Sunday, February 26, 2006

Army Specialist Joshua M. Pearce

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Joshua M. Pearce, 21, of Guymon, Oklahoma

Spc Pearce was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; killed Feb. 26 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Stryker military vehicle during patrol operations in Mosul, Iraq.

Pearce’s loss felt throughout unit

Story, photo by Sgt. Dennis Gravelle
138th MPAD

MOSUL, Iraq — Soldiers of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, honored Spc. Joshua Pearce at a memorial ceremony at Forward Operating Base Marez, Mosul, Iraq, March 3.

Pearce was killed Feb. 26 during combat operations when the Stryker Combat Vehicle he was in was hit by an improvised explosive device.

“I don’t know if I will ever get used to you being gone,” said Spc. Richard Napier, B Co., 2-1. “I’m going to miss you. I’ll never forget you.”

Pearce was born Nov. 23, 1984, and enlisted in the Army in November 2003.

Pearce was deployed to Iraq in August 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Spc. Pearce was a patriot and a true American that in his heart knew what this county stood for,” said Lt. Col. Charles Webster, Task Force 2-1 commander. “What his country gave to the world was worth fighting for.”

Spc. Daniel Castillo, B Co., 2-1, said, “I never had a really true friend. I never experienced love so strong that I would cry every day and be grateful every day. I was happy in Iraq because of Pearce, and he made it feel like home.”

“It was a privilege to share over two and a half years of memory with you Josh. I just wish we could share more,” said Sgt. William Pearson, 2-1. “The memories I have will carry with me forever, and I will cherish each one.”

A letter Pearce wrote was printed in his hometown newspaper and it ended in a quote from President Kennedy; he said it was his favorite.

He wrote, “There are three things which are real: God, human folly and laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension so we must do what we can with the third.”

Army Specialist Joshua M. Pearce was killed in action on 02/26/06.

Army National Guard Gregory John Bailey

Remember Our Heroes

Army National Guard Gregory John Bailey, 36, Adelanto, California

HESPERIA, Calif. -- A California Highway Patrol officer was killed when he was hit by an alleged drunk driver while trying to pull over another drunk driving suspect, authorities said.

Motorcycle officer Gregory John Bailey, 36, was killed on Interstate 15 near State Highway 395 in Hesperia, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles shortly after 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

He was the sixth CHP officer killed in the line of duty in the last five months.

"We have talked about this way too often here recently and now we mourn the death of officer John Bailey," CHP Commissioner Mike Brown said at a news conference. "Never in the history of the Highway Patrol have we seen this type of tragedy, with the number of events that we have seen in this short period of time."

A 10-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, Bailey had been back on duty for just a few months after serving for 14 months in Iraq with the Army National Guard, where he served as a unit maintenance supervisor for Army Blackhawk helicopter crews.

"The California Highway Patrol has lost another family member in what has been a tragic few months," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

In the most recent CHP death, 36-year-old officer Earl Scott was fatally shot during a routine traffic stop on Feb. 17 near Modesto.

Authorities said Bailey was hit by Domingo Esqueda, 20, who had been driving on the shoulder. His car struck Bailey, sending his motorcycle into traffic and Esqueda's vehicle struck the car that the officer had pulled over, said CHP Sgt. Michael Collins.

The driver of the stationary car, 52-year-old Francisco Trujillo, suffered moderate injuries and was airlifted to a hospital. Bailey also was taken to the hospital where he died.

Esqueda was booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony DUI.

Bailey was born in Ann Arbor, MI on June 17, 1969. His family moved to Thurmont, Maryland and he graduated from Catoctin High School in 1987. John joined the Army in 1987 and served as a helicopter crew chief for 6 years in Germany and Ft. Irwin, CA. John joined the California Highway Patrol in 1995 and initially assigned to the Barstow, CA station. In 2000 he transferred to the Rancho Cucamongo station and began riding CHP motorcycles. He enjoyed his military and highway patrol careers very much and was proud to serve his community and his country. John is survived by his loving wife of 14 yrs, and four children.

Army National Guard Gregory John Bailey was killed by a drunk driver on 02/26/06.

Army Spc. Clay P. Farr

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Clay P. Farr, 21, of Bakersfield, Calif.

Spc Farr was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; killed Feb. 26, 2006 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during patrol operations in Baghdad. Also killed was Spc. Joshua U. Humble.

On the day he enlisted in the Army, Clay Farr volunteered to be a cavalry scout.

But his father urged him to "get a job in the back," where his chances for survival would be greater.

"He told me, 'I'm going to be in the action, Dad. I'm getting on the front line,' " Patrick Farr said.

Even as a youngster, Clay Farr seemed destined for the military life, his father said. In school, he liked to color everything in camouflage patterns.

"Clay was all Army from the time he was small," his father said, recalling a photograph of his then-4-year-old son wearing a camouflage ball cap at an air show. "That's when the Army got him."

The 21-year-old Bakersfield native enlisted after graduating from Centennial High School in 2003 and asked to go to Iraq.

On Feb. 26, Farr was one of two soldiers killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee while they were on patrol in Baghdad. Also killed was Army Spc. Joshua U. Humble, 21, of Appleton, Maine. Both were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum, N.Y.

Joining the Army was part of Farr's bigger plan: After the war, he was going to marry his high-school sweetheart and become a Kern County sheriff's deputy, his parents said.

In high school, Farr rode around Bakersfield in boots and camouflage dungarees as he and his friends scouted areas such as the almond orchard across from their high school to play paintball or jump their BMX bikes, said one of his best friends, Jared Russell, 20.

Farr also joined the Explorer Scouts and rode along with sheriff's deputies nearly every weekend, preferring to patrol the city's east side because "that's where the action is," Russell said.

After graduation, he worked as a security guard at a hospital and shopping mall.

On the day before boot camp, Farr reunited with his mother, Carrol Alderete. He insisted that she meet his fiancee, Sara Ransom, 16.

Three weeks later, Sara was killed in a car accident.

"Clay was totally in love," Alderete said. "It was just like a fairy tale."

Farr returned home to bury his fiancee but didn't stay. He turned down the Army's offer to take a few months off before returning to boot camp. He told his mother, "It was part of our plan, and I'm just going to stick with it," she said.

“He loved defending his country. He was very patriotic,” his father Patrick Farr told The Bakersfield Californian. “When the war first started, he was in high school. If I would have let him enlist at that age, and the Army would have taken him, he would have gone right then.”

In an April 2004 letter, Farr promised Alderete that he would be careful. "Mom, you have a no-fear son, but I know when I've gone too far, and I'll stop before I get hurt," he wrote.

His father said he had a bad feeling. His son's Humvee had been hit by roadside bombs twice in two weeks. Farr was not injured the first time, but was hospitalized with a concussion a week later, on Feb. 19, his 21st birthday.

Despite those close calls, Farr told his father that he had decided to reenlist.

