Facing Our Losses - Iraq 2006

Washington's toll in Iraq in 2006.

READ THE STORY • SEE THE IRAQ 2003 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2004 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2005 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2006 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2007 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2008 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2009 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2010 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2011 LIST • SEE THE AFGHANISTAN LIST 2,942nd to die: Dec. 15, 2006 - Army Staff Sgt. Henry Kahalewai Jr., 44, a Fort Lewis Stryker leader whose family lived in Tacoma, died in a Texas hospital of injuries he received in Iraq two weeks earlier, when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle. "The military, the Army, that was his thing," said his son Aaron. Though hed served almost two decades, "He was about ready to retire," the son said. Kahalewai was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, and enlisted in the Army because job and career opportunities were limited at the time, said his cousin, Joe Aguiar. "He wasn't comfortable, and he decided, well, he liked the military life," Aguiar said. Kahalewai has a grown son, and two daughters who live with his widow Debbie in Tacoma. 2,913th to die: Dec. 6, 2006 Marine Maj. Megan M. McClung, 34, of Coupeville, Island County, the first female Marine officer to die in the war, was killed while escorting journalists during combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. A public affairs officer stationed at Camp Pendleton, McClung, who grew up in California, was also the highest-ranking military woman killed in Iraq. She died while escorting an embedded crew from Newsweek magazine. She had just dropped off TV host Oliver North and a FOX News crew before she was killed by a roadside bomb. "She was a Marine's Marine," said Camp Pendleton spokesperson Navy Lt. Commander Cliff Carnes. "She exemplified everything that it was to be a warrior, she was a great personality and a great friend." McClung was remembered by many journalists for her assistance. Lawrence Kaplan of The New Republic called her his "guardian angel." She "did a difficult job cheerfully, and she did it well," he noted. Her parents, Michael and Re McClung of Coupeville, said their daughter, a 1995 Annapolis grad, rejoined the service last year so she could serve in Iraq. "She wanted to get the message out about the courageous folks who are there doing their job," said her mother. 2,910th to die: Dec. 5, 2006 Army Spc. Jordan W. Hess, 26, of Marysville, died at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio of injuries suffered Nov. 11 in Ta'Meem, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his tank while on combat patrol. Hess, who was driving the tank, was assigned to the 77th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany. His parents and many of his seven siblings were in San Antonio when he died. "He told us he loved us," said his father, Bill Hess, a Boeing engineer and Air Force veteran. Young Hess had been planning to marry a woman he met in Germany, his family said. He attended Lake Stevens High School and later obtained his GED in Marysville. He had been a top prep wrestler with a creative side. "He liked to make things," said his father. "He was a free spirit and did the things he wanted to do." 2,903rd to die: Dec. 3, 2006 Army Cpl. Billy B. Farris, 20, of Bapchule, Ariz., stationed at Fort Lewis, died in Taji, Iraq, of injuries from a roadside bomb. He was assigned to the 5th Battalion Stryker Brigade. Farris was in a convoy traveling to Baghdad when the bomb exploded beneath his vehicle. "I was so sure he'd be coming home," said his mother, Elizabeth Antone, "that it would be somehow the angels would really watch over him and guide him away from explosions." Farris attended high school in a small Arizona Indian community for two years and graduated from the Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Ore., before joining the Army in 2004. His father, Larry, remembered his son as "a warrior. He knew what he was getting into and he was proud of what he had to do for our country." Farris had an infant son, who lives with his mother in Alaska. 2,854th to die: Nov. 14, 2006 - Army Spc. Justin R. Garcia, 26, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Elmhurst, New York, was killed by a roadside bomb that struck his humvee in Baghdad. He was a member of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. His widow, Michelle Garcia, who is pregnant with their first child, said Garcia lost his parents as a teen and had lived "a rough life" growing up in Queens. "All he wanted was his [future] son to grow up with a father." His stepfather, Vincent Narcisco, recalled that Garcia "wanted to serve his country, especially after 9/11. He was a good kid. He was sincere ... He was brave." 