Sunday, November 29, 2009

Army Pfc. Derrick D. Gwaltney

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Derrick D. Gwaltney, 21, of Cape Coral, Fla.

Pfc. Gwaltney was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, Fort Lewis, Wash; died Nov. 29, 2009 south of Basra, Iraq, from a non-combat-related incident.

Was days away from returning home
The Associated Press

Derrick Gwaltney couldn’t wait to come home from Iraq and see his wife and 2-year-old daughter — and the son the couple was expecting, his family said.

They had spoken to him on Thanksgiving, just days before he died.

“We put him on speaker phone so everyone could yell, ‘Derrick, we love you! Happy Thanksgiving!’ He kind of chuckled and laughed and said, ‘Thanks everybody.’ He said, ‘I’ll talk to you later, mom.’ That was it,” said his mother, Patricia Gwaltney.

Gwaltney, 21, of Cape Coral, Fla., died Nov. 29 south of Basra, Iraq. His family said he was found alone with a single gunshot wound to his head. He graduated from Sandusky High School in Ohio in 2006 and enlisted in the military in 2008. He was assigned to Fort Lewis, Wash.

His sister, Latisha Gwaltney, said he was apprehensive about his deployment but was “strong-willed and brave.”

Whitney Brechner of Cape Coral remembered her “Insomnia Buddy” in a posting on an online message board. She recalled the late-night talks and adventures playing “World of Warcraft” the two would have in the wee hours.

“Derrick was an incredibly caring and selfless man,” she said. “He was a loving father and a wonderful friend.”

He is survived by his wife, Heidi; a daughter and a stepdaughter.

Army Pfc. Derrick D. Gwaltney was killed in a non-combat incident on 11/29/09.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Navy Engineman 3rd Class David M. Mudge

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Engineman 3rd Class David M. Mudge, 22, of Sutherlin, Ore.

Engineman Mudge died Nov. 28, 2009 when he was electrocuted while working in a machinery space aboard the guided missile frigate Rentz while on a port call in Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates.

Rentz sailor electrocuted aboard ship
Staff report

SAN DIEGO — A sailor assigned to the frigate Rentz died Saturday after being electrocuted while working in a machinery space during a port call in the Persian Gulf, Navy officials said Monday.

Navy officials identified the sailor as Engineman 3rd Class David M. Mudge, 22, who suffered fatal wounds “due to electric shock” while doing repairs in an auxiliary machinery space, Naval Surface Forces officials said in a statement. Mudge, of Sutherlin, Ohio, died despite resuscitation efforts and was pronounced dead at the Jebel Ali International hospital in Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates.

Navy officials are investigating the incident.

Mudge joined the Navy in January 2007 and served aboard the frigate McClusky before reporting to Rentz in July 2009, said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, a Naval Surfaces Forces spokesman in Coronado, Calif.

Rentz, a San Diego-based ship, is deployed with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group.

Took advantage of the chance to travel the world
The Associated Press

David Mudge liked traveling, and trying new cuisines or “anything that wasn’t what he had at home,” his brother said.

Mudge joined the Navy to see the world after a childhood of listening to his uncles and other relatives share stories about serving in the military. On the USS Rentz, Mudge was able to see the ancient pyramids in Egypt, a sight that left him in awe, his brother said.

“The sheer size of them and the age of them and everything just blew him away,” Curtis Mudge said. “Pictures didn’t do it justice.”

David Mudge, 22, of Sutherlin, Ore., was killed Nov. 28 in an electrical accident aboard the USS Rentz. The ship was at Port Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, when Mudge died.

He grew up in a large, close-knit family, and he graduated from the Phoenix School in Roseburg, Ore. At age 19, he enlisted in the Navy.

“He was looking for something to do with his life that he would be able to be proud of,” said Curtis Mudge. “He always looked up to the fact that our family was military oriented.”

Mudge is survived by his parents, Larry and Judy Mudge; sisters Sarah Washburn, Allison Tomlinson and Angelica Mudge; and brothers Brian, Curtis and Jed.

Navy Engineman 3rd Class David M. Mudge died on 11/28/09

Monday, November 23, 2009

Army Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Pucino

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Pucino, 34, of Cockeysville, Md.

SSgt Pucino was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group of the Maryland Army National Guard, Glen Arm, Md.; died Nov. 23, 2009 in Pashay Kala, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

PLYMOUTH — Army Sgt. Dan Dosier used all of his Special Forces training to hold back tears when talking about his friend, Army Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Pucino.

Dosier reflected on the time he was shot during a raid and how Pucino held his hand, kept him calm and told jokes during the helicopter ride back to base for medical attention.

Before Pucino hopped back on the helicopter to return to the war zone, he gave one more gift to his wounded friend: He donated two pints of blood.

"This left Matt pretty weak but that's the kind of friend he was," Dosier said. "He was the first person to call me and ask how I was doing."

Friends and family filled The New Testament Church last night to remember Pucino, a former Plymouth resident, at a memorial service that had almost as many laughs as tears.

Phil Haglof, Pucino's brother-in-law, told the large crowd about the time Pucino got caught trying to sneak his small knife into Walt Disney World. Pucino was asked to leave it in the car but tried to go through a different entrance before he was caught by a security guard with a gold Mickey Mouse badge. "We always made fun of him that this Green Beret was busted by a Mickey cop," Haglof said to loud laughter from the crowd.

Pucino, 34, a 1993 graduate of Bishop Stang High School in Dartmouth who lived briefly in Bourne, died in Afghanistan Nov. 23 of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an explosive device.

A private burial service with full military honors will be held for Pucino in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

Yesterday, he was remembered as a loving, caring, humorous and fun-seeking uncle, brother, son and soldier who was quick to help anyone in need, take care of his family and have a lot of laughs along the way.

"He was just the best," said Tim Cicirelli, a classmate at Bishop Stang. "He was a great football player and a great friend. He could get along with anyone."

Cicirelli's older brother, A.J., didn't attend Stang with Pucino but that didn't stop the two from becoming friends. "He could put a smile on anyone's face," A.J. Cicirelli said. "Charismatic is the perfect word to describe him."

A large American flag hung from a fire engine ladder to mark the entrance to the church. Smaller flags and TV cameras lined the church's driveway off Long Pond Road. Army personnel served as ushers, helping the grieving family members and friends find seats in the crowded church.

Mark Chekares, a classmate at Stang who now teaches English at Somerset High School, had recently been in touch with Pucino on Facebook and was planning on getting together with his friend.

"I was really looking forward to reconnecting with him and thanking him (for his service)," Chekares said.

Army Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Pucino was killed in action on 11/23/09.

Army Spc. Jason A. McLeod

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Jason A. McLeod, 22, of Crystal Lake, Ill.

Spc. McLeod was assigned to the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Nov. 23, 2009 west of Pashmul, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with mortar fire.

Daily Herald -- A Crystal Lake soldier killed in Afghanistan last month was remembered as an all American hero who loved his country, his family and his friends.

More than 200 people on Friday filled the chapel of the Davenport Funeral Home in Crystal Lake to say goodbye to Sgt. Jason McLeod, 22, who died Nov. 23 after his unit was attacked with mortar fire near Pashmul.

Mourners filled the two sides of the L-shaped chapel and many stood listening in the lobby. A collage of photographs and a portrait of McLeod stood near his flag-draped casket as the Rev. John Gow of Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Cary read some of McLeod's favorite Bible verses, including from the Gospel of Paul.

U.S Navy Petty Officer Ryan Cannon, a childhood friend, recalled memories of "fireworks and rat tails," from their youth.

"His memory will live on in our hearts forever," said Cannon, who also assured McLeod's wife, Aimee Ghannam, and their 15-month-old daughter, Jocelyn, that their husband and father did not die in vain.

Gov. Pat Quinn addressed the audience, telling families and friends gathered that the entire state "has to pause and thank God for the life of Sgt. Jason McLeod."

During the standing-room-only ceremony at Davenport Funeral Home, the Rev. John Gow said McLeod embodied the kind of love St. Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 13.

"Without love, we really become nothing," said Gow. "Love gives meaning. It is how we love that defines the type of people we become. In this reading, we are reminded of the person Jason became and the love he had for his family and his country."

McLeod's casket was draped with an American flag and a video montage displayed photos of the smiling soldier holding his infant daughter, Jocelyn Elizabeth, who was swaddled in an American flag.

McLeod also is survived by his widow, the former Aimee Rambo. He was a 2006 graduate of Crystal Lake Central High School.

The long funeral cortege that slowly made its way through town to Windridge Memorial Park Cemetery in Cary included ambulances and squad cars flashing their lights, members of the American Legion and the Patriot Riders, who carried large American flags on their motorcycles.

Insurance agencies, auto shops, law firms and restaurants along the route displayed well wishes and prayers for McLeod and for his family.

At Porters Oyster Bar, where McLeod's mother, Barb, is a waitress, the front of the building was draped with an oversized American flag.

One of the mourners, longtime family friend Chuck Lee, said he has known the McLeod family for 30 years. McLeod, he said, had a lot going for him.

"He honored his family," he said. "He honored his wife. He honored his town, and now his town is honoring him."

Navy Petty Officer Ryan Cannon was a childhood friend of McLeod's.

The soldier was "not just a good man, he was a great man," Cannon said. "He is an American hero. Jason was a vibrant, shining star wherever he went."

A procession led by members of the Patriot Guard escorted McLeod's remains to the Windridge Memorial Park Cemetery in Cary, where McLeod was laid to rest with full military honors.

McLeod was deployed to Afghanistan in May and was killed less than a month before he was due home on leave. McLeod also served for a year in Iraq in 2007. He was a mechanic who worked on Humvees and was assigned to the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, out of Fort Carson, Colo.

Army Spc. Jason A. McLeod was killed in action on 11/23/09.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Hand

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Hand, 20, of Kansas City, Mo.

