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 3,880th to die: Nov. 30, 2007 – Army Sgt. Blair Emery, 24, a Fort Lewis military policeman from Lee, Maine, was killed when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Baqouba, Iraq. He'd been stationed at Fort Lewis since 2003 and was with the 571st Military Police Company. Emery was due to get out in October but, as part of the troop-surge strategy, his and other soldiers' deployments were extended three months. "He got killed in the extension, and it really hurts," said his father, Earl Emery. "If he could have been out of there on time, he could have been in Maine, home with us." His family remembered Emery as a star high school baseball player who followed his two sisters into the Army. One of his grandfathers served in World War II, the other in Korea, and two uncles served in Vietnam. An aunt was a military police officer and Emery met and married a woman who was then serving in the Army. "He was a jokester," said sister Betsy Siegfried. "If he thought he could do something goofy to make you smile and laugh, he was going to do it." But, added his father, "When you see the casket roll off the plane, when you first see the appearance of the American flag over the casket, it hurts. It hurts. That's your son inside that casket, and you can never talk to him again."
3,873rd, 3,874th and 3,875th to die: Nov. 18, 2007 – Army Pfc. Marius L. Ferrero, 23, of Miami, Cpl. Jason T. Lee, 26, of Fruitport, Mich., and Cpl. Christopher J. Nelson, 22, Rochester, Thurston County, were killed while reportedly handing out candy and toys from a military vehicle to children in Baqouba, Iraq, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives. All were Stryker Brigade soldiers from Fort Lewis. Ferrero joined the Army early this year and arrived at Fort Lewis in July. Officials said he'd been in Iraq only a few days, having celebrated Thanksgiving with his family in Florida. "He wanted us to give him a Thanksgiving dinner, and it seemed like it was a farewell," said his mother Maribel Ferrero. "Sometimes you get a feeling." Ferrero was a ROTC member in high school and his grandfather had been in the Cuban military before Fidel Castro's takeover. Lee, married, joined the Army in May 2005 and was deployed with the 4th Stryker Brigade in May for a 15-month tour in Iraq. "He said he could see a difference from when he got there," said his father, Thomas Lee. "He said, 'Dad, I'm making a difference.'" Nelson, who'd been in the service four years, graduated from and played football at Rochester High School in 2003, and married in 2005 just prior to the Seahawks' Super Bowl game (he was a big Seahawks fan and figured the Super Bowl would help him remember his wedding date). "He was always very upbeat, positive and very respectful," said Rochester athletic director Al Shele. "He just had a great personality."
3,868th to die: Nov. 14, 2007 - Army Sgt. Kenneth R. Booker, 25, of Vevay, Ind., died in Mukhisa, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis. He joined the Army after graduating from high school in 2000 and previously deployed to Afghanistan. "He was a very good son," said his mother, Becky Graham. "He never gave me any trouble." She recalled he downplayed the dangers of Iraq. "He always told me, 'It's pretty dull here,"' she said. Once, when talking to him on the telephone, there was a loud explosion on his end. He asked if his mother had heard it; she said yes and asked what it was. "Just another explosion," the soldier said.
3,864th and 3,865th to die: Nov. 13, 2007 – Army Sgt. Christopher R. Kruse, 23, of Emporia, Kan., and Cpl. Peter W. Schmidt, 30, of Eureka, Calif., died Nov. 13 in Mukhisa, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated during dismounted combat operations. They were assigned to the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis. Kruse, a graduate of Dodge City High, was married and had two children. He was remembered by family friend Jack Schultz "as sweet, brave and shy." His sacrifice in Iraq "was his final selfless act of love," Schultz said. "It was for the love of his family and for the love of his country." Schmidt graduated in 1995 from Arcata High School where he ran cross country for two years and worked on the yearbook staff - the yearbook describes him as a "well-known stud." On his MySpace page, he wrote about hopefully someday returning home to a normal life where people are "not shooting at you every time you are outside, no mortar rounds being shot at you, and wearing whatever clothes I want. Until then, I guess I will just continue to sweat my ass off and try to convince myself that there is a good reason to be fighting this war over here."
3,857th to die: Nov. 5, 2007 – Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin R. Bewley, 27, of Hector, Ark., died of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was conducting operations in Salah ad Din province, Iraq. Bewley was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 in Oak Harbor. His family remembered him as someone who loved the outdoors: Following his initial tour in Iraq, Bewley and older brother Patrick, camped in minus-28 degree Arctic weather, fulfilling a promise to each other that they would try to see the Northern Lights. "He didn't need a lot around him to be happy," said the brother, "just friends and family and getting to be outside." His mother, Connie Whitaker, said she was devastated by her son's death in a war she disagrees with. "The needless loss of life of our American servicemen and women is something that we as a nation must stop now," she said. "My son was precious to me, but so are the lives of everyone who has died needlessly, been maimed or who will suffer the trauma and horror of this senseless war."
3,818th to die: Oct. 8, 2007 – Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy W. Burris, 22, of Tacoma, was killed while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Born and raised in Texas, Burris had moved to Tacoma to work with a Christian ministry program before joining the Army, said his father, Brent Burris. The father said his son was killed instantly when his vehicle was hit by a bomb while on patrol near Al Qaim. Two others were wounded. The eldest of seven children, Jeremy had "a longtime desire to be a United States Marine," said the father. On his MySpace page, he proclaimed he was "Born and raised in Texas and proud of it," adding he liked to play the guitar and sing. "He was a precious young man who touched many lives," said his church pastor, Mike Glazener.
3,811th to die: Oct. 4, 2007 – Army Spc. Vincent G. Kamka, 23, of Everett, died in Bayji, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. The youngest of eleven siblings, Kamka was raised in Idaho and attended Idaho Falls' Skyline High School. He later moved to Everett and enlisted three years ago. His prep English teacher Robin Bush recalled Kamka once taking a picture of the school's flagpole as a jet passed by. "He told me that symbolized what he felt toward this country." In a statement, his family said "He served this country with dedication obvious to all now." In a MySpace comment, his sister Cassandra added, "I want everyone to know that my brother died to keep America free. I know that this war is looked on in many different ways. For my brother, he was there (Iraq) for the cause of helping and caring for people."
3,797th to die: Sept. 22, 2007 – Army Spc. David L. Watson, 29, a Fort Lewis Stryker solider from Tuckerman, Ark., died in Baqubah, Iraq, of injuries suffered from a non-combat related accident. A 1996 graduate of Tuckerman High School, Watson was remembered for a long list of school achievements including Top Honors and Student of the Year. His mother and grandmother both work at the school. One of his teachers, Kaye People, recalled "What a fine young man he was…a handsome man, and big beautiful eyes, and always had something to say to cheer you up." Added Supt. Chester Shannon, "He made my life richer."
3,793rd to die: Sept. 20, 2007 – Army Pfc. Luigi Marciante Jr., 25, a Fort Lewis Stryker solider from Elizabeth, N.J., died in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Married, with one child, Marciante "had nice big dreams for himself," said his older sister, Enza Jacobowitz. "When he was able to come home to see his son be born, it was just wonderful." a 1999 graduate of Elizabeth High School, Marciante joined the service with the aim of ultimately becoming a police officer. He had returned home recently for his son's birth and baptism, he talked about how his life had suddenly changed, and confided a dislike for returning to battle. "He did say it was scary, he did say it was dangerous, and he was afraid," said his sister. "He just had so much to lose, so much to think about with his son just being born."