"He said, 'Well, my job's not done here, Dad, and I can't leave because if we don't finish this thing over here....' He guaranteed me that those insurgents would be in our backyards,' " Patrick Farr said.

If Clay Farr was not scared for his safety, his father was. "After the second bomb hit, I told my wife something's wrong," Patrick Farr recalled. "I said we need to prepare ourselves, something is about to happen."

A week later, his son was killed. Alderete said she has been told since her son's death that he usually drove the Humvee but was not behind the wheel Feb. 26 because of his head injury. The driver survived, she said.

Farr was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. He was buried March 14 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Next to Sara's grave in Bakersfield, Farr's father also buried a coffin filled with stuffed animals, clothes, photographs and other mementos from friends and family.

"I know he's in heaven," Alderete said. "I know he's with Sara."

In addition to his parents, Farr is survived by a brother, Chad; his stepmother, Silver Farr; his stepfather, Anthony Alderete; and two stepsisters, Amanda Cope and Taylor Alderete.

In Loving Memory of Spc. Clay Patrick Farr - US Army Killed in Action February 19, 1985 - February 26, 2006

Today my precious son would have turned 22 years old.

On September 11, 2001 Clay's life was changed forever when he witnessed the atrocious attack by fanatical terrorists on the World Trade Center. Nearly 3000 innocent people were killed. Clay never forgot the people and their families who suffered in that attack.

Clay graduated from Centennial High School in 2003 and enlisted in the US Army, Clay didn't walk to the Army recruiter's office, he ran. America called, he answered.

Clay was an American Patriot. Clay was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, NY. He deployed to Iraq, August 2005.

While Clay was away serving and protecting his country, his fiancée, Sara Ransom, was killed in an automobile accident. Clay was crushed, but Sara's death served to intensify Clay's trust in Jesus Christ. When he would call home from Iraq, I would tell him how proud we all are of him, but how afraid I was for him. He always replied, "...not to worry dad, if I'm killed I'll only go to heaven, because I'm saved".

After Clay's death I spoke with some of the soldiers he had served with. One told me that they had been in several fire fights and said Clay was never afraid. He had asked Clay why he wasn't afraid. The soldier said Clay told him "I believe 100% in Jesus Christ as my savior and if I'm killed I'll only go to heaven, so there is nothing to be afraid of." In the last three weeks of Clay's life he was struck three different times by roadside bombs. The first bomb struck Clay's Humvee and nobody was injured. Their armor had held up. Clay called home, told me about the bomb and said "oh, by the way dad, I'm re-enlisting". The next week a second bomb struck Clay's Humvee and wounded Clay on his 21st birthday. He called home to tell me he had been wounded and the doctor was going to keep him in the hospital for a week. Clay played down his injuries and convinced the doctor to release him that same day. While still recovering from his wounds from the prior week, Clay was back on patrol and killed when a third roadside bomb struck his vehicle.

Clay received numerous awards while in the Army. Among those were two Army Achievement Medals, Combat Action Badge, Two Purple Hearts, and the Bronze Star.

Clay unselfishly gave his life to protect the citizens of the United States from an enemy who is determined to destroy her. Clay fought in a war that must be fought, never forgetting those who died on 9/11. Jesus said: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13). This verse from the Holy Bible is the essence of Clay's character. Clay was prepared spiritually for death because he believed in Jesus Christ as his savior. He now has eternal life and walks in paradise.

The gift of eternal life is free and easy to obtain. The Holy Bible tells us what we must do in order to attain eternal life. I Corinthians 15:3-4 states; "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures ..." Romans 10:9-13 states; "...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." The jailer in Acts 16:30-31 asked Paul and Silas "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" In order to be saved, you must first believe Jesus Christ died on the cross to absolve you of your sins, believe Jesus was resurrected on the third day, and confess your sins to Jesus. After this you should be baptized, although it is not required in order to be saved, it should be done. Mark 16:16 states, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." You can only receive the gift of grace through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:2 states, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Jesus told the Apostle Thomas, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6) Clay was spiritually prepared for death, in that his belief in Jesus Christ as his savior kept him from being separated from God.

This is where my family and I draw our comfort and strength. We know there is eternal life after this world. A life with no sorrow or pain, only happiness and joy, and the knowledge of the joyful reunion we will have when we see our precious Clay again. Clay's life is an example of how a person even when faced with the adversities of life and the bullets of an enemy, could not be swayed from his belief in his savior Jesus Christ.

Do for yourself the most important thing you can ever do. Accept Jesus Christ as your savior and receive the gift of eternal life. Say this prayer: "Heavenly Father, I know I am a sinner. I deserve the consequences of my sins. I believe Jesus Christ is my Savior, and His death and resurrection provided for forgiveness of my sins. Thank you for saving and forgiving me. In Jesus name I pray, Amen!" God Bless our military, law enforcement officers, firefighters all who unselfishly protect us, and God Bless America. Patrick and Silver Farr

In Loving Memory of Spc. Clay Patrick Farr Feb. 19, 1985 - Feb. 26, 2006

Today is a day of remembrance for our precious son. Clay made a decision to stand for something he believed in, protecting yours, mine and his way of life. It has been two years since Clay paid the ultimate price for that belief. Clay was killed in action in Balad, Iraq fighting against those who are determined to destroy our right to live freely. We are very proud of our son and he is missed deeply by his family and many friends.

John 15:13 "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Patrick & Silver Farr

Army Spc. Clay P. Farr was killed in action on 2/26/06.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

National Guard Lt. Robert Hayes, Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

National Guard Lt. Robert Hayes, Jr., Marshall, Minn.

Jason DeRusha

(WCCO) A Minnesota National Guard soldier was shot and killed in Oklahoma over the weekend as he was getting money from an ATM, police said.

2nd Lt. Robert Hayes Jr., 27, of Marshall, Minn., graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in May 2005 with an MBA. He had earned his undergraduate degree from SMSU in 2003. He went to Oklahoma for training shortly after graduation.

Police said Hayes was shot in a bank parking lot in Lawton, Okla. Saturday morning. A cab driver told police he heard gunshots and saw Hayes stagger and fall, but did not see who shot Hayes.

Hayes died about four hours after the shooting at an Oklahoma hospital.

Hayes leaves behind his parents, a brother and a fiancée, Candice Castillo, his college sweetheart who is also an SMSU graduate.

"Why would somebody do this?" Castillo asked. "Why would he be taken away from me? He had so much still to go for himself, his life was just about to begin."

"He was caring and loving," Castillo said. "He was fabulous."

Hayes was planning on moving to Montevideo, Minn. in the next couple of weeks to continue his work for the Minnesota National Guard.

"We were moving in together next week," Castillo said. "I was going to pick him up on Tuesday to bring him home and finally be able to start our life together."

