Sunday, February 28, 2010

Private Timothy Walter Koundry, Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

A Marine private from Connecticut has died at a North Carolina air base in what military officials says was a non-combat death. At 7:45 p.m. Pvt. Timothy W. Koundry Jr, was found dead in his barracks room. Emergency services were called, and Pvt. Koundry was pronounced dead at the scene.

Marine officials would not say how Koundry died. The military defines a non-combat death as being by accident, homicide, negligence, illness or suicide. A message was left Thursday morning for spokesmen at the air station.

Koundry entered the service from Ansonia, Conn., on April 28, 2008. He graduated from recruit training at Parris Island, S.C., and attended the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training in Pensacola, Fla., before being assigned to MALS-14, according to the release. He had not yet served any tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Koundry’s awards include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and a Meritorious Mast, according to the release.

Private Timothy W. Koundry, Jr., age 22 of Ansonia, beloved son of Barbara Wargo of Ansonia, died February 28, 2010 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

Born in Bridgeport on February 4, 1988, he was a 2007 Graduate of Ansonia High School and played baseball, football and basketball for Ansonia. He enjoyed paintball, fishing, skateboarding, & civil war reenactment as well as spending time with his family and friends.

Private Koundry, Jr. Graduated from USMC Basic Training, Parris Island, South Carolina in July of 2008, achieving his life long dream of becoming a United States Marine.

He was loved by all and will be sadly missed by all; he will always hold a special place in our lives.

In addition to his mother he is survived by his brother and sisters, Jonathan C. Wargo of Ansonia, Ashley A. Koundry of Ansonia, and Molly Koundry of Oxford; his maternal grandparents, Raymond and Katherine Toothill Wargo of Bridgeport; Aunts, Sharon Rodko, Donna Wargo; Uncle, Edward Rodko and cousins Amber, Ryan, Caitlin and Megan. Private Koundry is also survived by his father Timothy W. Koundry Sr. and several aunts, uncles and cousins. At the request of the family, funeral arrangements will be private.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Army Sgt. William C. Spencer

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Army Sgt. William C. Spencer, 40, of Tacoma, Wash.

Sgt. Spencer was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment, Washington National Guard, Olympia, Wash.; died Feb. 25, 2010 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds sustained Feb. 20 while supporting combat operations at Combat Outpost Marez, Iraq.

A Washington National Guard soldier from Tacoma who chose to stay in Iraq after his unit returned home died in an American military hospital in Germany.

Soldiers and Airmen gathered to pay their final respects to Sgt. William C. Spencer, at a fallen Soldier ceremony March 1 at the Joint Operations Center at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Spencer, a gunner died Feb. 25 from an aneurysm while serving at Contingency Operating Base Marez, Iraq.

He was posthumously promoted from specialist to sergeant Feb. 25.

Spencer deployed with the 81st Brigade Combat Team in August 2009 and chose to stay with the Mississippi National Guard unit that replaced it. He served with the Olympia-based 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment.

The brigade of 3,500 soldiers – about 2,400 of whom are from Washington – lost one soldier during its yearlong mobilization. Spc. Samuel D. Stone of Port Orchard was killed May 30, 2009, when his M1117 Armored Security Vehicle rolled during a convoy mission outside Tallil.

Spencer is the second Washington soldier to die in Iraq this year. Pfc. Adriana Alvarez, a 20-year-old military policeman, died Feb. 10.

Spencer had previously served in the Air Force before joining the National Guard. Memorial service details have not been made.

"I stand with all Washingtonians today as we mourn the loss of Sgt. William Spencer," Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a release. "Sgt. Spencer was a proud member of the 81st – and chose to stay in Iraq with the Mississippi Army National Guard when his unit came home. He is a true hero who sacrificed his life to protect our freedoms, and provide a better life for those living in the Middle East."

Spencer, a Clinton, Ky., native, was born Aug. 11, 1969, and is survived by his mother, Sharon Welch, and his sister, Sharon Whittle

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Billie Jean Grinder

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Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Billie Jean Grinder, 25, of Gallatin, Tenn.

CWO2 Grinder was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 230th Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee National Guard, Louisville, Tenn.; died Feb. 21, 2010 in Qayyarah, Iraq, of wounds sustained when her OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter had a hard landing. Also killed was Capt. Marcus R. Alford. Gallatin Guard soldier killed in helicopter crash

By Jennifer Easton
The Tennessean

Tennessee Army National Guard pilot Billie Jean Grinder, of Gallatin, was killed Sunday when her OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter made a “hard landing” in northern Iraq, officials confirmed Tuesday.

Grinder’s co-pilot, Capt. Marcus Ray Alford of Knoxville, also died in the crash, which took place near Qayyarah Airfield West about 30 miles south of Mosul in northern Iraq. Grinder and Alford both were members of Troop C 1/230th Air Cavalry, which is based in Louisville, Tenn. in Blount County and was once part of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Grinder is the first female casualty of the Tennessee Army National Guard, officials with the Department of Defense confirmed.

Grinder’s sister, Melissa Smith, said the 25-year-old chief warrant officer was deployed to Iraq for her first tour in June 2009. She was scheduled to come home within two weeks, Smith said.

“She was looking forward to helping me plan my wedding. We were going shopping for dresses in two weeks,” said Smith, who lives in Browerville, Minn.

Smith, 27, also served in the Tennessee Army National Guard along with her father, Billy Davenport, and brother-in-law Sam Grinder, Billie Jean’s husband.

Sam Grinder returned from Iraq to the couple’s Gallatin home earlier this month, Smith said.

“We’re definitely a military family,” she said. “That’s all we ever knew growing up — that we wanted to be in the military, too.”

Smith said she and her family were still in shock but said she was comforted knowing her father, an aviation mechanic with the Tennessee Army National Guard, was stationed with her sister at Camp Speicher in Iraq when the accident happened on Sunday.

“She was the kind of person everyone looked up to and wanted to be like — even me,” Smith said.

Grinder enlisted in the Tennessee Army National Guard when she was a senior at Smyrna High School in 2002.

Known for her trademark “giant smile,” Smith described her sister as a tough but girly tomboy who rode motorcycles and gave generously to the people in her life.

“She loved to have a good time,” Smith said. “She had tattoos and liked going fast and doing things that other people might see as dangerous. She had absolutely no fear.

“She was also the sweetest, kindest person you could ever hope to meet.”

Friend and Smyrna High School classmate Brandi Banniza Gibson, of Fort Meade, Md., remembered Grinder as a friend to everyone she met, devoted to her country and being a stepmother to her 10-year-old twin stepdaughters.

“She loved, loved her ‘family circle,’ and she talked about those girls all the time. She thought of them as her own,” Gibson said.

“She had a truly genuine heart and her smile could instantly make you smile with her.”

Maj. Randy Harris with the Department of Defense said on Tuesday the accident is under investigation.

“Words cannot express my extreme sorrow at the loss of these outstanding soldiers, and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to the families and friends of these valiant warriors,” said Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General.

“Tennessee has lost two brave volunteers who truly believed in what they were doing to ensure a free Iraq,” Haston said.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Billie Jean Grinder was killed in a helicopter accident on 2/21/10.

Army Capt. Marcus R. Alford

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Army Capt. Marcus R. Alford, 28, of Knoxville, Tenn.

Capt. Alford was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 230th Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee National Guard, Louisville, Tenn.; died Feb. 21, 2010 in Qayyarah, Iraq, of wounds sustained when his OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter had a hard landing. Also killed was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Billie Jean Grinder.

A Knoxville Army pilot was one of two killed Sunday in Iraq in an accidental helicopter crash, according to military officials.

The pair was identified as Capt. Marcus Ray Alford, Sr., of Knoxville and Chief Warrant Officer II Billie Jean Grinder, of Gallatin.

Capt. Alford graduated from South-Doyle High School in 2000.

The military said the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior came down near Qayyarah Airfield West about 30 miles south of Mosul in Northern Iraq.

The soldiers were assigned to Troop C, 1/230th Air Cavalry in Louisville, Tennessee.

Those closest to Capt. Alford say he was a wonderful young man, a doting son and a good father to two children. Plus, he was engaged to be married.

Capt. Alford is also described as someone with big dreams who always made people smile.

"I had Marcus when he was a freshman. He was the type of student who bounced off the walls, but you could not help but love him. He was one of the most personable and good hearted men I've worked with," said his former South-Doyle English teacher, Steve Loope.

"At the same time I'd try to get him to sit in his seat, I'd be holding back laughing because he was so funny," Loope said.

Loope also said Capt. Alford absolutely loved what he did for his country. "He considered the people of his country more important than himself and we need to honor that."

A friend of Capt. Alford's who graduated with him, Joshua Baumann, said he was a man to be admired. "He loved fighting for his country. He loved being there for his country. He loved his community. He loved his friends and he loved his family."

Friends say in a few months, Capt. Alford would have gotten out of the Army.

His high school class was planning a 10 year reunion where they said he'll truly be missed.

Survivors are his loving family, mother, Ms. Karen Ray of Knoxville, Tennessee; father, Mr. Michael Alford of Chattanooga, Tennessee; two children, Ms. Mya Alford, Mr. Marcus Alford, Jr.; brother, Mr. Jerry (Jane) Ray; grandparents, Mr. Richard Ray; aunts, Ms. Crystal Ray, all of Knoxville; uncles, Mr. Maceo Alford, Jr. of Detroit, Michigan, great-aunt, Mrs. Margie Keese of Knoxville; nephews, Michael, Jerry II, Richard; niece, Trieste; a host of cousins, other relatives, and friends.

Army Capt. Marcus R. Alford was killed in a helicopter accident on 2/21/10.

Army Sgt. Marcos Gorra

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Army Sgt. Marcos Gorra, 22, of North Bergen, N.J.