LCpl Hand was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Nov. 22, 2009 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations. -- Nicholas J. Hand was always playing the role of older brother, whether he was marshalling his nine siblings to do chores at home in Kansas City, Mo., or leading his squad in Afghanistan.

"He was good at encouraging people and motivating them without being harsh at it," said his brother Brandon.

He said Nicholas was patriotic as a student and used to write quotes from military leaders and the Founding Fathers on his whiteboard.

Hand graduated early from Oak Park High School to join the Marines at 17.

In early November, Hand visited home, where he often ended up roughhousing with his brothers. Three weeks later, on Nov. 22, the 20-year-old was killed by small arms fire in Helmand province. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune and previously served in Iraq.

"He had his biological family, and he had his Marine family," said his mother, Dawn. "You watched his face light up, and you knew that in your heart he was with his family there."

She called Hand "a socialite" who made time for everyone in his large family, who is remembering him as "a good Marine, but a better brother."

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Hand was killed in action on 11/22/09.

Army Sgt. Briand T. Williams

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Briand T. Williams, 25, of Sparks, Ga.

Sgt. Williams was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.; died Nov. 22, 2009 in Numaniyah, Iraq, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire.

'He never looked for an easy way out’
The Associated Press

Briand Williams — known to his comrades as “Sergeant Will” — gave big hugs, and had an even bigger appetite, his mother said.

“When he’d come to visit me, he’d give me a big hug every time,” said his mother, Tonya Flippen. “And the first words that would come out of his mouth were, ‘What are you cooking me for dinner?’ ”

Williams, 25, of Sparks, Ga., was killed by an enemy sniper Nov. 22 in Numaniyah, Iraq. He was assigned to Fort Benning, Ga., and was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant.

The soldier enlisted in 2002 after graduating from Valdosta High School in Georgia. Flippen said her son was determined to be a career military man.

“His mission was to go into the military and retire. That was his job,” his mother said. “He died doing what he loved.”

Pvt. Wayland Waldrep said “Sergeant Will” was tough on him and the other soldiers, but only because he cared about them as a leader.

“He taught me how to be a better soldier and how to be on time,” Waldrep said. “He never looked for the easy way out to do what’s right for the situation. He was a good man.”

Williams also is survived by his wife, Atiyhia; a daughter, Briana; a son, Antonio Godbold; his father, Fred Williams Jr.; and a sister, Kyra Williams. His wife is pregnant with the couple’s third child.

Army Sgt. Briand T. Williams was killed in action on 11/22/09.

Army Pfc. Marcus A. Tynes

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Marcus A. Tynes, 19, of Moreno Valley, Calif.

Pfc. Tynes was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Benning, Ga.; died Nov. 22, 2009 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Sgt. James M. Nolen.

DoD News - Army Pfc. Marcus A. Tynes19, of Moreno Valley, Calif.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Benning, Ga.; died Nov. 22 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when

"Dearest Marcus, I was your librarian at Midland school and I remember you well. I attended the services held for you along with our principal, Mr. Flowers and Mr. Kaufman. Marcus, you did so much with your life during your nineteen short years. My heart breaks for your family and for the loss of you. You will always be in my prayers and thank you for your ultimate sacrifice. May God bless you and keep you in the warmth of his love."

Mrs. Workman posted Sunday about Army Pfc. Marcus A. Tynes, 19, of Moreno Valley, who was one of two paratroopers killed Nov. 22 when a roadside bomb exploded near their convoy vehicle in southwest Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, on the Pakistani border.

The Los Angeles Times -- The first time Marcus A. Tynes suited up for a youth basketball game, his mother saw the change.

She already knew her big, vigorous boy would like sports. But she didn't realize how thrilled he would be just to don that team jersey. It made him proud, gave him a sense of belonging. "He just liked that uniform," she said. "It made him feel part of something."

As he grew, one uniform followed another. One for football at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley, and another for track. A favorite was one he wore as a Riverside County sheriff's Explorer.

He put on the Explorer's green slacks and tan shirt, complete with badge and "rocker" insignia, and a new version of himself emerged, said sheriff's Sgt. Melvin Rasmussen, Tynes' Explorer advisor. The clownish kid sobered up. He volunteered for extra tasks and chided his fellow Explorers to keep their grades up. "He just jumped in with both feet," Rasmussen said.

Those uniforms kept Tynes on track. They guided his transformation from a good-natured but unruly adolescent to dedicated young man.

He had his heart set on someday wearing the navy blues of a Los Angeles Police Department SWAT officer. Rasmussen encouraged him to do a stint in the military first -- standard career advice for a would-be police officer.

At 19, Tynes died an Army private first class, killed Nov. 22 when a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy vehicle in southwest Afghanistan's Kandahar province, on the Pakistani border. Also killed was the paratrooper riding with him, Army Sgt. James Nolen, 25, of Alvin, Texas, who was on his second tour in Afghanistan. Both were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC.

Tynes was born in Bellflower and spent his first years in Compton and Long Beach before moving to Moreno Valley, said his mother, Dana Atlas, a nurse. He attended several schools, including Mountain View Middle School.

At Valley View High, his teachers liked him but sometimes struggled to contain him. He was happy, gregarious -- and disinclined to sit still.

He was bright, but some kids may just not be meant for academics, said Jack Fogarty, head football coach. "He had to be outside doing things," he said. "Sitting behind a desk was a task."

Fogarty recalled getting exasperated more than once. But Tynes was cheerful and a good athlete. And as time wore on, it was clear that he also was devoted.

When he first joined the team, the Valley View Eagles were in a bad way. They lost all but one game the first season, Rasmussen said. Tynes and his teammates fought "to the bitter end," Fogarty said. Each year, the team improved.

Eventually, Tynes, with his stocky build and natural strength and quickness, made the all-league team as an offensive lineman. Fogarty credits him with helping to rebuild Valley View's struggling football program. The Eagles made the playoffs this year, Fogarty said.

Along the way, Tynes' parents, coaches and teachers talked to him frequently about goals. Like his Explorer advisor, his football coach thought the military idea was perfect. Tynes didn't take much convincing. Military service ran in his family. And of course, there was that uniform.

He knew his military and law enforcement dreams could be jeopardized by his classroom performance. So he stepped up his efforts. He graduated in June 2008 and enlisted in July. Tynes trained at Ft. Benning, Ga., and reported to Ft. Bragg in January. He left for his first Afghanistan tour in September.

At first, his mother had not been enthusiastic about the plan. But she wanted him to find his way. And when she saw her son in his new uniform, she had to admit it: She was proud.

Not long ago, during a break before leaving for Afghanistan, Tynes went back to visit his old mentors at Valley View, cutting a striking figure in his camouflage gear.

His former English teacher, Ben Harrer, noted how different he seemed. In class, he had been rambunctious. Now, in soldier's garb, he appeared mature, clearly pleased with his new role: Private first class. Rifleman.

Tynes' mother was at work when her husband brought the news of his death. Rasmussen, the sheriff's sergeant, heard a few days later. "It took my breath away," he said.

Harrer, the teacher, "had a bad feeling," when he heard that someone from Moreno Valley had died. When he learned it was Tynes, he searched his computer and found a photo of Tynes doing a class presentation.

In the photo, a husky, youthful Tynes reads a scene from Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." He appears to be trying to suppress a smile. He is wearing his football uniform.

Tynes' body was flown to California on Thursday. His family waited in the bright sunshine to take him to a burial site next to his grandfather's grave at Pierce Bros. Crestlawn Memorial Park & Cemetery in Riverside.

In addition to his parents, Bruce and Dana Atlas of Moreno Valley, Tynes is survived by the Atlas siblings, Fallon, 26, Brittney, 20, Johannes, 15, Summer, 4, and Savannah, 2; and his biological father, Marcus Tynes Sr. The family does not use the terms "step" or "half"; they consider themselves one family, his mother said.

Army Pfc. Marcus A. Tynes was killed in action on 11/22/09.

Army Sgt. James M. Nolen

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. James M. Nolen, 25, of Alvin, Texas

Sgt. Nolen was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Benning, Ga.; died Nov. 22, 2009 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Pfc. Marcus A. Tynes.

ALVIN — Barbara Moore huddled in her jacket Wednesday afternoon as she waited along state Highway 6 to watch the escort for U.S. Army Sgt. James Nolen, who died Nov. 22 in Afghanistan.

“Staying in this is nothing compared to the conditions they have to put up with,” Moore said as she wiped tears from her eyes with her gloves. “The least we can do is come out to pay our respects to him.”

Darlene Morey remembered when James Nolen was about 5 years old.

Morey attended Sunday school with Nolen’s parents at First Baptist Church in Alvin.

“He was a normal, rambunctious boy,” Morey said. “I haven’t seen him since.”

Hundreds waited in the cold winds along Highway 6 and state Highway 35-B in Alvin as fire trucks, motorcycle riders and police escorted Nolen and his family to Scott Funeral Home.

Nolen, 25, of Alvin, died Nov. 22 after an improvised bomb exploded next to his vehicle that was part of a convoy. Pfc. Marcus A. Tynes, 19, of Moreno Valley, Calif., also died in the attack that took place in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province.

Nolen is the 14th Brazoria County service member to have died while serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. Among his survivors are his wife, Rachel Anne Nolen, who is four months pregnant; his stepson, William Flathman; his father, Walter Nolen; his mother, Kimberly Roberts; and brothers, John and Jeremy.

Visitation is set for 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Scott Funeral Home in Alvin. Nolen’s funeral is set for 10 a.m. Friday at Friendswood United Methodist Church, with burial to follow at Houston National Cemetery.

Some people waited in trucks, some stood along the roadway and others held flags as they paid tribute to the fallen soldier. People started lining the route along state Highway 35-B at the state Highway 35 Bypass, and the crowds grew thicker as the escort continued along state Highway 6 leading into Scott Funeral Home.

