Saturday, March 25, 2006

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Robinson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Robinson, 36, Brandon, Miss.

Ssgt Robinson was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, Mississippi Army National Guard, Jackson, Miss.; killed March 25 when his Humvee came under enemy small arms fire during combat operations in Sangain District, Afghanistan.

Metro soldier killed in battle in Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Robinson of Brandon died during second deployment to the country

By Kelli Esters

A Mississippi National Guardsman from Brandon died in Afghanistan early Saturday, military officials said Sunday.

Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Robinson, 36, died in a firefight near the Sangain District in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, Lt. Col. Tim Powell said in a release.

Robinson was assigned to the Headquarters Detachment, Second Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group in Jackson, Powell said.

"The death of Christopher Robinson is a great loss for the citizens of Mississippi," Gov. Haley Barbour said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

Robinson was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, where he trained Afghan special forces, said Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, the adjutant general of Mississippi. He was one of about 190 soldiers deployed in 2003. He came back in 2004, and then volunteered for redeployment for the September 2005 mission, Cross said.

Robinson was killed by small-arms fire during combat patrol early Saturday, Cross said.

"Anytime something like this happens, we are reminded what a high price we pay for freedom," Cross said on Sunday.

Robinson was married with two small children, Cross said.

"He died in the springtime of his life," Cross said. He added Robinson "would have liked to live a normal life," watching his children grow, but became a hero defending freedom.

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Robinson was killed in action on 03/25/06.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Army Sgt. 1st Class Randy D. McCaulley

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Randy D. McCaulley, 44, Indiana, Pa.

Sgt. 1st Class McCaulley was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Indiana, Pa.; killed March 23 when his dismounted patrol came under enemy small arms fire during combat operations in Habbaniyah, Iraq.

By A.J. Panian

As Maj. Richard Collage of the Pennsylvania National Guard spoke of the war's cost in Iraq at Seton Hill University in Greensburg last week, he silently bore the knowledge that its human toll had hit far too close to home.

On Thursday, Collage learned that Staff Sgt. Randy McCaulley, 44, of Marion Center, was shot by insurgents at 3:45 p.m., Iraqi time, during routine combat patrol with his unit in Mudiz. McCaulley died at Camp Taqaddum Shock and Trauma Center.

McCaulley's death is the first in combat since World War II for a member of the state National Guard's Company A, 1st Battalion, 1-110th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division in White Township, Indiana County.

"He was a soldier among soldiers," said his father, the Rev. James McCaulley of Bible Baptist Church in Indiana. "He was a very upbeat man, and everybody who knew him loved him." He also is survived by his mother, Donna.

"It's very difficult. This is not a nameless, faceless loss. Randy's like part of our family," said Collage after a news conference Saturday at the Indiana Armory in Indiana. "It's been difficult all along, but it really steps it up a little bit whenever something like this happens because we haven't experienced it. It's difficult enough telling families they've had a loved one that was wounded. This is just a whole other feeling."

A 1979 graduate of Marion Center High School, McCaulley served in the U.S. Army from 1979 to 1983. He joined the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1984. He had spent 15 years on active duty.

Pennsylvania National Guardsmen make up most of the 3,500-member 2nd Brigade Combat Team stationed in Ramadi since late June 2005, including 70 members of the 110th.

McCaulley was shot when his patrol encountered insurgents on foot, Collage said. Also killed in the attack was Staff Sgt. Brock A. Beery, 30, of White House, Tenn., the U.S. Department of Defense announced.

"They were given an area to patrol, and the mission, troops, time and terrain dictated that they dismount their vehicles, and there are insurgents in the area where they're located, that's why we're there," Collage said.

McCaulley, a father to sons Cody and Justin, will be remembered as a down-to-earth man who got along with his military comrades, Collage said.

"He was a well-liked soldier with a great sense of humor who could bring a little levity to a tough situation and make it easier to get through," Collage said.

Military service was a part of McCaulley's family, said his father during a telephone interview yesterday.

"His six uncles served in World War II, two of them also served in Korea, and two of his cousins were helicopter pilots in Vietnam," said Rev. McCaulley, who served active duty in the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1958. "We love our son very much, and we are absolutely 100 percent proud of him. He was doing what he believed in. He loved God and his country, and he was serving heroically."

Rev. McCaulley keeps a book, nearly 2 inches thick, filled with Randy's military awards. They include the Army Good Conduct Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Commendation Medal, Air Assault Badge and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.