Castillo said it was very odd for her fiancée to be at a bank at 6 a.m. on a Saturday. She said it was his day off and now police are investigating whether Hayes was kidnapped and forced to go to the ATM before he was shot.

While in Oklahoma, Hayes had been attending an Officer Basic Course at Fort Sill Field Artillery School. He was days from becoming a First Lieutenant.

Hayes grew up in Kenosha, Wis. and was a member of the Wisconsin National Guard before moving to Minnesota. School officials said he played football for one year while at SMSU.

National Guard Lt. Robert Hayes, Jr. was killed 02/25/06.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Army Sgt. Rickey E. Jones

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Rickey E. Jones, 21, of Kokomo, Indiana

Sgt Jones was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Feb. 22 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during patrol operations in Hawijah, Iraq. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Gregson G. Gourley, Pfc. Christopher L. Marion and Pfc. Allan A. Morr.

Tribune staff writer

After the mourners had filed out of the Crossroads Community Church sanctuary Monday, a gray-bearded veteran stood alone, lost in reflection.

The casket bearing the body of Sgt. Rickey Jones had been wheeled out, flanked by an honor guard of six soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. The 30-foot American flag, the majestic backdrop for the service, still hung from the rafters, almost reaching the floor.

In front of the flag, just to the right of where Jones’ casket had stood, his boots, helmet, rifle and dogtags bore silent witness to a life of service and sacrifice.

Thirty minutes earlier during services for the fallen soldier, Jones’ brother Michael had stood before those gathered, fighting his emotions as he read from a letter the paratrooper sent home shortly before his Feb. 22 death in Iraq.

“It’s crazy man, it’s not anything like it was the first time I was here,” Jones wrote. His unit had encountered sniper fire, he said, but they felt protected by the armor plating of their patrol vehicle.

The realization that the vehicle wasn’t enough protection against an insurgent’s roadside bomb was too much for Michael, who choked back tears.

“I would never have thought in a million years I’d be doing the things I’m doing right now ... Stay strong, go to college and be a good person for Mom and the family,” Michael read, before reserving the letters remaining contents for the family.

Up on large screens hanging from either side of the church sanctuary, a slide show of family and military snapshots showed Rickey Jones’ growth from a smiling baby to a shy-looking, bespectacled boy to a large, handsome man, standing inches above his fellow soldiers in Iraq.

Numerous snapshots showed the side of the soldier remembered most fondly by his family, the inner boy who loved doing what he could to help Iraqi children.

“What can’t you say about Rickey? He had a good heart. And he was young, but he was a man ... My brother played with action figures, and he was 21! He liked to watch cartoons ... But he was a role model for a lot of us because [staying young is] what we should do,” Michael reflected.

“There was nothing bad about Rickey ... If you remember anything about him, remember that he was a fun-loving, kind, caring person for his family and his country.”

A number of dignitaries were on hand for the service, including Gov. Mitch Daniels, two congressmen, two state legislators, the mayor of Kokomo, high-ranking military officers and representatives from the Pentagon, but none spoke.

Everyone in the room stood and saluted Jones’ flag-covered casket, however, at Michael’s prompting.

Pastor Charles Riley said Jones’ death was not in vain. Despite his youth, Jones found a calling in life in the Army.

“He gave the greatest thing he could ever give, just like Jesus did,” Riley said.

The words of the martyr, St. Joan of Arc, were never more appropriate, he said.

“Some men live their entire lives and have nothing really to live for. I thank God I have a cause in my heart that’s not just worth living for, it’s worth dying for.”

Conversations with the soldier’s mother, Tenia Rogers, revealed more about the 2002 Kokomo graduate, Riley said. Of particular charm was the story of a care package Jones received in Iraq, containing a small radio-controlled car.

“That became the entertainment for everyone around him. I’m sure that in Baghdad that wasn’t a common thing to have,” Riley said.

Even small things can reveal something great about a person, the pastor said, praising Jones as a “gentle warrior,” who loved his brothers and sisters in the military.

“Your greatest friend is your brother standing beside you. You promise, if I go down, I’m gonna do my best to get you out too ...

“This was a real man, with a real heart, who believed in a real God, and fought for a real country ... He didn’t go the other way — he laid his life down, and he’s with God.”

Riley began by thanking Daniels for signing legislation late last week making disorderly conduct a felony charge if committed within 500 feet of a funeral.

While the governor and an estimated crowd of 450 at the service joined with more than 100 motorcyclists (who remained outside) in thanking Jones for his service, the controversial group targeted by the funeral protest legislation never showed up.

At several points during his address, however, Riley repudiated one of the Westboro Baptist Church’s central tenants — that the soldiers killed in Iraq were denied God’s saving grace.

“I didn’t come here to preach and I didn’t come here to protest. I came here to proclaim. Thank you, Rickey. You gave your life so we can have the freedom to do what we do here in these awesome United States of America,” Riley said.

“Rickey, even though he’s separated from us, he’s not dead. He’s more alive now than when he was on the earth.”

Riley finished by reading from a tribute authored by one of Jones’ friends.

“American liberties come with a price. I was one willing to make the sacrifice.

“An American hero with a great big heart, I served my country and I did my part.”

Then it was time for Sgt. Rickey Jones to begin his slow journey to his final resting place. Outside the sanctuary, Harley-Davidson motorcycle engines began rumbling.

Inside, the only sounds came from the boots of honor guard members as they marched to take their place beside the casket, and a mother’s inconsolable grieving.

The gray-bearded veteran, leaning on his cane, lost in thought after the service, looked as if he might have heard those sounds before.

Army Sgt. Rickey E. Jones was killed in action on 02/22/06.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Army Sgt. Jessie Davila

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jessie Davila, 29, of Greensburg, Kansas

Sgt. Davila was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 137th Infantry, Kansas Army National Guard, Lawrence, Kan.; killed Feb. 20 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad.

By Tim Vandenack
The Hutchinson News

FORT DODGE - Family, friends, political leaders, several hundred motorcyclists and others paid their last respects Saturday to Sgt. Jessie Davila, the Kansas National Guardsman from Greensburg killed last month in Iraq.

In the lead-up to the funeral service, the grounds around the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dodge City took on the air of a multifaceted political rally.

About 700 flag-waving members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcyclists and others who attend U.S. soldiers' funerals around the country, were on hand, though they didn't enter the church.

"Our whole goal is to honor a fallen soldier and their family and their community," said Jeff Brown of Broken Arrow, Okla., the group's executive director.

Across North 14th Avenue in front of Our Lady, about 20 demonstrators from Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church waved placards, pushing their view that the death in Iraq of U.S. soldiers is punishment from God for tolerance of homosexuality and other social ills. They flew four U.S. flags, including one that appeared to be partially torched, upside down.

About 200 other counter-protestors stood across 14th Avenue with their backs to the Westboro contingent, blocking their view of Our Lady and waving U.S. flags, right side up.

