Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Army Master Sgt. Sean M. Thomas

Remember Our Heroes

Army Master Sgt. Sean M. Thomas, 33, of Harrisburg, Pa.

MSgt Thomas was assigned to the 28th Division Support Command, Harrisburg, Pa.; died March 27, 2007 in Baghdad when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using indirect fire during combat operations.

Pa. guardsman killed in Baghdad’s Green Zone
The Associated Press

HUGHESVILLE, Pa. — A National Guardsman from north-central Pennsylvania was killed in Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone when a rocket exploded over his head, officials said.

Sgt. 1st Class Sean Michael Thomas, 33, died March 27, less than a year after he returned from duty in Afghanistan. He was serving with the Harrisburg-based 28th Division Support Command.

“He loved his wife, his family and his new baby,” said his mother, Diana Thomas. “He was the first person to smile and make a joke and his entire family will miss him terribly.”

Thomas’ wife, Carrie, is a sergeant in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His daughter, Alexa, is 6 months old.

The unit’s commander, Col. Jesse Deets, called Thomas a model officer and friend.

“We have lost one of our family members, and it hurts more than you will ever know,” Deets said in a statement released by the office of Gov. Ed Rendell. “Sean can be proud that we did not drop the flag as a result of his sacrifice; he would have it no other way.”

Thomas and an American contractor were killed in the rocket attack, which wounded five others, including a second soldier and contractor.

Thomas joined the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1998 after six years in the Army Reserve. He worked full-time at a Fort Indiantown Gap office.

He had been planning to attend Officer Candidates School in October and wanted to be a teacher when he returned to civilian life, Diana Thomas said.

Thomas was sent to Iraq last summer and is the 27th member of the Pennsylvania National Guard killed in Iraq. He was posthumously promoted to master sergeant.

Army Master Sgt. Sean M. Thomas was killed in action on 3/27/07.

Army Sgt. Curtis J. Forshey

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Curtis J. Forshey, 22, of Hollidaysburg, Pa.

Sgt. Forshey was assigned to the 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky; died March 27 in Homburg, Germany, of a noncombat related illness after being medevaced out of Kuwait on March 22.

Altoona Mirror -- Sgt. Curtis J. Forshey liked the military life and, despite the daily dangers that went with serving in Iraq, had planned on making a career of it.

Tragically, the 22-year-old Hollidaysburg resident died Tuesday in an Army hospital in Homburg, Germany, leaving behind a wife, Laura, and their 3-month-old son, Benjamin.

"He was a great guy," the 23-year-old Laura, said Thursday. "He was a great husband, a great father and a great soldier."

Curtis' mom, Sharon Forshey, said her son was serving his second tour of Iraq with the 494th Transportation Company, a part of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky., when he got sick. Within a week of finding out he had leukemia, Curtis died from a brain aneurysm, a complication of his treatment. His death occurred shortly after his wife, son and parents arrived in Germany where he was hospitalized

"We expected to go over there, fight this and come home," Laura said. Originally, Curtis was supposed to come back to the states, but doctors decided he was too sick to travel and started treatment. The State Department made arrangements for the family to fly to Germany Sunday night.

Laura's birthday was Monday, and Curtis had asked her what she wanted as a gift, said Andy Himes, a close friend of the family. Flying to Germany to see him would turn out to be more than just a birthday wish, but by the time the family arrived, Curtis was on life support, Himes said.

Himes first met the couple when they worked -- Curtis as a Kinder Ski instructor and Laura in sales -- at Blue Knob Four Seasons Resort. Himes, the mountain manager, also happens to date Laura's mom, so he’s also seen them go from dating teenagers -- they met at the mountain -- to a loving couple just starting their own family.

"Curt was someone who you would want your own kids to be like," Himes said. "He was real good kid -- a good head on his shoulders. You don't meet a lot of kids like him."

For Curtis, the military wasn't just a last resort career or a path taken on a whim.

"He wasn't a flunky who just joined the military because he didn't know what else to do," Himes said, recalling how Curtis told him he planned to make a career out of the Army and was pursuing becoming a helicopter pilot.

Even that part of his plan was further thought out than what one would expect from most guys his age, Himes said, Curtis told him that since he would only be about 40 years old when he retired from the service, he wanted to combine his passion for skiing and his training as a pilot to work ferrying skiers to remote slopes.

Laura said she took the danger of his job in stride.

"We liked the military," she said. "It's part of the job. He came home safely once."

Facing the enemy is the duty of any soldier serving in Iraq, and Curtis had did that.

"He was there fighting," Himes said. "It was just a different kind of enemy that got him."

Army Sgt. Curtis J. Forshey died while serving in Iraq from complications for Leukemia treatments on 3/27/07.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Army Sgt. Jason W. Swiger

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jason W. Swiger, 24, of South Portland, Maine

Sgt. Swiger was assigned to the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died March 25 in Baqubah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations. Also killed were Cpl. Jason Nunez, Pfc. Orlando E. Gonzalez and Pfc. Anthony J. White.

War claims another 'hero'
By BETH QUIMBY, Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND - A 24-year-old South Portland native who was killed Sunday while serving in the Army in Iraq enjoyed poetry and was so proud of his military service that he wore his uniform back to South Portland High School to talk to students and teachers, his friends and family said Monday.

Army Sgt. Jason Swiger was the second Mainer -- and the second South Portland High graduate -- to die in Iraq this month when he and three other soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber in Diyala province, according to family members. Swiger was on his third tour in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

"He's my hero and I will love him forever," his wife, Alanna, said Monday in a prepared statement. The couple met during a poetry reading at a coffeehouse in Fayetteville, N.C., and were married last May. They moved in with his wife's parents in Fayetteville, and Swiger began his third tour in Iraq in August.

Swiger was the third Maine serviceman to die this year in Iraq. Of the roughly 3,200 U.S. troops killed since the Iraq war started in 2003, 25 are Maine natives or have ties to the state.

The Army had not officially released information about Swiger's death as of Monday night. Swiger's mother, Valorie Swiger, said she was told by her son's wife and Army officials that her son and four other soldiers had stopped their Humvee as they traveled in a convoy between two military camps, Camp Caldwell and Camp Warhorse. Swiger and a couple of the other soldiers started to hand out candy to children when a motorcyclist approached the group and blew himself up, killing Swiger and three of the others, his mother said.

Valorie Swiger said she heard about an explosion in Iraq while watching the news earlier Sunday, but it was not until her son's wife called her shortly before 6 p.m. that she learned her son was one of those killed. The Army later called her with the news, said Swiger's mother, who was active in a campaign four years ago to display yellow ribbons on South Portland streets in support of soldiers in Iraq.
"He loved what he was doing," Valorie Swiger said. "It was meaningful (to him) because it meant we could be free and his nieces and nephews would not have to be afraid."

Swiger joined the Army shortly after graduating from South Portland High in 2000. His mother said he had wanted to join the 82nd Airborne Division since he was a boy. His uncle, Carl McAfee, retired from the 82nd Airborne after 23 years of service. Jason Swiger would sit on his uncle's front porch near Fort Bragg and watch paratroopers jumping from the planes, his mother said.

Tall and thin with sandy blond hair, Swiger liked to write, draw and sing, and to work on his beloved Mitsubishi Lancer.

"When he made his sergeant's stripes, he said, 'Gram, you can't argue with me anymore,' " said his grandmother, Elizabeth Swiger.

Swiger had three sisters and two brothers. He was part of a tight-knit group of high school friends. One of those friends, Ronnie Dahle, signed up for the Army with Swiger.

"We were inseparable," Dahle said. "We went everywhere together."

Swiger's mother-in-law, Alice Regan, said burial will be in South Portland but details have yet to be worked out.

Students at South Portland High got the news of Swiger's death over the public address system early Monday afternoon. The announcement came less than two weeks after the death of a 2004 South Portland graduate, Marine Lance Cpl. Angel Rosa, 21, who was killed during combat on March 13 in Anbar province in Iraq.

Principal Jeanne Crocker led the school in a moment of silence Monday, just as she had for Rosa. "There are a thousand students and hundreds of others, and (there was) absolute silence," she said.

Swiger was a frequent visitor to the high school after he graduated, Crocker said. Sometimes he would come to reconnect with teachers. Several times, he wore his Army uniform to address students in the military history class.

"I think he probably had some kind of a calling to come back and show and model for everyone a young person making good," Crocker said. "I knew he was proud to come back and be that person."

Swiger's yearbook entry lists his nicknames as "Swag" and "The Joker," and refers to "drawing on myself, making jokes about everything and being an all-around nutcase."

An accompanying photo shows a shaggy-haired boy in a blazer and T-shirt lunging toward the camera. Crocker described Swiger as "unique" and "extremely artistic," but said he didn't seem to find his niche until he joined the Army.

"It was clear to all of us who knew Jason well at South Portland High School that he went into the military to find and define himself, and he did just that -- he found the real Jason Swiger through military service," she said.

Crocker said the school would offer grief counseling to students and plans a plaque memorializing Swiger and Rosa.

"It's very difficult to be experiencing this twice in such a short period of time, and to realize how short our time with these young people is and how sometimes their very promising futures are cut short," Crocker said.

Army Sgt. Jason W. Swiger was killed in action on 03/25/07.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Marine Lance Cpl. Trevor A. Roberts

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Trevor A. Roberts, 21, of Oklahoma City

LCpl Roberts was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Oklahoma City; died March 24, 2007 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Funeral service held for Marine
By Sean Murphy
The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — A U.S. Marine who died in Iraq just 12 days before he was supposed to come home was remembered in funeral services April 2 as being devoted to his church.

The Rev. Rob Olmstead, speaking to about 1,000 people in Eagle Heights Church, recalled Lance Cpl. Trevor A. Roberts going on numerous mission trips, including one to Bangkok the summer before he attended boot camp to work with orphaned children. He said Roberts planned to continue missionary work after his service in the Marines.

