Saturday, June 30, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- June 30th edition

June 30, 2006: A soldier with 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team searches for enemy weapons in a mechanic's garage in Mosul.

June 30, 2002:

US deploys soldiers in northern Iraq: report

Dozens of US troops and intelligence services have been sent into northern Iraq from Jordan under a plan to overthrow President Saddam Hussein, the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported today.

In a front-page story datelined London, the daily quoted " well informed diplomatic sources"as saying Washington "has launched a security and military operation in Iraq".

Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet had "personally visited northern Iraq during his last tour of the region and had given orders to start the security plan after US President George W Bush (recently) approved a decision to ask the CIA to overthrow ... Saddam,"the source said.

The Lebanese daily, which maintains close relations with the Syrian leadership, said forward bases for US troops had been set up in Jordan.

"Jordanian King Abdullah has given orders to clear two military airports in Jordan for the US forces. About 2,000 US troops have been deployed in Jordan so far," it said.

"Dozens of those US soldiers, along with CIA agents, have been sent into Iraqi territory," it said.

The sources said the US had started a "flurry of contacts with various forces among the Iraqi opposition, and there are great difficulties in forming a coalition similar to the 'Northern Alliance' in Afghanistan".

"Intensive contacts are being held with both the Kurdish and Shi'ite opposition in order to establish springboards for potential operations," they said.

The sources added that Washington had first approached Saudi Arabia, which "refused to let its territory be used for any military attack against Iraq".

"It seems that discussions moved to other countries in order to reach an agreement on the possibility of using their territory in case it is needed," they said.

"The United States has drawn a plan for an emergency economic assistance to Jordan in case its economic and trade relations with Iraq suffer a crisis," they added.

Read the rest at the Age

June 30, 2003:

Rumsfeld dismisses talk of Iraq operation turning into a quagmire

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Monday dismissed suggestions that U.S. forces in Iraq are in a quagmire, likening the situation to the United States' own lengthy and bloody transition from British rule to constitutional democracy.

Fighting in Iraq will "go on for some time" with remnants of the former Baath Party that ruled Iraq for decades under Saddam Hussein, as well as Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary "death squads," he said.

"We are dealing with those remnants in a forceful fashion, just as we have had to deal with the remnants of al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and tribal areas near Pakistan," he added.

In his opening statement at a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld drew parallels between the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the years immediately following the American Revolution.

"Our first attempt at a governing charter, the Articles of Confederation, failed in a sense," he said. "It took eight years before the founders finally adopted our Constitution and inaugurated our first president.

"Were we in a quagmire for eight years? I would think not. We were in a process, we were evolving from a monarchy into a democracy." He added, "That history is worth remembering as we consider the difficulties that the Afghans and the Iraqis face today. The transition to democracy is never easy."

The Bush administration's approach to stabilizing Iraq is coming under increasing scrutiny as the American death toll mounts. On Monday the Pentagon said the number of U.S. forces who have died in Iraq since the war began in March stood at 203, of which 139 are classified as hostile deaths.

Since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat operations over, 65 Americans have died, including 25 in hostile action.

Rumsfeld became irritated when a reporter mentioned Vietnam as an example of a quagmire.

"There are so many cartoons where people, press people are saying, 'Is it Vietnam yet,' hoping it is and wondering if it is," he said. "And it isn't. It's a different time, it's a different era, it's a different place."

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

June 30, 2004:

Freedom’s Reign?

At least now Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III can go home and buy a decent pair of shoes. He had on a blue suit over the usual incongruous hiking boots when he attended the furtive handover ceremony at which he formally ended the American occupation of Iraq and granted sovereignty to Iraq’s interim government. For his 13 months as the American administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), he wore those boots. Was there mud in his armored car, or on the floorplates of his Blackhawk? Was he making that many tours of the farmlands of the Two Rivers? Even Iraqi officials who were disposed to like him, marveled at those boots. They were, at least, a constant reminder that this was a war zone, as if anyone here needed to be reminded.

The ceremony itself was a fitting expression of the spin with which American officials have at least managed to persuade some of their friends, and perhaps even themselves, that all is well in Iraq. Officials at the CPA’s Office of Strategic Communications relentlessly depicted the event as proof that the new Iraqi government was doing so well that it was ready for sovereignty two days ahead of schedule. Nonsense: things are going so badly that the American administration felt compelled to mark the historic event with a ceremony that was brief, held in secret, and timed to trick the insurgents into not attacking and marring the television imagery.

Nearly 1,000 coalition lives and tens of billions of dollars later, American authorities had to sneak out of the country. They had governed it neither long nor well, so it was especially appropriate that they muddled up the ceremony as well. Pool reporters covering the event were given contradictory instructions by CPA handlers, and at first didn’t even file to their hundreds of colleagues kept from the small-scale event. At an undisclosed location inside the Green Zone, Bremer, his British counterpart David Richmond, the Iraqi Prime minister, Ayad Allawi, and the president, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, plus a couple other Iraqi officials, drank tea and coffee and then Bremer read a statement: “We welcome Iraq’s steps to take its rightful place with sovereignty and honor among the free nations of the world. Sincerely, L. Paul Bremer, ex-administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority.” The “ex-administrator” bit was delivered as a laugh line, with the desired if somewhat strained result.

Just how bad things are was underscored by a decision to immediately close most Iraqi goverment and official offices until the end of the week. Workers at Baghdad International Airport were told to stay home until July 6th, presumably to make it harder for insurgents to infiltrate the airport, which they've done repeatedly. Last weekend a C-130 transport was holed by ground fire as it took off, killing one of the passengers, so it wasn’t an unreasonable precaution. But it’s a telling sign that after a year of military occupation, Iraqis can celebrate their at least nominal independence with no safe connection to the outside world. Despite repeated attempts to pacify the two-mile-long airport highway, including defoliating the verges, it remains the most dangerous stretch of road in Iraq—with daily attacks on travelers along it. What’s more, that highway is also the main road leading to Camp Victory, the American military headquarters in Iraq.

And what kind of country are we handing back to the Iraqis? Oil exports are still moribund, thanks to repeated, successful attacks on pipelines, which 138,000 coalition troops and 14,000 private oil-industry security guards and squadrons of helicopters and jet fighters can’t seem to protect. A country with the world’s second largest reserves is forced to import gasoline from neighboring Jordan, which has no oil reserves, and sell it to its citizens at a fraction of the cost, due to the huge expense of trucking it in safely—and fear of riots at the pumps if the costs are passed on. Reconstruction in general is stalled in large part, as the many foreign companies that flocked to Iraq to do the job are spending ever-growing proportions of their budgets on protecting their own staffs. Kellogg Brown and Root, one of the largest contractors, is retracting into the Green Zone next month, as many other major contractors already have done.

Despite all the money being pumped in, unemployment among Iraqis remains in the high double digits. The safe and secure environment the United States promised is yet to materialize; no foreigner is safe anywhere except under very heavy guard. And Iraqis are bedeviled by unchecked street crime, random bombings and widespread kidnappings for profit—even when they’re not being targeted as collaborators. The electric grid is still unable to supply the country for more than a few hours a day, and generation of power hasn’t yet reached goals promised for last summer—just as the really severe hot weather begins this summer.

Read the rest at Newsweek

June 30, 2005:

Baghdad's mayor complains about crumbling capital

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Baghdad's mayor decried the capital's crumbling infrastructure and its inability to supply enough clean water to residents, threatening Thursday to resign if the government won't provide more money.

The statement from Mayor Alaa Mahmoud al-Timimi was an indication of the daily misery that Baghdad's 6.45 million people still endure more than two years after the U.S.-led invasion. They are wracked not only by unrelenting bombings and kidnappings, but by serious shortages in water, electricity and fuel.