3,790th to die: Sept. 19, 2007 – Army Cpl. Graham M. McMahon, 22, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Corvallis, Ore., died in Balad, Iraq, from a non-combat related illness. A 2003 Corvallis High grad, McMahon was remembered by his family as a "strong, bold, bright young man," who loved snowboarding in Oregon's mountains He was a combat medic who was proud to be called "Doc" by his fellow soldiers, the family said, noting he had planned to attend medical school. He had "a future full of promise ahead of him," said the family.
3,789th to die: Sept. 18, 2007 – Army Spc. Matthew J. Emerson, 20, of Grandview, Yakima County, died in Ninewah Province, Iraq, of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, in Fort Bliss, Texas. Emerson was remembered as a soldier who loved fishing, football and most of all, his family. He was a 2004 graduate of Grandview High where he played football. "He was real soft spoken. He didn't say much but when he did, people listened. He was my best friend," said brother Joe Emerson. Matthew served as a Humvee gunner and was due home in several months. He joined the Army in 2005 but had wanted to become a solider when he was a young boy, his family said. "He loved his country and loved everything about it," Joe Emerson recalled. "He was willing to defend it with his life."
3,786th, 3,787th and 3,788th to die: Sept. 18, 2007 – Army Spc. Joseph N. Landry III, 23, of Pensacola, Fla., Spc. Nicholas P. Olson, 22, of Novato, Calif., and Spc. Donald E. Valentine III, 21, of Orange Park, Fla., all Fort Lewis Stryker soldiers, died in Muqdadiyah, northeast of Baghdad, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their patrol unit. Landry was graduated from Pine Forest High School in 2002. "As soon as he got into high school and ROTC, he was determined to join the military," said his aunt, Linda McCaleb. "He was dedicated." Sgt. Jonathan Proffitt, who served with Landry, said "He was a quiet soldier, but he was a good soldier. There was not much that I didn't rely on him for. He could make leadership lazy because he was doing his job so well." Olson, married, with a child, was remembered by Novato High School Assistant Principal Dan Curtaz as "a young man with a lot of energy. He was a good kid." Olson had been enrolled in the school's junior ROTC program, and always wore his uniform with pride, said Curtaz. "Those uniforms have to be tucked in in a certain way, nice and neat, and he definitely respected it in the right way." Valentine joined the Army in 2004, just months after he graduated from Robert E. Lee High School where he played several sports, said his father Donald Valentine Jr., a Navy veteran. "He joined because of Sept. 11. He wanted to do his best for the country," the father said. "There is no way you can prepare for this. You want them all to come home."
3,763rd to die: Sept. 7, 2007 – Army Capt. Drew Jensen, 27, a Fort Lewis Stryker commander from Clackamas, Oregon, died in Seattle as the result of a paralyzing wound suffered in May in Baqouba, Iraq. He had been trying to assist another wounded soldier when a sniper shot him in the neck. His family chose to remove life support aid after five months. Before he died, he donated $10,000 to help defray costs of families who must travel to be near other wounded soldiers' bedsides. Raised in Damascus, Oregon, Jensen was an Eagle Scout and graduated from Sam Barlow High School in Gresham. He graduated from West Point in 2002 and later attended Ranger School. He was married in 2006. "He's one of the three most wonderful children ever born," his mother, Mardie Jensen, said, referring to Drew and his two brothers. "We'd like to have him remembered for his accomplishments rather than his death."
3,753rd to die: Sept. 5, 2007 – Army Sgt. First Class David A. Cooper Jr., 36, of State College, Penn., a Fort Lewis soldier, was killed by another soldier in Baghdad. The accused killer was charged with murder for the "wanton disregard for life" after his pistol went off, mortally wounding Cooper. The Army released few details. Stationed at Fort Lewis ten years, Cooper had adopted Washington as his home, said his widow. "My husband loved Washington, and that's kind of why he stayed," recalled Michelle Cooper. He had twin teen sons from an earlier marriage and was a graduate of Sugar Valley High in State College. Cooper's brother Mike is also an Army sergeant, stationed in Germany. Cooper, said his widow, was "a true leader of men and was deeply respected by his men and his peers. He didn't have a mean bone in his body." She was expecting to see him come home shortly on leave. "He was the love of my life, my soul mate, my best friend, my confidante," she said. "His death will leave a hole in many, many lives."
3,726th and 3,727th to die: Aug 23, 2007 - Sgt. 1st Class Adrian M. Elizalde, 30, of North Bend, Ore., and Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Tully, 33, of Falls Creek, Penn., both Special Forces members from Fort Lewis, died in Baghdad of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. A memorial for Elizalde, who had a young daughter, was held in the same North Bend gym where he once wrestled on the high school team. "My brother was my hero and when I look out and see all of you," his sister, Rachel Elizalde of Renton told the audience, "I'm so proud that I shared my hero with you." Town Mayor Rick Wetherel said, "Even for those in North Bend who don't understand everything about this war, we do understand the cost." Tully, formerly a Marine, joined the Army and became a Green Beret combat medic. Tully's father, John Tully, said he especially treasures a photo of his son comforting a young Iraqi girl, who had been burned. "You could see his hand reaching for her to say, 'Honey, don't be afraid,'" the father said.
3,722nd, 3,723rd, 3,724th and 3,725th to die: Aug. 22, 2007 - Capt. Corry P. Tyler, 29, of Georgia, Chief Warrant Officer Paul J. Flynn, 28, of Gibsonville, N.C., Sgt. Matthew L. Tallman, 30, of Groveland, Calif., and Spc. Rickey L. Bell, 21, of Caruthersville, Mo., all members of Fort Lewis' 4th Squadron, 6th U.S. Air Cavalry Regiment, were killed along with ten others in a helicopter crash in Multaka, Iraq. Tyler, married, with three children, was 1999 West Point graduate and was awaiting word whether he had been accepted at medical school to train to become an Army physician; he was the sole remaining male in his family which allowed him to avoid deployment, but was on his third tour in Iraq. In Flynn's hometown, mayor Lenny Williams said "The whole town is devastated," and flags were flying at half staff. One of Flynn's former teachers, Tim Riggs, recalled that Flynn "taught me how to laugh as a teacher, how to have a good sense of humor." His death "hit me real hard." Tallman, a 1996 graduate of St. Lawrence High School in Santa Clara County, was married and had two children. "There was a whole little family destroyed," Tallman's mother-in-law, Vicki Whiting, said. "He wasn't just a number. I want people to know Matthew Tallman existed." Bell graduated in 2004 from Caruthersville High School in his hometown. "He used to like to change seats on me a lot…in class," said Bell's 6th grade teacher Cathy Montgomery. Recalled Bell's lifelong best friend Thomas Guest, "We always used to go mudding together on the island and we used to see who could get their truck stuck first and we used to see who had the baddest truck or whatever. We had a lot of memories together."
3,703rd to die: Aug. 16, 2007 - Army Pfc. Willard M. Powell-Kerchief, 21, a Fort Lewis Stryker solider from Evansville, Ind., died of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire during combat operations in Taramiyah, Iraq. Powell-Kerchief graduated in 2005 from Evansville's Reitz High School after attending Bosse High School for three years and had been deployed to Iraq in April. Sean Belcher, a member of his First Christian Church, recalled Powell-Kerchief as "always energetic, never gloomy, always happy." Evansville citizens lined the streets when the soldier's coffin returned home. "It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen," said family friend Jeremy Jones. "I wish I could call Will and tell him what's happening."
3,700th to die: Aug. 14, 2007 – Army Pfc. Shawn D. Hensel, 20, a Fort Lewis Stryker solider from Logansport, Ind., died in Baghdad of wounds suffered during an enemy attack. His family said Hensel attended Logansport High School and earned a GED certificate before joining the Army, and had married in December, 2006. Hensel's sister Autumn Vail recalled that "he loved doing what he was doing - he glowed when he told the [Army] stories, and I never had seen him happier in my life." His father, David Hensel, said his son would be remembered for loving his family, friends and kayaking. "He was a pretty good kid," he said. "He loved to help people. He had two sisters that really loved him."