"The family is due some respect," said Brent Schrader of Dodge City, one of the counter-protestors.

Davila, 29, who deployed to Iraq last November, died on Feb. 20 when an apparent suicide bomber drove alongside his two-car convoy in Baghdad and detonated an explosive device.

"I just appreciate the fact that the man lived and died for our country," said John Bertram of Haviland, a family acquaintance.

Saturday's ceremonies started with a memorial in Greensburg, followed by a funeral service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dodge City and burial in Kansas Veterans Cemetery in Fort Dodge. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and several other area lawmakers, including Rep. Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg, attended the service.

Meanwhile, a handful of demonstrators from yet another group, the Kansas Equality Coalition, which calls for the end of discrimination against homosexuals, demonstrated about 100 yards down from the Westboro group.

Father Ted Skalsky of Our Lady seemed to allude to the controversy during the service. But he emphasized that Davila's burial, at its core, is an intensely personal matter.

"Yes, the funeral has national and even international implications," he said. "But the bottom line, it is a personal loss for very many of you."

Similarly, most used the occasion just to pay tribute to Davila.

"He was a stand-up guy and always there when you needed him, always had a smile," said Josh Huckriede, a high school friend now living in Wichita who attended Saturday's ceremonies. "I don't think I ever saw him without a smile."

Another family friend, Ann Dixson, said, "He was a practical joker, ornery, in a good way."

Davila, who joined the Kansas National Guard after finishing a stint in the U.S. Marines, was helping escort a contingent of U.S. Air Force intelligence officers when the Feb. 20 attack occurred. Also killed was Dan Kuhlmeier, an Air Force special agent from Philadelphia.

Before his deployment, Davila, who was posthumously promoted from specialist to sergeant, had been working on a Hodgeman County ranch. He is survived by numerous relatives, including his parents, his stepmother, a daughter and his fiancee.

Despite his fierce demeanor and physical presence as a warrior, being a dad brought out a softer side of Jessie Davila."As a dad he was so special," said his stepmother, Linda Klaus. "He was firm, but gentle. ... He knew how to express his love to someone and wasn't afraid to show that."

Army Sgt. Jessie Davila was killed in action on 02/20/06.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Army Cpt. Anthony R. Garcia

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpt. Anthony R. Garcia, 48, of Fort Worth, Texas,

Cpt. Garcia died in Tikrit, Iraq, on Feb. 17, from a gun shot wound. Garcia was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

The Leaf Chronicle -- A Fort Campbell soldier killed in Iraq last week is being remembered by his family as someone who was into being healthy, had a strong work ethic and loved his family.

Post officials Monday announced the death of Capt. Anthony R. Garcia, 48, of Texas. Garcia, a physician assistant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Aviation Brigade, was the first person from the brigade to die in Iraq since the division deployed in September.

Garcia's wife, Doris, described her husband of 20 years as an "awesome guy" who was into running and weight-lifting. Most importantly, she said, he was very much into his family.

"He really was such a family man. He loved his kids and doing stuff together. We'll just miss him so much," she said.

Monico Garcia, Capt. Garcia's father, said his son was a "normal boy" who participated in Boy Scouts and Little League baseball as a child. His father said he worked while he was in high school and was determined to go to college.

"That was his thing — higher education, to get a job and pay enough for the things he wanted and needed," Mr. Garcia said from his home in Hudson Oaks, Texas. "He was work-oriented to get the things he wanted. He was a happy person. He liked to kid people a lot and do fun things."

Post officials Monday did not say whether Garcia's injuries were combat-related, nor did they release any details about the nature of his injuries. Cathy Grambling, a spokeswoman for Fort Campbell, confirmed Garcia was shot on a military base in Tikrit on Friday.

"It's currently under investigation. Until that's completed, I can't answer that," said Fort Campbell spokesman Maj. Chris Belcher.

Capt. Garcia joined the Army in August 1989 and arrived at Fort Campbell in June 2001. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Ranger Tab, Scuba Diver Badge, Special Forces Tab, Soutwest Asia Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

In addition to his wife and father, Capt. Garcia is survived by his daughter, Kelly, and son, Garrick, both of Clarksville; his mother, JoAnn Garcia, of Hudson Oaks; two sisters, Monica Ann Schnidman and Lisa Gail Shriver; and a brother, Gregory J. Garcia.

Army Cpt. Anthony R. Garcia was killed in action on 02/17/06.

Army Cpl. Jesse M. Zamora

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Jesse M. Zamora, 22, of Las Cruces, N.M.

Cpl. Zamora was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Feb. 3 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee in Bayji, Iraq.

By Felicia Fonseca
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — Paula Gonzalez had only one question when Army officials showed up at her Las Cruces home: Which of her two sons was killed in Iraq?

“When you have two over there, it’s like hurry up, say which one,” she said by telephone from her home Sunday as the family looked at pictures of the slain soldier, Cpl. Jesse Zamora, 22, her youngest son.

On Friday, Zamora was killed when a roadside bomb blew up near his Humvee in Beiji, Iraq. A piece of shrapnel flew up and hit him, she said.

As he slipped away, Zamora asked one of his friends to hug him, Gonzalez said.

“It’s just incredible how close these guys are. They love each other so much,” she said.

Her other son, Tyrel Zamora, is stationed in Baghdad, Iraq, and is on his way home to attend his brother’s funeral.

Jesse Zamora was an infantryman assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. He was the sixth member of the Fort Campbell, Ky., 101st Airborne Division killed in Iraq since Wednesday in four separate incidents.

Jesse Zamora graduated from Mayfield High School in Las Cruces in 2002, joined the Army later that year and arrived at Fort Campbell in November 2003.

“He just had a longtime want to be in the military,” Gonzalez said.

He enjoyed being out in the desert near Las Cruces in his rust-colored GMC truck to practice shooting. Memories of his truck got him through tough times in Iraq, where he was on his second tour, she said.

“They always have a dream,” she said. “Some of them have a wife and kid. He didn’t. He had a truck.”

Zamora often would send his family requests for service on his truck — spray the bed liner or paint this, Gonzalez said. He said he would buy the tires when he returned home, his mother said.

Zamora’s most recent request was for his mother to send him a digital camera he had ordered. She packed it up Thursday with Valentine’s Day candy and put it in her Jeep to send Friday. But before she could get to the post office, she was notified of his death.

“I’m one of those (who believes) that everything happens for a reason,” she said.

Zamora outlined his future plans to his mother in an e-mail he sent her the day he died. He said he wanted to work for an old couple who has an electrical business, referring to his mother and stepfather.

“He was funny, he had this huge sense of humor,” Gonzalez said. “He was just a clown all the time. He was just incredible.”

She responded to his e-mail by writing, “the owner is old, but the bookkeeper is not.” She’s not sure her son received that message.