2,778th to die: Oct. 17, 2006 Army Staff Sgt. Ronald L. Paulsen, 53, of Vancouver, died Oct. 17 in Tarmiya, Iraq after a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. Paulsen was assigned to the Army Reserve's 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, Utica, N.Y. He was called up last year after he had served in the active Army for 14 years and left in 1992. He was, at this time, the oldest solider from Washington to die in Iraq. "Ron was a very well-respected, very well-liked guy," said Scott Eave, his former employer at a heavy construction firm in Portland. "He was one of those guys who is a part of this place." His widow, Beverly, who married Paulsen in February, recalled him as "a very loving, caring man. We were best friends for 15 years." Beverly, who has a grown son, said Paulsen worked as an engineer in Iraq. "He took pictures of structures and took them to get bids so the Iraqi people could do the building. He was a great man, who will be greatly missed." 2,758th to die: Oct. 12, 2006 - Army Sgt. Gene A. Hawkins, 24, of Orlando, Fla., died in Mosul, Iraq, from injuries caused by a roadside bomb detonated near his RG-31 Mine Protected Vehicle. Hawkins was assigned to the 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Combat Support Brigade at Fort Lewis. He was scheduled to join other troops from the battalion on a rotation back home the week after his death. Hawkins joined the Army in February 2003, weeks before the Iraq war began. "He wanted to make that his career," said grandmother Gwendolyn Taliver, who raised Hawkins and his three siblings during childhood and teenage years. "He wanted to go as far as he could." Hawkins attended Colonial High in Orlando and earned a diploma through the Job Corps. "We know that he's in a better place and we will see him again," his grandmother said. 2,744th to die: Oct. 7, 2006 Army Cpl. Carl W. Johnson II, 21, a Fort Lewis soldier from Philadelphia, died when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Mosul. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. Johnson graduated from Phillys Simon Gratz High School where he played defensive end on the football team. He joined the Army in 2003 and had been in Iraq since February. His aunt, Patricia Williams, said Johnson was to return home in January and planned to shop for a motorcycle. "He was looking forward to going back to school, to college," she said. "He liked to laugh and he liked to joke. ... He liked to be happy." Said Johnsons squad leader, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hoffman: "Being around him always brought a smile to my face. And I thank him for that, because there were many times I needed it." 2,716th to die: Sept. 30, 2006 Army Spc. Robert F. Weber, 22, a Fort Lewis soldier from Cincinnati, was killed in a Humvee rollover accident near Mosul. A gunner, he was killed while sitting atop the Humvee when it flipped. Weber was assigned to Fort Lewis' 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. His aunt, Debbie Niehoff, said Weber was a graduate of Cincinnati's Dater High and signed up for the Army in 2004, planning to eventually take advantage of military educational benefits and become a history teacher. Niehoff recalled that Weber worried "it was getting more dangerous [in Iraq]." She added: "I want people to know how brave he was. I want people to know his heart was huge." 2,706th to die: Sept. 25, 2006 Army Cpl. Casey L. Mellen, 21, of Huachuca City, Ariz., a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier, was killed in a firefight with enemy forces in Mosul. Married less than a year, Mellen was on his initial tour in Iraq. A friend, Sgt. Michael Hernandez, shared comments of other Fort Lewis soldiers at Mellen's funeral. They said he had a calming influence on his comrades and that he held a place of honor in his platoon. He also had "an uncanny ability to slow things down and project a sense of peace, even in a place of chaos and ugliness," Hernandez said. "He was the one who listened and analyzed, and when he did speak, his words carried an air of certainty," Hernandez recalled. "For a 21-year-old man, his words were sagelike." On his MySpace Web page, Mellen wrote of the goal he wanted most to achieve this year: "Stay alive." 2,693rd to die: Sep. 20, 2006 — Army Master Sgt. Robb Gordon Needham, 51, of Vancouver was killed by sniper fire while on patrol in an undisclosed area of Iraq. A career solider, Needham was in his 25th year in the Army, and was based with the First battalion, Fourth Brigade, at Fort Lewis. He was the one of the oldest soldiers to die in the war and the oldest of Washington-connected soldiers to die in Iraq. Family members said he had taught high-school courses at the local New Generation Christian School. "He was a hero in Clark County," said the Rev. John Bishop, senior pastor at Living Hope Church. "He was in special ops - he was a front-line kind of guy. He was amazing. He could have retired, but he chose to go back to Iraq. He didn't care about opinions. He just wanted to serve and defend freedom." Needham was married and had two grown children and two grandchildren. 2,673rd to die: Sept. 7, 2006 — Army Spc. David J. Ramsey, 27, of Tacoma, was medically evacuated from Iraq on Aug. 24 and died from a non-combat related incident on Sept. 7 in Spanaway, Wash. Ramsey was assigned to the 47th Combat Support Hospital, 62nd Medical Brigade, at Fort Lewis. He was married and had two stepchildren. His family said he was "loved by so many people and welcomed anyone and everyone into his life with open arms." In an obituary, his widow, Genesa, wrote: "David, you made me the happiest woman in the world the day you entered my life. You loved me unconditionally and more than anyone could ever have loved me. Thank you for loving me and our kids' and for us being best friends." 2,665th to die: Sept. 4, 2006 — Army Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman McKinney, 20, of Redlands, Calif., died in Taji, Iraq, after she was struck by a military vehicle. McKinney, on her first tour in Iraq, was married to another soldier, Christopher McKinney, also of Fort Lewis, and had a young son. She had been assigned to the 542nd Maintenance Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion, at Fort Lewis. Her father served in the Navy, her older brother was training to be a naval officer, and her younger brother was in a Marine Corps boot camp at the time of her death. Family members said she had read the classic novel "Gone With the Wind" a dozen times and identified with heroine, Scarlett O'Hara. "She was willing to sacrifice a lot for her country," said her mother, Barbie. "But her hope was all on coming home." 2,658th to die: Sept. 3, 2006 — Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard J. Henkes II, 32, of Portland, died of head injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, at Fort Lewis. His sister Linda Bass, who is an Army captain, said Henkes loved soldiering. "He believed in serving his country and doing something that would have a positive effect," Bass said. "He believed he was doing something for the greater good." He enlisted in the Army in 1992, and served in the National Guard in Washington and Oregon before returning to Army active duty in 1997. His survivors include a daughter, 5. 2,639th and 2,640th to die: Aug. 27, 2006 — Army Spc. Kenneth M. Cross, 21, of Superior, Wis., and Pfc. Daniel G. Dolan, 19, of Roy, Utah, died during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq, when their Stryker Vehicle came in contact with enemy forces using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. Both were assigned to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis. Cross's father Michael remembered his son as "a fun kid always smiling, laughing, joking you never knew what he was going to do." Cross dropped out of high school and earned a GED so he could enter the service. His mother Elizabeth said Cross loved children and wanted to be a soldier since he was a kid. He met his wife, Heidi, of Steilacoom, via an online dating service and they married not longer after their first meeting. Heidi Cross said she spoke to her husband two hours before his death. "People say I'm pretty lucky to have talked to him right before it happened," she said. Dolan's father Tim said his son "was proud, he was proud to serve his country." Friends called him a typical teen, in love with cars and girls; he played hockey and other sports in high school. "He was, of course, brave or he wouldn't have done it," said his mother Fay of Daniel's enlistment. "And he was an honest kid and he was loyal to his friends." 2,609th to die: Aug. 20, 2006 — Army Sgt. Gabriel G. DeRoo, 25, of Tacoma, a Stryker soldier, was killed after being hit by small arms fire in Mosul. A native of Paw Paw, Michigan, DeRoo was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. He was the first to die from the unit that arrived in Iraq in June for its second yearlong deployment, and the 74th solider from Fort Lewis to die in Iraq. The Rev. Mark Suko of Discovery Baptist Church in Gig Harbor, who was DeRoos father-in-law, said "He always sent gifts home and flowers to honor his family and wife while he was away." Faith was an important element of his life, his family said, so much so that DeRoo was nicknamed "John 3:16" by fellow soldiers. DeRoo enlisted in 2002, choosing the infantry because "it was the most demanding physically", said his mother, Laura DeRoo. "That was how he lived his life. He liked to be challenged, mentally, physically, spiritually." He leaves behind a widow and a son. "He was a Christian young man of uncommon integrity, character and valor," the Rev. Suko said. "He was my inspirational prayer partner, and he was my son-in-law as well." 2,590th to die: Aug. 6, 2006 Army Staff Sgt. Tracy L. Melvin, 31, of Seattle, died of injuries from an improvised explosive device detonated near his armored vehicle during combat at Ar Ramadi, Iraq. He was assigned to the Army's 1st Armored Division out of Germany. "The Army was his life," said his father Bill Swindle. "He was on his third enlistment and said he would 're-up' and go as long as he could." His family said Tracy was proud to have been a pallbearer at the 1998 funeral of Seattle School Supt. John Stanford, a retired Army general who died of leukemia. Melvin was also an amateur military historian who recounted famous generals and battles from WWII and Vietnam. A football player at Chief Sealth High in Seattle before transferring in 1992 to Harry S. Truman High in Federal Way, Melvin helped his prep history teacher lecture on the Vietnam War. He served four years with the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment at Arlington National Cemetery where duties included guarding the Tomb of the Unknown. "He was shy," recalled ex-wife Sheri Washington, "but he always wanted to go into the military. He was realizing his dream, enjoying what he did." 2,570 to die, July 29, 2006—Marine Pfc. Jason Hanson, 21, of Forks, died while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to a light armored reconnaissance battalion of the 1st Marine Division, Twentynine Palms, Calif. Three other Marines died with him, including Cpl. Phillip Baucus, nephew of Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. An explosion caused a building to collapse on them. Hanson was well liked and respected around his small Olympic Peninsula logging town, where a memorial service for him was held at the local high school. "He believed in fighting for his country," said his mother, Carol. "He had such a good spirit and it showed through his eyes." Hanson, earlier in July, told a military correspondent he was knocked off his feet after he was shot in the chest during a small skirmish. The bullet was deflected by his armored vest. Though the vest was heavy and cumbersome, "I'm happy to carry the extra weight," Hanson told an interviewer. His mother says he also survived three car accidents. "It took the whole universe coming down to stop him." 2,515th to die, June 24, 2006—Army Sgt. Justin Norton, 21, of Rainier, Thurston County, died in the vicinity of Baghdad from injuries sustained when he encountered small arms fire and an improvised explosive. He was assigned to the 10th Calvary Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas. Norton enlisted in the Army his senior year at Rainier High in 2003, following in the footsteps of his stepfather and grandfathers. His brother, Dean, recalled that Justin "liked to laugh a lot. He liked to joke around ... hang out and have fun. We watched a lot of movies together. We were very close." Norton wrestled and played football at Rainier and planned, when he completed his military tour, to enroll in a community college criminal justice course, his family said. His stepfather, Gary Warnock, is a Thurston County deputy coroner. Brother Dean recalled: "He felt like he was doing a thing that he should, and he was serving his country, and he was fulfilling a commitment he had made." 2,510th to die: June 23, 2006—Army Pfc. Devon J. Gibbons, 19, of Port Orchard, died in Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, of injuries sustained on April 11 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Bradley Fighting Vehicle during combat operations in Taji, Iraq. Gibbons was assigned to the 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas. He lost a valiant struggle to heal from burns on 90 percent of his body. He also lost parts of three limbs. "Your body can only take so much," said his father, Mel Gibbons, who served in Vietnam. "One of the last words he was able to say was, 'I love you' and 'Come here,'" to his mother. A Web site that kept track of Devon's hospitalization attracted e-mailed prayers and notes of encouragement from around the world. Ultimately, the struggle was too painful to endure, his family says. "Actually, it is for the best," his father said with resignation, "because Devon was in so much pain." 2,385th to die, April 22, 2006—Army Spc. Eric Dean King, 29, Vancouver, Wash., was one of four soldiers who died of injuries sustained during combat operations in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee, causing a fire. King, part of the 1st Squadron, 67th Armored Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas, was married with two children, whose names were tattooed on each of his arms. He quit his Portland truck-driving job in 2004 to join the Army because "he always wanted to go into the military," said his widow, Tracie King, "and he wanted to go into Iraq. He was where he wanted to be—on the front lines." Born in Florida, King's passion was his family and fishing. "He loved the Columbia River, for fishing," Tracie King said. "He loved the sturgeon. He loved what the Northwest had to offer." But, she added, "He really believed [in] what he was doing over there." 2,332nd to die, April 2, 2006—Marine Staff Sgt. Abraham G. Twitchell, 28, of Yelm, Thurston County, was one of eight Marines killed when the seven-ton truck they were riding in was swamped by a flash flood and turned over near Al Asad, Iraq. He was assigned to the Marine Expeditionary Force based at Twentynine Palms, Calif. "I never dreamed my son wouldn't come back," said his father, Maurice Twitchell of Bellevue, whose father was killed in World War II. Abe Twitchell was raised in the Lacey-Yelm area, along with his six siblings, and graduated from Yelm High School before joining the Marines in 1995. He arrived in Iraq in February, after he became a father; his daughter was born in August. He also leaves a widow and two stepsons. His sister, Sara Nichols, recalled that Abe was a typical teen and young man who liked country music, hanging with friends, and working on cars. "We were always The Brady Bunch without the maid," she said of their youth. "It was always the six of us ... Now there's a hole." Added Twitchell's father: "He served with honor and pride and was very glad to be able to serve in defense of his country and its values of democracy and freedom." 2,317th and 2,318th to die, March 18, 2006—Army Staff Sgt. Ricardo Barraza, 24, of Shafter, Calif., and Sgt. Dale G. Brehm, 23, of Turlock, Calif., died in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, when struck by small arms fire from enemy forces during combat operations. Both were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Lewis. Barraza, a battalion squad leader, had served six tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and was scheduled to return home the month he was killed. He planned to marry in May. One of five kids, he grew up in Washington and has relatives here. "Being a Ranger and a squad leader at 24 was an extraordinary achievement," said Shafter Police Chief John Anthony Zrofsky, speaking for the family. "He embodies the full spirit of the Ranger creed." In a statement, his mother, Nina, said, "I am proud of my son; he will always be my hero." Brehm, who graduated from Turlock Adult School in 2000 and joined the Army a year later, was married in 2004. He was sent to Iraq in November last year, and was killed three days before his 24th birthday. "Dale loved the Army, he loved being a Ranger," said his father, William Brehm. "He enjoyed his time there. He was at peace with himself and had God in his heart. He said that if he didn't make it back, it would be by God's choosing. That's comforting to know." 2,275th to die, Feb. 18, 2006—Army Sgt. Charles E. Matheny IV, 23, of Arlington, was killed near Baghdad when an explosive was detonated outside his vehicle. A 2000 graduate of Arlington High School, he enlisted the following year, went to Iraq, was injured, spent time recovering, re-enlisted, and returned to Iraq in late 2005. His family recalled he took risks others wouldn't take. Unmarried, Matheny volunteered for convoy missions into the slums of Baghdad, sitting in place of fellow soldiers who were married and had children. "I think he decided he was in a stage in his life," said his father, Charles, "where he had to rise to the occasion and be the man." Matheny came from a military family—his father, mother, grandfathers, and one great-grandfather all served. A mechanic in the 704th Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, his passion was cars and, while growing up, war movies. His mother, Debbie Noble, recalled him saying during a recent visit, "I'm living every boy's dream. I get to play on tanks." His service years were the happiest he'd known, she said. "He was a fulfilled, happy man." He died three weeks short of his 24th birthday. 2,252nd to die: Feb. 4, 2006—Army Spc. Roberto L. Martinez Salazar, 21, a Fort Lewis soldier from Long Beach, Calif., was killed while on patrol in Mosul, Iraq, after an improvised explosive was detonated near the combat engineer's Humvee. He entered the Army in March 2003 and was stationed at Fort Lewis with the 555th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. Capt. Regan Campbell remembered Salazar for the look in his eyes: "always focused and powerful. He always seemed to be looking into my soul. I always felt secure with him as a gunner because I knew he would give 'em hell if he needed to." Salazar was born in Mexico City and moved to California with his family at a young age. He and his sister were raised by an aunt in Southern California. "He was a very important part of my life," said his cousin, Adrian Mendoza. Salazar, a graduate of Millikan High in Long Beach, helped Mendoza train for the wrestling team, of which Salazar had been a member. Despite his residency and military service, he had not obtained U.S. citizenship. But it has now been granted posthumously, the family said. 2,194th to die: Jan. 7, 2006—Army National Guard Lt. Jaime L. Campbell, 25, of Ephrata, Grant County, was killed along with 11 others when a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting crashed while supporting troop movements near Tel Afar, Iraq. A onetime Washington State Rodeo Queen, Campbell graduated from Ephrata High School in 1998. She had been student body president. Her husband, Army Capt. Sam Campbell, was also in Iraq; both had earlier been stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Her mother, Miki Krausse, said Campbell, one of three daughters, had been a talented artist and expert horsewoman. She earned rodeo queen honors for her horse-handling skills while still in high school. "When she decided to do something, it had to be her best," said Krausse. "She was as beautiful inside as she was outside." Campbell spent her early years growing up in Grays Harbor County, where she has relatives. "She was just one of those kids that every parent dreams of," said aunt Elsie Chiles of Elma. "She just had so much goodness and love in her heart. She had so much more to give." 2,180th to die: Jan. 1, 2006—Army Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Van Der Horn, 37, born in Tacoma and raised in Bellevue, became the first U.S. service member killed in Iraq in 2006 when a bomb exploded near the Humvee in which he was riding outside Baghdad. Assigned to the Army's 101st Airborne Division, "He was a soldier at heart," said his adopted mother, Nancy Van Der Horn, of Beaux Arts Village near Bellevue. Father Bob Van Der Horn described his son as "talkative, opinionated, and caring—kind of a hard head with a very soft heart." A onetime Chinook Junior High and Bellevue High student, he joined the Army at age 20 and served seven years in Hawaii and Italy. He also saw combat in Bosnia and Sierra Leone. After a long break as a civilian, working in part as a law enforcement officer, he re-enlisted in 2004. In a report aired on National Public Radio following Van Der Horn's burial, his parents recalled how he lost 40 pounds in four months to make re-enlistment weight. Nancy Van Der Horn said her son was born on Flag Day, "so we always flew a flag on his birthday." Added widow Teresa Van Der Horn, mother of their two children: "I knew that this was what he wanted to do. It's what he believed in, so I supported him."  

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