Randy McCaulley was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant first class and will be awarded the Purple Heart. He is the 24th soldier of the Pennsylvania National Guard to be killed in the war, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

McCaulley was an avid sports fan. He worked as a mechanic for several garages in Indiana.

"Everybody has opinions about it. But I think what people need to take away from it is our soldiers from our hometowns across Western Pennsylvania and across all of Pennsylvania are in a very dangerous place doing very hard work and doing an outstanding job," Collage said.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Randy D. McCaulley was killed in action on 03/23/06.

Army Staff Sgt. Brock A. Beery

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Brock A. Beery,30, of White House, Tenn.

Staff Sgt. Beery was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 123rd Armor Regiment, Kentucky Army National Guard, Bowling Green, Ky.; killed March 23 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his LMTV followed by enemy small arms fire during combat operations in Habbaniyah, Iraq.

FRANKFORT, Ky.--One Kentucky National Guard Soldier was killed when his armored vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device (IED) near Al Habbaniyah, (pronounced “owl ha-ban-ee-yah”), which is west of Fallujah in Iraq on Thursday, March 23.

Killed was Staff Sgt. Brock A. Beery, 30, of Whitehouse, Tenn. Beery was assigned to the Kentucky Army National Guard’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Armor, based in Bowling Green. The unit mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom in March of 2005 and deployed to the Persian Gulf that July.

At the time of the incident Beery was driving a fully-armored light medium tactical vehicle (LMTV), the Army’s newest version of the 2 and ½ half ton truck.

Originally from Warsaw, Ind., Beery is survived by his wife, Sara and a seven year old daughter. He joined the Indiana National Guard in 1993 and transferred to the Kentucky Army National Guard in 1997. He took a break in service in 2000 and rejoined in February of 2001. He was a full-time employee of the Kentucky Army National Guard working for his unit in Bowling Green.

Beery will be posthumously presented the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge

"The death of Staff Sgt. Beery is a tragedy for his family, the Army National Guard and the Commonwealth of Kentucky," said Maj. Gen. Donald C. Storm, Adjutant General for Kentucky. "He was a fine soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for his nation. His family is in our prayers and we will continue to support them throughout their time of grief.”

In a statement about her husband, Sara Beery said, “Brock was a loving husband, and a very devoted dad. He enjoyed his family, off road four wheeling adventures, collecting guns and hunting.”

She went on to say “Brock was devoted in the business of taking care of his soldiers and meeting their needs. He was a father, husband, son, friend and a soldier. He was the type who would be first to volunteer for a mission.”

The Beery family appreciates the support they have received from their friends and community. They thank the media for understanding their need to grieve and do not wish to conduct media interviews.

Staff Sgt. Brock Beery, joined the Indiana Army National Guard on Feb. 23, 1993 as a 17-year-old high school junior. He completed Basic Training and Advanced Individualized training at Fort Benning, Ga. In May of 1997 he transferred to the Kentucky Army National Guard, joining Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Armor in Bowling Green.

Staff Sgt. Beery separated from the Guard and entered the individual ready reserve Feb. 22, 2000 then later re-joined the Kentucky Army National Guard on Feb. 13, 2001. He was promoted to Staff Sgt. on Jan. 1, 2004.

Staff Sgt. Beery was a full time soldier in the Kentucky Army Guard at the Bowling Green Armory. Beery is married to Sara Ann Beery and has a seven year old daughter.

Brock graduated high school in Indiana and attended some courses at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY.

During his time with the Indiana Army National Guard he performed a Sinai, Egypt deployment for one year. He also deployed with his unit in 2002 to 2003 for a rotation in Bosnia.

Army Staff Sgt. Brock A. Beery was killed in action on 03/23/06.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Army Sgt. Dale G. Brehm

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Dale G. Brehm, 23, of Turlock, California

Sgt Brehm was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash.; killed March 18 when he came under small arms fire by enemy forces during combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq. Also killed was Staff Sgt. Ricardo Barraza.


One: The number of Bill Brehm's children.

Two: The number of weeks left before his only child, an Army Ranger, would return from war-ravaged Iraq after enduring a half-dozen missions there.

Three: The number of months remaining in Sgt. Dale G.M. Brehm's enlistment. Although he loved the Army's elite forces, Brehm had decided to leave for another life, his stepmother said Tuesday.

Zero: The number of people who expected him to leave this life altogether.