Bystanders talked while they waited, but hushed themselves quickly as the procession arrived. Some stood at attention and saluted as the hearse passed.

As the car carrying Nolen’s body pulled into the funeral home Wednesday, some of his relatives in the escort cried and waved at the people who showed up to welcome the fallen soldier home.

The greeting was moving, and Nolen’s family deeply appreciated it, family friend Christian Martin said.

“It was humbling, very very humbling,” he said.

Residents said they learned about the escort through social Web sites, e-mails and church groups.

Some Alvin High School football players stood along the highway in shorts waiting for Nolen’s remains to pass. A group of players got together and decided it was important to be there Wednesday, senior Dustin Moehlig said. So many decided to join in the tribute that coaches used a school bus to take them to the site.

“I’m just here thanking him for everything we have here,” Moehlig said. “I hope they see we’re thankful for what he’s done.”

Alvin resident Ann Blissit sat next to Moore before Nolen’s body was escorted down state Highway 6. Originally from England, Blissit said she remembers as a child sitting in bomb shelters as Nazi planes dropped bombs on London.

She appreciates the sacrifices American soldiers make, she said.

“I love this country, and I respect the young people who fight for it,” Blissit said.

State Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, stood alone amid the participants Wednesday at the funeral home’s entrance.

“I wish I didn’t have to be here,” he said. “There’s really a sadness in your heart when you lose a soldier.”

Army Sgt. James M. Nolen was killed in action on 11/22/09.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Army Sgt. Daniel A. Frazier

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Daniel A. Frazier, 25, of St. Joseph, Mo.

Sgt. Frazier was assigned to the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Nov. 19, 2009 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when a suicide car-bomber attacked his unit. Also killed was John J. Cleaver.

Niles Daily Star -- Army Sgt. Daniel Alexander Frazier, 25, was tragically killed on Nov. 19, 2009 in the Afghanistan Province of Zabul during his second tour of duty with the United States Army. Frazier was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. and formerly of Niles and St. Joseph.

He was born on Jan. 9, 1984 in Berrien Springs. He graduated from St. Joseph High School in St. Joseph in 2003. A simple and quiet man, he enjoyed playing his Xbox 360, eating at Burger King and mud-bogging in his 4×4 Dodge.

Frazier enlisted in the Army at age 22. He was very close to his family and always looked out for others. In 2006 Frazier enlisted in the Army and like his brother, dedicated himself to service. He was a “big brother” to many of his fellow soldiers and listened to them as he helped with anything possible. Rather than being concerned with himself, Frazier was always giving to his fellow soldiers serving along side him.

When home he enjoyed spending time with his family; Frazier was a wonderful uncle and especially enjoyed his nieces and nephews. He was a man of sound character and loved his family. Frazier had an infectious smile about him that always put others at ease. To say he will be missed is an understatement.

On March 21, 2009 Frazier wed the love of his life, Brittany Lea Jenson, at a ceremony in Kernersville, N.C. While the two hadn’t known each other long, in the grand scheme of life, they both knew they had the type of love that is once in a lifetime. As a couple the two shared a strong passion and mutual respect for one another.

He is preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, Bruce Frazier, and maternal grandfather, Allen Beebe.

He is survived by his wife, Brittany Frazier of Fayetteville, N.C.; his father, David (Sheri) Frazier, of Niles; mother, Roxana (William) Walter, of Pace, Fla.; paternal grandmother, Geraldine Frazier, of Watervliet; maternal grandmother, Donna Beebe, of Coloma; siblings, Jessica (David) Marquardt, of St. Joseph, David (Amanda) frazier, of Colon, Marie (Cory) Culver, of Huntsville, Ala., Amanda (Mike) McLain, of Goshen, Ind., Lauren (Kevin) Lamb, of Elkhart, Ind., David Walter, of Benton Harbor; and many special nieces and nephews.

Frazier has always been a hero to his parents and siblings, from the birth of his nephews and nieces “Uncle Dan” was a hero, to Brittney, Frazier was her romantic hero, who swept her off her feet and now our community will gather to honor Our Hero, Sgt. Daniel Frazier, giving the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Enduring Freedom.

A time of visitation will be held on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009 at Brown Funeral Home located at 521 East Main St. in Niles, from 4 to 8 p.m., with a celebration to honor Daniel’s life on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009 at 11 a.m. at the Michiana Christian Embassy located at 1922 East Main St. in Niles. Pastor Jerry Solis of Three Rivers will be officiating.

Frazier will be laid to rest with full Military Honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

Army Sgt. Daniel A. Frazier was killed in action on 11/19/09.

Army Staff Sgt. John J. Cleaver

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. John J. Cleaver, 36, of Marysville, Wash.

SSgt. Cleaver was assigned to the 782d Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Nov. 19, 2009 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when a suicide car-bomber attacked his unit. Also killed was Daniel A. Frazier.

Cleaver joined the Navy in 1995 and was stationed on the U.S.S. Inchon at Ingleside, Texas, served in Kosovo, then PCS'd to Norfolk, Va., where he was a firefighter instructor for three years, then Seattle, where he set up a firefighter training school and was stationed on the U.S.S. Rodney M. Davis, soon deploying to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After serving 10 years in the Navy, he reenlisted in the Army. Shortly after arriving at Fort Bragg, N.C., he was deployed to Afghanistan as a convoy commander and a medic.

Cleaver was deployed to Afghanistan again in July, his fourth deployment to a combat zone, stationed at FOB Apache. He was working a supply run to FOB Shajoy, they'd just unloaded the supplies and were ready to mount up and head back, when the truck pulled up and was detonated by the driver.

"Staff Sgt. Cleaver was one of the most disciplined paratroopers that I have ever had a chance to work with. He always set a standard and ensured that his paratroopers always meet that standard," said Capt. Burton Furlow, commander of Company E.

Cleaver's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Navy Unit Commendation with bronze oak leaf cluster, four Navy Efficiency Ribbons, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Navy Good Conduct Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters, the National Defense Service Medal, Navy Battle “E” with silver wreath for four or more awards, the Kosovo Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with bronze stars for 2nd, 3rd and 4th award, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Naval Reserve Sea Service Medal, Navy Pistol Medal with silver E for expert, the NATO Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Parachutist Badge.

Cleaver is survived by his parents, Ron and Teresa Cleaver, brother Ron, sister Rhonda, and 2 sons, Collin and Aiden, plus a plethora of extended family and friends.

In addition to his enviable military record, something he loved and gave his all, he was as great a person as anyone could have the honor to meet. He always back-burnered his life to handle the needs of his soldiers, friends, and even strangers. Always a can do, will do, did do guy. He was our best friend and we don't know of one single bad thing he's ever done. He loved his country, his family, his friends, the Army, and most of all his sons. Truly an asset to Ft Bragg, Fayetteville, and the World.

John, we love you and miss you. We cry every day. "No worries", brother.

J.R. and "Rae"

Dec 5, 2009
Amber Hoskins
SSG John J. Cleaver will live in our hearts forever. You are a true American Hero!!
Remember to save a dance for me!!

Army Staff Sgt. John J. Cleaver was killed in action on 11/19/09.

Navy Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Brian M. Patton

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Brian M. Patton, 37, of Freeport, Ill.

Master-at-Arms Patton, a member of the Navy Reserve, died Nov. 19, 2009 in Kuwait of injuries suffered in a noncombat-related accident.

Served in AF Reserve between Navy stints
The Associated Press

Brian M. Patton was the kind of man who remembered to wish his wife of nine years a happy anniversary even from overseas.

He called to tell Amy Patton he missed her, and they talked about a trip they were planning to Hawaii. Then he hung up for the final time.

Relatives say the 37-year-old from Freeport, Ill., was killed Nov. 19 in a vehicle crash near a base in Kuwait, where he had volunteered to deploy.

The Gulf War veteran spent time in the Air Force Reserve between stints with the Navy, most recently with a reserve unit based in New York. He had recently worked in Dallas, Pa., as an officer at a correctional facility.

Colleagues and comrades say they could always depend on Patton, a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, to fill several roles: the jokester, the attention-grabber, the life of the party, the go-to guy.

“He was a natural leader,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer David Kinnaird. “People would follow him. Definitely a wonderful sailor, one of my best sailors.”

Patton also is survived by sons Brian and Nicholas; a stepson, Tyler; and two brothers, Robert and Scott.

Navy Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Brian M. Patton was killed in a non-combat incident on 11/19/09.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Army Spc. Joseph M. Lewis

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Joseph M. Lewis, 26, of Terrell, Texas

Spc. Lewis was assigned to the 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.; died Nov. 17, 2009 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

Texas soldier dies in Afghanistan
The Associated Press

FORT LEWIS, Wash. — The Defense Department says a Fort Lewis soldier was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Twenty-six-year-old Spc. Joseph M. Lewis of Terrell, Texas, was a member of the 5th Stryker brigade.

The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., reports he was the 29th member of the brigade to die since it deployed in July.

Lewis previously served a 12-month tour in Korea and was on his first deployment to Afghanistan.

Lewis leaves behind a wife, Theresa, and an infant daughter, Abigail, according to the Terrell Tribune.

Army Spc. Joseph M. Lewis was killed in action on 11/17/09.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan L. Zorn

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan L. Zorn, 35, of Upton, Wyo.

SSgt Zorn was assigned to 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Nov.16, 2009 in Tal Afar, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover.

Soldier planned to be career serviceman

By Matt Joyce
The Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Zorn, who died in a vehicle accident in Iraq, knew early in life that he wanted to join the military, and he planned to spend his career in the service, his mother said.

Zorn, who grew up in Upton, Wyo., died Nov. 16 in Tal Afar, Iraq, from injuries suffered in the roll-over crash, the Defense Department said. He was 35.