Sgt. Gorra was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Feb. 21, 2010 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained while supporting combat operations.

Military spokesman Major Brian J. Fickel would not divulge exact details of the incident, but members of Gorra's family fold reporters from the Record of Bergen County that the army says he was killed during a training exercise at Kandahar Air Base.

"Sgt. Gorra's military service is a tribute to his commitment, selflessness, and professionalism," said Lt. Col. Mike Morgan, Task Force Saber commander in a statement.

At the North Bergen Board of Education’s Feb. 24 Meeting, Mayor and Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Sacco announced that a 2006 North Bergen High School alumnus, Marcos Gorra, was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

Sacco said it was a “horrifying situation.” Superintendent Robert Dandorph said that Garro was due to come home next month. The district was notified this past Monday through Garro’s girlfriend, whose father works for the Board of Education. “He really was an amazing kid,” said Dandorph. “He was sweet, smart.”

Gorra was born in Santiago, Cuba, and is the eldest of three siblings, according to his MySpace page, which includes a running countdown of his time left in the army, in addition to this statement: "Born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba on Sunday Feb 7, 1988. I'm the oldest of 3 children, my family is by far the most important thing in my life, my reason for living. I've been an infantryman in the Army since August 2006, something I sometimes do regret because I've missed out on 2 yrs of being with my loved ones. I'd love to thank my family and two good friends for being there for me when everyone else fucks me over, you guys are always there. Recently got out of a relationship, the only one where I actually cared about, unfortunately for me I'm getting ready to deploy, and ummmm yea guess some women don't love enough to wait. Any questions hit me up .."

Miguel Campos wrote this on his MySpace page:
"we were supposed to go back home and chill marcos! WTF! why man! I was gonna show you times square man and we were gunna hit up union city when we both got back,fuck gorra why did this happen!!I couldn't even say good-bye and I wish I could have talk to you more the last day we saw each other in kandahar. im sry. im so sry bud.I will never forget you.I will always remember you always"

Gorra joined the Army in August 2006. He completed unit training at Fort Benning, Ga., and deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in April 2009.

“Sgt. Gorra was a great soldier, and noncommissioned officer who would get the job done right the first time, every time,” said First Sergeaant Bruce Julius.

Gorra’s awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Parachute Badge and the Air Assault Badge.

He is survived by his parents, Gricel and Marcos Gorra, a brother and a sister, all of North Bergen.

Army Sgt. Marcos Gorra was killed in action on 2/21/10.

Army Pfc. JR Salvacion

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Army Pfc. JR Salvacion, 27, of Ewa Beach, Hawaii

Pfc Salvacion was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Feb. 21, 2010 at Senjaray, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Ewa Beach soldier killed by explosive

By William Cole
Honolulu Advertiser

An Ewa Beach man and father of a young child was killed in Senjaray, Afghanistan, on Sunday when his Army unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device.

Pfc. JR Salvacion, 27, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, out of Fort Carson, Colo., the Pentagon said yesterday.

Salvacion entered the Army just over a year ago and deployed to Afghanistan as an infantryman in August, according to Fort Carson.

“R.I.P. Salvacion, J.R., I miss you brother, and I hope you are doing good in heaven,” said a fellow soldier in a Web site memorial. “Send your angels to your 9-month baby and take care of your wife while in heaven.”

Salvacion’s American flag-draped casket arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Monday for return to his family.

His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and NATO medal.

Senjaray, where Salvacion was killed, is a Taliban stronghold west of Kandahar.

Army Pfc. JR Salvacion was killed in action on 2/21/10.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Army Veteran Winter Lee Goseyun Plummer

Remember Our Heroes

Winter Lee Goseyun Plummer, 27, of Lacey, Wash., passed away February 2010. She was born Aug. 16, 1982, to Carlos D. Goseyun Sr. and Kathy Goseyun. Winter grew up in Calva and later moved to Bylas. She graduated from Ft. Thomas High School in 2000, then attended Eastern Arizona College for two years, earning her Associates of Arts Degree.

Winter joined the U.S. Army and gave four years of her life serving her country. During that time in the Army, she completed a year of deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006, at which time she was engaged in combat. She worked as a 25Q multichannel radio operator and earned several awards and medals: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (2), Meritorious Unit Award, National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism, Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Bar (2) and the Combat Action Badge.

Winter ended her duties with the Army to raise her daughter, Taylor. Winter enjoyed reading, running, staying fit, visits with friends and being a mother.

A 27-year-old homicide victim found stuffed in a storage container Friday morning in her husband’s garage near Lacey is an Iraq War veteran who was discharged from the Army so she could raise her daughter, her father said outside court Monday.
“It’s a big loss for me,” Carlos Goseyun said of his daughter, Winter Plummer.

Goseyun, a former police officer, caught a flight to Washington from his home at the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in southeastern Arizona over the weekend after hearing of his daughter’s death. He said his daughter was a member of the San Carlos Apache Indian Tribe. Winter Plummer’s 2-year-old daughter also is a tribal member, and Goseyun said she will be returning with him to the reservation.

Winter Plummer’s husband, Sgt. Sheldon Plummer, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier, was being held Monday at the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder in connection with his wife’s death. A judge set Plummer’s bail at $750,000 during a court hearing Monday.

Sheldon Plummer returned from his third deployment to Iraq in August. He is on leave from the military as he awaits the outcome of his criminal case.

Sheldon Plummer’s commanding officer was in court Monday. According to court records, Plummer told a court official that his mother and his girlfriend also would be present for the hearing. The commanding officer and two women present during Monday’s hearing declined to comment outside court.

Winter Plummer was strangled with a rope or ropelike object and struck on the head, said Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock.

According to court papers, Sheldon Plummer admitted to strangling his wife after a dispute Feb. 19. Plummer told detectives that “he strangled his wife after she attacked him with a knife during an argument.”

Thurston County sheriff’s detectives began investigating Winter Plummer’s disappearance April 18, after one of Sheldon Plummer’s friends, also an Army soldier, called the Sheriff’s Office to say that Sheldon Plummer had called him and “wanted advice on how to dispose of a body.”

When detectives spoke with Plummer, he said that about a month earlier his wife had packed three suitcases and left after an argument. But Thurston County sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy has said Plummer’s timeline of when his wife left was inconsistent.

Detectives later found that Plummer had pawned his wife’s jewelry, Mealy has said. Detectives thought it was suspicious that Winter Plummer’s car was still parked at their apartment complex at The Village at Nisqually Ridge apartments near Lacey, Mealy has said. They also thought it odd that she would abandon her 2-year-old daughter, according to Mealy.

Sheldon Plummer had disposed of some of Winter Plummer’s belongings in an attempt to make it appear as though she had left, Tunheim said during Monday’s court hearing.

Tunheim said that Sheldon Plummer was developing an elaborate plan to get rid of his wife’s body in order to evade detection. He even sent text messages from her cell phone to her family members in Arizona after her death, in an effort to make them believe she was still alive.

After detectives initially interviewed Sheldon Plummer on April 18, he removed Winter Plummer’s body from a local storage unit and placed it in his garage, court papers state. Sheldon Plummer confessed to the homicide on Friday, Mealy said.

Goseyun said he visited Winter and Sheldon Plummer over Christmas and saw discord in their marriage. He said the couple argued frequently. “I had a feeling he was going to snap sooner or later,” he said.

When asked why the couple fought, Goseyun said Winter believed Sheldon “got a little too friendly with other female unit members.”

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jodilyn Erikson-Muldrew has said Sheldon Plummer had no documented history of domestic violence against his wife. He also has no prior criminal history or arrest record.

Winter Plummer was an avid athlete and played softball, volleyball and basketball in high school, her father said. “Basketball was her favorite,” he said.

“She wanted to have a better life, so she joined the Army,” he said.

Winter Plummer wanted to leave her husband, but she was concerned that he would try to get custody of their daughter, and “she opted to stay with him,” Goseyun said.

Marine Cpl. Gregory S. Stultz

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Marine Cpl. Gregory S. Stultz, 22, of Brazil, Ind.

Cpl. Stultz was assigned to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan; died Feb. 19, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

“Cpl. Stultz was the kind of Marine that was liked by everyone,” 1st Sgt. Ingo Rasch, Stultz’s company first sergeant in Afghanistan, was quoted as saying in a Marine Corps Bases Japan news release. “His loss will be felt throughout the recon community for some time.

“Daily he displayed high moral character, was eager to learn and always prepared to give his all.”

According to information from, where family members set up a page honoring Cpl. Stultz, he was shot in the abdomen area. Cpl. Stultz died while being airlifted to a nearby hospital.

Family members flew to Dover, Del., Saturday, as his body was flown back to the states. According to the page set up on facebook, Cpl. Stultz was born June 7, 1987.

While attending Northview High School, Cpl. Stultz wrestled for the Knights. He advanced to the regional as a senior in 2006.

NHS wrestling coach Dan Mikesell said he remembered Cpl. Stultz as a grappler who made tremendous improvements throughout his career, both in wrestling and in life.

"He got on the straight and narrow because of wrestling," Mikesell said. "It's something that kept him focused."

Mikesell said when he learned the news of Cpl. Stultz' death, he was "pretty shook up."

"He was on one of my first teams," Mikesell said. "It was pretty tough for me. I was pretty close to Greg."

Mikesell said while he wrestled for the Knights, Cpl. Stultz also enjoyed working with younger grapplers in the Wabash Valley Wrestling Club.

"He always helped the kids," Mikesell said. "He liked helping with the kids." Mikesell said Cpl. Stultz recently attended a NHS wrestling practice and the two had a chance to catch up and reminisce. "I told him how proud I was of him," Mikesell said, adding Cpl. Stultz said he missed wrestling, but his training helped him through boot camp.