"It's useless for any official to stay in office without the means to accomplish his job," al-Timimi told reporters.

Al-Timimi is seeking $1.5 billion for Baghdad in 2005 but so far has received only $85 million, said his spokesman, Ameer Ali Hasson.

Efforts to expand Baghdad's water projects were set back earlier this month when insurgents sabotaged a pipeline near Baghdad. Now, some complain the water they do get smells bad, and Hasson acknowledged in some areas, the water gets mixed with sewage.

"The problem is escalating," said al-Timimi, a Shiite who took office in May 2004.
The pipeline has been repaired and water levels are expected to return to normal in the coming days, the mayor told reporters. But that won't help with shortages that existed before the sabotage, he said.

"I am part of the government and aware of the problems the country is facing," al-Timimi said. "But I need to have technical support from the concerned parties at the government. The people are blaming me and the Baghdad municipality."

According to City Hall, Baghdad produces about 544 million gallons of water per day, some 370 million gallons short of its required amount. Some 55 percent of the water is lost through leakage in the pipes.

Iraqis also complain of shortages of power and fuel.

Electrical shortfalls were common during the Saddam Hussein era and attributed to a poor distribution network, but the situation has worsened due to sabotage and lack of maintenance.

Before the U.S.-led invasion, Baghdad residents had about 20 hours of electricity a day. Today, they get about 10, usually broken into two-hour chunks.

In addition, Iraq is not able to refine enough oil, so must import gasoline. Convoys carrying fuel are often attacked by insurgents and the ensuing shortage has led to a black market in Baghdad.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

June 30, 2006:

History fuels Tehran's vision for Iraq

Vast war cemeteries on the outskirts of Tehran bear silent witness to Iran's complex relationship with neighbouring Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians died in the 1980-88 war with Saddam Hussein's regime. Now their well-ordered graves are adorned with plastic flowers, flags and personal mementoes. Each has a glass display case containing a photograph of the "martyr" beneath. They all look so terribly young.
The Iran-Iraq war, in which the US, Britain and others quietly sided with Saddam against the Islamic revolution, is mostly forgotten in the west. Not so in Tehran, where, for example, the UN security council's failure to condemn Iraq's initial aggression or use of chemical weapons has fed an abiding distrust of a body that now lectures Iran on the perils of weapons of mass destruction.

The survivors of the war generation, including president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was a revolutionary guard, are now in power. And it is memories of this conflict that help drive Iran's bid for influence and control in post-Saddam Iraq. Officials argue that more than any other country Iran has a legitimate interest in ensuring that those who rule in Baghdad do not threaten their neighbours again.
"Iran wants stability and security in Iraq, there's a consensus on that," said Nasser Hadian-Jazy, a politics professor at Tehran university. "It wants to protect the Shia shrines, maintain the borders. It wants to ensure that Iraqi territory is not used to make attacks on Iran." To maintain its advantage, Tehran also wanted a government in Baghdad that was neither too weak nor too strong, he said, an assessment echoed by western diplomats.

Iran's leaders paraded their influence with Iraq's dominant Shia community during a high-profile visit to Tehran last week by Abdul-Aziz Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an organisation with roots in Iran that runs the powerful Badr brigades militia. Mr Ahmadinejad urged deeper political, economic and cultural collaboration. That may only underscore the concerns of Iraq's Sunni minority about Iran's cloying embrace.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, used Mr Hakim's visit to reiterate Iran's call for "foreign occupation forces" to leave Iraq. Withdrawal was a "prerequisite" for Iraq's national security and Iran's, too, he implied. As part of its bid for regional leadership, Iran will host a ministerial summit of all Iraq's neighbours plus Egypt on July 8.

Officials flatly reject British assertions that Iran has assisted Iraqi insurgent attacks, saying violence does not serve Iran's interest. But it has withheld border security cooperation with British forces in Basra, a western diplomat confirmed. Hamid Reza Asefi, the foreign ministry spokesman, claimed in turn that the US was continuing to assist the Iraq-based Mojahedin-e Khalq and its political wing, a terrorist grouping formerly backed by Saddam and linked to numerous outrages inside Iran.

"The Americans are shouting about terrorism. But on the other hand they have close links with a terrorist group," Mr Asefi said. "This is the most hated group in Iran. They are definitely trying to destabilise our security, directly and indirectly."

The US was also stirring up trouble among Iran's Kurdish, Azeri and other minorities with "British guidance", he claimed. "Our intelligence say this foreign intervention is quite clear. US interference and meddling is quite obvious."

All the same, Iran's leaders were grateful to the Bush administration for ridding them of Saddam, said Aliakbar Rezaei, a senior diplomat, with an ironic smile. "We're very thankful to the Americans. They paved the way for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Lebanon, too - our influence has increased due to the Syrians leaving. They've pushed up the oil price. Thank you!

"The Americans are also helping us establish a common identity in the region. Iran is closer to Egypt and other Arab countries because of the common enemy we share. The Arabs and Muslims were not unified. But the US has achieved this. They've done a lot for us."

Read the rest at the Guardian

Security Summary: June 30, 2007

Above: 'Detainees' are led away by Iraqi security forces today in Baqubah. Under emergency powers, arrest may be made upon suspicion, and no trial need ever be held, nor the detainees ever released.

BAGHDAD - U.S. forces killed an estimated 26 suspected militants and detained 17 others during overnight raids in the Shi'ite stronghold of Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

MUQDADIYA - A suicide bomber dressed as a policeman killed at least six people when he blew himself up outside a police recruitment centre in Muqdadiya, 90 km (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad, an Iraqi army source said.

FALLUJA - The U.S. military said it had uncovered 35 to 40 bodies in a mass grave south of Falluja, in Iraq's Sunni dominated Anbar province.

BAGHDAD - One U.S. soldier was killed and three wounded in southern Baghdad on Friday by a roadside bomb, the U.S. military said. The bomb was believed to have been an explosively formed penetrator, or EFP, which the U.S. military says is made from components that come from Iran.

MOSUL - Gunmen killed three women, including two sisters, on Friday in the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Authorities found the bodies of seven people across Baghdad throughout Friday, police said.

LATIFIYA - Iraqi and U.S. forces detained 59 suspected militants near Latifiya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

ANBAR PROVINCE - U.S.-led forces detained 16 suspected insurgents during raids targeting al Qaeda in Iraq in Nineveh and Anbar provinces, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - Four people were wounded when a mortar round landed in the Shi'ite neighbourhood of Abu Dshir in southern Baghdad, police said.

DAQUQ - Gunmen assassinated a local municipality official when they threw a hand grenade at his vehicle in the town of Daquq, 45 km (28 miles) south of Kirkuk, police said.

DIYALA PROVINCE - Iraqi soldiers killed one gunman and detained 25 other suspects during raids in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

KIRKUK - Gunmen killed a civilian in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

From Reuters/Alternet

Reports: U.S. raids on Sadr City kill 26; Iraqis say U.S. bombed without warning, many civilians killed, wounded; Maliki condemns

Above and Left: Homes in Baghdad's Sadr City bear the after-effects of today's raid

U.S. kills 26 militants in Baghdad

U.S. troops killed about 26 suspected militants in Baghdad's Sadr City on Saturday in one of the fiercest clashes in the Shi'ite stronghold since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Residents of the east Baghdad slum district, a bastion of fiery Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia, said the fighting lasted six hours and involved helicopter-fired missile strikes.

The U.S. military said American forces staged two separate raids into Sadr City targeting militants suspected of close ties to "Iranian terror networks" and who were responsible for bringing Iranian weapons into Iraq.

