Saturday, March 31, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- March 31st edition

March 31, 2004: Supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr rally in Najaf as U.S. helicopters circle overhead


March 31, 2002:

Army chief puts commanders on alert to attack Iraq

BRITAIN'S most senior general has secretly instructed regimental commanders to prepare for an invasion of Iraq this autumn.

General Sir Michael Walker, the Chief of the General Staff, effectively placed the Army on a war footing earlier this month when he addressed more than 30 senior officers in Warminster, Wiltshire.

His speech, to the cream of the officer corps, warned them to prepare for a major offensive against Saddam Hussein later this year. All the officers are due to take command of armoured, infantry and artillery regiments in the next few weeks, the units that would spearhead the British contribution to a second Gulf war.

The comments by the head of the Army, are the first unambiguous indication that defence chiefs are already formulating detailed plans to attack Iraq alongside American forces.

Read the rest at the Telegraph


March 31, 2003:

U.S. military: 100 Iraqi 'terror squad members' killed

DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- U.S. Central Command said about 100 "terror squad members" were killed early Monday in fighting around Najaf and Samawah in southern Iraq.

Central Command said soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division also took another 50 Iraqi troops prisoner. Further details were not immediately available.

The announcement came hours after Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said coalition troops were hunting down Iraqi "death squads" and other loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party operating in Nasiriya and Basra in the south.

Meanwhile, with coalition ground forces poised 50 miles from Baghdad, the 'round-the-clock bombardment of Iraqi regime targets continued into Monday morning, senior military officials said.

Read the rest at CNN


March 31, 2004:

Four civilians killed in Iraq worked for N.C. security firm

MOYOCK, N.C. (AP) — The deaths of four employees of a local security company and the shocking way the bodies were treated helped bring the conflict in Iraq closer to home, Moyock residents said.

The four civilians were killed and their burned bodies dragged through the streets of an Iraqi town Wednesday. They worked for Blackwater Security Consulting, one of five subsidiaries of Blackwater USA based in northeastern North Carolina.

"With what's been going on in Iraq I'm not surprised at anything," said 72-year-old Howard Forbes, 72, of Moyock. "But I was surprised at what they did to the bodies." He said the deaths brought the war home to the community.

Read the rest at USA Today


March 31, 2005:

U.S. delegation rejects U.N. monitor's report on Iraqi malnutrition

GENEVA – The U.S. human rights delegation Thursday rejected a U.N. monitor's claim that child malnutrition had risen in Iraq and said, if anything, health conditions have improved since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Right Commission's expert on the right to food, cited U.S. and European studies Wednesday in telling the commission that acute malnutrition rates among Iraqi children under 5 rose late last year to 7.7 percent from 4 percent after Saddam's ouster in April 2003. Ziegler blamed the war for the situation.

"First, he has not been to Iraq, and second, he is wrong," said Kevin E. Moley, U.S. ambassador to U.N. organizations in Geneva and a member of the American delegation to the 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission.

"He's taking some information that is in itself difficult to validate and juxtaposing his own views – which are widely known," Moley said, referring to Ziegler's opposition to the U.S. military intervention in the country.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune


March 31, 2006:

Army bans use of privately bought body armor

WASHINGTON - Soldiers will no longer be allowed to wear body armor other than the protective gear issued by the military, Army officials said Thursday, the latest twist in a running battle over the equipment the Pentagon gives its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army officials told The Associated Press that the order was prompted by concerns that soldiers or their families were buying inadequate or untested commercial armor from private companies — including the popular Dragon Skin gear made by California-based Pinnacle Armor.

“We’re very concerned that people are spending their hard-earned money on something that doesn’t provide the level of protection that the Army requires people to wear. So they’re, frankly, wasting their money on substandard stuff,” said Col. Thomas Spoehr, director of materiel for the Army.

Murray Neal, chief executive officer of Pinnacle, said he hadn’t seen the directive and wants to review it.

“We know of no reason the Army may have to justify this action,” Neal said. “On the surface this looks to be another of many attempts by the Army to cover up the billions of dollars spent on ineffective body armor systems which they continue to try quick fixes on to no avail.”

Read the rest at MSNBC

Security Summary: March 31, 2007

An Iraqi soldier looks at a new Badger armoured vehicle at Taji military base in Baghdad, one of 40 received today by Iraqi forces.

KIRKUK - Gunmen ambushed a vehicle carrying civilian workers employed at an Iraqi military base near Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, killing eight and wounding two, police said. Four brothers were among the dead.

MAHMUDIYA - Three mortar bombs hit a residential area in Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding four, police said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb killed five people and wounded 22 outside the Sadrayn hospital in the Shi'ite district of Sadr City in Baghdad, police said.

HILLA - A car bomb killed four people and wounded 23 in the Shi'ite city of Hilla, 100 km (62 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

TUZ KHURMATO - A suicide car bomb targeting Shi'ite day labourers killed two people and wounded 11 in the town of Tuz Khurmato, 70 km (43 miles) south of Kirkuk, police said.

BAGHDAD - Police said they found 13 bodies in different parts of Baghdad on Friday.

SUWARYA - Five bodies were found blindfolded and handcuffed on Friday in the Tigris River near Suwayra, south of Baghdad, police said.

TAL AFAR - Four Sunnis were killed in the northern town of Tal Afar on Friday, police said.

MOSUL - A parked car bomb targeting a police patrol wounded six people in the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (242 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

KANAAN - The Iraqi army raided the town of Kanaan, near Baquba, and arrested 110 suspects, an Interior Ministry source said.

NEAR BAGHDAD - The U.S. military captured 16 suspected insurgents in the last 48 hours just south of Baghdad, the military said.

BAGHDAD - The Iraqi army clashed with gunmen in the Amil district of Baghdad on Friday, police said. One civilian was killed and another wounded.

DIWANIYA - A police officer was shot dead on Friday in front of his home in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

From Reuters/Alternet

Iraqi Gov't: 212 suspected militants arrested in past 48 hours

Iraqi National Police arrest a 'suspected militant' during a joint patrol with US soldiers from Baker Company 2-12 Infantry Battalion in the Dora neighbourhood of southern Baghdad today

Baghdad, March 31, (VOI) – 212 suspected militants were arrested by Iraqi security forces in several areas in Baghdad, during the past 48 hours, under the Baghdad law-imposing plan, the Baghdad operations command said on Saturday.

"Security forces arrested 212 suspected militants in various parts of the capital over the past 48 hours," the Baghdad operations command said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The statement added further, "one captive was freed while 11 explosive devices were defused in different parts of Baghdad."

12 Iraqi security personnel were killed and 19 others were wounded in a combat mission, the statement also noted.

From VOI

Related Link:
Iraqi Gov't: Nearly 350 'detained' in six days of Baghdad sweeps

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U.S. expanding prisons in Iraq to accommodate thousands more

Report: U.S. casualties during March twice that of Iraqi forces

A wounded Iraqi soldier is given first aid after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad Thursday.

BAGHDAD (AP) - The U.S. military death toll in March, the first full month of the security crackdown, was nearly twice that of the Iraqi army, which American and Iraqi officials say is taking the leading role in the latest attempt to curb violence in the capital, surrounding cities and Anbar province, according to figures compiled on Saturday.

The Associated Press count of U.S. military deaths for the month was 81, including a soldier who died from non-combat causes Friday. Figures compiled from officials in the Iraqi ministries of Defense, Health and Interior showed the Iraqi military toll was 44. The Iraqi figures showed that 165 Iraqi police were killed in March. Many of the police serve in paramilitary units.

According to the AP count 3,246 U.S. service members have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

At least 83 American forces died in January and 80 in February, according to the AP tabulation.

Read the rest at the Guardian

Iraq's President Talabani calls U.S. presence an occupation

RIYADH (AFP) - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Thursday that the US-led invasion of his country four years ago had turned into an occupation with dire consequences for Iraq

Talabani, a member of the Kurdish minority, which has been largely insulated from the violence and devastation visited on other parts of the country since Saddam Hussein fell, was addressing the Arab summit in the Saudi capital.

"The decision to turn the liberation of Iraq into an occupation ... with the dire consequences this had internally and the fears (it aroused) in Arab, regional and international arenas, all this was contrary to what Iraqi parties and national forces were planning at the time," he said.