“On that trip, something happened in Trevor’s life,” Olmstead said. “Trevor loved being a Marine, but it wasn’t his calling.”

Despite the rigors of war and the tough reputation of Marines, Olmstead said, Roberts never wavered in his faith.

“Trevor lived a paradoxical, counterintuitive, upside-down life,” Olmstead said.

Roberts, 21, of Oklahoma City, was killed March 24 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province in western Iraq when the vehicle he was riding in hit a roadside bomb.

He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, at Oklahoma City.

In a blog, or online diary, that he kept while in Iraq, Roberts wrote in an entry titled, “In the blink of an eye,” about how fast life can change.

“Over here, it might be a firefight or a roadside bomb that makes a normal drive a stir of chaos,” Roberts wrote. “It’s funny that the things that happen so rapidly are the ones that usually impact us the most, and the ones we learn the most from.”

The eerie way in which Roberts’ words applied to his own death wasn’t lost on Olmstead.

“Trevor was taken from us in the blink of an eye,” Olmstead said.

Dozens of Marines in dress uniform were in the front of the church and passed by the open, flag-draped casket following the service.

During the service, images chronicling Trevor’s childhood in Oklahoma City flashed on three large screens hanging at the front of the church, showing him with his parents, Chuck and Twyla, and older brother, Nathan.

Brandon Burkholtz, 18, attended the church’s youth ministry and said the older Roberts inspired him to pursue a career in the ministry.

“He looked at everyone the same and didn’t care what anybody thought about him,” Burkholtz said after the service. “He was a huge part of the youth ministry, and he did a lot more than most of us did.

“I wish I could be more like him.”

A 2004 graduate of Westmoore High School, Roberts attended one year at Oklahoma City Community College before leaving for Iraq. He joined the Marine Corps Reserves in his senior year of high school.

Marine Lance Cpl. Trevor A. Roberts was killed in action on 3/24/07.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Marine Cpl. Henry W. Bogrette

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Henry W. Bogrette, 21, of Richville, N.Y.

Cpl. Bogrette was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Corps Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died March 22 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Lejeune Marine killed in Iraq
Marlon A. Walker, Staff Writer

A Marine from New York based at Camp Lejeune was killed Thursday while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Henry W. Bogrette, 21, of Richville, N.Y., died while conducting combat operations in Anbar province in Iraq. He was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Corps Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune.

"He wanted a better life, and he chose the Marine Corps to do it with," his brother Jeffrey Bogrette, 19, said Monday from New York. "Now I feel the Marine Corps took that away from him."

Jeffrey Bogrette, who is a Marine based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., said their grandparents scraped and scrounged to keep food on the table for their household, which expanded to include the two boys after their father died. It meant luxuries and even necessities were sometimes sacrificed.

Henry Bogrette was known for his straightforward personality and his regard for his beloved Camaro. He also had a penchant for nice clothes and other fancy things. He saw the Marines as a way to attain everything he wanted.

"He wanted to get out of the Marines and get a job as a state trooper," Jeffrey Bogrette said.

Henry Bogrette graduated from Herman-DeKalb Central High School in DeKalb Junction, N.Y., in 2004 and enlisted in the Marine Corps in September of that year. According to officials with the 2nd Marine Corps Logistics Group, Bogrette joined his unit April 10, 2005.

Henry Bogrette was less than a month into his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed.

Jeffrey Bogrette said he looked up to his older brother, so much so that he joined the Marine Corps to follow in his footsteps. Jeffrey even named his first child after his brother.

Besides his brother, Henry Bogrette is survived by his grandmother, Joan Neuman of Richville, N.Y.; and three sisters, Susie Bogrette of South Carolina, Shannon Bogrette of Wichita, Kan., and Jackie Bogrette of Massena, N.Y.

Marine Cpl. Henry W. Bogrette was killed in action on 03/22/07.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Lee

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Lee, 20, of Quitman, Miss.

Cpl. Lee was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga.; died March 21, 2007 from wounds received while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Mississippi Marine killed in Iraq
The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. — A 20-year-old Marine from Mississippi’s Clarke County was killed March 21 in Iraq.

Cpl. Dustin Lee died in Fallujah during a mortar attack, Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Trooper Ronnie Carter told The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.

Lee, the son of MHP Trooper Jerome Lee, was serving with the 3/14 G Battery, 3rd Platoon. He had been in the Marines since graduating from Quitman High School in 2004, Carter said.

Lee, of the Stonewall community, was scheduled to return home next month, according to www.meridianstar.com.

The Department of Defense had not yet issued a statement about Lee’s death March 22.

Fallen Marine laid to rest
The Associated Press

QUITMAN, Miss. — Dustin Lee took his final drive up Highway 513 on March 31.

Family, friends and veteran soldiers honored and remembered Lee, who on March 21 was killed during a mortar attack while serving with the Marine Corps in Fallujah, Iraq.

Ronnie Carter, a Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper that worked with Lee’s father, Jerome Lee, said the past 11 days were difficult.

“I’m here to help Dusty take his last ride up Highway 513,” Carter told the standing room only sanctuary. “He and I had so much in common. I know he will always be a part of mine.”

In a resolution passed by the Mississippi State Senate and House of Representatives, Lee was recognized as an all-American boy who gave his life so that others may know freedom.

“I didn’t get the opportunity to know Dustin well,” said First Baptist Church Rev. Chris Cooksey during church services in Quitman. “But from talking with his fellow Marines, his family and friends, I can tell you he was a man of great strength, courage and unwavering faith. Life radiated from him.”

Jerome and Rachel Lee were presented a state flag by a highway patrol honor guard. Lee’s commander, Col. Chris Halliday, said Lee was a special person who fit into the Marine Corps and its commitment to excellence and dedication to the country.

“He will forever be a member of our eternal brotherhood,” Halliday said.

Under a cloudy sky, the funeral motorcade arrived at Stonewall Cemetery where about 100 people waited patiently, holding flags.

Veterans, some in their 70s and 80s, stood proud. More than 100 members of the Patriot Guard, a motorcycle organization manned by veterans of past conflicts, stood with American flags waving in a gusty wind. Teenage members of the local high school ROTC program saluted alongside seasoned officers, deputies and troopers from law enforcement agencies from across the state.

Family wants fallen Marine's military dog

Corps resists adoption efforts until German shepherd is retired
By Andrew Tilghman - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Dec 4, 2007 10:35:51 EST

When Cpl. Dustin Jerome Lee's personal effects were shipped to his childhood home in Mississippi after his death in Iraq last spring,his family found some typical items - a laptop computer, a pair of glasses and a few photos from home.

But they also found some things not every Marine would have - several dog toys, a harness and a short, knotted piece of rope, gnawed and frayed at the ends.

Lee was a 20-year-old dog handler who spent the final months of his life with a German shepherd named Lex at his side. They were on a mission together on March 21 when a rocket-propelled grenade killed Lee. As the young Marine lay dying on a street in Fallujah, the dog nudged his handler's face, then lay loyally at his side while a corpsman treated his fatal wounds, several Marines told his family.

More than eight months later, as members of the Lee family prepare for their first Christmas since Dustin's death, they have a final request of the Marine Corps: permission to adopt their son's canine partner.

"I know Dustin would want Lex to be with his family," said Lee's uncle, Brian Rich. "They gave their son - he made the ultimate sacrifice. If it brings his family some comfort to see the dog there, then why not?"

But Marine officials say Lex is still on active duty. The 7-year-old dog was wounded in the same explosion that killed Lee, but has fully recovered. The dog is working alongside military police, assisting with force protection at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., where Lee was stationed.

The Lee family hasn't seen the dog since Marines brought him to the funeral in April.

Marine Corps command is "extremely sympathetic to the Lee family's desire to adopt the military working dog after the tragic incident that claimed the life of his handler," said Colie Young, a base spokesman. "The command will continue to support the Lee family in the adoption process at the appropriate time, if and when Lex is
found unfit for duty and appropriately screened for adoption."

Marine Corps Headquarters is aware of the family's request, and is "working the situation at their level," according to 2nd Lt. Caleb Eames, a public affairs officer in Albany. Lee was the third of four military dog handlers killed since 2003.

The laws covering adoption of military dogs have evolved in recent years. During the Vietnam War, thousands of dogs were abandoned or euthanized when U.S. troops withdrew. Virtually none came home.

For decades, the military considered the dogs to be "equipment" and had no process for adopting them after they "retired." That changed in 2000, when President Clinton signed a law allowing adoptions once the dogs could no longer perform their duties.

In 2005, Congress heard the story of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana,who suffered nearly fatal injuries and asked to adopt her bomb-sniffing dog. President Bush signed a law permitting early adoptions for the individual troops who have worked with the dog.

The case of the Lee family may be the first instance of a deceased handler's family seeking to adopt a military dog. The Lee family has begun a petition drive and created a Web site to chronicle their efforts to adopt the dog.

Lex is one of about 170 dogs in the Corps, and the canines are in intense demand. Lex "is potentially saving lives by performing his mission," Eames said.

The relationship between a dog and its handler in a combat zone is unique, said John Burnam, author of "Dog Tags of Courage: The Turmoil of War and the Rewards of Companionship."

"When that bond finally clicks, you just sort of become one. Once the handler draws down into the level of the dog's world and learns what the dog knows, he can really communicate with the animal," Burnam said. "You can see, in the case of Dustin Lee, the dog didn't get startled by the explosion and run away. The dog was wounded and
bleeding, but he crawled over and pawed to get his handler's attention."

Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Lee was killed in action on 3/21/07.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Army Sgt. Ryan P. Green

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Ryan P. Green, 24, of The Woodlands, Texas

Sgt. Green was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died March 18 in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit while on combat patrol March 15 in Baghdad.

