Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ricky McGinnis remembered by nephew

It was a week ago Private Joey Isaacs, of Fairfield Township, while serving in Iraq, learned that his father was injured in a horrific accident here in the Tri-state.

Then days later his uncle, First Sgt. Ricky McGinnis, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Private Isaacs arrived in the Tri-state this afternoon to visit his father at University Hospital in Cincinnati.

Isaacs' father Joe is at University Hospital with two crushed legs after a semi truck crashed into him last Tuesday.

And while he visits his father, Isaacs must now prepare for the funeral of his uncle.

And in two weeks, he will be back in Iraq.

It was Tuesday when Joe Isaacs stopped to help a woman who lost what she was hauling on the roadway.

"He was helping her pick it back on the truck," said his Pvt. Isaacs. "A semi-truck came around the corner too fast, lost control, smashed him between the semi and his truck -- and drug them both down the road."

Isaacs' father's legs were crushed and it was feared that he would lose them both.

His uncle, First Sergeant Ricky McGinnis went to talk to his nephew.

"The last time I saw my uncle, he came to my barracks to visit me," Issacs recalled, "because I was having a rough time with my dad, his accident."

"He came in and he told me he was there for me, I could come talk to him -- be strong, to keep doing my job, and that he loved me -- and he gave me a 'hooah!,' which is the Army saying."

"Hooah," for soldiers -- it symbolizes their esprit de corps -- and that is what Issacs says his uncle had, and then some.

"I tried to call him across the radio to see if he wanted to go to dinner and they said he was on patrol," said Issacs.

"Then about 10 to 15 minutes later, it came across the radio that someone in his troop was hit by an IED," said Issacs, "and they pulled me out of the room."

Isaacs would later learn that his uncle, who actually served in the same squadron, had been wounded. Wounds that would later claim his life.

"What makes it worse is just seeing my Mom, the way she is and that's the hardest part for me," said Issacs. "That's why I'm glad I'm home now, so I can take care of my Mom."

And while Private Isaacs says he'll stay strong for his family, he says they could use a few prayers.

"My family is going through a very rough time and God's been there with us," said Issacs.

"God saved my dad, and my uncle's with God now," said Issacs. "So, nd he's in a much better place than where we were."

9News has learned that physicians were able to save the legs of his father, Joe Isaacs, and that they are hoping for a complete recovery, but it will take months.

From WCPO 9

Related Link:
Ricky L. McGinnis dies from roadside bomb injuries

Syrian Official May Visit Baghdad

Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division's F Troop, 1st Brigade Reconnaissance Team and members of the Iraqi army at a landing zone near Iraq's border with Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Syria's foreign minister is considering a visit to Baghdad next month _ the first by a top Syrian figure since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003, a Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday.

"The idea is being considered, but no date has been set yet," said a Syrian Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give statements to the press.

In Baghdad, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry official said the two ministries had agreed "in principle" that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem would visit next month, but he did not give a date. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to make press statements.

Some U.S. politicians have urged the White House to make overtures to Syria to enlist its help in solving the crisis in Iraq, where Damascus is believed to have influence with some Sunni insurgent groups.

There have been talks in the past year between Syria and Iraq on restoring diplomatic ties and exchanging ambassadors, but a date was never set for opening embassies and appointing ambassadors.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

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U.S. obeys order to abandon Sadr-city checkpoints

Jubilant Iraqis carry a flag of Iraqi militia Mahdi Army and a national flag after US troops dismantled checkpoints around Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City Tuesday

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. troops on Tuesday abandoned checkpoints around the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City on orders from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the latest in a series of moves by the Iraqi leader to assert his authority with the U.S. administration.

The U.S. military announced the deaths of two soldiers in fighting in the Baghdad area on Monday, bringing the number of troops killed in Iraq this month to 103.

More insurgent violence was also reported against civilians, with at least 11 people killed, including four children, and 21 others wounded when a suicide car bomber struck a wedding party in Baghdad.

U.S. forces disappeared from the checkpoints within hours of the order to remove the around-the-clock barriers by 5 p.m., setting off celebrations among civilians and armed men gathered on the edge of the sprawling slum that is under the control of the Mahdi Army militia run by radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Iraqi troops loaded coils of barbed wire and red traffic cones onto pickup trucks, while small groups of men and children danced in circles chanting slogans praising al-Sadr, who earlier Tuesday had ordered the area closed to the Iraqi government until U.S. troops lifted what he called their "siege" of the neighborhood.

Extra checkpoints were set up last week as U.S. troops launched an intensive search for a missing soldier, who has yet to be found.

Shortly after leaving Sadr city, U.S. troops dismantled other checkpoints in the downtown Karradah neighborhood where the soldier had been abducted, loading barbed wire coils onto their Stryker armored vehicles.

Al-Maliki's statement said U.S.-manned checkpoints "should not be taken except during nighttime curfew hours and emergencies."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

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Rumsfeld weighs increase in Iraqi security forces

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday that he may approve proposals by the Iraqi government and the top U.S. commander in Baghdad to increase the size of the Iraqi security forces.

"I'm very comfortable with the increases they've proposed and the accelerations in achievement of some of their targets," Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon, when asked about a report by CBS News that Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, was going to recommend an increase of up to 100,000 soldiers and police.

Rumsfeld said he hoped to have a meeting on this later Tuesday and "come to some closure on it."

Rumsfeld would not say how big of an increase has been proposed. He also did not say whether Casey and the Iraqi government have proposed the same size increase. He said the final decision would be announced in Baghdad.

U.S. government approval is required for any plan to expand the size of the Iraqi forces because it could not be accomplished without additional U.S. funds and the provision of U.S. trainers and U.S.-acquired equipment.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

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Report: Iraqi PM sees situation as 'out of control'; seeks 100,000 more security forces

Iraqi soldiers inspect the wreckage after a suicide car bomb attack today in Baghdad. The attack killed three and wounded five others

(CBS) President Bush's National Security Adviser showed up unannounced in Baghdad Monday to meet with Iraq's Prime Minister al-Maliki — who, according to U.S. intelligence, is telling his inner circle the situation is "nearly out of control," CBS News correspondent David Martin reports.

CBS News has learned exclusively that Gen. George Casey, the U.S. Commander in Iraq, is expected to recommend the size of Iraqi security forces be increased by up to 100,000. This comes just as the U.S. military is about to reach its long-stated goal of training and equipping 325,000 Iraqis to take over the fighting from American troops.

Officials say the explosion of sectarian violence, which Gen. Casey calls a fundamental change in the nature of the threat, now makes that number look inadequate. On top of that is the fact that any given day, one quarter of the Iraqi Army is on leave.

Increasing the size of the Iraqi security forces would also mean more American soldiers would be needed to train and advise them. The United States is also considering doubling from 12 to 25 the number of American advisers embedded in each Iraqi unit.

Gen. Casey is also expected to recommend equipping Iraqi security forces with more heavily armored vehicles — police now ride in pick-up trucks — and heavier weapons.

But an audit by a Pentagon Inspector General found that of 370,000 small arms provided to the Iraqis, so far, 14,000 could not be accounted for — and most of the weapons came without spare parts or repair manuals.

Read the rest at CBS News

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Luke Zimmerman killed in combat

People who knew Luke Zimmerman say he was a hard worker, an upstanding individual who always had a smile and had long aspired to be part of the U.S. Marine Corps.

On Friday, friends and family got the news the 24-year-old Marine from the town of Green Bay was killed in Iraq.

Zimmerman, a 2000 Luxemburg-Casco graduate, was a close friend of Steve Metzler and his family. He worked for Metzler and his wife, Julie, who own Julie's Café on Main Street in Green Bay, for four years. They'd also taken him on a family vacation and he was a best friend to Scott and Troy Metzler, two of Steve's sons.