"This applies equally to many hasty decisions and measures taken by the occupation's civil administration without understanding the Iraqis' point of view and the consequences they had on the situation in the country and the political process as a whole," he said.

Read the rest at Yahoo News

Related Link:
Saudi King Abdullah Condemns U.S. Occupation of Iraq

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Marine Commandant Conway: Disbanding Iraqi Army Was Big Mistake

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Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq

Cabinet endorses forced repatriation of tens of thousands of Arabs from Kirkuk; Justice minister offers resignation in protest


Above: An Iraqi soldier walks past the damaged house of a police colonel targetted by a parked car bomb Thursday in Kirkuk. Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution calls for "normalizing the status" of Kirkuk, resulting in the expulsion of Arab families from the oil-rich city ahead of a referendum determining whether Kirkuk should be annexed to the Kurdish provinces. Kirkuk's population is estimated at between 700,000 and 1 million, made up of Turkimen, Arabs, Kurds and some Assyrians. There is no reliable breakdown of current percentages of each, and Kurds have poured in from other areas. Because of their boycott of the 2005 election, Arabs already have little representation in the city. Kurds control 26 of the 41 provincial council seats as well as the army, police and intelligence services. Turkey and Iran fear that if the Kurds gain control of Kirkuk, Iraq's Kurds will form their own state and Kurdish militants in the surrounding countries would increase their campaign for independence. Turkey has threatened to intervene if the Kurds take over Kirkuk. The Iraq Study Group recommended delaying the referendum.

BAGHDAD, Iraq: The Iraqi government has endorsed a decision to relocate and compensate thousands of Arabs who moved to Kirkuk as part of Saddam Hussein's campaign to push out the Kurds, an official said Saturday. The decision was a major step toward implementing a constitutional requirement to determine the status of the disputed oil-rich city by the end of the year.

Iraq's Justice Minister Hashim al-Shebli said the Cabinet agreed on Thursday to a committee's February recommendation that Arabs who moved to the city from other parts of Iraq after July 14, 1968, would be returned to their original towns and given monetary compensation.

Al-Shebli, a Sunni Arab, also confirmed he had offered his resignation on Thursday, citing differences with the government and his own political group, the secular Iraqi List, which joined Sunni Arab lawmakers in opposing the Kirkuk decision.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Related Link:
Turkey Wants Kirkuk Referendum Delayed

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Arabs protest in Kirkuk over forced 'repatriation'

Related Link:
Perspective: In northern Iraq, another war looms

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Perspective: Oil-rich Kirkuk's ethnic time-bomb could explode at any time

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Analysis: Iraq is already enduring two wars. Could it survive a third?

Tal Afar bomb toll raised to 152 killed, 500 wounded, 100 houses destroyed -- deadliest of the war

Sunnis driven from Tal Afar following a police killing spree protest on Thursday. The retaliatory killings took at least 70 lives.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi government raised the death toll on Saturday from a truck bomb in the town of Tal Afar to 152, making it the deadliest single bombing of the four-year-old war.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Abdul Kareem Khalaf said 347 people were wounded in Tuesday's attack on a Shi'ite area. There was another truck bomb in the mixed northwestern town on Tuesday, but it was small.

Khalaf said 100 homes had been destroyed in the main blast, which officials have blamed on al Qaeda. The explosion left a 23-meter (75-ft)-wide crater.

"It took us a while to recover all the bodies from underneath the rubble of the homes ... what did they achieve by using two tons of explosive to kill and wound 500 in a residential area?" Khalaf asked at a news conference.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Related Link:
Report: 18 police involved in killing spree released, re-arrested

Related Link:
Iraqi army sent to Tal Afar after police killing spree; Toll now at 70

Related Link:
Report: Up to 60 Sunnis gunned down by police, militiamen in killing spree following Tal Afar bombings

Related Link:
At least 48 killed in dual truck bombing in markets in Tal Afar

Pace: Equipment shortage could last years after Iraq war


The military is so short of equipment that it will take years after the war in Iraq ends to bring it up to authorized levels, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs told a House subcommittee Thursday.

“It will take end of war plus two years to work off the backlog,” Gen. Peter Pace told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. “Without being able to give you a definite end of war [date], I can’t tell you exactly how long.”

He defined the end of war in Iraq as the “end of major combat operations.”

Pace said that 40 percent of Army and Marine Corps equipment is deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan or being repaired in depots, with the remainder spread out among the other forces.

Read the rest at Army Times

Related Link:
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Marines lift limits on home-schooled recruits

Marine recruiter at a high school in Seattle, Washington.

A policy shift from Marine Corps Recruiting Command has eliminated limits on the number of home-schooled applicants the Corps can enlist by placing them in a higher tier of recruitment eligibility, according to a March 22 announcement command officials sent to the Home School Legal Defense Association exclusively.

The release, published on the Association’s Website March 26, states that recruiters can now consider home-school students “tier 1” applicants, meaning they are no longer lumped in with “tier 2” applicants who have General Education Degrees or alternative education certificates.

Under current recruiting practices, there are caps on the number of “tier 2” applicants each Marine recruiting station can enlist and only “tier 1” recruits are entitled to bonuses for joining.

Read the rest at Marine Corps times

Friday, March 30, 2007

Marcus A. Golczynski killed during combat operations

MURFREESBORO — "We are warriors," Marine Sgt. Marcus "Marc" Golczynski wrote in a recent e-mail to his family.

"And as warriors have before us, we joined … and are following orders because we believe what we are doing is right. Many of us volunteered to do this a second time due to our deep desire to finish the job we started. We fight and sometimes die, so our families don't have to."

Golczynski, 30, was to come home by Easter. He died Tuesday after he was shot while on patrol in Fallujah, a hot spot of insurgent activity.

Also known as "Sergeant Ski," Golczynski was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve's 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, based in Nashville.

The official military account says he was shot in the abdomen by enemy forces while conducting a dismounted patrol in the Al Anbar province.

He was taken to Fallujah Surgical for treatment, where he died. The report said Golczynski was wearing body armor and a Kevlar helmet when he was shot.

He is the son of Elaine Huffines of Lewisburg and Henry Golczynski of Murfreesboro. Fay and Henry Golczynski, owners of Franklin Printworks in Murfreesboro, received the news late Tuesday.

Sgt. Golczynski had an 8-year-old son who lives with his mother in Maryland.

"He was truly a family man," said John Weatherspoon, who works at Franklin Printworks. "He loved his son, his family and his friends."

Weatherspoon spoke with the Marine a week ago.

He said Golczynski was in good spirits and was eager to come home.

"But we also talked about how, even if he didn't make it, he knew he was doing the right thing," Weatherspoon said. "He didn't have any regrets."

Marilyn Shelton, who also works at Franklin Printworks, said he was a "gung-ho Marine" and a patriot but also someone who made the workday easier for those around him.

"He made the day light," Shelton said. "Everything was fun with Marc."

Diane Borella, who worked with Golczynski at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Smyrna, where he was a manager, said he was a joy to be around and always had a smile on his face.

When he came home from Iraq after his first tour, he wanted to return to continue the fight, she said.

"He said it was like (when you) don't finish your shift here at Ruby Tuesday's, because your work was not done yet," Borella said.

Golczynski is the fifth Rutherford County resident killed in the war and the 70th Tennessean service member.

From the Tennssean

Sean K. McDonald dies of injuries from I.E.D.

After spending his boyhood years in the Twin Cities area, Sean McDonald had every hope of returning next year when his Army hitch was up.
"He said he wanted to move back with us, to start his life," his sister, Jessica McDonald, said Thursday from her home in Rosemount.

Specialist Sean K. McDonald, 21, died Sunday from injuries suffered when a roadside bomb exploded near the vehicle he was driving in Baghdad.

He is the 55th person with Minnesota ties to have died in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He'd said it was getting pretty bad," Jessica McDonald said of her brother's recent phone calls and e-mails. "He was driving the same route every single day, so it had become very challenging for him. His unit had lost three other guys on his birthday."

McDonald was born in Burnsville on Dec. 25, 1985, to parents Russell and Marleen McDonald, who had met in the Netherlands, her homeland, while his father was serving there in the Air Force.