"Coalition Forces killed an estimated 26 terrorists and detained 17 suspected secret cell terrorists during the two operations," a U.S. military statement said. There were no civilian casualties, the U.S. military said separately.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

U.S. Raids Baghdad Slum; 26 Iraqis Die

The U.S. military said it conducted two pre-dawn raids in Sadr City...

Witnesses said U.S. forces rolled into their neighborhood before dawn and opened fire without warning.

"At about 4 a.m., a big American convoy with tanks came and began to open fire on houses -- bombing them," said Basheer Ahmed, who lives in Sadr City's Habibiya district. "What did we do? We didn't even retaliate -- there was no resistance."

According to Iraqi officials, the dead included three members of one family -- a father, mother and son. Several women and children, along with two policemen, were among the wounded, they said...

Houses, a bakery and some other shops were damaged by U.S. tank fire during the assault, Iraqi officials said. In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, Sheik Salah al-Obaidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr condemned Saturday's raids: "The bombing hurt only innocent civilians."

A policeman wounded in the raid, Montadhar Kareem, said he was on night duty when U.S. troops moved in and "began bombing houses in the area."

"The bombing became more intense, and I was injured by shrapnel in both my legs and in my left shoulder," Kareem said from a gurney at Al Sadr General Hospital.

Read the rest at the LA Times

Iraq condemns U.S. raid; 26 Iraqis killed

BAGHDAD — American soldiers rolled into Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City slum today in search of Iranian-linked militants and as many as 26 Iraqis were killed in what a U.S. officer described as "an intense firefight"...

The assault brought quick criticism from al-Maliki. "The Iraqi government totally rejects U.S. military operations ... conducted without a pre-approval from the Iraqi military command," al-Maliki said in a statement released by his office. "Anyone who breaches the military command orders will face investigation."

Read the rest at the Houston Chronicle

Related Link:
Military insists slain Khalis villagers were the 'enemy' due to suspicious actions

Related Link:
Report: Khalis villagers dispute account of deadly U.S. airstrike

Related Link:
17 killed in Khalis airstrike for being suspicious

General Fil: U.S. enlisting tribal and 'former' insurgent fighters by the hundreds daily

Above: A scout with the 1st Cavalry Division searches for signs of insurgent activity outside of Joint Security Station Luzon in the Abu Ghraib District of Baghdad on May 26. Said one company commander involved in the recruiting of 'former' insurgents: "The bulk of them have actively or passively supported al-Qaeda in the past. As they realized what al-Qaeda meant to do in Iraq, how they planned to rule, the fact they set up their own shadow government. A lot of these guys didn’t know what they were getting into when they started dealing with al-Qaida... They were promised numerous things by al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda never came through, so they want to fight back and make the area safe for their families... We don’t ever ask them if they were insurgents. We stay away from that question. That way we can develop a friendship with them and show them that we are actually going to work with them and can trust them."

The U.S. military is enlisting hundreds of fighters each day from tribal and insurgent groups in alliances aimed at countering al-Qaeda in Iraq, the top U.S. general in Baghdad said yesterday, calling it a "very positive development" but one that requires caution to ensure it works to promote security.

Maj Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of Multinational Division Baghdad, said U.S. and Iraqi troops control nearly half of the capital's neighborhoods, but that hard fighting remains as operations continue to clear out insurgents from the rest of the city. Overall attack levels in Baghdad remain constant, he said, but casualties have fallen among Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces and risen for U.S. troops as their operations and numbers intensify.

In the Abu Ghraib region outside Baghdad, about 1,500 fighters have agreed to renounce violence against U.S. and Iraqi government forces, and join the Iraqi police. About 300 are signing up each day, said Fil, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division. A similar program is underway in the western Baghdad district of Ghazaliyah, he said.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Related Link:
Diyala offensive nearly over; 'Former' insurgents act as scouts; Most fled before offensive; Generals doubt Iraqis can hold gains

Related Link:
Reports: Fierce fighting in Iraq; Baqubah residents can't flee; 'Former' insurgents clearing neighborhoods of opponents; Civilian casualties unknown

Related Link:
Report: U.S. begins 'major offensive' in Iraq; 'Former' insurgents part of push

Related Link:
Maliki: U.S. arming of Sunni tribes 'is dangerous because this will create new militias'

Related Link:
Perspective: Arms deal with Iraqi tribes could spell success... or disaster

Related Link:
Opinion (Robert Fox): Putting out a fire with gasoline

Related Link:
Lynch: US will continue to back Sunni tribal police even as Anbar force splinters

Related Link:
Report: U.S. providing 'former' insurgent Sunni groups with arms, ammunition, cash, fuel and supplies; Same groups may have killed American troops

Related Link:
Report: Pro-U.S. Tribal Coalition in Anbar Said to Be Crumbling

Related Link:
Insurgent group announces cease-fire with al-Qaeda

Related Link:
Odierno: Commanders at all levels told to 'reach out' to insurgents 'because there are insurgents reaching out to us'

Related Link:
'Sources': Britain holding secret talks with "all the main insurgent groups" except al-Qaeda

Related Link:
Mailiki: Iraq in talks with insurgents as 'part of the national reconciliation'

Related Link:
Report: Tension rises between Sunni al-Qaeda jihadists and Sunni nationalist insurgents in Iraq

Related Link:
U.S. Envoy Khalilzad admits talks were held with insurgents

Related Link:
Senior Minister: Iraq government, insurgent groups in talks for past 3 months

Related Link:
Hashemi calls for talks with insurgents

Related Link:
Marine Commandant Conway: Disbanding Iraqi Army Was Big Mistake

Related Link:
Iraq Government holds talks with former army officers

Related Link:
Secret American talks with insurgents break down

Related Link:
U.S. Considers Ending Outreach to Insurgents

Related Link:
Maliki, U.S., Britain to meet with Sunni insurgent representatives next week

Related Link:
Spokesman: Iraq insurgents rejected U.S. approaches

Related Link:
Iraqi opposition group agrees to join national reconciliation conference

Related Link:
Report: US offers insurgents amnesty in secret talks

Related Link:
Report: US in secret truce talks with insurgency chiefs

Related Link:
State Department: Expanded amnesty should include insurgents who kill soldiers

Related Link:
US presses Iraq for broad amnesty for insurgents

Related Link:
Sunni insurgent group offers talks with U.S.

Two soldiers charged with murder of three Iraqis, coverup

Above: Paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 501 Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division -- the same unit as the soldiers charged with murder -- move into a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter at the start of night-time air assault raids on 'enemy sanctuaries' from Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah on June 4. On May 12th an attack in the area of the alleged murders left 5 soldiers dead and 3 soldiers captured, resulting in a weeks-long massive search involving over 10,000 soldiers.

Two U.S. soldiers were charged with the premeditated murder of three Iraqis... the U.S. military said Saturday.

The soldiers are accused of killing three Iraqis in separate incidents, then planting weapons on the victims’ remains, the military said in a statement. Fellow soldiers reported the alleged crimes, which took place between April and this month in the vicinity of Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, it said.

The U.S. military on Saturday identified the soldiers as Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley from Candler, N.C., and Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval from Laredo, Texas.

Hensley is charged with three counts each of premeditated murder, obstructing justice and “wrongfully placing weapons with the remains of deceased Iraqis,” the military said. He was placed in military confinement in Kuwait on Thursday.

Sandoval faces one count each of premeditated murder and placing a weapon with the remains of a dead Iraqi, a statement said. He was taken into custody Tuesday while at home in Texas, and was transferred to military confinement in Kuwait three days later, it said.

Read the rest at Army Times

Official: Afghanistan airstrikes kills, wounds civilians including children; Villagers say toll far exceeds U.S. estimates

Above: Soldiers from the 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division question a local Afghan in the Sagin Valley near where the airstrike took place.