"He was a great friend," said Steve Metzler, who lives in Green Bay. "He was always smiling … the life of the party. He was always upbeat. He was a hard worker and he was a dedicated worker … and he was a man of his word.

"He was a lot of fun, he was a dedicated kid. You couldn't have asked for a nicer guy."

The Department of Defense had not yet given public notification of Zimmerman's death Saturday afternoon. That announcement from the military normally takes a day or two after family is told of the death.

But the news had spread among family and friends.

Steve Metzler's family heard the news Friday afternoon; just days after Troy got a phone call from Luke in Iraq.

"Things were going quite well," Metzler said. "They were arresting some insurgents, and they were searching for roadside bombs and insurgents from what he mentioned."

They last saw him in summer when Zimmerman was home on leave and attended one of Metzler's son's pre-wedding activities.

"He couldn't stand up for the wedding because he had to go to Iraq, but he came to the shower and then he had to leave," Metzler said.

Zimmerman's family members declined comment Saturday. American and Marine Corps flags snapped on a staff in front of the town of Green Bay home and a blue star flag — signifying a family member on active duty — hung in the window.

Claire Dombrowski, Zimmerman's mother, wouldn't talk publicly about her son .

A man who came to the door gave a brief statement, "His service was exemplary and that will speak for itself."

Zimmerman is the second Marine from Luxemburg-Casco High School to die in Iraq. In April 2004 Marine Cpl. Jesse Thiry, 23, of Casco was killed in Anbar province.

Thiry and Zimmerman graduated in 2000 and the two men were described as friends who hung out together and followed the same path into the Marines.

For Randy Thiry, Zimmerman's death hurts just as much as it did 2½ years ago when he got the news about his son.

"It's déjà vu," he said shortly after talking to Zimmerman's parents Saturday. "It brings back a lot of memories… It doesn't get any easier. It's just like day one."

Randy Thiry said Zimmerman was an upstanding individual and a "very, very nice kid."

Sue Thiry said she believes the two Marines crossed paths later in life when they were home on leave at the same time and may have crossed paths in the Corps.

Metzler said serving in the Marine Corps was something Zimmerman had worked for since he was in his teens.

"Since eighth grade, he was talking about joining. This is something he always wanted to do," he said. "It's something he had in his heart, and he was going to do it. He believed in it, and when they sent him to Iraq, he did not waiver. He wanted to go fight for his country."

This was Zimmerman's first tour in Iraq, where he had been for the past few months, Metzler said.

Both Zimmerman and Thiry wrestled at Luxemburg-Casco, where wrestling coach Bob Berceau said Zimmerman was a hard worker and was always fun to be around.

"Just a go-getter, he always had a lot of fire in him," he said. "He was just a nice kid to have around … He always had a smile on his face."

Six people from the Green Bay area have died in Iraq since February of 2004.

Through Friday, 2,808 military members and civilian Department of Defense employees have been killed in Iraq since the war started in March 2003, according to the Department of Defense. October has seen 98 American military members killed in Iraq, according to the Associated Press.

But the numbers don't tell the stories of the men and women serving in Iraq and their lives before the military. Zimmerman is remembered as a friend, a son, a teammate and fellow Marine by those he leaves behind.

"He was a family friend, and I knew he was going to be friends with us forever," Steve Metzler said. "It's a big loss for us and big loss for a lot of people. He was a great person."

From the Press Gazette

Ricky L. McGinnis dies from roadside bomb injuries

HAMILTON — A Hamilton native serving as a soldier in Iraq was killed Thursday when an explosive device detonated near his patrol.Army First Sergeant Rick McGinnis was killed by a homemade bomb while on patrol near Baghdad.

The 42-year-old McGinnis was based at Fort Hood, Texas, and had been in the Army for 23 years.

9News spoke with the fallen soldier's family in Hamilton.

As long as anyone can remember, Ricky McGinnis was a soldier.

To his family and friends and those who served with him, he was the best of everything the Army represented.

"I remember him always in an Army uniform. Every since I was born he was in the Army," said his niece, Nicole LeFevre.

That image inspired a lot of people in his hometown of Hamilton.

"He influenced a lot of people, especially my brother to join the military," LeFevre told 9News.

One of those who looked up to McGinnis was his 19-year-old nephew Joseph Issacs, Jr.

Joseph followed his uncle to the First Calvary. He followed him to Iraq, and he was following in his uncle's footsteps on Thursday.

"My brother was serving with him in the same unit -- heard a call come over the radio -- our family is devastated," said LeFevre.'

The Department of Defense says McGinnis was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol near Baghdad.

He leaves behind a wife and four daughters in Ft. Hood, Texas where he was based.

LeFevre says her uncle loved all four of his girls. "He was a great Dad," she said.

His niece Nicole and sister Rhonda Issacs are here in the Tri-state, wondering about two soldiers -- an uncle and hero -- and a nephew following in his footsteps.

"He was my brother's hero," LeFevre said. "That's why my brother went to the military."

Tonight this family simply remembers a hero.

"You imagine the most macho guy, that was him," said LeFevre. "He was a great dad. He was a great figure to look up to."

McGinnis is survived by his wife of nearly 21 years and his four daughters.

McGinnis was also a 1983 graduate of Hamilton High School.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

From WCPO 9

Patrick Barlow dies from non-combat illness

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Patrick O. Barlow, 42, of Greensboro, N.C., died on Oct. 18 in San Antonio, Texas, from a non-combat-related medical condition. Barlow was assigned to the 50th Engineer Company, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

For further information related to this release, contact the Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office at (573) 563-4013.

From the Department of Defense

Edwardo Lopez laid to rest

When Marine Pvt. Edwardo Lopez made a commitment, he did it with enthusiasm, passion and his whole being.

The 21-year-old Aurora native was fiercely loyal to friends and family, with close relationships that extended beyond immediate relatives. His faith was strong and sacred. Even his hobbies, such as paintball and a fascination with guns and war movies, were tackled with fervor.

On Oct. 19, he gave his whole being once more during combat in Iraq. He died from what is believed to be a gunshot wound to the chest, according to his family.

On Monday, several hundred people filled the pews at Iglesia Luterana San Pablo Church in Aurora to pay final respects to Lopez and his family, which includes his mother, Martha Lopez; father, Eduardo Lopez; and 20-year-old brother, Alex Lopez.

The Rev. Alex Merlo officiated over the bilingual funeral, sending the message that love and relationships are something to cherish and appreciate daily and even into death. He spoke of Lopez as a spirited, church-going boy who grew into an honorable role model and community hero.

“I’m always going to remember his laugh and smile,” Rev. Merlo said.

He urged the community to stay positive.

“I have faith that God’s plan is perfect. He never fails,” he said.

The Rev. Michael Sneath, a Navy chaplain, said Lopez embodied the Marine’s motto of “Semper Fidelis,” which means “always faithful.”

And Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn offered praise as well, saying the family of Illinois feels the Lopez family’s pain.

“There are no words in the English language, the Spanish language or any language to relieve the pain and the grief we feel today,” he said.

Quinn paraphrased the song “America the Beautiful,” saying Lopez “loved his country more than himself and mercy more than life.”

The service concluded with Lopez’s burial at St. Pauls Lutheran Cemetery in Montgomery.

A fellow East Aurora High School graduate, Lucy Maurico, said she found it hard to believe such a good person was gone.

“I remember when I used to live down the street from him, about two blocks, and he used to walk over to my house,” she said. “He was nice. Friendly. Always had something smart to say.”