"We thought, 'He's made it this far; he's going to survive this,'" his stepmother, Linda Brehm of Turlock, said Tuesday, which would have been Dale Brehm's 24th birthday. "We got used to him going back, coming home, going back, coming home. So we're just blown away. It's devastating."

Brehm and Staff Sgt. Ricardo Barraza, 24, of Shafter, near Bakersfield, died Saturday after they "came under small arms fire by enemy forces during combat operations" in Ramadi, Iraq, according to a brief Department of Defense statement released Tuesday.

Brehm's widow, Raini, a Modesto native, said Army Special Operations "don't like to Hollywoodize what they do." She spoke in a brief telephone conversation from her home near Fort Lewis, Wash., where her husband's 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment is based.

The Bee was unable to reach Dale Brehm's mother, Laura Williams of Riverbank.

Memorial services, initially slated for later this week, have been put on hold, Bill and Linda Brehm said. Details will be shared as they become available.

An additional service is to be scheduled at Fort Lewis, the Brehms said, and Dale Brehm is to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

Bill and Linda Brehm had celebrated the wedding of her daughter March 12, she said. A week later, they were enjoying the Sunday morning newspaper and coffee when two uniformed officers approached their Turlock home.

"It was our normal morning routine," she said, "except that morning we had some visitors. I looked out the window and saw these guys walking up, and as soon as Bill opened the door I knew."

Dale Brehm graduated from Turlock Adult School in 2000 and joined the military the next year.

Bill Brehm, in a 2002 letter to The Bee, described himself as "apprehensive" about the war but "very proud of my son for he is well-trained, ready and willing."

"His ultimate goal in life was to be an Army Ranger," Linda Brehm said. "The Army was his life; he was very proud of what he did and he fulfilled his dream."

Army Sgt. Dale G. Brehm was killed in action on 03/18/06.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Army Specialist Carlos M. Gonzalez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Carlos M. Gonzalez, 22, of Middletown, N.Y.

Spc. Gonzalez was assigned to the 101st Military Intelligence Detachment, 501st Special Troops Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Mar. 16 when a mortar round detonated in Tikrit, Iraq. Also killed was Sgt. Amanda N. Pinson. -- A 22-year-old New Yorker who had phoned his parents from Iraq to tell them he planned to re-enlist was killed five days later in a mortar attack in Tikrit, authorities said.

Word of the death of Army Spc. Carlos Gonzalez of Orange County, came on the third anniversary of the start of the war.

The Middletown native, who was married and the father of a 22-month-old girl, died March 16 when a rocket blew up his bus as it headed back to a base in Tikrit.

"When we spoke to him, he said was going to re-enlist. I think that says a lot when someone was over there," said his mother, Anna, choking back tears.

"We were very proud that he was re-enlisting," she said. "I didn't know that was going to be the last time I spoke to him.

"But he's home now. We went to Dover [Delaware] airport and brought his body home."

Gonzalez, a communications specialist, "spent four years in the ROTC when he was in high school," his mom said. "He wanted to make the Army his career. It was his life."

Gonzalez's dad, Carlos, said the family will continue to send his buddies care packages of cookies.

"While our guys are still over there, I will support them," he said.

And in September, they will be at Fort Campbell, Ky., where their son, daughter-in-law, Kristina, and granddaughter, Isabella Marie, lived, to welcome back his pals who are with the 501st Special Troops Battalion.

Army Specialist Carlos M. Gonzalez was killed in action on 03/16/06.

Army Sgt. Amanda N. Pinson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Amanda N. Pinson, 21, of St. Louis, Mo.

Sgt Pinson was assigned to the 101st Military Intelligence Detachment, 501st Special Troops Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Mar. 16 when a mortar round detonated in Tikrit, Iraq. Also killed was Spc. Carlos M. Gonzalez.

St Louis Post-Dispatch -- Amanda Pinson knew soldiers were dying in Iraq when she decided to join the Army in 2003, but she wasn't going to let that stop her.

"She believed what she was doing was preventing another 9/11," her father, Tony Pinson, said Friday after learning his daughter had been killed in Iraq on Thursday. "She's a hero."

Family members said Spc. Amanda Pinson, 21, was killed in a mortar attack on the base in Tikrit, Iraq, where she worked in intelligence. They said they couldn't know exactly what her work entailed, but that it kept her on the base most of the time and, they had hoped, somewhat out of harm's way. The military had not yet released information about her death Friday night.

Amanda Pinson, of south St. Louis County, was with the 101st Airborne Division and was based at Fort Campbell, Ky. She was proud of what she was doing, family members said.

