Thursday, November 30, 2006

Army Specialist Chris Kleinwachter

Remember Our Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Army Specialist Christopher E. Mason

Remember Our Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Army Staff Sgt. Michael A. Shank

Remember Our Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 27, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz

Remember Our Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Monday, he wasn't as lucky.

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

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

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

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

Star-Ledger Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air Force Maj. Troy L. Gilbert

Remember Our Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Army Cpl. Nathan J. Goodiron

Remember Our Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among those attending were about 50 American Indian veterans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joely Goodiron

Joely Goodiron back

Alexander Goodiron

Alexander Goodiron back

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Marine Pvt. Heath D. Warner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a gunner, he stood on the Humvee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Losing him, Chandler said, is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heath Warner

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael D. Scholl

Remember Our Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marine Lance Cpl. Mario D. Gonzalez

Remember Our Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marine Lance Cpl. Timothy W. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Army Staff Sgt. Misael Martinez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Misael Martinez, 24, of Chapel Hill, N.C.

SSgt. Martinez was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Giessen, Germany; died Nov. 11 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq. Also killed were: Staff Sgt. William S. Jackson II and Sgt. Angel De Jesus Lucio Ramirez.

The military expected too much of Staff Sgt. Misael Martinez, who died when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Iraq, his father said.

"He went there (to Iraq) already, twice," said Juan Antonio Martinez, weary from several sleepless nights.

Misael Martinez, 24, of Chapel Hill was killed Saturday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Ramadi, the military said. His family planned to bury him Thursday.

Martinez, a combat engineer, was on his third tour in Iraq. His parents said they last spoke with their son Oct. 31, when he said he wouldn't be able to call again for several days.

The explosion also killed Staff Sgt. William S. Jackson II, 29, of Saginaw, Mich., and Sgt. Angel De Jesus Lucio Ramirez, 22, of Pacoima, Calif. All three soldiers were assigned to the 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division based at Giessen, Germany.

Martinez joined the Army after graduating from Orange High School in 2000, telling his parents he needed discipline.

"He said he wanted to do something for people," his mother, Rosala Martinez, said. "I think he did it because he's a hero."

The family remembered Misael Martinez playing pickup baseball games and fishing in University Lake. Juan Antonio Martinez said his son was a bit of a prankster but was humble and respectful.

The second of four children, he had hoped to attend college, his mother said.

"You know the rest," she said

Army Staff Sgt. Misael Martinez was killed in action on 11/11/06.

Army Staff Sgt. William S. "Jack" Jackson II

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. William S. Jackson II, 29, of Saginaw, Michigan

SSgt. Jackson was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Giessen, Germany; died Nov. 11 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq. Also killed were: Staff Sgt. Misael Martinez and Sgt. Angel De Jesus Lucio Ramirez.

A Saginaw Township father of four who had survived a tour of duty in Afghanistan was killed on Veterans Day by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Army Staff Sergeant William S. Jackson II, known to friends and family as Jack, died along with two of his comrades when their vehicle was blown up Saturday in Ramadi.

Jackson is one of three soldiers who died from an explosive detonated near their vehicle in Ramadi, Iraq, November 11, 2006. All were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, in Giessen, Germany

Jackson, 29, was a native of Maine who moved to the Saginaw area after he met his Michigan-born wife, Katie, said his mother-in-law, Kathy Layer. The couple had met at Northland Baptist Bible College in Dunbar, Wisconsin.

"He just lived to get home and be back with his family again," Layer said. "He was just a great husband and a great father."

Jackson's last visit home came after the birth of his only daughter six months ago. His death leaves the children, all younger than six, to be raised by his widow.

"Her family is here, so she does have the support of her family and certainly her church family, as well," said Pastor Mark Hazen of Immanuel Bible Church in Saginaw.

Jackson was serving in the Marines when he fought in Afghanistan. He left that branch of the service after returning to the United States, his mother-in-law said.