Zamora is survived by his mother and stepfather, Sergio “Nacho” Gonzalez of Las Cruces, his brother Tyrel Zamora and sister Christy Zamora of Phoenix. His biological father, Orlando Zamora, died when Jesse Zamora was 3 months old.

Army Cpl. Jesse M. Zamora was killed in action on 02/03/06.

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Sovie

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Sovie, 20, of Ogdensburg, N.Y.

Lance Cpl. Sovie was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, New River, N.C.; deployed to Djibouti as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa; killed Feb. 17 when two CH-53 helicopters crashed into the Gulf of Aden in the vicinity of Ras Siyyan, northern Djibouti, while flying a training mission in the Godoria Range area. Also killed were Marine 1st Lt. Brandon R. Dronet, Sgt. James F. Fordyce, Lance Cpl. Samuel W. Large Jr., Sgt. Donnie Leo F. Levens, Cpl. Matthieu Marcellus, Sgt. Jonathan E. McColley and Capt. Bryan D. Willard; and Air Force Senior Airman Alecia S. Good and Staff Sgt. Luis M. Melendez Sanchez.

AP New York
OGDENSBURG, N.Y. -- The family of a 20-year-old Marine who was among those killed in the collision of two U.S. military transport helicopters described him as a "happy-go-lucky kid" with a lot of friends.

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Sovie of Ogdensburg and nine other U.S. service members were killed Friday when a pair of Marine Corps helicopters crashed off the eastern coast of Africa. The two CH-53E choppers carrying a dozen crew and troops from a U.S. counterterrorism force went down during a training flight in the Gulf of Aden, near the northern coastal town of Ras Siyyan in Djibouti.

Stephen Sovie said he last spoke with his 20-year-old son two days before he was killed, when he made a surprise call home.

"It was his day off," Mr. Sovie said. "He's about eight hours ahead of us, so he already finished his 3-mile run, went about his day and was having a cup of coffee."

Nicholas Sovie was a graduate of Ogdensburg Free Academy and joined the Marine Corps in August 2003. He scored high enough on aptitude tests to go to flight school and work as crew chief aboard CH-53E helicopters.

"He was told he could do pretty much anything he wanted to," Sovie said.

Stephen Sovie was home Friday night when he saw on TV that two Marine helicopters crashed. He said his wife, Mary M., and their two other sons feared the worst.

It was the first mission overseas for Cpl. Sovie, who served as a member of HMH 464 squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, N.C.

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Sovie was killed in action on 02/17/06.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Marine Cpl. Rusty L. Washam

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Rusty L. Washam, 21, of Huntsville, Tenn.

Cpl. Washam was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; killed Feb. 14 when a suicide car bomber attacked his vehicle near Qa'im, Iraq. Also killed was Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Barnes.

WBIR.COM -- Sonny and Beverly Washam were at dinner celebrating Valentine's Day together, when Marines first came with news of their son's death Tuesday night.

Corporal Rusty Washam of Scott County was killed in Iraq Tuesday, hours after family members say they e-mailed back and forth with him.

"I was so hoping when they came last night they'd just tell us he was hurt," Beverly shared Wednesday. "You know, I could deal with that."

The family says they were told Washam was thrown from the Humvee he was driving, when a roadside bomb exploded.

Washam and another Marine were reportedly killed instantly.

"He was just proud," Washam's mother said, holding pictures of her son at the kitchen table. "He was a very proud Marine."

Rusty Washam, the father of two- and three- year old sons, was the youngest of six brothers and sisters.

All grew up in the military, while their father spent 24 years in the Army.

Rusty, who joined the Marines straight out of Scott County High School in 2004, turned 21 in Iraq last Saturday.

"I talked to him Saturday," Beverly explained. "He said everything was quiet, and he was looking forward to coming home. Before he got off, he said 'I love you, Mom.' I told him several times I loved him, and I did. I loved him so much."

Washam was expected home in April, after completing almost back-to-back tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But family and friends gathered in Huntsville once they learned of his sudden death.

Rusty's eldest brother Donnie flew home from Oklahoma, where he is stationed with the Air Force.

Dustin, who followed his father's footsteps into the Army, also came home.

Both trying not to think about what their youngest brother may have gone through.

"The aftermath of the car bombs, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device), I've seen them," Dustin explained. "I know exactly. I can picture in my head what it was."

Dustin came back to the U.S. after he was shot in the foot by friendly fire last summer.

He admits he will likely return to Iraq.

While he's concerned, he's more worried about his parents right now.

"That's the only thing I thought," he said. "I thought of mom and dad when it first happened."

"To lose a child is so hard, it hurts so bad," Beverly Washam said, holding back tears.

Dustin and Donnie Washam hope to escort their brother's body home.

All three boys played football at Scott County High, wearing number 84.

Marine Cpl. Rusty L. Washam was killed in action on 02/14/06.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Steven L. Phillips

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Steven L. Phillips, 27, of Chesapeake, Va.

Lance Cpl. Phillips was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; killed Feb. 7 in a non-hostile vehicle accident while conducting combat operations against enemy forces near Qaim, Iraq.

Two Camp Lejeune Marines killed in Iraq

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Two Camp Lejeune Marines were killed this week in separate incidents in Iraq, the Defense Department said Thursday.

Lance Cpl. Steven L. Phillips, 27, was killed Tuesday from a non-hostile vehicle accident while conducting combat operations near Qaim, Iraq, according to a statement from the military.

The Department of Defense listed Phillips as a resident of Chesapeake, Va., but his family told the Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter that he was from Spraggs, Pa. Phillips, an anti-tank assault man, had been in Iraq for about a year, an aunt, Anita Phillips, said from Spraggs.

He was a 1996 graduate of Waynesburg Central High School in Pennsylvania and joined the Marines in 2003.

“He was such a wonderful, caring, intelligent young man. What a waste,” his aunt said.

Debbie Longstreth, Phillips’ high school English teacher, said Phillips kept in touch with several teachers and visited the school before he was deployed.

“His personality was what you remembered about Steven. He was always smiling,” Longstreth said.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

In addition, Cpl. Brandon S. Schuck, 21, of Safford, Ariz., died Monday when a roadside bomb exploded while he conducted combat operations in the Baghdad region, the military said. He was assigned to the 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

— Associated Press

Pa. Marine killed in Iraq crash; sailor shot in Afghanistan

A sailor from Pennsylvania was killed in combat in Afghanistan and a 27-year-old Marine — due to return to his southwestern Pennsylvania home soon — was killed in Iraq in a vehicle accident.

Petty Officer 3rd Class John T. Fralish, 30, of New Kingstown, Pa., died Monday from small-arms fire during a patrol in Laghman Province, Afghanistan, military officials said Wednesday. He was a hospital corpsman assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, stationed at Marine Corps Base, Hawaii.

Fralish, who was not married, joined the Navy in February 2002 and was assigned to Hawaii in July 2005. He deployed to Afghanistan last month. He is survived by his father and mother.