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in southern Afghanistan left at least 30 people, including women and children, killed or wounded, a local official said Saturday.

Taliban fighters tried to ambush a joint U.S.-Afghan military convoy in Helmand province’s Gereshk district late Friday before fleeing into a nearby village for cover, said Mohammad Hussein, the provincial police chief.

Airstrikes targeted the militants in the village of Hyderabad, said Dur Ali Shah, the mayor of Gereshk.

Shah said 30 to 35 people were killed or wounded but he could not provide an exact breakdown. Villagers reported far more than 30 casualties but those figures were not immediately corroborated by officials. Six houses were also destroyed during the clash, Shah said.

“Right now we do not know the number of Taliban casualties,” Shah said.

Mohammad Khan, a resident of Hyderabad, said seven members of his family, including his brother and five of his brother’s children, were killed by airstrikes.

“I brought three of my wounded relatives to Gereshk hospital for treatment,” he said by phone.

The villagers on Saturday were burying a “lot of dead bodies,” Khan said.

Read the rest at Army Times

Related Link:
Report: More Afghanis killed by coalition than by militants; Karzai says 90 dead in 10 days, Afghan lives 'not cheap'; U.S. says no changes needed

Missing soldiers' duty status changed to 'Missing/Captured'

Above: Alex Jimenez, left, and Byron Fouty, front center. Both were listed as 'Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown' following a May 12th attack which left 5 dead and 3 missing. Joseph Anzack, one of the missing, was later found dead. On June 4th, a video showing the ID cards and claiming that Fouty and Jimenez had been executed and buried was posted on the internet. Two weeks ago their IDs were found in a raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Samarra.

Two soldiers who disappeared May 12 in an ambush south of Baghdad are still missing and the Defense Department has changed their status to “missing/captured.”

Until June 29, the infantrymen had been listed as “duty status whereabouts unknown,” a temporary designation used while more information about the circumstances surrounding a soldier’s disappearance can be gathered.

The ambush in which Spc. Alex Jimenez, 25, and Pvt. Byron Fouty, 19, went missing also claimed the lives of seven of their fellow soldiers and one Iraqi interpreter...

Six of the soldiers were killed at the scene and the body of a seventh soldier who had been missing since the attack was found May 23 in the Euphrates River.

Read the rest at Army Times

Related Link:
Missing soldiers' IDs along with video equipment and computers found in al-Qaeda safe house near Samarra

Related Link:
Video posted of May 12th attack, missing soldiers' IDs; Pentagon had warned just one of two families of posting

Related Link:
Odierno: 'Of course I have hope' on finding 2 missing soldiers, but 'As time goes on, it gets tougher. And that’s the bottom line...'

Related Link:
16 'directly related to attack' captured as search for missing soldiers continues

Related Link:
Alex Jimenez's mom: 'A lot of things pass through my mind'

Related Link:
Byron Fouty's dad: 'He's my hero'

Related Link:
The search continues for missing two

Related Link:
Report: Body identified as Joseph Anzack

Related Link:
Report: Body of one of the missing found in river

Related Link:
Fort Drum: Soldiers not giving up hope in search for missing comrades

Related Link:
Report: Alex Jimenez's father 'expecting good news'

Related Link:
U.S. raids suspected safe houses in search for missing; Search may move into Anbar; 8 replacements for killed-missing arrive at platoon

Related Link:
Report: New information on missing soldiers leads to five search operations

Related Link:
Spokesman: 'With each passing day... the likelihood of soldiers being found alive is less'

Related Link:
Report: Two Iraqis confess, give details of Saturday attack

Related Link:
At least two troops die as soldiers searching for 3 missing face bombs, snipers

Related Link:
Senior Military Official: 1 of 3 missing soldiers may have been killed after capture

Related Link:
MNF: 9 suspected of involvement in Saturday's attack detained, 'We will not stop searching until we find our Soldiers'

Related Link:
Petraeus: 'Somebody’s given us the names... that participated in it and told us how they did it' --- 'At least two... probably alive'

Related Link:
Perspective: 'It's about never leaving a fallen comrade'

Related Link:
Kershaw sends letter to Fort Drum families about search for search for missing soldiers

Related Link:
Remains of fourth soldier from Saturday's ambush identified as Anthony Schober

Related Link:
Perspective: Journey to find the missing slowed by false trails

Related Link:
Frustration reigns in search for 3 missing soldiers

Related Link:
Dad tells of plans for father-son trip with Joseph Anzack

Related Link:
Alex Jimenez' fate brings war home to town

Related Link:
School rallies around Byron Fouty

Related Link:
Anthony Schober's grandparents speak out

Related Link:
Best friend of Anthony Schober speaks out

Related Link:
U.S.: Some participants in ambush confess; Equipment of missing possibly found; 330 square miles being scoured as more Strykers, troops join search

Related Link:
Military offers up to $200,000 reward for information leading to return of missing soldiers

Related Link:
After false report of death three weeks ago, Joseph Anzack's family again praying for safe return

Related Link:
Friends, family urge Byron Fouty to stay strong

Related Link:
Friend: Hero's welcome waiting for Alex Jimenez

Related Link:
Family requests privacy as it awaits word on Anthony Schober

Related Link:
Pentagon Identifies Ambushed GIs

Related Link:
Military uses leaflets, loudspeakers in search for missing soldiers

Related Link:
Soldier slain in ambush told family he wasn't coming back

Related Link:
Military: 'High-value targets' among 11 arrested, 460 questioned as 4,000 troops search for missing soldiers

Related Link:
Military: 7 soldiers in Saturday ambush from Fort Drum

Related Link:
Former Iraq Commander/Chief of Staff of the Army Casey: Likely more U.S. soldiers will be captured

Related Link:
Transcript of General Caldwell's statement today regarding events and efforts to find missing soldiers

Related Link:
Military: 'Highly credible information' missing soldiers in hands of al-Qaeda group; Group says stop search 'if you want the safety of your soldiers'

Related Link:
Al-Qaeda group claims it holds 3 missing soldiers as thousands continue search

Related Link:
Search for 3 missing in attack that killed 5 continues into the night

Related Link:
5 dead, 3 missing as 7 soldiers and Iraqi interpreter come under attack in Mahmudiyah

Related Link:
Perspective: Life in the 'Triangle of Death'

Pentagon: 2nd BCT unit will return to Iraq short of 'dwell time' pending final approval

Above: Soldiers of the 6th Infrantry provide security from a street corner during a foot patrol in Ramadi in August

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — After several weeks of review, U.S. Army Europe said Friday that a company of 1st Armored Division, 2nd Brigade soldiers would deploy as scheduled in November, just nine months after returning from their last Iraq deployment.

However, Pentagon officials said the decision had not been given final approval.

If it deploys, Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment will do so without the full 12-month dwell time called for under Army policy. The policy, adjusted in April by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, requires soldiers to deploy for 15 months instead of 12. That three-month extension is to be offset by a so-called dwell time of no less than a year.

Read the rest at Stars and Stripes

Related Link:
Army considers full ‘dwell time’ for unit

Related Link:
150 from 1st Armored Division ordered back to Iraq after 9 months despite Gates' pledge

Related Link:
Pentagon extends tours to 15 months for all active-duty army troops in Iraq, Afghanistan; Guard, Reserve, Marines excepted

CBO: Pay gap in military no longer exists

Above: A soldier from Alpha Company, 4th Brigade, Special Troops Battalion, probes for a mine at a suspected site near the village of Tangay, Afghanistan on June 7.

A new congressional report appears to undercut efforts in Congress to approve bigger military pay raises by concluding that the “gap” between military and civilian pay, which lawmakers are trying to close, no longer exists.

