Germany in February, his father said.

Army Specialist Andrew P. Daul was killed in action on 12/19/06.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Army Pfc. Seth M. Stanton

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Seth M. Stanton, 19, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; assigned to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Dec. 17 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained when his Humvee struck an improvised explosive device while on mounted patrol Dec. 16 in Taji, Iraq. Also killed were: Spc. Matthew J. Stanley and Staff Sgt. David R. Staats.

Bombing in Iraq kills Colorado soldier
By Tillie Fong, Rocky Mountain News
December 19, 2006

Seth Stanton was text-messaging his uncle, Eric DeMello, a few hours before he went on patrol with his unit in Taji, Iraq.

"My son (Eric) was telling him to be safe and be careful and to keep warm, because it was cold there," said Stanton's grandfather, Joe DeMello, of Woodland Park.

Pfc. Stanton, 19, of Colorado City, died early Sunday from injuries he suffered Saturday when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

"He was the commander of a patrol in Taji and he was in the lead vehicle," his grandfather said. "There were three other soldiers in the vehicle, and they were all killed."

Stanton was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, based in Fort Hood, Texas.

Stanton's mother, Anna, of Colorado City, received a call Saturday saying that he was injured and that he was in serious but stable condition. The Army was planning to transport him back to the United States for care, DeMello said. But on Sunday, two soldiers arrived to tell her that her son was dead.

Stanton was born in Woodland Park; his grandmother, Georgell Stanton, served as midwife. He moved to Colorado City when he was 4 and was home-schooled, except for his junior year in high school, when he attended Coronado High School in Colorado Springs.

"He got such good marks that they considered him a senior," said his grandfather, adding that Stanton graduated in 2005.

Stanton enlisted in the Army after graduation. He left for basic training in June 2005. DeMello recalled his apprehension when he saw his grandson before he left.

"My grandkids call me 'Pa' and he said, 'Pa, what do you think of my joining the Army?' And I told him, 'It would be the greatest thing that would happen to you except at this time, because there was an Iraq war going,' " DeMello said.

But that didn't deter Stanton, who was inspired by his uncle, Eric DeMello, an Army veteran who fought in the first Gulf War.

"He was a soldier and he wanted to do his duty," his grandfather said.

DeMello said his grandson loved off-roading with friends and playing paintball. He also loved spending time with his two younger brothers, Nathan, 16, and Dylan, 9.

DeMello said his grandson had planned to go to college after his Army stint but didn't know what he wanted to study yet.

Stanton enjoyed life, his grandfather said. "I remember his outgoing personality, his zest for life," he said. "He made friends with a smile."

A military funeral in Colorado Springs is pending next week at New Life Church.

Army Pfc. Seth M. Stanton was killed in action on 12/17/06.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Army Staff Sgt. David R. Staats

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. David R. Staats, 30, of Pueblo, Colo.

SSgt. Staats was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died of injuries sustained when his Humvee struck an improvised explosive device while on mounted patrol Dec. 16 in Taji, Iraq. Also killed were: Spc. Matthew J. Stanley and Pfc. Seth M. Stanton.

Rocky Mountain News --

Arizona members of David R. Staats' family had a premonition of his death for the past week. "Everyone had a gut feeling . . . but no one could figure out why," said his sister, Bethany Staats, of Glendale, Ariz.

"When my parents walked in the house (with the news), I just knew. It blew us away."

Staff Sgt. David R. Staats, 30, of Colorado Springs, was killed Saturday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee while on patrol in Taji, Iraq.

Another Coloradan, Pfc. Seth Stanton, 19, also of Colorado Springs, was killed in the same attack.

Both were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division based in Fort Hood, Texas.

Born in Norfolk, Va., David Staats graduated from Cactus High School in Glendale, Ariz. in 1995, and immediately enlisted in the Army.

"His dad was in the Air Force and he idolized him, but he chose Army," said his sister.

In 2002, Staats was sent to Kuwait, where he did a year's tour. The next year he was sent to Iraq.

When he returned after a year's stint, he decided to leave the military.

"The military changed him," said Bethany Staats.

"He was quiet, he was more serious. He was more in control of his emotions . . ."

David Staats worked as a civilian mechanic for a time, but decided to re-enlist with the Army last year.

"He didn't like civilian life," said Bethany Staats.

"He liked the military - that was his life. It was in his blood."

David Staats was in his sixth week of deployment when he was killed.

"He was an amazing person," Bethany Staats said.

"He was always there when you needed him. He helped raise my daughter the first three years I had her.

"She was his pride and joy for a while."

Bethany Staats said the family will have a separate funeral service for him in Arizona, but David Staats will be buried in Colorado.

"David had called Colorado home," said his sister. "He loved Colorado."

David Staats is survived by his wife, Meagan Staats of Colorado Springs, his son from a previous marriage, Tyler David Staats of Glendale, Ariz., and his parents, Roger and Wanda Staats of Peoria, Ariz., as well as his sister.

Army Staff Sgt. David R. Staats was killed in action on 12/16/06.

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicklas J. Palmer

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicklas J. Palmer, 19, of Leadville, Colo.

Lance Cpl. Palmer was assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; killed Dec. 16 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Summit Daily News -- Summit County, CO Colorado LEADVILLE - "This is the hardest thing ... I am just numb," Rachele Palmer said from her home Tuesday.

It had only been 48 hours after she heard the news of her youngest son, Nick.

Nick Palmer died in Iraq over the weekend as a Marine. He was killed by a sniper while patrolling in a Humvee in Fallujah at the time. He was 19 years old.

The weekend before the holidays, the last thing the Palmer's wanted to hear about was the death of their son.

Rachele and her husband Brad had returned from a holiday party Saturday afternoon when three Marines arrived at their door with the news.

"It was actually kind of funny at first," Palmer said. His father Brad, director of Lake County Road and Bridge, thought Jehovah's Witnesses were coming to the door and asked his wife to attend to them.

But when his mother Rachele peeked through the three little windows at the front and saw that they were Marines, she said she went completely numb.

"I couldn't tell you what their names had been because I couldn't hear them," she said. "They came in and asked me some questions. If his name was Nick, if his name was Palmer, if we had a son in the Marines. I was numb for a long time. It's the hardest thing ...