Her mother, Chris Ehlen, said she talked her daughter out of joining the military once, but in the end, it was what she wanted to do.

"She loved being in the Army and she loved doing her job," said Ehlen, of south St. Louis County. "She felt like her work saved American lives. That's what she did."

Amanda Pinson also leaves a brother, Bryan Pinson, 17.

The Post-Dispatch's Harry Levins interviewed Amanda Pinson in 2003 for a column about the challenges facing recruiters as troops battled in Iraq. Amanda, then 18, had signed up for the Army after graduating from Hancock High School.

She told Levins she was fully aware of the dangers soldiers faced in the Middle East before she joined.

"But I didn't really think about it," she said. "I thought, 'This is what I want to do - and I'm going to do it, no matter what.' I tell everybody, 'It just feels right.'"

She said she thought the Army would help her grow.

"I've never wanted to do girlie things," she said. "When I finish college, I want to be an FBI agent. I thought military service would help me excel - help me to become my own person."

Her plans had evolved into perhaps working for the CIA after returning from Iraq later this year and leaving the Army at the end of her enlistment period, family members said.

Regina Pinson, her stepmother, remembers watching coverage of Cindy Sheehan's protests against the war with her stepdaughter.

"Please don't do something like that if something happens to me," she remembers Amanda Pinson saying. "This is what I want to do."

Army Sgt. Amanda N. Pinson was killed in action on 03/16/06.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Army Pfc Jesse A. Gabbard

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc Jesse A. Gabbard, 20, Westville, Indiana.

Associated Press

WESTVILLE, Ind. — A soldier on a two-week leave home after returning from Iraq died in a northern Indiana crash when a pickup truck pulled into his car’s path, police said.

Army Pfc. Jesse A. Gabbard, 20, was pronounced dead at the scene of Tuesday’s crash on a LaPorte County road just north of Westville some 25 miles east of Gary.

LaPorte County Police said Gabbard’s car was struck on the driver’s side by a pickup driven by 70-year-old Robert Englehardt, who told police he failed to see Gabbard’s oncoming car when he pulled out from a stop sign. Englehardt was not injured.

Travis Gabbard, 27, said his brother returned home Saturday for a two-week leave after three months in Iraq. Since setting foot on Iraqi soil in December, he said his brother was primarily a mortarman and often served on the front lines.

He said his brother enlisted in the Army a year ago and left in November for Fort Carson, Colo., to prepare for duty in Iraq.

“We weren’t expecting him to die at home. We were more worried about him in Iraq,” Travis Gabbard said.

After arriving home Saturday, Jesse Gabbard spent much of his time with family and had gone bowling with an uncle. On Sunday, his family threw a homecoming party for him.

Army Pfc Jesse A. Gabbard died on 03/14/06.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Army Pfc Amy Duerksen

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc Amy Duerksen, 19, Jonesboro, Texas.

Slain soldier mourned amid protest

Pfc. Amy Duerksen was remembered as a soldier who lovered her country and championed its freedoms.

About 200 people attended Duerksen's funeral Friday at a church in Temple while more than 120 members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group, gathered outside to counter the protest of six members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan.

The Kansas protesters claim the deaths of soldiers in Iraq are divine punishment for America's toleration of homosexuals. The motorcycle riders try to shield families from the protesters.

Duerksen, 19, died March 11 in Iraq.

"The two themes of freedom and justice were colossal for her," the Rev. Shannon Soard said in remarks prepared for delivery at the service. Duerksen, Soard continued, "Had a kindness and gentleness for people that caused you to warm to her quickly. Warm smiles, encouraging words and affectionate hugs were the order of the day with Amy. She loved people, and they knew it"

Army Pfc Amy Duerksen was killed on 03/11/06.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, 20, of Finksburg, Maryland.

Lance Cpl. Snyder died from a non combat-related vehicle accident in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to Combat Service Support Group-1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, California. Died on March 3, 2006.

Daily Record/Sunday News
Tuesday, March 7, 2006

When Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder was 9 years old, he told his dad he wanted to be a soldier.
His father, Albert Snyder, was amused that his son had made career plans so early in life, but he hoped Matthew would grow out of it.

He didn't.

After graduating from Westminster High School in Maryland, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2003. He had a few duty assignments, then moved to a base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., before being deployed to the Al Anbar province in Iraq earlier this year.