Conroe soldier killed in Iraq signed with Army day after 9/11
He 'believed so much in our country'

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

CONROE — The day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Ryan P. Green immediately took a stand to protect his country.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army. But before he signed the papers, he sought his mother's approval.

''Not because he was too young to join, but because he wanted to make sure that I was OK with that," his mother, Lynda Kagan, said in a written statement. "What he didn't know was that when I heard about 9/11 I knew that that was exactly what he was going to do."

Sgt. Green, who was on his second tour in Iraq, died on Sunday in Landstuhl, Germany, three days after he was wounded by an explosive device that detonated near his unit while he was on combat patrol in Baghdad, military officials said Tuesday.

Green, 24, assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, had always been patriotic, his parents said.

''God, country and family. Those are the three words we instilled in him," said his stepfather, Craig Kagan, who also served in the Army. ''He believed so much in our country."

Green, of Conroe, displayed his pride with the word Freedom tattooed across his back, shoulder to shoulder. He also had a page on MySpace.com, where he called himself Patriot 29.

Green, who became a sergeant last year, lost part of his right leg in the explosion, Craig Kagan said in an interview. Another soldier managed to stop the bleeding, but when Green reached the hospital, doctors had to amputate his leg at the knee, Kagan said.

Green was later transported to a hospital in northern Iraq where doctors removed shrapnel from his body and performed more surgeries. Green needed additional treatment at a hospital in Germany, but he died en route by plane.

Green quickly rose in military rank because he led by example and always took the hard way, Craig Kagan said. Green was scheduled for another promotion in May, he said.

''He was very mature for his age," he said. "He didn't do stupid things."

Lynda Kagan said she never regretted her son's decision to join the Army. ''The Army made my already terrific son a better son," she said.

Green attended New Caney High School and received his general equivalency diploma.

He was involved in church and considered attending a ministry college, Craig Kagan said.

He enjoyed singing and dancing, his family said.

He also had a way with people that made them feel comfortable, his mother said.

Green proposed to his fiancée, Cassie Keating, in October. They planned to wed in November when he returned.

''My fiancé, Sgt. Ryan Patrick Green, is and always will be my hero," Keating said.

The last time Green communicated with his family was March 13 via instant messaging. He was upbeat and positive about his mission in Baghdad, his stepfather said.

''He was proud to be there," he said.

Army Sgt. Ryan P. Green was killed in action on 03/18/07.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Army Staff Sgt. Blake M. Harris

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Blake M. Harris, 27, of Hampton, Ga.

SSgt. Harris was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died March 15 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat operations. Also killed were Army Staff Sgt. Terry W. Prater, Army Sgt. Emerson N. Brand and Army Pfc. James L. Arnold.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Perhaps it was Staff Sgt. Blake Harris' infectious smile and dimples that caught his future wife's attention.

Or maybe it was his sense of humor.

"You couldn't help but love him," Brandy Harris said of her husband of 2 1/2 years.

The two were looking forward to being together this summer, when Harris was scheduled to come home from Iraq for a two-week visit with his wife and son, Tyrus, 6.

Last week, Harris became one of four soldiers with Georgia ties to die in Iraq, raising the number of Georgia armed forces members killed to 94. As the war begins its fifth year, marked this weekend by protests in Washington and around the country, the Defense Department said 3,208 members of the U.S. military had died as of Friday. Of those, 2,581 were killed in action.

Army Cpl. Brian L. Chevalier, 21, of Athens died Wednesday in Mufrek from an improvised explosive device.

Spc. Forrest J. Waterbury, 25, of the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, died in combat Wednesday, according to the Defense Department. Waterbury lived in Richmond, Texas.

Spc. Jonathan K. Smith, 19, of Atlanta, died last Sunday of noncombat related injuries.

Harris, 27, who grew up in Hampton, died Thursday in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit, according to the Department of Defense. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq and had served in Afghanistan, his mother said.

Three other members of Harris' unit — the 1st Squadron, 8th Calvary Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division out of Fort Hood, Texas — also died in the blast.

Harris' family hopes to plan funeral services and burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. A memorial service has been scheduled for Friday at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro.

"The only thing he really wanted to do was come home to his family," his wife said. "He was such a family-oriented guy."

In a telephone interview from the couple's home in Belton, Texas, Brandy Harris recalled meeting her husband on a volleyball court. Both were competitive, but Blake "talked so much trash, he got on my nerves," she said laughing.

She last talked to him a few days before he died.

They talked about Tyrus playing soccer, a passion of Blake's. She said her husband one day hoped for a career as a pilot or in law enforcement.

Blake Harris graduated from Lovejoy High School and left a week later for Army basic training, said his sister, Holli Harris-Bynum, who lives in Georgia.

Harris was the "class clown and the family clown," said his mother, Anne Harris of Royston. "He was always into some kind of devilment."

His father, Paul D. Harris, called his son a dedicated soldier.

"He said he knew what he was getting into when he signed up," said the elder Harris. "He was very concerned about [the safety of] his guys. He said some of the guys had never been in combat before."

But he said his son said he couldn't worry too much. "He said when my time is up, I can be home or over there. I just have to do my duty and not worry."

Army Staff Sgt. Blake M. Harris was killed in action on 03/15/07.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Army Sgt. Robert M. Carr

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Robert M. Carr, 22, of Warren, Ohio

Sgt. Carr was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died March 13, 2007 in Baghdad of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

Ohio soldier killed by explosion in Iraq
The Associated Press

FOWLER, Ohio — A soldier from northeast Ohio was killed in Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated beneath the armored vehicle he was driving, his father said.

Army Sgt. Robert Carr, 22, died early March 13, his father, Jeffrey Carr, said March 14.

He was expected home on leave to celebrate his April 10 wedding anniversary with wife Nina. She received word of her husband’s death while at her father-in-law’s home in Fowler, 15 miles north of Youngstown.

“I was here by myself, and two soldiers came in full dress uniform. As soon as I saw them in uniform, I knew. It was like my worst nightmare coming true,” she said.

She said she spent hours each day sending instant e-mail messages to her husband, who was serving his second tour in Iraq.

“Every time he went out, I said, ‘Be safe,’ and he said ‘I will,’ and we always said ‘I love you.’ Then he said he will call when he got back from his mission,” she said.

Carr graduated from Champion High School in May 2002 and left for basic training two days later. Carr’s older brother, Matthew, had joined the Army earlier.

“He wanted to be a career soldier,” said his mother, Christine Wortman. “He wanted to join for 20 years. I told him we should start at four years and go from there.”

Matthew Carr, who has been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and now is stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., said he initially did not want his younger brother to enlist.

“I was just coming back from a tour in Iraq and didn’t want to see any of my relatives go and see what I had seen and experienced. But he was hardheaded and did what he wanted.”

Ohio sergeant based at Fort Carson dies in Iraq
The Associated Press

FORT CARSON, Colo. — A Fort Carson-based soldier from Warren, Ohio, was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb, the military said March 16.

Sgt. Robert M. Carr, 22, died in Baghdad on March 13 when the device exploded near his vehicle in Baghdad, a statement said.

He was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Family members told The Gazette of Colorado Springs outside the post that Carr joined the Army right after high school and was completing his second tour in Iraq. Jeff Carr, Robert Carr’s father, said his son was looking forward to settling into married life and pursuing his dream of becoming a professional fighter after leaving the Army this year.

“He was supposed to come home for two weeks leave” for the couple’s one-year anniversary next month, Nina Carr, his wife said.

Chris Wortman, his mother, said her son played football and lifted weights competitively while in high school and started meeting with an Army recruiter while still in his early teens.

His older brother enlisted before him, Wortman said, and Robert became so focused on following that he would eat prepackaged military meals even while at home.

Sgt. Matt Carr, 26, was returning from Iraq as his brother enlisted. The elder Carr said he talked to his brother about what he had seen while there, but it did not change his mind.

“I thought it was an honor” that he chose the same path, Matt Carr said. “I did my best to guide him.”

During a planned career as a professional wrestler or as an “ultimate” fighter, which involves a combination of martial arts, Matt Carr said his brother told him he wanted him in his corner.

Army Sgt. Robert M. Carr was killed in action on 3/13/07.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Army Sgt. Daniel E. Woodcock

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Daniel E. Woodcock, 25, of Glennallen, Alaska

Sgt. Woodcock was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died March 11, 2007 in Ad Dawr, Iraq, of wounds suffered from a building explosion while on combat patrol.

N.C.-based paratrooper dies in Iraq bombing
The Associated Press

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — A paratrooper from Alaska was killed this weekend in a bombing while he patrolled in Iraq, the 82nd Airborne Division said Tuesday.

Sgt. Daniel E. Woodcock, 25, from Glennallen, Alaska, died from wounds he received when a bomb exploded Sunday near Dawr, Iraq, the division said.

Woodcock was an infantry team leader and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

“Sergeant Woodcock was an outstanding team leader who continually put the welfare of his troopers before his own,” said Staff Sgt. Norberto Ruiz of Woodcock’s unit. “He was a very dedicated father and spouse.”

Woodcock joined the Army in July 2000 and entered the 82nd in January 2001.

He is survived by his wife, Alida; a son, Gabriel, and a daughter, Charlotte, all of Fayetteville. His parents, Calvin and Linda Woodcock, live in Glennallen, Alaska.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. A memorial service will be held by his unit in Iraq.

Governor Palin Orders State Flags Lowered for Fallen Soldier

March 14, 2007, Juneau, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today ordered state flags to be lowered to half-staff in memory of a soldier from Glennallen, Alaska, who died Sunday in the line of duty. Sergeant Daniel Eugene Woodcock, 25, was killed in action while deployed in Iraq.

