Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Robert R. Pirelli dies 'wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire'

Staff Sgt. Robert R. Pirelli was remembered as a "good guy" and a team player in his home town and beyond as news of the former high school hockey player's death in Iraq sunk in.

Pirelli was killed in action in Iraq on Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed late Thursday night.
The 29-year-old Franklin High School graduate, an Army Special Forces engineer, and his fellow soldiers were fighting insurgents on the ground in the northwestern Iraqi province of Diyala when he was shot and killed by enemy fire, the Army said.

Pirelli's death came just two days into a new U.S. military offensive in Diyala, where violence has escalated in rural areas even as it declined in the province's capital, Baqubah. "Operation Lightning Hammer," the offensive's official name, involves 10,000 U.S. troops and both air and ground attacks.

He is survived by his parents, Nancy and Robert, and two siblings, Stacey and Shawn. They were said to be in shock as a steady stream of visitors came to offer condolences at the family home in Franklin.

Pirelli was on his first deployment to Iraq, where he arrived last March. He was due home in October. He joined the Army in December 2003, and after graduating from the Special Forces Qualification Course in June 2006, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion at Colorado's Fort Carson.

The Army bestowed a slew of awards and decorations on Pirelli during his more than three years on active duty, including two Army Good Conduct Medals, a National Defense Service Medal, an Iraqi Campaign Medal, and a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

In Franklin, Pirelli was remembered as a good-natured young man, and a skilled hockey player. He played for the Franklin High Panthers for three seasons, graduating in 1996.

Pirelli went on to Northeastern University, where he studied criminal justice; friends said he wanted to become an F.B.I. agent. He continued his hockey career there, playing for the Northeastern Huskies.

Even out at Fort Carson, Pirelli found time to skate, and friends there were shocked to learn of his death. "He was a good guy, a good team player," said Brian Yingling, speaking by telephone from Colorado Springs, where he and Pirelli both played on a pro inline skating team.

From the Sun Chronicle