Fralish, an avid surfer and 1994 graduate of Cumberland Valley High School in central Pennsylvania, had served two tours in Iraq, said an uncle, John C. Fralish Jr. The family was told that Fralish’s patrol came under fire after it had stopped its vehicles, he said.

“He was an amazing man. He could have become anything, an admiral, a governor, even the president,” his uncle said. “This was someone who had real potential.”

Lance Cpl. Steven Phillips, of Spraggs, Pa., was killed in a noncombat vehicle accident, his family said. He had been in Iraq for about a year, said an aunt, Anita Phillips, of Spraggs.

His father, James Phillips, confirmed his son’s death to the Washington Observer-Reporter but declined further comment. The military had not posted news of Phillips’ death. They did confirm that a Marine died Tuesday in a vehicle accident near Qaim.

Phillips was an anti-tank assault man stationed with the 6th Marine Regiment at Camp al Qaim in Iraq. He was a 1996 graduate of Waynesburg Central High School and joined the Marines in 2003.

“He was such a wonderful, caring, intelligent young man. What a waste,” his aunt said.

Debbie Longstreth, Phillips’ high school English teacher, said Phillips kept in touch with several teachers and visited the school before he was deployed.

“His personality was what you remembered about Steven. He was always smiling,” Longstreth said.

— Associated Press

Marine Lance Cpl. Steven L. Phillips was killed in action on 02/07/06.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Army Specialist Patrick W. Herried

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Patrick W. Herried, 29, of Sioux Falls, S.D.

Spc Herried was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; killed Feb. 6 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Stryker military vehicle during patrol operations in Rawah, Iraq.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner -- FAIRBANKS -- A Fort Wainwright soldier was killed Monday in Iraq when a bomb detonated next to his Stryker vehicle near Rawah, according to the Army.

Spc. Patrick W. Herried, 29, of Sioux Falls, S.D., was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

His mother, Rita Herried, said she talked with her son Sunday morning. He said he needed shampoo, foot powder and other toiletries, and joked that bathing in the Euphrates River running through Rawah was wreaking havoc on his skin.

He said he was heading out on a mission that had been stalled by mud caused by the rainy season, Rita Herried said.

"Hopefully we'll make it this time," he told her.

"I guess they didn't," she said.

One other soldier was wounded in the explosion, according to the Army. The soldier, whose name was not released, was seriously injured and evacuated to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Sgt. Jeremiah J. Boehmer, 22, of Parkston, S.D., and Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Morningstar, 27, of San Antonio, were killed Sunday in Al Husayniyah.

Seven Fort Wainwright soldiers have died in the war. Another 11 with ties to Alaska also have been killed.

Rita Herried described her son as a dedicated soldier.

"He felt that it was his duty to serve," she said.

He joined the Army in 2004 and was deployed to Iraq last summer.

In December, he came home on leave to Sioux Falls, where his mother and sister, Stacey, live. Herried asked her son if he was scared to return to the war zone.

"He said, 'No, I don't want to leave my troop hanging,' " Herried said.

The day Patrick Herried had to leave, he was up at 4 a.m. waiting for her.

She said her son loved football. He played as a defensive end in high school, cheered for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and also played the game on his Nintendo.

"It was all football games," she said.

In Iraq, he spent his time going on patrols, running coordinates and serving as a rear gunner, she said.

Rita Herried said she asked him if the U.S. needed to be in Iraq. He responded: "Yes, we do. We're doing good over there."

Since her son's death, the Army has been great, she said. Soldiers assigned to help her come over all the time and called Wednesday morning to offer her breakfast or see if she needed anything. The Red Cross has been helpful, too, she said.

Rita Herried planned to visit her son in Fairbanks after his deployment. She wanted to tour the city and the Alaska coastline. Her son bought an expensive new mountain bike in December and had asked her to ship it up to Fairbanks.

She was able to laugh a little Wednesday as she told stories about her son.

"He died doing what he wanted to do," she said.

Army Specialist Patrick W. Herried was killed in action on 02/06/06.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John T. Fralish

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John T. Fralish, 30, of New Kingstown, Pennsylvania.

Petty Officer Fralish died when enemy forces opened fire on a U.S. patrol northwest of Methar Lam in Laghman Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division Detachment, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe, Hawaii. Died on February 6, 2006.

Of The Patriot-News

Petty Officer 3rd Class John T. Fralish was a Navy corpsman, an Iraq combat veteran, the grandson of a war hero and someone a relative described yesterday as possessing courage, determination and almost unlimited potential.

Fralish, 30, of New Kingstown, was killed Monday when a Marine patrol he was serving with was attacked by insurgents in Afghanistan.

He is the first midstate resident to die in fighting in that war-torn land. A U.S.-led coalition invaded Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to oust the Taliban regime that had sheltered Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization.

"He was an amazing man. He could have become anything, an admiral, a governor, even the president," said his uncle, John C. Fralish Jr. of Middlesex Twp. "This was someone who had real potential."

According to the Navy, John T. Fralish, the son of James and Jean Fralish of Silver Spring Twp. and a 1994 Cumberland Valley High School graduate, was killed in Lagham Province in northern Afghanistan.

The family was notified of the death by two military officers Monday evening, Fralish's uncle said.

He said the family was told that Fralish's patrol had stopped its vehicles and then come under fire.

"He was shot almost immediately," John C. Fralish Jr. said.

The military has pledged to provide the family more information on the attack, he said, adding that there were indications of more U.S. casualties from the ambush.

Nineteen central Pennsylvanians have died in the Iraq war since April 2003. A total of 117 state residents have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the war on terrorism, Gov. Ed Rendell said yesterday in his budget address.

Since 2001, 210 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan.

John C. Fralish Jr. said his nephew, who was not married, had been in Afghanistan since Jan. 4. The avid surfer was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division, based in Kaneohe, Hawaii.

John C. Fralish Jr. said his nephew, who joined the Navy in 2002, had participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and had served another tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. He had also served in a military hospital in Kuwait.

"It's just too much for us to bear," the uncle said. "He'd been through all that."

John T. Fralish was promoted to hospital corpsman third class in September, according to the Navy. It is a regular practice for Navy corpsmen -- medics -- to be assigned to Marine units in combat.

His uncle said Fralish qualified to be a Navy SEAL, a highly trained commando, last summer.

"He wanted to be where he could give his kind of help. He wanted to be on the front lines," his uncle said.

His nephew never told him precisely what motivated his enlistment in the Navy, he said. It might have been because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said, or the fact that his father had been in the Navy Reserve during the Vietnam War.

He said his nephew also idolized his grandfather, John C. Fralish of Middlesex Twp., a retired Army colonel and decorated veteran of World War II and the Korean War who died in 1995. His grandfather's medals were among his nephew's prized possessions, he said.