JoAnn Zorn, of Wright, Wyo., said her son was on his third tour in Iraq when he was killed. During a 15-year military career, he had been stationed across the United States and in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Korea, his mother said.

“He had always wanted to go into the service, as much as we tried to talk him out of it,” JoAnn Zorn said. “At high school, when they would have career day or anything like that, he said, ‘No I want to go into service,’ and that’s what he did.”

Zorn was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas. He trained there to be part of a military transition team — a small group of soldiers that advises and teaches Iraqi soldiers — and deployed in March for a yearlong tour.

The military said it’s investigating the roll-over crash that killed Zorn. JoAnn Zorn said the family has not yet heard any details about the crash except that her son suffered traumatic head injuries.

“He loved his job,” JoAnn Zorn said. “He loved being a soldier and he loved serving his country.”

Connie Andersen, a Wright resident and family friend, remembered Zorn as a kindhearted person who enjoyed being around his family and helping others.

JoAnn Zorn said her son would volunteer for holiday work shifts so other soldiers with family members could spend the holiday with their families. Whenever he came home to visit, he was a “family man,” she said.

“He had a nephew and two nieces,” JoAnn Zorn said. “He didn’t drink, and when he came home on leave, he always just stayed at home with the family.”

Zorn liked playing cards with his mother and nieces during visits, Andersen said.

Zorn is survived by his parents, Myron and JoAnn of Wright, a brother, a grandmother and others. Funeral arrangements were pending.

Was in military for 15 years
The Associated Press

Ryan Zorn used to volunteer for holiday work shifts so other soldiers could spend time with their families, his mother said.

When he made it home, he played cards with his mother and two nieces.

“He didn’t drink, and when he came home on leave, he always just stayed at home with the family,” said the soldier’s mother, JoAnn Zorn, of Wright, Wyo.

Zorn, 35, of Upton, Wyo., died Nov. 16 in a vehicle rollover in Tal Afar, Iraq. He was based at Fort Riley, Kan.

He trained there to be part of a military transition team — a small group of soldiers that advises and teaches Iraqi soldiers — and deployed in March for a yearlong tour.

Zorn was on his third tour in Iraq when he was killed, and during a 15-year military career, he had been stationed across the United States and in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Korea, his mother said.

“He had always wanted to go into the service, as much as we tried to talk him out of it,” JoAnn Zorn said. “At high school, when they would have career day or anything like that, he said, ‘No I want to go into service,’ and that’s what he did.”

Zorn also is survived by his father, Myron; his brother; his grandmother; his nephew; and other relatives.

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan L. Zorn was killed in action on 11/16/09.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Marine Lance Cpl. Shawn P. Hefner

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Shawn P. Hefner, 22, of Hico, Texas

LCpl Hefner was assigned to 2nd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Nov. 13, 2009 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Dallas Morning News – Shawn Patrick Hefner was promoted to be a Marine lance corporal on Nov. 1 and scheduled to return to his home base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., sometime next week.

After a state-side debriefing about his duty in Afghanistan, he planned to return home to Central Texas on Dec. 10, less than a week after celebrating his 23rd birthday. He was to be on leave until early January.

But Lance Cpl. Hefner was killed by an improvised bomb last Friday while supporting combat operations in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

His body was returned home Thursday to Hico, Texas, where services will be at 2 p.m. today at First Baptist Church. He will be buried in Hico Cemetery.

Cpl. Hefner was fun-loving and fearless, said his father, Patrick Hefner of Hico.

"He was outdoors," said his father, a former Marine. "He loved to fish and camp. If it could be done outdoors, that's where he wanted to be."

Cpl. Hefner was born Dec. 4, 1986, in Kansas City, Mo., and moved with his family to Hico in 1991. He was a 2006 graduate of Hico High School.

He joined the Marines in January 2008 and was deployed to Afghanistan in June . Almost immediately, he demonstrated his toughness, when he received a concussion after his Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle was rocked by an explosion.

His mother, Robin Hefner of Hico, had instructed her son to document his tour of duty with photographs. Cpl. Hefner faithfully carried out his mother's request – even after that attack.

"They were carting him off in helicopters, and he was lying on his back taking pictures of his buddies up in front of him," his father said.

Cpl. Hefner was assigned to the 2nd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune.

In addition to his mother and father, Cpl. Hefner is survived by a brother, Brandon Hefner of Mesquite; a sister, Jessica Megan Hefner of Hico; a grandfather, Raymond Hefner of Hico; and a grandmother, Lynn Schroff of Mesquite.

HICO — Of the thousands of young men and women who have died in the mountains of Afghanistan and on the streets of Iraq, none had a hometown named Hico.

But a week ago Friday, Marine Lance Cpl. Shawn Patrick Hefner, a Hico Tiger, Class of ’06, died in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb detonated in the Helmand province.

And as much as life doesn’t stop when someone dies, it came pretty close this week in Hico, a town on the upper end of the Hill Country in Hamilton County.

"I can’t remember anything that has gripped this town like this in years," said Bill Travis, who owns the Texas Trails restaurant. "The war has come home to Hico."

On a gray Friday afternoon, hundreds of people filled the First Baptist Church, then proceeded down Texas 6 to the cemetery to pay their last respects.

Hefner was 22, a Marine for less than two years.

"This entire community is hurting," said Mayor Lavern Tooley, who doubles as the school nurse and knew Hefner well.

Hefner’s father, Patrick, himself a former Marine, stood outside the church after the service.

He said the townsfolk had propped up him and his wife, Robin, for much of the last week as they made arrangements and flew to Dover Air Force Base, Del., to receive their son’s body.

"It’s a small town," he said. "We’re all family."

Only about 1,300 people live in Hico, the size of a small high school in Tarrant County.

It’s not a cliche to say that everyone knows everyone else, where they live, who their grandma is, when they buy a new pickup.

And it’s not hard to find people who have a story to tell about Hefner, a young man described by his family as fearless, outdoorsy and fun-loving.

There was the story about when he got suspended from school a few years ago because he had stripped off his clothes and gone "naked cliff diving" on a school field trip.

Or the one about how he tried to break a mustang, was thrown off and lay quietly on the couch for several hours, until he finally told his parents he was pretty sure he had a broken arm.

"The Marine Corps suited his lifestyle," said Drexel Ragland, who led the funeral service at the First Baptist Church.

Hico school Superintendent Rod Townsend could appreciate those stories. He knew Hefner well. His office is in the high school itself.

Townsend called Hefner a "rambunctious kid" who wasn’t always interested in schoolwork.

"Even when he was in trouble, though, he was very respectful," Townsend said. "He never lied to get out of any consequences. He was a good-hearted kid."

He was more than that to Cpl. William Pullen, who served with Hefner in the 2nd Amphibious Assault Battalion in Afghanistan.

Pullen spoke at the funeral.

Their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in July, and Pullen was the only one still in the vehicle, trapped as he faded in and out of consciousness.

"Shawn went back to the truck," Pullen said, his voice breaking. "He came and got me and carried me 50 feet. He stayed by my side. He was a good man. He was a good Marine."

Several days ago, Townsend remembered a story. Sometime in mid-2008, he was eating at a restaurant when a young man walked up to him. It was Hefner.

"He shook my hand and talked to me," he said. "Shawn and I were never great friends because we were usually on opposite sides of an issue. But the Shawn I talked to that day was not the Shawn I remembered.

"He had grown up into a young man," Townsend said. "I told myself, 'This kid is going to be OK.’ He had found his place."

So when Townsend heard about Hefner’s death, the one thing he thought he could do, for him and the schoolchildren he oversees, was bus them downtown Thursday afternoon to watch Hefner come home.

Every child in the Hico schools from third grade to the senior class lined Texas 6 for Hefner’s motorcade.

Businesses closed down. Flags were lowered to half-staff. People switched out the marquees around town to say "God Bless Shawn Hefner."

"I wanted the children to see how important he was for this nation," Townsend said. "I wanted them to have a lump in their throat, just like I did. Some things you can’t teach without seeing it. And you know what? You could have heard a pin drop in this town when those police lights came over that hill."

He came and got me and carried me 50 feet. He stayed by my side. He was a good man. He was a good Marine."

Marine Lance Cpl. Shawn P. Hefner was killed in action on 11/13/09.

Army Spc. Christopher J. Coffland

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Christopher J. Coffland, 43, of Baltimore

Spc. Coffland was assigned to the 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Meade, Md.; died Nov. 13, 2009 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

WBOC -- David and Toni Coffland never thought they would have to prepare for their son's funeral. Army intelligence specialist Christopher Coffland was killed last week in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb.

The 42-year-old soldier was just about two weeks into his deployment. His sister broke the news to their parents at their home in Worcester County.

"I'll never forget the look on my daughter's face," said Toni Coffland. "I have never seen a face with such horror and sadness."

The Cofflands went to Dover Air Force base the next day for Chris' dignified transfer. His father hopes no one has to go through the same ordeal.

"It tears you apart and you can't believe your boy's body's in there," said David Coffland.

The Cofflands, who have received dozens of condolences, are planning a funeral service for this weekend in Baltimore. They say they want his leadership, humor and selflessness to be remembered.

OCEAN PINES -- An Ocean Pines couple is mourning the loss of their son, a Baltimore man who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan two weeks into his deployment.

Spc. Christopher James Coffland joined the Army Reserve at age 42, one month shy of the cutoff age for enlistment. His family said he dreamed of moving up in the intelligence field, and hoped for a defense department or civilian contractor job when he came home.

Coffland died Nov. 13 of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Wardak province. Two Marines also died in the attack. The team was investigating a report of another vehicle bombing, family members said.

His remains arrived Saturday night at Dover Air Force Base, where family members and friends were waiting.