"He was out for a time, and then he went into the Army," Layer said. "He comes from a very military family, and this was a goal his whole life. It was a mutual decision, though" between him and his wife "when he went back in."

Jackson was serving in the 1st Battalion, 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, based in Giessen, Germany. Funeral arrangements are pending.

"They're just a wonderful family," Hazen said of the Jacksons. "Certainly Jack loved the Lord and loved his family. He loved his wife, and he loved his country. He was a wonderful man, and we'll dearly miss him."

Layer agreed.

"It's very difficult," she said. "But Jack was a Christian. He knew the Lord was his savior, and we believe he's in heaven today. And that's a great comfort to us."


More than 300 people paid tribute to another fallen soldier Saturday during an hour-long service commemorating U.S. Army Staff Sergeant William S. "Jack" Jackson II of Saginaw Township, Michigan.

The memorial featured tearful eulogies, a photo album presentation and memories of a 29-year-old man who "seemed to know a little about everything."

Jackson died in Iraq on November 11, 2006 - Veterans Day - with two fellow soldiers when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations.

His family plans to bury the Thomaston, Maine, native at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia during a 9 a.m. Wednesday funeral.

Saturday's service at First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, 2400 King, began with a eulogy by Rev. Mark Hazen, who told the crowd about Jackson's worldly, friendly nature via a letter sent by one of the soldiers stationed with Jackson in Iraq.

"Jack was awesome at everything he did," Hazen read from a letter authored by James O'Connell.

O'Connell wrote about Jackson's overseas efforts to learn Arabic and musical instruments such as the penny whistle and ukelele. "Our neighbors preferred his ukelele to the penny whistle," O'Connell's correspondence continued, getting a laugh from the audience.

The letter went on to paint a picture of a man who loved the coast of Maine and often told tales of the industry associated with the port. "It was expected that every night there was fish on the menu, we would hear another fish story," the letter continued.

O'Connell described Jackson's prankster streak, which he exercised by writing "ridiculous" entries in other people's journals, setting mouse traps on the floors of sleeping bunkmates and convincing one fellow soldier with Irish lineage that his family actually descended from Wales.

A musical photo presentation followed, setting the soft strumming sounds of a guitar alongside a video montage of Jackson's life -- from a childhood playing across Maine's coastline to his last visit to Saginaw in April for the birth of his daughter, Hannah S. Jackson.

His other children are Zachariah W. Jackson, 6; Levi D. Jackson, 4; and Samuel M. Jackson, 2.

Jackson's brother-in-law, Benjamin E. Layer, delivered the day's final eulogy.

He compared Jackson's life to the white gold band that made his wedding ring. "When white gold is mined, it has no value," Layer said. "It has great potential. First, it has to be heated up, filed, then a jeweler can make it into something very valuable."

Jackson lived life trying to make the most of it, Layer said: "Jack didn't die in vain."

The service ended with a 21-gun salute from soldiers outside the church.

Jackson served in the U.S. Marines for four years -- 1998-2002 -- before joining the Army. While in the Marines, he served in Afghanistan.

He supported Operation Iraqi Freedom in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, as a member of the 1st Battalion, 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, headquartered in Giessen, Germany, military records show.

He was in Iraq since the beginning of the year.

Jackson met his future wife, Katie M. Jackson, 31, while both were attending Northland Baptist Bible College in Dunbar, Wisconsin. Both joined the military.

The couple later relocated to the Saginaw area so they could live closer to her relatives.

With a growing family, Jackson left the service after his eight-month tour in Afghanistan and was thinking about returning to college to study marine biology.

Army Staff Sgt. William S. Jackson II was killed in action on 11/11/06.

Zacharia Jackson




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Monday, November 06, 2006

Army Sgt. 1st Class William R. Brown

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class William R. Brown, 30, of Fort Worth, Texas

SFC Brown was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Nov. 6, 2006 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy vehicle in Sperwan-Gar, Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class William Brown, 30, was killed in action Nov. 6, when an Improvised Explosive Device detonated near his Humvee in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar while deployed in support of combat operations. He was a senior Special Forces weapons sergeant, assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group here.

He deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in August 2006, he had already served one tour of duty in Iraq and was on his second tour in Afghanistan..

On June 2nd, two weeks after graduating from Brewer High School in White Settlement, Texas in 1994. Brown enlisted in the US Army as an Infantryman.

After completing Basic, Advanced Individual Training and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga., he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

In 2002, Brown was selected for duty as a U.S. Army Recruiter and served in Dallas, Texas.

In 2004, Brown volunteered for Special Forces Training and upon completion of the Special Forces Qualification Course he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) Fort Bragg, N.C. as a Senior A Detachment Weapons Sergeant, He was with the 3rd 3rd Special Forces Group until his death.

Brown's mother, Anita Walton of Boyd said her son was "perfect." "He's one I never got a call on," said the mother of five. "I've been up to the school many times, but with him, I never got a call one time."

Sgt. Brown was born at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, He grew up in White Settlement, where he played football from youth leagues through high school, his mother said.

Sgt. Brown served six months in Iraq about a year after the invasion. He was in Afghanistan late last year and returned there early this summer, his mother said.

"He loved it, being out in the field doing what they trained him to do," Ms. Walton said.

"One time I said, 'What do you do?' and he said, 'Mom, do you really want to know?' "

"He died for our country," his mother said. "He was patriotic to the end. He was doing what he loved to do."

He will be buried in Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. "He would like that," his mother said.

Awards and Decorations

The Bronze Star Medal for Valor, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge, U.S. Army Recruiter Badge (silver), Ranger Tab and the Special Forces Tab.

Army Sgt. 1st Class William R. Brow was killed in action on 11/6/06.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Marine 2nd Lt. Mark C. Gelina

Remember Our Heroes

Marine 2nd Lt. Mark C. Gelina, 33, of Moberly, Mo.

2nd Lt. Gelina was assigned to the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Nov. 4 from a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. The incident is under investigation.

A Marine who grew up in Moberly and attended MU for officer training died Saturday in Iraq.

Mark C. Gelina, a second lieutenant, died during a combat operation in Al-Anbar province in western Iraq. He was 33.

Cmdr. Lynn Smith of the Naval ROTC unit at MU said Gelina died while he was preparing a battle position and fell off a roof, according to information from the Marine Mobilization Command in Kansas City. The Defense Department on Tuesday confirmed that Gelina was killed in a nonhostile incident.

Gelina was assigned to the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, according to the Department of Defense. He was most recently stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., before being deployed to Iraq.

A Defense Department spokesman said Gelina’s unit was assigned to train and work alongside Iraqi forces to deny insurgent activities.

Gelina graduated from MU in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, according to the university registrar. He was a member of the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program and a 10-year veteran of the Marine Corps.

The education program enables enlisted Marines to attend one of the 70 universities in the U.S. that have ROTC programs. After attending a preparatory school, students work toward a bachelor’s degree at the university of their choice. Upon graduation, they become commissioned officers, attending the Basic School at Quantico, Va., for six months and then receiving specialty assignments, said Capt. J. Basil Read III, the commanding officer of the Navy ROTC at MU and one of Gelina’s former professors.

Participants in the program are career-oriented Marines selected to get a college degree and a commission, Read said. “The top enlisted Marines in the country are chosen for this,” he said.

At MU, Gelina was president of the Semper Fi society, planned the Navy/Marine Corps ball and mentored other students. He also trained and led teams in drill, rifle and pistol skills at competitions around the country.

“Just about his entire tenure here spoke to leadership,” Read said. “He was a Marine’s Marine. He was the type of leader that other Marines wanted to emulate.”

Staff Sgt. Scott Kates, a junior at MU, said Gelina worked hard but also enjoyed spending time outdoors and with his three children.

“He was just an all around fun guy,” Kates said. “He knew when it was time to work and when it was time to play.”