The report, released Friday by the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan analytical arm of Congress, is not really a surprise. Budget analysts for Congress, the White House and the Pentagon have claimed for years that the pay gap — measured by comparing military and private-sector wage growth over the past two decades — is a flawed and inadequate way to measure military compensation because it counts only basic pay, which is only a small part of the direct and indirect compensation received by service members.

Basic pay, food and housing allowances, and the monetary advantage that derives from the fact that both of those allowances are tax-free, resulted in a 21 percent boost in total compensation for the average enlisted member over the past six years, according to the CBO report. And that doesn’t include the value of deferred compensation, such as retired pay and health benefits for retirees and their families, or the value of noncash fringe benefits, such as subsidized on-base shopping, child care and other community services, the report says.

REad the rest at Army Times

Related Link:
Marines overhaul enlistment bonuses, increase maximum to $80,000 in new flat-rate system

Related Link:
Navy offers reservists $15,000 re-enlistment bonus for switching rates

Related Link:
Marines changing bonus program in hopes of increasing re-enlistment

Related Link:
Marine Corps offers up to $6,000 bonus for deployed enlistment extensions

Related Link:
Report: Navy re-enlistment bonus list best in 17 years

Related Link:
Army increases first-time enlistment bonuses to high of $25,000

Related Link:
Navy offers up to $20,000 bonus to reservists signing up for deployment-intensive duty

Related Link:
Navy offers up to $150,000 retention bonus for some SEAL officers

Related Link:
Army offers $16,000 annual retention bonuses to some intelligence warrant officers

Related Link:
Navy offers up to $150,000 enlistment bonus for master Explosive Ordnance techs

Related Link:
Army to offer $20,000 retention bonus to some captains

Related Link:
Marine Corps expands $10,000 Reserve enlistment bonus eligibility

Related Link:
Report: $1 billion in enlistment bonuses paid last year

Related Link:
Navy offers $40,000 re-enlistment bonuses for intel officers to overcome shortage

Related Link:
Marines offer re-enlistment bonuses of $10,000-$70,000; DOD eyes similar for all troops

Friday, June 29, 2007

Daniel Agami laid to rest

United States Army Specialist Daniel J. Agami, 25, affectionately known as "G.I. Jew," was killed in Baghdad on June 21 when an improvised explosive device detonated near the humvee in which he and four other soldiers were riding. Over 1000 people attended his funeral this past Tuesday where he was buried with full military honors at Star of David Cemetery in North Lauderdale. Agami was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Army Commendation Medal.

Born in Ohio, Daniel moved with his family to South Florida at the age of four. He attended the Hebrew Academy Community School in Margate, and his Jewish education and experiences at the school left an indelible impression on him. He graduated from Coconut Creek High School and was attending college when he made the decision two years ago to enlist in the United States Army.

Rabbi Yossi Denburg, Dean of the Hebrew Academy Community School, and spiritual leader of Chabad of Coral Springs officiated at the funeral.

"Daniel did not consult with anyone when he enlisted. He simply felt a calling," Denburg said. "He always knew his life was meant for a greater significance and purpose and first and foremost, Daniel was a soldier in G-d’s Army."

Denburg went on to describe Daniel’s unique Jewish-American legacy.

"He kept kosher while in the Army, he slept with an American and Israeli flag over his bunk, his rifle had a sign titled "The Hebrew Hammer," and he named the U.S. Army issued yalmulke his "Combatika," Denberg said. "Daniel’s sense of humor and love of life was evident in all that he did."

According to Captain Jared Purcell, Public Affairs Officer in Baghdad, in addition to his role as a combat soldier, Daniel was a mentor to orphaned children in Iraq.

"Daniel did a lot of work with local schools," Purcell explained. "His ‘Charlie Company’ helped refurbish many schools in Adhamiyah and Daniel was always right in the middle of it with the children and you could see how much they loved him."

Chaplain Rabbi (Col.) Jacob Goldstein, Office of the Chief of Chaplains, US Army, told the crowd, "Today I had the honor of bringing home a true soldier," as he recounted tales of Daniel’s memorable take-charge initiative and Jewish pride.

Brigadier General Nolen V. Bivens, Chief of Staff, United States Southern Command, remarked that during Agami’s his short two-year tenure in the army he distinguished himself as a model soldier who was not only physically and morally strong but also devoted to his fellow soldiers.

"During his tour, Daniel was awarded the Bronze Star after chasing a sniper on foot to defend his convoy," Bivens said. "As a front-line soldier, he was interviewed for the TV show, "The O’Reilly Factor," as well as MSNBC, and articles for "Newsweek" and "Veterans for America." We mourn his loss, but take comfort that Daniel died proudly defending his belief that: America fights for the freedom and survival of the entire world."

In an interview with FJN this week, Emmy-Award winning television journalist Bill O’Reilly, of "The O’Reilly Factor," commented, "I interviewed this young man in December 2006. Here you have a situation of a young guy volunteering, who could have done a myriad of other things. But, he was convinced his presence was helping his country. His death and all the other deaths are a tragedy. Ninety percent of the forces feel the same as Daniel. You may differ or agree with the war, but you must agree they are patriots and I think of them as heroes, myself."

O’Reilly continued, "No soldier or Marine in the theater does what Daniel did without tremendous parent. He had a true moral compass that he received from them."

The evening of the funeral, "The O’Reilly Factor" led with the story of Daniel’s death, as did all the local news.

Following the service, the American flag draped casket was escorted by an Honor Guard, and rabbis from all over South Florida, including Rabbi Yosef Biston of Chabad of Parkland, where the Agami family resides. Once at the gravesite, the rifleman fired off eighteen volleys of shots, rather than the usual twenty-one, to signify "chai," the Jewish symbol for life.

Brigadier General Bivens kneeled upon presenting the folded flag to Daniel’s mother, Beth "Bluma" Agami, and father Yitzhak. At their side were newlywed brother Ilan, 22, and his wife Elisha, his seven-year-old sister Shaina, 7, and maternal grandmother Sandy Becker.

On behalf of President George W. Bush, Bivens presented the family with multiple medals of honor including The Purple Heart, The Bronze Star, The Good Conduct Medal, The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, The Iraqi Campaign Medal and The Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Agami was posthumously promoted from Private First Class to the rank of Specialist one day previous.

Other military officials in attendance included some fifty representatives from the Jewish War Veterans, Retired Army Chaplain Sandy Dresin, of The Aleph Institute, Major Mack Waters, Southern Command; and Casualty Assistance Officer, Lt. Col. Douglas Maddox, Jr., who later told FJN, "You should know that the Army had some phenomenal plans for Daniel. They were going to use his talents and center an advertising campaign around him as an ambassador for the United States Army. The campaign was slated to commence in three months when Daniel was to return stateside. He was an extraordinary young man with a tremendous love of country, love of family, and love of faith."

A little over two weeks ago, the Agami clan celebrated the marriage of Daniel’s younger brother, Ilan. Daniel could not attend, but they were able to arrange a phone hook-up to Daniel in Baghdad. He told his family, "I’ll be back in December."

From Florida Jewish News

Related Link:
Daniel J. Agami dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

David Wilkey laid to rest

Army Specialist David Wilkey, a former Wilson man who was killed while serving in Iraq, was laid to rest Tuesday. Family and friends poured into St. John Neumann Church in Spalding to say their final goodbyes.

"He was a friend to everybody," his widow, Melinda Wilkey, told those at the service. "He was a great father, a wonderful husband. He had a passion for his family. He wanted a big family."

Wilkey was 22 years old when he died.

He joined the Army last January and had been serving in Iraq for four months before a roadside bomb exploded underneath him.

Tuesday, he was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service and the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in action.

Earlier in the day, Delta and Menominee emergency personnel, along with the Freedom Riders, led the funeral procession through downtown Escanaba along US-2 to Powers.