Also mourning was family friend Val Ojeda, who served in the Marines from 1991 to 1995. Early on, Ojeda had encouraged Edwardo, a paintball buddy, to scrap plans of joining the Army to instead enlist in the Marines. It was advice he said he felt somewhat guilty for giving now.

“I told him if he was going to go into the military, he should go for the best. There is tradition and honor in the Marines that you don’t find in the Army,” Ojeda said after the funeral. “I came today to show the flag.”

From the Daily Herald

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Shane Adcock laid to rest

His parents said it came as no surprise when he joined the military after graduating in 2003 from Longwood University in Farmville, Va. Adcock's grandfather was a Navy veteran who shared military stories with him and took him to visit the naval base in Norfolk.

Adcock was an adventure seeker and enjoyed rock climbing, hiking, surfing and kayaking, family members said.

"He used to always tell me, 'You know Mom, I gotta live life on the edge,' " Vera Adcock said. "And in all of it, he kept God at the center of his attention."

His first deployment was to Afghanistan in 2004. At a welcome-home party in the middle of that deployment, he met the woman who would become his wife, Jennifer Skeele, a doctoral student in physical therapy at Duke University. When he returned to Afghanistan, they kept in touch via e-mail and talked on the phone nearly every day.

"He was the most upstanding, moral person you've ever met," Skeele said. "He was caring and compassionate. When he was in Afghanistan, he had more patience and joy in his life than people I know walking around every day in a free country. He was so calm and collected that it blew me away."

They were married in Hawaii in June. Nearly two months later, he was deployed to Iraq.

Adcock loved the military and was planning to make a career of it. He also wanted to start a family, his wife said.

"I think it's clear for all the soldiers that they love what they're doing, but they just miss their loved ones," she said. "It clarifies what we take for granted every day. He missed the simple things like waking up next to his wife. That's all he wanted to do. . . . My heart goes out to these men. We have no concept of what they go through every day."

From the Washington Post

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David M. Unger laid to rest

FORT LEAVENWORTH -- Cpl. David M. Unger took his place of honor Friday.

Unger, who was killed in action Oct. 17 in Iraq when an improvised explosive device struck his armored Humvee, was laid to rest under a gray sky in the green fields of Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.

His casket was placed in the rich brown earth amid row after row of white limestone markers bearing the names of service members who, like him, made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Near the freshly dug grave of the young soldier -- he would have turned 22 on Halloween -- are buried veterans of the Persian Gulf War, Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II.

Older parts of the cemetery contain remains of military men from World War I, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War and even earlier as Fort Leavenworth is one of the oldest continuously active military posts located west of the Mississippi River.

While Unger wasn't the first casualty of America's current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to be buried in the cemetery, the attention given his funeral was different.
He was a hometown boy.

Unger grew up in the area, graduating in 2003 from Leavenworth High School. As a teenager, he worked baby-sitting children as their parents attended services at the fort's Main Post Chapel, where his mother also worked. His father, Matthew Unger, is an Army sergeant major.

Also, Leavenworth is a military town.

So townsfolk turned out with American flags to pay their respects as the hearse bearing Unger's casket made its way from the funeral home onto the military reservation.

There, hundreds of enlisted men and women, officers, military retirees, veterans and civilian employees lined the roads from the main gates to the Main Post Chapel.

Jana Harrison, who retired as a command sergeant major after 30 years of service with Kansas Army National Guard, was among those "to pay our respect for a fallen comrade," she said.

"It's the right thing to do. He was fighting for our freedom here," Harrison said.

Marine Lt. Col. Brandon McGowan, who is assigned to one of the interservice agencies at the fort, was there in uniform.

The Iraq war veteran said: "It's important for all military personnel to stand out here and show respect for this young man. I'm happy to do it."

Mourners filled the large chapel after an honor guard carried into it the casket, upon which was place a large color portrait of a smiling Unger.

From a Bible that Unger used as a boy, Sonya Jones read the passage from Ecclesiastes about there being a season for all things, including "a time to heal, and a time to kill" and "a time of war, and a time of peace."

Josh Shockey sang Collin Raye's song, "Love Me," which ends with a promise of one spouse to another to be waiting to greet them in the next life.

Unger's widow, Laura, who he married on Valentine's Day 2004, said that was the song she heard just before she received news of her husband's death.

Through tears, Jeremy Unger, told of how empty he felt upon learning of his older brother's death and how he struggled accepting it and searched for a reason why it happened.
"He died protecting us and our freedom, and that is a reason I could live with," he said.

Nearly every speaker talked about Unger's sense of humor and how he would be the one who would inevitably provide needed comic relief.

Maj. Samuel Godfrey, one of the chaplains at the service, said he believed that might have been Unger's biggest contribution to his comrades in Iraq -- "making the unbearable bearable."

Godfrey encouraged the congregation to keep alive their memories of Unger, not just for their sake, but for the sake of the slain soldier's toddler son, Gage.

"He loved Gage, and Gage needs to hear about his Daddy," the chaplain said.

Godfrey noted this wasn't the homecoming Unger planned, noting he had called his mother, Diana Pitts, at 4 a.m. a week before he was killed to reassure her that he would be home by Christmas and out of the Army by February or March.

From the chapel, Unger's body was carried in a horse-drawn hearse to a shelter house in the cemetery. A gun salute was fired, and "Taps" was blown as the honor guard folded the U.S. flag that had covered the casket.

Brig. Gen. Mark O'Neill presented the flag, a Bronze Medal, Purple Heart and other medals to the young widow, expressing condolences "on behalf of a grateful nation."

O'Neill also made presentations to the soldier's mother, stepfather and siblings and to Unger's father, who stood in uniform. The general reached out a hand to comfort him and his now oldest son.

Then it was one more procession.

This one was to the open grave, and once again the way was lined by flag-carrying mourners welcoming home one of their own.

From the Topeka Capital-Journal

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Nathan Frigo laid to rest

A Kokomo soldier killed in Iraq was laid to rest Friday. More than 400 people took part in the funeral services for 23-year-old Nathan Frigo. On a cold, wet, miserable day more than 50 members of the Patriot Guard Riders turned up at the Crossroads Community Church in Kokomo to honor the fallen soldier.

"It doesn't take much when you have that much love in your heart to get on your bike in this kind of weather. We're just here to show our support," said Ron Coleman of the Patriot Guard Riders.

Specialist Frigo was killed in Iraq on October 17th. The 23-year-old died after a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle. Frigo was an infantryman, a grunt. He enlisted into the army last year knowing full well the dangers he could face.

A giant American flag served as the background at the church. An M-16, along with the soldier's helmet, boots and dog tags were also displayed. While the family asked for privacy during the service, afterwards Pastor Jeff Harlow talked about how the same word kept coming up during the eulogies.

"Just the word "noble." He was a guy who kept his head up, didn't have a lot to say. But when he talked, people listened. High impact young guy," said Harlow.

An honor guard of enlisted men escorted the coffin out of the church. Greeting them, the dozens of Patriot Guard Riders, flags in hand, standing erect.

As the casket was placed into the hearse soldiers gave a solemn salute, another way to say thank you, another way to say goodbye.

The funeral procession headed for the cemetery with lights flashing. Time now to bury a Hoosier hero on a cold, wet, miserable day.

From WISH 8

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Ron Paulsen laid to rest

A 21 gun salute rang out today at Willamette National Cemetery for a Vancouver soldier killed in Iraq.

Staff Sergeant Ron Paulsen, 53, died after a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle as he left the town Tarmiya, Iraq, 18 miles northwest of Baghdad.

A member of his unit said Paulsen and others had just taken part in a medical mission to help bring medicine and treatment to the people of Tarmiya.

A hundred friends and family members gathered at the National Cemetery under brilliant blue skies and shivered against an icy wind.