"Every word out of their mouth was adding up and getting worse," she said, "they told me he was shot, that he had died. I didn't know what to think ... I couldn't think."

Giant of the gridiron

The family moved to Leadville in 1995. Nick spent most of his life in Leadville.

He lived the true American lifestyle. He grew up in a rural mountain community with a father who loved football, a caring mother and an older brother. The rest of the extended family live in Montana.

The family activities revolved around football, watching it, playing it or dreaming about it.

"They watched football," his mother said. "Saturday, there's college ball, then Sunday, Monday and Thursday there's pro football. You watch football or you go to the kitchen and cook like I do. He watched football."

Nick played football from the time he was in seventh grade all through high school. With the help from his father, he lettered all four years.

"He ran offensive and defensive (lineman)," his mother said. "He didn't like to come to the sidelines very often but he would do it because he knew the other kids wanted to play. He was very generous that way."

As a junior, Nick was thinking about his future. He knew he was going into the military, his mother said.

"As a mother, I said, 'Oh, my god, no,'" she said when he told her he decided to be a Marine. "This was when the war was in full-blown motion. It's not like it hadn't started yet. But he knew this is what he wanted to do ... he must have dreamt about being a Marine ... and he signed up for it."

His father shared similar views.

He told him: "You know, you're going to Iraq then?"

Fit for the journey

Palmer left for boot camp in San Diego shortly after graduation.

The Palmer's would hear from their son when he first arrived in Iraq three to four times a week. He discovered a phone bank close to his base and used it frequently. But as the weeks passed, the Palmer's heard less and less from him.

"The calls would come a little further between because he was out on patrol and they had to go and do what they had to do," Rachele said. "It was a week, week and a half when we'd hear from him. It was hard not to hear from him."

He told his mother that he worked long hours with hard work. That was his duty as a Marine.

He trained for nearly the entire year before he entered the Marines. He wanted to be physically fit and prepared for the journey and the experience.

The preparations consisted of endless hours at the gym, jogging, hiking and swimming with friends.

He carpooled with fellow friends who joined the Marines and trained as a group.

"He lived in the weight room," his mother said. "At 10,200 feet, if it's not hard enough for running, he would toss 30 to 40 pound weights in his back pack and run with that. It was mind boggling to see.

"He wanted to be fit all year round."

A quiet, serious young man at home, Nick shared a more jovial, humorous side with his friends, his mother said.

A joker and humorist, his mother recalls camping and fishing trips he would take with his family and some of the funny things he would do but said "he was Mr. Serious at home."

"He was a polite, well-mannered good kid," Rachele said.

A shower of condolences

Visitors from around the globe are calling the Palmer's household sharing their condolences.

"This community is in mourning," said County Commissioner Ken Olsen. Olsen works closely with Nick's father at the county.

Within two and a half hours after the Marines left their front door, people showed up.

"Word spread across the U.S., total strangers are calling us, Marine families called," she said. "From the East to West Coast, the word is out. And if there is one, there's 200 who have come to the door."

The phones were ringing off the hook, landline and cellular phones, the doorbell ringing all day.

One visitor stopped by early Tuesday morning, asked if there was anything he could do, but Palmer told him no.

"I don't know what you can do," she said. "I don't even know what to do. Nobody knows what to do or what to say ... neither do I."

Flowers and flags started to collect at the Palmer home. And an area near the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, which is across from the Palmer home, has ben set aside for people to hang yellow ribbings and offer their support.

Leadville resident Carol Hill said Monday that the coverage of this war reminded her of Vietnam.

"When you're watching the news on the television, all you see are numbers and body counts," Hill said. "It's just like Vietnam. And it's sad."

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicklas J. Palmer was killed in action on 12/16/06.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Army Staff Sgt. Joseph E. Phaneuf

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Joseph E. Phaneuf, 38, of Eastford, Conn.

SSgt. Phaneuf was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Brigade, Hartford, Conn.; died Dec. 15 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations in Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan.

Soldier's Widow: 'He Was A Patriot'
Roadside Bomb Kills Connecticut-Based Guardsman

EASTFORD, Conn. -- A Connecticut-based soldier has been killed in Afghanistan by a roadside explosive, military officials confirmed Monday.

Connecticut Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Joseph Phaneuf II, 38, died Friday when a vehicle in which he was riding struck a roadside bomb.

"Saturday morning at 6:47, I heard a car pull into the driveway, and I peeked out the window," said Michelle Phaneuf, the soldier's wife.

Phaneuf was a member of the First Battalion 102nd Infantry and was one of three soldiers in the vehicle when the explosion occurred, Michelle Phaneuf said.

"It is very difficult to lose another great soldier who answered the call to duty," said Maj. Gen. Thaddeus J. Martin, the adjutant general and commander of the Connecticut National Guard.

Michelle Phaneuf said her husband served in the military in the 1990s and re-enlisted after the 2001 terrorist attacks. He served in Iraq and volunteered for the Afghanistan-bound unit because he felt strongly about the need to serve overseas again, she said.

"He was a soldier, a patriot through and through," she said. "He felt he was needed to go over there and do what he could do."

"Joseph Phaneuf was a volunteer citizen-soldier who served his state and country in the truest sense," Gov. M. Jodi Rell said. "His example of service and sacrifice is as inspirational as his death is tragic."

The governor ordered flags lowered to half-staff on Monday.

He especially enjoyed working with the children and bringing them candy, ball point pens and other items they otherwise rarely could get, she said.

"I knew he was out and about, he loved being out. One of his favorite things was going into the villages, into the schools and surprising the kids," Michelle Phaneuf said.

Michelle Phaneuf said she last spoke with her husband by telephone on Wednesday. She and the couple's son and two daughters sent care packages of presents for Joseph Phaneuf to hand out.

Channel 3 Eyewitness News reporter Katy Zachry said the children are equally as proud of their dad. He coached them in sports, loved to take pictures of them and always made time to volunteer in Eastford.

"A lot of people can't understand why he went back again. That's fine, just be proud of him. When he was here, he did good. And when he was there, he was excellent," Michelle Phaneuf said.