“Todd and I offer our deepest condolences to Sgt. Woodcock’s family and friends,” said Governor Palin. “Daniel was a brave man and set a fine example of leadership and service for young Alaskans to follow. He will be remembered for his endless dedication to his family and country.”

Sgt. Woodcock was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Department of Defense says Woodcock was on a dismounted patrol in Ad Dawr, Iraq, when a building exploded next to him and took his life.

Sgt. Woodcock is survived by his parents, who live in Glennallen, and his wife, son, and daughter who live in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The state flag will be lowered to half-staff on Friday, March 23, 2007, to honor and remember Sgt. Woodcock. State flags are lowered for Alaska soldiers killed in the line of duty.

Army Sgt. Daniel E. Woodcock was killed in action on 3/11/07.

Army Sgt. Thomas L. Latham

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Thomas L. Latham, 23, of Delmar, Md.

Sgt. Latham was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died March 11 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee.

By Patricia M.Murret
Capital News Service

WASHINGTON - Last fall, Army Sgt. Thomas Lee Latham and his wife were faced with a tough decision: whether the infantryman, deployed to Iraq in August, should use his two-week annual leave coming home for Christmas, or save the time until later.

Today, Latham's wife, Rachel Guy-Latham, 22, of Delmar, and family are grateful that the soldier wanted to share Christmas with his two young children, she said.

"Tommy Lee" Latham, 23, a Delmar native, was killed Sunday in Iraq by a roadside bomb. He was serving with Company "C" of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. He deployed with them from Fort Drum, N.Y., in August as part of the infantry.

"I've cried my eyes out, and I don't think I am physically able to cry anymore," Guy-Latham said Tuesday. "It's just not happening. And I have so many things I have to deal with. It's overwhelming."

Guy-Latham met her husband in seventh grade at Wicomico Middle School, and the couple remained friends throughout their years at Salisbury's Wicomico High School. They started dating one summer several years ago when Latham visited Rachel Guy's home with mutual friends.

At "Wi High," Latham "always had a good word, always had a smile," said his 12th-grade English teacher, Lance Hodgdon. "I just remember laughing a lot with him in class."

Hodgdon, who has taught at the high school for 29 years, remembers Latham as "a real hard worker," an A student in his class and someone who stopped in to visit after graduation. "It's just tragic that this has happened."

Latham loved sports, especially football and hunting, which allowed him to relax in the quiet woods.

His mother-in-law, Florence Guy, of Delmar, remembered the soldier liked to search for Indian arrowheads in the woods, something he did with his Dad over Christmas break.

"It was a quiet time that they could go and have time together," she said, "kind of like walking on the beach, looking for seashells."

Most of all, the women said, Latham enjoyed spending time with his children, stepson, Caleb Guy, 5, and Ariel Latham, 21 months.

"He was the kind of Dad who would sit down with the kids and read the same books 10 times in row," his mother-in-law said, "get down on the ground, play Thomas the train. ... He just did a really good job with the babies, and it's really tragic that they're not going to have more memories with him."

Latham enlisted in the Army the summer after his May 2002 graduation from high school, his wife said. Following boot camp, he joined "B" Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, based in Hawaii, where he served as a rifleman and machine gunner.

In 2004, he was deployed to a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.

The couple married in April 2005.

"The military has kept them away from each other. They've been more apart than together," Florence Guy said.

Latham was supposed to leave the Army Sept. 11, 2005, his mother-in-law said, but he was ordered to remain ready for redeployment.

The soldier re-enlisted so he could return from Hawaii to be closer to his family before combat duty. He was sent to Fort Drum.

Over Christmas, Latham's parents, Barbara and Thomas Latham of Clyde, N.C., and his sisters and their husbands came to Delmar for a week to visit.

"Christmas Eve, the house was packed," Florence Guy said. "We were full to the brim, and it was wonderful."

Though Latham called home whenever possible, for safety precautions, he could not speak much of what he did on his infantry watch outside Baghdad, his wife said.

The Army contacted the family Sunday evening and told them that Latham had been driving a Humvee when a roadside bomb exploded, Guy-Latham said. An investigation into the incident is pending.

The children are still trying to process what happened, and it's up to Guy-Latham to help them, she said.

"So Mommy has to be happy and strong and act like everything's normal, everything's OK, so it's a little easier. ... Mommy's got to make it all better."

Details regarding the service and burial are pending; however, a memorial service will be held at Emmanuel Wesleyan Church in Salisbury, the family said, and the pastor who married the couple will preside.

Latham earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, which were awarded posthumously.

Army Sgt. Thomas L. Latham was killed in action on 03/11/07.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Army Pvt. Mark W. Graham

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pvt. Mark W. Graham, 22, of Lafayette, La.

Pvt. Graham was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died March 7, 2007 at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit while on combat patrol March 2 in Baghdad.

Lafayette soldier dies from Iraq injuries

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) -- A soldier injured in Iraq last week by a roadside bomb has died from his injuries, relatives say.

Mark Graham, the gunner on a Bradley vehicle, had been the only survivor when it hit an improvised explosive device Friday in northwest Baghdad, according to his family.

Relatives said he died Wednesday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where he was being treated after losing both legs and a kidney, and suffering third-degree burns over about two-thirds of his body.

"Mark is the hero of his family as well as the country he served," said a brief statement to The Advertiser of Lafayette. "We will never forget his valor and his love of the human spirit."

Graham's mother, Kim Graham, also wrote an essay following her son's passing.

"I am telling my son goodbye today. I'll stand with his wife and my husband and wish him well and God speed," the essay read. "Did we do the right thing, I'll ask? I will have to trust that our leaders know more than they can ever tell the everyday Americans. And I will have to busy myself with mindless tasks till he walks through that door again, safe from harm and into the arms of his family."

St. Thomas More Principal Ray Simon recalled Graham as someone who stood out from the crowd.

"I remember him as a real good, fun-loving kid who was a real leader on the football field," he said. "He was just a fine young man."

As word spread of Graham's passing, several friends posted messages on his family's Web site expressing their condolences. Many postings expressed pride in his actions and service to his country.

"We need not to ask God 'Why Mark?' We need to thank God for giving us the gift of him and the person that he was," read another posting. "We are all so lucky to have known such a hero."

Army Pvt. Mark W. Graham was killed in action on 03/07/07.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Army Pvt. Barry W. Mayo

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pvt. Barry W. Mayo, 21, Ecru, Miss.

Pvt. Mayo was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Died March 5, 2007 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit. Also killed in the explosion were Spc. Blake Harris, 22, of Pueblo, Colo., and Spc. Ryan D. Russell, 20, of Elm City, N.C.

Explosion in Iraq kills 2nd soldier from Ecru
From staff and wire reports

ECRU — North Pontotoc educators and residents of this tiny town are grieving the death in Iraq of a second soldier from their community.

Pvt. Barry W. Mayo, 21, died Monday in Baqubah with two other soldiers when an explosive device detonated near their unit. Mayo's unit was based at Fort Hood, Texas.

He first went over to Iraq after he turned 18, said Patricia Mayo, the soldier's grandmother.

"He had come back home and had been back for two weeks before he went back on Feb. 20, his 21st birthday," she said.

Flags are flying at half-staff around the town of about 1,000 residents in north Mississippi.

"This is the second student we lost,'' said assistant football coach Steve Brown. "You try to recall the memories of them."

Marine Cpl. Clifton B. Mounce, 22, was killed in Iraq in July 2005.

"To get two in less than two years, you can hardly dream of it," Ecru Mayor Tom Todd said.

Mayo's family was notified of his death Monday.

Becky Mayo of Ecru, the soldier's stepmother, told The Associated Press that an Army representative came to their home Monday and "all he told us was that Barry had been killed in the line of duty."

Family members said Mayo's mother, Kimberly Yarbrough, and her husband live in Texas. His brother, Andy Lee Mayo, is a Myrtle resident.

Becky Mayo said military officials told the family that her stepson's body would be flown to Dover Air Force Base, Del., today "and they would be getting him ready for a military funeral."

Army Pvt. Barry W. Mayo was killed in action on 03/05/07.

Army Specialist Ryan D. Russell

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Ryan D. Russell, 20, of Elm City, N.C.

Spc. Russell was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Died March 5, 2007 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit. Also killed in the explosion were Spc. Blake Harris, 22, of Pueblo, Colo., and Pvt. Barry W. Mayo, 21, of Ecru, Miss.

N.C. soldier killed while trying to help fellow soldiers in Iraq
Associated Press

GREENVILLE, N.C. - An Army medic from North Carolina who was killed trying to help fellow soldiers after a bomb exploded in Iraq deserves a hero's send-off, a family friend said Wednesday.

Spc. Ryan D. Russell, 20, of Elm City, N.C., died Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday. Also killed in the explosion were Spc. Blake Harris, 22, of Pueblo, Colo., and Pvt. Barry W. Mayo, 21, of Ecru, Miss.

Russell was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

Russell was aiding soldiers whose Humvee had been hit by a spring-loaded improvised explosive device when a second device went off, family friend Barbara Whitehead told The Daily Reflector of Greenville.

"Ryan was rushing to help his soldiers," Whitehead said, fighting back emotion. "As a mother, your heart just breaks whenever you hear this."

Whitehead, whose son is in Russell's company, said Russell deployed in August.

She said Russell's mother contacted her shortly after an Army casualty team came to her home in Ayden, a town south of Greenville.

"She was home alone when they showed up," said Whitehead, who was in Hawaii visiting her hew grandchild when she got the phone call.

Whitehead, who directs the Greenville branch of Give2TheTroops, an organization that sends supplies to troops, said she immediately contacted three volunteers to help Russell's grieving mother.

Russell's mother recently stopped by the organization and shared photographs that showed her son smiling with Iraqi children.