They listened as a chaplain asked God to care for Sgt. Paulsen.

Claire McGann stood with others in the somber crowd.

He described himself as Sgt. Paulsen’s best friend.

“He’d be telling us to knock this off and go get a beer,” McGann said with a smile after the ceremony.

The two met eleven years ago working at Gunderson, a Portland company that makes rail cars and barges.

McGann will always remember Paulsen for his laid back style and sense of humor.

He said Paulsen thought he’d never be called back to active duty and stayed in the active reserve because he could make more money.

McGann remembers when Paulsen got the message to report for active duty.

“He thought it was a joke!” said McGann. “He did not want to go to this war.”

But Paulsen soon learned the orders were real and arrived in Iraq in April.

As a bugle player blew taps, McGann and others remembered their friend Ron Paulsen, killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb.

From KGW 8

Vancouver soldier buried with full honors

PORTLAND — Fishing buddies, fellow soldiers, friends and family huddled on a windy, icy, blue-sky Monday at Willamette National Cemetery and honored Staff Sgt. Ronald Lee Paulsen of Vancouver, who was killed when a roadside bomb blew apart his Humvee in Tarmiya, Iraq, on Oct. 17.

“He was always laughing. He was a man of great humor who took care of his soldiers very well,” said Army Staff Sgt. Harris Dail, who traveled from Iraq to pay tribute to his buddy. He was to fly back to the war immediately after the memorial service.

“His laughter was contagious,” Dail said. “His sense of humor would get us through the day when things were bad. He would be laughing early in the morning with his teammates, and his laugh would be my alarm clock.”

Many of the 100 people who shivered through the service recalled the upbeat personality of Paulsen, 53, the second-oldest American soldier and the seventh soldier with Clark County connections to be killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. Army records show only Staff Sgt. Carlos Dominguez, of Savannah, Ga., was older. He was 57 when he was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq on Sept. 27.

“There was one young soldier that Sergeant Paulsen was a father figure for,” said Dail. “That makes this all the harder. He gave the ultimate sacrifice. He just picked up his gear and he led the way.”

An honor guard from Vancouver’s Smith-Reynolds American Legion Post 14 presided at the memorial service. They marched into the cemetery’s amphitheater with Paulsen’s ashes and an American flag to lead off a prayerful, 20-minute service. The full military honors featured a 21-gun salute, “Taps” by two buglers, their tones riding on the freezing winds, and “Amazing Grace” played by a distant bagpiper.

American Legion Chaplain John Clapp spoke:

“We come to honor one who is now enrolled in that great spirit army whose footfalls and souls go marching on,” he said, and then read several passages from Scripture.

Paulsen’s wife of eight months, Beverly, wearing a bright red coat, soberly accepted the flag that was slowly unfolded then refolded over a table bearing Paulsen’s cremated remains. After the service she hugged and greeted guests.

The area was decorated with red and white roses and lilies in greenery and purple ribbons. American, Army and POW-MIA flags flew next to a rifle stuck bayonet first into the ground and topped by a helmet, representing the soldier killed in action. Soldiers, from generals to privates, stood at attention. Motorcycle-riding members of the Patriot Guard Riders organization, clad in black leathers, solemnly raised 20 American flags across the back of the amphitheater.

After the service, the crowd gathered at the American Legion hall in Vancouver to share a meal and memories.

“He was a great guy, just a genuine good person,” said Kay Masters of Portland, who worked with Paulsen at Gunderson, Inc. Paulsen worked at the Portland factory for 14 years making rail cars and barges. Masters said she also knew Paulsen and his late first wife, Wendy, 20 years ago at Fort Ord, Calif.

She remembered his constant joking, even when he was called back to active duty at age 52 after 13 years in the inactive Army Reserve.
In December 2005, Paulsen was recalled, then sent to Iraq in April, assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve’s 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, locating job sites for Iraqi reconstruction.

“When they called him back in the Army, he joked and said ‘I’m going to be the only one in my unit on high blood pressure medication,’” Masters recalled, with a smile. “I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get you one of those medical supply catalogs and I’ll mail you whatever you need: a walker or whatever.’” She chuckled. “You never laughed so hard as being around Ron — always, always... a great sense of humor.”

He was kind. Seventeen years ago, Masters said, Paulsen made a habit of taking her daughter, Katherine, to the movies and fishing. “At the time, she was about seven. He took her bowling, with friends of hers.”

“We went fishing several times,” said one of Paulsen’s supervisors at Gunderson, Rusty Bridges. “We caught some big ones.”

“Good guy, really good guy, always laughing, no matter what he was doing,” said Nate Bittinger, of Kennewick, who often worked with Paulsen at Gunderson.

In addition to his wife, Paulsen is survived by a stepson, John Double, and a granddaughter, Kalisha Marie Double, of Vancouver; two brothers, Dean Paulsen, of Portland and Jerry Paulsen, of Deer Island, Ore.; a sister-in-law, Connie Paulsen, also of Deer Island, and several aunts and uncles.

“They were just so happy,” said Paulsen’s niece, Teresa Lambert, of Ronald and Beverly Paulsen’s short marriage. “He was such a great uncle. We loved him. We will miss him so.”

“He was quiet,” said his uncle, Harold Harding of Portland. “Really a good kid.”

From the Columbian

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Chuck Komppa remembered

The candy and assorted toiletries were nice, but the twin sheets that Petty Officer Second Class Chuck Komppa's grandmother sent to him in Iraq were the real prize of the care package.

"Now I can make up my bed, and I won't have to sleep in my sleeping bag," Komppa, 35, of Absarokee, Mont., told his grandma Helen Bradshaw in Minnesota over the phone two Fridays ago.

Komppa, who just a few weeks earlier had arrived in Iraq as part of the 3rd Naval Construction Regiment, also made sure to tell his grandmother, then back at her home in Sebeka, Minn., that he was OK. "Don't worry, grandma. I'm safe."

Five days later, Komppa was killed along with four Marines when the Humvee they were in was hit by a roadside bomb in Anbar Province.

Kommpa, an electrician and a father of two, had been on his way to conduct electrical inspections at a base.

"He told us before he left [for Iraq], that if anything happened, it was God's will, that he was supposed to be over there," Komppa's younger brother, Steve, said Sunday night.

"We supported him, obviously, in everything he decided to do," said Steve Komppa, who lives in Colorado City, Texas.

His brother grew up mostly in Texas, but he craved winters in Minnesota and all the snowmobiling and outdoor fun they can offer.

For a few months' stretch during sixth grade, and again in ninth grade, he lived with his grandparents in Sebeka, which is about 180 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

On his second stay, he quite literally left his mark.

The throttle on the snowmobile he got on one Saturday when it was 30 degrees below zero froze and the machine slammed into the furnace room of his grandparents' home, poking through the wall.

"It felt like the house was going to fall to pieces," Bradshaw recalled.

After high school, Komppa joined the Navy in 1990, serving until 1995. He was stationed in Iraq on a battleship for a year after the start of the first Gulf War.

He and his wife, Delisa, a high school classmate, were married during his Navy stint. Their children, Alicia, 14, and Gary, 11, were born while he was based in Bremerton, Wash.

After his discharge, he and his family moved to Minnesota, first to Sebeka, then Wadena.

There he graduated from an electrical program at Wadena Technical College in 1998.

He soon landed an electrician's job in Montana, where he had long dreamed of living and fishing and hunting. "He wanted the mountains, he wanted the streams," Bradshaw said. "He wanted the wilderness aspect."

His family has lived in Montana ever since. Funeral services for Komppa will likely be held there this weekend.

His aunt, Rebecca Komppa of Sebeka, said she will remember a gentle, soft-spoken nephew who at 6-3 towered over her and many of his relatives and whose belly her nose got buried in whenever he gave her a bear hug.