3,675th, 3,676th 3,677th, and 3,678th to die: Aug. 6, 2007 – Army Staff Sgt. Jacob M. Thompson, 26, Sgt. Nicholas A. Gummersall, 23, Cpl. Juan M. Alcantara, 22, and Spc. Kareem R. Khan, 20, were killed in Baqubah, Iraq by a bomb. All were members of Fort Lewis' 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Thompson, of North Mankato, Minn., was a graduate of Mankato West High School. His family said he loved to hunt and fish. Father Charlie Thompson says his son was willing to lay down his life for others, and was a giving person. He recalled that during his first tour, Jacob was wounded by a roadside bomb and received a Purple Heart. When he learned another injured solider didn't' also get award, Jacob "gave the guy his Purple Heart," Thompson said. "We don't have that. He didn't want it for himself." Gummersall, born in Pocatello Idaho, was a 2002 graduate of Century High School, and was was active in football, where he helped bring home back-to-back state titles, and in baseball, wrestling and track. He also red-shirted for the Idaho State Bengals one season. In a statement, his family said he was "full of life with never-ending dreams and goals. He had a personality no one could ignore, or help but love. Everyone who came into contact with him was forever touched and a friend." Alcantara, of New York, was born in Santiago; he immigrated with his parents as a child. He joined the Army out of high school and also married. "He wanted to be a soldier since he was a boy," said his mother, Maria Alcantara, and that he planned to join the NYPD like his sister, Cathy, who was assigned to the 32nd Precinct in Harlem. "He was a nice, quiet child," his mother said. "He used to like to play basketball and football. He was never in trouble. He never did anything wrong." Khan, of Manahawkin, N.J. had long dreamed of being in the Army, said his father, Feroze Kahn: "It's something that just stuck with him, and we were behind him 100 percent." Though his son was Muslim, said his stepmother Nisha Kahn, "the way he thought of it was he was an American and he had a job to do."
3,662nd, 3,663rd, and 3,664th to die: Aug. 2, 2007 - Arny Staff Sgt. Fernando Santos, 29, Spc. Cristian Rojas-Gallego, 24, and Spc. Eric D. Salinas, 25, all Fort Lewis Stryker combat team members, were killed when a bomb detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad. They had been in Iraq 14 months with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and were a month from returning home. Santos, from San Antonio, was a father of four. His widow, Adonia Santos, said he cared deeply about the troops under his command. "He schooled them on finances and parenting and marriage and investment," she said. "He wanted them to be OK when they got out, like you would your own child." Rojas-Gallego, of Loganville, Ga., was a Marine who served three combat tours in Iraq before leaving the Corps in 2005 and enlisting with the Army; he joined, his family said, because he hadn't enough money to support his wife and three children. Salinas, of Houston, enlisted in 2004, and had one son. His aunt, Gracie DeLeond, said Salinas "wanted to fight for our country…He wanted to see the world, see different people and different cultures. It was something he always wanted to do." Her nephew was a sports fan and loved dancing, she said. "He was the clown of the family [and] a great person."
3,657th, 3,658th, and 3,659th to die: July 31, 2007 – Army Spc. Zachariah J. Gonzalez, 23, Pfc. Charles T. Heinlein, Jr., 23, and Pfc. Alfred H. Jairala, 29, all Stryker members of Fort Lewis' 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, were killed in a bombing attack on their Stryker vehicle in Baghdad. Gonzalez, of Indianapolis, enlisted in 2002 in the Army Reserve and later switched to active duty. He "wanted to serve his country in a bigger way," said his uncle, Manuel Gonzalez. "He wanted to be there in the front, and that's the decision he made." He was remembered fondly by his squad leader, Staff Sgt. John Mullins, as someone who "was always doing something to make us laugh, no matter how much it [duty] was sucking." Heinlein, of Hemlock, Mich., enlisted in 2005, and was happily remembered by his family as "a trouble-maker; he was someone who would always find ways to irritate people, but he also was the kind of guy who thought of others," according to his father, Thomas Heinlein. Sgt. Mullins said Heinlein "was our go-to guy. He was always volunteering for the dirty jobs that nobody else wanted." Jairala, of Hialeah, Fla., was married, with three children. He had worked as a security guard before joining the Army in 2004. "It was something he wanted to do," said his sister Jessica Jairala. "There was no stopping him when he wanted something."
3,653rd to die: July 30, 2007 – Army Cpl. Jason M. Kessler, 29, from Mount Vernon, a Fort Lewis Ranger, died after his tactical vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in northern Iraq. He graduated from Mount Vernon Christian High School, attended the University of Washington, and graduated in biblical studies at The Master's College in Santa Clarita, Calif. He enlisted in 2005. "Jason was truly passionate about everything he did," said friend Matt Hutchinson, who had joined Kessler on one of his many earlier travels, to Israel. "Jason inspired me to try my best, and not to settle for anything less." Steve Fikkert, who taught a Bible study class, recalled Kessler as "quite the thinker. He liked the process of thinking. He loved to debate. He liked to stand his ground."
3,649th to die: July 26, 2007 - Army Pvt. Michael Baloga, 21, of Everett, died in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, of wounds suffered during a bombing of his medical convey. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Baloga was a Sequoia High graduate and had gone into construction work. He quit his job about a year ago and joined the service in hopes of later going to school and providing for his then-newborn daughter, Isis. "The whole reason he went into it was for Isis," said his sister Leah Valade. She said the family had worried about his enlistment but that Baloga knew the risks. "He was probably my best friend. He was the last person I would expect or want anything bad to happen to," she said. "I was really upset because I know the risks involved with him going over there, but I was really proud he took the initiative to do something he wanted to do with his life."
3,632nd to die: July 20, 2007 – Army Cpl. Rhett A. Butler, 22, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade combat team member from Glenn Rose, Texas, died of wounds suffered when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Khan Bani Sa'd, Iraq. A 2003 Glenn Rose High graduate, Butler – whose mother was a big fan of the movie Gone With The Wind - flunked his first Army physical, even though he'd been a linebacker on his prep football team. But he successfully enlisted a year later. "When he called [from Iraq]," said his sister Shawna Conway, "he was usually upbeat. If he was down, it was because a soldier he knew was killed. One time I asked if he was getting shot at and he said, 'It's a good day if we're only getting shot at.'"
3,630th to die: July 19, 2007 – Army Pfc. Brandon M. Craig, 25, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade combat team member from Earleville, Md., died in Husayniyah, Iraq, of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. "He really believed in what he was doing over there," said his cousin Dawne Allen. Craig, who enlisted in 2005, had recently been awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Valor for his actions when his unit came under attack. Allen said Craig had been a carpenter and a restaurant cook and joined the Army last year because he "wanted to make something of himself...He just wanted to make his life better." Said his grandfather, Reginald Craig: "He was a great gentleman and a great young man."
3,623rd and 3,624th to die: July 17, 2007 – Navy Chief Petty Officer Patrick L. Wade, 38, of Key West, Fla. and Petty Officer First Class Jeffrey L. Chaney, 35, of Omaha, Neb. died while conducting combat operations in Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq. The two sailors were assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eleven, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Wade graduated in 1987 from Little Wolf High School in Manawa, Wisc., and joined the Navy after graduation. He was married and the father of two children. His brother Gary Wade said Patrick wanted to become a Navy SEAL - "He just liked the adventure and the challenge" – but settled for the explosives disposal team. Chaney, a 1990 graduate of Omaha's Bellevue West High School, joined the Navy in 1993. Married, with one child, Chaney, too, had hoped to become a SEAL but also ended up opting for the explosives team. Said his mother, Connie Chaney, "I've talked to Jeff a lot since he's been in Iraq and never one time ever did he hang up without saying 'I love you mom.' I'll miss 'I love you mom.'"
