Iraq 2003-2006

IRAQ 2003 22nd to die • March 23, 2003 Marine Cpl. Randal Kent Rosacker, 21, of San Diego, son of a Bangor Trident submarine officer, was one of nine Marines killed in fighting near Al Nasiriyah. They were apparently ambushed by Iraqi soldiers who had indicated they wanted to surrender. Rosacker's family remembers him as a gung-ho prep athlete who loved playing nose tackle on the high-school football team and once took the field with a broken arm. His father, Rod Rosacker of Bremerton, a command master chief petty officer, was chief of the boat for the Trident sub USS Alabama. He had returned home from war duty himself, his fourth Gulf tour, just hours before learning of his son's death. "I was kind of expecting this, knowing him," said Rod Rosacker. "He was always in the front of everything." 146th to die • May 9, 2003 Marine Lance Cpl. Cedric E. Bruns, 22, of Vancouver, Clark County, was killed in a nonhostile vehicle accident in Kuwait while driving a Humvee that was struck on the driver's side by another vehicle. Bruns was with the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group, in Eugene, Ore. His mother, Debbie, remembers his last phone call: "It was an early Mother's Day call because he didn't know if he would get another chance at a phone. We talked for 20 minutes. He knew what he was there for—to fight for somebody else's freedom." 203rd to die • June 6, 2003 Army Sgt. Travis L. Burkhardt, 26, Fort Lewis, was killed in Baghdad while part of an escort mission when the vehicle he was in hit a roadway curb and rolled over. Assigned to the 170th Military Police Company at Fort Lewis, Burkhardt is survived by a wife and two children in Missouri. He recently had been honored for saving another soldier's life. "Travis was a patriotic man with a great sense of duty and compassion," said his father, David. 251st to die • July 31, 2003 Army Spc. Justin W. Hebert, 20, of Silvana in Snohomish County, the state's first combat fatality in Iraq. Killed in Kirkuk while on patrol, his vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Hebert was assigned to the 319th Field Artillery, 173rd Airborne Brigade, at Camp Ederle, Italy. "All politics aside," said Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano, the three-star commander of Fort Lewis, after Hebert's funeral, "this young man paid the ultimate price. He gave his life for his country." 260th to die • August 7, 2003 Army Pfc. Duane E. Longstreth, 19, Tacoma, died in Baghdad from non-combat-related injuries. He was assigned to Company B, 307th Engineer Battalion, Fort Bragg, N.C. After 9/11, he and his mother enlisted in the Army together; he became a combat engineer, she a communications specialist. "I just want to say," said mother Pfc. Jennifer West, "he is my hero." They joined for duty, she said, because it was the right thing to do. "We're in Iraq to do a necessary job." 323rd to die • October 6, 2003 Army Pfc. Kerry D. Scott, 21, of Concrete in Skagit County, was killed in Iskandariyah while on combat patrol. Scott was a Humvee machine gunner, and his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, killing him and a buddy. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Drum, N.Y. "I will never leave this valley," his father, David, remembered Scott saying about the Skagit Valley, "and if I do leave, I'm coming back." He is buried there. 361st to die • November 1, 2003 Army 2nd Lt. Benjamin J. Colgan, 30, Kent, was killed in Baghdad while responding to a rocket-propelled-grenade attack. He was struck by an improvised explosive device. Colgan was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, in Giessen, Germany. He was married with two children. His wife was eight months pregnant at the time of his death. His parents actively opposed the war but supported the troops. At a November eulogy in Baghdad, Colgan's battalion commander, Lt. Col. William S. Rabena, said, "He was just so good at what he did that you felt safe around him." 378th to die • November 5, 2003 Army Spc. Robert T. Benson, 20, Spokane, was killed by nonhostile fire at a Baghdad checkpoint. Benson was with the 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Division, based at Smith Barracks, Germany. He is survived by his wife of less than a year. At Benson's memorial service, Pastor Charles Hodges asked, "How do you measure the cost of our engagement in Iraq? You know that war costs more than money." 411th to die • November 15, 2003 Army Spc. John R. Sullivan, 26, Federal Way, one of 17 soldiers killed when two Army Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, tallying the largest loss of American life in a single chopper collision in Iraq. Sullivan had re-enlisted so his wife would be able to spend more time caring for their new twins, whom he never got to meet. He was assigned to the 626th Forward Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, based in Fort Campbell, Ky. "We don't care what people's opinions [about the war] are," said his widow, Katrina, "but they should just appreciate what is in the hearts of people willing to go over there and risk their lives for others." 