Former NHS Principal Jim Church told The Times he remembered having many discussions with Cpl. Stultz while he was a student at Northview.

"He was a neat kid," Church said. "We got pretty tight during the years he was there. I really, really liked Greg. He and I clicked. I really liked him a lot.

"If I was going to ever recruit what I feel like what would be the perfect Marine, Greg would fit that kind of a mold. Hard-nosed, yet strong character; someone you can really count on."

Cpl. Stultz' guidance counselor while at Northview was Scott McDonald. On Sunday, McDonald told The Times he had talked with Cpl. Stultz approximately three or four months ago.

"He was out at the school and I talked to him for a bit," McDonald said. "He looked great. He was pretty much the same kid, except for a lot of, 'yes sirs' and, 'no sirs.'

McDonald said he was out of the area this weekend when he received a phone call learning about Cpl. Stultz' death.

"My first thought was how proud he was that he was in the military," McDonald said. "He was so excited about how he was doing and being able to defend his country.

"He was doing great things and, unfortunately, something like this has happened. He was a great kid with a great heart. It's just tragic."

While at Northview High School, Greg was an accomplished member, and Captain, of the wrestling team. He was also a member of the high school football team, where he played as a linebacker.

Greg graduated from Northview High School with the class of 2006. Following high school, he earned a wrestling scholarship and attended Rend Lake Junior College.

Greg was a former employee at the YMCA of Clay County, where he assisted with the day care.

He joined the United States Marine Corps in November 2007. Greg was serving as a Recon Marine, which is an elite division of the Marine Corps. He was deployed to Afghanistan in November to assist with Operation Enduring Freedom.

Amongst his accomplishments, he was awarded a Sea Service Deployment Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, National Defense Medal and a Meritorious Mast certificate as well as a letter of appreciation from a high ranking officer.

Greg actively participated in the ministry at The House of Hope along with his dad and brother Zach. He was a member of McCormick's Creek Church in Spencer, as well as the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ in Brazil.

He was preceded in death by his grandfather William Stultz Sr., who was killed while serving in Vietnam, and uncle Steve Lalen.

Greg is survived by his mother Kim Stultz and Kevin Jackson, Brazil, father Bill Stultz Jr., Spencer, brothers Zach Stultz and Jeremiah Jackson, Brazil, sisters Jessie Stultz, Miriah Stultz, Haley Stultz, and Sienna Jackson, all of Brazil, nephew Jaxon Gregory Lee Singer, grandparents Randy and Jena Lalen, Yvonna Lalen, all of Brazil, Dorothy Cooper and Commodore Cooper, also of Brazil, uncles Randy Lalen, Dustin Lalen, Curt Cooper and Mason Cooper, cousins Dustin Joseph Lalen, Wyatt Lalen, Trista Anderson, Cade Cooper and Hayden Cooper, as well as a very close friend, Christopher Dean.

Marine Cpl. Gregory S. Stultz was killed in action on 2/19/10.

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua H. Birchfield

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua H. Birchfield, 24, of Westville, Ind.

LCpl Birchfield was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; died Feb. 19, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

“He was a selfless human being,” said Wesley Bane, Joshua’s cousin, who said Joshua was also his close friend. “The reason he joined the Marines in the first place is because he saw a family that couldn’t be together for a holiday.”

Birchfield had seen a TV news segment about military families spending the holidays apart due to service, Bane said.

“I saw him the day after he saw it,” Bane said. “He was teary-eyed and told me he’d made the decision to join. He’s been my hero in Facebook ever since.”

Bane also described Birchfield as an “excellent baseball player.”

His personal service awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and the NATO Medal.

Heartbreak is hitting hard across LaPorte and Porter Counties, as friends, family and a close knit community mourn the loss of Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Birchfield, 24, killed while serving in Afghanistan.
Birchfield was on his first deployment with the Marines and was stationed in the Helmand province with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Birchfield, who had enlisted with the Marines in April 2008, will be awarded the Purple Heart. He also has been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal and four other medals.

Friends of Birchfield remembered him during the weekend, gathering at Blackhawk Inn, which he used to visit. People called him generous and how he wanted to fight for his country. Others said the 2004 Westville High School graduate was down to earth and funny. The American Legion Post 21 has posted a sign saying "LCPL JOSH BIRCHFIELD YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN -- WE LOVE YOU."

On a bright February afternoon filled with sunshine, Westville, Indiana sat under a cloud of sorrow. One by one, family and friends trickled in to Westville's Blackhawk Inn bar to share sadness and trade tears.

"The sacrifice he made for his country is definitely hitting me pretty hard," said Staff Sergeant Brandun Schweizer, one of Birchfield's good friends, who served three tours in Iraq. "He was a great, great individual; a truly great young man."

But, many in Westville Friday also spent Friday night sharing memories of a man they looked up to as a hero.

"It's extremely sad," said Steve Bachman, who called Birchfield his best friend. "But, as soon as the tears are gone, we're telling stories and remembering. This is a celebration. It's a celebration of him making the right decisions and becoming a man and doing what he was supposed to do."

By all accounts, Birchfield, a 2004 graduate of Westville High School lived to love life. There were stories Friday about his passion for softball and baseball--a sport he excelled at in high school.

"He was a big sports fan. We used to go to Cubs games and hang out. He was really into softball and we played in some leagues," said Schweizer.

There were tales of Birchfield's love for friends and family, and laughs over his contagious grin. "He would always bring a laugh and he'd always bring a smile to your face. And he'd do anything possible to do that," said Sergeant Brad Bruce, a fellow Marine and good friend of Birchfield's who served multiple tours in Afghanistan.

But, perhaps more than anything, there was a shared respect on Friday evening for a decision Birchfield made two years ago, that it was time for him to step up.

"He said he was tired of not going anywhere with his life. He wanted to get out there and do something meaningful," said Schweizer.

"He [enlisted in the Marine Corps] because he wanted to go," agreed Bachman. "He had a fine life here. He was doing well. He had a good job, good family, good people around him. But, he saw people with families that had their children back here living with grandparents while they're over there fighting for us. He was just a regular, single guy--22-years-old. And he said: what am I doing? Why don't I go help?"

It's precisely why Birchfield told Bruce he was enlisting. And that, Bruce said, meant more than anything. "I've been there. I know the dangers. He knew the risks and he was very aware. Josh and I talked quite a bit about that. But, Josh is the type of person who did it for the people he loved," Bruce said.

"He told me that he was now gonna do it for me," Bruce continued, pausing to control his emotions. "Because, that way I could be at home with my daughter, and I wouldn't have to worry anymore."

It's one major reason why so many have been hit so hard by the loss of a man who constantly served others.

"Josh would have celebrated the things we've done, and he touched so many people. He paid the ultimate price, but it didn't take that to make him a great man," Bruce said.

"This shows that he was a great young man," agreed Schweizer, pointing around the bar at the crowd of more than 50 people, growing by the minute. "He definitely made an impact on the community and the individuals here. It shows the type of person he was by how many people were so touched by him."

Now, all of them are forced to face the tough task of saying a final goodbye. As they do, many said they'll be remembering their final words with an American hero.

"We had just talked about golfing when he came back. I told him that I loved him, and that I was proud of him; to keep his head down and be safe. And I told him I would pray for him," Bruce said.

"It does make it a little more difficult not knowing exactly what happened to him, but knowing what happened is not going to bring him back or make his loss any easier," said Schweizer. "Right now, we're just remembering a great, great Marine and saying thank you. He's going to be missed."

Funeral services for Lance Corporal Joshua Birchfield have not been announced yet, but North Central Indiana's Chapter of "The Patriot Guard" say they've been asked to help escort Birchfield's body home as a tribute to his selfless service.

"We are mourning the loss of another one of our nation's heroes," said Patriot Guard Senior Ride Captain Dennis Francis. "His sacrifice allows us to do what we take for granted daily in our everyday lives. May God Bless and comfort LCpl. Birchfield and his family in the days ahead."

A man who answered the door Friday evening at the Birchfield residence, and identified himself only as Bruce, declined to comment, saying he was “still talking with the Marine Corps.”

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua H. Birchfield was killed in action on 2/19/10.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marine Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary, 27, of Columbus, Ind.

Sgt. McQueary was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Feb. 18, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Sgt. Jeremy McQueary’s wife, Rae, spoke with 24-Hour News 8's Phil Sanchez on Sunday. She said her husband was just two months away from coming home when he was killed.

“He just had a smile that made you feel safe and made you feel whole." McQueary said.

“I just wish time could lapse and I could be 75 and ready to die so I could be with him.” McQueary added.

The couple grew up in Columbus but made Nashville their home.

Jeremy McQueary joined the Marines at 18 and did two tours of duty in Iraq.

“I've been with him since I was 17, it was forever in my mind, you know, almost a decade.” She said.

Rae McQueary last spoke to her husband two weeks ago. It had been five months since they last saw each other; when their son Hadley was born.

“I promised him that if anything ever did happen, I would show our son the amazing person that he was and the amazing things that he did.”

Sgt. McQueary’s body will be brought back to Indiana this week, and a memorial is scheduled for later in the week.

"It's still kind of hard to believe that it's him. I have not seen a body," Rae McQueary told WRTV, a CBS News affiliate in Columbus, Indiana. "In my heart, I just want to believe that it's not real."

WRTV reports that Jeremy McQueary was last home for Hadley's birth.

Rae McQueary had gotten a tattoo of the number "18" to surprise her husband at his scheduled homecoming in two months. It stands for the day of the month they got married.

Now it also stands for the day he died: Feb. 18, 2010.

The Republic in Columbus reported McQueary was the son of Deborah Kleinschmidt and the late Dallas McQueary and the brother of Rebecca Willison. He was married to Rae McQueary of Brown County and had a 5-month-old son, Hadley.