John T. Fralish held the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

He was the bearer of a family tradition as well. For five generations, a member of the Fralish family has carried the name of John, his uncle said, lamenting that his nephew's death might end that line.

His nephew's last trip home was during the holidays, he said, when he gave his nephew a book on the history of the Navy.

"He surprised us with a visit at Christmas," John C. Fralish Jr. said. "He was at his sister's that evening."

The family is not likely to be alone in its mourning, he said.

"This is a loss to all of us, to everyone in the state, to everyone in the country," he said.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John T. Fralish was killed in action on 02/06/06.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Army Sgt. Jeremiah J. Boehmer

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jeremiah J. Boehmer, 22, of Parkston, S.D.

Sgt Boehmer was assigned to the 562nd Engineer Company, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; killed Feb. 5 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Stryker engineer squad vehicle in Husayniyah, Iraq. Also killed was Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Morningstar.

PARKSTON, S.D. — Another South Dakota soldier has died in Iraq, according to an Army official assigned to help his family in the wake of his death.

Army Sgt. Jeremiah Boehmer, 22, of Parkston, died when his vehicle was hit by a roadside explosive device about 5 p.m. Sunday, said Army Master Sgt. Lew Gardner, an ROTC instructor at the University of South Dakota.

Gardner said Boehmer and others in his unit were on a routine security mission.

“They were doing a route sweep, where convoys go up and down a route,” to check for danger, Gardner said.

A soldier in Charlie Company, 526 Engineer Battalion out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Boehmer was serving as rear air guard. He enlisted on Nov. 15, 2002, Gardner said.

Jim Boehmer, the soldier’s father, said his family did not yet have much information about what had happened.

“All we know is that our son was killed the other day. We’re going to get more information tomorrow,” he told The Argus Leader in story published Tuesday.

Boehmer was a 2002 graduate of Parkston High School.

“He was a real popular kid. He was always positive, outgoing,” Jim Akre, Boehmer’s high school counselor, told KELO-TV of Sioux Falls.

“He was really a bright young man and it’s really a loss for our community.”

Boehmer, who was in Parkston on leave at the start of January, had served in Afghanistan and then went to Iraq for his second tour of duty, KELO reported.

Akre said Boehmer never doubted his decision to join the Army. He said the Boehmer family is trying to cope.

“I know they’re a real close-knit family and obviously they’re pulling together and trying to support each other,” Akre said.

As the Parkston community mourns their fallen soldier, Army Sergeant Jeremiah Boehmer's family is remembering their brother and son. Boehmer's siblings shared his story of courage and determination.

His nickname was Flame and to his brothers and sisters, Jeremiah Boehmer could do anything...He was a guy with nine lives. Now his family is remembering a brother, a best friend, a son...Someone they say the military turned into a man.

Today this family is remembering a 22 year old Army Sergeant and everything about him.

Jeremiah's sister Jessica says, "The army - that was his thing. He said don't worry I'm fine. He was always OK."

His sister Jessica remembers him as being unselfish. Even volunteering to go overseas in place of a father who would have to leave his children behind.

She says, "He looked at it as if he had to leave this world he was only leaving his immediate family and not children."

His sisters and brothers say Jeremiah was never part of the crowd... he stood out by being his own person.

His brother James said, "No one expected him to join the army and that's what he did."

He surprised his family just three weeks ago when he made a trip back home. Little did they know it would be their last time together.

Remembering speaking with her brother before he left, Jessica says, "I said I love you and he said I love you too , I'll be safe don't worry. You always take that for granted that they're gonna be safe. But unfortunately things happen."

And for this family it happened all too soon.

In a letter Jeremiah wrote to his family, "Tell the family I love them and I will be back before they know it."

"Peace Out...that was Jeremiah," said Jessica. "Peace out."

Jeremiah's sisters and brothers said he thought the world of his Master Sergeant and never wrote about the war in a negative way...always the good the military was doing for our country.

Army Sgt. Jeremiah J. Boehmer was killed in action on 02/05/06.

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Morningstar

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Morningstar, 27, of San Antonio, Texas.

Ssg Morningstar was assigned to the 562nd Engineer Company, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; killed Feb. 5 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Stryker engineer squad vehicle in Husayniyah, Iraq. Also killed was Sgt. Jeremiah J. Boehmer.

Morningstar, from San Antonio, was a combat engineer. He joined the Army in April 1997 and was assigned to Fort Wainwright in August 2003.

Holly Morningstar said her son grew up playing with toy soldiers. He joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps in high school before joining the Army in November 2002.

“It was just a natural progression,” she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner by phone Tuesday from her home in San Antonio. “He loved serving.”

She said her son made friends easily and was strong-willed.

He had visited her in October while on two-week leave. His son and daughter came from Eagle River to join him. They visited museums, ate at their favorite restaurants and spent a day at a lake, she told the newspaper.

“It was the first time Chris had ever tried water-skiing,” she said. “He wasn’t successful.”

Morningstar re-enlisted shortly after arriving in Iraq this fall.

“I was worried,” she said. “I wondered why he would want to put himself in danger again.”

Express-News -- All the time he was on leave in San Antonio last fall, Army Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Morningstar kept thinking about the men he led in Iraq.

His mind was often on the desert and the war from which he'd been given a brief respite, not touring the Witte Museum or other places Morningstar and his kids, Wyatt, 6, and Victoria, 7, visited with his mom.

"He wanted to get back and do his duty, get back to his buddies, as he called them," his mother, Holly Morningstar, said Tuesday night. "He just didn't want to desert them in any way."

A San Antonio native, Morningstar, 27, kept faith with his men, returning to the desert and getting back to the business of finding roadside bombs.

One of those bombs, dubbed improvised explosive devices by the military, blew up Sunday, killing him and Sgt. Jeremiah J. Boehmer, 22, of Parkston, S.D.

Both men, posted to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, were killed when the bomb detonated near their vehicle in Al Husayniyah. They were the last Stryker vehicle in the convoy when the remote-controlled device went off.

Morningstar is to be buried with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Services haven't been set.

It was the second tour of Iraq for Morningstar, who joined the Army in 1997 after dropping out of MacArthur High School. He returned to Iraq in August, his 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team first going to Mosul but later moving north to Rawah, near the Syrian border. Things seemed better there; soldiers weren't getting shot at as much.

But when Morningstar called his mom every few days, the talk wasn't about the security situation but his living conditions, much improved from the first tour. He told her of the huge camel spiders that, like garbage in the desert, are part of the landscape there. The Iraqi kids, he said, were nice. One kept asking him for a football.

"He was a big, macho tough guy. He kept telling me nothing was going to happen to him . Nothing was going to happen," said Holly Morningstar, a caregiver for Visiting Angels, which provides in-home care for seniors. "He'll be fine, nothing is going to happen because he's going to be very careful and not make any stupid decisions and not do anything stupid."