421st to die • November 17, 2003 Army Capt. James A. Shull, 32, Kirkland, died from an accidental shooting in Baghdad. He had been on a welfare mission to schools and community centers when another soldier's rifle fired accidentally. Stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., married with three children, and a 1989 Juanita High School grad, Shull had a degree in criminal justice from Washington State University. At his Kirkland memorial service, brother Brad recalled a recent e-mail from him that included the words "pray for me." Mourners at the service sang every verse of "America the Beautiful." 447th, 448th, and 449th to die • December 8, 2003 Army Spc. Christopher J.R. Wesley, 26, Portland; Army Spc. Joseph M. Blickenstaff, 23, Corvallis, Ore.; and Army Staff Sgt. Steven H. Bridges, 33, Tracy, Calif., all died in Ad Duluiyah, riding in a Stryker vehicle when it flipped into a canal. They were assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Fort Lewis. Wesley, single, joined the Army "to see the world," said his uncle, Joe Wesley. His family heard about his death shortly after holding a funeral for his grandmother, who died of cancer on Thanksgiving. Blickenstaff, whose widow lives in Steilacoom in Pierce County, is remembered as a good-humored, bighearted guy who saw the Army as an opportunity. "I think the military was the right choice for him," said high-school teacher Jim Phillips. "He was just one of those quiet boys who was looking for direction." Bridges, who was married and lived with his family in the Fort Lewis area, had a 5-year-old daughter and three children from his widow's previous marriage. In Bridges' honor, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags flown at half-staff. 459th to die • December 16, 2003 Army Spec. Nathan W. Nakis, 19, of Sedro-Woolley, was killed in a crash of a five-ton cargo truck, which tipped over when he tried to avoid a hole he thought contained a bomb, southwest of Mosul; six others were injured. Nakis was assigned to the 52nd Engineer Battalion, Army National Guard, Albany, Ore. A recent high-school grad, Nakis was attending Oregon State University, studying for a dual degree in civil and forest engineering, when he was called up. In a statement, family members said Nathan "served his school, his community, and his country with pride." They remembered that as a kid, the Eagle Scout loved playing soldier. 471st to die • December 25, 2003 Army Staff Sgt. Stephen C. Hattamer, 43, a Spokane Valley native. Hattamer died when his living area in Baquba came under mortar attack. He was assigned to an Army Reserve unit, the 652nd Engineer Battalion, which builds bridges. Survivors include his wife and three children. An elder in the Lutheran Church, Hattamer, who died on Christmas, conducted Bible studies with other soldiers, according to his sister, Theresa Anderson. "He was helping them with anger. He was helping them with depression," she said. "His Bible studies did make the men strong." 473rd to die • December 26, 2003 Army Spc. Charles G. Haight, 23, Fort Lewis, leaves behind a wife and 10-month-old son in Pierce County. Haight was killed when his convoy vehicle hit a road mine outside Tikrit. He was a mechanic with the Triple Nickel, the 555th Combat Engineer Group. An Alabaman, Haight grew up in the foothills of the Appalachians and hoped to study for a career in medicine. "He was a sweet guy, and to me he was a hero," said sister Joy Ellis. 475th to die • December 28, 2003 Army Sgt. Curt E. Jordan Jr., 25, Greenacres, Spokane County, died of non-combat injuries suffered near Bayji. Jordan was assigned to the Triple Nickel, Fort Lewis, 555th Combat Engineer Group. He is survived by his wife and two children, who live at Fort Lewis. Brother Army Spc. Adam Jordan was only miles away when Curt was killed. Father Curt Jordan Sr., who lives near Spokane, said his son decided that joining the Army would be the best thing for him—that he could get an education and get paid for it at the same time.  