Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lorne E. Henry, Jr. reported killed in Iraq

A 21-year-old Niagara Falls High School graduate who mastered swimming in two years and went on to be a specialist in the Army died in Iraq when an explosion rocked the truck he was driving, a family priest said Tuesday night.

Spc. Lorne E. Henry Jr. had been home visiting his mother, Wendy Kovac, and stepfather, Charles Primerano, in Niagara Falls just a few weeks before and was slated to leave the Army in August, Father Stewart M. Lindsay said.

Henry, the second-oldest of four brothers, graduated from Niagara Falls High School in 2004 and was dating his high school sweetheart. He nearly always attended church at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church on Lindbergh Avenue when he was home, Lindsay said.

“He always wanted to be a cop, always wanted to be helpful,” Amy Jones, Henry’s cousin, told the Gazette Tuesday night.

Jones said she learned of Henry’s death Tuesday afternoon. Her family believes the incident occurred sometime early Tuesday morning Iraq time. Henry’s job had been to drive a truck that picked up used bombs, she said.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions right now,” Jones said.

She described Henry as an energetic child whom she used to play ninja turtles with when the two were kids. He grew up, she said, to be a goal-driven young man who was very good with kids and was “funny, always smiling, always helpful.” Jones said Henry had wanted to get engaged to his girlfriend.

Henry’s younger brother is also serving in the Army and is stationed in Washington. His youngest brother is 11, she said.

“He looks up to him like his idol,” Jones said of Henry’s youngest brother. “It was really, really hard today.”

Henry is the second Iraqi War casualty from Niagara Falls. Army Staff Sgt. Aram J. Bass was killed during battle Nov. 23, 2005. Bass, who was born in Niagara Falls, played football and basketball at Niagara Catholic High School.

The U.S. Department of Defense had not confirmed Henry’s death Tuesday night. A spokeswoman for the department said it waits 24 hours after a family is notified to confirm details of a military death.

Stewart, who met with Henry’s family on Tuesday, said Henry was an altar server when he was younger and continued to attend church regularly with his family as he grew older.

“I was always impressed with him,” Stewart said. “He was just a nice kid.”

In a military portrait distributed Tuesday night, Henry, who has dark brown eyes and a sharp jaw, is wearing camouflage fatigues and sits in front of an American flag and an eagle.

Ed Maynard, the Niagara Falls High School swim coach, said he encouraged Henry to join the swim team when Henry was in his sophomore year Earth Science class. Within two years, Henry went from being a junior varsity swimmer to a member of one of his top varsity relays.

“For him to come out and be a brand new swimmer ... it did take a lot of guts,” Maynard said. “He just kept sticking with it and sticking with it. That’s just the kind of determination that kid had.”

Henry showed the same drive in the classroom.

“You just can’t ask for anything more,” Maynard said. “He showed me a lot of heart through the years.”

Stewart said Henry’s family had not received information Tuesday about when his body would return to the area.

Mayor Vince Anello instructed all city buildings to fly flags at half mast today in Henry’s honor.

“Certainly, our condolences go out to the family, and I plan on doing that personally tomorrow,” Anello said. “This is really close to home.”

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