Several days before he was killed, he sent an e-mail to her, describing his hope for an end to the fighting.

"We will be able to lay down our arms and breathe real peace and feel no fear," he wrote.

From the Star Tribune

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Charles Sare remembered by family

October has been one of the deadliest months for soldiers serving in Iraq.

Monday, the war's impact was felt thousands of miles away in Nibley in Cache County.

The family and friends of Navy medic Charles Sare came to say goodbye.

"He's doing something that I can't do right now in my life," said family friend Jeff Olsen as he entered a ward house for a memorial service. "So I have to pay respect. He gave the ultimate sacrifice for me, my family and everyone in this wonderful country."

Sare was two months into his service in Iraq when he was killed in a roadside bomb last week. Two other marines died along side him.

Last week, his mother recalled the irony from their last conversation.

"We got to talk a couple of minutes," said his mother Vikki Carver. "It was after their first major incident. And he was upset. He didn't cry or anything, but you could tell in his voice. He said mom that could have been me. And that's what took him."

Sare grew up in California and lived with his dad after his parents were divorced.

His mother and a brother live in Cache County. His mother said that Sare wanted to become a physician's assistant. In fact she said Sare chose to go to Iraq to gain experience instead of being stationed in a naval carrier.

His mother said there are no regrets. "He said people there appreciated having him there so I know he was doing the right thing," she said. "So there's no regret there."

Sare's final resting place will be in California.

From ABC 4

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Security Summary: October 30, 2006

Iraqis hold up the bloodstained clothes of victims of a bomb attack on a market in the Shia Sadr City area of Baghdad

BAGHDAD - A sniper killed a member of the U.S. military police in east Baghdad, the military said in a statement. It was the 101st death in Iraq this month, making October the deadliest month for U.S. troops since January last year.

BAGHDAD - A bomb blast ripped through a crowd of poor labourers in a square in Baghdad's Shi'ite Sadr City district, killing 28 people and wounding 60, Interior Ministry sources said.

*MOSUL - Police found four bodies, including that of a policeman, in different parts of Mosul, north of Baghdad, police said.

*MOSUL - A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army convoy injured one soldier in Mosul, police said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded in Baghdad's southwestern Amil district, killing three people and wounding six, Interior Ministry sources said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded in Baghdad's Hurriya district, wounding two people, Interior Ministry said.

IRAQI-SYRIAN BORDER - A suicide car bomber hit an Iraqi army checkpoint at a border pass near Syria, killing four soldiers and wounding one. An hour earlier, another suicide bomber attacked the same checkpoint, causing no casualties, army Colonel Nuri Hiyad al-Esawi said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded near Yarmouk hospital in southwestern Baghdad, killing one civilian and wounding five, Interior Ministry sources said.

KIRKUK - A suicide attacker blew himself up inside a police headquarters in Kirkuk, killing two policemen and a three-year-old girl and wounding 19, including 10 policemen. Police said the attacker was wearing a police officer uniform.

BAIJI - Gunmen attacked a police centre in the oil refinery city of Baiji 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, killing two policemen and destroying a police car, police said.

MOSUL - Mortar rounds slammed an electricity power unit in eastern Mosul wounding five people, police said. BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded in al-Harthiya district of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding five, Interior Ministry sources said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded in al-Bayaa district of Baghdad killing seven people and wounding 25, police said.

SUWAYRA - Police retrieved the bodies of six policemen bearing signs of torture and with bullet wounds from a river in Suwayra, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - The U.S. military death toll in Iraq in October reached 100 after a U.S. Marine was killed on Sunday in western Anbar province, the U.S. military said on Monday.

NEAR KHALIS - A roadside bomb struck a car carrying labourers, killing two and seriously wounding three, near the town of Khalis, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

MAHMUDIYA - Police found six bodies bearing signs of torture, blindfolded and with bullet wounds, in Mahmudiya 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen shot dead Isam al-Rawi, head of the University Teachers' Association in Iraq, near his house in Baghdad, police said.

From Reuters/Alternet

State Department lags in Iraq redevelopment staff

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad at the formal inauguration of a PRT in Iraq in November, 2005. "Think of the tourism potential here," he said.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The State Department has provided only 60 percent of the required personnel for 15 provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq, according to a new government report.

PRTs are teams of civilian and military personnel who are supposed to mentor the nascent Iraqi provincial governments to develop their political systems as well as their economy. They are considered the linchpin of U.S. Iraq policy -- the positive, constructive effort to get the Iraqi government on its feet and providing for its people.

However, the austere and dangerous conditions makes it difficult for the State Department to attract qualified personnel, leaving even some key positions unstaffed. It is short of staff in every province except Dhi Qar, according to a new report from the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

Some of the shortfall is made up by the U.S. military, which has provided 99 percent of the staff is authorized, but the military has glaring staff vacancies as well. In violent Anbar province it is authorized for 24 PRT members but has provided only four.

To address shortfalls, the report suggests the staffs be transferred from the Anbar and Basrah Provincial Reconstruction Teams to other functioning but short-handed PRTs. The security situations there are so dire the staffs can rarely if ever meet with the local government and business leaders they are supposed to be helping. The Anbar Prvincial Council actually meets in Baghdad.

Read the rest at UPI

Spokesman: Iraq insurgents rejected U.S. approaches

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A man claiming to speak for a major Iraqi insurgent group said Sunday that the United States had tried unsuccessfully to establish contact with his group.

Speaking on Al-Jazeera television, the purported spokesman for the 1920 Revolution Brigades said the U.S. bid to contact his group failed because "intermediaries" used by the Americans were deemed unworthy.

"We don't believe the Americans are serious," added the spokesman, identified as Sheik Abdullah Suleiman al-Amri, who appeared in traditional Arab dress but with his face concealed.

Alberto Fernandez, a senior State Department official, told Al-Jazeera on Oct. 21 that Washington was ready to talk with any Iraqi group — excluding al-Qaida in Iraq — to help reconcile Iraq's factions and end the violence wracking the country.

Outlining a blueprint of policies for bringing security to Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad spoke last week of the need to persuade Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and engage in national reconciliation.

He said Sunni-ruled Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Jordan had agreed to encourage the groups to end violence and work for a united and independent Iraq.

Al-Amri did not identify the intermediaries his group rejected, but earlier in the interview he sharply criticized Sunni Arab politicians who joined Iraq's Shiite-dominated, U.S.-sponsored political process.

"Their participation was wrong and they did not make good on any of the promises they made to voters," he said.

Read the rest at Yahoo News

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Pentagon memo reveals launch of new PR war

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is buttressing its public relations staff and starting an operation akin to a political campaign war room as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld faces intensifying criticism over the Iraq war.

In a memo obtained by the Associated Press, Dorrance Smith, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said new teams of people will "develop messages" for the 24-hour news cycle and "correct the record."

The memo describes an operation modeled after a political campaign — such as that made famous by Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential race — calling for a "Rapid Response" section for quickly answering opponents' assertions.

Another branch would coordinate "surrogates." In political campaigns, surrogates are usually high-level politicians or key interest groups who speak or travel on behalf of a candidate or an issue.

The plan would focus more resources on so-called new media, such as the Internet and Weblogs. It would also include new workers to book civilian and military guests on television and radio shows.

Pentagon press secretary Eric Ruff did not provide the exact number of people to be hired, or the costs.

Rumsfeld has complained bitterly that the press focuses too much attention on bad news coming out of Iraq, and not enough on progress being made there. As an example, during a trip to Nevada earlier this year, he said he was deeply troubled by the success of terrorist groups in "manipulating the media" to influence Westerners.