IRAQ 2004 485th to die • January 7, 2004 Army Pfc. Jesse D. Mizener, 23, was killed in Baghdad after a mortar round landed in the Army's Logistics Base. Mizener was assigned to the 542nd Maintenance Company at Fort Lewis. Married with three children, Mizener grew up in Stockton, Calif. His childhood dream was to serve his country, said his widow, Nicole. At Mizener's funeral, fellow soldier Jasper Duran said the two had a pact that if either was killed in Iraq, the survivor would comfort the other's family. "He was there for everyone. Everyone. You, me, the Iraqi people. He felt for everyone, not just himself," Duran said. 514th to die • January 25, 2004 Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Bunda, 29, Bremerton, was killed when his boat capsized during patrol on the Tigris River. He was a sniper assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry, based at Fort Lewis. A 1992 graduate of Olympic High School, Bunda was married with two children. He was initially listed as missing in action until his body was found several weeks later—a fate that was "killing me softly," said his mother, Lita Vigil. Born and raised in the Philippines, Bunda came to live with his mother and stepfather in Bremerton in 1991. Said stepfather Thomas Vigil, a Navy vet: "He was a good soldier, a good father, and a good son. He died doing what he did best, and that's his job. He was a professional." 533rd to die • February 9, 2004 Sgt. Thomas D. Robbins, 27, assigned to 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment (Stryker), Fort Lewis. He and a second soldier from another unit were helping to move a collection of unexploded ordnance, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds which detonated accidentally. Robbins, married, went to high school in Delmar, N.Y. He was a "very good student who distinguished himself in art and a number of extracurricular activities," said his high-school principal, Michael Tebbano. Robbins played soccer in high school and ran track. 539th to die • February 16, 2004 Army Sgt. Michael M. Merila, 23, a military paralegal, was fatally wounded about 35 miles west of Mosul when a roadside bomb struck his convoy. A 1998 graduate of Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Ariz., Merila joined the Army in 2001 and was stationed at Fort Lewis. Unmarried, he went to Iraq in November as a Stryker Brigade legal advisor; he was posthumously promoted to sergeant. Merila's mother, Susan, is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and his father, Michael, a retired Army chief warrant officer. "Sgt. Merila," said Fort Lewis commander Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano at a memorial service in Arizona, "was a tremendous soldier who had a bright future in the Army." 563rd to die • March 16, 2004 Army 1st Lt. Michael R. Adams, 24, of Leavenworth, died after a passing vehicle struck his tank near the Kuwait border and caused the barrel of the .50 caliber gun to swing and strike him. Adams, with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Brigade, was a 1998 graduate of Kentridge High School in Kent. Parents Don and Barbara Adams of Leavenworth received an e-mail from their son two days before the accident, saying, "The next time you hear from me, it'll be from Kuwait." Then he'd be heading home. He is buried at West Point, from which he graduated. "The motto at West Point is 'Duty, honor, country,' " said Don Adams. "He embraced those ideals." 579th to die • March 22, 2004 Army Pfc. Bruce Miller Jr., 23, of Orange, N.J., died of non-combat-related injuries in Mosul. He was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Battalion stationed at Fort Lewis. Miller graduated from Teaneck Community School in 1999 and earned a diploma from Orange High School. He'd been offered a scholarship to William Paterson University before deciding to join the Army. "Junior wanted to go to college after his Army enlistment tour was over," his family said in a statement, "and he had become interested in studying law." Miller was "a kind, thoughtful, and religious young man who loved his family and was interested in art, poetry, and writing. He will be sorely missed." 610th to die • April 4, 2004 Army Spc. Philip G. Rogers, 23, of Gresham, Ore., was killed when a roadside bomb exploded next to the food truck he was driving on a mission in Mosul. Rogers, a cook, was assigned to the Army's Stryker Brigade, the mobile infantry unit from Fort Lewis. He had called his family just two days before his death to say everything was OK. His father Rex, a Vietnam veteran, said Philip was an artist and budding chef who joined to eventually take advantage of the Army's educational benefits. A 1999 high-school grad, he had a year of duty left. "When I got home from work," Rex recalled of Philip's teen years, "he'd already have dinner ready. He was a good kid, a good son." 631st to die • April 7, 2004 Army Spc. Tyanna S. Avery-Felder, 22, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldier, died from injuries sustained April 4 in Mosul when her convoy vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device. Avery-Felder, of Bridgeport, Conn., was one of three children. She graduated from Kolbe Cathedral High School and enrolled at Southern Connecticut State University, but left after a year. "She just came home one day and said, 'Mom, I just joined the Army,' " recalled her mother, Ilene Avery. "She was doing what she wanted to do." Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who ordered flags flown at half-staff, called the fallen soldier a "hero" who gave the "supreme sacrifice for our freedoms." 675th to die • April 14, 2004 Army Spec. Frank K. Rivers Jr., 23, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldier, died from an apparent heart attack during training drills in Iraq. He was a soldier's son, born at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and raised in Newark, N.J., his family said. He graduated from high school in Virginia, and joined the Army to follow in his father's footsteps. A younger brother, Lemar, also joined, and is stationed in Germany. At Rivers' funeral, Maj. Gen. William H. Russ told family and friends, "You all recognize that Frank Jr.'s hero is Frank Sr." The 150 attendees stood and applauded father and son. 711th to die • April 24, 2004 Coast Guard Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal, 24, stationed at Neah Bay from 2001 through 2003, became the first Guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam War. Bruckenthal, a Floridian, and two Navy sailors died while providing protection for oil terminals outside Umm Qasr. A small, bomb-laden boat exploded as the threesome and other members of the Maritime Interception Operations team began an inspection. Bruckenthal was married, with a child on the way. "He was the big guy who got off the boat with the big guns," said his uncle, Steven Bruckenthal. "This is what you want your soldiers to be." 724th to die • April 28, 2004 Army Spc. Jacob R. Herring, 21, Kirkland, died in Mosul from injuries caused by an improvised explosive device that struck his vehicle. Assigned to the Stryker Brigade at Fort Lewis, Herring had been wounded by shrapnel in December and could have returned home. Instead, he opted to stay with his unit in Iraq. A 2001 graduate of Lake Washington High School, Herring's #55 football jersey was retired at his funeral service. Said buddy Mick Morrison: "He lived his life with the best that was in him, and we will miss him for it." 742nd to die • May 1, 2004 Army Spc. Trevor A. Win'E, 22, died in Tikrit. A member of the Army's 24th Quartermaster Co., based at Fort Lewis, Win'E suffered fatal injuries after the convoy vehicle he was traveling in was struck by a roadside bomb. Win'E, whose brother Todd is in the U.S. Air Force, was raised in Orange County, Calif. He was on his high school's hockey team and liked to fish and dive off the coast of Newport Beach. A neighbor remembered him as "one of those guys that if you ever met him, you wanted to be his friend." 743rd to die • May 1, 2004 Army Sgt. Joshua Ladd, 20, deployed with the Fort Lewis-based 44th Corps Support Battalion, was killed when his vehicle was hit by a grenade near Mosul. A member of the Mississippi National Guard, Ladd signed up for duty at age 17, his family said. His hometown of Philadelphia, Miss., closed on a Friday so folks could attend Ladd's funeral service. In honor of Ladd, neighbors erected flagpoles on the Ladd property and then raised flags to half-staff. Candles and flower bouquets, including one from Ladd's school-bus driver, lined the driveway. "Josh," the driver wrote in a note, "you will be missed in our thoughts and our hearts. You were an ideal student on my bus. We love you forever." 761st to die • May 5, 2004 Army Pfc. Jesse R. Buryj, 21, with the 66th Military Police Company, Fort Lewis, died from friendly fire when his military vehicle was struck by a dump truck trying to run through a checkpoint. Buryj opened fire on the vehicle, hitting the driver, but the truck crashed into the soldier's Humvee. From Canton, Ohio, Buryj, who had married his high-school sweetheart in October 2003, had hoped to become a police officer after his return home. His sister, Angela, fondly remembers him as honest almost to a fault. "If he ever did anything wrong, if he ever got in trouble, he always told on himself," she said. 768th to die • May 8, 2004 Army Spc. Chase R. Whitham, 21, of Harrisburg, Ore., assigned to the 296th Forward Support Battalion as part of the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, was killed when an electrical current charged the water in a swimming pool in Mosul. "It is tragic to lose a soldier to enemy hostile fire, but it is very difficult as well to lose a soldier in an accident," said Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Joseph Piek. Whitham was remembered in his hometown as a good friend and athlete—a golfer and basketball player at Marist Catholic High School in nearby Eugene. "He seemed like the type that liked challenges," said his friend Mark Ray. "He was real capable. When Chase put his mind to doing something, he would do it." That included