"We're going to have Christmas," she said. "That's what he would have wanted, and that's what we're going to do."

Funeral and burial arrangements had not yet been made Sunday night, but Michelle Phaneuf said her husband told her he wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Eastford town buildings were draped in black over the weekend.

Phaneuf's battalion was mobilized in January and left for Afghanistan in April. It is scheduled to return to Connecticut in spring 2007.

Army Staff Sgt. Joseph E. Phaneuf was killed in action on 12/15/06.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Army Sgt. Yevgeniy Ryndych

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Yevgeniy Ryndych, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sgt. Ryndych was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Dec. 6 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit while on patrol in Ramadi, Iraq.

NEW YORK (CBS/AP)- Within hours of hearing her love had been killed in Iraq, a soldier's fiancée got an engagement ring, his family said.

Sgt. Yevgeniy Ryndych, 24, died Wednesday in Ramadi, the Defense Department said.

His family and fiancée were told on the same day she got a package with the engagement ring, said the soldier's brother, Ivan Ryndych.

"He had proposed over the phone from Iraq within the past month," said Ivan Ryndych, 20. "He bought an engagement ring over the Internet."

Ryndych, who was born in Ukraine and immigrated to New York City as a teenager, was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, his brother said. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Carson, Colo.

Ivan Ryndych said his brother had gone on to a special-forces unit after his first tour in Iraq ended last year. But then he volunteered to rejoin his old unit when it headed back to Iraq, his brother said.

"His exact words to me were, 'I don't want to leave them behind,' " Ivan Ryndych said.

Ivan Ryndych responded angrily when he realized he lost his brother on the same day a report criticizing President Bush's failing Iraq strategy came out.

"It won't change anything," Ivan Ryndych told the New York Daily News.

In an interview with Newsday, Ivan Ryndych said that until his brother's death, he had also contemplated a career in the Army. "I changed my mind," he said. "I just don't want to put my parents through the same thing."

The family immigrated to Brooklyn from Ukraine in 1998 and has since moved to Staten Island. A flag flew at half-staff outside their home Thursday; inside, the living room displayed photographs of Ryndych in uniform.

Ryndych graduated from Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, according to published reports.

A voracious reader who enjoyed military-strategy games, he had wanted to join the Army for years, his brother said.

"He just liked the whole Army concept," Ivan Ryndych said.

Army Sgt. Yevgeniy Ryndych was killed in action on 12/06/06.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Army Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis, 19, of Knox, Pa.

Pfc. McGinnis was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; died Dec. 4 of injuries sustained when a grenade was thrown into his vehicle in Baghdad.

Silver Star approved for Soldier who sacrificed himself for crew
Dec 13, 2006
BY Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow

Soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice, will receive a Silver Star.FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 13, 2006) - Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis packed only 136 pounds into his 6-foot frame, but few have matched his inner strength.

McGinnis sacrificed himself in an act of supreme bravery Dec. 4, belying his status as the youngest Soldier in Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. The 19-year-old mechanic from Knox, Pa., likely saved the lives of four Soldiers riding with him on a mission in the Adhamiyah section of Baghdad.

McGinnis was manning the gunner's hatch when an insurgent tossed a grenade from above. It flew past McGinnis and down the hatch before lodging near the radio.

His platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Thomas, recalled what happened next: "Pfc. McGinnis yelled 'Grenade ... It's in the truck,' I looked out of the corner of my eye as I was crouching down and I saw him pin it down."

McGinnis did so even though he could have escaped. "He had time to jump out of the truck," Thomas said. "He chose not to."

The Silver Star Medal was approved for McGinnis's action and will be awarded posthumously.

"He gave his life to save his crew and his platoon sergeant," Thomas said. "He's a hero. He's a professional. He was just an awesome guy."

Three of the Soldiers with McGinnis that day have returned to duty, while a fourth is recovering in Germany.

McGinnis joined the Army after graduating high school in 2005. He had been in the Army 18 months and made his mark even before his heroic deed.

"He was a good kid," said C Company's senior enlisted Soldier, First Sgt. Kenneth J. Hendrix. "He had just gotten approved for a waiver to be promoted to specialist."

He also appeared on the Nov. 30 cover of Stars & Stripes, manning his turret.
Besides his military accomplishments, McGinnis leaves his friends and family with memories of a fun-loving, loyal man.

Pfc. Brennan Beck, also of the 1st Bn., 26th Inf. Regt., said McGinnis made others feel better.

"He would go into a room and when he left, everyone was laughing," Beck said. "He did impersonations of others in the company. He was quick-witted, just hilarious. He loved making people laugh. He was a comedian through and through."

While having a witty side, McGinnis took his job seriously.

"He was not a garrison Soldier. He hated it back in garrison," Beck said. "He loved it here in Iraq. He loved being a gunner. It was a thrill, he loved everything about it. He was one our best Soldiers. He did a great job."

Beck has memories of talking all night with McGinnis about where they wanted their lives to go, and said McGinnis always remembered his friends.

"When I had my appendix removed, he was the only one who visited me in the hospital," Beck said. "That meant a lot."

Another infantryman with the 1st Bn., 26th Inf. Regt., Pfc.Michael Blair recalled that McGinnis helped him when he arrived at Ledward Barracks in Schweinfurt, Germany.

"When I first came to the unit ... he was there and took me in and showed me around," Blair said. "He was real easy to talk to. You could tell him anything."

McGinnis' final heroic act came as no surprise to Blair.

"He was that kind of person," Blair said. "He would rather take it himself than have his buddies go down."

The brigade's senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. William Johnson, also had high praise for McGinnis.

"Anytime you get a Soldier to do something like that - to give his life to protect his fellow Soldiers - that's what heroes are made of," Johnson said.

It also demonstrates, Johnson continued, that the 'MySpace Generation' has what it takes to carry on the Army's proud traditions.

"Some think Soldiers who come in today are all about themselves," Johnson said. "I see it differently."

(Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow writes for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.)

Army Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis was killed in action on 12/04/06.

Army Pfc. Nicholas D. Turcotte

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Nicholas D. Turcotte, 23, of Maple Grove, Minn.