On Friday, the 20-year-old was killed in a Humvee crash after less than four weeks in Iraq with his unit, the Combat Service Support Group-1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

For Matthew's father, who doesn't believe the United States should have troops in Iraq, it's the ultimate price for a war he doesn't agree with.

"It just seems like a dream. I keep hoping to wake up tomorrow and none of this would be happening," said Snyder, a Springettsbury Township resident. “I’ve cried so much in the last three days, I don’t think I have any tears left.”

As of this week, more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers have died while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to Associated Press statistics.

His son accepted his Iraq assignment, and was not afraid, Snyder said. Matthew’s job in the military involved repairing generators and computers.

He calls Matthew a hero, and said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better son.”

Matthew would’ve turned 21 in July. He liked to fish and roller blade. He loved playing soccer. He wasn’t sure if he was going to make the military his career, but he enjoyed his years as a Marine, his father said.

Snyder doesn’t have much information on the crash that killed his son. From what he’s been told by military officials, Matthew was in the top of a Humvee that rolled over, killing him. They told Snyder that they plan to investigate the crash, but could not tell him how long it would take.

He’d like an independent investigation of his son’s death done. Monday, Snyder talked to U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., about his son’s death. Snyder said Murtha told him to take care of things with his family, including his son’s funeral, then to call him back.

Matthew’s older sister, Sarah Snyder, 22, lives in Hanover. His younger sister, Tracie Synder, 18, lives in Springettsbury Township with their father. His mother lives in Finksburg, Md. The family plans a service for Matthew on Friday.

In the meantime, his family is waiting for his body to arrive from Dover, Del., and for answers, Snyder said.

“How many parents have to go through what me and my ex-wife are going through?” Snyder said. “What is it going to take for people to say, ‘enough?’”

Matthew Snyder, of Finksburg, Maryland, died from a non combat-related vehicle accident in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to Combat Service Support Group-1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, California. Died on March 3, 2006. Matthew was 20 years old.

Matthew graduated from Westminster High School in 2003. After graduation, he enlisted in the Marines on October 14, 2003, and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. In August of 2004, Matthew was assigned to Combat Logistics Batallion-7, Twentynine Palms, Calif. as a generator mechanic.

"He was a hero and he was the love of my life." - Albert Snyder, Matthew's Father

The family of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, US Marine Corps, has begun this civil lawsuit* against Mr. Phelps and certain members of the so-called Westboro Baptist Church to bring an end to the reign of terror and abuse that they inflicted upon the grieving families of US service members killed in defense of our nation. Using innocent children to deliver their twisted message of hatred and fear, the defendants in this suit have sought to attack the memory of our departed heroes, to strip their loved ones of their dignity, and to use abuse and intimidation as a tool for preventing surviving family members from reaching closure over their loss.

It is the sincere hope of Mr. Al Snyder, Matthew’s father, that this suit will spark similar legal actions against Mr. Phelps wherever he seeks to inflict harm upon the memory of our heroes and their families. If you feel strongly that such actions should be stopped, please consider a donation to help offset the legal expenses of bringing this suit.

*This is a private civil lawsuit that is separate from any actions being pursued by states or the federal government against Mr. Phelps. While those cases involve Government action and potential 1st Amendment issues, this case is distinct. This case simply alleges that one does not have the right to conspire to use lies in order to inflict intentional harm upon persons who are grieving the death of their children.

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder was killed on 03/03/06.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Army Pfc. Tina M. Priest

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Tina M. Priest, 20, of Austin, Texas

Pfc Priest was assigned to the 4th Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Divison, Fort Hood, Texas; died March 1 from a non-combat-related injury in Taji, Iraq.

By Marty Toohey


Friday, March 10, 2006

SMITHVILLE — Tina Priest, a U.S. Army soldier who served in Iraq, was born prematurely at 1 pound, 10 1/2 ounces. Doctors gave her a 1-in-10 chance of living.

"She was so small, you could hold her in your hand," her father, Tim Priest, said. "But she lived through that, and she really lived. Tina always lived life, to its fullest."

On Thursday, friends and family gathered at Smithville's First Baptist Church to celebrate Pfc. Tina Priest's life and mourn her death. She died in Iraq on March 1 of what the Army says was a gunshot wound to the chest in a noncombat situation. She was 20.

"It's hard to think of being in Iraq and not being in a combat situation," said Beverly Priest, Tina's grandmother.

More than 500 people — in a town of about 4,000 — heard Tina Priest eulogized as a lively spirit who grew up among them, who overcame obstacles throughout her life and who did so with a sharp sense of humor.