"The family has been very grateful for all the support that has been shown through the public and the military," said Tom Zerbel, the funeral director. "It's a team that has come together to help this family. It's very important to them."

Specialist Wilkey is survived by his wife, his stepson, and his 18 month old son. His wife is expecting another child in October.

From WLUC 6

Related Link:
David A. Wilkey Jr. 'died June 18 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an IED detonated near his unit June 17 in Baghdad'

Larry Parks laid to rest

Pfc. Larry Parks Jr. decided to join the military for the same reason he was a firefighter.

“Larry Parks believed the choice that he made might make a difference,” the Rev. Clarence Brown told those who packed an overflowing Good Funeral Home Thursday morning to say goodbye to the 24-year-old Altoona serviceman killed last week in Iraq. To his family, friends, fellow firefighters and his community, there was little doubt.

“He did make a difference,” Brown said. Parks was described as a man “who got things done,” whether that be manning a hose as a volunteer fireman, helping a stranger who had run out of gas or joining the Army

to be a peacemaker overseas.

Bob Dennis, president of the Newburg Volunteer Fire Department, relayed how when the fireman gathered at the station on the news of Parks death, talk turned to how the young firefighter had a knack for lifting the spirits of those around him.

“Larry said or did something to get our hopes back up,” Dennis said.

He also was a good mechanic who was known not only for his tuneup skills, Dennis said. His well-known test drives around the neighborhood following such tuneups brought some laughter to the funeral home.

“Every time you see a cloud in the sky, that’s smoke coming off his tires,” he said, also likening the thunder to the roar of his tailpipe. The rain is Parks “doing what he did best,” working the hose of a fire truck, Dennis said.

Parks became a firefighter at 16, and would have been a captain with the Newburg Fire Department had he not joined the Army in January 2006. Parks was in Iraq only 38 days when his tank was struck June 18 by an improvised bomb, killing him.

For his service, Parks received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Army Good Conduct Medal.

Army Brigadier General Jesse Cross presented the medals to Parks parents, Larry Sr. and Cheryl, during Thursday’s service.

“You have shared with the entire nation a precious gift,” Cross told the Parks family, that includes two sisters and a brother. “We can never repay that debt.”

Parks was laid to rest with full military honors at Alto Reste Park, where the Patriot Guard Riders led the funeral procession through an arch of outstretched fire truck ladders. As the military honor guard finished by Parks’ family with the American Flag that draped his casket and marched away, bagpipe music gave way to bursts of white noise from firefighters’ radios and Pfc. Larry Parks’ last call.

“Larry will be sadly missed but never forgotten,” came the words over the county’s emergency frequencies at 12:22 p.m. “May his soul rest in peace and look over us as we carry on his legacy.”

From the Altoona Mirror

Related Link:
Larry Parks remembered

Related Link:
Larry Parks Jr. dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

Jacob Tracy laid to rest

PALESTINE, Ill. — Levi Estock couldn’t make it to Palestine, Ill., like he wanted to on Wednesday. Just two weeks ago, he and his cousin, whom Estock considered like a brother, were both on the front lines in Iraq.

Estock’s cousin made it back home to the United States — but for the reason that every parent of a soldier dreads.

More than 320 people attended Army Pfc. Jacob Tracy’s funeral Wednesday afternoon in the Palestine Grade School. Tracy, 20, died June 18 in Balad, Iraq, from injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle June 17 in Baghdad, a Department of Defense news release reported.

Although Estock, also in the Army, could not attend, his fiancee, Jessica Burggren, read his letter to the funeral crowd. Struggling to choke back tears at times, she read that Estock considered Tracy more like a brother than a cousin.

“He did not die because he did not want to live,” Burggren read to the crowd. “He died because he wanted you to live, free and safe.”

Tracy’s grandfather, Richard Houser, was the pastor that presided over the service. He led a prayer in which he asked for help for closure.

He told the crowd that his grandson was “full of energy, full of life” and that he “didn’t know a stranger.”

“He loved life,” Houser said, “and he was easy to call a friend to all of those who met him.”

Also during the service, Maj. Gen. Robert Williams, the commanding general at the Army Armor Center at Fort Knox in Kentucky, spoke to the crowd about how Tracy “unlike many people, was part of something much bigger than himself.”

“I, too, am proud of your son,” he said during the service, “and it is an honor for me to wear the same uniform that he wore.”

During the service, Tracy’s parents were posthumously awarded their son’s Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Garland Murphy, who identified himself as a fellow veteran, sang during the funeral service.

The quiet, small Illinois town showed support for the fallen soldier. Miniature American flags dotted the path traveled by the funeral procession from the Palestine Grade School to the Palestine Cemetery. Along the way, several dozen people stepped out in front of their homes or elsewhere along the path to show support.

One couple held their hands over their hearts as the procession passed. Some people, including several children, held American flags in support.

In the cemetery, a three-volley salute was staged in Tracy’s honor before “Taps” was played. Many people who attended the funeral service also traveled to the cemetery, and tried to huddle in the small green tents set up near Tracy’s casket.

A bagpiper played as the graveside service ended. Several people near Tracy’s casket embraced one another in hugs as the music played and people began to disperse.

Some of the military servicemen who attended then individually went up to Tracy’s casket, gave a salute and stood for a moment in silence before walking away.

From the Tribune Star

Related Link:
Jacob T. Tracy 'died June 18 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an IED detonated near his vehicle June 17 in Baghdad'

Services held for Stephen Wilson

Marine Staff Sgt. Stephen Wilson lived his life with enthusiasm and zeal, and that is exactly how he would want to be remembered, according to his mother.

“Stephen had absolutely no fear. He used to say ‘nothing’s going to happen to me, mom,’” said Bonnie Lou Schreiner, a former Brentwood resident who now resides in Lake County. “He loved what he did; he was very proud.”

Wilson, 28, was killed June 20 in an explosion in the province of Anbar in Iraq. Serving his third tour, the l997 Liberty High School grad was a Marine Security Guard searching for enemy weapons when the blast occurred. He was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 13 out of Camp Pendleton.

Although the inherent dangers of serving in Iraq were clear, Schreiner said she was still shocked by the news.

“It was totally unexpected, and I’m just so sad,” she said through tears during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “When I got paged by them (Marines) that night I knew what had happened. What else could it have been? You’re not supposed to bury your children.”

Originally from Georgia, Wilson moved to Brentwood in l992 and was known as an outstanding athlete.

“He would just follow the seasons,” she said. “He was a terrific athlete, and he loved soccer and ice hockey, but he played them all. He was good at every sport.”

Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor said he joins the community in mourning the loss of one of its own.

“Because we are so family-oriented here, anytime we lose a kid it just breaks the heart of the community,” said Taylor, a Vietnam veteran. “Stephen was a Liberty High School student and Liberty is a mainstay of the community, so we’re all feeling the loss.”

Wilson served two previous tours as a marine security guard in Finland and the Ivory Coast.

“He really loved it all,” said Schreiner. “I didn’t believe in the war, but I supported it because he was in it. That’s what moms do. I’m very, very proud of him.”

Schreiner continues to be comforted by the hundreds of online tributes and condolences sent by fellow Marines and friends. Her son will receive the Purple Heart posthumously.

“There is a Web site where people are posting literally hundreds of comments about Stephen,” she said. “It’s just amazing. It helps a lot to see that.”

Wilson is survived by his mother, Schreiner, and father, John Wilson of Tualatin, Ore.; brothers James Wilson of Clearlake and Scott Wilson of Aloha, Ore; as well as his maternal grandmother, Virginia Schreiner of Pittsford, N.Y.

Services were held Thursday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Brentwood.