Morningstar and his men hunted for IEDs. It's a dangerous, unforgiving job but tailor made for a kid who played with G.I. Joe dolls as a boy and, in the Army in 1997, thrived on the camaraderie and discipline of a life in uniform.

A one-time ROTC student at MacArthur, he earned a GED after high school, entered basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and rose through the ranks. He married after joining the Army but separated from his wife, Tommie.

At 5 feet 8 inches, he had a slight build when he entered the Army. But he hardened with formation running and weightlifting. Others dropped out of survival training in Alaska, but he made it through.

"I think he liked the discipline," said Holly Morningstar, 50, a San Antonio native and 1973 MacArthur High School graduate. "I think he needed that structure in his life, and he liked that."

A little more than six months ago Morningstar, like all troops in the armed services these days, came to a crossroads, the decision to re-enlist or call it a war and an Army career.

Even now the choice mystifies his mom, who constantly worried about her only son and can still hear his words as if he said them only a moment ago.

"Why would he want to go back over there?" she asked. "He's putting his life into danger. He said that was what he was trained to do and that was what he wanted to do."

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Morningstar was killed in action on 02/05/06.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Army Pvt. Guy Husted

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pvt. Guy Husted

He had been in Iraq just two months when an improvised explosive device exploded near his Humvee on Nov. 19.

"I remember him telling me, ‘I didn’t even get to shoot my gun,’" said his stepmother, Deborah Husted of Bremerton.

Guy’s injuries included a broken leg, a back injury, a ruptured eardrum and bruises and cuts, according to family members. He also suffered some memory loss.

He spent some time recovering from his physical wounds at the home of his wife’s family in California, before returning in late January to Fort Campbell, Ky., where he was stationed with the 101st Airborne Division. But his psychological wounds remained, and though family members said he seemed eager to return to service with his unit in Iraq, he had not been cleared to return to the war.

He was found unconscious in his bed Jan. 31 at Fort Campbell, according to his father, retired submariner Robert Husted of Bremerton. He was rushed to the hospital, Robert Husted said. By the time Guy was resuscitated, he was brain-dead.

His wife, Leslie, conferred with family members before making the final decision to cease life support.

"As much as it hurt, we knew what he wanted," Robert Husted said.

Guy Husted was awarded the Purple Heart on Dec. 15, 2005.

Described by his mother as "a loving, caring young man," he enlisted in September 2004. Guy Husted wanted to join the Navy and follow in both his parents’ footsteps, but at about 6 feet tall and 260 pounds, he didn’t meet the Navy’s weight requirements.

Husted and brother Kyle, 20, a Marine stationed in Hawaii, were determined to serve their country, their father said.

"The boys basically came out and said we want to start a tradition," Robert Husted said.

Lisa Aulenbach, their mother, said she was more apprehensive after she heard that Guy was being assigned as a scout, a role that would put him in harm’s way. But now she’s worried about the younger son, an aviation electrician who is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in September.

"I feel terrible about it," she said. "I don’t want Kyle to go to Iraq."

Guy was born Dec. 31, 1982, in Portsmouth, Va., and moved to Bremerton in 1984 when his dad was stationed at Bangor submarine base.

He played the violin in the Bremerton Youth Symphony and was active with Cub Scouts until his parents divorced when he was 12, Aulenbach said.

After the divorce, he became more withdrawn, preferring to play video games, watch movies or go bowling with friends, Aulenbach said. He also enjoyed fishing with his dad near the Hood Canal Bridge.

He is survived by his parents; his wife, Leslie of Fort Campbell; brothers Kyle Husted of Hawaii and Nicholas Bearden of Bremerton; sisters Jessica Bearden and Sarah Moore of Bremerton; grandparents Jeannette Aulenbach of Orwigsburg, Pa., and Charlotte Myers of Oxford, Iowa; and numerous aunts and uncles.

Army Pvt. Guy Husted died 02/02/06.

Army Cpl. Walter B. Howard II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Walter B. Howard II, 35, of Rochester, Michigan.

Cpl. Howard died in Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained earlier that day in Ashraf, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M1 Abrams tank. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado. Died on February 2, 2006.

By Tom Watts
Macomb Daily Staff Writer

Army Cpl. Walter B. Howard II of Clinton Township was buried Wednesday with military honors and remembered as a shy, neighborhood boy who emerged as an American hero.

Howard, 35, died Feb. 2 of injuries suffered in Ashraf, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M1 Abrams tank.

"He was an awesome person," Howard's wife, Jamie, said following an emotional and patriotic military ceremony at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township. "He was so awesome."

Howard would have turned 36 on Feb. 12. He leaves behind his wife of just two years and 15-month-old daughter, Katherine, who was restless "like her daddy" during the funeral proceedings at First Baptist Church in Sterling Heights.

Howard's father, Walter Howard, said he hoped the funeral was the last for American troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I hope it's the last one," Howard said after Army officials presented Howard and his wife, Carolyn, with a U.S. flag draped over their son's coffin. "He was a good boy."

Jamie Howard, a native of Shelby Township, also received a tightly bound military-wrapped U.S. flag during ceremonies attended by hundreds.

"Walter was so quiet and shy," said Tammy Zobel, Howard's neighbor during his youth in Clinton Township. "He was so wonderful and caring; he was just a momma's boy. And he died protecting America."

Howard was honored with three distinguished medals Wednesday from U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Bartley: the Purple Heart, Bronze Star medal and Combat Action patch.

"Walter is an American hero," Bartley said. "He was a good man living the good life."

Howard served three years in the Navy in the 1990s, but after terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, the 1988 graduate from Fraser High School re-enlisted in the U.S. Army to support America and provide financial stability for his family.

Howard first became an active reserve at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in 2002 and joined the Seabees before he enlisted in the Army last year.

Howard left Michigan in December for Fort Carson, Colo., where he was assigned to the Army's 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team and 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson. He was sent to Iraq in January.

According to the U.S. Army, the improvised explosive device went off under the M1 tank he was in during a nighttime maneuver. Howard's father said the IED "exploded in its underbelly." Three other soldiers riding in the tank survived the explosion.

"I served with Walter in the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion," said Matt Howard of Wyandotte, who is not a blood relative to Walter Howard but bound by "military blood."

"I remember him mostly by his big smile," Howard said. "He was missed by us as soon as he left us to join the Army. We all knew he did it to support his family."

Cpl. Howard was also remembered for his passion for hunting, although his first love was his family.

"He was so proud of his daughter's (Katherine) milestones," said Brig. Gen. Hartley, who recited Howard's top three achievements as "family, duty to country, and loyalty to comrades."

Cpl. Howard was born Feb 12 1970, Son of Walter and Caroline Howard, Father to Katherine Grace Howard, Husband to Jamie Howard and Brother to Pam and Lisa. Walter lived in Rochester Hills for a short time before he was posted to Iraq.

Army Cpl. Walter B. Howard II was killed in action on 02/02/06.