"Ryan was proud to do this job," Whitehead said. "He made an impact on this world forever. I want Pitt County to give Ryan a hero's send-off."

Local soldier killed in Iraq
By Matt Shaw and Rochelle Moore Daily Times Staff Writers

An Army medic from Elm City was killed Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.

Spc. Ryan D. Russell, 20, was one of three soldiers who were killed in the explosion.

A family friend of Russell said this morning that he had hopes that the U.S. actions in Iraq would improve the lives of the country's children,

Russell, who grew up in Nash County and graduated from Southern Nash High School, had deployed to Iraq in August. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

Also killed in the explosion were Spc. Blake Harris, 22, of Pueblo, Colo., and Pvt. Barry W. Mayo, 21, of Ecru, Miss..

Barbara Whitehead, director of the Greenville branch of Give2TheTroops, knows Russell's mother, Kathy Moore, through Whitehead's organization, which sends supplies to troops.

Whitehead's son served in the same company as Russell, Whitehead said this morning.

"His mother and I have that common bond of having children in the military," she said. "She recently brought in pictures of Ryan with Iraqi children. She was very proud of the work they were doing."

Russell was among soldiers from the company that asked Give2TheTroops for school supplies, children's shoes and socks, toys and soccer balls to give to the children, Whitehead said.

"Those sorts of things help restore a sense of normalcy," she said.

Russell's death was announced Wednesday night at the church were he grew up, Nashville Praise and Worship Center.

"We've all known him since he was 4," said Melanie Johnson, administrative clerk at the church. "He grew up in our church. He was real active in our Royal Ranger program."

Royal Rangers is the Christian version of the Boy Scouts.

"He looked like a soldier even then," Johnson said.

Russell joined the Army in 2004 after he graduated from high school. He was serving his first tour in Iraq and recently re-enlisted for another five years.

"We're deeply saddened, especially for his mother because that's a great loss for her," Johnson said. "We know he's in a better place, but it's not easy for her to deal with."

Russell was killed while performing his medic duties. He was aiding soldiers whose Humvee had been hit by a spring-loaded improvised explosive device when a second device went off, Whitehead said the Army has told his family.

A memorial service will be held at Nashville Praise and Worship Center, and there will be a second service in Greenville, but arrangements are still incomplete.

Instead of flowers being sent to the family, Russell's mother, who now lives in Ayden in Pitt County, asks that donations be made to Give2TheTroops, Attn: Barbara Whitehead, 3109 Landmark St., Greenville, N.C., 27834.

"She just feels that would be his heart's desire to help his friends in Iraq," Johnson said.

Army Specialist Ryan D. Russell was killed in action on 03/05/07.

Army Specialist Blake Harris

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Blake Harris, 22, of Pueblo, Colo.

Spc. Harris was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. He died Mar. 5, 2007 in Baqubah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their unit. Also killed in the explosion were Spc. Ryan D. Russell, 22, of Elm City, NC., and Pvt. Barry W. Mayo, 21, of Ecru, Miss.

Soldier killed in Baghdad had followed dad's footsteps
By Hector Gutierrez, Rocky Mountain News

Like father, like son.

Blake Harris' dad, John, spent 11 years in the Army, and Blake followed suit. He spent three years with the ROTC at South High School in Pueblo. When Blake Harris graduated from high school in 2002, he enlisted.

Deborah Harris, Blake's mother, said her son made his decision after a recruiter came to campus.

"He came home, and said, 'Mom, I'm going to join the Army. I'm going to serve my country,' " his mother recalled. "It was in his blood for sure."

Deborah Harris said she believed her son likely was considering the Army as his career.

Spc. Blake Harris was killed Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was riding in a Humvee patrolling the streets of Baghdad. He was 22.

In addition to his parents, Harris left behind his wife, Joanna, and his 2-year-old son, Jonah.

"He was my only son," his mother said.

Deborah Harris and her son routinely exchanged e-mails, and she said Blake had described war-torn Iraq as very intense during the past couple of weeks.

"He was a corporal and he was in charge of a group of guys, and I think he had seen some close calls," his mom said.

When Harris returned to Iraq for his second tour of duty in October, he was devastated when insurgents killed nine members of his unit, his mother said. Then he lost another eight during more combat operations.

Army Specialist Blake Harris was killed in action on 03/05/07.

Army Staff Sgt. Justin M. Estes

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Justin M. Estes, 25, of Sims, Ark.

SSgt. Estes was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died March 5, 2007 in Samarra, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat operations. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Robert M. Stanley, Sgt. Andrew C. Perkins, Spc. Ryan M. Bell, Spc. Justin A. Rollins and Pfc. Cory C. Kosters.

Estes, a 2000 graduate of Oden High School, was on his second tour in the Middle East and was due to return to the United States on March 20, his family said. Estes joined the Army in January 2001, and served in Korea before joining the 82nd Airborne in November 2005, where he was assigned as a fire team leader. He is survived by his father, Donald Estes; his mother, Diane Salyers; and his sister, Kelli Estes, all of Sims, Ark.

Todays THV -- It's another day at Oden High School. But on this day, students pay special attention to the graduation photo from 2000. That's the year Justin Estes graduated and eventually decided to join the Army.

He was killed in Iraq just two weeks before he was due to come home. He was 25. He lived in Montgomery County in the small community of Sims.

“We all remember him playing basketball and riding his motorcycle and things he used to do to get in trouble, and he found a lot of it. But he was a good kid," says Justin's big sister Kelli Estes.

She says Justin was tall and the center of the basketball team. Justin's name is on the banners in the gym honoring their basketball accomplishments. Kelli says Justin loved movies and could quote lines from them. He was funny and quick-witted.

Kelli says, “And he got out of so much trouble with my mom because he would just make her laugh. She'd say something about his grades and he'd say, ‘Pack your bags momma, we're going on a guilt trip.’ And she'd start laughing at him and he never got in trouble. And I would be like I would be in so much trouble if that was me.”

“As we were growing up, we played army and stuff as kids and he loved it,” she recalls.

Steven Gibbs and Justin were best friends growing up. He says it was hard to hear that his boyhood friend had been killed in Iraq.

He says, “It hit me kind of hard at first. I took it pretty rough. I started thinking about why he was over there and realized, you know, that that is what he wanted to do. That's what he was meant to do.”

Army Staff Sgt. Justin M. Estes was killed in action on 03/05/07.

Army Pfc. Cory C. Kosters

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Cory C. Kosters, 19, of The Woodlands, Texas

Pfc. Kosters was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died March 5 in Samarra, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat operations. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Justin M. Estes, Staff Sgt. Robert M. Stanley, Sgt. Andrew C. Perkins, Spc. Ryan M. Bell and Spc. Justin A. Rollins.

Houston Chronicle -- THE WOODLANDS — A 19-year-old soldier, who enjoyed the adventure of Army life, died this week when an explosive device went off near his unit during combat operations in Iraq, his family said Thursday.

Pfc. Cory C. Kosters died Monday in Samarra, Iraq, along with five other soldiers in his unit, U.S.military officials said. The soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C.

Kosters enlisted in August 2005, three months after he graduated from The Woodlands High School.

His parents, Marlon and Senta Kosters, said their son joined the Army because he was an adventurer who loved the outdoors.

''He felt like that's what he should be doing," Senta Kosters said while looking at a collage of pictures of her son climbing trees and playing with a bow and arrows he made from tree limbs.

His brother, Kevin, 17, recalled how every e-mail, letter and phone call from Cory was full of stories about his life in the war. He was so excited about his duties that he volunteered for every assignment, he said. After a while, his ranking officers had to refuse his offers because of his inexperience, Senta Kosters said.

''He knew he would make a good soldier, and I knew he was an excellent soldier," she said, noting that he was dubbed the ''Ice man" by his fellow soldiers because he kept his cool, and he wasn't afraid during missions.

Cory Kosters would have been home now on leave, but he let another soldier take his time so that the man could be home for the birth of his first child, his mother said.

She said it was one of several signs that her son's death was meant to be.

''He wouldn't want that baby growing up never knowing his dad," she said.

Marlon Kosters said he didn't want his son to go into the Army, but he didn't want to make decisions for him.

He recalled taking his son to his first day of kindergarten and how excited Cory was about it.

Cory Kosters was home-schooled for 10 years before going to public school his junior year. He was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout and a member of Crossroads Baptist Church in The Woodlands.

The last time the family heard from Cory was Sunday by e-mail, Senta Kosters said.

It was his longest e-mail.

He said his unit was going on more missions because things were getting more hostile in Iraq. More improvised explosive devices were also blowing up, he said in the e-mail.

A composed Senta Kosters said she knows without a doubt her son is in heaven with God, and that is what gives her comfort.

The Kosters have received an outpouring of support from the community and their neighbors.

On Tuesday morning, the day after they learned of their son's death, they went outside and discovered mini American flags at the end of every neighbor's driveway.

''We're proud and grateful for their love and support," Marlon Kosters said.

The family has set up a college scholarship in Cory Kosters' name. Donations can be made at any Woodforest National Bank.

Army Pfc. Cory C. Kosters was killed in action on 03/05/07.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Army Staff Sgt. Darrel D. Kasson

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Darrel D. Kasson, 43, of Florence, Arizona.

SSgt. Kasson was assigned to the 259th Engineer Company, Arizona National Guard; died March 4 in Tikrit, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle at Bayji, Iraq.

Courage, faith remembered
By Carol Ann Alaimo
Arizona Daily Star

A fallen Tucson soldier, who turned down a job that would have kept him out of harm's way to stay on the front lines with his comrades, was honored as a hero in his hometown on Friday.

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Darrel Kasson, killed in action in Iraq while working as a military police officer, was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery, fulfilling his wish to buried in the city in which he was born.