"I can't tell you how much respect and honor with which they do that in Dover," said his father, David Coffland, choking up. "I gotta tell you, it's the hardest thing in life, for any parent to see that casket with the flag lying on it. It tears you up."

Mr. Coffland said he and his wife Toni are touched by an outpouring of support from their Ocean Pines neighbors.

"It's a continuous parade of people, with food and comfort," he said. "It's one of the most caring communities and circle of friends that anyone could possibly have. It's amazing. They're just coming out of the woodwork."

Coffland's father remembered how, "even when he was a little guy in Little League," Coffland remained a loyal and staunch supporter of his friends.

"For his small size, when he was a kid, he was the bravest kid I ever knew -- tough, you know, being able to withstand or do anything. As he grew, his morals grew. If every man could have been like my son, there wouldn't have been any problems in this world," he said.

After a lifetime of worldwide travel, Coffland became interested in a career in intelligence, his father said. He sought work in the field of covert operations, and turned down several opportunities to join as an officer, choosing enlistment instead.

His interest in the military wasn't new. He had been accepted into Army and Navy service academies after graduating in 1984 from Baltimore's Gilman School -- but he turned them down, his father said.

"He decided at that time that six years was too much of a commitment. And of course, we were in peacetime. He thought, 'why would I go do that if there wasn't a war?' After 9/11, he changed his thinking about war. He was patriotic, and he wanted to do something," he said.

Coffland graduated in 1988 from Washington and Lee University. He would later travel the world -- playing professional football in Europe, coaching football in Australia, earning a graduate anthropology degree in Washington, living with native Pygmy tribesmen in Africa, tending bar in Baltimore.

"Never a thought in his mind of any kind of commercial venture where he could make money," his father said. "That was the furthest thing from his mind. His whole intention in life was for helping people, and doing for others."

Coffland's brother-in-law, Kevin Bresnahan, of Ocean City, agreed that he always sought meaningful pursuits in everything he did.

"His whole mantra was, 'unless there's passion, there is no life,' type of a thing," he said. "And it was kind of surprising he joined the Army, because he's the kind of guy that doesn't like the regiment or authority that much. He was just a free spirit, but for some reason he thought this was his calling."

Army spokeswoman Maj. Monica Womack said Coffland had been assigned to the 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion based in Fort Meade, Md. In February he was cross-leveled with the Austin, Texas-based 321st Military Intelligence Battalion, and trained for his mission to Afghanistan. His unit arrived at the end of October.

Coffland's sister Karen Bresnahan said her baby brother never wanted the fanfare or accolades that came from his very dangerous job.

"I'm very proud my brother died doing what he wanted to do," she said. "He lived his life doing what he wanted to -- whatever he wanted to do, he did. He was accomplished in every aspect of his life. He wanted to serve his country. He will be an inspiration to many other young men and women, trying to rid the world of these terrorists and rebels, so we can have a life of freedom and democracy."

Coffland most recently resided in Baltimore with his sister, Lynn. In a statement, Mayor Sheila Dixon praised his service and said city flags will be lowered in his honor.

Coffland is survived by his parents, three sisters and a brother. A viewing will be held Nov. 20 at Lemmon Funeral Home in Timonium, Md., followed by an 11:00 a.m funeral Nov. 21 at Baltimore's Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

Funeral set for fallen reservist
The Associated Press

BALTIMORE — A funeral Mass has been scheduled for an Army Reservist from Baltimore who was killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.

The funeral for Spc. Christopher James Coffland will take place Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

The 43-year-old Coffland died Nov. 13 when the vehicle he was in exploded in the Sayed Abud region.

Coffland signed up with the Army Reserves in December 2007, a month before he turned 42. He was killed 2½ weeks after arriving in Afghanistan.

Army Spc. Christopher J. Coffland was killed in action on 11/13/09.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Marine Lance Cpl. Justin J. Swanson

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Justin J. Swanson, 21, of Anaheim, Calif.

LCpl. Swanson was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Nov. 10, 2009 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated.

ANAHEIM -- Justin J. Swanson talked about duty and discipline and about being a role model for his family when he signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps a few weeks out of high school.

Lance Cpl. Swanson of Anaheim died earlier this week in the blast of an improvised explosive as he participated in combat operations in southern Afghanistan. He was 21 years old.

"I'm in the United States Marine Corps. Ooorah!!!" he wrote on his MySpace page. "I love what I do ... and I'm good at what I do. ... I like being number 1 and being the best at whatever it is I do."

Swanson was serving in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province when he died of his injuries from an improvised explosive device, the Department of Defense announced on Thursday. His death on Tuesday came on the official birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps, and a day before Veterans' Day.

His family could not be reached for comment.

Swanson enlisted in the Marines in 2006 and was based at Camp Pendleton with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force. Officials at the base said he was on his second deployment after returning from Iraq last year.

A close friend, Daniel Ramos, 21, of Fullerton, said Swanson volunteered to go to Afghanistan. "He didn't want to stay back," Ramos said. "He was ready to go."

Swanson grew up in a neighborhood in Anaheim where role models were in short supply. He had talked since high school about joining the Marines, in part to set an example for his two younger brothers and two younger sisters, Ramos said.

He went to Buena Park High School, where – according to his MySpace page – he majored in football. He was a laid-back student, and his teachers sometimes thought they were more worried about his future than he was.

But many of them said he was something special. Michelle Johnson, who taught him freshman English, called him a "diamond in the rough, full of enthusiasm." And school counselor Cindy Chow remembered a student workshop, when a small boy came forward to say he was being picked on.

It was Justin Swanson, the big football player, who "made it a point to say, I have your back," Chow said.

Swanson visited the school a few months ago, and spoke to students in English teacher Ron Carcich's classroom about finding their way in life. Carcich remembered Swanson not as the well-disciplined Marine standing at the front of the classroom, but as the student who never seemed to take anything seriously.

"Don't worry, Mr. C.," Swanson would tell his teacher. "I'll make it."

"He'll never be married. He'll never have children," Carcich said. "It's the loss of what could have been, what was just starting to be."

"It tore me to pieces," he said. "I cried like a baby."

Marine Lance Cpl. Justin J. Swanson was killed in action on 11/10/09.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Marine Staff Sgt. Stephen L. Murphy

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Staff Sgt. Stephen L. Murphy, 36, of Jaffrey, N.H.

SSgt. Murphy was assigned to 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Nov. 9, 2009 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq.

Mother of fallen NH Marine says his time had come
The Associated Press

TROY, N.H. — The mother of New Hampshire Marine Stephen L. Murphy of Troy who was killed in Iraq says it was his time to go.

Carol Murphy made the comments during a Sunday tribute to her son in the Troy town square that was hosted by the local American Legion post.

The 36-year-old staff sergeant was killed Nov. 8 in Al Asad, Iraq.

The New Hampshire Union Leader quotes Carol Murphy as saying she was blessed with something wonderful, but it was her son's time to go.

Carol Murphy says she's still waiting to learn more about how her son died.

A funeral for the fallen Marine is scheduled for Nov. 17.

Service provided foundation for Murphy
The Associated Press

Stephen Murphy’s foster family didn’t know what to make of him when he first arrived in his early teens. His hair was purple and green, and he was always listening to heavy metal music.

“His hair was his pride and joy,” said his foster sister, Lynn Quade. “He was such a heavy metal dude.”

That was before Murphy, of Jaffery, N.H., spent 16 years in the Marines. He died Nov. 9 in Iraq’s Anbar province. His death was not combat-related and is being investigated. Still, his military career made his family proud.

“He touched this earth, and he left behind all beautiful things for people in this town,” said his mother, Carol Murphy, who lives in Troy, N.H.

Friends and family members say Murphy, 36, grew into a quiet, tender man who still loved to play his guitar and go skiing.

He once joined a search party to look for a lost boy. He found the child and waited with him at the base of a mountain for help to arrive.

Murphy joined the Marines shortly after graduating from Conant High School in Jaffrey. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Survivors also include his foster mother, Evelyn Covey, and three sisters.

Marine Staff Sgt. Stephen L. Murphy was killed in a non-hostile incident on 11/09/09.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Earl R. Scott III

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Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Earl R. Scott III, 24, of Jacksonville, Fla.

CWO2 Scott was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Nov. 8, 2009 in Tikrit, Iraq, of injuries sustained when his OH-58D helicopter crashed. Also killed was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mathew C. Heffelfinger.

‘He loved the freedom’ of the skies
The Associated Press

Earl “Scotty” Scott, an Army helicopter pilot, always loved the freedom of flying and never feared being in the air. He didn’t want anyone else to be afraid of it, either.

Nick Bradley, one of Scott’s close friends, recalled going on a plane ride with Scott at the controls. Scott urged his friend to take over, and decided he’d have a little fun when Bradley refused.

“He let go and we started falling. I had a full-blown heart attack that time,” Bradley said.

Scott, 24, of Jacksonville, Fla., died Nov. 8 when his helicopter crashed in Tikrit, Iraq. He was assigned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Scott had started his own lawn care business as a teen, but sold the business so he could pursue a career in aviation. He joined the Army in 2006.

The pilot loved to go camping, fishing, surfing and kite surfing. Friends and family also said he enjoyed playing drums. But he liked nothing more than being in the air.

“He loved the freedom of it, being able to fly where he wanted to,” said his father, Earl Scott Jr. “I know he was doing what he wanted to do and I know he was proud to serve his country.”

Among other survivors are his mother, Sandra; a brother, William; and his girlfriend, Tara Reyna.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Earl R. Scott III was killed in action on 11/08/09.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mathew C. Heffelfinger

Remember Our Heroes

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mathew C. Heffelfinger, 29, of Kimberly, Idaho

CWO2 Heffelfinger was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Nov. 8, 2009 in Tikrit, Iraq, of injuries sustained when his OH-58D helicopter crashed. Also killed was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Earl R. Scott III.