Pfc. Turcotte was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, West St. Paul, Minn.; died Dec. 4 in Nasiriyah, Iraq, from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident.

Minnesota Public Radio -- St. Paul, Minn. — Nicholas Turcotte, 23, of Maple Grove died Monday night. Military officials say he was in an armored vehicle that was escorting a logistics convoy when his vehicle rolled over on a road near Al Nasiriyia. They say the accident was not caused by hostile military activity and remains under investigation.

Turcotte enlisted in the National Guard in 2004, three years after he graduated from Maple Grove High School. One of his teachers there was Giuseppe Mendolia. Mendolia, who is now principal of Brooklyn Junior High School, says he immediately recognized Turcotte's name when he heard the news, and he pulled out the the Maple Grove yearbook to recall his former student.

"I remember Nick as being a happy-go-lucky student who was always quick with a smile and seemed pretty happy about life and relaxed and easy-going," he said.

One of Turcotte's classmates agrees. Jackie Arnold was involved in several of the school's bands with Turcotte.

"He was just really a nice kid all-around. He talked to everybody, was really approachable, really friendly with everybody," she said.

Arnold says, for a time, she and Turcotte were assigned to load up the band's instruments and uniforms.

"We had five minutes to get 500 people's instruments packed up into a truck and ready to go," she said.

Arnold described Turcotte as a team-player and a problem-solver recalling that he found a way to load the truck more efficiently.

Turcotte was very involved in the school's music department. Eric Bitterman, the Maple Grove High School band director, says Turcotte was a gifted trombonist who played in the jazz ensemble, was a section leader in the marching band and also sang in the choir, among other activities. But Bitterman says, Turcotte had other good qualities. He says the young man liked to cheer people up.

"I think what I'll remember best about Nick is he was always good at making light of dark times in his life or anyone's life. He had a quick wit, and always able to offered a joke to lighten the moment," he said.

Bitterman says he didn't know that Turcotte had enlisted in the National Guard, but he says it's not surprising that he did.

"In our marching band he was high-spirited and highly self-disciplined in his own practice. He'd be able to motivate others around him to rise to the occasion as well," he said.

At a press conference Wednesday morning, National Guard officials said Turcotte was a dedicated soldier; even during boot camp, he'd get up early for physical training on his own, and then train again with his unit.

Nicholas Turcotte was ranked as a specialist at the time of his death, but the National Guard says he'll be promoted posthumously to sergeant.

He is survived by his wife, Jennifer and mother, Debbie Moore.

Army Pfc. Nicholas D. Turcotte was killed in a vehicle accident on 12/4/06

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Army Specialist Kenneth W. Haines

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Kenneth W. Haines, 25, of Fulton, N.Y.

Spc. Haines was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Dec. 3 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle while on patrol in Abu Hishma, Iraq.

Soldier from Fulton, N.Y. killed in Iraq

The Associated Press

FULTON, N.Y. — A 25-year-old Army soldier from upstate New York was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq, federal officials said Thursday.

The Department of Defense said Spc. Kenneth W. Haines, of Fulton, N.Y., was fatally wounded when the device exploded near his vehicle in Balad, Iraq. Haines, who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, died Sunday.

Haines joined the military in September 2000 as a fire support specialist and was assigned to his unit for just over three years. He deployed to Iraq in October.

Haines received several military awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and National Defense Service Medal.

Kenneth W. Haines, 25, of Fulton, NY, died Sunday, December 3, 2006, while under enemy fire as he was driving in a United States Army Stryker Vehicle on convoy in Balad, Iraq.

He was born in Syracuse, and he was a resident of Syracuse from 1981 until he moved to Fulton in 1993.

Specialist Haines was a 2000 graduate of G. Ray Bodley High School, Fulton. He was a member of the varsity wrestling team and varsity football team. He played the tuba in the high school band and the jazz ensemble.

Specialist Haines was a United States Army veteran while actively serving his second tour of duty in the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division stationed out of Fort Hood, TX, in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Specialist Haines was the recipient of the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, two National Defense Service Medals, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon and a Weapons Qualification Badge as a sharpshooter.

Pending medals, which will be honored to Specialist Haines posthumously, include the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Badge.

He is survived by his foster parent, Kirk McMillan of Fulton; three brothers; and one sister.

Army Specialist Kenneth W. Haines was killed in action on 12/03/06.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Army Specialist Chris Kleinwachter

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Chris Kleinwachter, 29, of Wahpeton, N.D.

Spc. Kleinwachter was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery, Grand Forks, N.D.; died Nov. 30 of injuries sustained when his vehicle rolled over during combat operations in Ghazni, Afghanistan.

Relatives of Chris Kleinwachter said he was a go-getter who put the needs of others in front of his own.

"One of Christopher's greatest attributes was his care for other people," said his mother, Carmen. "He was always attempting to bring peace to those in conflict. ... Add to this his great sense of humor, and you can get a glimpse into my son."

Bismarck, N.D. - Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, Adjutant General of the North Dakota National Guard, announced today that a Soldier from the Grand Forks based 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery (Security Forces-SECFOR), was killed in action in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 29. The Soldier was participating in military convoy operations in the Ghazni province when the vehicle he was riding in was involved in a rolled-over.

Cpl. Christopher K. Kleinwachter, 29, of Wahpeton, died of injuries as a result of this accident.

"Mikey and I are joined by all North Dakotans in mourning the loss of Cpl. Christopher Kleinwachter, who died in the service of his nation in Afghanistan," said Governor Hoeven. "We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends, and offer our support in their time of grieving. On behalf of all North Dakotans, our hearts and prayers go out to them."

"I know that North Dakotans are saddened as well as members of the North Dakota National Guard at the loss of one of our own,"" said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk. "Cpl. Christopher Kleinwachter lost his life in service to this country. I am very proud of what he stood for and he will be remembered as a great Soldier and will be missed by everyone."

Maj. Gen. Sprynczynatyk visited the Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery in Sept. He says the unit is very close knit and his comrades are now mourning his loss.

"They've had a "fallen comrade" memorial service in Afghanistan for Cpl. Kleinwachter. It's a hard time for them. Losing two members of their unit in a short time is tough as it is for the Kleinwachter family and those of us here in North Dakota."