An estimated 300 mourners formed a sea of flags and uniforms as Kasson's coffin was escorted to his grave by six Guardsmen and a bagpiper from the Arizona Department of Corrections, where he worked in civilian life.

The 43-year-old father of three was eulogized as a courageous military leader, a fun-loving family man and a devout Christian who carried a Bible into combat and often prayed over the soldiers in the platoon he led.

Kasson died on March 4 when a homemade bomb went off near his vehicle. He is the 28th service member with Southern Arizona ties — and the 100th statewide — to be claimed by conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Darrel knew the value of serving, whether at home, at his church or for his country," said Dale Storm, pastor of Florence Baptist Church in Florence, where Kasson was a deacon and youth leader.

Born and raised in Tucson, Kasson graduated from Amphitheater High School in 1982. His wife, Lori Kasson, 42, said the couple met in their early teens at Skate Country, a local roller rink, and have been together ever since.

She was attracted to his charm and impish sense of humor, she said. Darrel Kasson was fond of practical jokes and loved making people laugh.

"He was a really outgoing person, like a class clown who never grew out of it," she said.

They wed in 1983, and a decade later moved to Florence, where Darrel Kasson worked as a corrections officer. But "we always thought of Tucson as home," she said.
Darrel Kasson had been overseas since November with the 259th Engineer Company, a Phoenix-based Guard unit with members assigned to convoy security duty.

Last month marked Kasson's 20th year of Guard service, making him eligible to retire. But when his unit got word last summer of the upcoming Iraq deployment, he was told he'd have to go overseas for a year before he could leave the military.
Kasson took the news in stride and did his best to keep spirits high among fellow Guard members as they prepared to go to war, said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Tatum, who spoke at the funeral on behalf of Kasson's unit.

Tatum said Kasson was offered an administrative position overseas, so he wouldn't have to be out on the road with fellow soldiers doing the dangerous work of convoy escorts.

"He refused. He wanted to be with his soldiers," Tatum said in an interview. "He said, 'I want to lead from the front,' " Tatum told the crowd. "He never wanted to show signs of fatigue or cowardice."

Lori Kasson said she and her husband became born-again Christians in 2000 and often prayed over the phone together while he was in Iraq.

"He wasn't afraid for himself. He was more scared for the guys he was in charge of," she said. "He was so worried about keeping them safe."

Storm, Kasson's pastor, said he never met anyone who didn't hold Kasson in high regard.

"Even the prisoners respected him. If he walked into the cell block and they were talking dirty, they'd stop." Storm said in an interview.

At a memorial service in Florence on Tuesday more than 500 people showed up to pay respects, including Guard members, corrections workers and Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Napolitano, who met with Kasson's unit just after he died, while she was visiting troops in Iraq, said the fallen soldier was an example of "a life well-lived," according to an account on the Corrections Department Web site.

Lori Kasson said she's grateful for the outpouring of prayers and support her family has received.

"I'm lonely and I miss him and it's going to be hard to live without him," she said. But she said she's comforted by her faith that she and her husband will meet again someday.

Darrel Kasson also is survived by his three children, ages 22, 19, and 15, and two grandchildren, ages 5 and 2.

And he leaves behind a unit of soldiers in Iraq who will never forget him, said Tatum, the command sergeant major.

"When we are on those long missions looking up at the sky, I guarantee that he will be looking down at us."

Army Staff Sgt. Darrel D. Kasson was killed in action on 03/04/07.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Army Sgt. Ashly L. Moyer

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Ashly L. Moyer, 21, of Emmaus, Pa.

Sgt. Moyer was assigned to the 630th Military Police Company, Bamberg, Germany; died March 3 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near her vehicle. Also killed were Sgt. Brandon A. Parr and Sgt. Michael C. Peek.

For the third time this week, a military service member from the area has died in Iraq. The latest victim is Sergeant Ashly Moyer of Lehigh County.

The 21-year-old was killed when an IED or roadside bomb exploded under the Humvee she was traveling in while in Central Baghdad.

Asley's sister said she will never forget the last few words that they shared while communicating on the computer.

"I love you, I miss you, be careful," said Karissa Thomas.

Ashly was a graduate of Emmaus High School and her family lived in Macungie, Lehigh County.

She first guarded detainees at Guantanamo Bay before heading to Baghdad.

"Ashly was never happy just being; as if being a student or finding a profession; she wanted to fight for something and the United States Army gave her that opportunity," said Karissa.

Her tour of duty was due to end in June and at that point, her boyfriend who is currently serving in Iraq, was planning on proposing to her.

"She was amazing, she inspired me to do things I never thought I could do," said Karissa.

Ashly will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery but there are plans to have a local memorial in Macungie on Saturday.

The Lehigh Valley is mourning the death of another local soldier after a 21-year-old Emmaus woman was killed in Iraq on Saturday. She is the second soldier from the area to die this week.

Those who knew Ashly Lynn Moyer said she was unforgettable, her infection smile burning its way into everyone's memory.

But on Saturday, Moyer was killed when a roadside bombed expoded underneath the vehicle she was riding in in Central Baghdad, according to authorities.

Family said she was promoted to Sergeant two weeks ago, but the military did not have time to issue her stripes before her death.

Her sister, Karissa Thomas, said her sister was proud to serve her country, but wanted out of Iraq.

“She hated Iraq,” Thomas said. “She hated what happened there. That’s all I can say."

Bob Nesco was part of his church's adopt-a-troop program and had the chance to meet Moyer last Thanksgiving.

“I only knew her an hour, but it felt like I knew her a lifetime,” he said.

He mailed out a care package to her on Monday, unaware that she was already dead.

Moyer was set to return in June, when her family said her boyfriend -- who is still serving in Iraq -- was going to propose to her.

Funeral services were set for Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Courtesy of the Morning Call
By Daniel Patrick Sheehan Of The Morning Call
Soldier's boyfriend couldn't save her

Ashly Lynn Moyer, 21, of Emmaus died in Iraq when bomb detonated vehicle's fuel.

For a few moments Wednesday, Jane Drumheller turned away from her grief, speaking strongly and steadily as she remembered her daughter, Army Sergeant Ashly Lynn Moyer, an Emmaus High School graduate killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.

''She definitely was a hero,'' said Drumheller, of Milford, Pike County. The note of pride in her voice was unmistakable as she unfolded the all-too-familiar chronology of bad news from the war zone: the late-night visit from an Army officer, the crushing news, the sudden rush of memorial preparations and visits from friends.

It happened this way, according to the account the Army provided to Moyer's parents: Moyer, 21, assigned to the 630th Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion, was on routine patrol Saturday, steering the armored patrol vehicle she called ''my baby.''

She was driving the second vehicle in a convoy of four. As the lead vehicle drove over a buried bomb, insurgents detonated it by remote control. The occupants of the lead vehicle survived, but the explosion detonated the fuel tank on Moyer's vehicle, creating a fireball that killed her and the two Sergeants with her. They were Brandon A. Parr, 25, of West Valley, Utah, and Michael C. Peek, 23, of Chesapeake, Virginia, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.

Among the soldiers who responded to the bombing was Moyer's boyfriend, Jake Wells, a member of her unit who tried to rescue her but was turned back by the flames and rounds of ammunition exploding in the heat.

''That's what's most heart-wrenching to me,'' said Moyer's father, Michael Moyer of Lower Macungie, a former Marine choking up briefly as he pictured the scene. ''Can you imagine that? The girl you love is in there, and not being able to do anything.''

Moyer said it was comforting to learn that a helicopter destroyed the car carrying the insurgents suspected in the bombing. But his grief was compounded when he learned that Sergeant Peek was supposed to be married in two weeks.

Moyer will be buried March 16, 2007, at Arlington National Cemetery. She was the fourth person from the region to die in combat in Iraq this year and the 21st to die thus far in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. More than 3,100 soldiers have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003.

Drumheller described her daughter as a tomboy with a girlish side, as fond of dolls as she was of softball. ''She would always rise to the occasion. She would mold in,'' Drumheller said. ''She was serious when she needed to get a job done, but when it was time to have fun, she was a chuckle.''

Inspired by her family's military pedigree – her Marine grandfather served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam – Moyer joined the Army Reserve through the delayed enlistment program while still attending Emmaus High. After graduating in 2003, she attended the Army Military Police School in Missouri, graduating in March 2004.

Her first assignment was Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, guarding enemy combatants held since the war in Afghanistan began. ''They were some of the real bad boys,'' her father said. ''Taliban.''

Moyer spent about a year at that task before returning home and getting an apartment in Emmaus. Restless and eager to see more of the world, she decided to return to active duty. She was stationed in Bamberg, Germany, about five months before shipping to Iraq.

In Baghdad, Moyer took an instant liking to her job as a driver. Her father would send her rearview mirror dice and other gag gifts to dress up the interior of the armored vehicle, a lumbering, plated truck with machine guns mounted on the rear. On the exterior, she mounted a toy Incredible Hulk head, which other soldiers would rub for luck before missions.

Last fall, while on a 10-day leave, Moyer visited her brother Kyle's school, Shohola Elementary, in Milford. Kathy Maida, the physical education teacher and student council adviser, said Moyer was nervous about the appearance before the fifth- and sixth-graders but carried it off as though she'd been doing it for years, speaking plainly and engagingly about Army life and her hopes for the future.

Afterward, Maida struck up an e-mail correspondence with Moyer. Maida said Moyer's messages reflected the fears and frustrations of Army life and indicated she was ready to come home for good.

Moyer's father, though, said his daughter believed strongly in the American cause and had recently extended her enlistment for a year. ''She really liked what she was doing,'' he said. ''The MPs over there are a very close family.''

For Ashly, that might have become literally true in the coming months.