3,620th to die: July 16, 2007 – Marine Lance Cpl. Shawn V. Starkovich, 20, of Arlington, died in Al Anbar province, Iraq. His death, listed as a noncombat fatality, was under investigation. Starkovich was assigned to the I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif. His family said Starkovich lived life in the fast lane, on skateboards and motorcycles, and also raced cars. "He liked living on the edge with those sports," said his mother, Kelly Starkovich. "He loved anything fast." Starkovich attended Marysville-Pilchuck High School and then graduated from Arlington High School in 2005, when he joined the Marines. Said friend Chentelle Smith, "When people say that somebody has lived their life to the fullest, I know it's cliche, but he seriously did a lot in his 20 years."
3,598th to die: July 4, 2007 – Army Chief Warrant Officer Scott A.M. Oswell, 33, of Lacey, died in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his helicopter struck a power line. He was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 6th U.S. Air Cavalry at Fort Lewis. The squad, in Iraq only a month, is part of the Stryker Brigade. Married, with three children, Oswell joined the military in 1991. He became a warrant officer in 2001 and later began instructing chopper pilots. "Scott taught me the finer skills of flying the 58," said fellow CWO Andre Saenz, referring to the two-seat, lightly armed scout helicopter they flew. "He was like a big brother in the cockpit." Fellow pilots remembered him not only for his bravery but as a family man and a trivia expert. Another CWO, Michael Spalsbury, fondly recalled that Oswell earned the nickname Negatron for his "ability to complain about almost everything." Added Spalsbury: "He was my brother from another mother."
3,584th to die: July 1, 2007 – Army Spc. Victor A. Garcia, 22, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade solider from Rialto, Calif., died in Baghdad of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire. Garcia grew up in Rialto and after high school, attended Chaffey College, then enlisted in the Army in 2004. Gordon Hibbard, a friend of the family and whose son Jonathan was stationed with Garcia, wrote in a letter to the editor of Garcia's local Southern California newspaper: "Jonathan called us the day after we received word Victor had been killed by a sniper. He told us that they had teased each other last Sunday morning in the latrine as they were shaving and getting ready for their day's mission. Jonathan wept on the phone as he told us, `I wish I had taken the time to tell him how much he meant to me and how much I love him.' We assured Jonathan that Victor knew, but deep down his statement reminded us that no one does a very good job of telling people we care for how much we love them."
3,568th to die: June 26, 2007 – Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan L. Winder, 32, of Blanding, Utah, died in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq, of wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Fort Lewis. Winder, a member of the Special Forces Quick Reaction Force, joined the military after high school. Born in South Korea, Winder was adopted at age 2 and raised by his Utah family - the Winders adopted altogether eight children, some with special needs. He was the third of three brothers to serve in Iraq, said his mother Teri Winder. "When the other two were in Iraq, Nathan had a hard time with that. He didn't like it that his brothers were serving in the war and he was here at home. He wanted to be over there serving his country. Then his turn came." Winder was married and had a child by a previous marriage. "All of my sons feel good about what they did in Iraq," Teri Winder said.
3,547th to die: June 21, 2007 – Army Sgt. Joel A. Dahl, 21, of Los Lunas, N.M., died in Baghdad of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, at Fort Lewis. Dahl joined the Army after graduating from high school in 2004 and was an infantry team leader. "In his mind, the Army was basically symbolic of American defense," said foster mom Patti Harris-Thompson. "He wanted to get over there. He wanted to help." Dahl's young wife gave birth to their first son a week after his death; as she worked on funeral arrangements as well, her car was also stolen (it was later recovered, but a local New Mexico dealership offered her a new car, and the sheriff's office raised $30,000 to help her). Upon the birth of new son Kaiden, mother Alia Dahl said he looks a lot like his father. "He's definitely got his daddy's lips," Alia said.
3,525th and 3,526th to die: June 16, 2007 - Army Sgt. Danny R. Soto, 24, of Houston, Tex., and Spc. Zachary A. Grass, 22, of Beach City, Ohio, members of the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, died in Rashidiyah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when the vehicle they were in struck an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis. Soto "was a guy who was always thinking about other people, not about him," said his sister, Marci Soto. Her brother was born in Honduras and moved to Texas with his family when he was 11, she said. He worked two jobs in Houston to support his wife and young son until enlisting in 2004. "He always used to say, 'I want to be where the action is. The Army is always the action.' That was his dream." Grass, meanwhile, enlisted in 2005, two years after graduating from Fairless High School, where he played on the baseball and basketball teams. "He was a kid always willing to do whatever it took to help the team, a pretty selfless kid," said basketball coach Matt Kramer. "You study wars in books and you don't get the personal side because fatalities become statistics. But it hits home that these are real people when somebody calls you on a Sunday afternoon and tells you one of your former players died in Iraq."
3,515th to die: June 13, 2007 – Army Pfc. Casey S. Carriker, 20, of Hoquiam, died in Kirkuk, Iraq, from injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident. His death was under investigation. A 2005 Hoquiam High grad who had six brothers and sisters, Carriker "was a really bright and unusual child," his father, Terry Carriker, said. "The world came at him from a different angle…He had a way of looking at a situation and seeing something totally different than what other people got out of it. He liked to talk to me because I listened and understood what he was talking about. Well, I didn't always understand, but I loved him, so I tried to." His son joined the Army in part to earn educational benefits and see the world, his father said; he planned to return to the Harbor and attend Grays Harbor College while he decided what to do next. "He was supposed to come home, drive my old van and fix this house with me," Terry Carriker said.
3,512th to die: June 12, 2007 - Army Spc. Damon G. Legrand, 27, a Fort Lewis solider from Lakeside, Calif., died in Baqubah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with anti-tank mines, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 571st Military Police Company, 42nd Military Police Brigade at Fort Lewis. Legrand was a 1995 graduate of Clairemont High School in the San Diego area. His MySpace page includes photos of him and his widow and their two young daughters, who live with Legrand's parents in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Ashley Legrand last posted a message to her husband a week before his death. It said she missed him, loved him, and asked "Can you come home now, please?"
3,508th, 3,509th and 3,510th to die: June 10, 2007 - Three Fort Lewis soldiers - Army Cpl. Llythaniele Fender, 21, of Medical Lake, Wash and Cpl. Meresebang Ngiraked, 21, of Koror, Republic of Palau, both of the 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, died in Karbala, Iraq, from an improvised explosive device, and Army Staff Sgt. Brian M. Long, 32, a Stryker Brigade member from Burns, Wyo., died in Baghdad from wounds suffered from an explosive ordnance. He was assigned to the Stryker's 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. Fender grew up in Onawa, Iowa and graduated from West Monona High School. His mother, Ellen Fender, recalled that"He was a wonderful son and brother with a huge heart who served his country with great pride, and we send our hearts out to the men and women who have served and are serving this great country, both stateside and overseas." Ngiraked joined the Army in September 2004 and was stationed in Korea in 2005, then moved to Fort Lewis with his unit in April 2006. Long, married with three children, graduated from Cheyenne's Triumph High School in 1993. Several of his relatives served in the military, including his grandfather, Charles Long, a career military veteran."He told his grandpa, `I'm going to make you proud of me. I'm going to be the first one to stay until I retire, just like you,'" recalled his mother, Lynn Curtiss.