From the Bethel Island Press

Related Link:
Stephen J. Wilson dies 'while conducting combat operations'

Ward Linder remembered

HICKORY -- Priscilla Hilgendorf thought it unusual when she got an early-morning phone call June 18.

“I thought it was work calling me in,” she said.

The faraway voice on the line was that of her grandson, Ward Linder. The soldier was about to embark on a dangerous two-week mission, she said.

“He said he just called to tell me he’s OK, and that he loved me,” Hilgendorf said. “He sounded so far away. Normally, he sounded so up and cheerful. This time, he sounded sad.”

Linder’s last mission would take him to Baqubah, east of Iraq. On June 19, he was killed by a roadside bomb.

Linder was 23.

Linder joined the Marine Corps in 2001. He served a stint in Afghanistan and decided not to re-enlist.

As he tested the waters of civilian life in between, he grew close to his Nana. He even lived with her for a while.

“We would stay up at night, playing cards and Scrabble,” Hilgendorf, 66, said. “One Saturday night, sitting on a sofa, he said, ‘Nana, I think we’ve bonded.’

“I said, ‘I think so, too.’”

Linder met his fiancee, Nicole Gray, at a church outing in July. Hilgendorf invited her for lunch the following Sunday.

Soon, Gray was wearing an engagement ring.

In November, Linder enlisted in the Army.

“He said he wanted to go to Iraq,” said Darryl, his father. “Working here was never as exciting. He found civilian life boring.”

Gray was enrolled in cosmetology school and knew of Linder’s plans to join the Army.

“I told him I’d support him 100 percent,” Gray, 20, said.

The pair planned to marry July 19 while he was home on leave.

He also leaves behind a son, 3-year-old Kyle, from a previous marriage.

From the Hickory Daily Record

Related Link:
Ward (Darryl W.) Linder dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'

Sid Brookshire remembered

A soldier from Georgia killed last week in Iraq had ties to the Ozarks, a relative said.

Maj. Sid W. Brookshire, one of four Fort Stewart, Ga., soldiers killed June 20, was a graduate of Willard High School.

"He was an inspiration to a lot of people around here," said his aunt, Alberta Brookshire of Walnut Grove.

She said Sid Brookshire lived with her family for a time and also lived off and on at another location in the Willard area, from when he was a child until a couple years out of high school.

He was 36 and married with two girls and lived in Georgia, his aunt said. His parents lived in California and Texas.

The Department of Defense announced his death last week along with the deaths of three other soldiers killed while in the same vehicle. An explosive device detonated near the vehicle, a department release said.

From the News Leader

Related Link:
Sid W. Brookshire dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

Trista Moretti remembered

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. — Sgt. Trista L. Moretti, 27, was killed in in Nasir Lafitah, Iraq, Monday when her unit was attacked by insurgents, military officials announced today.

Red, white, and blue candles and American flags decorated the home of Moretti's parents today as the media gathered in the stifling heat, waiting for some word from from her family.

"Trista Moretti will always be remembered as a loving and generous daughter, sister, and friend," the family said in a statement. "She was a brave soldier who courageously served her country, sacrificing her life for the lives of others.

"She will be honored and cherished by all who knew her," the family statement said. "We would like to thank our family, friends, and community for their ongoing support during this difficult time. We would also like to extend our continuous support to all the troops serving overseas."

The windows of the gray stone-and-siding home remained closed by blinds this afternoon, as two red, white and blue balloons with silver stars floated in the hazy summer air in front of the house. An American flag hung from a second-floor window.

Bill Diddle, 58, a next-door neighbor, said he had known Moretti all her life.

"She was a wonderful person. What can I tell you .‚.‚.‚ a terrible thing, a horrible

It was "same as usual," Diddle, a limousine driver, said. "People go to fight this war and they die."

Natalie Zeno, a coach and teacher at South Plainfield High School, described Moretti as "always a hard-working kid, really determined and focused. I don't know the words to do her memory justice."

She said she hadn't seen Moretti, who was a track star and member of the field hockey team in high school, since before Moretti entered the military.

Zeno said she watched Moretti grow up and work hard. "You have to be a special kind of person to do that," she said of Moretti's military service.

"It's a huge loss to the community. She was always smiling, always laughing. We are better people for having known her."

Moretti was assigned to the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in Fort Richardson, Alaska.

From the News Tribune

Related Link:
Trista L. Moretti dies 'when her unit was attacked by insurgents using indirect fire'

Andre Craig remembered

NEW HAVEN - The last time Pfc. Andre Craig Jr., called home, on Saturday, he told his mom he was exhausted. The 24-year-old infantryman had been on patrol all night, family members said.

Then he left for a mission, they said. Soon afterward, the Humvee in which Craig was riding in was struck by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. He died Monday from his wounds, according to the Department of Defense.

"At least he talked to everybody before he died," Craig's former girlfriend, Rhea Knight, said Wednesday. Her eyes welled when she noted that she still had a record of his last call to her in her cellphone.

But family members said the call also left them unsettled, wondering whether the soldiers' exhaustion and the 24-hour watch Craig described had contributed to Craig's death.

"We believe that's why we lost Andre," said Erik Brown, Craig's godfather. "Had they been able to rest, Andre would be alive today."

An Army spokeswoman said no comment was available to the family's statements.

Brown served as a family spokesman while talking to reporters Wednesday. More than a dozen relatives stood behind him, many, like Brown, wearing T-shirts showing a photograph of Craig in uniform and the words "Dre-2007" and "In God We Trust."

Craig's mother and wife did not wish to speak with reporters, but relatives at the press conference outside a relative's home on Bassett Street held Craig's baby daughter, Taylor, who was born while he was in Iraq. She wore a white dress decorated with red and blue stars.

Craig returned home on leave last month, meeting Taylor for the first time and visiting with neighbors, who warned him to be careful in Iraq.

"Dre," as Craig was known, had long dreamed of joining the Army and also hoped to become a state trooper after his service, relatives and friends said. The Wilbur Cross High School graduate had hoped the Army would pay for his college education.

One of six siblings in a close-knit family, Craig served as a big brother figure to many children in the Hill neighborhood where his family lived, urging young people to stay out of trouble, residents there said.

Jonathan Craig, 20, recalled his big brother's love for clubbing and bowling, and the late-night phone calls from Iraq.

Seeing his daughter changed Andre, Jonathan said - he had a gleam in his eye, as if he suddenly had a new purpose in life.

But during his time home from Iraq, Jonathan said, Andre also seemed to have something on his mind, as if he knew something bad was going to happen.

Jonathan recited his brother's last words to him: "Take care of my daughter as if you were the father, until I come back."

Now the family will help raise Taylor, said another relative, Emerson Stevenson.

Craig had served about six months in Iraq, family members said. He joined the Army in October 2005 and served with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Fort Riley, Kan.

During phone calls home, Craig would report on the conditions in Iraq, Brown said, telling relatives and friends about feces in the streets and women being raped. Craig was happy to work to improve conditions, Brown said.

Brown said he had misgivings about the war, particularly with American soldiers in the midst of a civil war. But he always supported his godson's job there. "Andre was a soldier," Brown said. "He felt that he was doing the right thing."

It was ironic, said John Elliott, a family friend, that Craig had made it out of a tough neighborhood to do something positive, only to be killed doing it.

Craig was believed to be the first New Haven resident to die in Iraq. Since 2001, 39 servicemen and women with Connecticut ties have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Elliott, 26, said joining the military was a way for young people from the neighborhood to pay for higher education.

"That's our way of getting to college and doing something positive," said Elliott, who served six years in the Army.

Now, Elliott said, he advises other young people considering the same path to wait until the war is over. Or to consider loans, he said.

Knowing other people who served in Iraq and who came home made it easy to assume that Craig would too, he said.

