Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Andre Craig Jr. dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The family of a soldier killed in Iraq Monday blamed his death on exhaustion, saying soldiers there are not getting enough rest.

Pfc. Andre Craig Jr., 24, of New Haven, died of wounds sustained from the explosion of a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Craig, a graduate of Wilbur Cross High School, was an infantryman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kan.

He entered the Army in October 2005 and began serving with the 1st Infantry Division in March 2006. This was his first deployment to Iraq.

Craig, whose nickname was Dre, called his family by cell phone Saturday to tell them he was on 24-hour security duty, said Erik Brown, his godfather and family spokesman. After that, Craig went out on a mission and was killed, he said.

"He was very tired, he was exhausted," Brown said Thursday. "Due to that exhaustion, we believe that's why we lost Andre. The soldiers are not getting rest, they're tired."

An Army spokeswoman at Fort Riley did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the family's assertions.

Brown and family members wore T-shirts with Craig's picture and the words, "Dre 2007 in God we trust."

Craig, 24, returned to New Haven recently for a brief visit to celebrate his birthday and to meet his infant daughter, Taylor, who was born while he was serving in Iraq.

Craig described "deplorable" conditions in Iraq, including women being raped and feces in the street, Brown said.

"They're terrorizing each other and we have our soldiers in the middle of a civil war," Brown said.

Still, Craig was happy doing his job, Brown said. Family and friends said Craig, who had been in Iraq about six months, wanted to be a state trooper and had planned to go to college.

The governor has ordered that flags be flown at half staff until Craig's burial.

"He took on the most hazardous duties to protect our country's freedom," Rell said in a statement. "His bravery, his courage and the sacrifice he made for each and every one of us will never be forgotten."

Craig was the 38th military member with Connecticut ties to die since the war began in 2002. Two Connecticut civilians have also been killed.

Craig lived with his 22-year-old brother, Jonathan.

Craig and his five siblings were close to their mother, a nurse's aide at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, said family friend Khabira Hill.

Craig's family plans to hold a funeral service in New Haven and have him buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Jonathan Craig's eyes welled up with tears as he recalled his brother's last visit with his daughter.

"The last words he said he said to me in the living room is take care of my daughter as if you were a father to her until I come back," Jonathan Craig said.

Read the rest at the Stamford Advocate