Cpl. Kleinwachter, a native of Grand Forks, enlisted into the North Dakota Army National Guard while still a senior in high school. After graduation from Grand Forks Central High School, he reported to basic training at Ft. Sill, Okla. He completed basic training and advanced individual training in 1995. He was serving as a power generator equipment repairer.

His military awards include the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal and the North Dakota Legion of Merit medal.

Kleinwachter is survived by his mother, Carmen A. Kleinwachter, Crookston, Minn.; his father, Clare R. Kleinwachter, Wahpeton; and his brother Creg Kleinwachter, also of Wahpeton.

Army Specialist Chris Kleinwachter was killed in action on 11/30/06.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Army Specialist Christopher E. Mason

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Christopher E. Mason, 32, of Mobile, Ala.

Spc. Mason was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Nov. 28 of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire while on patrol in Bayji, Iraq.

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) Army Spc. Christopher Mason, who recently told a church congregation of his devotion to his overseas mission, died in a bomb blast in Iraq, his family said.

Garland Mason said his 32-year-old brother, a 1994 Baker High School graduate and a member of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, N.C., was killed Tuesday by an improvised explosive device.

The Defense Department lists Mason as a casualty, but had no other details.

Family members said Mason returned from Iraq about six weeks ago and spoke during a Sunday service at the Life Church of Mobile.

During that speech he talked about how important it was to be in Iraq and was looking forward to returning.

``Folks, you got to dig down deep. When things get tough for you, you got to remember you're in a war,'' he told members of his family's church. ``You're in a battle for your soul, people. You hear me? And it's no joke. The bullets we play with are real over there and the things that the devil uses on us is real over here.''

Army Specialist Christopher E. Mason was killed in action on 11/28/06.

Army Staff Sgt. Michael A. Shank

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Michael A. Shank, 31 of Bonham, Texas

SSgt Shank was assigned to the 230th Military Police Company, 95th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, Kaiserslautern, Germany; died Nov. 28 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Logar, Afghanistan. Also killed was Spc. Jeffrey G. Roberson.

A Bonham family learned Tuesday afternoon that their son, husband and father, Staff Sgt. Michael Shank, 31, was killed that morning in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Shank reportedly died when his Humvee ran over a land mine planted on a mountain road by the enemy. He had been in Afghanistan about six months, his wife Brandy said Wednesday.

Brandy, Michael and their two daughters, KateLynn, 7, and Michaela, 4, had spent the past three years together while he was stationed in Germany. Brandy Shank and the girls returned home to the United States this past spring when her husband received orders to go to Afghanistan. He was expected to finish his tour of duty by the end February or beginning of March 2007. Then he would go back to Germany to process out.

“We don’t know what base he was going to come to,” his mother Lynn Colbert, also of Bonham, said Wednesday. “He was going to make the Army his career. He was an MP, military police.”

An officer from Fort Hood arrived in Bonham Tuesday to deliver the news to the family.

Staff Sgt. Shank graduated high school from Dodd City. His two daughters both attend Bonham schools, their mother said. “He was our hero,” she said Wednesday. "She was her daddy's junior," Colbert said of Michaela.

Colbert said the family is waiting for the Army to come to Bonham again and for “a liaison to walk us through all this.”

Staff Sgt. Shank always planned to be a soldier and always wanted to go into the military, his mother said. He first enlisted 10 years ago and re-enlisted in March of this year.

“It’s one of those things you never expect to happen. We’re just trying to get everything taken care of, everybody’s so confused about the situation,” Brandy Shank said. “There will be a casualty officer here in a few hours. I think he will help me do all the paperwork for the military.

“He went in when he was 20 and he had been in a year when we got married. He was making it a career and he was looking forward to putting in the paperwork to be a drill sergeant.”

Bonham ISD flags will fly at half-staff this week in honor of Staff Sgt. Shank, said Judy Lewis, Bonham school secretary.

Michaela is a pre-kindergarten student at Fannin County Head Start and KateLynn is a first-grade student at Finley-Oates Elementary School in Bonham.

Army Staff Sgt. Michael A. Shank was killed in action on 11/28/06.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz, 20, of Carlstadt, N.J.

Lance Cpl. Schwarz died Nov. 27 from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

A small North Jersey town was in grief Tuesday after learning of the death in Iraq of a Marine who was a member of a well-known local family.

Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz, 20, of Carlstadt, Bergen County, died Monday from wounds he sustained during combat in Iraq's Anbar province. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune.

"You couldn't go anywhere today without seeing someone visibly upset. The community as a whole will grieve over this," Carlstadt Mayor William Roseman told The Record of Bergen County.

The son and brother of area auto mechanics, Schwarz graduated from Becton Regional High School in 2004.

Along with his brother Frank, Michael Schwarz served in the borough's volunteer fire department. Their father, Kenneth, headed the department for years.

Friends and relatives remembered Michael Schwarz as fun-loving and outgoing. Friends recalled off-road outings in Schwarz's customized Jeep that often ended up with busted parts.

Most of all, there was Schwarz's love of the military and his desire to enlist in the Marines, a wish he expressed even when he was a young child.

"He always wanted to be a soldier," said Chris Assenheimer, a cousin of Schwarz's father.

Schwarz approached going to Iraq with nervous excitement, his friends said. Only a few weeks before, they said, Schwarz had a near miss when a sniper's bullet grazed his helmet.

On Monday, he wasn't as lucky.

"It's hard to believe," said Dana Rawinski, 20, one of Schwarz's best friends.

Rawinski said she had worn a Marines shirt or sweat shirt almost every day since Schwarz went to Iraq.

"I'm waiting for him to come home and laugh at us," Rawinski said.

Losing a 'happy-go-lucky' Marine
Carlstadt suffers the death of Michael Schwarz in combat in Iraq
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Star-Ledger Staff

Michael A. Schwarz was a free spirit who knew what was at stake when he joined the Marines right out of high school, and later when he headed to Iraq.

"He just loved his country. He loved the idea of being a soldier and he loved being a Marine," said the Rev. Donald M. Pitches, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Carlstadt, who baptized the borough native some two decades ago.