3,505th and 3,506th to die: June 9, 2007 - Two Fort Lewis Stryker soldiers, Army Sgt. Cory M. Endlich, 23, of Massillon, Ohio, and Pvt. Scott A. Miller, 20, of Casper, Wyo., both died from wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire. Endlich was killed in Taji, Iraq, and Miller was killed in Baqubah, Iraq. Both were assigned to the 5th Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. Endlich entered the Army just after graduation from Washington High in 2003. He went to basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., and continued his training there as an infantryman and, later, a paratrooper. Debra Watzman, his French teacher at Washington, said the one bearable aspect of his death is that Endlich was doing something he loved."Being in the military was always Cory's dream. He talked about it all the time," she said."It was clear he wanted to be a soldier from the get-go." Miller joined the Army in July 2004 and was on his first tour in Iraq. Family and friends recalled him as a big country boy who loved hunting, playing good-natured pranks and telling stories."He had great big brown eyes and clear from the back of the room, when his eyes really started sparkling or twinkling, I knew he had thought of something that had to do with good-humored mischief," said his high school English teacher Janet Dawson.
3,499th to die: June 5, 2007 - Army Sgt. Andrew J. Higgins, 28, a Stryker member from Hayward, Calif., died in Baqubah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. Higgins was remembered that he was remembered as a dedicated soldier and a kind, affectionate husband to his wife, Rachel. He loved fishing and his two dachshunds. He was serving his second Iraq deployment.
3,493rd, 3,494th, 3,95th and 3,496th to die - June 3, 2007 - Four Stryker members, Army Staff Sgt. Greg P. Gagarin, 38, of Los Angeles., Sgt. James C. Akin, 23, of Albuquerque, N.M., Sgt. Tyler J. Kritz, 21, of Eagle River, Wis., and Sgt. Robert A. Surber, 24, of Inverness, Fla. died in Thania, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. Gagarin, married with two children, was considered a father figure to the men in his charge. Sgt. 1st Class Shane Wise said Gagarin enjoyed a good card game and cooking Spam on the portable propane stove that he took everywhere in the field."Soldiers cared for him, soldiers followed him, and he'll be sorely missed," Wise said. Akin, married, was remembered for the way he waved and tossed out candy, Iraqi flags and soccer balls to kids in Iraq. The kids near the base would chant,"James! James! James!" For Kritz,"The glass was always half-full with him," said Sgt. Wise at a memorial for the four men. Kritz always managed to grab a quick nap on even the bumpiest roads at the Yakima Training Center, Wise said, and played a mean bass guitar. Surber was a Miami Dolphins fan and renowned for getting out of physical training in the morning. He also had a habit of seeing how long he could go before a sergeant told him to get a haircut.
3,487th, 3,488th and 3,489th to die: June 2, 2007 - Three state-linked soldiers - Army Sgt. Dariek E. Dehn, 32, Spc. William J. Crouch, 21, and Spc. Romel Catalan, 21, died this day in Iraq. Dehn, from Spangle, Wash., was killed in Sharkat by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Crouch, of Zachary, La., died in Al Hadid of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Infantry Division, at Fort Lewis. Catalan, of Los Angeles, died in Ameriyah after an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade at Fort Lewis. Dehn was a 1993 graduate of Liberty High School. He was the fifth of six children in their family, said his sister, Sherri Jeske."The Army formed a direction for him, he was really proud of being a soldier," she said. Crouch, who graduated from Starkey Academy in 2004, wanted to be "in the thick of things... on the front lines," said his mother Kathy Rushing, whose other son, John, is also stationed in Iraq. Catalan's family recalled that he was a fan of superhero comics and dreamed of one day becoming a police officer. His battalion commander, Lt. Col. Avanulas Smiley, told soldiers at a memorial ceremony in Iraq that Catalan"was always smiling, the kind of guy you always respected just for being himself."
3,481st to die: May 31, 2007 - Army Sgt. Chadwick O. Domino, 23, a Stryker member fromf Ennis, Texas, died in Baghdad of wounds from enemy small arms fire while on dismounted patrol. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade at Fort Lewis. Three years before he was killed, he was wounded in a mortar attack but ran back into a burning structure to try to save his roommate, although the soldier died of his wounds."No one could have asked for a better man watching your back, day in and day out," said his former company commander, Maj. James Blanton.
3,465th and 3,466th to die: May 28, 2007 - Army Staff Sgt. Thomas M. McFall, 36, of Glendora, Calif., and Pfc. Junior Cedeno Sanchez, 20, of Miami. were killed in Baghdad when a bomb exploded nearby as they patrolled on foot. They were assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, a part of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. McFall's wife, Emily, in a statement, described her husband as"a proud dad, a great son and a friend to many." He was renowned for his barbecued ribs and his fondness for classic rock and cold beer, she said."He loved the brotherhood, and his heart beat red, white, and blue. There was only one exit for him." Cedeno Sanchez was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Puerto Rico and then Florida as a youngster. One of his commanders, Capt. Craig Butera, said the infantryman aspired to attend Ranger school when he got back from Iraq."Had he had the chance, we all know he would have finished Ranger school and would have been a great example of all the character that is embodied in the Rangers," Butera said.
3,457th to die: May 26, 2007 - ArmyPfc. Charles B. Hester, 23, a Stryker soldier from Cataldo, Idaho, died when a bomb detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. Married with one child, Hester was a music fan, especially enamored by Jimi Hendrix tunes, and"loved the oldies," said former squad leader, Staff Sgt. Chess Johnson."I could never come up with a song that he couldn't come up with the lyrics, perfectly." Army Chaplain Lt. Col. Chris Cieply said Hester and his wife met in the Job Corps., and then joined the Army in 2004. Wife Roxanne told the chaplain, he recalled,"The last thing he told me was I was his world, he'd love me forever, and without me and [daughter] Elizabeth he would be nothing."
3,445th to die: May 25, 2007 - Army Spc. Mathew P. LaForest, 21, a Stryker soldier from Austin, Texas died in Taji, Iraq from small arms fire during combat. His father, Mark LaForest said Mathew was"the most perfect child you could have." LaForest, a retired Air Force officer, said recruiters at LaForest's local high school had told him he wouldn't get sent into combat when he enlisted three months after his graduation."They [recruiters] start treating them like buddies and four years later ... a certain percentage of these kids feel obligated to go into the military," he said."He was told that the Army was a big party place, and he was finding out that it wasn't a big party place."
3,442nd to die: May 24, 2007 - Army Sgt. Iosiwo Uruo, 27, of Agana Heights, Guam, died May 24, in Buhriz, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash. Uruo's father said his son joined the Army shortly after high school. Isaoshy Uruo urged his son to go to college because he was good in architecture.
"He told me, 'Dad, I'm sorry, but I want to join the service,'" Uruo said. The son last spoke with his family in late 2006, when he was in Kuwait, his father said.
3,433rd, 3,434th and 3,435th to die: May 22, 2007 - Army Staff Sgt. Kristopher A. Higdon, 25, of Odessa, Texas, Staff Sgt. David C. Kuehl, 27, of Wahpeton, N.D., died and Pfc. Robert A. Worthington, 19, of Jackson, Ga. died in Taji, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their unit. They were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash. Higdon, married with two children, graduated from Permian High School in 1999."He strongly believed in what he did and why we are fighting," said his father, Danny Higdon. Kuehl, also married with two children, would be dearly missed, his family said in a statement."We prayed this day would never come...[he was] a wonderful son, husband, father, brother and uncle..." Worthington had been in the service barely a year, friends and family said."This is not an arbitrary life that has been lived," said Rev. Joshua Sorrows, Worthington's cousin."I pray that we remember the message of his life: To be courageous, to be strong, to value family."