Town stood still while local son was buried
The Associated Press

Matthew C. Heffelfinger’s father says he was humble and could do without drawing attention to himself.

“He was one who walked the walk and commanded respect by his actions without needing to talk that talk,” Craig Heffelfinger said.

Heffelfinger, 29, joined the Army in April 2000. He was assigned in December 2007 to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and served as a Kiowa helicopter pilot.

On Nov. 8, he died in a helicopter crash in Tikrit, Iraq, along with Chief Warrant Officer Earl R. Scott of Jacksonville, Fla.

About 250 people attended services for Heffelfinger in rural Kimberly, Idaho, his hometown. Throughout the community, signs on businesses honored him and flags were flown at half-mast.

“We were humbled to see so many businesses with signs showing support and their sincere condolences,” Craig Heffelfinger said.

Heffelfinger leaves behind his wife, Tanya, and the couple’s two children.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mathew C. Heffelfinger was killed in action on 11/08/09.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Marine Sgt. Charles I. Cartwright

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Marine Sgt. Charles I. Cartwright, 26, of Union Bridge, Md.

Sgt. Cartwright was assigned to 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Nov. 7, 2009 while supporting combat operations in Farah province, Afghanistan.

MarSOC NCO killed in Afghanistan
Staff report

A California-based Marine was killed Saturday during combat operations in Afghanistan, Marine officials said.

Sgt. Charles I. Cartwright, 26, of Union Bridge, Md., died in Farah province. He was a reconnaissance man assigned to 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif., according to a news release. The battalion is part of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.

It’s not immediately clear how he died.

Cartwright enlisted in the Corps on Sept. 10, 2001, and joined MarSOC in October 2006, just a few months after he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

His military awards include: two Purple Hearts, Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons, Navy Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, two Marine Corps Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, two Iraqi Campaign Medals, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, NATO Medal and two Certificates of Commendation.

Marine Sgt. Charles I. Cartwright was killed in action on 11/07/09.

Ret. Senior Airman Sumner L. Cowan

Remember Our Heroes

Ret. Senior Airman Sumner L. Cowan, 27, of Valdosta, Ga., passed away Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009.

Sumner was born Sept. 29, 1982, in Fayetteville. He graduated from Schaumburg High School in Schaumburg, Ill., with the Class of 2001 and attended Harper College in Palatine, Ill., before entering the U.S. Air Force. During his enlistment, he served in Balad and Kirkuk, Iraq. He was on the ground during the initial elections in Baghdad and for a time was embedded with the U.S. Army. Sumner was assigned to the 823rd Security Forces Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia since 2005 and was medically retired in April 2009 due to injuries sustained in Iraq. Sumner proudly and loyally served his country and received many honors, awards and commendations for his dedicated service. Most recently, he was attending Georgia Military College in Valdosta.

Sumner is survived by his parents and stepparents, KerrieAnn Mayes-Skuran and husband, Craig Skuran of Schaumburg, Ill., and Thomas L. Cowan and wife, Selma of Woodbridge, Va.; one sister, Angelica Drumm of Woodbridge; two brothers, Thomas L. Cowan II and Ernest D. Cowan of Woodbridge; numerous aunts, uncles and cousins; stepgrandparents, Victor and Mildred Skuran of Glenview, Ill., and Generosa Nery of Angeles City, Philippines. He was predeceased by his maternal grandparents, Ralph and Louise (Mack) Mayes; his paternal grandparents, Harold and Alma (Pyle) Cowan; and stepgrandfather, Ernesto David.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 13, 2009, at Chapel of Carson McLane Funeral Home in Valdosta with his cousin, the Rev. Don Cowan, officiating. Interment will take place at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sumner’s family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Carson McLane Funeral Home.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Army Pfc. Michael Pearson

Remember Our Heroes

Slain soldier from Bolingbrook passionate about Army life

Michael Pearson joined the Army hoping it would get him to college where he could pursue his passion: music.

But he soon became passionate about his life in the military.

"He was proud. He loved every minute of the military. He found a new side of himself," Kristopher Craig said of his kid brother, one of 13 people gunned down at Fort Hood in Texas. Another area soldier, Francheska Velez, was also killed.

Craig, who also served in the Army and spent a year at Ft. Hood, was expecting to see Pearson in a few weeks when he came home before shipping out to Afghanistan. Early this morning, he found himself standing outside the family's Bolingbrook home, eyes red, struggling with his grief.

"Nobody knows how to handle it," Craig said, barely able to talk. "It's hard to believe that he's gone. I just don't understand it."

Sheryll Pearson and her husband, Jeff, heard the news about the shooting while at Craig's home.

But they figured Pearson was safe. The reports said the victims were in an overseas deployment processing center. Michael, they knew, had received his anthrax shot two days before in preparation for deployment overseas in January.

"We thought it was going to be okay, because we thought it was another building," Pearson's mother said. "Mike won't be there because he already he got his inoculations ... He shouldn't be in that part of that building. Since we weren't contacted, we felt we were okay."

But as they were driving home about 6:30 p.m., they received a call on their cell phone from her son's sergeant at Ft. Hood. Pearson, he said, had been shot three times -- in the spine and chest. He said Pearson had lost a lot of blood.

About 10 p.m., an Army surgeon called to say that Pearson hadn't made it. He said doctors had brought Pfc. Pearson back to life twice on the operating table but were unsuccessful the third time.

"His father is still in shock and very angry," Sheryll Pearson said. "We're all very angry."

Pearson, 21, joined the Army slightly more than a year ago and was training to deactivate bombs, his mother said.

"He was working for a furniture company and felt like he wasn't going anywhere," she said this morning.

"He felt he was in a rut. He wanted to travel, see the world. He also wanted an opportunity to serve the country." She said he also wanted to further his education after graduating from Bolingbrook High School.

"He would do anything for us," she continued. When Jeff Pearson was laid off from his job, Mike sent home money to buy new tires for the family car.

She said she last talked to her son two days ago about him coming home for Christmas. She told him she had already gotten his room ready. She was particularly excited because she hadn't seen her son in a year. He had been training for a year in the Mojave Desert.

"He was always upbeat and looking forward to coming home," she said. "He was bringing his guitar home." Pearson, she said, loved music and his guitar. He and his father often played together.

Mike Dostalek, Pearson's cousin, said Jimmy Hendrix was his idol. Pearson also taught himself how to play piano, Dostalek added during an informal news conference outside the family home this afternoon.

"He was the poster child of what any mother wanted in a son," she said.

This afternoon, Sheryll Pearson said her son's death "still doesn't seem real to me."

He was the best son in the whole world. He was a good student, good friend, loyal, a hard worker -- he was my best friend and I miss him," she said, adding that she is praying for the families of the other victims.

Craig said he and his brother were recently discussing who he should see before he shipped out to Afghanistan. "We know Afghanistan is not a joke," he said.

"We were completely blindsided by this," Craig added. "It's simple military, really. . .All the guys around you, you trust them with your life. You're all there to watch each other's back. That's the way the military works. He trusted everybody that was around him."

"Attacking another soldier, it's just ridiculous, I don't understand it."

Craig said his brother was planning on going to college after the Army to study music theory.

"Music. I mean, really, that's what kept him going through any hard time our family had. Him and his stepfather played guitar. . .He was a genius as far as we were all concerned. My stepfather has been playing for years and years, and my brother surpassed him in a couple weeks of playing the guitar. He wasn't really expressive with his words. When he started playing the guitar, we all understood that was how he was communicating to everybody, that's where his emotion was.

"He didn't drink, didn't smoke, never wanted to. He was a perfect kid," Craig said. "He lived his life by his guitar and his work. He was an amazing kid. He was my mom's best friend."

Jessica Koerber, a family friend, was with the Pearsons when they received the phone call about Michael's death and said she was outraged.

If his killer didn't want to ship overseas, "he should have killed himself and not taken out other people," she said.

Koerber, 26, said she was surprised by Pearson's decision to enlist. "It shocked me because he'd be so far from his family. His family is his life," she said, adding that his nieces and nephews "loved their uncle Mikey."

"Michael was someone who never did anything wrong in his life," Koerber said. "So we all thought he's going to pull through, (that) God's not going to take him."

At Bolingbrook High School today, where Pearson graduated in 2006, the American flag hung at half staff and grief counselors were at the ready to help students.

Besides his parents and brother Kristopher, Pearson is survived by another brother, Jason Craig, and a sister, Julie Craig.

This afternoon at the informal news conference, Dostalek read a prose poem Pearson wrote:

I look only to the future for wisdom. To rock back and forth in my wooden chair. To grow out the beard of the Earth and play my experience through sound. Not always pleasant. But just as important. For each note must represent my love, pain and experience. Everyone has a place in my story. And someday I'll play a tune that represents you and the role you played in my life.

Michael Grant Cahill

Remember Our Heroes

Thirteen people were killed when an Army psychiatrist opened fire on soldiers at the Fort Hood Army base, including Michael Grant Cahill. Here is a short profile:

Mr. Cahill, a 62-year-old physician assistant, suffered a heart attack two weeks ago and returned to work at the base as a civilian employee after taking just one week off for recovery, said his daughter Keely Vanacker.

“He survived that. He was getting back on track, and he gets killed by a gunman,” Ms. Vanacker said, her words bare with shock and disbelief.

Mr. Cahill, of Cameron, Texas, helped treat soldiers returning from tours of duty or preparing for deployment. Often, Vanacker said, Cahill would walk young soldiers where they needed to go, just to make sure they got the right treatment.

“He loved his patients, and his patients loved him,” said Ms. Vanacker, 33, the oldest of Mr. Cahill’s three adult children. “He just felt his job was important.”

Mr. Cahill, who was born in Spokane, Wash., had worked as a civilian contractor at Fort Hood for about four years, after jobs in rural health clinics and at Veterans Affairs hospitals. He and his wife, Joleen, had been married 37 years.