"He's not one to second-guess himself or express his doubts," Pitches said. "He was ready to do what he was trained to do."

Schwarz, a 20-year-old lance corporal, died Monday from injuries he sustained while conducting combat operations in the Iraqi province of Anbar, the Department of Defense announced yesterday. He had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Schwarz was the second service member from the Bergen County community and the 64th with ties to New Jersey killed in Iraq.

"Mike had looked forward to joining the Marines ever since I knew him back in the fifth grade. That was his goal back then," said Schwarz's friend Shawn Tilt, also 20.

Tilt said Schwarz joined the Marines after they graduated from Henry P. Becton Regional High School in East Rutherford in 2004. He said he last saw his friend late last summer when Schwarz was home on a two-week leave.

"We just hung out and did what we always did, tried to have a good time," Tilt said. "Mike was a great guy, had a good personality and was easy to get along with. I don't know anybody who didn't like Mike."

Tilt said he had played hockey with Schwarz in a borough recreation league, but his friend's passion was off-roading in his prized Jeep.

"He loved that Jeep," Tilt said. "That was his pride and joy."

At the Schwarz home in Carlstadt -- decorated with multicolored holiday lights, a seven-foot inflatable Santa and an American flag -- a family friend referred reporters last night to the pastor.

Pitches described Schwarz as a 6-footer built "like a string bean."

"He's an all-American boy. He was happy-go-lucky, fun-loving and he loved the outdoors," Pitches said, describing how Schwarz reveled in his jaunts along muddy trails in his customized Jeep.

Pitches said Schwarz's father and mother, Ken and Pam, learned of their son's death when three Marines came to their home Monday.

"They're completely in shock, greatly saddened," Pitches said, adding friends and community members have been coming by the house to offer support. "It's a very well-loved family, very well-respected."

Schwarz was a volunteer firefighter in Carlstadt, following in the footsteps of his father, a mechanic for the borough Department of Public Works, and older brother, Frank.

"Mike's been a volunteer since he was first eligible at age 18," firefighter Karl Ross said. "He was a great kid, exceptional, kind-hearted and a go-getter. I don't know anybody who could say anything bad about Michael."

Jim Bononno, Becton High's athletic director and head football coach, said Schwarz was in his U.S. history class for two years.

"Mike was a wonderful kid," Bononno said. "When something like this happens, everyone says nice things about a person, but Mike was just a really, really good kid. That's what makes this a bigger tragedy."

Bononno said Schwarz's interest in joining the Marines was well-known around the school.

"Mike, that was his dream, to be in the Marines," he said. "That was one of his goals. Any kid who joins the military during a war, that says something special about him."

Ross said: "Mike was a free-spirited individual who understood the danger of being in the Marine Corps and he grasped it and accepted it. He's made this town very proud."

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz was killed in action on 11/27/06.

Air Force Maj. Troy L. Gilbert

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, 34, of Litchfield Park, Ariz.

Maj. Gilbert was assigned to the 309th Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.; died Nov. 27 when his F-16C fighter crashed 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. Gilbert was previously carried as "Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown," awaiting positive DNA identification of remains from the crash site.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The American pilot whose F-16 crashed in Iraq this week was described by military members and his family as a husband and father of five who always completed his missions.

The military has classified Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, 34, as "whereabouts unknown." [Editor's note] Remains recovered at the site confirm that Maj Troy L Gilbert did die in this crash.

Air Force officials said in a news conference Wednesday that human remains were retrieved from the crash site. They would not elaborate, but said figuring out whether Gilbert is dead depended largely on those remains, which were undergoing DNA identification.

Gilbert was supporting troops fighting in Anbar province, where many of the country's Sunni-Arab insurgent groups operate. Videotape footage obtained by Associated Press Television News appeared to show the wreckage of the F-16CG in a farm field and a tangled parachute nearby.

U.S. forces investigating the crash have said insurgents reached the site before American forces could.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. Officials don't believe Gilbert was shot down.

Officials switched between referring to Gilbert in the present and past tense during a Wednesday news conference at Luke Air Force Base in the western Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Ariz., where Gilbert has been stationed since 2003.

"Everybody liked him - such a hard worker. Everyone here will tell you that. He did what it took to get the mission done," said Lt. Col. John Paradis, an Air Force spokesman.

Paradis explained his and another official's careful wording when referring to Gilbert's status.

"In situations like this, the Air Force and the Department of Defense want to be extremely careful about drawing any conclusions until we can look at all the facts that we have and everything available to us to make sure the family can have some closure, regardless of what that might be," Paradis said.

"Troy was first and foremost a wonderful husband and father," Gilbert's family said in a news release issued through the military. "His Christian faith, personal values, and work ethic guided his personal life and his career as a military officer."

Gilbert, who finished undergraduate pilot training in 2001, was deployed to the 332nd Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Force Base in Iraq in September and logged more than 130 combat hours, the Air Force said in a news release.

At Luke Air Force Base, Gilbert was assistant director of operations, executive officer of wing flying, a flight commander and chief of training.

"Major Gilbert is well-known here at Luke Air Force Base," Brig. Gen. Tom Jones said. "He is an outstanding officer, an outstanding pilot, and an outstanding friend to many people."

Air Force Maj. Troy L. Gilbert was killed in action on 11/27/06.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Army Cpl. Nathan J. Goodiron

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Nathan J. Goodiron, 25, of Mandaree, N.D.

Cpl. Goodiron was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery, North Dakota National Guard, Grand Forks, N.D.; died Nov. 23 of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades in Qarabagh, Afghanistan.

With drums, prayers, fallen soldier is honored
Associated Press Writer

NEW TOWN - Hundreds packed an auditorium to honor a fallen warrior, joining in prayers in Nathan Goodiron's native Hidatsa language and smiling through tears at pictures of his high school basketball games and his time with his newborn son.

"He was proud to be an American soldier, an American Indian soldier. He knew the meaning of the word sacrifice," said Marcus Wells Jr., the chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes. "He was a good son, a good husband and a proud father."

Goodiron, 25, of Mandaree, known on the Fort Berthold reservation as Young Eagle, was killed Thanksgiving Day in Afghanistan when a grenade struck his vehicle while he was on patrol. He was a corporal in the 1st Battalion of the North Dakota National Guard's 188th Air Defense Artillery.