McDonald attended fifth and sixth grade at schools in Apple Valley.

"He was a super kid, loved soccer, a very good young man," said his grandfather, Ron McDonald.

McDonald's parents divorced and he and his mother moved to the Netherlands, where he spent his teenage years, his sister said.

He held dual citizenship and enlisted in the Army when he turned 18.

"He always wanted to be an American soldier," his sister said. "It was something he decided to do as he got older, to give him a purpose in his life.

"Sean was very patriotic, proud to be an American. He was dedicated to this country."

His grandfather, who saw his grandson on occasional trips to visit his extended family in Minnesota, used the same word.

"He was a patriot," Ron McDonald said. "I didn't like the idea of him enlisting, even though I'm a veteran, but thank God for young people like Sean."

McDonald was initially stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, assigned to the Army's 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division.

"We wish to express our deepest condolences to the family members of Specialist Sean McDonald," division public-affairs officer Maj. Wayne Morotto wrote in an e-mail. "He will be missed, and we must not forget the valuable contribution he made to his country and the impact he has left on the Army."

McDonald was sent to Iraq in September and was scheduled to rotate out this summer, with his enlistment ending next spring, Jessica McDonald said.

"Career-wise, he wasn't sure what exactly he wanted to do after the Army, but he was definitely set to come back home here when he was done," she said. "It's horrible -- just horrible."

The Army will hold a memorial service for McDonald April 5 in Schweinfurt, Germany.

Ron McDonald said his grandson's body already has been returned to the United States and a service will be held April 9 at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, where he will be buried.

From the Tribune

Sean M. Thomas killed by indirect fire during combat operations

HOWARD — The morning before he died, National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Sean Michael Thomas forwarded an inspirational email to his wife, Carrie, from his office in the Baghdad’s Green Zone.

It contained music and photos of smiling children and a series of warm sentiments about life and love. Among them:

“I believe you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.”

“I believe that heroes are the people who do what needs to be done when it has to be done, regardless of the consequences.”

“I believe that no matter how much your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief.”

“I believe that the people that you care about most in life are taken from you much too soon.”

Just hours after sending this email on Tuesday, Sean Thomas, 33, was killed in a missile attack as he was walking across the street to his room. He was 33 years old and is survived by his mother and father; four siblings; wife Carrie, 25; and daughter Alexa, six months.

“I was always afraid for him,” Carrie said tearfully in the living room of the home she shares with her parents in the Nittany Valley. “I’d tell him, ‘Don’t go out in a helicopter. Don’t go out on the convoys. Stay safe.’ And he was safe. But, you know, what it comes down to is, no one is safe over there.”

Thomas was just a few credits shy of his bachelor’s degree and was working toward becoming a warrant officer. His deployment in Iraq was scheduled to end in July.

He and Carrie were planning on buying a house. Until then, she was living with her parents in Nittany.

“I was so busy in my life, so busy,” Carrie said of their plans. “I worked 40 hours a week and then some, took care of Alexa, talked to Sean all the time, looked for houses, was getting his stuff all gathered up, arranging for direct deposit for him, and now it’s like, now what? I don’t know what to do. I feel like I have nothing now. I’ve never felt so alone. I have so much family, but I’m just filled with emptiness. I don’t think you can describe the pain. You just can’t.”

An employee of Health South in Pleasant Gap, Carrie is also a sergeant in the Army National Guard. Two years ago she was deployed to the Middle East, where the couple first met.

“The military was what brought us together,” Carrie said, “And it was also took us apart.”

On the refrigerator in the family’s kitchen is a photo of Carrie in full military gear, almost unrecognizable in a heavy helmet and body armor.

“We became friends in ’05 when we both were serving in Afghanistan,” Carrie said. “We both worked in the same supply office. But we stayed very professional.”

They loved to just sit and talk, Carrie said, and they shared similar opinions and religious beliefs. Soon romance began to bloom. Back home in the United States, over Thanksgiving, Sean proposed.

“He asked me to marry him in front of my whole family,” Carrie said. “My sister and Mom and Dad and my friends were there. He had to ask my Dad for permission first. ... We get together every Sunday for dinner, that’s a tradition, and this time at Thanksgiving he was so nervous. He asked to say the prayer, and after he said the prayer he went down on one knee and said how thankful he was for everything, and how happy he was.

“Tears were welling in his eyes, and he always tried not to cry,” she added, dabbing at her own tears. “And then he asked me to marry him and I said yes and everyone was so surprised and happy. We were going to get married in June but we moved it to April because of his deployment.”

They were married at Howard Christian Church, the same house of worship where Carrie’s parents had been wed more than 30 years earlier.

Alexa was born in September, and Sean arranged for a two-week leave to be home for her birth.

The couple had all sorts of plans once Sean came home for good. They wanted to go on a cruise, visit family and friends and visit the Centre County Grange Fair, a longtime tradition in Carrie’s family.

“I kept thinking of him at the Grange Fair, pushing Alexa in a buggy with me at his side, just doing things together as a couple with our child, a perfect little family. I was so looking forward to going there and showing everyone my husband and daughter. ...

“He loved Lex so much,” she continued. “He just wanted to take care of her and make sure she had a great life and was happy.”

From the Gazette

Eric (Orlando E.) Gonzalez dies of injuries from I.E.D.

When Pfc. Orlando E. "Eric" Gonzalez needed a place to live during his senior year of high school, Patrick LeBlanc was happy to make that happen - even though it was unusual for people to live at his camp during the school year.

Generally, campers stay at Summit Grove Camp in New Freedom during the summers.

However, Southern York School District contacted the camp looking for a place for Gonzalez - who was an incoming senior at Susquehannock High School at the time - to stay. LeBlanc, executive director of the camp, took him in.

He said Gonzalez had stayed at the camp during several summers and described him as an ambassador - outgoing and willing to "talk (anyone's) ear off."

"Orlando was an amazing young man," LeBlanc said. "He had a heart as big as this camp."

The camp, LeBlanc said, spans about 45 acres.

Gonzalez, 21, was killed Sunday in Baqubah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near a vehicle he was riding in, according to the Department of Defense. Three other soldiers, all assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, N.C., were killed in the attack. Two others were injured.

Both LeBlanc and Susquehannock Principal Brian Cashman said Gonzalez, who graduated from Susquehannock High School in 2005, had a difficult family situation, but they would not elaborate.

Gonzalez is the son of Orlando G. Gonzalez of Connecticut and Carmen M. Diaz. Family members could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

LeBlanc said Gonzalez was excited about joining the Army after high school. The soldier visited the camp a couple of times between boot camp and his deployment to Iraq.

"He couldn't wait to be seen in his uniform," LeBlanc said of Gonzalez's first trip back to the camp after boot camp.

The camp director said it's comforting to think of how Gonzalez - a "man of belief" who "knew where he was going" - was excited to join the Army.

LeBlanc believes "if you told him this is how it would end, he still would have went (into the Army)."

Gonzalez lived in the staff dormitory at the camp during his senior year. His dorm, along with two others, sits toward one edge of the wooded campground, which has dozens of cabins and other buildings.

It's a college setting, with campers coming from as close as the immediate area and as far away as California, said Le- Blanc, who has been the camp director for about 10 years.

During the summer, LeBlanc said, about 25 teenagers typically live at the camp. Gonzalez had been one of those summer campers, and he was known as "Speedy."

"The kid ran like a gazelle," LeBlanc said.

At one point during Gonzalez's stay, LeBlanc recalls seeing a wild rabbit darting around the campgrounds. He told Gonzalez he was probably fast enough to catch it. Gonzalez said he wasn't fast enough.

Later that day, Gonzalez showed up at LeBlanc's door.

"There he was, petting this rabbit," LeBlanc said.

From the Daily Record

Jason Nunez dies of injuries from I.E.D.

A Lehigh County native was one of four soldiers killed Sunday when a roadside bomb exploded near their truck in Baqubah, Iraq.

Army Cpl. Jason Nunez, 22, who was born in Fountain Hill but lived in Naranjito, Puerto Rico, was driving when the bomb went off, said his father, Sam Nunez of south Bethlehem.