"That's the thing that keeps me up at night," he said during a question-and-answer session at a naval base.

The Pentagon changes, in the works for months, come as voters prepare to go to the polls next week with the war in Iraq as a key issue. Polls suggest that the Republicans could lose their majority in the House, and perhaps the Senate, too.

The new public relations plan began to take concrete shape on Friday as new construction began in the E-Ring, the Pentagon's outermost corridor, to accommodate new hires.

Ruff said today that the reorganization, spearheaded by Smith, will help the department "set the record straight" and provide accurate, timely information.

He denied that the effort was set up to respond to the eroding public support for the war, or that it was aimed at helping in next week's elections. He also said he would not call it an "information operations" program, which generally refers to a propaganda-type campaign.

Read the rest at the Houston Chronicle

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Iraqi opposition group agrees to join national reconciliation conference

AMMAN, Jordan A delegation of Iraq lawmakers met with a newly formed group of Iraqi political activists in the Jordanian capital on Monday and agreed to hold a national reconciliation conference next month, a leader of the advocacy group said.

The conference will take place on Nov. 15 in Baghdad under the auspices of the Iraqi prime minister, said Hassan al-Bazzaz, the secretary general of the Patriotic and National Forces Movement opposition group.

The movement was formed by both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and includes Iraqi politicians, former military officers, former leaders Saddam's Baath party, intellectuals and tribal chiefs representing most of Iraq's ethnic and religious factions.

Created in Amman in August, it is headed by prominent tribal leader Hamid al-Gaoud of insurgent infested Anbar province, and aims at helping maintain Iraq's unity and ending the bloodshed.

The group has said it intends to take part in the next Iraqi elections and join the parliament.

Its leader has denounced the U.S.-led occupation and called for the "liberation of Iraq." However, al-Gaoud also said in August the movement was willing to establish ties with the United States, Britain, Europe and Arab countries based on "mutual understanding and peaceful means."

The group held two-day talks that ended Monday at Iraq's embassy in Jordan with a government delegation, which was headed by lawmaker Saleh al-Fayadh, said al-Bazzaz, a professor of political sciences at Baghdad's university.

The reconciliation conference was initiated by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss a 24-point plan to heal the nation's severe political wounds.

Al-Bazzaz said his group, called Heqooq _or "rights"_ in Arabic, supported the prime minister's initiative and sensed that the Iraqi government had "true intentions of reconciliation."

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

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Thousands of U.S.-supplied weapons missing

WASHINGTON -- Thousands of weapons the United States has provided Iraqi security forces cannot be accounted for and spare parts and repair manuals are unavailable for many others, a new report to Congress says.

The report, prepared at the request of the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., also found that major challenges remain that put at risk the Defense Department's goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007.

A spokesman for Warner said the senator read the report over the weekend in preparation for a meeting Tuesday with Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Warner, who requested the report in May, "believes it is essential that Congress and the American people continue to be kept informed by the inspector general on the equipping and logistical capabilities of the Iraqi army and security forces, since these represent an important component of overall readiness," said Warner spokesman John Ullyot.

The inspector general's office released its report Sunday in a series of three audits finding that:

_Nearly one of every 25 weapons the military bought for Iraqi security forces is missing. Many others cannot be repaired because parts or technical manuals are lacking.

_"Significant challenges remain that put at risk" the U.S. military's goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007.

_"The unstable security environment in Iraq touches every aspect" of the Provincial Reconstruction Team program, in which U.S. government experts help Iraqis develop regional governmental institutions.

The Pentagon cannot account for 14,030 weapons _ almost 4 percent of the semiautomatic pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons it began supplying to Iraq since the end of 2003.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Bush national security adviser in Baghdad for talks

Aftermath of a car bombing in Baghdad on Sunday

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, visited Baghdad on Monday and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as the American military death toll climbed to 100 for October.

Hadley's visit, during which he also met U.S. officials in Baghdad, followed strains between Maliki's Shi'ite-led government and Washington over political and security steps meant to restore stability and allow U.S. troops to withdraw.

The White House said Hadley's trip, which was previously unannounced as are all visits by top U.S. officials to Baghdad, had been planned for over two months and was not a response to current developments or reports of friction with Maliki.

Tensions surfaced last week when U.S. officials said that Maliki had agreed to a timetable of performance "benchmarks" and the prime minister hit back saying no one could impose timetables on Iraq.

By Friday Maliki and U.S. officials in Iraq papered over the cracks with a joint statement that the Iraqi government had "timelines" for political developments.

Bush sought to reassure Maliki in a videoconference on Saturday that election-year pressure would not weaken his support for the Iraqi government. Growing public discontent over the Iraq war has undermined Republicans' chances of retaining control of Congress in the November 7 elections.

"I think that the press reports about the relationship being sensitive are overblown," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters aboard Air Force One traveling with Bush on a visit to the state of Georgia.

"While the logistics are difficult, any time you can have a face-to-face meeting with your partner or your colleague, that can help facilitate communication," Perino said. "And it also gives Mr. Hadley a good chance to be on the ground to assess things and be able to report back to the president."

Hadley was also due to meet with U.S. military leaders in Iraq, said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. "This is really a meeting to discuss the current situation on the ground and the best way ahead."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

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Joshua Hines laid to rest

CASEY, Ill. — Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Hines was remembered Friday as a proud Marine and defender of freedom, a loving husband and father and a loyal friend who always put others ahead of himself.

Friends, family members, military veterans and fellow Marines paid tribute to the 26-year-old Westfield, Ill., resident and Ventura native who died much too young while serving his country.

Hines was killed Oct. 15 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces near Anbar province in Iraq. He was a member of Kilo Company 3rd Battalion 24th Marines Reservists based in Terre Haute, Ind.

About 40 Marines from his unit attended the funeral and participated in military graveside rites.

Hines had been in Iraq two weeks when tragedy occurred.

"Joshua's death troubles us very much. It hurts us deeply," the Rev. Penelope H. Barber said during services at Casey United Methodist Church. "He was so young and he had so much to live for," including his wife, Caryn, and his 2-month-old son, Rylie Joshua.

Hines played football at Buena High School and later worked as a cook at Cronies Sports Grill before he moved to Illinois with a friend, Loren Holland, in 2003.

‘Sacrifice was not in vain'

Hines was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated underneath the Humvee he was in. Marine Sgt. Brock Babb, 40, of Evansville, Ind., also was killed. Lance Cpl. Joshua Bleill, 29, of Greenfield, Ind., was seriously injured.

"We struggle for understanding. Why did this happen?" Barber said at Hines' funeral. "How do we carry on without Josh?"

Barber referred to the Marine motto, semper fidelis, which means "always faithful," and she encouraged mourners to remain faithful.

"We know Josh's sacrifice was not in vain," Barber said. "He gave his life in defense of others." There is no finer calling, and no greater witness to the nobility of the human spirit, she said. "All of our lives are richer for having known him."

With difficulty and much emotion, Holland shared his memories of his lifelong and best friend.

"I have so many memories of Josh," Holland said, describing Hines as "a brother, a friend, a hero."

In their younger years, they used to throw water balloons at passing cars or knock on people's doors and run away.

When Hines told Holland he wanted to be a Marine, "I was so proud of him. It was like having my little brother follow in my footsteps," Holland said.

"He was so proud to wear a uniform."

A loyal and trustworthy friend

Hines always had wanted a family, and he always was good with children, Holland said.

Hines married Caryn on Feb. 25, and they celebrated the birth of Rylie on Aug. 28.

"We thank Josh for leaving us a little piece of him," Holland said.

Later, 1st Sgt. Troy Euclide, family readiness officer with Company K, shared some memories that had been written by Cpl. Jason St. Jean, a friend of Hines.

