Thursday, May 24, 2007

Anthony Sausto honored at memorial

Barely a year out of basic training, and in Iraq for all of about a week, Pfc. Anthony J. Sausto suffered death in combat quickly.

The 22-year-old native of New Jersey was shot May 10 in Baghdad. On Friday, his comrades from the Fort Lewis-based 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division remembered him, the first to die since the Stryker brigade’s arrival in Iraq early this month.

Soldiers said that while troops are never prepared to lose their friends, the brigade’s first casualty came sooner than anyone expected.

“The first one is always really bad – not to say that the others aren’t – but the first one is such a shock,” said Staff Sgt. Darrell Malone, first sergeant of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment’s rear detachment.

“It really drives it home: They’re in the fight now.”

The 4th Brigade left Fort Lewis in early April for a 15-month deployment. After a few weeks of training in Kuwait, it began full operations in Iraq earlier this month, officials said.

Much of the brigade has been deployed north of Baghdad to fight in Diyala province. Sausto’s 1-38 battalion is in the Iraqi capital, operating under the control of their fellow Fort Lewis Stryker soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The 3-2 has been in Iraq since June and is expected to remain until October.

More than 200 soldiers filled the Evergreen Chapel on post Friday to remember Sausto, who joined the Army in February 2006 and arrived at Fort Lewis after basic training in May. He was an infantryman.

Although he’d been in the Army only a short time, family members said that after basic he was the happiest they’d seen him, and that he talked about making the service a career.

“He was the happiest he’d ever been in his life, no regrets,” his sister-in-law Mary Olivo-Sausto told his hometown Newark Star-Ledger. “He wasn’t hesitant at all. You’re always scared to go, but he didn’t have a feeling that something was going to happen.”

Pfc. Cody Jurrens said he met Sausto at basic at Fort Benning, Ga. They mistakenly grabbed each others’ duffel bags, earning the ire of their drill instructor.

He said he last saw his friend at the baggage detail on the day he deployed to Iraq, loading other soldiers’ duffels and rucksacks.

“I told him to be safe. He said he was excited to go to Iraq, and you could see the smile on his face,” Jurrens said. “He taught me a lot about life, about finding that one thing that makes you happy and then following it.”

Sausto was born and grew up in New Jersey but moved to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., in 2005 to be with his mother and his sister.

He is also survived by his father, a brother and his fiancée, Carli Crissman of Tumwater.

His mother, Nancy Sausto, and Crissman attended Friday’s ceremony.

The chaplain, Lt. Col. Keith Belz, said Sausto had told his friends and family that if anything happened to him, he wanted them to read from the biblical Book of James, chapter 4, verse 14:

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

Belz said Sausto “knew that he was in God’s hands, and that he must do what he must do, and he was good with that. … He wanted to be a proud soldier, he wanted to go to Iraq, to defend, protect, to do his job.”

From the News Tribune

Related Link:
Anthony J. Sausto dies 'of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire'