Michael Beckerman

Sgt Michael J. Beckerman—December 2011 Shipment Honoree

IED Device kills Fort Campbell Soldier

Michael J. Beckerman
Michael J. Beckerman

Fort Campbell, KY – A 101st Airborne Division Soldier died December 31st, 2010 in Howz E Madad, Afghanistan when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device.

Sgt. Michael J. Beckerman, 25, of Sainte Genevieve, MO, was a combat engineer assigned to A Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

Beckerman joined the Army in September 2004 and arrived at Fort Campbell in January, 2010.

Beckerman’s awards and decorations include: Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Iraqi Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the Combat Action Badge.

He is survived by his wife, Spec. Margaretta A. Beckerman and daughter, Brianna J. Beckerman, of Clarksville, TN; and parents, Lisa Beckerman and Steve Beckerman, also of Sainte Genevieve, MO.

Source: Clarksville Online


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Sgt Michael J Beckerman, 25 of Ste Genevieve, Mo. was killed on New Year’s Eve in Afghanistan. “He wanted to work with explosives, disarming them,” His Grandmother Karen Downen said. “He loved what he did and was very good at what he did.” She said she was told Michael lost his life protecting his troops in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. “He went up to the IED first, and someone detonated it from a hill.”

Michael was born Michael J Downen to parents David Joe Downen and Lisa Downen. His father passed away from a aneurysm at the age of 26. When his mother remarried she changed Michael’s name to Beckerman. His grandparents Harold and Karen Downen lost him once and were reunited when Michael was 13 years old.  At the age of 15 he moved in with his grandparents and Karen said it was like seeing his father again.

He brought much joy and comfort to his grandparents and his grandmother said that Michael was a comforter. “Whenever I would worry, Michael would take me in his arms and tell me everything was going to be OK.”

Michael had his heart set on a military career. He enlisted in 2004. He married Margaretta “Maggie” Gillis a fellow soldier. The two transferred to Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne to be closer to Michael’s daughter Brianna now three years old.

Michael and Maggie served in Afghanistan together. They had hoped to come home for December.

Michael was on his fourth tour of duty and was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Support Troop Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). During his period of active duty service he completed tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Beckerman, an explosives ordinance disposal specialist, was a decorated soldier, His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (2 awards), Army Achievement Medal (2 awards), Army Good Conduct Medal (2 awards), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star (2 awards), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device, Non commissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, Combat and Special Skill Badge Basic Marksmanship Qualification Badge (Bar, Weapon: Rifle (Inscription: Rifle), Expert), and the Overseas Service Bar (5 awards).

His body was transported to Dover Air Force Base last Sunday. His wife came home on the same transport. Vets in his hometown are calling on the local community to honor Michael when he is brought home.

“When he returns from Dover, we’re hoping to have people lining the streets with flags, with veterans in their military attire, to honor Mike,” Pete Papin, an active member of veterans organizations there said. “We’d like to see a really big turnout to honor this young man, whose death is a tragic loss for his family, friends and the community.”

Michael is survived by his wife, Spc. Margaretta A. Beckerman, and daughter, Brianna J. Beckerman, of Clarksville; and parents, Lisa Beckerman and Steve Beckerman, also of Ste. Genevieve and his grandparents Harold and Karen Downen.

Sgt. Michael Beckerman’s flight will arrive at the Cape Girardeau airport on Saturday, January 8 at 11:46am.

Visitation will be held Sunday, January 9 from 2:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Basler Funeral Home.

Chapel Service will be held Monday, January 10 at 10:00 a.m. at Basler Funeral Home.

Sgt Michael Beckerman, we honor your memory and we mourn your passing from us. We are so very thankful for men like you, men ready and willing to stand in the gap on our behalf, men that secure the freedom and safety required so that we might live and raise our families in peace. We lift up your family in our prayers and we pray for God to grant them peace and comfort, and we ask that He would walk closely with your wife and your little girl throughout their lives, that he would keep them safe and provide for their needs. Rest easy now Michael, you will not be forgotten. Thank you so very much for all that you have given up for us. Posted by Donna with the utmost respect and love.

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Family mourns loss of grandson

The military announcement that Sgt. Michael J. Beckerman, 25, of Ste. Genevieve, Mo., was killed on New Year’s Eve in Af-ghanistan held a terrible irony for Karen and Harold Downen of Royalton.

Beckerman was their grandson. And they’d already lost him once, only to be reunited with him when he was just 13. Not long afterward, Beckerman moved to Royalton to live with his grandparents and remained in Southern Illinois until he enlisted in the military.

Michael was born Michael J. Downen in Carbondale. His dad, David Joe Downen, was Karen and Harold’s middle son. David and his wife, Lisa, lived with the Downens for a while both before and after the baby was born, Karen said. David Downen died of an aneurysm at age 26, when Michael was just 3. They were then living in Ste. Genevieve, Lisa’s hometown.

When Lisa remarried, she changed Michael’s name to her new husband’s name, Beckerman. And they lost contact with the Downens. Michael had no memory of his father or his grandparents, Karen said. “We thought we would never find him.”

When Michael turned 13, “Lisa contacted us and asked if we’d like to see him,” Karen said. “She brought him to meet us, and it was just like seeing his father again.”

She recalled Michael as an awkward teen who had just gotten braces. She told him he was handsome even with the braces, and showed him photos of his father, and of himself as an infant. “The whole family was there,” she said.

Though Michael and his mother loved each other, they had difficulty living together, Karen said. At 15, Michael came to Royalton to live with his grandparents and seemed to thrive in their household.

Before arriving around Christmas, Michael had told Karen he’d never had a Christmas tree at his house. “So I went all out,” she said with a laugh, remembering the huge tree, stockings and other hodgepodge of decorations the family filled the house with, just for Michael. “They decorated the whole house, even the fence.”

And having found a family where he was comfortable, he became a comforter as well, Karen said. “Whenever I would worry, Michael would take me in his arms and tell me everything was going to be OK.”

Karen’s other two sons, Troy Downen of Royalton and Robert Downen of Zeigler, both have long military service; both just returned from Afghanistan about a year ago, she said.

Michael had his heart set on a military career. He enlisted in 2004. “He wanted to work with explosives, disarming them,” Karen said. “He loved what he did and was very good at what he did.” Michael married and became a father, but his wife didn’t want to be an Army wife and they divorced. Michael later married Margaretta “Maggie” Gillis, a fellow soldier. The two put in for a transfer to Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne to be closer to Michael’s daughter, Brianna, even though they knew the move increased their odds of being deployed.

Michael and Maggie were serving in Afghanistan together. They had hoped to come home in December, but decided to stay in the Mideast over the holidays.

Karen said she was told Michael lost his life protecting his troops in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. “He went up to the IED first, and someone detonated it from a hill.”

It’s likely he will be awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. He also has been awarded the Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; Iraqi Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Combat Action Badge and many other awards.

And now Brianna, just 3, has lost her loving father, Karen said. The child lives in Missouri with her mother. During visits, she won the hearts of Karen, who is an invalid after retiring as an Amtrak employee in Carbondale for 32 years, and Harold, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

“I wonder if we will ever see her again,” Karen said of her great-grandchild. If so, she will share memories of Brianna’s father, who died serving his country.

The Southern

Buddy McLain

PFC Buddy McLain—November 2011 Shipment Honoree

Maine soldier dies in Afghanistan

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine — For the third time in November, a Mainer has died while on duty in Afghanistan, officials said Nov. 30.

Buddy W. McLain
Buddy W. McLain

Army Pfc. Buddy McLain, 24, of Mexico, was killed by enemy fire Nov. 29, according to the governor’s office. McLain was a cavalry scout with the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

McLain’s wife and son live in Peru, and his parents live in Mexico, said David Farmer, spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci.

“Private McLain died serving his country. He has earned the lasting gratitude of his state and nation. We will honor him for the hero that he is,” Baldacci said in a statement. “During this tragic time, we all should keep his family and friends in our prayers.”

One of three brothers, McLain graduated from Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, school officials said.

When McLain entered high school, he didn’t like to read, said Bob Fulton, a special education teacher at Mountain Valley. By the time he graduated in 2006, McLain was a good student who was proud of his reading abilities and liked to read out loud in class, Fulton said.

After McLain joined the Army, he would visit the high school in uniform, carry himself with confidence and look people in the eye, Fulton said.

“It seemed like all of the sudden the light went on,” Fulton said.

Two other Mainers died in Afghanistan this month. Another soldier from the 101st, Cpl. Andrew Hutchins, 20, of New Portland, died on Nov. 8 in Khost Province. Marine 1st Lt. James R. Zimmerman, whose parents live in Smyrna Mills, was killed Nov. 2 in Helmand province.


Remains of 6 killed by Afghan policeman come home

By Anne Gearan, The Associated Press

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — Several of President Obama’s top national security advisers stood on a silent, windy tarmac late Dec. 1 to watch as the bodies of six soldiers killed by a rogue Afghan policeman returned to U.S. soil.

The six were killed in Afghanistan Nov. 29 when the border policeman turned his gun on his American trainers as the group headed to shooting practice. The gunman was killed in the shootout in Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the officer had enlisted as a sleeper agent to have an opportunity to kill foreigners.

The only sound during the “dignified transfer” was of the wind blowing through the 747 jet engines as the flag-topped caskets, called transfer cases, were lowered to the ground. Teams of white-gloved pallbearers carried each casket to a waiting truck. Fathers, mothers, wives and other family members of five of the soldiers traveled to Dover for Wednesday’s return.

The dead are Sgt. Barry E. Jarvis of Tell City, Ind.; Pfc. Jacob A. Gassen of Beaver Dam, Wis.; Pfc. Buddy W. McLain of Mexico, Maine; Spc. Matthew W. Ramsey of Quartz Hill, Calif.; Pfc. Austin G. Staggs of Senoia, Ga., and Staff Sgt. Curtis A. Oakes of Athens, Ohio.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, who is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led a delegation of U.S. officials to pay respects. The unusually large group that flew from Washington included National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and several senior National Security Council advisers. Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy and Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey and several senior Pentagon officers also attended.

The soldiers’ bodies were flown together from Germany to Dover Air Force Base, where they will be formally identified at an Air Force mortuary. Within days the dead will be returned to their families for burial.

Families may choose whether to attend the brief, solemn ceremony beside the plane that brings the bodies home. Those who attend stand separately from the official party paying respects and from the news media.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates ended an 18-year ban on media coverage of the returns last year.

The families of Jarvis, Gassen and McLain allowed media to watch and photograph the transfer of caskets.

The attack was the deadliest of its kind in at least two years. It underscored one of the risks in a U.S.-led program to train enough recruits to turn over the lead for security to Afghan forces by 2014.

Attacks on NATO troops by Afghan policemen or soldiers, although still rare, have increased as the coalition has accelerated the program. Other problems with the rapidly growing security forces include drug use, widespread illiteracy and high rates of attrition.

This is the deadliest year of the 9-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, with more than 450 U.S. troops killed. More than 1,300 U.S. forces have died there since the war began in 2001, a majority of them in the past two years as fighting has intensified and Obama ordered more than 30,000 reinforcements.

The U.S. now has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, a record. Obama plans to begin withdrawing some forces in July, on the way to an eventual transfer of security control to the Afghan forces now being recruited and trained under U.S. and NATO supervision.


Wife: Pvt. has misgivings about arming Afghans

The Associated Press

PERU, Maine — The wife of a Maine soldier killed by an Afghan police officer Nov. 29 said her husband had misgivings about training and arming Afghans.

Chelsea McLain of Peru said Pfc. Buddy McLain expressed his concern a week before his death. She said he told her he was going on a dangerous mission. She told The Sun Journal of Lewiston: “He didn’t think it was right to train these people and give them guns.”

Buddy McLain, a cavalry scout with the 101st Airborne Division, deployed from Fort Campbell, Ky., on Aug. 24, which was his son Owen’s first birthday.

He was one of six soldiers killed when the border police officer turned his gun on his trainers. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the officer had enlisted as a sleeper agent.

Gilberto Meza

Army Cpl. Gilberto A. Meza – October 2011 Shipment Honoree

Remember Our Heroes

Gilberto A. Mez
Gilberto A. Mez

Army Cpl. Gilberto A. Meza, 21, of Oxnard, Calif.

Cpl. Meza was assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany; died Oct. 6, 2007 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit.

Ventura County Star — An U.S. Army soldier from Oxnard has become the 17th casualty in the four-year-old Iraq war.

Cpl. Gilberto A. Meza, 21, died in Baghdad from wounds he sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit on Saturday, a Department of Defense press release said.

Meza was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany.

Meza was the third Oxnard resident to die in the Iraq war. The last was Spc. Jaime Rodriguez Jr., 19, who died in Saqlawiyah when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

Meza entered Oxnard High School in 2000, and later transferred to Channel Islands High School, Frontier High School and the Oxnard Union High School District’s GED program in 2004, officials said.

Living Legend Team


Gilberto A. Meza, Army Corporal – Rest in Peace

It was at once an intensely personal ceremony and one filled with ritual befitting someone killed in battle.

Gilberto Meza’s final journey began Tuesday morning as his casket was transported under police escort from the Camino del Sol Funeral Home in Oxnard a mile across town to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. A military honor guard took Meza’s casket into the cinder-block church as family and friends followed.

Meza’s funeral came 10 days after he was killed in Baghdad by an improvised explosive device. The 21-year-old corporal had been in Iraq for only about a month.

Meza, a member of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Squadron, became the fifth Oxnard resident and 17th from Ventura County to die in the Iraq war.

Once inside the church, Meza’s family and friends had a traditional funeral service, one filled with prayers for him and for those he left behind. After the service, Meza’s body was taken for burial to Santa Clara Cemetery on the north end of town.

Cristina Zavala, a longtime friend, told the crowd of several hundred people gathered at the cemetery that Meza often talked about his wishes should he die young.

“He always said we shouldn’t worry about him,” Zavala said. While Meza said he would miss his family, he did not want a lot of tears and sorrow at his funeral.

“He always said he would rather die with honor on the battlefield than die on a street somewhere here,” she said.

Zavala, 21, said Meza was everyone’s soldier, even before he joined the Army some two years ago.

“He was the kind of person who always wanted to make sure you were OK,” said Zavala, who first met Meza when the two were about 10 years old. Over the years, they developed a deep friendship, becoming what Zavala called “soul mates.”

Zavala feared for Meza’s safety when he told her he was going to join the Army. But Zavala and some other friends said they were unable to talk him out of joining.

“It was something he really wanted to do, both for himself and as a way to make his family proud,” Zavala said.

Zavala recalled how eager Meza seemed to go to Iraq when she last saw him at Los Angeles International Airport in late July.

“He felt he had a duty to go over there and a job to do,” she said.

In many ways, Meza seemed to blossom after he joined the Army, she said. The military instilled discipline in him and gave him a better sense of himself as a man. “For him, it was a career,” she said.

Meza’s brother, Rigoberto, said Meza was his hero.

“I looked up to him even though he was my younger brother,” he said.

Uncle Juan Martinez said some people may be born alone and die alone — but not his nephew.

“He was born into a very loving family,” Martinez told the crowd. Even in death, his nephew was surrounded by those who cared deeply about him, Martinez said.

“We honor a son of this great nation, who offered his life for our liberty, our hopes and our dreams,” said Fidel Ramirez, a Santa Clara parish deacon.

Meza was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart by President Bush.

Meza’s family placed handfuls of dirt and flowers on top of his coffin before it was lowered into the ground.

“Save me the place in heaven that you said you would,” Zavala said as she looked at the closed silver casket.

The afternoon before his death, CPL Meza badly sprained his ankle while conducting a raid on an insurgent house and we told him he would probably have to stay in the Stryker (vehicle) the next day to let it heal. He looked at me with a face I’ll never forget and simply said, “Sir, I’m a dismount.” The next morning, upon returned to sector on less than two hours of sleep we told Meza to just rest for a while before joining the Platoon. Of course, he was clearing houses and pulling security for the Platoon before I even finished my sentence. CPL Meza loved his work and excelled at it. He was brave and intelligent, and, more than anything else, an Infantryman. He will never be forgotten.

— CPT Andrew Teague
August 4, 2008 at 11:07 a.m.

Tented

Daniel Geary

Daniel J. Geary –September 2011 Shipment Honoree

Cpl. Daniel J. Geary
Cpl. Daniel J. Geary

ROME, N.Y. – A Marine corporal killed in combat Friday in Afghanistan was planning to marry his fiancée when he returned from his tour in May, his father said.

Funeral services for fallen U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Geary of Rome will be held in St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, said his father, Michael Geary. Other details for the services were not yet available.

Rome Mayor James Brown said the city would provide a police escort and flags will be at half-staff the day of funeral.

The 22-year-old Marine planned to bring his fiancée, Rachel Patterson, from North Carolina to Rome and surprise her by marrying immediately instead of waiting, said the elder Geary.

Being a U.S. Marine was what Daniel Geary wanted to do, and that goal helped give him the drive to go back and complete high school after dropping out for a year, his father said. He graduated from Rome Free Academy in 2006.

“He wanted to get his diploma so he could go into the military,” Michael Geary said.

It was Daniel Geary’s second tour of duty, and he was going to sign on for a third, his father said. The first tour was in Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The middle child of seven in his family, Geary was remembered by people who knew him as very outgoing and fun-loving, but also responsible and family oriented.

“We’re very proud off him,” said John Conners, Geary’s godfather and commander of Rome’s Henry P. Smith American Legion Post. “He saw his duty and he did it, and he paid the cost.”

In 1995, when Geary was 8 years old, he saved his 4-year-old sister Elise when their house caught on fire, according to a report in the Utica, N.Y., Observer-Dispatch.

“He is a hero in everybody’s eyes,” Elise Geary told a local TV station.

Family friend Della Pray, who got to know him when she served as his Air Force Jr. ROTC instructor at Rome Free Academy, said Geary had many friends.

“Quiet wasn’t in his vocabulary,” she said. “He was a prankster. We were always playing jokes on each other.”

Geary “liked to bowl. He loved life. He enjoyed being with his friends,” commented his father. He said his son helped him buy the family’s current home in Rome, where they have lived since 2005.

Craig Vogel, owner of King Pin Lanes, said the Gearys were “a bowling family.” The bowling alley was “kind of subdued” Saturday night because of the sad news.

As a child, Daniel Geary made news when he pulled his 4-year-old sister from a burning bedroom and awakened his father when a fire began in their apartment in March 1995.


Fallen Marine remembered for his energy

The Associated Press

Della Pray, who got to know Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Geary when she served as his Air Force ROTC instructor, said he had many friends.

“Quiet wasn’t in his vocabulary,” she said. “He was a prankster. We were always playing jokes on each other.”

Geary, 22, of Rome, N.Y., died March 20 while supporting combat operations in Farah province. He was a 2006 high school graduate and was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

“Daniel was proud of his roots and proud of his family,” Rome Mayor James Brown said. “The people of Rome will never forget Daniel Geary.”

Geary was 18 when he joined the military and has been described by his father, Michael, as a “frisky, young juvenile prankster.”

He had planned to marry his fiancee once his current tour ended, and possibly take some college courses.

He was on his second tour his first was in Iraq.

Geary made news in March 1995, when the then-8-year-old was credited with helping save his 4-year-old sister Elise after she accidentally started a bedroom fire while playing with a lighter.

He also is survived by his mother, Aggie.


ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) – Fallen Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Geary touched many throughout the Rome community, including those at his alma mater Rome Free Academy.

Master Sergeant Della Pray is the school’s junior ROTC program instructor, and taught Geary during his senior year in 2006.

“He found a home in the program and from there he actually made some of his best friends at the program,” said Pray.

Entering school on Monday, Pray explained that her students showed resolve – which she considered important, and expected.

“(It’s) not surprising,” she said. “That’s how we are. That’s how a real military would do it and that’s how we are close nit.”

According to Pray, Geary did have trouble in school – briefly dropping out in 2005 before returning with an strong goal – becoming a Marine.

Geary was an avid bowler, Yankees fan and compassionate person according to those close with him. Pray however says there are other things she’ll remember.

“…He’s going to kill me for saying this but he actually loved gardening. He went over to help me do some landscaping. I remember telling him not to tell his Marine buddies…”

Funeral arrangements haven’t been announced yet but Geary’s remains could return to Rome as early as Thursday said Pray.

Contributed by: James Van Thach

ROME — U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Geary, who died in combat Friday in Afghanistan, was planning to get married to his fiancée when he returned from a tour in May, his father said Saturday.

The 22-year-old Rome native planned to bring her from North Carolina to Rome and surprise her by trying to marry her immediately instead of waiting, said his father, Michael Geary.

Daniel Geary’s uncle is a pastor, and the young man had hoped he would perform the ceremony, his father said.

“Now, it’s not going to happen,” Michael Geary said.

As of Sunday morning, funeral arrangements by Barry Funeral Home in Rome were incomplete.

This was Daniel Geary’s second tour of duty, and he was going to sign on for a third, his father said. The first tour was in Iraq.

Being a U.S. Marine was what Daniel Geary wanted to do, and that goal had helped give him the drive to go back and complete high school after dropping out for a year, his father said. He graduated in 2006.

“He wanted to get his diploma so he could go into the military,” Michael Geary said.

Daniel Geary was the middle child of seven in his family, and the oldest of the four Michael Geary and his wife, Aggie, had together.

He was remembered Saturday by people who knew him as very outgoing and fun-loving, but also responsible and family oriented.

John Conners, commander of Rome’s Henry P. Smith American Legion Post in Rome, was Daniel Geary’s godfather. He struggled for composure as he spoke about him Saturday.

“We’re very proud off him,” Conners said. “He saw his duty and he did it, and he paid the cost.”

Family friend Della Pray, who got to know him when she served as his Air Force Jr. ROTC instructor at Rome Free Academy, said he had many friends.

“Quiet wasn’t in his vocabulary,” she said. “He was a prankster. We were always playing jokes on each other.”

Pray said Geary had some close friends in ROTC.

“They were like a band of brothers,” she said, adding that another one of the group currently is serving in Iraq.

Conners, Pray and Michael Geary all noted Daniel Geary’s love of bowling.

Pray said Daniel Geary had wanted to challenge her in the sport.

“He always said he could beat my butt in bowling, but we never got a chance to do it,” she said.

Craig Vogel, owner of King Pin Lanes, said the Gearys were “a bowling family.” The bowling alley was “kind of subdued” Saturday night because of the sad news.

“They are good friends and good customers, and our hearts are broken for them,” he said.

Daniel Geary made news in March 1995, when the then-8-year-old was credited with helping save his 4-year-old sister Elise after she accidentally started a bedroom fire while playing with a lighter.

He pulled her from the bedroom and awoke his father, according to an O-D story about the fire at Wright Park Manor.

Rome Mayor James Brown said the city will would provide a police escort, and flags in the city will be at half-staff the day of funeral.

Geary is the second Rome serviceman to be killed in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army National Guard Sgt. Michael A. Uvanni, 27, died Oct. 1, 2004.

“It’s hard” on the community, Brown said.

Zandra Walker

Specialist Zandra T. Walker – Aug 2011 Shipment Honoree

Soldiers from S.C., Maryland killed in Iraq by enemy fire

The Associated Press

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A South Carolina woman was one of two Fort Hood, Texas-based soldiers that were killed by enemy fire in Iraq last week, the Defense Department said.

Zandra T. Walker
Zandra T. Walker

Zandra T. Walker, 28, of Greenville was killed along with Sgt. Princess C. Samuels, 22, of Mitchellville, Md., on Aug. 15 in Taji, Iraq, according to a news release from the Defense Department.

Walker was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

Walker fueled helicopters and was serving her second tour with the Army, one of her sisters said Monday.

“She’d be the one clapping her hands and cheering them on when they came in,” Walker’s oldest sister, Charlita Worthy, said by telephone Aug. 20 from their mother’s Greenville home.

Walker and her twin sister, Yolanda Worthy, graduated from Woodmont High School in 1997 and joined the Army during their second year at South Carolina State University, Charlita Worthy said.

Yolanda Worthy was serving in Kuwait when she learned of her sister’s death and has returned home, Charlita Worthy said.

“We were upset they decided to leave college, but it’s something that they wanted to do,” said Charlita Worthy, 31.

Walker met her husband while they were both in the military, and he has been serving as a civilian in Kuwait, Charlita Worthy said.

The last time the women were together was for the funeral of their youngest sister, who died earlier this summer from brain cancer, Worthy said.

“Out of sadness, came joy,” she said. “If we hadn’t been together then, it would have been more than a year since we saw each other.”

Tentative funeral arrangements were scheduled for Friday at Mount Hopewell Baptist Church.

“She knew what she was going into, and she went into proudly, bravely,” Worthy said. “I’m the big sister, and they’re supposed to look up to me. But at this point, I’m looking up to her.”

Walker is the fourth South Carolina woman to die in the war in Iraq, according to an Associated Press database of casualty records released by the U.S. military.

Samuels was the fourth woman from Maryland to die in the war. She was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.


Zandra T. Walker dies ‘when the enemy attacked using indirect fire’

Zandra T Walker
Zandra T. Walker

Connie Worthy had heard that two men in military uniforms were looking for her, and she knew it was only a matter of time before they came knocking at the right door.

When the doorbell rang, only the sparest of words were needed: “I just said, ‘Kuwait or Iraq'”

The answer was “Iraq,” and with that the Greenville mother knew that one of her 28-year-old twin daughters, Zandra Terneice Walker, had perished while serving her country.

Today, family and friends — including Zandra’s twin sister, Yolanda Worthy-Weathersby — gathered at the family’s home in the Belle Meade community to mourn the loss of a daughter, sister, wife and soldier.

Zandra, an Army specialist who refueled aircraft, was killed Aug. 15 in Taji, Iraq, along with another soldier as a result of “indirect enemy fire,” according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

The incident is under military investigation, a defense department spokeswoman said. The family said they were told she died in a random mortar strike while she was off-duty.

Yolanda arrived from her station in Kuwait a couple of days ago. Zandra’s husband, Kenneth Walker, flew into Greenville from Kuwait, where he’s been working as a civilian air-traffic controller.

This is the second tragic reunion this summer for the family. In June, the twins’ baby sister, 22-year-old Katrina, died of cancer. Zandra had returned home from Iraq for her funeral.

Yolanda flashed a muted smile as she looked over the pictures of her twin sister’s life sprawled across her mother’s dining room table Monday, as well-wishers came and went.

There was always a way to tell a difference between the two in photographs, Yolanda said.

Somehow — from childhood Christmas pictures to Woodmont High graduation to a photo of the two dressed in their camoflauge Army uniforms — Zandra always seemed to end up on the right side of the picture.

The twins were inseparable growing up, Yolanda said, split apart only during their deployments.

Zandra (nicknamed “Neicy,” derived from her middle name) was the outspoken one, Yolanda (“Tricey”) more reserved.

The two were competitive. Both ran track for Woodmont High. Yolanda said that Zandra was always first — save only for when Yolanda was born two minutes before her sister.

“She was always two steps ahead, but never two minutes,” Yolanda said. “She didn’t like that two minutes. As long as we finished first and second, though, it was OK.”

The two entered the Army together, in January 2000, just to see if it was something they might like, Yolanda said. They found that they liked it. In April 2005, Zandra’s tour of duty was finished, but she re-signed in April 2006.

It was difficult, Yolanda said, being split from a twin in a war zone. “It was hard, but you get used to it,” she said. “We always found a way to communicate with each other.”

The pair stayed connected through email and instant messaging. Yolanda called back home to Greenville at least every other day. It was during one of those calls home that she got word of her twin sister’s death.

Still, there’s hope, Yolanda said. While she’s split from a bond that only a few in this world know, she says she’s certain that Zandra is there to comfort another sister.

“I know she’s in a better place now,” Yolanda said, “and at least our baby sister has one of her older sisters with her now.”

Spread the Word: Iraq-Nam

Thomas Bostick

Major Thomas G. Bostick – July 2011 Shipment Honoree

Major Thomas G. Bostick
Major Thomas G. Bostick

Family member says fallen Army Major Thomas Bostick Junior was an experienced soldier who mentored his troops in the field and planned to continue a life of teaching back in Central Texas.

The military says the 37-year-old died Friday in Afghanistan. His unit was attacked after a meeting with village elders.

Brenda Richardson of Llano says her son loved leading his troops and sharing insights he’d gained from his superiors.

His career included two tours in Afghanistan, deployment to Iraq and the US mission to remove General Manuel Noriega in Panama in 1989.

His younger brother, Sergeant First Class Bobby Bostick who flew home from Iraq on Monday after hearing of his brother’s death.

Thomas Bostick leaves behind a wife, Jennifer, and two teenage daughters.

He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date

FOB Bostick

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher D. Kolenda (left) and Command Sergeant Major Victor Pedraza (right), commander and command sergeant major of 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), unveil a plaque dedicated to Maj. Thomas Bostick at Forward Operating Base Naray, in Konar province, Afghanistan, June 28. During the ceremony, FOB Naray was renamed FOB Bostick in memory of Bostick, a fallen Soldier.


LLANO, TX, USA

U.S. Army
MAJ, TROOP B, 1ST SQUADRON, 91ST CAVALRY, SCHWEINFURT, GERMANY
FOB NARAY, AFGHANISTAN 07/27/2007

Major Thomas Gordon Bostick Jr. was born December 8, 1969 in San Diego, California. His family moved to Llano after his father, Thomas G. Bostick Sr., ended his career in the Marines.

A star on the basketball team at Llano High School, Tommy joined the Army Reserve as a senior and, upon graduating in 1988, went on active duty.

He is a graduate of Columbus State University with a degree in Criminal Justice. He is a distinguished military graduate from The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School.

Tommy served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989: the U.S. mission to remove Gen. Manuel Noriega from power after his indictment in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

In 1992, he married Jennifer Dudley of Florida and had two daughters, Jessica and Ashlie.

In Afghanistan, he was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

He was an experienced soldier who mentored his troops in the field and planned to continue a life of teaching back in Central Texas.

His younger brother, Sergeant First Class Bobby Bostick followed him into the Rangers and to Iraq. He said he called his older brother “Big Bubba” and looked to him for guidance and strength after he joined the military.

“He took care of his soldiers,” Bobby said. “He was definitely a good mentor and was one of the top captains in the Army.”

His mother said her son believed in the mission in Afghanistan and enjoyed teaching members of his three platoons. She said her son loved leading his troops and sharing insights he’d gained from his superiors and on previous combat deployments to Operation Desert Thunder, Operation Iraqi Freedom I, and Operations Enduring Freedom I and II.

His career included two tours in Afghanistan, deployment to Iraq and the U.S. mission to remove General Manuel Noriega in Panama in 1989. He was killed July 27, 2007 near Kamu, Afghanistan, when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations.

Tommy Bostick Jr. was promoted posthumously from the rank of captain and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

His many commendations include a Bronze Star with oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf clusters, and he earned the Master Parachutist Badge.


The Hill Country community of Llano is in mourning for Major Tommy G. Bostick Jr., a highly decorated Army Ranger killed Friday in Afghanistan.

“He was always a fine gentleman and a gentleman of character and certainly a hero,” said Llano County Judge Wayne Brascom, who ordered courthouse flags flown at half-staff this week to honor Bostick, 37.

A star on the basketball team at Llano High School, Bostick joined the Army Reserve as a senior and, upon graduating in 1988, went on active duty.

In 1992 he married Jennifer Dudley of Florida. They have two daughters: Jessica, 18, and Ashlie, 13. The family has lived in Germany for the past year.

Bostick’s younger brother Bobby, 34, followed Tommy Bostick into the Rangers and to Iraq before coming home Sunday on emergency leave after learning of the death.

Their mother, Brenda Richardson, knew the news wasn’t good when a detail from Fort Hood arrived at her home in Llano early Saturday.

“I just sat there and waited for them to let me know which one it was going to be,” she said.

Richardson said nine other soldiers were wounded when insurgents ambushed Tommy Bostick’s patrol as it left a friendly village near Kamu.

“They had gone into an Afghanistan village, and my son had talked to the elders and everything seemed to be fine, and when they were coming out, they were ambushed,” she said.

John Faulkenberry of Midland, where Bostick’s dad lives, was among the wounded in the group from 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Command, based in Schweinfurt, Germany, Richardson said.

Tom Bostick Sr. could not be reached for comment.

Tommy Bostick Jr. was promoted posthumously from the rank of Captain and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.


Richardson said her son loved leading his troops and sharing insights he’d gained from his superiors and on previous combat deployments to Operation Desert Thunder, Operation Iraqi Freedom I, and Operations Enduring Freedom I and II.

His many commendations include a Bronze Star with oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf clusters, and he earned the Master Parachutist Badge.

Richardson remains committed to the mission that claimed her oldest son.

“I believe if someone says they support the soldiers, then they should support the president and his decisions because he is our soldier’s commander,” she said.

In lieu of flowers, she asked for donations to a scholarship fund for Bostick’s daughters at the First State Bank of Central Texas, Bostick Fund, 907 Ford St., Llano 78643.


The 37-year-old Army major from Llano died Friday during his second tour in Afghanistan, when his unit came under fire after a meeting with village elders near Kamu in eastern Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.

Staff Sergeant William R. Fritsche, 23, of Martinsville, Ind., also died in Friday’s attack, the Defense Department said.

Brenda Richardson said her son had talked about retiring from the Army in a year, after his tour was over.

“He wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “He wanted to come back to Llano and help younger children succeed.”

Thomas Bostick was born in San Diego and moved to Llano after his father, Thomas G. Bostick Sr., ended his career in the Marines. Bostick joined the Army Reserve while at Llano High School, and after graduating in 1988, he made the Army his career.

Bostick served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989: the U.S. mission to remove Gen. Manuel Noriega from power after his indictment in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

In Afghanistan, Bostick was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Sergeant First Class Bobby Bostick, 34, flew home from Iraq on Monday after hearing of his brother’s death. He said he called his older brother Big Bubba and looked to him for guidance and strength after he joined the military.

“He took care of his soldiers,” Bobby said. “He was definitely a good mentor and was one of the top captains in the Army.”

Richardson, 56, said her son believed in the mission in Afghanistan and enjoyed teaching members of his three platoons.

“He felt that he could make a difference in Afghanistan,” she said.

Bostick’s stepfather, Jim Richardson, 65, said the family is handling Bostick’s death by remembering his life.

“He was such a good son,” he said. “He’s one of the good ones that died too young.”

He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Services are pending.

Ian Sanchez

Ian T. Sanchez–June 2011 Shipment Honoree

Army Sergeant Ian T. Sanchez from Staten Island, NY, died June 16, 2006

S.I. Man Killed in Bomb Attack in Afghanistan

By JENNIFER 8. LEE, Published: June 20, 2006
Sergeant Ian T. Sanchez
Sergeant Ian T. Sanchez

A 26-year-old Staten Island man was one of two members of the Army killed in Afghanistan on Friday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in the Pech River Valley, the Department of Defense said yesterday.

The victims — Sgt. Ian T. Sanchez of Staten Island and Lt. Forrest P. Ewens, 25, of Washington State — were both based at Fort Drum, N.Y. They were assigned to the First Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, Third Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Sergeant Sanchez had been in Afghanistan since January.

Sergeant Sanchez, who graduated from Ralph McKee High School, had served five years in the Army. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer; an 18-month-old son, Marcus; and a 6-year-old daughter, Jessenya, from a previous marriage.

Mr. Sanchez’s cousin, who is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq, was not able to return home for the funeral, family members said. ”Our nephew Gregory Smith is distraught that he can’t be here,” said Cheryl McLoud, 37, an aunt to both men. ”We are outraged that they are not just letting him go.”

Ms. McLoud said that part of the difficulty was that Mr. Smith, 21, was not in Mr. Sanchez’s immediate family. ”They were very close,” she said, ”closer than most cousins.”

When the two men were younger, their families lived near each other. They played at each other’s houses and took martial arts classes together. They both trained in North Carolina at the same time and sent e-mail to each other from wherever they were stationed, Ms. McLoud said.

Jessenya’s first dance recital was on Father’s Day, Ms. McCloud said. The girl’s family waited until after the recital to tell her about her father’s death.

COP Sanchez Sign
COP Sanchez Sign

Mark E. Stratton II

Mark Stratton–May 2011 Shipment Honoree

Roadside bomb kills PRT commander, airman

By Bruce Rolfsen, Staff writer

Senior Airman Ashton L. M. Goodman was 21 years old and in the Air Force for less than three years; Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton came up through the ranks as a navigator and left his Pentagon desk job for a year in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, both died when a roadside bomb exploded as they drove in Afghanistan near Bagram Airfield.

A third person also died in the attack, but as of Wednesday afternoon had not been identified by the Pentagon.

Goodman, a vehicle operator dispatcher, was assigned to the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team and deployed from the 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. She grew up in Indianapolis.

Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton
Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton

Stratton, 39, commanded the PRT. He was deployed from the Joint Staff’s plans and program office at the Pentagon, an Air Force spokesman said.

Provincial reconstruction teams specialize in helping Afghan communities with development projects such as building roads and schools, expanding medical services and providing electrical power. Panjshir Province is located in the mountains north of Bagram Airfield.

A Pope spokesman said Goodman enlisted in July 2006 and arrived at the base in October 2006. She had already been on one deployment prior to joining the Panjshir team in June 2008 for a yearlong stay in Afghanistan.

“We will all feel sorrow as a result of her death, but should celebrate in how she chose to live her life, her commitment and dedication,” said Col. John McDonald, 43rd Airlift Wing commander.

Before starting the Pentagon staff post, Stratton flew as a senior navigator onboard RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft. On the Joint Staff, he served as an executive assistant for the deputy director for politico-military affairs-Asia.

Stratton’s Air Force career began in 1992 after receiving his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps and graduating from Texas A&M University in 1991.

He was raised in Foley, Ala.

Stratton’s survivors include a wife and three children in the Washington area.

“Mark was just an all around wonderful person,” Stratton’s step-father, Buddy York, told WKRG-TV. “The three things that were more important to him were God, his family and the military.”


Patriotism, belief in nation core values of Stratton

The Associated Press

 Mark E. Stratton II was a superb but humble leader, said his friend, Lt. Col. Clark Risner. “He wouldn’t have wanted any media spotlight on him,” Risner said. “He would want it on his team.”

“It sounds cliché but Mark was the most patriotic person I’ve ever met, just a model airman in every way,” he said. “He put the airmen that he was supervising or leading first, every step of the way.”

Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton
Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton

Stratton, 39, of Houston died May 27 near Bagram Air Field of wounds from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

“He was a very, very God-and-country kind of guy, very into the Air Force and democracy and the United States,” said his brother, Frankie Little. “People just couldn’t help but like him.”

After graduating from high school in 1987, Stratton went on to graduate from Texas A&M University. He had previously served on the staff at U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Stratton was commander of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. The group was building a road in the Panjshir Valley in north central Afghanistan.

He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and her three children.


Defense officials identify Air Force casualties

U.S Air Force News

5/27/2009 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Department of Defense officials announced May 27 the death of two Airmen who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died May 26 near Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device.

Killed was Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton II, 39, of Houston, who was deployed as the commander of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. He was assigned to the Joint Staff, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. as an executive assistant for the Deputy Director for Politico-Military Affairs, Asia.

Also killed was Senior Airman Ashton L. M. Goodman, 21, of Indianapolis, who was also deployed to the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. She was assigned to the 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

A senior navigator for the RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft, Colonel Stratton previously served on the staff at U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Lt. Col. Stratton received his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1992 following his graduation from Texas A&M University in 1991.

Senior Airman Goodman, a vehicle operator dispatcher, enlisted in July 2006. Pope Air Force Base was her first duty assignment.

For further information about Colonel Stratton, please contact the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs office at (703) 695-0640.


AIR FORCE LIEUTENANT COLONEL MARK E. STRATTON, II

Washington, Jun 9, 2009

Speaker, noble sacrifice dominates the character of a man who so willingly dedicates his life for others. There are none who understand that any better today than the men and women in our U.S. military. They personify the very essence of what it means to be an American.

Today, under the morning sky at Arlington Cemetery, myself and other Members of Congress–Rob Wittman from Virginia, Jo Bonner from Alabama, and Senator Sessions from Alabama–joined several hundred other family members and friends as a 21-gun salute and “Taps” was played for United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mark E. Stratton, II. The somber silence of the grave sites was broken with this tribute.

Colonel Stratton trained as a navigator on an Air Force KC-135. In his honor, one of these massive aircraft flew low and slow over Arlington Cemetery, over the flag-draped coffin of one of Air Force’s finest. He gave his life helping the Afghan people to know dignity of a life lived in freedom.

He was assigned to the Joint Staff at the Pentagon here in Washington, D.C. and he served as the commander of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan. On May 26, 2009, Mark died near Bagram Airfield of wounds that he sustained from an improvised explosive device, what we call an IED.

Mark had strong Texas ties. He graduated from Texas A&M University in December of 1991 with a degree in political science. And while at Texas A&M, he was a member of Squadron 1 in the Corps of Cadets. He received his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1992. He has numerous Air Force commendations, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

He is remembered by friends as a man of unquestionable character and loyalty. He was a patriotic individual who exemplified the spirit of the American airman.

Lieutenant Colonel Gil Delgado, Mark’s former roommate at Texas A&M, described Mark as a man who passionately loved God, his family, his friends and his country, and it showed in everything Mark did.

Through his heroic work in Afghanistan, Mark lived a life helping other people. His time was spent building roads and clinics, schools and canals for the Afghan people. He was an ambassador for the American spirit. He described the job to family and friends as the best he had ever had in his entire career. When he was killed, Mr. Speaker, the villagers in Afghanistan had a memorial service in his honor.

Mark held a deep sense of tradition. Just a few weeks prior to his death, Mark made a special effort to share his Texas Aggie spirit with the Afghan friends that he had met. Mr. Speaker, each April 21, the day Texas gained independence, Aggies from Texas A&M observed what is called Aggie Muster. This occasion is where all Aggies gather in all parts of the world to honor Aggies who have died the previous year.

Even though Mark was the only Aggie within 100 miles of his forward operating base, he convinced the Panjshir Provincial Governor and his security detail to join him atop a nearby mountain to observe the very special occasion of Aggie Muster. One Aggie Air Force colonel and Afghan villagers paid tribute to Americans who died the previous year; that must have been a sight to see.

Texas Aggies have a long tradition of military service. In fact, during World War II, Texas A&M produced over 14,000 officers, more than came from West Point or Annapolis combined. Mark was a proud Texas Aggie.

Mark is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and their three children, along with his mother, stepfather, and his brother, Michael. Mark’s late father and namesake served as an Army captain in the Vietnam War. His stepmother, Debby Young, lives in southwest Houston. Mark’s brother, Michael, and stepbrother, Steven, also live in the Houston area.

A great testament to Mark’s life is the lives he forever changed through his work; every structure, every canal and road well traveled. Every school Mark helped build will offer generations of Afghan children the opportunity that comes from education. Every clinic he helped build will be a place where sickness will be cured, where human suffering is relieved, and where lives are being saved every day.

Mark has left a noble legacy as he has come to the end of this Earthly journey. It is for others now to pick up the torch he used to light a way for the Afghan people in the rugged mountains and deserts of this remote nation.

Mr. Speaker, it has been said, “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” Next year, on April 21, at Aggie Muster, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stratton’s name will be called. His name and life will be remembered by Aggies and other grateful Americans and by his Air Force buddies. But no doubt the people of Afghanistan will also remember the man from America, the Air Force colonel who built their schools, their water wells, and their villages. And maybe those villagers will return once more to that mountaintop and pay tribute to this American hero, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stratton.

And that’s just the way it is.


Lt. Col. Mark Edward Stratton II

Legacy Obituaries

LT. COL. MARK EDWARD STRATTON, II, 39, of Stafford County was killed Tuesday, May 26, 2009 near Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan while serving as Commander of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction team. Lt. Col. Stratton will be posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Air Force Combat Action Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal. Lt. Col. Stratton was a ’91 graduate of the Texas A&M squadron 1 Corps of Cadets. Following graduation, Lt. Col. Stratton entered the Air Force as a Communications Officer. He then went on to earn distinction as an RC-135 Cobra Ball Senior Navigator and Executive Assistant to the 55th Wing Commander, Offutt AFB, NE. Following graduation from the inaugural class of the Joint Advanced Warfighting School, Lt Col Stratton served in J-5 on the Joint Staff as the Taiwan desk officer and then as Executive Assistant to the Deputy Director for Asia. He was an active member of Stafford Baptist Church where he served as a beloved Sunday School Teacher. Lt. Col. Stratton is survived by his wife, Jennifer Stratton; his children, Delaney, Jake, and A.J.; his mother, Janice York and brother Frank Little of Foley, Alabama; brothers, Michael Stratton and Steven Stratton and step-mother, Debby Young of Houston, TX; grandparents, Frances Harrell, Gene and Dolly Little and Buzz & Ellen Goins. The family will receive friends from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, June 6 at Covenant Funeral Service, Stafford, VA. A funeral service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 7 at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Stafford, VA with Rev. Bill Jessup officiating. Burial will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 9 at Arlington National Cemetery. Memorials may be made to Stafford Baptist Church Missions, 2202 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Stafford, VA 22554 or to the USO online guest book.


Published in Houston Chronicle on June 4, 2009

Air Force officer from A&M dies in Afghanistan

By LINDSAY WISE Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

Lt. Col. Mark Stratton got his undergraduate degree at Texas A&M in 1991.

An Air Force officer with Houston ties who led a reconstruction team in Afghanistan was killed this week in an explosion, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton II, 39, was assigned to the Joint Staff at the Pentagon in Washington as an executive assistant for the deputy director for politico-military affairs for Asia.

Stratton died Tuesday near Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, of wounds he sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated, according to Pentagon officials.

Also killed in the incident was Senior Airman Ashton L.M. Goodman, 21, of Indianapolis, Ind. She was assigned to the 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

Stratton, a Texas A&M graduate, had deployed to Afghanistan in November as commander of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team, said Air Force Capt. Tom Wenz.

The team worked on civil affairs initiatives with the Afghan population, including a $28 million road construction project. As commander, Stratton would have interacted closely with local leaders and village elders, Wenz said.

Stratton was a superb but humble leader, said his friend, Lt. Col. Clark Risner. “He wouldn’t have wanted any media spotlight on him,” Risner said. “He would want it on his team.”

“It sounds cliché but Mark was the most patriotic person I’ve ever met, just a model airman in every way,” he said. “He put the airmen that he was supervising or leading first, every step of the way.”

Risner met Stratton five years ago when both men were students at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., and later served with him at the Pentagon. After Stratton deployed to Afghanistan, he emailed Risner about his pride in his team’s efforts to help Afghanis rebuild their country.

“He told me that was the best job he’s ever had. He felt like he was making a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis,” Risner said. “The work that they’re doing there is nothing short of heroic, and it’s truly tragic that his efforts would end this way.

A senior navigator for the RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft, Stratton had previously served on the staff at U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

He had received his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1992, a year after his graduation from Texas A&M University. His commendations include a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

“He’s a wonderful person, just a fine man as could be,” said Stratton’s grandmother, Dolly Little, in a telephone interview from Foley, Ala., where Stratton spent much of his childhood. “He loved his service.”

Stratton was very close to his late father and namesake, Mark Stratton, an Army captain and Vietnam veteran, said his stepmother Debby Young, who lives in southwest Houston. Stratton’s brother, Michael, and stepbrother, Steven, also live in the Houston area. His wife, Jennifer, and their three children live near Washington, D.C.

Young said Stratton’s family is devastated. “We’re pretty much basket cases,” she said. “You always know this is a possibility, but you always think it’s going to happen to somebody else, not to you.”

She takes solace in her memory of Stratton’s passion for his work in Afghanistan.

“This is what he wanted to do,” Young said. “He wanted to make a difference. And he did.”

Stratton will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Michelle Witmer

SPC Michelle M. Witmer – April 2011 Shipment Honoree

The true story of Army SPC Michelle M. Witmer,
assigned to the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd Military Police Company.

Michele Witmer with local kids
Michele Witmer with local kids

On the night of April 9, 2003, Michelle’s squad was called in to help protect an Iraqi police station that was being overrun by insurgents. Michelle, who usually drove the vehicle, instead acted as gunner that night. Minutes before she headed out, she sent an e-mail to her twin sister Charity (a medic in Baghdad), about their sister Rachel, who was also an MP stationed with the 32nd MPC in Baghdad.

The e-mail said, “Hi, sweetie bear. I love you. We are about to head out. Things have gotten really bad. I’m really worried about Rachel. She is [patrolling] in a bad part of town. I hope you will be ok. I just want you to know I love you for ever.”

Michelle and Rachel saw each other before they left that evening, in vehicle convoys headed for different parts of the city. Here are their own words about the events of April 9, taken from e-mail messages and interviews.

Michelle wrote, “We had a briefing telling us to prepare ourselves as best as possible for what lies ahead. I guess every convoy that’s gone up north so far has taken fire or been ambushed. The question of whether we will or not is not even really a question, more like a guess as to when.”

Michelle with sisters
Michelle with sisters

Rachel said, “I was in a gunner truck. I remember looking over and seeing my sister as a gunner. That’s odd. She’s usually the driver. I smiled at her. She smiled back at me. To this day I will kick myself, I had an urge to run over to her and hug her and tell her to be safe.”

There was something different in Michelle’s face, Rachel says. “It was more stoic than usual and she just—I don’t know if people know what’s going to happen to them, but she just—she had this calm, stoic look on her face.” Then Michelle waved goodbye, and it was the last time Rachel saw her.

Looking back, Michelle’s sister Charity also noticed something different about her twin sibling. “She just was so—at peace with herself, and with life. And [in] retrospect it’s just incredible to me. It was like she knew.”

“As I understand it, the patrol that Michelle was with was three Humvees, and they found themselves in the middle of a three-block-long ambush. All hell broke loose and there was fire from every direction.”

Michelle returned fire with her 50-caliber rail-mounted machine gun. Although she wore extensive protective gear, a single enemy bullet found an Achilles heel, striking below her arm and piercing her heart.

When Michelle was killed, she was supposed to serve only five more days of patrol duty before preparing to leave Iraq.


 Hundreds turn out to remember slain soldier

By Carrie Antlfinger, Associated Press

 BROOKFIELD, Wis. — Michelle Witmer told her two sisters when she was 10 years old that she wanted to be a hero.

“She was a hero when she died,” her identical twin, Charity, told more than 600 people Wednesday night at a memorial service for the 20-year-old, who died Friday in Iraq where all three sisters served with the National Guard.

Charity Witmer told the mourners that Michelle had told her and their older sister Charity as they talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up: “Seriously, I could push someone off a bridge and save them.”

That brought chuckles from the crowd.

But tears quickly followed for many when Charity added, “It wasn’t by saving someone in a lake. She was a hero when she died.”

Major Gen. Albert Wilkening, adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard, presented Witmer’s family, of New Berlin, with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the National Defense Service Medal.

Michelle’s father and mother read from Michelle’s e-mails.

She had sent one to many people, updating them on her life. She said she was working night shifts and rarely got a day off.

Her mother, Lori, told how just a year before, Michelle was a college student and her only worries were restocking the ramen noodles.

She read an e-mail that Michelle addressed to her father, with the subject line “Daddy,” pondering how the last year had changed her perspective on life, culture, war and things worth dying for.

“She began to think of her many experiences … and she preferred to think of them as spices that gave the story of her life a richer flavor.”

Charity, who tried hard to hold back tears, described Michelle as a klutz who loved candy.

“Michelle was a loving, empathetic woman, more wonderful than words can describe,” she said. “She loved the drama, she loved the cheese, she loved to tell stories.”

She also said her sister was at peace when she died.

“One of the last times I saw Michelle she gave me a big hug and kiss and said I love you. It was a gift from God. She was at such a good place when she left this world.”

Brig. Gen. Kerry Denson, commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, said Michelle was very proud of her contributions to the Iraqi freedom.

Two large photographs of Witmer, including one of Michelle dressed in fatigues, stood at the front of the auditorium at Elmbrook Church.

Witmer, a specialist with the 32nd Military Police Company, was the first Wisconsin National Guard soldier to die in military combat in 60 years. She was assigned to the U.S. Army military police, doing police work in Baghdad.

Her sister Rachel, 24, also served in the 32nd, which was sent overseas last May. Charity was sent to Iraq late last year as a medic with Company B of the Wisconsin Guard’s 118th Medical Battalion.

The sisters were granted leave and returned home Monday. They were still deciding whether to return to Iraq.

Gov. Jim Doyle attended the memorial service and told the state deeply respects the service and sacrifice they have given.

“We will support you and your family in whatever the future may bring,” he said.

Outside the church auditorium, scents of the large floral arrangements filled the air as mourners looked at collages of snapshots of Witmer and her family and friends.

The 2nd Platoon of her company sent an arrangement of flowers with a card that read: “Michelle, you’re always one of us in our hearts and minds.”


Wisconsin Guard members in Iraq mourn for slain comrade

Wisconsin National Guard members serving in Baghdad held each other and sobbed at a memorial service for a fellow soldier killed in an ambush last week.

Lee Sensenbrenner of The Capital Times in Madison, Wis., was in Baghdad and reported on Thursday’s service at a compound near the Tigris River to honor Spc. Michelle Witmer, who served with the Guard’s 32nd Military Police Company. The last time a Wisconsin Guard member was killed in combat was in World War II.

“People tell me that she did not die in vain, but I struggle with that concept,” Spc. Shizuko Jackson of Milwaukee told hundreds of troops at the service. “She was just 20 years old and had so much to live for.”

Jackson noted, “We will remember how much she loved the Iraqi children, the Iraqi people. Those who a lot of us view as the enemy, she helped.”

The 32nd suddenly had its tour of duty extended for another four months shortly after Witmer died. The company has been in Iraq for nearly a year.

“She rescued our minds from the loneliness and solitude brought about by a deployment that at times seems like it will never end,” said Sgt. Nora Prohaska, of Milwaukee.

Jackson, who is with the 32nd, spoke of how much Witmer loved her family, including her twin, Charity Witmer, who is a medic with another Guard unit, and her sister Rachel, 24, who is with the 32nd.

“We’re all scared about this extension. We’re all hurt and angry and tired. Michelle would feel the exact same way,” Jackson said. “But I feel good when I think of her watching over and protecting us, being with us until we’re all safe at home.”

Capt. Scott Southworth, the company commander, said he hopes Rachel chooses not to return to Iraq. She and Charity are currently on leave to be at home with their family in New Berlin. They have not said whether they will return.

“From my perspective as a commander, I hope they choose to stay home with their family. They need to stay home. They don’t need this.”

Southworth, a University of Wisconsin Law School graduate from Juneau County, said their choice is not whether they will continue their mission. He said the military depends on the families of soldiers, and that there are two missions — one for the 32nd to police Iraq, and the other to help heal the Witmers.

“We can do our mission,” he said. “No one else can do the mission with their family. If I could order them to stay home, I would.”

Medics who Charity Witmer served with crossed Baghdad to attend the ceremony, held poolside at a former resort of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

At the close of the ceremony, all the troops who had gathered stood in line to hug Jackson, Prohaska, Southworth and other close friends of Witmer.

Jackson said Witmer was “a friend to everyone,” someone who rarely asked for help and strove to improve herself.

“For some reason, I’m still waiting for her to come back, waiting for her to burst into our room with a huge smile on her face and maybe trip over something on the way in. … I miss her. I miss my Witmer.”

Witmer was buried Friday in Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee.

— Associated Press

 Wis. Guard plans memorial to soldier killed in Iraq

MADISON, Wis. — A memorial is planned to honor the first woman in the history of the Wisconsin National Guard to die in combat.

Spc. Michelle Witmer, 20, from New Berlin, was killed in Iraq last April.

The auditorium at Guard headquarters will be dedicated to Witmer and a life-size bronze bust of her will be placed in the lobby, said Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, spokesman for the Wisconsin Army National Guard, on Wednesday.

A planning committee is to select a sculptor soon.

No government money is to be used. About $25,000 for the memorial is to be raised through contributions.

Witmer was a member of the 32nd Military Police Company when she was killed in an ambush in Baghdad. Her twin sister and another sister also were serving with the Guard in Iraq at the time.

— Associated Press


WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF MILITARY AFFAIRS

Statement by Maj. Gen. Albert H. Wilkening on the
death of Wisconsin Army National Guard Specialist Michelle Witmer

I am deeply saddened by the death of Specialist Michelle Witmer. This very special citizen-soldier served her nation with bravery, distinction and valor as a member of the 32nd Military Police Company of Milwaukee and Madison. My deepest sympathy goes to Michelle’s entire family and especially to her two sisters, both of them Wisconsin National Guard soldiers who were also serving on active duty in Iraq. I hope the Witmer family knows just how proud Wisconsin is of Michelle, how grateful we are for her service, and how saddened the entire Wisconsin National Guard family is for her tragic loss. I pledge to the Witmers all the support of the Wisconsin National Guard they may need during the difficult days and weeks ahead.

Specialist Michelle Witmer is a hero whose service to Wisconsin and to her nation will never be forgotten. She is the first Wisconsin National Guard soldier killed in action since the waning days of World War II, and she is the first female soldier killed in action in the 167-year history of the Wisconsin National Guard.

In tribute to Michelle Witmer I am ordering the flags at all Wisconsin National Guard armories, air bases and other facilities lowered to half-staff beginning Monday morning and continuing until after her funeral service.

On behalf of all 9,900 of Specialist Witmer’s fellow soldiers and airmen of Wisconsin’s National Guard, I salute this fallen hero and pray for the safe and speedy return of the 32nd Military Police Company, and the continued safety of all 400 soldiers and airmen of the Wisconsin National Guard who are still serving overseas in harm’s way.

— Major General Albert H. Wilkening

William G. Hall

Lt. Col William G. Hall –March 2011 Shipment Honoree

William G. Hall, 38, gave wise counsel to all

By Sara Jean Green, Seattle Times staff reporter
Mother - William Hall
Mother – William Hall

Maj. William G. Hall had a wisdom, a maturity beyond his years that enabled him to provide sound counsel to his elders and, at the same time, guide those far younger than himself.

“He could be having a conversation with me and then my 10-year-old niece could walk in the room and he’d capture her like he’d just captured me,” said Maj. Hall’s eldest sister, Dolores Perry, 56, of Seattle. “He could talk to anyone — from the minister to a drug addict. He was just that kind of person.”

Maj. Hall, a 1987 graduate of Seattle’s Garfield High School, embodied a quiet strength and respect for tradition — both the traditions of the Marine Corps, where he moved up the ranks over the course of his 15-year career, and his family’s traditions. Like coming home at Christmas and calling his mother at Easter, which he did this past Easter Sunday.

It was 1 a.m. in Iraq, and his voice sounded tired, Perry said.  “He didn’t say a lot. He just gave us the reassurance he was OK,” she said.  It was their last conversation.

Maj. Hall — who was called “Billy” by those closest to him — was injured in Iraq’s Anbar province by an improvised explosive device on Saturday (March 29) and died the following day. He was 38.

Before his unit deployed to Iraq in mid-February, Maj. Hall was selected for promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel, said Maj. Jason Johnston, who is based at Marine Corps Airstation Miramar in San Diego. Though Maj. Hall’s unit — the 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force — was based at Camp Pendleton, it was attached to the Miramar air station, Johnston said.

“We went through basics school together, and we were off and on in touch throughout our careers,” Johnston said. “I talked to him just before he left.”

Maj. Hall would have been promoted to his new rank sometime this year, Johnston said.

After graduating from high school, Maj. Hall earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Washington State University in 1992. While at WSU, he enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, later joining the Marines. He met his future wife while assigned to a base in Florida, and he later served in Georgia, California and Japan.

According to his family, this was Maj. Hall’s second deployment to Iraq, where he was training Iraqi troops to take over the duties of American soldiers. And while he didn’t try to downplay the danger he faced, Maj. Hall also spoke of the good things happening in the war-torn country.

“I know most of what you hear on the news about Iraq is not usually good news and that so many are dying over here,” Maj. Hall wrote in a March 27 e-mail to his family, two days before he was fatally wounded. “That is true to an extent but it does not paint the total picture, and violence is not everywhere throughout the country. So please don’t associate what you see on the news with all of Iraq.”

He ended his e-mail with: “Love you and miss you. I’ll write again soon.”

In addition to his sister, Maj. Hall is survived by his wife, Xiomara Hall; daughters Tatianna, 6, and Gladys, 3; stepsons Xavier, 13, and Xander, 9, all of Temecula, Calif.; his mother, Mildred Hall, of Seattle; his sister Margie Bell, of Renton; his aunt, Alberta Hall, of Seattle; his uncle, Howard Berry of Kent; and several nieces and nephews.

The public is welcome to attend a memorial service for Maj. Hall that will include military honors at 11 a.m. Saturday at Seattle’s Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 2801 S. Jackson St. A memorial service is also to be held Monday at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Maj. Hall will be buried sometime next week at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.


Seattle-area Marine officer killed in Iraq

By MIKE BARBER, P-I REPORTER

Marine Lt. Col. William G. Hall, a Garfield High School and Washington State University graduate, was killed Saturday in Iraq, according to his family.

Lt. Col William G. Hall
Lt. Col William G. Hall

Hall, 38, who grew up in Skyway south of Seattle, is one of the highest-ranking U.S. military officers killed in the war. Information about the circumstances of his death was not immediately available from the Defense Department, which had not released an official notice of his loss.

He was the second member of the armed forces with local ties to die in Iraq on Saturday. The Defense Department announced Tuesday that Army Spc. Durrell L. Bennett, 22, of Spanaway was one of two soldiers serving with the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley, Kan., who were killed by a roadside bomb and small-arms fire in Baghdad.

Hall’s family said the husband and father of four died while riding in Fallujah in a vehicle that struck a roadside bomb. He was on his third deployment there, having arrived in February, and had been promoted to his new rank a month ago.

Hall had told his family not to worry about this deployment because there was more to teach than to fight.

Yet his life was ended by a bomb hidden in the roadway as he was being driven from his quarters to the school, said Pat Ward, the Mukilteo police and fire chaplain and a longtime family friend.

“I can’t tell you how fine this young man was — the finest husband, father, son, Marine, individual — warm, gracious, just our very best,” Ward said. “My heart breaks.”

Hall’s mother, Millie, of Skyway, declined comment Tuesday, deferring to other family members. Hall “believed strongly in growing, living and learning, and he did all of those things with great courage and integrity,” his family said Tuesday in a statement.

Hall’s wife and mother first learned in a phone call from the Marine Corps that he was in surgery after being injured. Later, two supportive Marine casualty-notification officers arrived at their door and they knew.

The Marines have been at their side since, family members said.

“He had just been transferred to California and his wife and children were just here in Seattle for Christmas. He wanted to return here someday,” said a cousin, Ingrid Goodwin of Seattle.

Hall graduated in 1987 from Garfield, where he had been a member of the school’s marching band. He earned a degree in physical education from WSU, where he enrolled in ROTC, which led to his commission in the Marine Corps. In 2006, he earned a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.

Hall’s family and friends last heard from him by e-mail from Iraq on Thursday.

“I am sure the first question in each of your minds is my safety, and I am happy to tell you that I’m safe and doing well,” he wrote. He signed it “Billy” — the name those closest to him knew him by.

While his 15-year military career took him many places, Hall’s heart remained here, where he grew up nurtured by his adoptive parents, Mildred and the late William Hall.

Hall now will make one final trip home. His body is expected to return to Seattle on Thursday. A memorial service with military honors, at which the public is welcome, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 2801 S. Jackson St., Goodwin said.

Source: Arlington National Cemetery Website

Donald T. Tabb

Donald T. Tabb –February 2011 Shipment Honoree

Fort Rucker will pause to remember a fallen hero who was killed in action Feb. 5 while serving with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Donald T. Tabb, 29, will be honored by Family, friends and fellow Soldiers during a memorial service at the Main Post Chapel Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

Donald T. Tabb with Bo
Donald T. Tabb with Bo

While stationed at Fort Rucker, the Soldier served with the Military Working Dog Section, 6th Military Police Detachment, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment.

Tabb’s Specialized Search Dog, Bo, a 2-year-old black Labrador, was injured but is expected to recover.

A Norcross, Ga., native, Tabb is survived by his mother, Gloria Smith of Lawrenceville, Ga.

He served with the military police here for about three years before attending the Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He graduated from the SSD handler program last March.

SSDs are specially trained in one field — detection. Unlike regular MWDs, SSDs aren’t aggressive and can be released by the handler to search up to a quarter-mile, according to Staff Sgt. Brian Coleman, a MWD handler and one of Tabb’s close friends.

Coleman attended the school with Tabb last year and knew him for three years. They also rode motorcycles together and Tabb often came to Coleman’s home for dinner.

“If there was food there, he’d be there. He was always hungry,” Coleman said with a laugh.

Coleman remembered Tabb as a guy who liked to work out, was laidback, outgoing and fun.

MWD handler Sgt. Michael Calvert said he had known Tabb for about four years.

“He was really easy to get along with. I would look forward to coming to work if I knew he was working. I knew if he was working I was going to have a good day,” Calvert said. “He’ll definitely be missed.”

Staff Sgt. Donald T. Tabb & Bo
Staff Sgt. Donald T. Tabb & Bo

Tabb’s sense of humor reached all of the MWD handlers he worked with, they said.

Sgt. Audra Rose, another MWD handler, described Tabb as “shameless.”

“He would do or say whatever — he didn’t care what other people thought,” she said. “If it was funny, he was going to do it even if no one else thought it was funny.”

Tabb also gave Rose some of his motorcycle equipment when she purchased her bike, which she said she appreciated.

Although his peers and comrades remember Tabb as being funny and outgoing, they also portrayed him as an exceptional leader and friend.

“He’s exactly what a [noncommissioned officer] should be. He would go out of his way to help anybody. All you had to do was ask him,” said Sgt. John Stevenson, MWD handler.

Tabb earned the rank of staff sergeant in four and a half years, which is a huge accomplishment, according to Coleman.

Tabb was upfront and honest, he’d speak his mind and was a really good NCO, Rose said.

Calvert said he and the other dog handlers were shocked and saddened when they heard the news of Tabb’s death.

The MWD Section is a close-knit group comprised of about 10 Soldiers, Rose said.

“It was hard [to hear the news]. I just cried,” she said.

Coleman said he spoke to his friend two days before he was killed.

“He and his dog were doing great and were successful [in Afghanistan] before the incident,” he said. “It hurts to see a good friend go because you meet a lot of good people in the military.”

Since enlisting in the Army on Jan. 26, 1999, Tabb deployed four times in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

Tabb was eager to deploy and turned down permanent change of station orders and drill sergeant school so he could deploy, according to Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Dawson, Directorate of Public Safety operations NCO and Tabb’s former supervisor at the MWD Section.

“He was a proven combat veteran of three previous deployments to Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan,” he said.

DPS Sgt. Maj. Marcel Dumais said Tabb volunteered for this deployment.

“He felt strongly about our presence and our mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom … he fully understood what was expected of him and he rose to the occasion, Dumais said. He is a true patriot and a great American, and I wish I had 10 more just like him.”

Tabb’s commander, Capt. Jay Massey, 6th Military Police Detachment, said Tabb was a role model and the epitome of a noncommissioned officer.

“Any time a Soldier of mine is deployed is a big deal,” Massey said. “Every task or mission that Tabb was given was executed above and beyond what was asked and he performed 110 percent. I have a son who’s 5 years old and if my son was 18 and he deployed, Staff Sgt. Tabb was the kind of guy you’d trust to lead your kid. He was a friend, he was a son and he was well-loved by every Soldier in my unit. He’s going to be missed.”

Tabb is the third Fort Rucker Soldier to die in combat in more than 18 months and the first Army MP dog handler to die in combat during the Global War on Terrorism. His funeral service will take place Saturday in Lawrenceville.
Fallen GI’s military dog starts new life


From Jim Barnett, CNN Pentagon Producer

LAWRENCEVILLE, Georgia (CNN) – Bo, a 2-year-old black Labrador and specialized search dog, has good reason to be wagging his tail.

Willie Smith with Bo
Willie Smith with Bo

The military working canine officially hung up his war leash at a moving ceremony Friday and retired to the good life in Georgia after being wounded in a roadside bombing that killed his handler in Afghanistan two months ago.

Staff Sgt. Donald Tabb, 29, serving his fourth deployment with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, died February 5, when his vehicle was hit by the roadside bomb. Bo, who was trained to clear roadways, find explosives and bomb-making materials, survived and has been adopted by Tabb’s family.

Willie Smith, Tabb’s brother, fought back tears Friday as he officially received the dog.

“I just want to say, having Bo means a great deal to myself and my family,” he said.

“Mr. Smith, today you’ve agreed to take Bo into your home to be part of your family,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Timmins, kennel master with the 6th Military Police Detachment. “You’re not just receiving a pet today. Bo is an outstanding soldier, and he served his country with distinction.”

Bo and Tabb went through extensive training together, graduating in March 2007 from the Defense Department’s Dog Training Center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The dog’s specialized training allowed him to be “off the leash at distances up to 100 meters,” according to an Army news release.

“It’s impossible to spend two minutes with this dog without smiling at least once,” Timmins said.

Of Tabb, Timmins added, “The one constant thing he would always tell me is how much everybody loved Bo. And I wholeheartedly believe that a dog takes on a personality of its handler … because everyone who knew Sgt. Tabb loved him too.”

Traditionally, a military working dog outranks the handler by one grade. Bo was officially retired as master sergeant. Tabb, an Atlanta native, was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class at Friday’s ceremony at the Gwinnett County Fallen Heroes Memorial.

CNN’s Jignesh Patel contributed to this report from Lawrenceville.

Patrick O. Williamson

Patrick Williamson –January 2011 Shipment Honoree

2 Louisiana soldiers among 18 honored by Obama

By Janet McConnaughey, The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Two Louisiana soldiers killed in Afghanistan were among 18 fallen service members honored Thursday by President Barack Obama at the Delaware air force base where their bodies were returned home to the U.S.

The bodies of Sgt. Patrick Williamson, 24, of Broussard, and Pfc. Brian Bates, 20, of Gretna in suburban New Orleans, were on the plane met early Thursday by the president at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Patrick O. Williamson
Patrick O. Williamson

“Brian met the president. And that’s all that matters. I know he would like that,” his wife, Enjolie Bates, said in a telephone interview from Lakewood, Wash. She said Bates loved his job and the Army.

“He liked the idea of fighting for his country. He thought that’s worth it. He believed in it,” she said.

He planned to make the Army his career, said his grandmother, Marlene O’Briant Tully of Gretna.

Both Bates and Williamson were in the Army’s 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry division and were killed Tuesday in Afghanistan, relatives said. Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

Bates drove a Stryker light-armored vehicle, “which he told me was the safest job they had. They hit a bomb. That’s all I know. All seven of them were killed,” Tully said.

Williamson’s father, Leon “Buddy” Williamson, said Thursday that his son recently was promoted to sergeant and was among soldiers in the brigade killed this week in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.

Williamson said his son was the first member of his family to enlist.

“At the end of the day, he was doing what he wanted,” Williamson said. “He’s wanted to join the Army and be in the infantry since fifth grade.”

He said he didn’t know what had sparked Patrick Williamson’s interest in the Army.

“Patrick lays claim to a badge of honor that very few people can lay claim to: having served his country honorably and well,” he said. “The rest of us can thank him because while the rest of us enjoy the fruits of freedom, he paid the price for it.”

Enjolie Bates said her husband joined the Army to take care of her and their children, Brylie, a 2½-year-old girl, and Braiden, a 1½-year-old boy.

“Braiden, he just started saying ‘Dada,’“ she said.

Tully said her grandson, whom she raised along with his 17-year-old brother, called her weekly. He talked to her Saturday and to his wife on Monday, she said.

She said Jefferson Parish was honoring him by flying flags at half-staff, and she thought it was a “wonderful thing” that an assigned Army escort would be with him until he is buried.

About the president’s decision to meet the airplane, Tully said, “He ought to be there for every last one of them.” A bit later, she said, “Obama needs to do something. Our kids are just dying. For what? What kind of war is this? We’re not trying to win.”

6th Annual Poker Run

Norwich 6th Annual Ride for Troops
Norwich 6th Annual Ride for Troops

More than 75 motorcycles participated in the American Legion Riders of Norwich’s Warren Eaton Post 189’s sixth annual Poker Run Saturday in support of the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project. According to ride captain Lex Danyluk, the ride raised more than $3,000 for the non-profit organization, which provides comfort and relief items to wounded soldiers being treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Legion Riders ‘saddle up’ to support injured soldiers on Armed Forces Day

Norwich-Over the last five years, the American Legion Riders of Norwich’s Warren Eaton Post 189 have raised roughly$7,000 for the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project, which supports American soldiers wounded in combat overseas. This Saturday, Armed Forces Day, the veterans group will be saddling up to support this cause once again with their sixth annual Poker Run

According to Ride Captain Lex Danyluk, around 165 bikes participated in the run last year.

“I’m hoping for more this year,” he said.

The event will take place rain or shine Saturday. Registration will open at 10:30 a.m. at the Lt. Warren Eaton American Legion Post 189, 29 Sheldon St. in Norwich. The entry fee will be $10 per hand. Bikes will leave the post at 11:30 a.m.

Ride Captain Danyluk described the run as a “leisurely and scenic” 80 mille ride. The first stop on the planned route will be the New York State Veterans’ Home in Oxford. From there, riders will head to Seebers Tavern in Smithville Flats for lunch. Additional stops will be made at Dave’s Dairy Treat in Cincinnatus, the American Legion Post in South Otselic and the Balsam Inn in East Pharsalia before returning to the Norwich American Legion Post for raffle drawings, light refreshments and entertainment.

Proceeds from the ride will benefit the LHCP. Founded by Karen Grimord in 2004, the non-profit organization provides comfort and relief items to wounded soldiers being treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Landstuhl, which is the largest American hospital located outside of the U.S., is the first stop for many soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan before returning home for further treatment and rehabilitation. The clothing and other needed items LHCP provides are designed to “enhance the morale and welfare” of those soldiers during their hospital stay which, due to the severity of their injuries, is often lengthy.

Grimord, who ALR Post 189 President Paul Russo describes as a “living angel,” will be traveling up from the D.C. area for Saturday’s event with her husband Brian.

To participate, all riders must be at least 18 years of age and posses a valid operator’s license. Bikes must be properly licensed, registered, inspected and insured.

For more information on the poker run, contact Bill Fowler at 656-5697 or via email at ALRPost189@yahoo.com

For additional information about the cause, visit LandstuHhospitalCareProject.org

6th Annual Poker Run


Virginia LDS Stuffs Pillows for Wounded Warriors

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Pillows for the Wounded
Pillows for the Wounded

Dear Karen, Just a quick note to thank you for letting us be a part of this special humanitarian service effort you are embarked upon.

Your presentation at last Saturdays women’s conference was beautifully rendered and opened the hearts and understanding of many.

I would like to stay in touch and if there is anything I can do to help you, just let me know.

Warm Regards,
Sandi Sears

 


Faith in Christ Leads to Pillows of Love for Wounded Troops

News Release
By Jeff Schrade, Director of Public Affairs
Fredericksburg Virginia Stake
Cell: (202)870-3277

 

Pillows for the Wounded - Whele daughter and mom
Pillows for the Wounded – Whele daughter and mom

Fredericksburg, VA – Over 200 local women came together on Saturday to sew pillowcases and stuff over 1,000 pillows, and then box them for shipment to wounded service members in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany. The women, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were working in conjunction the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project.

“The pillows are really a personal message to the troops that says, ‘I am here, depend on me for anything and not just now, but for as long as you need me.’ It is a soft whisper of encouragement,” said Karen Grimord, a Stafford resident who founded the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project in 2004. “It is amazing to see the expressions on our wounded warriors faces when they realize the pillows, toiletries and clothing are free. The only thing that comes close is a three-year old on Christmas morning.”

Karen and Rene
Karen Grimord, Founder and President of the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project, and LaRene Olbeter, President of the LDS Relief Society in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The Landstuhl hospital, located in Germany, treats the majority of serious casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan, and is the largest American hospital outside of the United States.

“We are here today to provide this service because of the love of Christ – love beyond measure. Our faith in him leads us to help others,” said LaRene Olbeter, as she stood in a bright yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” t-shirt. Olbeter is president of the church’s Relief Society program in the Fredericksburg area.

Saturday’s effort touched Jennie Pugmire of Fredericksburg, a church member who volunteered to help.

“In 2002 my husband Jeff was the sole survivor of a booby-trapped ammo dump in Afghanistan. Four of his buddies were killed that day. My husband lost his sight in one

Pillows for the Wounded
Pillows for the Wounded

eye, lost his hearing in one ear, dislocated his shoulders, and his body is still filled with shrapnel that sometimes still comes to the surface of his skin. When I heard today about men leaving the battlefield with nothing more than what they have on, it just hit me hard and I had to cry. It’s been wonderful to give something back to those who have given so much,” Pugmire said.

The Landstuhl Hospital Care Project was found in 2004 after Grimord visited her daughter and son-in-law in Germany. While there she spent time at the Army’s hospital and discovered a need for videos and DVD’s.

Pillows for the Wounded
Pillows for the Wounded

“Every month Landstuhl handles about 37,000 out-patient visits, 500 operations and 100 births for American military members and their families,” said Grimord, a former military contractor who saw action in Bosnia. “We started with shipments of videos and DVD’s. After sending that first shipment of 485 movies, I asked the Chaplin’s office what more was needed, and he suggested our troops could use some sweat pants and shirts. What was to be one shipment turned into another and another.”

It is now a nationwide effort that earned the “seal of excellence” from the Independent Charities of America (ICA). Of the more than one million charities operating in the United States today, it is estimated that fewer than 50,000, or 5 percent, meet or exceed the ICA’s standards, and, of those, fewer than 2,000 have been awarded its seal of approval.

Pillows for the Wounded
Pillows for the Wounded

“Last week we spent over a $1,000 a day in shipping out a variety of material. Those costs were picked up by BAE Systems and they will be paying for the shipments from today’s effort. We cannot thank them, or these local Mormon women, enough,” Grimord said. “Of course, we are always looking for help from others.”

The pillow project is the third major humanitarian project that Olbetter has undertaken since being asked last year to lead the local LDS Church’s multi-county Relief Society program.

“Last year we began by sewing 20 quilts for children in need. We followed that by providing over 100 ‘comfort kits’ for traumatized child abuse victims who are tenderly interviewed and examined at the wonderful, but sadly needed, Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center in Fredericksburg,” Olbetter said.

The Relief Society is a philanthropic and educational women’s organization and an official auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), unofficial known as the Mormon Church. The Relief Society was founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, and today has approximately 6 million members in over 170 countries and territories.

“Jesus Christ instructed all of us to love one another. The Relief Society program helps the women of our church put that instruction into action. We plan on a doing a lot more of that here in the coming years,” said Mike Kitchens, who serves as presiding officer of the LDS Church’s Fredericksburg Virginia Stake. The Fredericksburg Stake, which is similar to a diocese, has 4,600 members.