McQueary's mother and stepfather, David Kleinschmidt, traveled Friday to Dover, Del., for the dignified transfer ceremony for McQueary's body.

David Kleinschmidt said the family knew limited information about McQueary's death, but said McQueary was outside of his vehicle when he was hit by an improvised explosive device.

The last time McQueary spoke to his mother and stepfather, he told them he was serving in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

The province, including the town of Marja, was the site of a recent battle against Taliban forces.

McQueary was serving his first tour in Afghanistan. He previously had served two tours in Iraq, his family said.

He enlisted with the Marines in January 2002, following his early graduation from Columbus East High School.

McQueary's mother, Deborah, said the family has a strong heritage of military veterans, and McQueary always expressed interest in becoming a Marine.

His sister, Rebecca, said McQueary felt a strong desire to help people, inspired by his father's work as a Bartholomew County Sheriff's reserve deputy.

The death of McQueary's father in 1992, when McQueary was 9, amplified his desire to serve others.

Jeremy McQueary considered a new career, including law enforcement, before re-enlisting with the Marines, and he decided to stay in the military because it was the right fit, Willison said.

McQueary received a Combat Action Ribbon and other service decorations. The family has been told McQueary will receive a Purple Heart, Willison said. McQueary survived a roadside bomb in June 2008 when his Humvee was hit in Iraq. He chose to go back to Iraq after the incident.

"He's a leader," Willison said. "He always volunteered to help others." She said her brother had a soft spot for children and often talked about working with children in Iraq.

Willison recalled McQueary's beaming smile in a photo of him holding his niece. McQueary's young son took after his dad, David Kleinschmidt said. "He looks a lot like him," Kleinschmidt said.

Marine Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary was killed in action on 2/18/10.

Airforce Major General Jeanne Holm, Retired‏

Remember Our Heroes

As a 21-year-old in the summer of 1942, Jeanne Holm shouted louder than anyone in basic training. Nicknamed “Junior,” she was the youngest enlistee in the new Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the first enlisted women recruited for World War II.

“I was five-foot-three, a little girl with a big voice who knew infantry drill as well as the men assigned to train us,” Holm says. “I blew their minds, so they made me the student company commander. The experience also helped later when I became an officer and a real company commander.”

She’d learned to drill in a civilian Women’s Ambulance Corps, where members learned first aid, convoy driving, motor transport drill, and engine maintenance.

“I took to the military like a duck to water,” says Holm. “I loved the camaraderie, but most of all, I was inspired by being able to serve my country.” Until then, the only women allowed to serve in the Army were nurses.

On Nov. 1, 1965, then Col. Jeanne M. Holm became the Director of Women in the Air Force. Later, she was the first woman in the armed forces to be promoted to the rank of major general in 1973, and is credited as single driving force in achieving parity for military women and making them a viable part of the mainstream military.

Holm was born in 1921, in Portland, Ore., and enlisted in the Army in July 1942, soon after the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was established by Congress. She attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and in January 1943 received a commission as a "third officer," the WAAC equivalent to second lieutenant.

During World War II, Holm was assigned to the Women's Army Corps Training Center at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., where she first commanded a basic training company and then a training regiment. At the end of the war, she commanded the 106th WAC Hospital Company at Newton D. Baker General Hospital, W.Va. She then left active military duty in 1946 and attended Lewis and Clark College for two years, returning in 1956 for her bachelor of arts degree.

In October 1948 during the Berlin crisis, she was recalled to active duty with the Army and went to Camp Lee, Va., as a company commander. The following year she transferred to the Air Force, when a new law integrated women in the regular armed forces, and was sent to Erding Air Depot, Germany.

Holm served in a variety of personnel assignments, including Director of Women in the Air Force from 1965-73. She played a significant role in eliminating restrictions on numbers of women serving in all ranks, expanding job and duty station assignments for women, opening ROTC and service academies to women, and changing the policies on the status of women in the armed forces. For her exceptionally meritorious service in this assignment; she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

On March 1, 1973, General Holm was appointed director of the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council.

She was promoted to the grade of brigadier general July 16, 1971, the first woman to be appointed in this grade in the Air Force. She was promoted to the grade of major general effective June 1, 1973, with date of rank July 1, 1970, and was the first woman in the armed forces to serve in that grade.

After her retirement in 1975, she served as a Special Assistant on Women for President Ford and as a policy consultant for the Carter administration. She is the author of "Women in the Military, An Unfinished Revolution" (Presidio Press, 1986, revised edition, 1992)

Marine Lance Cpl. Kielin T. Dunn

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Kielin T. Dunn, 19, of Chesapeake, Va.

LCpl Dunn was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Feb. 18, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

A Marine from Chesapeake was killed Thursday in Afghanistan, the Defense Department reported late Friday.

Lance Cpl. Kielin T. Dunn, 19, died in combat in Helmand province, a statement said.

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

According to an article in The Flagship, a military newspaper serving Hampton Roads, Dunn was homeless before graduating from high school, but with the help of Seton Youth Shelters, he was able to finish school and join the Marines.

“Before I became homeless, I had a plan to join the U.S. Marines after I finished my senior year,” Dunn said. “But after an unfortunate event, I was left with nowhere to go. I was moving place to place, and I still had one year of school left.”

Seton Youth Shelters is a program in Hampton Roads that takes in homeless children.

LCpl. Dunn was one of four Marines from Camp Lejeune who died Wednesday and Thursday, the Defense Department said. No further information was available.

The other Camp Lejeune Marines killed Thursday were identified as Pfc. Eric D. Currier, 21, of Londonderry, N.H., Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu, 20, of Providence, R.I., and Lance Cpl. Larry M. Johnson, 19, of Scranton, Pa.

Lance Cpl. Dunn was a rifleman assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. He joined the Marine Corps in August 2008 and was promoted to the rank of lance corporal on May 1, 2009. He deployed to Afghanistan is support of Operation Enduring Freedom in December 2009. His awards include the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal.

During the summer of 2008, the staff at Virginia Beach's Seton Youth Shelter got a call from a young man in need of help.

Something had gone wrong at home, Kielin T. Dunn told them, and he needed a place to stay. He wasn't a runaway, troublemaker or wayward teen, said David Mount, the shelter's director of street outreach programs. He had a plan: Graduate and join the Marine Corps. He just needed some help to get there.

So the shelter provided a bed, food and clothing. A few months later, in August 2008, Dunn graduated early from Chesapeake's Western Branch High School. The next day, he left for boot camp, Mount said.

But he kept in touch with the Seton Youth Shelter, visiting during holidays and calling in December to let his shelter family know he'd be deploying to Afghanistan.

Mount received another kind of call Friday night. Dunn, a 19-year-old lance corporal in the Marine Corps, had been killed Thursday during combat operations in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

"It was a blow," Mount said.

Dunn, originally from Chesapeake, had been a role model to the children and teens at the shelter, Mount said.

"He was an inspiration to the residents here," he said. "He inspired them and gave them hope that they could actually overcome their life challenges."

Mount described Dunn as intelligent, honest, driven and focused.

"He was a good person, and he was a straight arrow," he said. "That's a reflection of his family."

Mount said he could not disclose information about how Dunn became homeless but said he'd maintained a relationship with his family after enlisting. A phone call to his family's home was not returned Saturday.

With Your Help, We Could Help

By David Mount, Director of Street Outreach Programs, and Margaret Angulo, Director of Marketing, Seton Youth Shelters.

Sometimes, despite the odds, dreams of success really do come true. Kielin Dunn had goals for his life, but he found himself in a situation that made those dreams seem impossible.

“Before I became homeless, I had a plan to join the U. S. Marines after I finished my senior year,” Dunn said. “But after an unfortunate event, I was left with nowhere to go. I was moving place to place, and I still had one year of school left.”

But then, he found hope – and an organization that was willing and able to help put his plan back on track: “Seton Youth Shelters, for me, was a place of refuge from the streets,” Dunn said.

While living with a friend’s family, Dunn found out about Seton Youth Shelters. The staff worked with the Guidance Department at Western Branch High School, the Summer School Administration, Teachers and Staff at Landstown High School, City of Virginia Beach Public Schools’ Project Hope, and the U.S. Marine Corps Recruitment Staff.

“I attended summer school for free, and was able to graduate early with cap and gown and enter the Marine Corps,” Dunn stated. “None of this would have been possible without Seton Youth Shelters and their Street Outreach Programs.”

Dunn is grateful to those who assisted, and generously takes the time to visit the shelters when he is in the area, offering inspiration, empowerment and affirmation to the current residents, so that they can realize the human spirit can meet the challenges before them.

Seton Youth Shelters provides a safe haven, counseling and outreach services, 24 hours per day, without charge, to assist youth in crisis throughout Hampton Roads. Our goal is to reunite youth with their families whenever possible.

KIelin Dunn wrote on Oct 30, 2009 6:08 PM:

" Thats my story and im sticking to it Semper Fi "

AFGHANISTAN (WAVY) - A Marine from Chesapeake died Thursday during combat operations, while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced Friday.

Lance Cpl. Kielin T. Dunn, 19, was assigned to 1st Battallion, 6th marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejune, N.C.

"He truly was a remarkable person," said David Mount.

Friends say that's the only way you can describe Kielin Dunn. He lived for protecting his country and Thursday he died doing the same thing.

"Every person that serves in our armed forces is my hero," Mount added. "They're serving to preserve our personal freedoms that we have become accustomed to."

Dunn graduated from Western Branch High School in 2008. The very next day he was off to boot camp. A short time later, the Marine deployed to Afghanistan.

"His demeanor and his tone was confident and resolved," Mount said.

Dunn was one of five Marines killed in the last three days. He was part of the US offensive working to take out the Taliban. One thing that can't be described is the sense of loss.