Ms. Vanacker described her father as a gregarious man and a voracious reader who could talk for hours about any subject.

The family’s typical Thanksgiving dinners ended with board games and long conversations over the table, said Vanacker, whose voice often cracked with emotion as she remembered her father. “Now, who I am going to talk to?”

Michael Cahill

Michael Cahill back

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Army Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo

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Major Libardo Caraveo was one of 13 people killed Thursday at Fort Hood.

Army Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo didn't much like his first name, which he often abbreviated as simply "L," going instead by Eduardo or his nickname, "Lalo."

Caraveo, a longtime psychotherapist, told his best friend Rudy Valenzuela that he thought his parents really meant to call him "Librado," which means "free" and "liberated" in Spanish.

In retrospect, Valenzuela believes his friend was right.

"Freedom. That was him. He lived freely, and he gave to ensure that other people could have the same opportunity," said Valenzuela, a Tucson, Arizona, attorney who called Caraveo his close friend for 25 years.

Caraveo, 52, was killed in the shootings at Fort Hood last week and was among the 13 people honored at a memorial service Tuesday. He is survived by a wife, three sons and two stepdaughters.

Family and friends say Caraveo broke through the barriers of a life that began with little promise, as the youngest of seven siblings of an impoverished family that immigrated from Juárez, Chihuahua, to El Paso.

"When he was born ... there wasn't money to support us," said Caraveo's oldest brother, Fernando Caraveo, 71, of El Paso. "He began to study, and would say, 'If God helps me, then I am going to help people.'"

He channeled his boundless energy to travel the country to counsel, in some cases, the most challenged populations. Along the way he made lifelong friends and rose in the ranks of the places at which he worked.

Caraveo served nearly 10 years in the Army National Guard, where he counseled soldiers. He also had a 16-year career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a post that took him to counsel inmates at a correctional facility in Safford, Arizona, where a memorial service also was held for Caraveo on Tuesday.

Caraveo graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso and was the first in his family to get a college degree. He went on to get a master's degree from Texas Tech University and his doctorate from the University of Arizona, said sons Jose, 25, and Eduardo, 31, during their visit to Fort Hood on Tuesday.

Fort Hood was just another stop in a journey that took Caraveo to Arizona, New Mexico, California, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., before returning to Texas. Before long, he was to be shipped out to Afghanistan to treat soldiers suffering from trauma.

"What I admired most about my dad is he always wanted to outdo himself," said Jose Caraveo, who is preparing to enter the medical field himself. "He was a noble person and a hard worker who really built a legacy that is bigger than all of us."

Elaine LeVine, a New Mexico State University professor who got to know Caraveo when he studied there in the late 1990s, said he left an indelible impression on the friends he left behind.

"He would still call in every once in a while, send an e-mail and see how everyone was doing," she said. "He cared deeply about people."

Now, LeVine says it's time to give back. She is helping launch a memorial fund in Caraveo's name through a division of the American Psychological Association that she hopes will aid students from impoverished backgrounds.

"He was that model for those around him," she said. "He really believed in everybody's ability to break through boundaries."

Gadsden High remembers former counselor killed at Fort Hood
By Amanda L. Husson

Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, one of the 13 people killed in the Fort Hood rampage Thursday, was an Army psychologist who grew up in Juárez and El Paso and attended the University of Texas at El Paso.

He was also a counselor at Gadsden High School during the early 1980s, according to GHS Principal Carey Chambers.

Gadsden High junior Ivan Aguero, a cadet ensign on the Navy JROTC drill team, said it was nice to be able to show respect to the veterans attending the ceremony and those, like Caraveo, who have fallen.

"It's a good feeling," he said, "because it's saying 'thank you' to them for their service."

Caraveo, 52, of Woodbridge, Virginia., arrived in the United States in his teens from Juárez, knowing very little English, said his son, also named Eduardo Caraveo.

Caraveo earned his doctorate in psychology from the University of Arizona and worked with bilingual special-needs students at Tucson-area schools before entering private practice.

His son told the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson that Caraveo had arrived at Fort Hood on Wednesday and was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. Eduardo Caraveo spoke to the newspaper from his mother's Tucson home.

Rudy Valenzuela, of Tucson, called Caraveo a good man and described him as his best friend.

He said Caraveo had three children and several relatives in El Paso.

Caraveo, who graduated from Bowie High School and grew up in Segundo Barrio, was in the Readiness Processing Center in Fort Hood when a shooter opened fire, killing 13 and wounding 30 people.

He'd been in the National Guard for 10 years, and had spent one year at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As a member of the 467th Combat Stress Control Detachment, he would have been responsible for dealing with battlefield trauma in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama saluted the 13 Americans killed at Fort Hood as heroes who died for their country at a memorial service attended by thousands Tuesday.

He spoke about each of the slain soldiers in turn, saying of Caraveo, "Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo spoke little English when he came to America as a teenager. But he put himself through college, earned a Ph.D. and was helping combat units cope with the stress of deployment."

NOTE: Major Caraveo will be laid to rest with full military honors on 25 November 2009 at 9 AM at Arlington National Cemetery.
Under misty skies that shrouded the view of the Washington Monument, the Army buried one of its own Wednesday morning at Arlington National Cemetery.
Major L. Eduardo Caraveo, 52, of Woodbridge was laid to rest with full military honors, his family at his graveside.

The Army psychologist was one of 13 killed in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this month.

Caraveo and Army Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman were both buried at Arlington this week, said cemetery spokeswoman Kaitlin Horst.

A spokesman for Caraveo's family said that his burial was a private matter, and that members of the family did not wish to speak to the press.

Caraveo's widow, Angela Rivera, and his five sons and stepdaughters were at the ceremony for Caraveo, who counseled troops returning from and headed for war.

Though the clouds that prevailed most of the morning still hung over the cemetery, the light mist that fell subsided as soon as mourners arrived.

At 11:15 a.m., the Army band known as "Pershing's Own" began playing over a hillside near the gravesite. Behind them, a caisson pulled by six white horses carried Caraveo's casket to the grave, where about 50 people were waiting to pay their respects.

Seated near the grave was Caraveo's immediate family, and nearby were five soldiers holding U.S. flags to be presented to the family members.

Rivera received the flag that had been draped over Caraveo's casket.

Following last rites, soldiers fired three rifle volleys as is customary at military funerals. A bugler then played taps, accompanied by a brief moan of sorrow and many tears by family members.

The full Army band then played two renditions of "America the Beautiful" as the funeral detail folded the flag draped over the casket into a triangle, and then presented it to the family.

In the distance, at another graveside, soldiers fired three more volleys. Two children clinging to their mother asked, "Was that the lightning, mommy?"

Fifteen minutes after the ceremony began, the Army reservist was officially laid to rest.

Caraveo was a Medical Service Corps officer in the Army Reserves at Fort Belvoir. He led seminars on marriage counseling, anger management, positive thinking and diversity training.

His son told an Arizona newspaper that his father came to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager.

Army Reservist John Gaffaney

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Serra Mesa Army reservist among those killed at Fort Hood

SAN DIEGO— A county government employee who recently deployed with the Army was among those killed Thursday at Fort Hood in Texas.

John Gaffaney, a supervisor in the county’s Adult Protective Services department, was one of 13 people killed when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire in a crowded medical building. Thirty others were injured, making it the nation’s worst-ever attack on a stateside military base.

Gaffaney was 56 and lived in Serra Mesa.

Ellen Schmeding, assistant deputy director for the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, sent an e-mail message to county employees Friday to inform them of Gaffaney’s death.

“We all admired and respected John so very much for his commitment to do what he could to help during the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was an inspiration to all of us in so many ways,” Schmeding wrote.

Army Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow

Remember Our Heroes

Thirteen people were killed when an Army psychiatrist opened fire on soldiers at the Fort Hood Army base, including Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow. Here is a short profile:

Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow, 32, was helping train soldiers on how to help new veterans with paperwork and had felt safe on the Army post.

“He was on a base,” his wife, MaryKay DeCrow, said in a telephone interview from the couple’s home at Fort Gordon, Ga. Evans, Ga., where she hoped to be reunited with her husband once he finished his work at Fort Hood. “They should be safe there. They should be safe.”

His wife said she wanted everyone to know what a loving man he was. The couple have a 13-year-old daughter, Kylah.

“He was well loved by everyone,” she said through sobs. “He was a loving father and husband and he will be missed by all.”

Sgt. DeCrow’s father, Daniel DeCrow, of Fulton, Ind., said his son graduated high school in Plymouth, Ind., and married his high school sweetheart that summer before joining the Army. The couple moved near Fort Gordon about five years ago in 2000, he said.

About a year ago, his son was stationed in Korea for a year. When he returned to the U.S., the Army moved him to Fort Hood while he waited for a position to open up in Fort Gordon so he could move back with his wife and daughter, Daniel DeCrow said.

Mr. DeCrow said he talked to his son last week to ask him how things were going at Fort Hood.

“As usual, the last words out of my mouth to him were that I was proud of him,” he said. “That’s what I said to him every time –that I loved him and I was proud of what he was doing. I can carry that around in my heart.”

Army Pfc. Aaron Nemelka

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Aaron Thomas Nemelka 'just wanted to serve his country'

By Yamiche Alcindor
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009; 6:43 PM

PFC Aaron Thomas Nemelka had barely finished all his service training when he was killed by gunshots Thursday at Fort Hood. The 19-year-old had been in the Army for just over a year and had signed up to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the service: bomb defusing.

His grandfather, Michael Nemelka, Sr. said his grandson choose the job because he was tired of seeing American soldiers die and wanted to help save lives.