''He didn't drink. He didn't smoke. He was a good kid,'' said the elder Nunez, adding Jason had a wife and 6-month-old daughter.

He was assigned to the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, N.C., the Defense Department said Tuesday.

The Pentagon said another Pennsylvanian died in the Baqubah blast -- Pfc. Orlando E. Gonzalez, 21, of New Freedom, York County.

Baqubah, 31 miles northeast of Baghdad, is the capital of Diyala province, a religiously mixed area that has seen fierce fighting in recent months.

As the U.S. Senate advanced a proposal for a nonbinding deadline for troop withdrawal, the Defense Department reported that 3,236 servicemen and women have died in the Iraq war.

Nunez became the 22nd person from the Lehigh Valley region, or with ties to the region, to die in either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.

He was born at St. Luke's Hospital-Fountain Hill. The family moved to Puerto Rico in 1988, when Jason was a toddler, and he lived there most of his life, his father said. He was to be discharged from the Army in August.

Sam Nunez and Jason's cousin, the Rev. Santos A. Rosado, also of Bethlehem, said the family questions why Nunez wasn't previously discharged for medical reasons. He was wounded by a roadside bomb about two months ago and lost part of his hearing, they said.

''That's what the family is saying: He never should have been sent back,'' said Rosado, pastor of the Victory

Worship Center in south Bethlehem.

Nunez was hospitalized in Iraq for about a week, then sent back to his unit, the elder Nunez said.

Jason Nunez is survived by his wife, Damairis, and 6-month-old daughter, Jamary, in Puerto Rico, where his mother and two brothers, Joel and Emmanuel, also live.

Father and son spoke on the phone on Saturday, the elder Nunez said. They talked about Jason's discharge and some of the things he planned to do, like buy a house for his family.

''He sounded very happy on the phone,'' Sam Nunez said. ''I asked him, 'Are you afraid?' He said a little bit, but not too bad.''

Burial is planned at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamon, the elder Nunez said.

From the Morning Call

Jason W. Swiger dies of injuries from I.E.D.

SO. PORTLAND (March 29, 2007): When Jason Swiger returned home to South Portland last June from his second tour of duty in Iraq, his family members barely recognized him. Gone were the black trench coat, the combat boots, the rings on his fingers and the long, black hair he wore in high school. In their place, he wore khakis and a dress shirt, with his naturally blond hair cut short.

Despite his appearance, his family members said, six years in the U.S. Army had no effect on his personality. He was still the caring, comic person he had always been.

“No matter what, Jay was Jay,” his sister, Becka Swiger, said Monday.

“He wouldn't change,” added his cousin Chelsea Swiger, “not even for the military.”

On Monday, members of the Swiger family packed into the South Portland home of Valorie Swiger, the mother of the 24-year-old sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division. Jason Swiger, who had wanted to be a soldier since he was a boy, died Sunday in the Anbar province in Iraq on his third tour in the country, according to his family.

Swiger was the second soldier from South Portland to die in Iraq this month. Marine Lance Cpl. Angel Rosa, 21, was killed in combat March 13.

According to Swiger's sister, Angelica Cole, her brother was killed when he and three other soldiers got out of a Humvee to hand out candy to Iraqi children. “That’s the type of guy he was,” Cole said.

The family learned of Swiger's death Sunday night when his wife, Allana, called. Members of the family filled the home of his mother Sunday to receive friends, answer phone calls and remember their son, grandson, cousin, nephew and brother.

Swiger was “a leader in his peer group” who “served as a mentor” to his friends, said South Portland High School Principal Jeanne Crocker, who held a press conference Monday afternoon at the district’s superintendent’s office. Crocker said it was clear Swiger joined the military to define himself.

“It was through service to his country that he found his niche in life,” she said.

Both Crocker and Swiger’s family talked about the pride Swiger had in serving his country. Valorie Swiger said her son had wanted to be in the military since his childhood, when he would visit his uncle's house in Pennsylvania and could sit on the porch and see paratroopers jumping out of planes. His uncle had served in the 82nd Airborne Division, and he decided he would, too.

Valorie Swiger has always been active in supporting the U.S. military troops. In 2003, she hung yellow ribbons throughout the city, which landed her in a battle with the South Portland City Council. She eventually removed the ribbons.

Despite problems in the past, the council met on Monday night and unanimously voted to allow the temporary hanging of yellow ribbons to honor both Swiger and Rosa. According to City Manager Ted Jankowski, the council thought that authorizing the
display of yellow ribbons from March 27 to April 27 was the "approriate response" to the shock of losing two "great young men" from South Portland in such a short time. "The council decided they wanted to take action," he said.

Just before noon on Tuesday, friends and family gathered at The Thomas Room, a banquet facility on Broadway in South Portland, to assemble boxes and boxes of yellow ribbons to be hung all over the town again.

Ray Lee, of South Portland, who said he had known Swiger since he was in diapers, said he and Dan Fortin, another family friend, would hang up the ribbons "every place we can whether the city allows it or not."

Cousin Susan Swiger said the ribbons were "for all the troops as much as for Jason."

After the ribbons were hung, Valorie Swiger planned to hold a press conference at the Thomas Room in order to get information about her son out all at once. The conference was to be held after The Current’s deadline.

Valorie Swiger said that regardless of whether her son was a soldier, she would be going out of her way to show her support for the troops.

“He told us, ‘When there’s no support out there for us, morale goes down, and when morale goes down, soldiers die,’” she said. “We need to support them until the last one comes home.”

She said her son’s death hasn’t affected her views on the war.

“I would like to see some resolve,” she said, but the last thing she wants to see are the troops being pulled out without any resolution. “It’d be like they died for nothing,” Cole said.

Last May, Swiger married Allana Regan, whom he met at a coffee shop at Fort Bragg, N.C. They lived with her parents and brother in North Carolina.

Crocker spoke about the impact on the high school of having two graduates killed in the war in such a short time period. “There’s a cumulative effect to this,” she said.

Crocker said the silence that filled the school following her announcement over the P.A. system Monday afternoon was the same as the reaction to Rosa’s death, even though Swiger, a member of the class of 2000, graduated long before any current students were at the high school.

Between his five siblings and numerous cousins, Swiger was still connected to the school. Also, Swiger often came to visit the high school when he was home from Iraq. Sometimes it would be a casual visit to see teachers, but he would also come in full uniform to visit a U.S. military history class called “America in Conflict” to give a presentation and answer questions about his service.

Crocker said Swiger was a good student. John Chapin, a retired South Portland High School history teacher, said Tuesday Swiger was "always very engaged and enthusiastic about the subject matter." He corresponded with students in Chapin's classes after Swiger joined the Army.

Becka Swiger said school came easily to him and the speed at which he completed his homework left him plenty of time to pursue other interests. He was an artist, constantly covering his schoolwork with pictures of headless horsemen and fantasy lands. He was also an eloquent writer, Becka Swiger said. He wrote stories and always kept a journal.

“He had a way of describing things that I’ve never seen anywhere else,” she said.

Had he not joined the military, he would have been a journalist.

Jason Swiger was also a singer, a dancer and a drummer. He loved music, and he and his sister, Becka, would go out to a bar to sing karaoke every time he was home from Iraq. His favorite song to perform was the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” – he was known by the same name among friends and family for his humor and constant pranks.

Coming in and out of Valorie Swiger’s house on Monday, friends and family couldn’t talk enough about the things Jason excelled at, from his intricate artwork to his dependability as a friend.

“Picture the greatest guy you ever met and multiply it times 10,” Becka Swiger said. But their cousin, Kalie Swiger, corrected her.

“Times a million,” she said.

From the Current

Anthony J. White dies of injuries from I.E.D.

At Richland Northeast High School, Tuesday was another sad day of placing a name with a face.

Teachers and administrators checked their yearbooks and memories after learning Army Pvt. Anthony White, Class of 2003, had been killed in the Iraq war.

“Anthony was a good young man whom we all remember very fondly,” said RNE principal Ralph Schmidt. “We are very saddened by the news of his death.”

The 21-year-old White was the second RNE graduate to die in the Iraq war. Marine Staff Sgt. Jay T. Collado, a 1993 graduate, was killed in February 2006 by a roadside bomb.