"It's a big eye-opener for everybody," he said. "It's a shock."

From the Hartford Courant

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

Carter Gamble remebered

Seymour - The nephew of a southern Indiana Sheriff is the latest Hoosier casualty in Iraq. 24-year-old Army Specialist Carter "CJ" Gamble died Sunday after coming under small arms fire.

With 21 years in law enforcement, Jackson County Sheriff Marc Lahrman knows a lot about leaving family, and risking life for the greater good.

"You know, I go a lot of places most people don't want to go," Lahrman said, "and I don't think about it. That's my job. But to be in those shoes, it's tough."

The shoes are that of a soldier, Lahrman's nephew: 24-year-old Army Specialist Carter "CJ" Gamble, Junior. He pledged to protect our country straight out of high school.

After serving in Iraq in 2003, CJ was discharged from the Army. He then moved to Seymour to live with his grandparents.

During that time, his mother, Sheriff Lahrman's sister, lost her battle with cancer.

C.J. decided to re-enlist, "Knowing full well he'd go back to Iraq till this was over," Lahrman said.

The young soldier started his second tour of duty in March, away from his two-year-old daughter, and wife, expecting their first son.

He planned to advance in the Army after coming home, but C.J. never made it back.

"He was on patrol and they were checking buildings to make sure they were vacant and secure or whatever," Lahrman said, "and this particular one he was the first one in the door, and it was not empty."

Sheriff Lahrman got the word Sunday that his nephew had been shot and killed in Baghdad.

"My six-year-old said, well, 'maybe we won the war.' That's a tough question," Lahrman said, "and I had to tell him 'I'm not sure if we're in a war we can win.'"

For Lahrman, it's a war that's brought loss close to home.

"Getting ready to find out about parenthood," Lahrman said, "and find out what it was to be a dad, and grow up with his kid, and he's not going to have that opportunity."

It's a difficult reality. Even for an officer used to putting country and community, first.

From WTHR 13

Related Link:
Carter A. Gamble Jr. dies 'of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire'

Jerimiah Veitch remembered

McClain County lost one of its own last week in Iraq.

Army Private First Class Jerimiah Veitch, of Dibble, died Thursday when the vehicle in which he was riding was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Veitch is the fourth Oklahoma soldier to be killed in Iraq in the last week.

“Tater,” as he was known to his family and Dibble classmates and friends, volunteered to go out on an especially dangerous patrol, his sister, Amanda Testerman, said.

“While he was atop a hummer, as was his position as the gunman, they passed a concrete wall barrier,” she said. “After they had passed, a coward jumped up from behind the wall and launched the rocket-propelled grenade right at my brother from behind.”

The 21-year-old manned a .50-caliber machine gun on his patrol vehicle.

He had the option to stay behind since he was wounded the week before. Veitch opted to go and not leave his comrades without cover.

The fallen hero was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Division in Fort Carson, Colo.

After he graduated from high school in 2005, the Dibble Demon moved on to fight for his country, his sister said. The Gator Company to which he was assigned was in the Dora area market place just outside of Baghdad.

During his high school years, Testerman said her brother lived and breathed football and weight lifting.

“Jerimiah was the type of guy that if he was going to do something he didn’t do it half way. It was all or nothing,” she said.

“The family takes comfort in knowing that he is no longer waking up in a living hell everyday, but is walking streets of gold,” she said.

Veitch began his tour of duty in October 2006. He returned home a couple of months ago for two weeks leave and returned to Iraq to complete his tour that would end in January.

The private first class is the son of Valorie Sanchez. His stepfather is Tony Sanchez. They moved to the Dibble area his sophomore year from San Jose, Calif., Testerman said.

Veitch had planned to get his name legally changed to Sanchez, because he considered Tony Sanchez to be his real father, Testerman said.

From the Purcell Register

Related Link:
Jerimiah J. Veitch dies 'of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck with a rocket propelled grenade'

Joshua Modgling remembered

He was an Army soldier from an Air Force family who volunteered to serve in the nation's war on terrorism because he was looking for direction in his life and wanted to save money for college.

That's how the parents of 22-year-old Pfc. Joshua S. Modgling remembered him this week. He was killed June 19 in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq.

For Keith Modgling of Henderson and Julie Montano of Mira Loma, Calif., the trip to Riverside National Cemetery in California on July 6 to bury the young soldier will bring back painful memories of when they buried his brother, Ryan, there. Ryan died of leukemia when he was 5.

Joshua Modgling will be buried next to Ryan and another of Keith Modgling's sons, Dustin, who died of a heart defect a week after he was born in 1994. That was the year after Keith Modgling had moved to Las Vegas from Hawaii after 15 years in the Air Force.

When Joshua joined the Army in 2005, his father "was very honored my son grew up, found direction and became a man," Keith Modgling said.

"He went in a pug-nosed little kid and came out a man," Montano said of her son.

"One day he knew he wanted to go in. He went to see his dad and (younger) brother (Christopher) and he joined in Las Vegas," she said.

"The one thing that he said before he left is, 'Mom, if I ever have to die, I want to die in Iraq,' " she said. "He hated the Army with a passion because there are so many rules and regulations. But he went over there for us."

Joshua Stephen Modgling was born Jan. 3, 1985, in Rapid City, S.D., not far from where his dad was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

When Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3, the family sought a transfer for his medical condition and moved to March Air Force Base near Riverside, Calif. After he died, his parents divorced.

"It tore us apart," Montano said Monday night by telephone from Mira Loma, Calif. "Keith stayed at March. I moved to Pahrump with the boys. He stayed in the military and got remarried."

During the ordeal with Ryan, Joshua spent time with his grandmother, Karen Nelson, in Pahrump.

"He kind of bounced around among everybody when we were running around with Ryan," Montano recalled.

Nelson, a retired Nye County detective, said Joshua "was an awesome kid" who participated in soccer, basketball, swimming and Little League baseball in Pahrump.

"Josh was very competitive and always hated to lose," she said. "He put everything into whatever he played."

Modgling said Joshua and Christopher spent much of their time with him in the Las Vegas Valley from the ages of 6 and 5, respectively, until their teens.

Joshua attended Manch Elementary School, four middle schools and Silverado High School.

He was a defensive lineman in Pop Warner football and set a record for most sacks, his father said.

Joshua left Silverado High in his sophomore year to live with his mother in California.

"Josh used to play a lot of basketball in the park," Montano said. "He was always for the underdog. He didn't care who, what, where. In Mira Loma, his friend was basketball."

He didn't get a high school diploma, but he passed the General Educational Development tests.

She was proud when he decided to join the Army "because he needed some direction. He took money out for a college fund, $100 a month," she said.

His desire to be a combat engineer was fitting, Montano said, because since childhood he had a fascination for blowing things up.

He would use baking soda and small explosives to blow tennis balls out of cans.

Modgling said his son realized, however, there was more to being a combat engineer than bomb duty.

"They also build roads and bridges and there are construction aspects," he said.

"He was probably the most respectful, most caring person I ever knew," the father said.

Joshua had been in Iraq since May and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga.

Montano said his unit was conducting missions out of Forward Operating Base Falcon to find improvised explosive devices.

He was driving an armored Buffalo mine sweeper on June 19 near Muhammad al Ali, Iraq, when the bomb exploded that killed him and 35-year-old Army Sgt. 1st Class William A. Zapfe of Muldraugh, Ky.

Nelson said the night before Modgling headed overseas, "Joshua and I had a long talk. We were all concerned about his going over. 'Grandma,' he said, 'I'm going to come home for you.'

"The only thing was, we imagined him coming home alive," she said.

From the Review Journal

Related Link:
Joshua S. Modgling dies 'of wounds sustained when an IED detonated near his vehicle'