Tribal officials said he was the first member of the Three Affiliated Tribes to be killed in the war on terror. The tribal memorial service was held Wednesday in the auditorium of the Four Bears Casino and Lodge west of New Town.

Friends and family members talked of Goodiron's love of sports and service to his country. A huge screen showed highlights of his life, as a member of Mandaree's 1999 state tournament basketball team, a soldier training for military duty and a father holding his newborn son.

The service featured drum songs and Hidatsa prayers. The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara make up the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Among those attending were about 50 American Indian veterans.

Goodiron's father, Paul, asked people to remember the soldiers still on duty.

"For every one of them still there, putting their lives in harm's way, I wish I could shake their hands," he said.

Nathan Hale, of Mandaree, a Tribal Council member, remembered how Nathan Goodiron volunteered to dress up as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to entertain children.

"He was a funny, enjoyable person to be around," Hale said.

"He chose to defend his country. He gave his life for what he believed in," Hale said.

Tribal officials said Goodiron, who joined the Guard in 2001, enjoyed working with computers, and developed a PowePoint program about the tribal constitution. He attended classes at Minot State University.

The commander of the North Dakota National Guard, Maj. Gen. Dave Sprynczynatyk, said Goodiron was a true hero who "made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of all of us."

Harvey Peterson, of Beach, the commander-elect of the American Legion of North Dakota, called Goodiron "truly a noble servant to his nation and to his fellow man."

Survivors include his wife, his son, two stepchildren, his parents and his brother.

Army Cpl. Nathan J. Goodiron was killed in action on 11/23/06.

Joely Goodiron

Joely Goodiron back

Alexander Goodiron

Alexander Goodiron back

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Marine Pvt. Heath D. Warner

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Pvt. Heath D. Warner, 19, of Canton, Ohio

Pvt. Warner was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died Nov. 22 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Military service a longtime dream
Canton McKinley graduate, in Marines for a year, was proud to be `defending freedom'
By Jim Carney
Beacon Journal staff writer

CANTON - When Heath Warner was 12, he visited Arlington National Cemetery with his family.

Standing at attention, Heath saluted a member of the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The guard gave the boy a subtle hint, a slight wink, letting Heath know that he understood what the boy was feeling at the historic site.

Soon, Marine Pvt. Heath D. Warner, 19, will return to Arlington National Cemetery, this time to be buried in the rolling landscape that meant so much to him.

He was among three Marines killed Nov. 22 in a roadside bombing in Iraq.

The young man, who would have turned 20 on Jan. 2, dreamed of going into the military from the time he was 5.

While at Canton McKinley High School, he decided to join the Marines, enlisted in his senior year and by August 2005 -- several weeks after graduation -- was on his way to boot camp.

Inside their home this week, his parents, Scott and Melissa Warner, grabbed a pile of snapshots and pulled out one after another showing Heath as he grew up, determined to serve his country.

There was a picture of him wearing the Army uniform of his grandfather, Randy Metzger, of Bolivar.

Another showed Heath standing at attention and saluting at an Army fort in Virginia.

And one was from seven years ago as he stood at attention and saluted in the cemetery in Arlington, Va.

On graduation day at McKinley, he walked straight as an arrow, like a Marine, as he picked up his diploma.

``This is what he's always wanted to do,'' said his mother, Melissa Warner, 39, a cashier trainer for Sears.

``It was his calling in life,'' she said.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America played a part in Heath's desire to serve his country.

``I remember him over and over saying, `I'm gonna go fight for my country,' '' his mother said.

In the week since his parents learned of his death, they have been comforted by friends and family and even strangers who have stopped by their Canton home to visit or to drop off food, flowers and cards.

Heath was a gunner on a Humvee when he and Lance Cpl. James Davenport, 20, of Danville, Ind., and Lance Cpl. Joshua Alonzo, 21, of Dumas, Texas, were killed while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.

The three were part of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, and were based in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

As a gunner, he stood on the Humvee.

On his Web site at, he wrote, ``if you are gonna die, die standing up.''

On that Web site, he listed his major as ``Defending Freedom.''

While in Hawaii, he spoke with his family by cell phone, sometimes several times a day.

But after he left for Iraq in early September, the family received only one letter and no phone calls.

The letter was dated Oct. 2 and arrived in Canton on Oct. 28.

Heath wrote that he was studying the Bible and reading The Purpose Driven Life, a religious best-seller by Rick Warren.

``I don't want to talk about it much,'' he said in the letter. ``I get homesick. And you worry.''

In that letter, he told his family he had survived an IED -- an improvised explosive device.

``I know God is watching,'' he wrote.

Father Scott Warner, 43, a financial analyst for the Westfield Group in Medina County, said he and his wife believe Heath was trying to protect his family by not telling them much about what was going on in Iraq.

``Heath was a selfless young man,'' his father said.

The young Marine loved to break dance, was intrigued with martial arts, was teaching himself to speak Japanese and had taken Arabic lessons in the Marines.

A brother, Chandler, 14, described Heath as his best friend.

Losing him, Chandler said, is hard.

``My nerves are shot,'' he said.

His brother's sacrifice, Chandler said, will ``motivate me to do something good with my life.''

Heath has another brother, 7-year-old Ashton.

Father Scott Warner recalled a Memorial Day ceremony at McKinley Monument this year, attended by family of service members who had died in Iraq.

He said he told his wife during the ceremony: ``I pray to God we aren't up there next year.''

Heath didn't like to say goodbye when on the phone with his parents. Instead, he would say, ``talk to you soon'' or something like that, his parents said.

In the last letter to his family were these words in English: ``I love you all,'' followed by this word in Arabic, ``Goodbye.''

For some reason, his mother said, God wanted her son.

``He entrusted him to me,'' Melissa Warner said. ``Our children are definitely a true gift from God.... God needed him and I had to give him back.''

Marine Pvt. Heath D. Warner was killed in action on 11/22/06.

Heath Warner

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael D. Scholl

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael D. Scholl, 21, of Lincoln, Neb.