3,403rd and 3,404th to die: May 17, 2007 - Army Pfc. Jonathan V. Hamm of Baltimore, 20, and Pfc. Aaron Daniel Gautier, 19, of Hampton, Va., both Fort Lewis soldiers, both died on the same day in Baghdad. Hamm was killed when his operating base was hit with indirect enemy fire. Gautier died when his mounted patrol was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire and explosives. Both were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. The unit arrived in Baghdad only weeks earlier as part of the push to curb sectarian violence, officials said. Hamm was a 2004 graduate of Baltimore's Carver Vocational Technical High School. His father died in 2000 and his mother died in February. "He really loved carpentry when he was at the Vocational Tech," said his aunt, Eleanor Swan said, noting she couldn't "see him doing anything other than that." She recalled that Hamm, as a teenager, "liked to get on the bus and the train and just learn his way around the city. He'd make a whole day sightseeing like that. He always wanted to travel more." Gautier, who was married in January, had joined the Army in 2006. A high school dropout, he obtained his GED just prior to his 18th birthday and then joined the service. Father Dan Gautier said Gautier had long been "kind of infatuated with military service" and considered making it a career. "He was growing into a fine young man and wonderful husband," his father said. "He would have been a wonderful father."
3,386th to die: May 10, 2007 – Army Pvt. Anthony J. Sausto, 22, a Fort Lewis soldier from New Jersey, was killed by small-arms fire in Baghdad. One of three siblings, Sausto was born in Somers Point, N.J., and later moved to Hamilton Township in that state. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment. Family member remembered Sausto as a quiet kid who dropped out of high school and then "came out of his shell" after he joined the Army. "He used to be so shy, and now he was so outgoing and confident," recalled his sister-in-law, Mary Olivo-Sausto. "It was like, out of nowhere, he decided to be a man." As a service member, "He was the happiest he'd ever been in his life, no regrets," she said. "He wasn't hesitant at all. You're always scared to go, but he didn't have a feeling that something was going to happen."
3,385th to die: May 10, 2007 – Army Sgt. Jason W. Vaughn, 29, a Fort Lewis solider from Iuka, Miss., died in Baqubah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, and was on his second tour in Iraq. "He was a good man," his father, Walter Vaughn said at his son's funeral, describing him as someone who "never met a stranger," was "honorable, not pretentious, he didn't lie." He had lived in Bolivia with his missionary parents, and grew up in Alabama and Mississippi. "If his suffering has meaning, his life is not in vain," his father said.
3,380th to die: May 9, 2007 – Sgt. Maj. Bradley D. Conner, 41, a Fort Lewis soldier from of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, died near Al-Hillah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improved explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, at the fort. Born in Tacoma and raised in Idaho, he joined the service in 1987 and joined the Special Forces in 1992. It was his fourth deployment to Iraq since 2003. Married, with two children, Conner was a devout born-again Christian, said his father, William Conner. "He accepted everyone as they were. He made an impression on everybody's life. He was just outstanding." William Conner fondly recalled that his son had been restoring a 1969 Pontiac Firebird, which was nearing completion. "All but the back seat, inside and out," he said. "It's an amazing thing."
3,377th, 3378th, 3379th, 3,380th, 3,381st and 3,382nd to die: May 6, 2007 – Six Fort Lewis Stryker soliders were killed by a roadside bomb in Baqouba, Iraq, the deadliest attack on Lewis soldiers since six were killed along with eight other soldiers in an Army mess hall attack by a suicide bomber in 2004. Killed on a back street in Baqouba were Spc. Anthony Bradshaw, 21, Texas; Pfc. Michael Pursel, 19, formerly of Lacey; Cpl. Matthew Alexander, 21, of Nebraska; Sgt. Jason R. Harkins, 25, of Georgia; Spc. Joel Lewis, 28, of Oklahoma; and Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo, 23, of Lodi, N.J., The soldiers were assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment's A Company. Russian photojournalist Dmitry Chebotayev was also killed. An Associated Press writer reported "a thunderous blast" consumed a Stryker vehicle as it crept down a trash-strewn road, erupting "in a huge ball of gray debris that flipped the eight-wheeled, 37,000-pound troop carrier upside down and tore out its interior." -Bradshaw, who was from San Antonio but grew up in El Paso. He and his twin brother Sam both joined the Army in 2003. An older brother is also in the military. A friend, Joshua Garnica, observed that "It's just a shame to know that someone who just turned 21, his life is over. He made the ultimate sacrifice for everybody." -Pursel was happy doing what he did in Iraq, said his mother, Terry Dutcher. When the Army asked for volunteer replacements for a Fort Lewis infantry battalion that had suffered serious casualties, said Dutcher, an Air Force reserve captain, "Michael was one of the first ones to raise his hand to go." -Alexander, who had gotten married three months earlier, "was just a real genuine young man," said his Grenta, Neb., high school principal Kirk Eledge. "When I think of Matt, I kind of think about him always having a smile on his face. He was a very warm individual, very down to earth." -Harkins was on his second tour in Iraq and is survived by his widow in Lakewood. He was described by the Rev. Alan Morris, senior pastor at Concord Baptist Church in Cleveland, Georgia, as "a special young man." Morris recalled Harkins once defining himself and his fellow soldiers as "regular guys doing an irregular job." -Lewis, from Tulsa, lived in Tacoma. "I don't know what led him [to join the Army], the adventure or the travel," his mother, Gail Poindexter, said. "He was always into that band-of-brothers type of thing. He had no fear." -Romeo, born in Italy, joined the service in 2003. "Vincenzo was a kind and courageous person who brought joy and laughter to all around him," his family said in a statement. Upon his return from Iraq, Romeo had planned to marry fiancé Amanda Anderson of Tacoma, the family said.
3,361st and 3,362nd to die: May 3, 2007 – Army Spc. Kelly B. Grothe, 21, of Spokane and Staff Sgt. Coby G. Schwab, 25, of Puyallup, died when their armored vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Ramadi, Iraq. Both were assigned to Company B of the 321st Engineer Battalion, from Hayden Lake, Idaho. Their unit had been on a route-clearing mission when a bomb hit another vehicle, injuring five soldiers. Schwab and Grothe were in a second vehicle that stopped to help and was hit by another bomb. Grothe was a 2004 graduate of Spokane's Central Valley High School. On his MySpace.com page, Grothe discussed his dreams of someday traveling to Germany and of his desire to go to college. He also posted posted an answer to the question of how he would want to die. "Well, I don't really want to," he wrote, "but I guess if I have to, I want to go really, really quick." Schwab, who was originally from Henderson, Nev., returned to Iraq for a second time because he didn't want his buddies to fight without him, his family said. "His commanding officer said he died a hero," said his mother, Jane Hanson. "He was just a very caring, giving person. He always would make sure everybody else was comfortable, that everybody else had what they needed before he even worried about himself."
3,360th to die: May 3, 2007 - Army Pfc. Jerome Potter, 24, of Yelm, Thurston County, died in a roadside bomb blast while patrolling Baghdad with other members of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment from Fort Hood, Texas. "He was very adamant" from a young age to become a solider, said his sister Amber, and he knew the risks. "He said 'I know there's this chance, but I'm going to do it.' It was what he really loved and what he wanted to do." Potter, who attended Yelm High School, was raised in Yelm and Olympia, and later joined the Job Corps where he got a GED. He enlisted after a few years as a forestry firefighter and planned to ultimately become a park ranger. His mother, Holly Burson, said her son had recently told her the fighting was intense in his district. He worried that he might not be coming home, she recalls him saying. "I told him 'You're coming home, you're coming home. Don't talk like that.'" She adds: "I'll miss him so much. He brought me a lot of joy in life."