St. Jean described Hines as a "genuinely good person" as well as a loyal and trustworthy friend.

"He would drop anything he was doing to come to the aid of a friend," St. Jean had written. Hines put other wants and needs ahead of his own. "He taught me to never stop trying and to always give all that you got," St. Jean wrote. Hines strived for excellence in civilian life and in the Marine Corps.

While Hines' death came too early, he touched the hearts of many. "I'm proud to say I stood alongside a great American and a hero," St. Jean wrote.

Barber, who provided pre-marriage counseling to Hines and his fiancée, described the fallen Marine as someone who had a zest and love for life, whether he was horseback riding on a beach or messing around with his brothers.

He approached life with energy and intensity, and whatever task he took on, he did it with passion and a commitment to excellence.

‘Proud to be a Marine'

Hines was an enthusiastic and happy man with a contagious sense of humor. "He always had a twinkle in his eye that made me wonder what he was up to," Barber said, which drew laughter from the mourners.

"He always had that beautiful smile."

Barber also was impressed by the discipline and respect for authority showed by Hines.

"He was very proud to be a Marine and a defender of freedom," Barber said, extending her sympathy to fellow Marines.

"He considered it a high honor to serve alongside every one of you."

Outside the church, several Patriot Guard Riders — carrying flags — paid tribute to Hines.

They also were present during graveside services at Casey-Cumberland Cemetery.

As the funeral procession drove to the cemetery, several people stood along the street carrying flags in one hand and umbrellas in another. A steady rain fell throughout the morning.

At the cemetery, Hines received full military graveside rites conducted by the Marine Corps, which included a 21-gun salute, taps and the folding of the flag. At the end, a bagpiper played the Marines' Hymn.

"We never let a fallen brother go without honor. We do everything we can for the families," said Staff Sgt. Tim Kosky, an active duty member with Hines' unit. "We'll continue to be here for them in the weeks and months ahead."

Hines is survived by his mother, K'Ann Hines, and stepfather, Joseph Yanchak, of Ventura; his father, Michael B. Hines, of Bakersfield; brothers Jason Hines and wife Brooke of Albany, Ore., Jerrod and wife Melissa of Simi Valley, and Chris Hines; sisters Samatha Hines of Sterling Heights, Mich., and Erin Gas of Ventura.

From the Ventura Country Star

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Jonathan Lootens laid to rest

PHELPS - Robert Lootens was never more proud of his son than when he saw him in his military uniform at a Syracuse train station a few years ago.

That's when Lootens realized that his son, Army Sgt. E5 Jonathan Lootens, had turned his life around.

On Wednesday, Robert Lootens said his final goodbyes to his son, as family and friends gathered at St. Francis Church to celebrate Jonathan Lootens' short life.

Lootens, 25, a Newark native and member of the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division, was killed in Iraq earlier this month when the Humvee he was riding in hit a roadside bomb. Just a few days earlier, he was injured when another IED struck a Humvee in which he was serving as gunner.

He was given a full military funeral that included the family receiving a Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and other accommodations for his bravery and service while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the two-hour Mass and funeral service, about 30 members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a nationally known group of motorcyclists who travel around the country to pay their respects to fallen soldiers, stood at attention outside as the American flags they were holding flapped in the wind.

Inside, Lootens' family recalled how the military changed his life for the better. As a teen, he got into his share of trouble with the law - as a runaway and someone who sometimes worried his mother so much she wondered if he would come home alive, they said.

But when Lootens joined the service soon after Sept. 11, 2001, motivated by a sense of duty to his country as much as to himself, everything changed, family members and Army officials said yesterday.

His father read a letter he wrote to his son a few years ago at Christmastime, recalling how proud he had become of him. It was a letter reflecting that his son "fell on tough times," "bottomed out" and left him "soul-searching," his father said.

But his son then made big strides in his life. And it was never more obvious than the day he saw Jonathan wearing his uniform as he was about to leave, Robert Lootens said, because he felt the "pride that only a parent of a soldier could feel."

The young man's sister, Andrea Ralyea, 26, of Victor, remembered how she used some "colorful language" when she tried to talk him out of joining the service, but he had already made up his mind.

Now, she said, she realizes that he made the decision because he "wanted a better life," adding that in recent times he talked about a law career or working with troubled youths.

"My brother was a humble man who would not want all of these accolades," she said, noting that he looked at his service in Iraq as "doing his job."

Although her brother never acknowledged the help he received from them when he was younger, she urged mourners to recognize that her brother's turnaround showed "it's never too late to make a difference in your life or the life of a child."

Describing him as "a little rascal," Ron Fillmore - a retired Wayne County Sheriff's Department lieutenant - befriended Lootens and became a mentor to the troubled teen. The two kept in contact, writing letters to each other even after Lootens was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Recently, Lootens told his old friend that he wanted to pursue a career in writing, so Fillmore sent him a copy of a magazine called The Writer to help him achieve that goal.

Three days after Lootens "left us," Fillmore received a letter from Lootens thanking him for the gift, he said.

"History is going to show you as the true American hero," Fillmore said. "We love you, and we miss you, and we'll always miss you."

Brig. Gen. Robert Caslen, who represented the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday, described Lootens as a brave soldier who saved a colleague's life while serving in one of two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

He also quoted several soldiers who spoke at a Mass in Iraq a couple of days after Lootens was killed. They described him as a leader, friend and comrade who would do anything for a friend or his soldiers, Caslen said.

One soldier called him "the hardest working and most disciplined sergeant I've ever worked with," Caslen added.

As speakers said their goodbyes, the church was silent, except for the faint sound of sniffles and a toddler's soft voice that could briefly be heard.

Accompanied only by his guitar, local musician Steve Duprey sang a spiritual tune he penned that seemed to sum up the sergeant's life:

"Like a ship upon the sea, you held me up but let me be,

Let me find the person I was to become.

Always strong and at my side, never forcing as you guide,

Teaching me the simple steps so I could run."

Near the end of the Mass, the Rev. Thomas Mull from St. Mary's Church in Canandaigua told mourners that, although "Phelps is a tiny place, today, America is in Phelps. Thank you, Jonathan, for your service, for your sacrifice."

Outside, shopkeepers, townsfolk and others stood in doorways, parking lots and along the village's neatly kept streets to watch the precision and elegance of the military funeral procession.

After the church service, an Army color guard led mourners out to the small brick church's front yard, where "Taps" was played and the flag that had been draped over Lootens' casket was removed and presented to his family.

His casket was carried by military pallbearers, who carefully placed it in the awaiting hearse.

With a fall chill in the air, the color guard and pall members saluted their fallen comrade one last time. The hearse's back door was closed, and the mourners remained on the church's manicured lawn for several minutes after it slowly pulled away.

Lootens was to be buried in St. Francis Cemetery.

Phelps resident Charles VerStraete thanked one of the Patriot Guard Riders for being at the service.

"It shows dignity," he said before getting into his car.

From the Finger Lakes Times

Mourners honor Jonathan Lootens

(October 26, 2006) — PHELPS — As a teenager, Jonathan Lootens was "a troublemaker." It wasn't uncommon for police to be searching for the runaway.

"Somewhere along the way, Jon decided that was not the life he wanted to have," his sister, Andrea Ralyea of Victor, said at his funeral Wednesday. Now she hopes his life will be a lesson to others.

"Whatever path they are on, it's never too late to change," she said.

Sgt. Lootens, 25, a native of Newark, Wayne County, was killed by a roadside bomb Oct. 15 in Kirkuk, Iraq, while serving with the Army's 25th Infantry Division. He had been in Iraq since August on his second tour of duty. Earlier he served in Afghanistan, where he was known to give children goldfish-shaped crackers mailed from home.