White was one of four soldiers killed Sunday when a bomb blast ripped through their patrol in Diyala, an increasingly volatile province northeast of Baghdad.

Two other soldiers were wounded, the U.S. military said.

The news began filtering through the RNE community Monday, when basketball coach Jason Powell got a phone call from one of White’s former Cavalier teammates.

White, a 6-foot, 3-inch forward, was a member of the RNE basketball team in his junior and senior years. The team White played on as a junior was runner-up to Spartanburg High in the 2002 Class AAAA tournament.

“It really does hit you,” Powell said. “He gave up his life to protect ours. That says a world about him. But then that’s the kind of person he was.”

Gary Fulmer, who coached White when the teen-ager first arrived at RNE in the fall of 2001, remembered a shy young man who was an intense competitor.

“Two weeks into practice, I hadn’t heard him say a word and I was wondering if he could speak,” said Fulmer, now coordinator of athletics for Richland 2.

But as White settled in, he became a jokester who loved to horse around with friends and teammates, coaches and friends recalled Tuesday.

He also became a team leader, Powell said. “He led with his hard work and competed on every play.”

Powell said he talked to White about playing basketball for a small college. But White wanted to follow his father and join the Army.

Harry White, a 29-year Army veteran and retired command sergeant major, told The Associated Press that his son was a member of his old outfit, the 82nd Airborne Division.

“I pinned his jumpmaster wings on him. Now I’ll put those wings on his coffin,” said Harry White, a civilian employee at Fort Jackson.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Tuesday.

White was the third South Carolinian to die within a week in the Iraq war.

From the State

Trevor A. Roberts killed during combat operations

A Marine who graduated from Westmoore High School was killed this weekend in Iraq when a vehickle he was riding in struck a roadside bomb.

Lance Cpl. Trevor A. Roberts, 21, was scheduled to return from duty in Iraq in 12 days, military officials said Monday.

Roberts was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve’s 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, 1st Sgt. Scott Baker, a spokesman for Roberts’ unit, told the Associated Press. Roberts was in the right rear passenger seat when the explosion took plac in he Al Anbar province. Another person riding in the vehicle suffered a minor concussion.

Baker said Roberts was one of 30 members of the unit who volunteered to go to Iraq and had been in that country for seven months. The unit since has been activated and is training at Fort Sill, preparing for a July deployment.

“He was an All-American boy,” Baker told AP. “He was brought up in a good Christian family. He was a good Marine. He volunteered to go. He felt it was his obligation to serve God, the country and the Corps.”

His parents, Chuck and Twyla Roberts, had spoken to him two days before he was killed, Baker said. Roberts is also survived by a brother, who is attending college.

Baker said Roberts was the first Marine from the unit killed in the war.

He said Roberts was very involved in his church and was planning to participate in a church mission to China this summer.

From the American

Adrian J. Lewis killed by small arms fire

U.S. Army Sgt. Adrian J. Lewis witnessed the birth of his youngest daughter two weeks before he shipped out for his third tour in Iraq.

He won't hear her first words or see her first step.

Lewis, 30, was killed in Ramadi, Iraq, on March 21, after an encounter with enemy forces involving small-arms fire, the U.S. Defense Department reported Sunday.

The soldier, who grew up in Mauldin, left behind four children and a wife, Amanda Lewis.

"He was my best friend. He was my everything," she said at her mother's packed Simpsonville home Sunday.

Lewis' father, Jerome Harrison, said his oldest son loved his platoon and refused to leave his men. They looked up to him, Harrison said.

The sergeant once even sent money to a soldier who couldn't get back to base after going home for the holidays, he said.

"I questioned him many times: 'Why didn't you get a transfer after you went (to Iraq)?' He loved what he did," Harrison said.

Amanda Lewis said her husband wanted to go to Iraq the first two times but not the third.

"A lot of it had to do with the fact that the baby was just born," she said.

Amanda Lewis said her cousin set her up with her husband when she was at J.L. Mann High and he was at Southside High.

They had a child together and went their separate ways until reuniting seven years later and getting married.

"It was like we hadn't missed a beat," Amanda Lewis said.

After high school, Adrian Lewis worked for Michelin through a temporary employment agency, his father said. He called in 2000 and said, "There's nothing here for me," Harrison recalled.

Lewis told his father he was joining the Army.

Harrison said that putting on the uniform changed his son. His troops treated him like a father figure, Harrison said.

"I was impressed the way they took to him," he said.

Lewis served in Germany and Kosovo before the Iraq war started, his wife said. His first two tours were in Fallujah and Baghdad, she said.

If he had any doubts about surviving, he never expressed them to his wife.

"He promised me he was coming back home all the way to end," she said.

Adrian Lewis' face might be familiar to commuters. A month before his death, his smiling picture was used in an ad on an electronic billboard at Woodruff and Garlington roads.

The headline next to his helmeted head read, "We salute our fallen heroes."

The Lewises lived in Fort Stewart, Ga. He marched around his wife's hospital bed and whistled while waiting for his youngest daughter, Sade, to be born, said his mother-in-law, Elaine Mims.

That was Dec. 3. He left 12 days later, Amanda Lewis said.

She said she talked to her husband right up to the day he died.

Until his Internet connection failed last month, the soldier was able to see his family via computer screen every day.

Adrian Lewis was planning to go on leave in July to attend a family reunion and go on a cruise to the Bahamas with his wife.

But he didn't make it.

Amanda Lewis knew that something had happened to her husband when she received a call from a woman she didn't recognize.

At first, Amanda Lewis thought her husband had been wounded. It turned out to be much worse.

"I knew he loved me," she said, "and I loved him. In my heart, I felt like we were going to be together forever. But God has his ways."

From the News

John Landry laid to rest

WILMINGTON -- A white, horse-drawn hearse carried the silver casket of Private John Landry Jr. along residential streets lined with more than 2,000 mourners yesterday.

Some of the mourners saluted as the procession passed; others held American flags.

At his funeral Mass at St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic Church, Landry, who died in combat March 17, was hailed as a hero. He was the first Lowell serviceman to be killed in the war in Iraq.

Friends and family recalled that joining the Army was Landry's goal since his freshman year of high school and that he had just returned to duty in Iraq as a rifleman after two weeks of leave in Florida with his parents.

Landry's parents were thrilled when their son was born on Christmas Day 1986, three weeks earlier than expected, because they were given "extra time with him," Margaret McKenna, a family friend, said during the eulogy.

An honors student, Landry attended Lowell Catholic High School, where he graduated cum laude in 2005 and served on the student council and in a campus ministry.

"He was really smart," said a tearful Kelsey Wright, 20, a former classmate. Grinning, Wright added, "I copied off of him a couple times."

Standing 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a 240-pound frame, Landry was a "gentle giant" who struck fear in his opponents as a lineman on the football field, but revealed a softer side to family and friends, McKenna said.

Although Landry had received a college scholarship, he opted to follow his father, John F. Landry, who served in the Marines, and grandfather, who was a member of the 82d Airborne Division, by joining the military. Since Oct. 31, Landry had served with the Second Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment of the First Cavalry Division.

"It was like the military was made for John," said 20-year-old Lance Chamberlain, a former classmate. "He knew he was going to be in the Army since he was a freshman. There was no stopping him."

A crowd, many holding small American flags, gathered outside Nichols Funeral Home on Middlesex Avenue, where the immediate family packed a black limousine that followed Landry's hearse.

The procession included dozens of police officers riding motorcycles and students from Lowell Catholic wearing their green uniform sweaters.

It continued beneath an enormous US flag suspended between the ladders of two fire trucks, and past Wilmington High School and other schools where students solemnly watched.

Once mourners packed the pews at St. Thomas of Villanova, ushers closed the doors. Inside, three priests encouraged the group to remember the way Landry lived and to take solace in Catholic traditions.

"The grief passes; the honor remains," said the Rev. Marc J. Bishop. "We know that those who act in a godly way will be cared for by God himself."

The Landry family quietly sobbed. Sitting adjacent to Landry's casket, they filled at least the first four pews of the church.

"In peace, let us take John to his place of rest," the Rev. Paul Flammia said before Landry's casket was transported to Wildwood Cemetery.