"I think his dad even tried to talk him out of it," Michael Nemelka, Sr. said referring to the reservations of his son, Michael Nemelka, Jr. "But, people were being killed by roadside bombs and he wanted to help in any way he could. He choose his job. He loved what he learned."

Aaron Nemelka was the youngest of four children and a 2008 graduate of West Jordan High School in West Jordan, Utah. An Eagle Scout, he joined the Army in October 2008 after consulting his grandfather, an ex-Marine, and his cousin, another serviceman who is currently deployed in Germany. He was looking forward to possibly making a career out of the Army, his grandfather said.

"He was very happy that the Army let him enlist," Michael Nemelka said. "He was fun loving and bright. He liked to hang out with his family and his friends." In his free time, the young man also enjoyed skate boarding, and bowling.

MSgt. Tammy Sower, a casualty assistance officer assigned to help the family make arrangements regarding Aaron's death said he was most likely going to be deployed to the Middle East early next year. "He wanted to do the right thing," Sower said.

The Nemelka family learned of the death late Thursday night. Friday afternoon, his grandfather recalled Aaron's excitement about his coming deployment. "He was all ready to ship out," Michael Nemelka said. "He was excited as all heck. He was going to go do what he was trained to do. He just wanted to serve his country.

"I miss him. I loved him very much," he said.

Army Lt. Col. Juanita Warman

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'This is not the way she was going to go'
Sunday, November 08, 2009
By Michael A. Fuoco and Kaitlynn Riely, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When Philip Warman learned of the shooting rampage Thursday at Fort Hood, Texas, his thoughts -- and fears -- naturally turned to his wife, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman.

Lt. Col. Warman, 55, had been at Fort Hood for only 24 hours to be processed for duty in Iraq, a deployment for which she had volunteered.

Mr. Warman, a lawyer who lives in Havre de Grace, Md., was particularly worried because the attack, in which 13 people were killed and 30 wounded, occurred in Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where medical and dental care is provided to those about to deploy overseas.

"Naturally, I was trying to track her down," Mr. Warman said in a telephone interview yesterday from his home, where family and friends had gathered to grieve and support each other. "I kept thinking, 'She can't be in the processing center.' She had just gotten there, she had more training to undergo. She was not due to leave until the end of November. The base hot line didn't have her on the initial list of casualties.

"I thought, 'Good, she's probably OK. She just can't get through to me.' "

A half-hour later, his doorbell rang.

"There were two [soldiers] in Class A uniforms. I knew what that was all about."

Indeed, Lt. Col. Warman was among those killed.

"I knew she was going in harm's way in Iraq. [But at Fort Hood], this is not the way she was going to go," he said, choking up.

His wife's military career spanned 25 years in active duty and Army reserves.

A certified psychiatric nurse practitioner originally from Pittsburgh and whose relatives still live in area, she had undergone training in California in preparation for her mission and was due for more training at Fort Hood.

Mr. Warman and his wife were both graduates of the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a master's degree in nursing.

The couple, who married in the late 1990s, had moved to Maryland in 2005 where Lt. Col. Warman accepted a job at a Veterans Administration facility in Perryville, Md. Prior to the move, the couple lived in Pittsburgh and she had a civilian practice at UPMC. She was an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

"She was excellent at her practice," he said.

Lt. Col. Warman served a year overseas at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the Army facility where those injured in Afghanistan and Iraq are treated before being sent stateside for further medical care. She regularly volunteered for round-trip flights to Iraq to care for soldiers being sent to Landstuhl, her husband said.

She received an Army Commendation Medal in 2006 for meritorious service at Landstuhl.

"She was indeed an extraordinary woman," said Mr. Warman. "I can't remember when we weren't together. We met at a social event at the University Club in 1986. We've been together since. She was my best friend. She was an excellent soldier."

Lt. Col. Warman's stepson, Philip, 38, said the family was "deeply saddened. We're going through the grieving process.

"She was a good soldier. She loved her family, her job, her colleagues and her friends and she will be deeply missed."

In Crafton last night, family and friends gathered to mourn. Eva Waddle, Lt. Col. Warman's mother, said her daughter couldn't wait to deploy. Other family members agreed.

"She was looking forward to help her country by helping the soldiers who needed her professional help," her sister, Tammy J. Harper of Pittsburgh, said. "She didn't want them to wait to get home to get help."

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Lt. Col. Warman's commitment to the armed services grew, her relatives said.

"She really donated her life to serving her country," her daughter, Melissa Papst-Czemerda, 29, of Peters, said. "She loved helping people and making a difference. She was a heroine and gave her life serving her country."

On Oct. 29, Lt. Col. Warman made her final Facebook posting. Ms. Harper said the family had been reading and re-reading the note since her death. The note mentions how her sister was missing her daughters and grandchildren, and kept track of their lives through the photographs they posted.

"I am so excited to be leaving the country again soon," Lt. Col. Warman said in her posting. "Just now got a few minutes. So much to do, so many lives to touch. Just wish it didn't take me away from home so much."

Lt. Col. Warman is survived by her husband, two daughters, three stepchildren and eight grandchildren, her mother and six siblings. The family expects Lt. Col. Warman to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Army Spc. Jason Hunt

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Jason Hunt transferred to Texas to be closer to his family
By Ashley Surdin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009; 5:24 PM

As a boy, Jason Hunt once had to wear silver caps on his front teeth. When he was too timid to smile, his sister, playing on his love for video games, asked him to show his Ninja Turtle teeth.

"He was so embarrassed and such a shy boy," recalled his sister Leila Willingham, 30, of Frederick, Okla. "That was the only was I could make him smile."

In high school, Hunt refused to dissect a cat for a class assignment. He was so upset that his mother had to pick him up from school.

But Hunt's shy and sensitive side was transformed, his family said, when he joined the military. His already caring nature bloomed into something brave, selfless and fearless, they said. He hoped to save somebody's life someday.

That hope was cut short Thursday, when Hunt, 22, was killed in the mass shooting rampage at Fort Hood. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer Hunt; his mother, Gale Hunt; his father, Gary Hunt; his sister, Willingham; and a niece and nephew.

Hunt joined the Army a year after graduating from Tipton High School and served for three and a half years, including a tour in Iraq, where he celebrated his 21st birthday. While there, he reenlisted.

Willingham recalled her brother once likened his feelings for his military family to the love a parent feels for their children.

"He said, 'I would die for your children.' He said, 'I would die for a stranger to save them.' And he said he would dive in front of a bullet for a soldier."

Hunt, who was stationed in Fort Stewart in Georgia after high school, transferred to Fort Hood to be closer to his family.

In August, he got married in Okalahoma City. "He had a blue tie and he was so happy to have his family there and to be becoming part of a family," his sister recalled through sobs.

Jason Hunt

Jason Hunt back

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Army Pfc. Kham Xiong

Remember Our Heroes

Thirteen people were killed when an Army psychiatrist opened fire on soldiers at the Fort Hood Army base, including Pfc. Kham Xiong. Here is a short profile:

Pfc. Xiong, 23, of St. Paul, Minn., was a father of three whose family had a history of military service.

Pfc. Xiong’s father, Chor Xiong, is a native of Laos who fought the Viet Cong alongside the CIA in 1972; Chor’s father, Kham’s grandfather, also fought with the CIA; and Kham’s brother, Nelson, is a Marine serving in Afghanistan.

“I very mad,” Pfc. Xiong’s father said Friday. Through sniffles and tears, he said his son died for “no reason” and he has a hard time believing Kham is gone.

Kham Xiong was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, and his sister Mee Xiong said the family would be able to understand if he would have died in battle.

“He didn’t get to go overseas and do what he’s supposed to do, and he’s dead .. killed by our own people,” Mee Xiong said.

Pfc. Xiong was one of 11 siblings and came to the U.S. when he was just a toddler. He grew up in California, then moved to Minnesota with the family about 10 years ago, Chor Xiong said.
He was married and had three children ages 4, 2 and 10 months. He and his wife had moved to Texas in July, Chor Xiong said.

Pfc. Xiong attended Community of Peace Academy, graduating in 2004, said high school principal Tim McGowan.

“His greatest attribute was his ability to make people smile and make people laugh. Looking back, that’s the fondest memory I have — is that smile of his and that smile that he brought to my face,” Mr. McGowan said.

For his father, the death of the little boy who followed his dad everywhere was hard to take. “I don’t think he’s dead,” Chor Xiong said, then whispered, “I don’t think he’s dead.”

Army Capt. Russell Seager

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Funeral services for the second Wisconsin soldier, Russell Seager, killed in the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting spree will be held Monday.

Seager, 51, of Racine, Wis., was a psychiatrist who joined the Army a few years ago because he wanted to help veterans returning to civilian life, said his uncle, Larry Seager of Mauston.

Russell Seager's brother-in-law, Dennis Prudhomme, said Seager had worked with soldiers at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Milwaukee who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He also taught classes at Bryant & Stratton College in Milwaukee, said Prudhomme, who is married to Seager's sister.

Larry Seager said his nephew's death left the family stunned, especially because the psychiatrist only wanted to help soldiers improve their mental health.

"It's unbelievable. He goes down there to help out soldiers and then he ...," Seager said, his voice trailing off. "I still can't believe it."

Army Reserve Capt. Russell Seager's funeral will be held at 3 p.m. at the Wonewoc Center School in Wonewoc, Wis. Russell Seager is survived by a wife and 20-year-old son.

Prudhomme said Seager was scheduled to go to Afghanistan in December and had gone to Fort Hood for training.

"Our family has suffered a great loss and we are all devastated," Seager's sister, Barbara Prudhomme, said in a statement read by her husband. "We are very proud of the way Russell lived his life, both personally and professionally, and our hearts go out to all the victims and their families."

Gov. Jim Doyle has ordered all Wisconsin and U.S. flags be flown at half-staff Monday at all state buildings, grounds and military installations in Seager's honor.