LCpl Scholl was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died Nov. 14, 2006 from wounds sustained while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Ed Darack, a freelance photographer, was embedded with Michael D. Scholl's platoon in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2005.

Scholl helped him, giving him anti-malaria pills from his own supply and introducing him to the Afghans he had befriended.

"He was very good at what he did," Darack said. "He was smart and tough and dedicated. The best of the best."

Scholl, 21, of Lincoln, Neb., was killed Nov. 14 by a roadside bomb in Haditha. He was a 2002 high school graduate and was assigned to Kaneohe Bay.

Scholl had been denied enlistment at first because he was diagnosed with a kidney condition, but he obtained a medical waiver.

He went through a troubled time when his older brother, Trenton, died in 2000. But he turned it around and graduated from high school at 17.

Scholl worked at a McDonald's and a convenience store. He studied briefly at Southeast Community College, and he was active in a car club, where he met Erich Kaiser.

"He was just one of those kids," Kaiser said. "He brought a whole new kind of life to our club."

He is survived by his wife, Melissa, and infant daughter, Addison Rose.

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael D. Scholl was killed in action on 11/14/06.

Marine Lance Cpl. Mario D. Gonzalez

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Mario D. Gonzalez, 21, of La Puente, Calif.

LCpl Gonzalez was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died Nov. 14, 2006 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Mario D. Gonzalez, 21, La Puente; killed in explosion
Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

They always got a laugh as they related the story about how the young man who would grow up to be a strapping Marine got seasick while fishing as a boy with his father.

Mario Gonzalez and his son of the same name had to debark and walk three hours in the Baja California sand to their car.

"We would always talk about it," said the elder Gonzalez, 48, of La Puente. "And everyone laughed. He was always trying to find a smile in everyone."

The stories that the young Marine told when he first went overseas, to Afghanistan, were more serious. Yet his father was always impressed by his calm, the tone of his voice, his refusal to linger on the bad.

Iraq was different. The few times that Marine Lance Cpl. Mario D. Gonzalez, 21, called, the strain in his voice jarred his father. So did the stories that crept out, reluctantly.

"He sounded fatigued, and he sounded worried," his father said. "He told me, 'Don't worry, Dad.' But I understood that they were in constant danger. They slept with their weapons ready. They had their uniforms and body armor all the time."

The elder Gonzalez and his wife would light a votive candle, place it on an altar for the Virgin of Guadalupe and pray.

Their son, who grew up with his father in La Puente, was killed Nov. 14 by an improvised explosive device in Al Anbar province. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

The elder Gonzalez said his son, whose middle name was Daniel and who went by Danny, liked to go camping and fishing with the family while growing up. They would go to Mexico or Kings Canyon National Park.

He said his son struggled in school for a while and went to a continuation school, where he studied harder and graduated. He began working full time, unloading trucks, his father said, but increasingly began to focus on his dream of being a police officer. "Ever since he was 8 or 9, he wanted to be a cop," his father said.

More than two years ago, Gonzalez joined the Marine Corps. He told his father that it would give him the experience to become a policeman.

Last year, he spent eight months in Afghanistan. His family would send him energy drinks and other items, and he would tell stories about firefights. But he always closed their conversations with reassurances.

"He would say, 'Hey, we're all right, Dad, don't worry. I have to do what I have to do to get back,' " his father recalled.

The Marine returned from Afghanistan early this year, saddened by the death of a friend. He wore a black armband.

Back with his family, he liked to cook with his brother, Gustavo Gonzalez, 16. He liked his father's cooking, especially barbecued ribs. Before he left for Iraq, his father asked what he could cook for him. The Marine looked at him with a smile and an incredulous look and replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world: "Ribs, Dad!"

In September, the Marine was deployed to Iraq. His father pressed his family to write to him. They did, though not as much as they would later wish.

But they thought he would be back. They had gone to church as a family to pray. They had lighted candles at a makeshift altar.

When Marines knocked on the door of his home, the elder Gonzalez invited them in. They asked him to take a seat, and he knew. His wife, Enedelia Garza, the Marine's stepmother, saw them and burst into tears. "But we lit a candle for him so that he would be OK," she said, crying.

In addition to his father, stepmother and brother Gustavo, Gonzalez is survived by his mother, Patricia Arreola of Baldwin Park; two other brothers, Ricardo Gonzalez, 24, and Rogelio Morales, 17; and a sister, Karina Gonzalez, 17. He was buried with military honors at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Covina Hills.

Marine Lance Cpl. Mario D. Gonzalez was killed in action on 11/14/06.

Marine Lance Cpl. Timothy W. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Timothy W. Brown, 21, of Sacramento, Calif.

LCpl Brown was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died Nov. 14, 2006 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Brown was an assaultman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay.

Brown joined the Marine Corps Sept. 2005 and reported to Hawaii March 2006. He deployed to Iraq Sept. 2006.

His awards include the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Timothy Wayne Brown was born on April 17, 1985. Then, on November 14, 2006 was tragically taken from us in Al Anbar province, Iraq.

Remembered for being a Lance Corporal with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary force.

To his friends and family Timothy will be remembered as a one of a kind man that was very proud to serve his country.

Timothy's hobbies included: shooting, collecting guns and knives, working on cars, wrestling with his fellow marines back on base in Hawaii, and spending time with his fiancee, Ashley Milami.

Timothy will forever be honored; he gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

He was extremely loved by his family and friends and will be greatly missed, but will never be forgotten.

Timothy is preceded in death by: Brother William Weaver Brown and Grandfather (Opa), Walter Ganz. Timothy is survived by: Mother, Susan C. Brown, Father, Richard K. Brown, Brother, Richard K. Brown Jr., Sister, Sabrina D. Brown, Grandparents, Joe and Elma Brown, Babs Brown, and Ruth Ganz, Great aunt, Thea Loffelhart, and Fiancee Ashley M. Brown.

The family would also like to send their deepest condolences to the families of Lance Corporal Mario D Gonzalez (La Puente, California) and Lance Corporal Michael D. Scholl (Lincoln, Nebraska), who were also killed with Timothy in Al Anbar province, Iraq on November 14, 2006.

Marine Lance Cpl. Timothy W. Brown was killed on 11/14/06.