"It has devastated us over the last 24 hours," Mount added.

David Mount was not only Kielin Dunn's friend but a mentor. He says Dunn came to the Seton Youth Shelter in Virginia Beach wanting help.

"He came to us with specific goals and specific needs," Mount said. "It was a privilege for me to know him and it was our honor to serve him."

Dunn reached his goal.

"He represented everyone well," Mount said.

But then it was Dunn who gave back. He mentored other teens at the shelter and gave them lessons on life.

"He would come back and his visits here served as an inspiration for young people," Mount added. "I'd prefer to celebrate his life and what he was able to accomplish in his short years he was with us."

"His ultimate sacrifice for the personal freedoms we have become accustomed to will forever be appreciated and remembered," Mount wrote in a statement. "He's a hero."

Marine Lance Cpl. Kielin T. Dunn was killed in action on 2/18/10.

Marine Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu, 20, of Providence, R.I.

Pfc. Coutu was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Feb. 18, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

A Pawtucket Marine who was killed in Afghanistan is being remembered as a natural leader.

On Thursday, two U.S. Marines notified Coutu’s mother, Melissa, about the death of her only child, Henry Coutu said. Friday night, Melissa Coutu and her parents flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where her son’s body was expected to arrive Saturday morning.

“A lot of these young men of ours who are dying are kids whose lives haven’t had a chance to get started,” Henry Coutu said.

An American flag was in the yard, yellow ribbons on the railings at his mother's home in Providence. His aunt told us, Kyle "Joe," an only child, enlisted one week after high school graduation.

His friends are distraught about his death. His aunt described him as the "Mayor of Tolman" because he was everybody's friend at Tolman High School in Pawtucket.

Coutu got engaged around Thanksgiving.

The last time his aunt, Jennifer Durkin, spoke with him was February 2. He was leaving base in Afghanistan, couldn't say where he was going - only that he was on a mission.

Coutu was a graduate of William E. Tolman High School, where he was captain of the wrestling and football teams.

Principal Frederick Silva said the 20-year-old Coutu was "one of those really good kids" and had wanted to be in the Marines since he was a freshman.

He said Coutu visited the school about a month ago, in uniform, to say hello before he headed to Afghanistan. He said Coutu was a little nervous about heading overseas, but looking forward to it.

In his junior year, he suffered a shoulder injury while wrestling. His big concern was it might disqualify him from serving, but the rehabilitation was successful.

It was perfectly within the framework of the situation to mourn and express grief. Yet how Tolman High School chose to honor the memory of 2009 graduate Kyle J. Coutu, who was killed last Thursday while proudly defending his country’s freedom in Afghanistan, revealed just how immensely revered this 20-year-old was – particularly amongst the myriad of coaches he suited up for.

In short, Coutu touched so many lives because he was a three-season athlete. He chose to play sports known for their rugged and physical nature, from captaining the football and wrestling programs under Dave Caito, to playing hockey under Steve Reynolds, and lastly participating in outdoor track. He was someone who embodied school spirit and took great pride in donning a Tolman uniform.

A series of somber events took place over the weekend, all of which were designed to aid with the coping process. Saturday night’s moving tribute at Lynch Arena featured the Tolman hockey program paying respect to Pfc. Kyle Coutu with the players holding miniature American flags during a moment of silence and the national anthem.

The ceremony also featured Tigers goaltender Stephane Meunier and forward Sean Bergeron holding up each end of an American flag that directly faced the Tolman bench. There hung two jerseys, a red and a white one. One of the hockey sweaters was turned backwards to reveal Coutu’s hockey number, #21, while the other faced front. The players also wore black armbands with No. 21 depicted across them.

How Coutu got involved in hockey was a story Reynolds willingly shared. “Kyle did me a personal favor. We’re on our way back up with the program, but last year I needed bodies. That was the type of kid Kyle was – he had a lot of school pride and a lot of pride in himself.” It should be noted Coutu had never laced up a pair of skates prior to last season.

“I commend him for coming out and giving the effort,” said Reynolds. “He came out to be our backup goaltender, and, just being the type of kid he was, he wanted to skate out and hit people. He was a tough kid.

“A lot of people say things in light of (such a tragic turn of events). With Kyle, it’s all true,” added Reynolds. “He was the epitome of what people talk about. My heart goes out to his family.”

Here are some of the words Tolman public address announcer Robert Masse summoned when he addressed the crowd on Coutu’s behalf: “He stood for the best of Tolman High School, showing sportsmanship, dignity and respect to all he encountered.”

Sunday afternoon’s gathering at the high school, which was spearheaded by guidance counselor Maureen Toth, was another chance to eulogize Coutu. Hundreds of students, past and present, passed through the doors to offer up personal reflections on somebody who was barely eight months removed from receiving his high school degree.

“I saw him during football season and he was just about ready to go into basic training,” said Caito. “He was a down-to-earth kid who you could talk to about anything. You hate to see anything like that happen, but it really hits home when it’s someone who played for you.”

Caito came up with the idea of presenting the football jersey Coutu wore during Tolman’s Super Bowl run in 2008 to his mother Melissa. Students are also encouraged to sign another jersey with the intention of it eventually being displayed in a glass case. “We want to put it in a prominent place,” said John Scanlon, Tolman’s athletic director. “Kyle always wore a smile and always held his hand out, ready to shake.”

The manner in which Coutu’s life was cut terribly short helps shed some light on what truly matters in life. “You have things that go wrong during the season, but once you hear something like that, you ask yourself ‘What are we really concerned about?’” said Reynolds. “He’s a grown man, but last year at this time he was sitting in our locker room.”

This has been a bad week for Tolman, Silva said.

Another student, 16-year-old sophomore Allison Boja, died in her sleep on Valentine's Day. "That was totally unexpected," the principal said. As a result of that death, plans had already been made to have guidance counselors at the school gym Sunday from 12 to 4, in case students wanted to talk about Boja.

Now, with the news of Coutu's death, the counselors will be available to talk about that tragedy as well, said Silva. "It's for kids who need to sit around and talk," he said.

Marine Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu was killed in action on 2/18/10.

Navy SEAL Special Operator 2nd Class Ronald Tyler Woodle

Remember Our Heroes

Special Operator 2nd Class Ronald Tyler Woodle, age 26, a US Navy SEAL, passed away February 18, 2010 on a training incident near Key West, Florida. He was one of the members of a small group of Navy SEALs who were engaged in dive training in the waters near Key West. Tyler was born in Asheville, North Carolina and was home schooled until high school and was a star soccer player at Asheville Christian Academy.

A search team found Woodle within minutes. He was unconscious and CPR was initiated. Woodle was transported Lower Keys Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Navy said a complete investigation into the incident has begun. UPDATE: Cause of death has been determined to be drowning

"Petty Officer Ronald Woodle was developing into an exceptional operator and was dedicated to the SEAL ethos. Our hearts go out to his family and friends in this very difficult time," said Capt. Colin Kilrain, commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 2. "His loss is felt by the entire special warfare community."

The Navy SEAL was identified as 26 year-old Ronald Tyler Woodle of Waynesville, North Carolina. He was one of the members of a small group of Navy SEALs who were engaged in dive training in the waters near Key West. A news release, according to the article, said that Woodle was reported missing by a teammate at around 9 AM. Woodle was recovered in minutes, although he was already unconscious. He was pronounced dead at the Lower Keys Hospital.

Woodle was “a star soccer player at Asheville Christian Academy, scoring 72 goals during his years there.” He enjoyed a soccer scholarship for two years while attending Mars Hill College and then worked in construction.

Woodle enlisted in the Navy in 2007 with the intention of joining the Navy SEALs. He became part of a SEAL team based in the East Coast in October 2009. He was undergoing “intensive training in preparation for deployment overseas.”

Woodle's mother says he was always the consummate gentleman, even in competitive sports he would stop and help up other players that fell during soccer matches. Growing up he loved video games, music and movies. No matter how bad the movie was he'd watch every one he could find.

"When I think of Tyler I think of his smile, he had such a big smile and a beautiful heart," said his mother Kathi.

"Petty Officer Woodle was an example of a generation of young Americans who have unselfishly answered our nation's call over the past nine years. He was a professional Sailor and an exceptional SEAL operator who embodied the best of what America represents. He will be truly missed, and our condolences go out to his family," said his commanding officer.

He is survived by his parents, Ronald McNair and Kathi Hyatt Woodle; two sisters, Jerica Woodle of Greenville, South Carolina and Sumer Christenbury and her husband, Craig, of Statesville, North Carolina; a niece, Ava Bella Christenbury; paternal grandmother, Betty Anderson Woodle of Rock Hill, SC and maternal grandmother, Laura Phillips Hyatt, of Waynesville; and numerous uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Marine Lance Cpl. Larry M. Johnson

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Larry M. Johnson, 19, of Scranton, Pa.

LCpl Johnson was assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Feb. 18, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Fallen Pa. teen called good-natured, proud Marine
The Associated Press

SCRANTON, Pa. — A teenager killed last week in Afghanistan is being remembered as a proud Marine and a friendly youth with a close-knit family.

Lance Cpl. Larry M. Johnson, 19, of Scranton died Feb. 18 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, military authorities said. He joined the Marine Corps after graduating Scranton High School in 2008 and was with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Johnson had been in the country for four months, said 2nd Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt. Evan Pettyjohn.

Dominic Rodriguez, 19, who had known Johnson since both were toddlers, described him as a laid-back person who enjoyed hanging out with his buddies as they watched MTV.

“He was never mad, ever. He went through a lot in his life and never did he let that bring him down. He was always with a smile on his face,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez’s mother, Amy, said she was with the family Thursday shortly after they received the news about their son’s death.

“My heart just aches for the family right now,” she said. “He loved his mom so much. ... He was their hero. They loved him so much.”