''I just talked to her last week,'' her father said. ''They were coming home in June and planning two weeks in Pennsylvania and two weeks in Texas, where Jake is from. They were coming here because he was going to ask me for her hand in marriage.''

Courtesy of the Mercury

Listening to Sergeant Ashly Lynn Moyer’s family recall memories of her growing up, one thing above all else comes through: Moyer may have been a woman small in stature but she was huge in heart.

"She didn’t want people to cry over her," Moyer’s cousin, Saman-tha Staude, 20, said, speaking of the barely 5-foot-tall Moyer. But for Staude and her mother Jean Garrison, Moyer’s aunt, both of Pottstown, holding back the tears as they talked with The Mercury on Wednesday was difficult.

Ashly Lynn Moyer was killed in Baghdad, Iraq, on March 3, 2007, when an improvised explosive device detonated near her vehicle. Moyer was serving with the 630th MP Company, 759th MP Battalion and 89th MP Brigade. She was 21 and her tour was scheduled to end in June at which time her boyfriend Jake Wells, whom she met in the service, was going to ask for her hand in marriage.

Moyer lived in Macungie with her father, Michael Moyer. But she spent time in Pottstown with her mother, Jane Geyer-Drumheller, her stepfather Jeffrey Drumheller, and her mother’s side of the family.

On Wednesday, looking through family photos of Moyer and photos of her in her uniform, Garrison and Staude reminisced.

"She always thought she was so cool in those sunglasses," Garrison said, pointing to one photo, a self-portrait Moyer took inside of her Army vehicle wearing her combat helmet and fatigues.

"That was her purpose for being there, I suppose," Garrison said, looking at another photo, one taken of Moyer and Staude in New York before 9/11, with the twin towers visible in the background.

The women spoke of Moyer’s sense of humor, how she loved to make people laugh no matter how ridiculous she looked. "She was so funny," Staude said.

They told of how Moyer loved gymnastics and dance when she was growing up, and how she loved to be center stage.

They described Moyer as someone who liked to give to others and wanted to make a difference, and who chose joining the military as a way to do so.

Staude spoke of Moyer like a big sister. Staude said Moyer taught her how to dive and boogie board at the beach during the family’s annual vacations, and how they often walked together to a Cumberland Farms store to buy candy -- including red lace licorice they nearly choked on.

She expressed the devastation she felt that her best friend would not be around to live out the plans they made as children.

"We used to -- when we were children -- build tents and run around with pillows under our shirts and pretend that we were having babies together," Staude said. Staude said the plan was to raise their families together, for their children to be as close as she and her cousin were, and eventually take care of their parents together.

"She was supposed to come home," Staude said in a wavering voice. "She wasn’t supposed to die there."

Both Staude and Garrison described Moyer as a self-sufficient, strong woman.

"Her big thing was ‘Who says girls can’t drive trucks?’" Staude said.

"She was a peanut," Garrison said. "Such a tiny girl who could do so much."

"She hated mopers," Staude said.

"This (sitting here crying about her) would so not fly right now," she said with a faint smile.

The most important piece in Moyer’s life, the two said, was her family, particularly her siblings. Moyer’s two little brothers, Kyle and Tyler, looked up to their big sister. Staude said.

"She was their hero," Garrison said.

Moyer enlisted in the military in 2003 and was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after graduating from the Army Military Police School in March 2004, but she wasn’t anticipating being sent to Iraq, her relatives said.

She was proud to be a soldier, they said. Her grandfather, Bob Moyer, served in the Marines for 24 years, surviving Iwo Jima, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Her grandmother, Irene Moyer was in the WAAC Marine Corps Women’s Reserve during World War II, and her father was also in the Marines.

Nonetheless, the women said, Moyer was anxious to come home from Iraq, get married and start a family.

In addition to her family here, Staude said it was important to recognize the military family Moyer had created while serving -- many members of whom were present when Moyer’s vehicle was destroyed by the I.E.D. that killed her, and many of whom were trying to make it back to the United States to be at her funeral.

The last time the two women saw Moyer was around Thanksgiving, and the last time they heard from her was Feb. 24, in an e-mail.

A viewing for Ashly Lynn Moyer will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. Saturday in Bachman, Kulik and Reinsmith Funeral Home, 225 Elm St., Emmaus, with a reception immediately following in the Lehigh Lodge, 2100 Route 100 South, Macungie.

A funeral with full military honors will be held at 3 p.m. March 16 in Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial contributions in Moyer’s memory may be made to the Ashly Lynn Moyer Memorial Fund to be used to erect a monument locally in her honor, c/o any East Penn Bank location.

Family, friends remember Moyer

They recall her as gregarious tomboy who was close to siblings; interment will be Friday.
By Genevieve Marshall
Courtesy of The Morning Call

Army Sergeant Ashly Lynn Moyer's friends from Emmaus High School stood across the street Saturday from the Bachman, Kulik & Reinsmith Funeral Home for a tearful reunion of the Class of 2003.

Veterans, some in motorcycle jackets and leather chaps, ringed the Emmaus funeral home with 25 U.S. flags. They nodded solemnly at the 300 mourners who filed in for Moyer's memorial service.

Moyer, 21, died March 3, 2007, in a roadside bombing in Baghdad. The Army told her parents, Jane Drumheller of Pike County and Michael Moyer of Lower Macungie, that insurgents detonated a buried bomb right in front of her armored patrol vehicle, creating a fireball out of the fuel tank and killing her and two Sergeants riding with her.

She was cremated and will be interred Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.

''The good go young,'' said Terry Schwartz of Macungie, who met her at Eyer Middle School. ''That's all I can say that makes sense.''

The sweet teenager he knew – the one who went to Dorney Park with them and goofed off and had fun and dated one of his friends – was gone. Unbelievable.

Her teenage years were turbulent and troubled, friends and family said. But Moyer pulled her life together in 10th grade and began hitting the books, said Kevin Torpey of Wescosville.

''She started to really think about her future,'' Torpey said. ''She wanted to join the Army.''

After high school, she attended the Army Military Police School in Missouri, graduating in March 2004. After her first assignment in Cuba, she returned home to Emmaus for a year before returning to active duty. She was stationed in Bamberg, Germany, for about five months before shipping off to Iraq.

''She was so excited about it,'' Schwartz said. ''She was turning her life around.''

Sergeant Reginald McClary of Souderton served with Moyer in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 2004 to 2005, guarding enemy combatants held since the war in Afghanistan began. He remembered her as a jolly person who made the other soldiers laugh, liked to bowl with her friends, and always stood up for what she believed.

McClary heard about the explosion from other people in her unit, the 630th Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion.

Moyer was the fourth person from the region to die in combat in Iraq this year and the 21st to die thus far in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. Nearly 3,200 soldiers have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003.

''She was just a baby,'' said McClary, a strapping man in camouflage and combat boots. ''A baby.''

Inside, mourners queued in three rooms to pay their respects to the family, passing a display of photos, flowers, sports memorabilia and a condolence letter with a handwritten note from Governor Ed Rendell.

The first thing they saw was created by Moyer's youngest sister, Teagan Moyer, who colored posterboard with markers, adorned it with pictures of her and her big sister, and wrote across it: ''My sister rocks and is a hero!''

Moyer was extremely close to her two brothers and two sisters, making no distinction between step-, half- or full siblings, relatives said.

She called Tyler and Kyle Clark her ''slaves'' and liked to dunk her brothers underwater, a fact one of the boys called out during Army Chaplain David Farrell's eulogy.

Several relatives, including Teagan, shared their memories of Moyer. An aunt spoke about another family member's military service – her grandfather served as a Marine in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

''Ashly went into the Army to fight for our freedom,'' Teagan said.

One of the closest people in the world to Moyer was her stepsister Karissa Thomas. They met when they were both 4. Thomas was six months older, and she never let Moyer forget it.

As young girls, they dressed up their dogs as bride and groom and threw them a pretend wedding. Dozens of photos depict them wrestling, hugging and grinning at the camera as they grew from children to teenagers to young adults.

''My sister was strong and ambitious, had an amazing personality, and was bright in so many ways,'' Thomas said.

Moyer was both a tomboy and a princess, a pretty young woman with brown hair and blue eyes who loved softball, acrobatics and jazz.

The strength she possessed put most grown men to shame, Thomas said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

''I know she's standing behind me right now, telling me to stop crying like a girl,'' she said.

To her father, Army Sergeant Ashly Lynn Moyer was a hero the moment she enlisted in the military.

Moyer, 21, was killed March 3, 2007 when an improvised explosive device detonated under her convoy in Bagdad.

Two other sergeants died in the explosion.

"People say she's a hero now, but to me she was when she decided to go in," Michael Moyer said.

Moyer, of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, was a member of the 630th Military Police Company based in Bamberg, Germany.

"My daughter was very honest and straight up," said Michael Moyer of Lower Macungie, Pennsylvania. "I think that's what took her to the military police."

Moyer grew up hearing about the military from her father and grandfather, both Marines. Her grandfather fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima and served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

After graduating from Emmaus High School outside Allentown, Pennsylvania, she attended the Army Military Police School in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, graduating in 2004. She then served in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for close to 11 months. In 2006, she began serving as a police convoy driver in Baghdad.

"She said Baghdad was hell, but enjoyed the people who were there," Michael Moyer said. "She wanted to do it. She believed in the military being over there."

In November, while on leave, Ashly discussed her job with students at Shohola Elementary School, where her brother, Kyle Clark, is a fifth-grader.

"She gave really descriptive answers to the children about her job," said Shohola Elementary Principal Peg Schaffer.

"Life is so fragile," Schaffer added. "Our whole school is really thankful she shared some time with us."

Kathy Maida, a physical education teacher and student council adviser, often communicated with Moyer through e-mails after her visit.