Read said that to his knowledge, Gelina was the first MU alum from the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program to have been killed in Iraq.

“He got to do what he wanted to do, which was go lead Marines,” Read said.

Marine 2nd Lt. Mark C. Gelina died on 11/04/06.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Marine Cpl. Michael H. Lasky

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Marine Cpl. Michael H. Lasky, 22, of Sterling, Alaska

Cpl. Lasky was assigned to the 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; killed Nov. 2 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Alaska Marine dies on second tour of Iraq

Anchorage Daily News

A 22-year-old Sterling man who grew up in Alaska and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq was killed in combat last week, leaving behind a wife and 1-year-old daughter, Liberty Lynn, who was born during his first tour.

Cpl. Michael H. Lasky is the third member of Alaska’s single, small Marine unit to die in Iraq since the war began in 2003. The other men killed were from Salcha and Anchorage.

Donn Lasky and his wife, Carol, learned of their son’s death early Friday, when a Suburban with a military team in it pulled into their long, private driveway in Soldotna around 1 a.m.

Donn Lasky said in a telephone interview Saturday that he woke up when the family’s dogs started barking. The two parents were grief-stricken when they looked outside and, at first, were reluctant to open the door. Donn said his wife broke down, repeating, “No, no, go away.”

“Last thing we wanted to see was a Marine standing there in front of our house,” Donn said.

Finally, Donn opened the door and asked the Marines who had come to do the notification to come back around 7 a.m., he said. The men didn’t deliver the news about Michael on that first visit, the family said. “They didn’t have to. We knew,” Donn said.

A prepared statement released Saturday by the Department of Defense said only that Lasky was killed “while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province.”

Lasky was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Calls to the small unit’s offices in Anchorage on Saturday were not returned. The Lasky family moved to Alaska in the late 1970s. Donn Lasky was in the Navy then and was twice stationed at the now-defunct Adak naval base, on the Aleutian chain. Michael Lasky attended elementary school on the remote island before his family relocated to the Kenai Peninsula.

Marine Cpl. Michael H. Lasky was killed in action on 11/02/06.

liberty lynn lasky

liberty lynn back

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Marine Lance Cpl. James E. Brown

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Marine Lance Cpl. James E. Brown, 20, of Owensville, Ind.

LCpl Brown was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; killed Nov. 2, 2006 while conducting combat operations in Habbaniyah, Iraq.

OWENSVILLE - Lance Cpl. James Eric Brown, USMC, 20, was killed in action in Habbanijah, Iraq, on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006.

He was born on Jan. 12, 1986, in Evansville. He was preceded in death by his father, Edward Van Antwerp.

He was a member of the First General Baptist Church in Owensville.

James graduated from Gibson Southern High School in 2005. He was the captain of the football team his senior year and was awarded the Most Valuable Player, Iron Man Award, Best Offensive Lineman, All PAC Conference team and earned state honorable mention as a linebacker. He also was a two-time Golden Gloves champion.

After high school graduation he left for boot camp on June 19, 2005. He graduated boot camp as Private First Class on Sept. 16, 2005. Then, he went on to the school of infantry at Camp Geigu, graduating Dec. 22, 2005. He joined his unit, the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines II Expeditionary Forces, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C. In April 2006, James was promoted to lance corporal. He was deployed to Iraq on July 11, 2006.

James loved fishing, hunting and most of all being with his family.

Surviving are his mother, Joanne Van Antwerp; sister, Carma Marie Dart, and a brother, Dillen Andrew Friend, all of Owensville; his fiancee, Jamie Coleman, whom he was to wed upon his arrival home; aunts, Barbara (Dennis) DeLong, Mary (Kevin) Hess and Tammy Brown; uncles, Roger (Ginger) Brown and Jack (Karen) Brown; and loving great-aunts, cousins and friends.

Fallen but not forgotten, Semper Fidelis.

Memorials may be made to Dollar for Scholars in memory of James E. Brown to establish a scholarship fund.