Scranton High principal Eric Schaeffer recalled Johnson as a polite, friendly student who looked forward to joining the Marines. He also remembered his mother’s pride as she dropped off a picture of him in his uniform at the school earlier in the week.

“I can picture him walking down the hall — blond hair and bright blue eyes, always smiling,” he said.

His former English teacher, Jennifer Brotherton, also remembers him as a good-natured youth who almost always had a smile on his face.

“He had a really good heart and he was so full of energy,” she said. “Any time a child dies, it’s too soon.”

Marine Lance Cpl. Larry M. Johnson was killed in action on 2/18/10.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Marine Pfc. Eric D. Currier

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Pfc. Eric D. Currier, 21, of Londonderry, N.H.

Pfc. Currier was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Feb. 17, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

The news sent shock waves through the community. By the end of the day yesterday, more than 700 people, including friends and family members, had linked to a tribute page in Eric Currier's honor on Facebook open to the general public. The site listed Currier as a "Brother, Son, Nephew, Husband, Grandson, Friend, Family, a MARINE."

Eric Currier was one of 29 students that graduated from the Londonderry High School Adult Education Program in June of 2007. He was one of four in that class that enlisted in the Military.

Eric’s Brother Brent is in the army stationed in Hawaii, he was also a graduate of the Londonderry Adult Ed program in 2008. WMUR interviewed Brent and one of their History Teachers Joe Nalezinki at the high school today.

Cars belonging to friends and family could be seen lining the front driveway of the 13 Peabody Row home of Currier's parents, Kevin and Helen Boudreau. Saying he wanted to ensure family privacy during a difficult time, Brent Currier met members of the media and strangers outside in the driveway to ask all to keep a respectful distance. Brent Currier declined to discuss any specifics about what happened, but said he was extremely proud his brother had the opportunity to serve as a Marine.
"He was a Marine. I don't want anyone to confuse that with anything else," Brent Currier said. "I'm in the Army, and even I admit it is different. Better."

Eric Currier was a 2006 graduate of Londonderry High School's Adult Education Program, a night-school program designed to help students complete their high school education. Londonderry High School Principal Jason Parent was head of the program when Eric was a student.

Special bonds form between teachers and parents in the after-school program, Parent said, because often the students who are enrolled put in extra effort and study time to attain their diploma.

Parent said he continued to follow Eric's progress after he had graduated.

"Our teachers got to know Eric very well through the program," Parent said. "He wanted to be a U.S. Marine even then, and we were all very proud of what he had accomplished."

Gov. John Lynch and Congressmen Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter all released statements regarding the loss, saying their prayers were with the family.

"My thoughts and prayers and those of my wife, Susan, are with the family of Marine Pfc. Eric Currier," Lynch said. "Pfc. Currier served our nation with courage and honor, and he sacrificed protecting all of us. On behalf of the citizens of New Hampshire, our deepest sympathies go out to the Currier family."

Brent Currier said his family was planning to keep funeral services closed to the public and although the sympathies offered were appreciated, the greatest gift state residents could give the family now was privacy.

"We are going through a lot right now," Brent Currier said. "I don't want anything else out there."

Born in Lowell, Currier grew up in Methuen until the eighth grade, when he moved to Londonderry with his mother. He spent his summers on Plum Island, his grandfather said.

"I've got a place on Plum Island and he spent every summer there since he was a baby," Russ Currier said. "We hunted and fished. I did everything with this boy."

Currier joined the Marine Corps in March of 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan in January. His grandfather said that after Currier arrived in Afghanistan, he told family members he was pleased to be a part of the mission there.

"He said, 'I'm proud to be over here, these people need us,' " Russ Currier said. "He was very proud to be a Marine."

In September, Eric Currier married Kaila Parkhurst, formerly of Haverhill.

His grandfather said Kaila was with Eric Currier's parents in Delaware Friday night awaiting the arrival of Currier's body at Dover Air Force Base.

Friends and neighbors of Currier's remembered him as a social and affable man who was well-liked in the community.

Newbury resident and friend, Stephanie Culbert, said that he enjoyed fishing on his grandfather's boat, swimming, basketball, and joking with his siblings.

"He was always friendly and outgoing," Culbert said. "He'd always do anything for anybody if they asked."

Eileen Fahey, who lives near the grandparents in Newbury -- where they also reside -- remembered Currier as a "wonderful kid" who spent a lot of time with his family.

"He was just a really nice kid," she said. "Like a kid you'd be proud to say was your brother."

Fahey said that her daughter, Katie, a friend of Currier, called in disbelief from Georgia when she heard that he had died.

"She said, 'Mom, that's not Eric,' " Fahey said. "It's a big loss."

Russ Currier said a memorial service will be held, although he did not yet know a date.

In addition to his parents Kevin and Helen Boudreau, brother Brent and grandfather Russ Currier, Pfc. Currier leaves his wife, Kaila Currier, 21.

Marine Pfc. Eric D. Currier was killed in action on 2/17/10.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Marine Lance Cpl. Alejandro J. Yazzie

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Alejandro J. Yazzie, 23, of Rock Point, Ariz.

LCpl Yazzie was assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Feb. 16, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Navajo lance corporal killed in Afghanistan

The Associated Press

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A Marine from the small Navajo community of Rock Point has died in Afghanistan, community members and the Department of Defense say.

The remains of Lance Cpl. Alejandro Yazzie, 23, arrived Thursday at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Yazzie, assigned to the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, died Tuesday while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, according to a Defense Department release.

Tribal officials say Yazzie was a 2004 graduate of Rock Point High School and is survived by his parents, three brothers, a sister and his grandmother.

No additional details on his history of service were immediately available.

According to tribal statistics, 11 Navajos serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan have been killed.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

A Marine from the small Navajo community of Rock Point, Ariz., has died in Afghanistan.

The remains of 23-year-old Lance Cpl. Alejandro Yazzie arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Thursday.

The Defense Department says Yazzie died on Tuesday while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. That's the site of a major offensive by U.S. and Afghan forces against the Taliban.

He was assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

A spokesman for the Navajo Nation president says 11 Navajos serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan have been killed.

He was the first Marine in this battalion to die in the Marjah offensive. According to a National Public Radio reporter, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, embedded with his unit, Lance Cpl. Yazzie had planned to call his wife on her satellite phone that night after returning from the patrol.

Forcing hundreds of Taliban fighters out of the key stronghold in southern Afghanistan is proving far more difficult than expected for thousands of U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers, NPR reported. The militants are using roadside bombs and snipers to slow the joint force to a crawl during the week-old offensive in the Taliban-controlled area called Marjah, it reported.

Lance Cpl. Yazzie liked to be with his family and grandmother. His favorite sport was bullriding. He enjoyed volunteering and talking to young students about the need to stay in school to finish college or vocational school. He also enjoyed target shooting with his brothers and nephews, listening to country and heavy metal music and eating traditional foods made by his grandmother.

He is survived by his wife Kalandra Rae Lonehorse-Yazzie, his mother Eva Yazzie, his father Johnson Yazzie, his grandmother Minnie Yazzie, his brothers Ferlando Lorin Bitsuie, Rodello Holyan and Chance Holyan, and one sister Rayona Holyan.

Marine Lance Cpl. Alejandro J. Yazzie was killed in action on 2/16/10.

Marine Lance Cpl. Noah M. Pier

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Noah M. Pier, 25, of Charlotte, N.C.

LCpl Pier was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died Feb. 16, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A 25-year-old Marine from Charlotte died Tuesday while serving in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.

Lance Cpl. Noah M. Pier was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Pier, a machine gunner who joined the Marine Corps in 2007, died in the ongoing combat offensive in Helmand province, the Department of Defense said.

He had served one previous tour in Iraq and deployed to Afghanistan in November.

Pier has been awarded the Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign Medals and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Lance Cpl. Noah Pier always wanted to be a Marine, and his family said they'll miss his "laughter and love of life."

Noah Pier "was our son, brother, grandson, uncle and cousin. He believed in what he was fighting for and he died for your freedom," the family said in a statement late Thursday.

Noah, 25, of Charlotte, died Tuesday while serving in Afghanistan in the combat offensive in Helmand province, the Department of Defense said this week. He was a machine gunner assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Lance CPL. Pier, who joined the Marine Corps in 2007, had served one previous tour in Iraq and deployed to Afghanistan in November.

"Lance Cpl. Noah Miles Pier was our son, brother, grandson, uncle and cousin. He believed in what he was fighting for and he died for your freedom. Noah proudly served his country in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The oldest of 10 siblings and the first grandson on both sides of the family, Noah always wanted to be a Marine.

"Noah was such a happy man and he loved to laugh. He greatly anticipated coming home from Afghanistan to marry his childhood sweetheart, Rachel Black. His laughter and love of life will be sorely missed.

"Noah will be escorted home to Charlotte by family member (gunnery sergeant) Michael L. Kiernan, U.S.M.C.

"Noah will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. Charlotte services are pending.

"We truly appreciate the outpouring of support from our friends and neighbors in the Charlotte-area.

"Lance Cpl. Noah Miles Pier, our hero."

Lance Cpl. Noah Pier is survived by his parents Mark and Vikki Pier, 9 siblings, maternal and paternal grandparents as well as his fiance Rachel Black, nephews, nieces, and cousins.

Marine Lance Cpl. Noah M. Pier was killed in action on 2/16/10.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Marine Pfc. Jason H. Estopinal

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Pfc. Jason H. Estopinal, 21, of Dallas, Ga.

Pfc. Estopinal was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Feb. 15, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

The Estopinal family, which lives in Dallas, found out about Estopinal's death a few hours after it happened. "It's still hard to believe," his father, Jason Estopinal, said Wednesday night from his home. "We're accepting it. But it's something we were not expecting."