There, hundreds gathered and presented Landry's parents with a bronze medal, a medal for conduct, and the American flag that had draped his coffin.

From the Globe

Related Link:
John F. Landry Jr. dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Christopher Brevard laid to rest

FORT RICHARDSON - A paratrooper and Wasilla resident was laid to rest Thursday after a memorial service was held in his honor at the Fort Richardson Community Chapel.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Robert Brevard died March 16 while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad. Brevard's unit was conducting a dismounted patrol when a roadside bomb detonated and killed him, according to Army officials.

As a squad leader for 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, he was in charge of eight other soldiers. His team survived the attack and is still conducting missions in Iraq.

“He trained his team well,” said Chris Brevard, his dad, at the memorial service, which was attended by Gov. Sarah Palin, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich and about 200 family, friends and fellow service members. “It's not anyone's fault. The fact they survived is testimony of how well he trained them.”

The 31-year-old joined the Army in 1992 in Anchorage, according to Fort Richardson officials. His name ended up on a promotion list for Sgt. 1st Class on March 20, a few days after he died.

“We're not sure if he knew he made the promotion list,” said Chris Brevard, his dad. “But the Army took care of him and promoted him posthumously.”

Brevard always wanted to be a soldier, he said. At 17, while he was still attending Dimond High School, he wanted to join the Army, with his father's permission of course. “But I wouldn't let him. So he signed up when he turned 18,” he said.

At the time, his father was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base as a first sergeant. “I tried to get him to join the Air Force but he was Army through and through.”

Besides being a career soldier, Brevard also enjoyed a variety of Alaska sports.

“He was the guy with all the toys,” said Staff Sgt. John McFalls, who served with Brevard at the Fort Richardson NCO Academy. Four-wheelers, snowmachines and a cool truck. “He had it all. And the best thing about him was he wasn't afraid to share it.

“His wife, Amber, drove the truck, though. Even though he said he bought it for himself,” McFalls said. “But every once in while he stole it from her.”

Besides loving the Army and everything about Alaska, Brevard was well-known for loving his family, too. Brevard is survived by his wife, Amber, and his two little girls, Emily, 9, and Jessica, 7.

“Those girls were his whole life,” said his father. “Every chance he got, he was holding them, kissing them, and just having fun with them.”

And every chance he got, he called home while he was deployed. He also called his parents, who live in the Lower 48.

“On one particular phone call, he told us that if he died tomorrow he would be happy because he accomplished everything he set out to do,” his father said. “He was the kind of guy everyone followed. Whether it was in the field as a soldier or with his friends out on the four-wheelers or snowmachines.

“My son trained for war, but he always felt war was a last resort,” he said. “He went, he gave his life for it, and he did what needed to be done.”

Brevard was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal. He was laid to rest at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery.

From the Fontiersman

Related Link:
Christopher R. Brevard dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Ray Holzhauer laid to rest

DWIGHT -- They stood shoulder to shoulder on both sides of the street.

The tiny American flags in their hands, and even full-size "Fourth of July" flags rescued from the depths of the hall closet, waved proudly as the processional passed block after block of grieving Dwight residents.

It was Ray Holzhauer's homecoming, Monday morning. It was a farm community's funeral tribute to one of its own -- Marine Lance Cpl. Raymond Holzhauer, who died March 15 at his base at Taqaddum, Iraq.

He was just 19.

"Did you know him?" a reporter asked Dwight's Patrick Meckley, a Navy veteran of Vietnam.

Meckley grips the corners of a sizable American flag he brought from home. It's the kind that flies from the porch on special occasions and national holidays. Today it's been pressed into service to bid farewell to one of the town's warrior sons.

Like many here, while they didn't know the youth personally, they knew of him. They knew he graduated from Dwight Township High School in 2005 and immediately enlisted in the Marines.

They knew he measured up. That he withstood the Marine Corps' infamous boot camp training and on graduation day was handed the coveted eagle, globe and anchor -- the symbol of the Corps.

And they knew that, as with so many others, he'd been assigned to combat in Iraq, a perpetually bloody land filled with religious hatred, anti-Western resolve and plenty of car bombs.

What they knew was that Raymond, who repaired small arms, was one of their own, gone in harm's way.

For Vietnam vet Meckley, saying farewell held deeper meaning.

"When we came back from the service, nobody cared that we came back or what happened to us when we did get back," Meckley said.

"I just wanted to make sure that we honored those who served their country," he said, raising his somewhat cumbersome flag as a car containing the Marine color guard passed by.

Meckley said such support shouldn't be taken to mean everyone in Dwight supports the war. But he wants there to be no doubt that he and others support the troops and honor those who, like Holzhauer, have given all they had to give.

And according to the Rev. James Rickey, "giving" was a characteristic commodity for the quiet, smiling kid from Dwight.

At the packed funeral service before the procession, participants shared observations about the qualities Raymond possessed and evinced, despite having so short a life in which to develop them.

White-shirted American Legion members, wearing black POW-MIA neckties, waited at "parade rest" in the aisles of the spacious St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

These men, veterans of World War II and Korea by the look of them, now waited to honor a "warrior grandson."

In the background, Pachelbel's "Canon in D" a beautiful melody traditionally used at wedding ceremonies, served as audio matrix for the solemnities that followed.

"We come today and we ask 'What now?'" said Rickey, adding "Always be grateful to the giver of the gift of life -- then give back. Give that life back generously and freely."

Despite his youth, Rickey noted, it was a grace Lance Cpl. Holzhauer had most evidently been given.

From the Times

Related Link:
Raymond J. Holzhauer killed in 'non-hostile' incident

Robert Carr laid to rest

FOWLER — The chorus from "A Soldier's Heart," played at the funeral of Army Sgt. Robert "Robbie" Michael Carr, is:

"... You stood on the front lines

You led the way, out of
the darkness

You could have let us go astray

You were ready to die for
our sake

And that takes a soldier's heart."

The song by R. Kelly was played Monday morning in Believers' Christian Fellowship Church in Warren. Army Sgt. Jeremy Jenkins, one of Carr's best friends from Champion High School and the Army, said he and Robbie pledged that whoever survived would bring the song to the family of the one who didn't make it.

Carr, a 2002 Champion graduate, was killed March 13 when an improvised explosive detonated under the vehicle he was driving in Baghdad, Iraq. His body arrived home Friday at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna Township.

Later, during the afternoon burial in Dugan Cemetery, words of the service came intermittently through the loud snapping of the flags in the wind: "may the peace of God that passes all understanding ... our Father who art in heaven ... from a grateful nation."

Military honors

Full military honors were accorded to Carr: A three-gun salute by an Army Honor Guard, the playing of taps by an Army bugler and the mournful sound of a bagpipe playing "Amazing Grace," a flyover by an Army helicopter.

The Trumbull County Veterans Honor Guard and members of the Patriot Guard stood by.

U.S. flags were presented to the fallen soldier's wife, Nina of Fowler Township; his mother, Christine Wortman of Champion; and his father, Jeffrey Carr of Fowler. The presentation was followed by the measured salute of Brigadier Gen. John Bartley, a representative of the army chief of staff.

Carr not only had the heart of a soldier, but the heart of a son, the heart of a brother and of a husband, the Rev. Joel Dickson, pastor of Fowler Community Church, said at Believers' Christian Fellowship.

"We're all here to honor the heart of a soldier and of a man ... his courage, honor, valor, selflessness, sense of duty, strength and loyalty. We have freedoms because of people like Robert," the Rev. Mr. Dickson said.

He said to Carr's wife: "Other than God, only you knew the deepest recesses of Robbie's heart."

Personal letters

Nina's was among several letters written as tributes to Carr after his death by family members that Mr. Dickson read to the estimated 300 people who attended the funeral. The Rev. Bill Carter of Believers' Christian also officiated.

"You always called me your angel. I never realized I would be calling you my angel. Until we meet again, I love you more than forever," Nina wrote. She signed her letter 'Peanut,' which was her husband's pet name for her.

In a letter Carr wrote to Nina in December 2006, he said: "My love for you goes straight to my soul. Being with you made me realize there is a God, because he made you especially for me. I love you Peanut for more than forever."

"We'll always have a Rob story that makes us smile," wrote Carr's father, Jeffrey. "Rob always had a soldier's heart. You will be missed," he said to his son. "Love, Dad."