Marine Lance Cpl. James E. Brown was killed in action on 11/2/06.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Minhee Kim

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Minhee Kim, 20, of Ann Arbor, Michigan

Lance Cpl. Kim was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, Lansing, Mich.; died Nov. 1 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Hundreds mourn Ann Arbor Marine
20-year-old Andy Kim's faith remembered
Friday, November 10, 2006

News Staff Reporter

On her son's 20th birthday two weeks ago, Mi Hea Kim waited in her Ann Arbor home for a phone call or e-mail from Iraq.

She was worried because it had been about a week since she'd heard from Andy, who had sounded tired and mentioned how difficult his duties had become. The day passed with no word.

On Thursday night, Mi Hea Kim wept and hugged her son's still body as Marines stood guard on either side of his flag-draped casket.

Lance Cpl. Andy Kim, who died in Iraq Nov. 1 of a gunshot wound to the neck during combat duty, was honored during an emotional six-hour viewing, Marine Corps League ceremony, funeral service and reception at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Jackson Road in Scio Township.

Some people, perhaps expecting a closed casket, broke into tears as soon as they entered the building and saw Kim's body at rest. On one side of the casket was his serious Marine portrait. On the other, was a portrait of the Andy they all knew: smiling and relaxed.

Only the sound of soft hymns and people crying broke the silence during the viewing and visitation. Still, the evening had an overriding theme of hope and eternal life, as many spoke of Kim's faith in resurrection through Jesus Christ.

Most of the 500 or so mourners were, like Kim, of Korean descent. And many had worshipped with Kim at the Harvest Mission Community Church in Ann Arbor, where Kim had become a fervent Christian while a sophomore at Pioneer High School.

Kim's close friend, Jean Lee, said Kim would have loved the evening's emphasis on the eternal rather than temporal.

"He was a man of passion and good integrity,'' she said. "I know God fulfilled his purpose for Andy, and I'm really proud of him.''

His friend, Jaehyup Chun, noted that Kim said he was "ready to face anything'' before he left for Iraq in September.

Chun recalled the day he felt compelled to pray for his friend recently.

"God spoke to me in a powerful way and said, 'Andy is so safe in Christ. Andy is so secure in the Lord.' And that day was Nov. 1, 2006.''

Shawn Ashley, who was Kim's speech and composition teacher at Pioneer High, recalled how Kim had an easy-going, fun spirit. Ashley said after graduation, Kim came back to visit a couple of times, and the two talked about his decision to join the military.

"He said he understood the risks, and that it was what he wanted to do,'' he said.

His parents said he had wanted to join the Marines since he was a boy.

Dozens of Marines from all wars since World War II came to show their respects in the formal Marine Corps League ceremony, complete with bagpipes.

"It's a heart-wrenching service,'' said Tony Gillum of Belleville, a Vietnam veteran with the Marine Corps League. "But it's a needed service to help them draw closure to their son who gave his life ... who gave everything, his tomorrows, his children, his family for this country.''

At the end of the visitation, Kim's family took turns saying goodbye as onlookers fought back tears. When the funeral director slowly closed the casket, Mi Hea Kim leaned over, as if to gaze at her son's face until the last second.

The funeral service included a slide show of Kim in various activities, playing his guitar, jumping in the air with friends, at graduation. Also included was a clip of Kim talking to a group at church, and explaining how his relationship with God had given him a new reason to live.

Marine Sgt. Jesse Lake said he met Kim on June 25, 2005, the day Kim joined Charlie Company. He said he was always the first to volunteer, no matter the task.

"I asked some of the Marines in Charlie Company to describe him as he was in Iraq,'' he said. "The Marines who knew him best wrote: 'We were always in awe of his ability to be so soft-spoken in demeanor, yet to fight with such tenacity.

"Lance Cpl. Kim was an outstanding Marine. His smile and uplifting spirit will be missed by the Marines in Charlie Company.

"Semper fideles.'''

Marine Lance Cpl. Minhee Kim was killed in action on 11/01/06.