The Marine was a popular student and a member of the soccer team at East Paulding High School before graduating in 2007, his father said. In January 2009, he left for boot camp, where he spent the next several months.

"He’s only been a Marine for a little over a year," his father said. "He was deployed in late October and was due to come back in May."

The family is making funeral arrangements and planning to bury the Marine at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.

Marine PFC Jason Estopinal, 21, of Dallas, Georgia, was killed in action Monday while serving in Afghanistan. PFC Estopinal was on patrol and died when an IED detonated.

He was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom combat operations in Helmand province. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"He was doing what he wanted to do," said PFC Estopinal's father, Jason Estopinal, from the family's home near Dallas Tuesday.

Relatives and friends visited the family -- Jason, Clare and their younger son, Parker --throughout the day and into the night. An American flag flew above the front steps. In the living room, the family displayed photos of PFC Estopinal, along with a scrapbook of his service in the Marines.

He graduated from East Paulding High School in 2007, then went to work for the Cobb County Parks and Recreation Department. But, his father said, he talked often about a career in the Marines -- to serve his country and to further his education.

He enlisted in January, 2009, and was sent to Afghanistan in October, a month after his 21st birthday. "He was one of the most honest people I ever knew," said his father, "almost to a fault. I was very proud of him. Still am.... Everybody was always proud of him. He was a good kid. He was a great man."

The Estopinals expect to receive their son home, at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, this weekend.

In addition to his father, the Marine is survived by his mother, Claire, and his brother Parker, an 11th grader at East Paulding.

Marine Pfc. Jason H. Estopinal was killed in action on 2/15/10.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Army Sgt. Jeremiah T. Wittman

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jeremiah T. Wittman, 26, of Darby, Mont.

Sgt. Wittman was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Feb. 13, 2010 of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Zhari province, Afghanistan. Also killed were Staff Sgt. John A. Reiners and Spc. Bobby J. Pagan.

Karyn Wittman — formerly Karyn Reneau — received the knock on her door that military spouses are constantly aware could come, but are still never truly prepared for.

Wittman's mother, Carol Reneau, said the family was informed by an Army officer and a chaplain Saturday evening at their Chesnee home that her daughter's husband, 26-year-old Army Sgt. Jeremiah Wittman of Billings, Mont., was killed in action Saturday in Afghanistan.

Karyn Wittman, 23, said her husband was a 13 Fox fire-support specialist who was deployed to Afghanistan last May — about a year and a half after serving 15 months in Iraq.

“People say it could always happen, but I really never thought that it would,” Karyn Wittman said Monday from Dover, Del., where she was flown by the Army to witness the dignified transfer honoring her husband. “So I really was surprised when they were at my door coming to tell me, because I knew it could happen any day, any time, but I really never thought it would ever happen to my family.”

Wittman, her mother and Wittman's 3-year-old daughter, Miah — who was named after her father — arrived in Dover Sunday night and returned home Monday after the ceremony. Reneau said her son-in-law's body will eventually be flown to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, but military officials told the family the body will not be released for three to seven days.

Wittman said that while she was devastated by the news and is “still in shock,” she knows her husband was doing the job he wanted to do.

“I supported him 100 percent,” she said through tears, “and I support the rest of the troops 100 percent, and I always will. He did die fighting for his country and he always felt that he was fighting so that his kids or anyone else wouldn't have to.”

Most of Jeremiah Wittman's family still live in Montana, Reneau said, including another daughter.

Karyn Wittman said her husband told her he was able to get through each day of the war knowing he had his family to return to. She met her husband when he was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, and the couple married on Jan. 17, 2006. Exactly one year later, their daughter was born.

“She really loved her daddy,” Mary Burnett, Karyn Wittman's grandmother, said of Miah, “even though she was without him for three-fourths of her life, I would say.”

Karyn Wittman had been living at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo., where her husband was stationed, but returned to the Upstate to live with her mother in Chesnee each time Jeremiah Pittman — who also served in Korea at one point — was deployed overseas.

Karyn Wittman, who described her husband as a “laid-back,” devoted family man, said she'll look to family and friends in both Colorado and the Upstate, as well as fellow members of Buck Creek Baptist Church in Chesnee, for support as she grieves.

Burnett said her granddaughter married a “very, very nice” man who was always pleasant to be around, and “I always liked him.” However, she added, “This Army life is not easy.”

“He told me he was going out on a mission for three days and he would be safe,” his mother, Cynthia Church, told The Billings Gazette on Monday. “He said: ‘Don’t worry, Mom. They don’t scare me. I’m a super soldier.’ ”

“He only had two months left over there and was so looking forward to coming home and being with his girls,” said Wittman’s aunt, Kari Dvorak.

Robert Wittman said he has a picture of his son with five of his Army buddies, and four of them are now dead. “He kept calling me every week and saying, ‘I’m still alive. I’m still alive,’ ” Robert Wittman said. “He just kept losing friends.”

Wittman attended elementary and middle school in Billings before moving with his mother to Powell, Wyo., for a time. He graduated from Trapper Creek High in Darby and enlisted in the Army in 2004.

“He had a huge heart,” Jenell Wittman said. “No matter what, he could always make you laugh or smile.”

Though Wittman is from Montana, his widow is from Spartanburg County. When he would deploy, she and their 3-year-old daughter would stay with family in the Chesnee area. They were there when they learned of his death. Karyn Wittman did not want to discuss how he was killed, but she did talk to WYFF News4 about how he lived.

"He was laid back. He was really friendly," said Karyn Wittman. "He loved to ride dirt bikes, do construction work and he loved to grill."

The couple was married four years. Their daughter Miah is named after Wittman. "Can you tell mommy where daddy is?" Karyn asked Miah. "At Heaven," said Miah. Miah grabbed her photo album and showed News4's Mike McCormick pictures of her father. "My daddy's a soldier," she said.

Wittman sent his wife a message Friday night and promised to call the next day, which turned out to be the day he died. He was also able to contact other relatives before his death. "He was a family man," Karyn said.

Wittman was expected to end his deployment in the next few months. He planned to leave the Army for good in November. "He wanted to be with his family," Karyn said. He'd already been on one deployment to Iraq. "He wanted to do what he did so his family wouldn't have to or no one else would have to," Karyn said.

In his honor, flags line the street where his wife's family lives in Spartanburg County. "I really appreciate all the support," Karyn said. "It really means a lot to know that he's being respected and honored."

Wittman's widow plans to have a memorial service for him in the Upstate, but it's unclear when his body will be flown to the area.

Wittman is also survived by his father, Robert Wittman, and sisters Charity and Jenell.

Army Sgt. Jeremiah T. Wittman was killed in action on 2/13/10.

Army Spc. Bobby J. Pagan

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Bobby J. Pagan, 23, of Austin, Texas

Spc. Pagan was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Feb. 13, 2010 of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Zhari province, Afghanistan. Also killed were Staff Sgt. John A. Reiners and Sgt. Jeremiah T. Wittman.

A former Anderson High school student, who joined the Army in 2008, has been killed in Afghanistan.

Bobby Pagan was born and raised in East Austin, and leaves behind a family of eight.

The Pagan family said 23-year-old Bobby was a man eager to help out, and one who brought joy into the lives of others. He had hoped to return home from his tour in Afghanistan with his new fiancée Diana Soriano in two weeks. They met while in the Army, and finding the time to see each other wasn't easy.

"He actually proposed to me through a letter and then later on after I told him 'Yes' over the phone, he said he wanted to do it in person," Soriano said.

"It's just so sad. I get angry, you know. But there isn't anything I can do about it," said Peggy Pagan. Her son, Specialist Bobby Pagan, 23, was killed in action over the weekend in Afghanistan. His family says he was on foot patrol, when a suicide bomber drove up on a motorcycle and exploded an IED, killing Pagan.

His fiancee was also deployed to Afghanistan. She was the first to get the news. "I just broke down. I was screaming, because I didn't want to believe it," said Soriano. Soriano had to make the journey to meet his family for the first time, alone.

"He was supposed to be traveling with me, so I just, I was just alone for too long. When I finally seen them, I mean they are the only thing that I have that's a part of him," Soriano said.

According to Soriano, Pagan was promoted to Army specialist right before he died and was scheduled to return home to Texas this summer.

"He was so excited when he got his CIB, Combat Infantry Badge, he was proud to have earned it, and I thought he definitely deserved it," Soriano said.

Pagan's family of three brothers and four sisters said he was always full of laughter and the practical joker in the bunch. Which is why, his mother Peggy Pagan said, when they first heard the terrible news, no one could believe it was true.

"Everybody pretty much was thinking that it was a joke, and I told them 'No, it's not a joke, it's true.' And of course everybody is hoping that maybe who's in that casket isn't him. They told me 'No, we verified it,'" Pagan said.

Now faced with the reality of a loss no family should have to endure, the Pagans are trying to remember their son as they say they knew him, loving, strong and full of joy.

Bobby Pagan's older brother Robert is serving in the Army as well, and was scheduled to join the family Wednesday from Fort Hood.

Robert Pagan said he has learned a lot about his little brother in the days since his death. "He did want to follow in my footsteps- that's what I've been hearing these past couple of days and that he was proud of me," said Robert. "I never got to see him in uniform and tell him that I was proud of him."

Pagan's fiancée will soon return to Afghanistan to serve another three months of deployment. She wrote that the rest of her time overseas would be dedicated to his memory.

"He wanted to get married and have kids when we got home, we had it all planned out, three boys and two girls. We had names and everything," Soriano wrote.

His older brother Robert escorted his remains home. In July, Robert will be deployed to Afghanistan.