"She was kind of a tomboy. She was tough," said Maida, who said Ashly often spoke of the dangers of war. "She couldn't wait until it was over,"

Moyer had only six months of service left. She wanted to go to school when she got home, Maida said.

Besides her father and brother, Kyle, Moyer is survived by her mother, Jane Drumheller of Dingman Township, Pennsylvnaia, and another brother, Tyler Clark, a seventh-grader at Dingman Delaware Middle School.

Moyer will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia at 3 p.m. Friday. There are no local services scheduled.

Soldier Dreamed of Starting a Family
By Tara Bahrampour
Courtesy of the Washington Post

When Army Sergeant Ashly Lynn Moyer was a little girl, she and her cousin Samantha Staude used to stuff their shirts with pillows and pretend they were having babies.

Lately, that dream seemed closer to coming true. Moyer, a soldier deployed in Iraq with the 630th Military Police Company, was expected to return to the United States this summer. So was another member of her unit, Specialist Jake Wells, who planned to propose to her.

Instead, family and friends gathered yesterday in a driving sleet to bury Moyer in Arlington National Cemetery. She was one of more than 3,100 U.S. troops to die in the Iraq war.

Moyer, 21, of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, was killed March 3, 2007. with two others while driving a Humvee in a convoy on patrol in Baghdad, said her mother, Jane Drumheller of Milford, Pennsylvania. An improvised explosive device detonated the armored vehicle's gas tank, engulfing Moyer and two other sergeants in flames, Drumheller said. Ammunition fed the fire.

Wells was walking a few feet behind the car, and he tried to save her, Drumheller said. "With the heat, he couldn't get to her," she said. But when the flames subsided, she said, "he got to her first. He said he talked to her and said his goodbyes."

A U.S. helicopter pursued four men in a car believed to have detonated the bomb and "took care of them," Drumheller said she was told. "It is sort of gratifying, yes," she said. "But it doesn't help in the end. It's just sad all around."

At Arlington, mourners spilled out of three large buses and more than 30 cars to say goodbye. Flags were given to Moyer's father, Michael R. Moyer, and her mother. After soldiers fired volleys in salute and played taps, Drumheller covered her eyes with her hand. Then she kissed her fingers, pressed them against the box containing her daughter's ashes and laid down a red rose.

Moyer had met Wells in Germany, and the two had planned to move to Texas, his home state, family members said.

"He's just beyond devastated," Staude said of Wells. "He called her his angel, and now she really is."

Drumheller said that her daughter lacked direction as a teenager but that joining the Army after high school helped focus her. She spent a year at the Guantanamo Bay military base before being sent to Germany and then Iraq. She did not like Iraq, her mother said. "She didn't quite understand what she was doing there, but she was doing it because it was her job."

On a home leave in November, Moyer spoke to her 10-year-old brother Kyle's class. She also had another brother, Tyler, 12; a sister, Teagan, 8; and a stepsister, Karissa, 21.

"They get all teary-eyed," Drumheller said of Kyle and Tyler. She said they looked up to Moyer. "Ashly was there when they were born," she said, "and it's like, 'Big Sissy.' "

Moyer's desire to help people inspired Staude, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, to go to nursing school. The cousins also shared a plan.

"We were supposed to make babies together," Staude said. "Ever since we were kids, we were supposed to grow old together and take care of our parents together. That's how it was supposed to be. She wasn't supposed to die there."

Army Sgt. Ashly L. Moyer was killed in action on 03/03/07.

Army Sgt. Brandon A. Parr

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Brandon A. Parr, 25, of West Valley, Utah

Sgt. Parr was assigned to the 630th Military Police Company, Bamberg, Germany; died March 3 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Sgt. Michael C. Peek and Sgt. Ashly L. Moyer.

West Valley City man killed in Iraq

By Stephen Speckman
Deseret Morning News

Army Sgt. Brandon Allen Parr of West Valley City was killed Saturday in Iraq while on patrol, Army Reserve officials announced Monday.

Parr was on his second deployment to Baghdad after joining the Army in August 2003. He and two other soldiers were killed when the armored vehicle they were traveling in was hit by an improvised explosive device.

"I think he would have gone (to Iraq) even if he knew this was going to be the outcome," Parr's mother, Teota Dangel, said in a statement released to the media Monday night.

Parr, 25, was an Army specialist when he died and had recently competed for a promotion to the rank of sergeant, which he was posthumously awarded Sunday.

Shannah Parr, his wife of nearly six years, said her husband was prompted to join the Army by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"He felt it was something he needed to do," she said. "He did not go for political reasons. He went for his brothers and sisters."

The two met at a dance club in Salt Lake City and dated for six months before they were married. They have one son, 4-year-old Nicholas. Shannah Parr described her husband as "very laid-back" and "very funny. He made everyone feel good."

"He would say, 'The best things in life are getting over, good food and good beer,"' Shannah Parr said.

The couple lived in Bamberg, Germany, before Parr's first deployment to Baghdad in 2004.

"He loved life and family," his wife said. "He was a great father and husband."

He was an active duty soldier, assigned to the 360th Military Police Company, 759th Military Police Battalion of the 89th Military Police Brigade, according to Reserve spokesman Claude McKinney of the 96th Regional Readiness Command in Salt Lake City. McKinney said details about the explosion in Iraq remain under investigation and are not readily available.

"That may take several days, even into weeks to complete," he said.

Army Sgt. Brandon A. Parr was killed in action on 03/03/07.

Brandon Parr

Brandon Parr Back

Larger Images

Army Sgt. Michael C. Peek

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Michael C. Peek, 23, of Chesapeake, Va.

Sgt. Peek was assigned to the 630th Military Police Company, Bamberg, Germany; died March 3 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Sgt. Brandon A. Parr and Sgt. Ashly L. Moyer.

An Isle of Wight family grieves the loss of a "regular guy with the best woman ever" who died before he could marry her.
Courtesy of the Daily Press of Hampton, Virginia

ISLE OF WIGHT -- When Kathy Jordan dialed a German phone number Saturday evening - moments after two uniformed men had delivered tragic news to her home - she pulled together all the courage and compassion she could muster.

Destined to pick up the other end was the woman Jordan's son called his true love - the woman he was scheduled to marry later this month when he left Iraq on a two-week vacation from the war zone.

Army Sergeant Michael Peek was so excited about it, in fact, that he counted down the days on his MySpace.com Web page.

"The big number is 1 ... the number of months I have 'till I say 'I do' for the first and last time of my life," Peek wrote on his Web page, where he's known as soccer586 and describes himself as a "regular guy with the best woman ever."

Jordan called Saturday to tell her son's fiancee that 23-year-old Peek was one of three soldiers with the Germany-based 630th Military Police Company killed in Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded near the Humvee he was traveling in.

"Calling her was the hardest phone call I've ever had to make," Jordan said Thursday at her Isle of Wight County home.

"This has destroyed a family, a family he and his fiancee would have had," said Steve Jordan, Peek's stepfather. "We don't hold grudges. But that was taken away."

Dealing with the "train wreck" of emotions created by the news, Kathy Jordan said, remains the hardest thing she's ever had to face.

No arrangements have been made because Peek's body has not yet been returned to the United States.

When the family has a better idea of the timeline, they'll host a memorial service in Smithfield and work with the Army to have him buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

"It's what he wanted," Kathy Jordan said. "Before he left he told me, 'I'm a soldier. If something happens to me, I want to be buried there.' "

That final wish was but one example of the pride Peek often expressed for his profession.

It wasn't a career he'd always dreamed of, his mother said.

In fact, she was surprised when, not too long after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and his graduation from Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk, Peek came home and said, "Mom, I'm going to enlist in the Army."

"I just told him I was '100 percent behind you.' "

Once she started thinking about it, though, Kathy Jordan understood the appeal. He had a strong sense of patriotism, both an uncle and brother are also in the service and he "had some wanderlust in him. He wanted to travel."

Steve Jordan said Peek requested an overseas assignment and was grateful to be stationed in Germany in 2002, shortly after graduating from basic training.

Peek's first year in Iraq was from 2004 to 2005. In December 2005, he brought his fiancee, whom he'd met in Germany, home to Isle of Wight for Christmas.

It was the last time the Jordans saw him. He deployed to Iraq again last summer.

"Right now, I have to fight early mornings and late nights here in Iraq," Peek wrote on his MySpace.com page.

"But that is a little price to pay to be a part of the best country in the world," he said.

Steve Jordan said Peek knew his job as a military police officer in Baghdad was dangerous. "But he believed in doing the job at hand and doing it right," Steve Jordan said. "He didn't want to leave the country until the job was done."

In the last few months, Peek wasn't convinced that it was.

One day, "he noticed women and children in the street stepping over something," Steve Jordan said Peek told him. "When he took a closer look, he saw that it was a body. They had stepped over it like it was just a normal part of life."

Three days later, Peek told Steve Jordan, the body was still in the street.

"He felt that someone needed to do something before the people were too far gone," Steve Jordan said.

By Thursday, the family's tears were starting to dry up.

They were celebrating Peek's life and the realization that at only 23, Peek had loved, been loved and touched a great many people. Many of his comrades have called the Jordans from Iraq to offer condolences and share in the grief.

"You raise them and they go into the service and never, until now, do you realize how many lives they touch in such a short time," Kathy Jordan said.

"Our main concern right now is for the soldiers still over there," Steve Jordan added.

In the days since his death, some of those soldiers have left messages on Peek's MySpace.com page.

"You were ... one of the best friends I have ever had," one wrote. "I love you, man. I'm sorry I couldn't have been there for you this time."

"If I could, and I know you know this, (I'd) give my life for yours," wrote a soldier Peek served with during his first trip to Iraq. "I would give anything, and I mean anything, to bring you back."

Army Sgt. Michael C. Peek was killed in action on 03/03/07.