Carr's sisters, Julie and Rachel Carr and Jennifer Brady, agreed he liked to beat them up — but at the same time was very protective.

"I've always looked up to you," said Julie.

"Rob was the strongest person I knew: physically, mentally and emotionally. Rob will forever be my hero," Rachel said.

"This feels just like a regular letter ... but it's not. You were the best big brother a girl could ask for, even though I always thought of you as my baby brother. I'm so proud of you. I love you so much," Jennifer said.

Brother's tribute

In an oral tribute, Army Sgt. Matthew Carr, Robbie's older brother who was wounded in tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, said because of his "little brother's" sacrifice "we can all continue to live free."

"Of course I wish he didn't have to die, but it was his time and he died well. He was a soldier and an all-around credible guy. He died a hero," Matthew said.

"Live Free ... Die Well," was the motto Robbie Carr had imprinted on his Army dog tags.

"He presented his life to serve his country and then gave his life to God," the Rev. Mr. Carter said.

"This is not the end of the story. There is a reunion day coming when there will be no more pain and tears and goodbyes," Mr. Carter added.

"The hurt is great at times like this. We in the Army are also grieving. He was part of our family too," said Gen. Bartley. "Robert understood the meaning of honor, duty and country. He is an American hero."

From the Vindicator

Related Link:
Robert Carr remembered by teachers

Related Link:
Robert M. Carr dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Terry Prater laid to rest

Mourners from several states assembled in New Tazewell, Tenn., Sunday evening and Monday afternoon to pay their last respects to Staff Sergeant Terry Prater. Prater, an Auxier, Ky., native and resident of Speedwell, Tenn., was killed in action while serving in Iraq Thursday, March 15.

Two color guard soldiers stood in silent attention over the remains of Prater Sunday, being relieved every twenty minutes by two more soldiers. His remains were surrounded by many of Prater's fondest belongings: fishing gear, including poles and tackle, flowers arrangements adorned with small mouth bass decorations, Prater's waders, and teddy bears.

Eight US soldiers traveled to Tennessee to mourn Prater. Some of them took the stand or sent notes from Iraq. They recalled their experiences with their fallen friend. They spoke of his love for fishing, saying, “I believe it was out there he found his peace.” They spoke of his devotion to his children, recalling his five-year-old son Bryson as “his best friend” and that almost two-year-old daughter Madison would “never be able to have a boyfriend. Ever.”

Pastor Jimmy Hagerman, who officiated the service, compared Prater's sacrifice to the Christian experience, quoting from the Bible, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Hagerman compared the Biblical death of Christ to the death of Prater saying, “He gave the ultimate sacrifice for you and I.” He spoke of Prater's death as, “a living testimony the kind of person Terry was.”

He also spoke of the cost of freedom's liberties that are taken for granted. They are “young men giving their lives so we may go on about ours as if nothing is happening,” Hagerman said or Prater and others who have died in service. “Their sacrifice for freedom allows the American citizen to enjoy our possessions,” Hagerman said.

Those in attendance included the soldier Prater saved from possible death during his first tour in Iraq.

“If it weren't for your son, I wouldn't be here today,” These words were tearfully expressed by Sgt. Tim Ngo to Prater's father, who had Ngo flown to the memorial service.

Ngo was saved from harm by Prater when his troops came under attack in 1994. This action brought considerable injury to Prater because of a second grenade that exploded after he had thrown Ngo free.

Ngo approached the podium with notes in hand. He started with “What if,” and then paused. He told the audience he had written a page he wanted to read but that he could not, saying again, “If it weren't for your son, I wouldn't be here today,” and then stepped down.

Many mourners stood during the service in order to view a slide show presentation which included literally dozens of photos of Prater and his family and friends. Most of those photos caught the young soldier with a smile and or in an embrace of his family. Many captured him holding a fish.

Staff Sgt. Terry Prater's remains were laid to rest Monday afternoon following a funeral procession that sometimes stretched more than a half mile. Mourners were lead by members of the Patriot Guard, a multi-association bikers group, which was formed to counter the Westboro Baptist Church protests against the fallen members of the U.S. military. Associations included in the group included the Christian Motorcyclist Association, Shiloh Riders Association, and US CAV (Citizens Aiding Veterans)

With U.S. flags attached to their bikes, the Patriot Guard lead the procession for more than 40 miles, often slowing to allow those who stood along side the roadways to pay respect to Prater. Several citizens along the East Tennessee thoroughfares stood in attention, saluted, or raised American flags in homage to Prater. The procession lasted over an hour and met with many hundreds of people paying homage and nearly all opposing traffic was stopped.

One particular school, Livesay Middle School in Harrogate Tenn., had well over 200 hundred students standing along side of the hill, each holding flags, many with hands over their hearts.

Just after mourners gathered at the lake, a 21 gun salute echoed off the waters of Norris Lake and was immediately followed by Taps and a flag presentation to the members of his family. A small host of friends and family then boarded boats and pontoons to travel into open waters were Prater's ashes were scattered, fulfilling Prater's final wishes.

A statement read for Amy Prater during the memorial service said, “The next time anyone goes fishing, cast a line for Terry.”

From the Daily News

Related Link:
Terry W. Prater dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Anthony Kaiser laid to rest

Narrowsburg — With light shooting through the stained glass of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, more than 200 people watched in silence, as an American flag was crisply folded over the casket of Army Spc. Anthony Kaiser.

Kaiser's wife, Heather, stood behind the casket, gulping for air.

She could not speak during his funeral. She asked a friend to read her final message of goodbye. She read, tearfully, about how much Heather loved her husband.

"He was there for others, there for you and me," St. Francis Xavier's priest, the Rev. William Scully, said. "He gave for others, so others could live."

After the service, a crowd led by volunteer firefighters in dress blue uniforms, state troopers and Army officers, marched up a short hill to the cemetery. Two helicopters buzzed over. A bugler played, and no one spoke or moved, in honor of a loving man, a former volunteer firefighter, a former state trooper and an American soldier.

After the playing of taps, birds in the evergreens sang to each other, the only sound in the cemetery.

Kaiser, 27, a soldier serving with the 571st Military Police Company, was killed March 17 during a firefight at a military checkpoint at a marketplace in Baghdad. He was the first to spot and fire on several enemies attacking his unit, according to eyewitness testimonials read at the service.

For bravery under fire, Kaiser was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with V Device (for Valor), the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Kaiser was not an ordinary soldier, his Army comrades said yesterday.

During his Amy training to become a driver, Kaiser got blamed for not placing a braking block behind his tire, recalled 1st Lt. Alyssa Briones, his former platoon leader. He was ordered to run around the truck 500 times. It turned out that someone had used the truck after him. He didn't mention it was someone else's fault, or complain about his undeserved punishment. "He just said, 'I needed a run,'" Briones remembered.

Back home, Kaiser kissed his wife every time he left the house, even when he took out the garbage. In Iraq, he displayed her picture in his tent.

In one of his last messages home, Kaiser wrote about love:

"Let every one of your friends know you love them, even if you don't think they love you," he wrote in an e-mail to friends Dave and Lorraine Mosiniak of Lakewood, Pa., just weeks before he was killed.

"You would be amazed what those three little words and a smile can do. So if God should call me home before I see you again ... I love you."

From the Record

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Anthony A. Kaiser killed by small arms fire

Benjamin Sebban laid to rest

SOUTH AMBOY — Nothing seemed to hold greater importance in Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin L. Sebban's life than God, country, friends and family.

Simply put, a brother said, the 29-year-old Army combat medic was the "best man I ever knew."

Capped by a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps, a moving memorial service was held Wednesday for the South Amboy man killed while serving in Iraq. Sebban is to be interred at 1 p.m. today at Arlington National Cemetery.

A procession of emergency-services workers, soldiers and black-clad mourners joined the hearse carrying Sebban's body up to Christ Church. Onlookers gazed from sidewalks under beautiful skies while more than a few tissues met the corners of mourners' eyes.

Inside the church, the pastor, the Rev. Lloyd Pulley set the tone.