Survived by his beloved mother, Peggy A. Pagan; four sisters, Jodie Treviño (Richard Treviño, Jr.), Paula Flores (Keith Dienhart, III), Angela Pagan (Robert Leal), Anastasia Pagan; three brothers, Robert Pagan, Jr. (Alison), Christopher Pagan, Miguel Pagan; his fiancée, Diana Soriano; Richard Treviño; his father, Robert Pagan; paternal grandmother, Angela Pagan; and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Army Spc. Bobby J. Pagan was killed in action on 2/13/10.

Army Staff Sgt. John A. Reiners

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. John A. Reiners, 24, of Lakeland, Fla.

SSgt. Reiners was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Feb. 13, 2010 of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Zhari province, Afghanistan. Also killed were Sgt. Jeremiah T. Wittman and Spc. Bobby J. Pagan.

Reiners ran cross country at Haines City High School not for love of the sport but because he viewed it as good preparation for his lifelong dream of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger, said his father, Greg Reiners of Lakeland.

"One of the things he told me is he was disappointed" about his Army boot camp, Greg Reiners, 47, said Tuesday. "It wasn't as hard as he thought it should be."

Military officials told the family Reiners was on a foot patrol in South Afghanistan about 10 p.m. Friday local time when a motorcyclist drove up and detonated a bomb, said his stepfather, Jerry Jackson of Gainesville. It killed Reiners and two other soldiers and injured several more.

Reiners' wife, Haines City High School graduate Casey Barker Reiners, received a bouquet of roses for Valentine's Day just hours after receiving the news of his death from three military representatives at her home in Colorado Springs, Colo. Reiners had been stationed at Fort Carson before his deployment to Afghanistan in early November.

Reiners, who was due to return home in May, leaves behind a 2-year-old son, Lex. Reiners had previously served two deployments in Iraq.

Casey Reiners, 23, said she has been told her husband will posthumously receive a Bronze Star and other decorations.

"I'm so honored and so proud to have had him as my husband," she said. "A lot of the superiors he worked with have been telling me he was one of the best soldiers they've ever seen. He really took serving his country very seriously. He wasn't just in it for the money or for the benefits. He was in it to serve and protect his country."

Family members said Reiners set his mind on a military career at a young age. His sister, Glennette Jackson of Gainesville, has a photo of him at age 3 in military gear.

Reiners' mother, Ronna Jackson of Gainesville, said he was strongly influenced by his grandfather, Army veteran Jay Jackson of Haines City, who earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star in Vietnam.

"He was always an overachiever," Ronna Jackson said of her son. "If he was required to make 100 (on a test) and made 99, he always wanted to know what question he missed. He was a perfectionist."

Reiners played youth baseball, entered his junior high school's Young Astronauts program, was a Boy Scout and joined the Haines City Police Explorers. He joined the Army JROTC program as a high school freshman and made a strong impression on Sgt. Maj. Dwight Smith, a 25-year Army veteran and his commander for four years. "I normally ask them, 'What are your plans for the rest of your life?'" Smith said. "His was straightaway, 'I'm going into the military.'"

Smith said Reiners had no trouble with his requirements for cadets of doing 100 pushups and 100 situps each in two minutes. Smith said Reiners' team never lost in four years at military competitions against squads from other schools.

Smith, recognizing Reiners as officer material, encouraged him to enroll in college. "He said, 'I don't know if I want to take that time,'" Smith recalled. "He said, 'I want to be infantry. I want to head to the front lines. I just want to be there.' And that's what he did."

Reiners headed to boot camp a month after graduating from high school. "It (boot camp) didn't challenge him enough," said Jerry Jackson. "That boy was so physically fit, the other soldiers called him 'Rambo.'"

Reiners first deployed for Iraq in 2005. Casey Reiners said her husband was injured when his armored vehicle hit an explosive device. She said Reiners escaped the vehicle and led his fellow troops to safety. He received a Purple Heart for the incident.

Reiners' second tour of Iraq lasted from late 2007 through 2008. His wife said he incurred a concussion from another encounter with an explosive device.

Casey Reiners said her husband hoped to become an Army Ranger instructor after returning from Afghanistan. Reiners' father said he talked about going to college for a business management degree and opening an automobile mechanic shop.

Casey Reiners described her husband as "a country boy." He bought a vintage Chevrolet Suburban and equipped it with 44-inch tires so he could take it mud-bogging in Lakeland.

Reiners put a photo of the lime green vehicle, nicknamed "the Spearmint Hearse" by his wife, as the main image on his Facebook page.

Family members said Reiners didn't speak often about the dangers he faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. They said his extreme seriousness about his duty was balanced by a prankish manner back home.

"I remember before he left, I said, 'John, are they going to send you to a good part (of Afghanistan)?'" recalled his sister. "He said, 'Yeah, the Army is just going to send me to the best part over there where nothing is going on.' I said, 'Oh, really?' He said, 'No, Glennette, that's not possible. Every part over there is bad.' He knew what he was going into; he definitely did."

"I don't think he really wanted to talk about it (the danger) too much," Casey Reiners said, "but he did say he was scared going over there this time. He was worried."

Although a dedicated soldier, John Reiners shared his struggles with some duties he performed as a soldier, Greg Reiners and Jerry Jackson said. "He was having problems because he had to kill women and children who were suicide bombers," Jerry Jackson said. "He couldn't tell who they were. That's not the way he was raised. He didn't like the idea of having to take a human life."

Greg Reiners said his son was a devout Baptist and had a problem reconciling the biblical commandment "Thou shall not kill" with what he had to do to protect himself and his fellow soldiers.

Casey Reiners said she chatted with her husband by computer on his final morning. He called two hours later to say he was about to go out on patrol. "The last thing he said to me was, 'Casey, I feel your love with me and I carry it everywhere I go out here, and just know I won't be able to talk to you on Valentine's Day but just know all the love I possess I'm sending to you on that day and I'm constantly thinking about you,'" Casey Reiners said.

Ronna Jackson said she always listened to the Shedaisy song "Come Home Soon" with her son before his deployments. "It doesn't make it any easier that my son died the ultimate hero of America, but when I gave birth to him he was already my hero," she said, her voice breaking.

"I carried him for nine months, raised him for 18 years and my wonderful son repaid me by giving his life for my freedom. To me, that's all a mom can ask for."

The family was still making funeral arrangements Tuesday. Casey Reiners said her husband will be buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Haines City.

He is survived by his wife, Casey Barker Reiners, Colorado Springs, Colorado, son, Lex John Reiners also of Colorado Springs, mother, Ronna (Jerry) Jackson of Gainesville, Fl, father, Greg (Robin) Reiners of Lakeland, Fl, brothers Mark Reiners of Lakeland, Fl, Gregory Reiners of Haines City, Fl, sisters: Glennette Jackson of Gainesville, Fl, Hannah Reiners of Lakeland, Fl, grandfather, J.C. Norrell of Albany, Ga, mother & father in law Mellie and Ernie Barker of Dundee, Fl, several aunts and uncles.

Army Staff Sgt. John A. Reiners was killed in action on 2/13/10.

Marine Cpl. Jacob H. Turbett

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Jacob H. Turbett, 21, of Canton, Mich.

Cpl. Turbett was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Feb. 13, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

The mother of a U.S. Marine killed Saturday in Afghanistan said Tuesday her son would want the world to know how proud he was to have served his country.

Sheila Turbett, mother of Marine Corporal Jacob H. Turbett, the first reported American casualty in a major offensive in Marjah, Afghanistan, said he had apparently been communicating over the Internet with friends and relatives just a few hours before he was killed.

"My Jakie was so proud to be a marine -- that's all he ever wanted to be," said his mother, who returned to Metro Detroit Monday night after a quick overnight trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to oversee the arrival of her son's casket.

The slain corporal, whose unit was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., came from a military family, according to Sheila Turbett. One of his grandfathers, two of his uncles and a cousin were in the Marines and another uncle was in the Navy. His sister, Jaime Turbett, enlisted in the Navy and started boot camp on Feb. 3, just 10 days before he was killed.

"He was actually looking forward to going over there and fighting for his country," Sheila Turbett said of her son's tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Turbett, a Redondo Beach, Calif native, had hoped to make the military a permanent part of his life. "He was well-liked. He was a great worker, a really hard worker," his mother said.

"He was planning on finishing up his tour of duty, finish up his four years and then ... go to school and then go back into the military to try to get into flying."

In his spare time, Turbett -- Jake to his friends, Jakey to his mom -- enjoyed playing video games, learning about airplanes and squirrel hunting.

"He was a quiet boy, kind of, but he was a jokester," Sheila Turbett recalled. "He'd keep egging you on. He wouldn't stop. He liked to see you laugh. He was a big family guy."

His wife, Crystal, said he grew up in Canton Township. She said the military told her he died Saturday. Other details were not available, and his wife said funeral plans were incomplete.

Turbett wrote on his Facebook page that he was a 2007 graduate of Canton High School and was serving as a combat engineer. His unit was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Turbett had talked about joining the military early on, said Mark Pogliano, an assistant principal. "That always sounded like his game plan," he said. "He took going into the service very seriously." Later, after graduating and training, Turbett returned to the school for a visit wearing his uniform, Pogliano said. "He was a polite, quiet, nice young man."

Before serving in Afghanistan, Turbett was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, with the 9th Engineer Support Battalion. He also spent time in Iraq and Bangladesh, said Donald Brunson, who served with him.

Regardless of the setting, Turbett loved seeking diversions in his down time -- searching for a pizza place or playing "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero" video games. "He was always fun to be around," said Jeremy Roark, a corporal who served with him. "He was always having a good time."

He is survived by a wife, Crystal, whom he married in July 2008; his Mom Sheila, a sister, Jaime Turbett, a stepbrother, Joseph Marsh; and his father, Richard.

Marine Cpl. Jacob H. Turbett was killed in action on 2/13/10.