3,333rd to die: April 23, 2007 – Army Pfc. Jeffrey A. Avery, 19, of Colorado Springs, Colo., a Fort Lewis solider, died in Muqudadiyah, Iraq, from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated during checkpoint operations. He was assigned to the 571st Military Police Company, 42nd Military Police Brigade, at Fort Lewis. Avery was born at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base in California, grew up in Colorado, and graduated from Coronado High School in 2005. He attended criminal-justice classes at Pikes Peak Community College and planned on a career in law enforcement when he joined the Army in 2005 and later became a military policeman. His father and brother were Marines and his mother was in the Navy reserve. "He grew up with that lifestyle, and that's the lifestyle he loved," family friend Doug Trembly said. "He believed in the cause of being over there."
3,316th and 3,317th to die: April 18, 2007 – Army Cpls. Wade J. Oglesby, 27, of Grand Junction, Colo., and Michael M. Rojas 21, of Fresno, Calif., both members of Fort Lewis' 3rd Stryker Brigade, were killed by a roadside bomb during combat operations in Taji, Iraq. In a statement, Oglesby's siblings, Richard and Samantha, called him "a soldier long before joining the Army…As a fatherless boy, he spent his own childhood being a father figure for his younger sister. As a teenager, while others were out having fun and enjoying their youth, Wade opted to stay home with his dying mother, temporarily giving up his education." He aided his mother "with her day-to-day burdens and fears as she faced her own death," they said. Marissa Rojas, Michael's sister, said he joined the Army "because he wanted to do something big…There are four girls, but he was the only boy. My parents, my sisters and I are all very sad right now." Rojas played football at Clovis High in Frenso. His father, David Equivil said he'd recently gotten a letter from Michael. "He said he was looking forward to being back home," Equivil said, "but was proud to be serving."
3,302nd to die : April 13, 2007 – Army Sgt. Larry R. Bowman, 29, a Fort Lewis solider from Granite Falls, N.C., died in Baghdad from wounds suffered after the truck he was driving hit a roadside bomb. He was a member of the 513th Transportation Company and was deployed in July from Fort Lewis. He joined the Army in 2003 and was on his first tour in Iraq. "He was just a joy to watch grow up," his mother, Barbara Braswell, said. "I'm very proud of him. I loved him so much." His friend, Staff Sgt. Christopher Shafer, said Bowman was an eager learner and fun-loving soldier who made others laugh; he also liked to yell at his computer when it malfunctioned, he happily recalled. Bowman's widow, Michelle, said the two were making plans for Bowman's return in a few months. They planned to have a child, and also wanted to climb Mount Rainier this summer. "I'm going to climb that mountain in his memory," she said.
3,290th to die: April 8, 2007 – Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams, 25, was killed by a sniper's bullet in Baghdad as he led a group of soldiers on a house-to-house search. A Fort Lewis solider from Santa Rosa, Calif., he was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He placed himself repeatedly at risk, and won metals for doing it, said Detachment Commander Major Robert Bennett. "But he didn't ask for that recognition. He only asked for the opportunity to do more for his soldiers." His mother Nancy Sarris called Jesse her best friend. He told her "This is what I need to do," when he prepared to return to Iraq after a leave home, she recalled. Married, with a baby daughter, Williams enlisted after graduating from high school, following the footsteps of his father. His dad was his military role model, the family said.
3,283rd, 3,284th and 3,285th to die: April 6, 2007 – Navy Chief Petty Officer Gregory J. Billiter, 36, from Oak Harbor; Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis R. Hall, 24, from Burley, Idaho; and Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph A. McSween, 26, from Georgia were killed in an explosion during combat operations outside Kirkuk. They were the first sailors from Whidbey Naval Air Station in Oak Harbor to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom. When something like this happens, "it affects everyone," said Oak Harbor City Councilman Jim Campbell. "Those are our friends and family." Billiter was married to a middle school science teacher, and father of a 3-year-old son. Hall was remembered as an Eagle Scout who, at just age 14, saved his father from drowning. McSween was married and the father of two girls. Billiter's father, Barry, said his son was a 15-year Navy veteran on his third tour of Iraq. "He was a wonderful son," Barry Billiter said. McSween's youth pastor, John Klimko, of at Central Avenue Church of Christ in Valdosta, GA, recalled McSween as a loving, friendly man. "He studied and was really interested in the ministry," the pastor said. "He conducted services for the shut-ins and did yard work for the elderly." Hall, in his MySpace.com page, described himself as "pretty laid back" and said he always liked to "jump on the Harley and take off for a weekend…Good music with some good friends and I'm set. I plan to retire by the time I'm 40 and move to Tahiti."
3,232nd to die: March 22, 2007 – Army Sgt. Freeman L. Gardner Jr., 26, a member of the Fort Lewis 18th Engineer Co., was killed by a roadside bomb while on a combat sweep in Baghdad. A University of Oklahoma graduate from Arkansas, Gardner was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation's oldest black college fraternity. In Iraq he helped supervise communications systems on the battlefield. His widow, Kara Gardner, recalled him as a "quiet man with a gentle demeanor." In a statement, she said he "loved working on computers, playing video and strategy games, reading, and studying military and international history. He also loved watching college football games and could not be interrupted when the University of Oklahoma Sooners or University of Michigan Wolverines were playing." Her husband, she added, was "proud to have the opportunity to be a soldier."
3,229th to die: March 21, 2007 – Army Sgt. Darrell R. Griffin, 36, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier, died in Balad, Iraq from wounds suffered during a firefight. From Alhambra, Calif., Griffin joined the military in April 1999, serving in the Army National Guard before being posted to Fort Lewis in July 2001. He was awarded the bronze star for valor in Iraq for saving the lives of three soldiers. "Griff was the type of man you want to have by your side in a fight," his former company commander, Maj. Brent Clemmer, said. "He was the type of squad leader every young soldier wants to have." In a statement, widow Diana Griffin said Darrell was "my gift from God who was also the love of my life and always will be."
3,213th to die: March 17, 2007 – Army Pfc. Anthony Kaiser, 27, a Fort Lewis solider from Narrowsburg, N.Y. died during a firefight in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 504th Military Police Battalion at Fort Lewis, and had been in the service since 2005. Married, Kaiser graduated from high school in 1998 and worked for the Narrowsburg Fire Department and the New York State Patrol before joining the Army in 2005. His younger brother Steven also enlisted and served in Iraq. Their mother died of cancer when they were young and an older brother was killed in a car accident. "After he lost his brother," said stepbrother Michael Kelly, "I think he wanted to do something good for the community [and] the country."
3,210th to die: March 14, 2007 – Army Spc. Joshua Boyd, 30, of Seattle, died at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He had been wounded March 5 when an improvised explosive device exploded near his unit in Samarra, Iraq. He was one of seven paratroopers killed in the explosion. Born and raised in Texas, Boyd was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. He first joined the Army in September 1997 as an infantryman. He was honorably discharged after completing his first term of service but in 2002 voluntarily rejoined the Army. He did so "after 9/11 because he wanted to go and help those who could not help themselves," his family said in a short statement. "That was his motto, to help those who could not help themselves."
3,208th to die: March 13, 2007 - Army Cpl. Brian Chevalier, 21, a Fort Lewis Stryker solider from Athens, Georgia, died after his armored vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Mufrek, north of Baghdad. Assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, he was the fort's 100th fatality dating to the start of the war on terrorism in 2001. A father of one daughter, he had recently reenlisted for six more years. His father, Rick Chevalier, recalled him as a "good kid, kindhearted, fun-spirited and smart as a whip." He got good grades and was never in trouble, Chevalier said. "He joined the Army on his own as something he wanted to do. He wanted to make something of his life. He defended his country, and it's too bad it had to happen this way."