About 200 people, including friends, relatives and military personnel, filled St. Francis Church in this Ontario County community for his funeral.

Ralyea said her brother enlisted in the Army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"He said, 'This is something I have to do,'" she said. "When Jon sets his mind to something, nothing is impossible."

His father, Bob Lootens of Phelps, read a letter he sent overseas to his son a few years ago. He recalled rocking his son to sleep in his arms, the "rebellious little guy" who wouldn't take off his hat in school, the basketball and football games his son played.

He also talked about the sadness and pride he felt saying goodbye to his uniformed son at the airport, "the pride only the parent of a soldier can feel, knowing their child is no longer a child, but a responsible adult. ... Thank you for giving your parents the greatest gift of all: seeing your child grow."

Retired Wayne County sheriff's Lt. Ronald Fillmore had befriended Sgt. Lootens over the years.

"History is going to record you as a true American hero," Fillmore said. "We love you, Jon; we'll never forget you. You are a great friend and a true hero to our nation. I salute you, sir."

Brig. Gen. Bob Caslen, based at West Point, represented the military and spoke "as a fellow brother and warrior," relaying tributes that Sgt. Lootens' friends gave at a memorial service in Iraq.

"He would do anything he could to complete the mission," one person had said.

"He cared about his soldiers," said another.

"A self-proclaimed grumpy man, he always completed his tasks," Caslen said. "His sacrifice will never be forgotten."

Lootens' father and mother, Deborah Qualtieri of Norwalk, Conn., accepted several awards on behalf of their son, including the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

The Rev. Thomas Mull said that although Sgt. Lootens' friends and family may mourn his death, they should be assured that he is at peace.

"Why Jonathan; why now? Twenty-five years young and just beginning to find himself. Why now?" asked Sister Joan Sobala. "There is no answer."

Mull said Phelps may be a small community, "but today, America is in Phelps. And America says thank you to Jonathan for his sacrifice."

The congregation broke into applause.

"Let There Be Peace on Earth" and "America the Beautiful" were sung, and a white-gloved honor guard carried the flag-draped coffin out of the church, saluting after placing it into a black hearse.
Outside, about 40 members of the Patriot Guard, motorcyclists carrying large American flags, bordered the front of the church. After a 21-gun salute, a bugler played "Taps" and a lone bagpiper played "Amazing Grace."

American flags wrapped in tight triangles were presented to each of the soldier's parents.

Burial will be private at St. Francis Cemetery in Phelps.

From the Democrat and Chronicle

Related Link:
Jonathan Lootens killed by I.E.D.

Jose Perez laid to rest

ONTARIO - His mother stood outside St. George Catholic Church Friday morning, leaning hard against her husband and crying softly.

The rumble of motorcycles down Palm Avenue announced the Patriot Guard Riders, 35 denim-vested vets who led the way for a hearse bearing the body of 21-year-old Army Spc. Jose Roberto Perez.

A black limo followed. It parked and sat for many silent minutes before a door opened and Jose Roberto's widow, Violeta, emerged from the car, her uncertain steps supported by a soldier in full dress uniform.
Nine days after Jose Roberto was shot and killed in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, more than 200 family members and friends gathered to say goodbye.

An eight-member Army honor guard stood at attention as the back door of the hearse opened.

A two-star general wrapped an arm gently around Violeta and whispered into her ear. She whispered thank you, and the white-gloved guard carried Jose Roberto's flag-draped casket slowly past the roses in the courtyard and into the church.

There were songs of faith and joy, harmonies of devotion performed with voice, guitar and piano.

The Rev. Alex Castillo said in Spanish that while the violence continues, this was a day to give thanks for the life of Jose Roberto.

He asked the audience what brought them here. A few quiet voices answered.

Respect. Faith. Love.


He said Jose Roberto's mission is over. He is in your hearts. He is with God.

"Sometimes it is so difficult to say to our God, Thank you,' " he said. "And it is more difficult to accept the resurrection. It is here. It is here."

Small children in Catholic School uniforms walked single-file in the background as the honor guard carried Jose Roberto's casket out of the church.

As they loaded the casket into the hearse, Violeta stood with her family, a hand clutched to her heart.

When her 1-year-old daughter fussed and cried in a relative's arms, her 3-year-old brother, Little Jose, reached over and took her hand.

A woman holding a large American flag sat in a lawn chair near the entrance to Bellevue Memorial Park, waiting for Jose Roberto to pass.

Inside, a couple sat at the grave of their 9-year-old son, which was blanketed with brightly colored flowers and whirligigs and a sign wishing everyone a Happy Halloween.

They turned and watched as mourners streamed to Jose Roberto's nearby grave. When Castillo began to speak, the couple stood with the rest.

It was a circle of silence, broken only by Castillo's gentle words of comfort and the soft, random music of a wind chime hanging from a tree at another grave.

Castillo blessed the casket with Holy Water and the honor guard slowly folded the American flag that covered it.

A 21-gun salute shattered the silence. The sound of a bugler playing taps followed.

It is a time-honored military ritual, and the saddest ceremony in the world.

The general presented Jose Roberto's wife and mother with folded flags on behalf of a grateful nation. His mother held the flag to her heart, dropped her head and sobbed.

Violeta held a white dove, gently stroking its head before handing it to an attendant, who released it into the sky as a symbol of Jose Roberto's spirit flying free.

Jose Roberto now rests under the shade of a tall pine. He is home.

From the Daily Bulletin

Relted Link:
Jose Perez remembered

Related Link:
Jose Perez honored by comrades

Related Link:
Jose R. Perez killed by small arms fire

Charles M. King laid to rest

Capt. Jon Schaeffer had to smile a bit when he got up to speak Monday at the funeral of 1st Sgt. Charles King, because Schaeffer had never thought of his fellow soldier as "Chuckie."

To the people at the Lee Heights Community Church, King would always be "Chuckie" or "Chuck" or "Charles," the helpful little boy who could be counted on to do more than his share of work.

He was the little boy who loved to draw and spoke softly, traits he carried into adulthood. Many of King's paintings were displayed around the church.

"We all learned one thing: When Sgt. King yelled, you moved," recalled Schaeffer. "He only yelled when there was a good reason."

King, 48, a 19-year Army veteran, never had time to shout on Oct. 14 when a roadside bomb exploded near his armored vehicle, killing King and two other soldiers. He had been scheduled to return home next month.

"He did not have to go on that resupply mission, but Sgt. King loved his soldiers," said Schaeffer. "He would not let them do anything that he would not do, so he was right there with them."

His words elicited a sea of smiles and nods from the people crammed into the tiny church on Lee Road, the people who watched King grow to manhood in Cleveland's Lee-Miles neighborhood.

King attended Cuyahoga Community College and worked as a fashion illustrator in Montgomery, Ala., and an advertising illustrator in Mobile, Ala., before joining the Army in 1987.

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas.

King's 6-month-old son, Jordan, quietly rested in the arms of his mother, Dana Canedy, a former Plain Dealer editor now working for the New York Times. Canedy, who lives in Manhattan, was engaged to King. He also had a 15-year-old daughter, Christina, of Killeen, Texas.

Pastor Emeritus Vern Miller recalled the day he asked for volunteers to build a 3-foot concrete block wall for a needy neighbor.

"Chuckie was the first to arrive," Miller said. "He was ready to work. Of course, he was too little to carry the heavy blocks, but he brought the workers water all day."

Miller said King's patriotism was rooted in a time when the government "was truly your friend. The federal government could be trusted."

He paused, looked over the church and said, "That was then. This is now."

From the Plain Dealer

Related Link:
Charles Monroe King killed by I.E.D.