Saturday, April 21, 2007

Walter Freeman remembered

PALMDALE, Calif.- Pfc. Walter Freeman Jr. joined the Army as a stepping stone to college after several friends had joined the military.

"They introduced him to it, and I sat him down and told him what it was like. Walter just smiled at everything," Freeman's foster mother Gloria Ricketts said, adding she will always remember that smile.

Freeman, 20, was killed during a combat operation April 4 in Baghdad when a bomb detonated near his military vehicle. He was promoted posthumously to specialist.

Ricketts said he would have been proud of his promotion to specialist.

"Of course he would have been proud," she said. "He'd be just smiling. He loved smiling."

Freeman was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. Also killed in the explosion was Army Pfc. Derek A. Gibson, 20, of Eustis, Fla.

After his training, Freeman was sent to Iraq as a fire support specialist, his duties including location of artillery targets.

"He called and told me he was afraid," Ricketts said. "He just kept asking for prayers."

Freeman had planned to marry fiancee Marsha Santana this month, but his time in Iraq was extended three weeks. Santana last spoke with Freeman by telephone two days before he was killed. He was supposed to call back to say when he would be home so they could set a wedding date, she said.

"I kept calling his cell phone and he didn't answer," Santana said. "I figured something was wrong."
Sgt. John Espanola, a Lancaster Army recruiter who signed up Freeman, said the Antelope Valley High School graduate was very responsible and mature even before joining.

"He was almost like a soldier already," Espanola said. "He wanted to join for college and to get out of Lancaster. He was really responsible, and that's one of the biggest things I can say."

From the San Jose Mercury News

Related Link:
Walter Freeman Jr. dies of injuries from I.E.D.