Her recruiter, Sgt. Corey Corwin, recalled receiving e-mails from her, some of which he told her the Department of Defense would not appreciate being transmitted via its computers.

"What are they going to do — send me back to Texas?" Corwin remembers her responding. "I'm already in Iraq."

Priest joined the Army after earning certification as a medical assistant and facing a tight local job market, her father said.

In the Army, she dealt with logistics, getting things where they need to be, and handled a machine gun mounted on a Humvee while deployed. A week after she arrived in Iraq, she was injured by shrapnel but returned to duty quickly.

"She was the last one I expected to join the armed services," Tim Priest said. "But she really believed in what she was doing."

In his room, Tim Priest has her military honors displayed: the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, a Military Merit Medal. Priest said he's been told two Purple Hearts are awaiting the approval of the secretary of defense.

The circumstances of Tina Priest's death remain a mystery. Her family says that the manner of death has raised their suspicions but that they understand they may have to wait for an investigation to conclude to get answers.

Army Pfc. Tina M. Priest died of non-combat injuries on 03/01/06.

Army National Guard Sgt. Joshua V. Youmans

Remember Our Heroes

Army National Guard Sgt. Joshua V. Youmans, 26, Flushing, Michigan

Sgt Youmans Died at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, on March 1, 2006, from injuries sustained when a roadside bomb detonated near his Humvee during combat operations in Habbaniya, Iraq on November 21, 2005.

Sunday, March 12, 2006
By Beata Mostafavi • 810.766.6210
FLUSHING - For the first few weeks after becoming a father, Sgt. Joshua Youmans watched his baby girl sleep in her bassinet via a Web camera from Iraq.

Little blue-eyed, blond-haired MacKenzie recently got to meet her father in person for the first time as he recovered at a Texas hospital from injuries suffered in the war.

On Saturday, nestled in a pink- and green-striped blanket, the 5-month-old sat in a relative's arms in the front row at her father's funeral.

MacKenzie always will know what a hero her father was, Youmans' wife, Katie, told the crowd that filled nearly all of the 600-plus seats at St. Robert Catholic Church.

"His impact on the world will never be forgotten," said an emotional Katie, who had been married to Youmans nearly six years.

Later, as her husband was buried at Flushing Cemetery, she bent down to kiss his coffin, clutching the folded American flag that had blanketed it during the funeral.

Joshua Youmans was 26 when he died nearly two weeks ago at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. He had spent the past four months there receiving care after a Humvee he was riding struck a land mine, leaving him severely burned.

He was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service.

Katie Youmans spoke of the last few memories she shared with her husband before he died, such as when she told him President Bush was paying him a visit at the hospital, and he balked at the news.

"When (the president) walked in and said 'Hi Josh,' he said, 'Wow, you weren't kidding,'" Katie said, drawing laughter.

Or how nurses at the hospital were amused by his "tough guy" act when he refused pain medication, only to regret it soon after.

But she will also treasure their ordinary times together, such as eating barbecue wings during dinners out and playing with their dog, Sweetie.

Or how at night she'd always say "Sleep tight," and he would respond with "Don't let the bed bugs bite."

"Josh and I completed each other," she said. "He was my soul mate and the love of my life. We knew how lucky we were to have found each other.

"I am so grateful to have been a part of his life."

She said people who knew him remember his "crazy laugh," "wicked sense of humor," playfulness and loving, caring nature.

He joined the Army National Guard more than two years ago because he had such great respect for the job, she said.

She said after learning he was going to be deployed to Iraq, he told her he wanted to go "to protect our country" and the freedoms of his then-unborn child.

In the time he was there, the two would meet regularly online to chat, which made him late to duty at least one time.

And even though he couldn't physically be in the delivery room the day MacKenzie was born, he listened on the phone until he heard her newborn cry.

He loved to watch his daughter on the Web video camera after she was born.

"Just so he could see her being a baby," Katie said.

She spoke of the stories he shared with her, such as playing with Iraqi children in a village.

"Even though his life was lived way too short, he made the most of it," she said. "He was so proud to be a part of the infantry. He truly was an American hero."

Katie's tribute was followed by the country song "American Soldier." Meanwhile outside the church, the low tunes of "Hero" and "Born in the USA" wafted out of a white pickup truck painted in red and blue stripes and stars.

Army National Guard Sgt. Joshua V. Youmans, died 03/01/06.