"This is a different funeral service," he said. "This is uplifting in that . . . (Sebban) had trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"I believe the legacy that he left will influence many others and that through his life, others, perhaps, will come to know the God that he came to know," Pulley added in his closing remarks.

Pulley offered spiritual solace to those touched by Sebban, reminding them that there is something else "beyond life."

Indeed, family members were still coming to grips with the death of the man affectionately called "Doc" in the Army and known equally for his kindness and courage.

"I will never try to understand why he's laying here dead . . . and I'm standing here," said brother David Sebban. "I will never understand it, and I will never try to understand it. But I'm going to move on."

David Sebban expressed what others have said in similar situations — the tragedy was unexpected.

"I thought we were all going to grow old together and tell stories," he said. "And now that's not going to happen."

David Sebban called his late brother the "best man I ever knew."

Benjamin Sebban died March 17 in Baqouba, Iraq, from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit. The 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper was reportedly trying to warn fellow troops when the device exploded, and he then treated the injured before dying. He has been recommended for a posthumous Silver Star medal for gallantry and heroism in action.

The former St. Mary's Elementary School pupil and 1996 graduate of Middlesex County Vocational-Technical High School was deployed twice previously to the Republic of Georgia and had also served one tour in West Africa.

Brothers David and Daniel are also members of the military.

Daniel Sebban said Benjamin always gave "his all" for his friends, family and country.

While family members tote heavy hearts these days, Daniel Sebban said Benjamin is faring much better.

He is in a "place with no grief, but peace," he said.

From the Tribune

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Ryan Green laid to rest

Fallen Army Sergeant Ryan Green was laid to rest Monday.

Funeral services for the 24-year-old from The Woodlands began at 11 a.m.

Sergeant Green died March 18 from injuries he suffered after a bomb exploded near his unit while on combat patrol in Baghdad, Iraq.

Sgt. Ryan Patrick Green was described as a patriot who enlisted in the military the day after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Last week Sgt. Green’s mother, Linda Kagan, issued a written statement about her son:

“My son, Sgt. Ryan Patrick Green, was an incredible gift, and he impacted many lives in his short time with us. He was the light of my life, but such an incredible joy. His greatest gift was his ability to touch those people who came in contact with him—somehow, being wiser than his years could’ve attested to. One Sept. 12, 2001, the day after 9/11, he showed up at my door and expressed his desire to immediately join the armed forces. But he needed my permission to do so … Not because he was too young to join, but because he wanted to make sure that I was OK with that. What he didn’t know was that when I heard about 9/11 (the day of), I knew that was exactly what he was going to do. I was blessed with the insight on that day, that all the guys in service are someone’s son, and that I didn’t have the right to hold him back if this was what he desired. Not once have I ever regretted his decision. My family was brought up believe that it was God, country and family – in that order. The Army made my already terrific son a better son … And over the years I have been proud to be able to step back and look at him with a pride that surpasses anything that I could have ever imagined. God Bless America and our fine people who volunteer so proudly to serve her.”

Sgt. Green was the 70th serviceperson from the area to give his life fighting the War on Terror.

Read the rest at KHOU

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Greg Riewer remembered

Greg Riewer and his brother, Andy, joined the Minnesota National Guard within months of each other in 1997, the year Greg graduated from Frazee-Vergas High School.

When their unit – the Bemidji-based Company A, 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry – was deployed to Bosnia in 2004, the brothers went together, serving in the same platoon.

Greg Riewer didn’t plan to volunteer for a tour of duty in Iraq.

But he did just that after his brother told him he had signed up.

“Since I was going, he didn’t want to miss out.” Andy Riewer said Monday, talking about his brother, who died Friday when the vehicle he was driving was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

“People say I was Greg’s rock. I say we were kind of each other’s rock,” Andy Riewer said, speaking from his parents’ home in Frazee.

Riewer, who returned from Iraq on Sunday night, said his brother had a reputation for being the kind of soldier who did the right thing, even when no one was watching.

Ask anyone in Frazee about the Dick and Jan Riewer family, and you’re apt to hear words like hard-working, dependable and selfless.

In the case of Greg Riewer – the middle child among 12 siblings – you can add humble, unassuming and patriotic, according to those who knew the 28-year-old.

“Greg was a very quiet young man,” said Jay Estenson, the owner of a local hair salon who is helping organize memorial efforts.

She recalled a Memorial Day service several years ago when Greg and Andy Riewer came home for a visit and ended up taking part in the day’s ceremonies.

“Greg was at the front of the formation. To see the tears well up in his eyes … he was so patriotic,” Estenson said.

“We’ve watched them all grow up,” said Shirley Fett, referring to the Riewer children who often visited the Frazee Care Center, where Fett works with Jan Riewer.

Fett said all of the Riewer children inherited their parents’ sense of duty and responsibility, including Greg, who worked at the care center while in high school.

“He would do anything in the world for anybody,” Fett said.

Darlene Kimball agrees.

“Greg worked for me until the day he left for Iraq. He always did the very best job he could,” said Kimball, who was Riewer’s boss at Yards and More, a landscaping business in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

“He was in Bosnia prior to going to Iraq, so he really didn’t have to go,” Kimball said of Riewer.

“I talked to him when he was trying to make that decision. He was worrying a little bit,” she recalled.

There will be a memorial service at the high school in Frazee, with visitation at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Both are tentatively set for the middle of next week, said Preston Eidenschink, director of Furey Funeral Home.

Three other Guard soldiers were injured in Friday’s attack, but information about them is not being released, said Maj. Patricia Baker, a Guard spokeswoman.

From WDAZ 8

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Nick Lightner remembered

U.S. Army Sergeant Nicholas J. Lightner, 29, of Newport was wounded March 15 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on combat patrol in Baghdad, Iraq.

Of the members in his unit, Lightner and one other soldier survived the attack; the other soldier, however, died shortly after at a hospital in Germany. Lightner was transported stateside to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he died on Wednesday, March 21.

Lightner, a field medic, was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, to Rustamiyah, Iraq.

He joined the Army nearly four years ago and had been stationed in Iraq for the past four to five months.

Lightner was born Feb. 17, 1978 in Portland to Cynthia May and William “Bill” Lightner. He was a 1996 graduate of Toledo High School.

He worked for Marcia and Pat Seibel, proprietors of PMK Distributing in Toledo, for many years.

“He was one of the best human beings I've ever known,” Marcia told the News-Times. “Our whole family loved him and we're so proud to have known him. He would do anything for anyone.”

She commented on Lightner's strong work ethic and initiative. “When we first met him, he was in his early teens, and here this boy came riding up to our plant one day and wanted to know if we had a job for him. We found out he lived a couple of miles away - at least - and had gotten on his bike and ridden over to try and get a job. Of course we wanted to help any kid who wants to work, and we said sure - and he turned out to be the finest employee anyone could ever ask for, and more.”

Lightner later resided in Newport, where he served as a member of the volunteer fire department. He was an outdoorsman and enjoyed hiking, mountain biking, and fishing as well as sports, especially wrestling.

He was known for his community-minded spirit.

He and longtime girlfriend Ginger Warfield, 24, were engaged to be married.

“He was a caring, loving person all the time,” Marcia said. “He put himself behind and others ahead, always.”

Marcia and Pat's son, Kris Seibel, was among those who kept in fairly close contact with Lightner during his tour in Iraq. Kris works at a television station in Eugene “and all the people who work there got together and started sending things to Nick and the guys in his company, because they found out there were so many things they couldn't get there - simple things like a book to read,” Marcia said. “They ended up shipping, I believe it was 20 big boxes of stuff for Nick and his company. Simple things like enough soap, everyday ordinary things we take for granted.

“But Nick never complained at all,” she said. “He just went without. That's just the way he was.”

Lightner's father Bill recalled his son “was always helping people, that was his calling. He wanted to be a medic and he didn't want to do much of anything else,” he told the News-Times. “It was really important to him. Right after 9/11 he decided he had to do something and make a difference some way - so that's what he did.”

Lightner's military decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Parachutists Badge and Weapons Qualifications Badge. He also received his Expert rifle weapons bar.

Posthumous decorations include the Bronze Star Medal and the Combat Medical Badge.

Lightner's family flew to Washington, D.C., last week and accompanied his casket home to Oregon.

From the Newport News

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