3,201st to die: March 5, 2007 - U.S. Army, Spc. Ryan M. Bell, 21, of Colville, Stevens County, was one of six soldiers killed when a bomb exploded next to their vehicles near Samarra, Iraq. Raised in Colville, Bell later attended a military academy in Georgia, where he was a top wrestler. He graduated in 2003 and joined the Army in 2004. He was a rifelman assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. Married, Bell hoped eventually to attend medical school and become a doctor. "Bell truly is a hero that represents all that is great about America," said his commander, Capt. Eugene Farris. "He will be sorely missed and live forever in our memories." His father, Michael Bell, said he had talked with his son just days before he was killed. "I let him know how much he meant to us," the elder Bell said. "How we were very proud of him and very pleased with what he was doing with his life."
3,110 to die: Feb. 7, 2007 – Marine Sgt. Travis Pfister, 27 of Richland, was killed along with six others when a helicopter was shot down northwest of Baghdad. A chopper crew chief, Pfister was stationed at Camp Pendelton, where his wife was also a Marine. Pfister, who graduated from Hanford High, was remembered as a man who loved a good joke and worked for months on the perfect recipe for barbecued ribs. He was to have returned home in a few weeks from his third tour in Iraq. "On the surface, he was a very happy-go-lucky guy. But he was very aware of how people were feeling around him," recalled his uncle, Blaine Hulse of Pasco. In an e-mail a week before his death, Pfister said he'd help ferry more than 20 people to the hospital in recent days. "Things are going well, though just waiting to come home," he wrote.
3,084th to die: Jan. 30, 2007 – Army Sgt. Corey J. Aultz, 31, of Port Orchard, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Ramadi. Aultz was a 12-year Army veteran and had been stationed in Germany for the past 11 years. Aultz came from a close-knit military family and was on his second tour of overseas duty, which included missions to Kosovo and Bosnia, said his sister, Tamra Aultz. "He was a good person, and we are proud of him," she said. Tamra recalled Aultz once telling her, "You know, I am just trying to do the best I can and keep people as safe as I can." He leaves behind a widow and a daughter in a small Bavarian town. "Every time I talked to him he was hanging out with his daughter," said Tamra. "She was his world."
3,080th to die: Jan. 29, 2007 - Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Emul, 19, of Vancouver, died from an explosion while on foot patrol in Al Anbar Province. A 2005 graduate of Hudson's Bay High, Emul was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, in Twentynine Palms, Calif. He was at his happiest playing basketball or listening to music, said his sister Maryanne Mendiola. "We constantly told him 'Please be careful,'" she said. "He was always assuring us not to worry about him, and things were going fine." Said his former school art teacher Susan Cole, "Adam was one of those kids who was always supportive. He was always willing to help others. He was so responsible and so considerate. He's the kind of kid you'd give a job recommendation to in a heartbeat. He was a wonderful person to know."
3,075th to die: Jan. 27, 2007 – Army Sgt. Mickel David Garrigus, 24, of Elma, Grays Harbor County, was killed by a roadside bomb in Taji, Iraq. He served with the 543rd Military Police Company based at Fort Drum, N.Y. The day he died, fellow soldiers said, Garrigus had ordered another soldier to wear protective gear that saved the solider from the same fatal blast that killed him. Born in Tacoma, he was raised in Elma where he graduated from high school in 2001 and enlisted in the Army. The military became "his life; he totally enjoyed the military," said his mother Deadra. He had recently contacted his family asking them to send clothing and shoes for Iraqi children. He was himself married with one child. At one point in his military career, he turned down a stateside job to go to Iraq, said his mother. He told her, she recalled, "I came here to fight for my country, and that's what I'm going to do."
3,070th to die: Jan. 26, 2007 - Army reserve Maj. Alan Johnson, 44, of Yakima, died from a roadside bomb in Balad that wounded four others. He was married and had a teenage daughter. Born in North Dakota, Johnson had worked as a shift sergeant with the Yakima County Corrections Department. "He oversaw all of the training...from the time someone was first hired," recalled Mike Williams, his corrections supervisor, "firearms, defensive tactics, report writing ... he loved to teach. That was his passion." In a statement, Johnson's family said: "As a husband he was a leader, supporter, protector, and best friend – he was a knight in shining armor. As a father he mirrored the image of God in his ability to love unconditionally. All who knew him respected him. He is loved and will be deeply missed by his family and friends."
3,065th to die: Jan 24, 2007 – Army Staff Sgt. Hector Leija, 27, a Fort Lewis Stryker solider from Houston, was fatally wounded in the kitchen of a Baghdad apartment that he and others were searching. According to his MySpace Web page, Leija joined the Army after high school in Raymondville. Texas, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bible Club, FFA, Science Club and an athletic academic team. He also played football. "He got accepted to Baylor, he got accepted to everywhere, but he chose Army," said his brother, Robert. Leija's death was captured in a photo and video by the New York Times, initially causing a controversy between the paper and the Defense Department, threatening the Times' embedded-reporter status.
3,055th to die: Jan. 21, 2007 – Army Cpl. Darrel J. Morris, 21, of Spokane, died while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Morris was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, at Camp Lejeune, N.C. "No old teacher should outlive his student," said one of his former Ferris High instructors, Bill Christianson. Morris sent e-mails to Christianson every couple weeks, the teacher recalled, and was at the school in the summer of 2006 to recruit students into the military. His family said Morris opted to join the Marines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "We raised him to want to help, to do better and to do more," said his aunt, Kim Coles.
3,021st to die: Jan. 14, 2007 – Army Spc. James D. Riekena, 22, of Redmond, died in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. Riekena was assigned to the 145th Brigade Support Battalion, Post Falls, Idaho. Born in Missoula, he graduated from Redmond High and joined the National Guard as a combat engineer. In Iraq, he was a bomb-locator specialist. "When he told us what he wanted to do, he said, 'This is what fascinates me,'" recalled his mother, Pat McCune. "I said, 'Can't you pick something safe like being a cook?'" Riekena planned on becoming an English teacher, said his family, and he loved writing home. In a letter to his grandparents in Missoula, he told of life in Iraq: "It's such an odd place. My heart aches at the sight of how they live, though from it, as all things in life, I continue to learn. Respect and appreciation for all that I have. To really cherish the smallest of things I never did before."
3,007th to die: Jan. 6, 2007 – Army Cpl. Jeremiah J. Johnson, 23, of Vancouver, died from wounds suffered when his Humvee rolled over into a canal in Baghdad. Johnson was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He survived for ten days after suffering critical brain injuries. "Bless his heart, we were with him to the end," said his mother, Elizabeth. Johnson was married and had two children. "So many people prayed for a miracle, and people may think that a miracle did not happen," his mother said. "But the miracle has happened through all the people that Jeremiah's life has touched." She noted that he was an organ donor, "so his legacy will go on."
3,005th to die: Jan. 4, 2007 – Army Staff Sgt. Charles D. Allen, 28, a Fort Lewis medic from Wasilla, Alaska, was killed by small arms fire during combat operations in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, at Fort Lewis. Allen was an avid fisher and hunter growing up in Alaska, his family said. His father, Dave, remembered him as "a really good medic and he wanted to be out there giving the guys the best care they could get." Said his widow, Kerensa: "Since I have known him, we've both been prepared for this because we both knew this is what he wants to do. He used to say 'sacrifice the good of the few for the good of the many.' He was all about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He was an extraordinary soldier, an extraordinary man."