making others laugh. "In fifth grade we dared him to eat a worm," said Ray. "He put it in his sandwich and ate it. He was always there for a dare, that's for sure." 769th to die • May 8, 2004 Spc. Maria Isela Rubalcava, 25, of El Paso, Texas, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade supply technician, was killed in a mortar attack on a coalition base in Mosul. She was thought to be the first El Paso woman ever killed in combat. "They took a piece of my heart," said her father, Ramon Rubalcava. "I only hope this war ends soon, because I don't wish this pain on anyone else." Rubalcava's cousin, Hector Barragan, received the last e-mail from her the day before her death. "She was excited and happy because she was going to eventually come home and she was going to be stationed in Fort Bliss [Texas]," Barragan said. "She's always been a happy person, always smiling. When she came back from boot camp, she was cheerful and told us about how great it was." A family friend, Monica Orozco, said, "She was a beautiful person, funny, free-spirited. She was the life of the party." 774th to die • May 12, 2004 Spc. Jeffrey R. Shaver, 26, of Maple Valley, became the first Washington National Guardsman to die in the war when his convoy vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. A medic assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry, Spokane, Shaver worked for Bryman (now Everest) College and later attended Green River Community College in pursuit of a helicopter aviation degree, and planned to do search-and-rescue work. Trained at Fort Lewis, he completed a course in musculoskeletal injury management, which prepared him for triaging orthopedic injuries in the field. "He was a very loving person and loved life," his mother, Jane, said. "He was very strong in his faith. He placed his life in God's hands; he was doing it [fighting in Iraq] for his family. He was going to Iraq because he believed in his loved ones having freedom and to make sure we were safe here, and no matter what, it was all worth it for that." 806th to die • May 29, 2004 Marine Pfc. Cody S. Calavan, 19, of Lake Stevens, was killed in an explosion in Al Anbar province. He was assigned as a machine gunner to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. It was the second sibling death in under a year for his family: Brother Joey, 15, was killed by a drunken driver nine months before Cody passed. Cody could have come home, as the sole surviving son. "But the direct answer was," says father David Calavan, " 'I'm trained at what I do, these people are depending on me, so I'm going.' " Calavan's family moved to Stanwood after Cody graduated from Lake Stevens High School. "It's been really hard on our community to lose such a nice young man, a patriotic young man," said teacher Brent Barnes. "He's the first soldier we've lost in Iraq from Lake Stevens," said local American Legion official Dick Cowen, as flags around town were lowered to half-staff, "and we want his family to know that we love them and support them." 808th to die • May 29, 2004 Army Spc. Michael J. Wiesemann, 20, of North Judson, Ind., died at Forward Operating Base at Quyarrah Air Base from non-combat-related injuries. Wiesemann, a cavalry scout assigned to the Stryker unit at Fort Lewis, was engaged to be wed upon his return from Iraq. He also intended to complete an unfinished mural on the wall of his former art classroom at North Judson-San Pierre High School. "Mike was an outstanding student," said art teacher Clayton Howard. Peggy Joyce, co-owner of The Point drive-in, where Wiesemann once worked, remembers him as "a wonderful person, an awesome artist, and a wonderful marksman. He loved to shoot." 811th to die • May 30, 2004 Army Pvt. Bradli N. Coleman, 19, of Ford City, Pa., died in Baghdad from injuries sustained May 29 in Mosul. Coleman was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. He was living at brigade headquarters at the Mosul presidential-palace compound when mortar rounds hit his quarters, the military said. Said his father, Don Coleman: "Brad and I had talked in the weeks before how the [troop] shelters were starting to be targeted." Bradli joined the Army after graduating from high school in 2003. A football player and wrestler, he was an inspiration to his younger brother, said Don Coleman. Bradli, he added, had a "nervous excitement" about being deployed to Iraq. "You'd look around and see all these people," the father recalled the son saying, "and start to feel like you were outnumbered five to 500." 815th to die • May 31, 2004 Marine Lance Cpl. Dustin L. Sides, 22, of Yakima, died in an ambush in Al Anbar province. He was assigned to the 9th Communications Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force. Sides, a military wrecker driver, was returning from a mission in Fallujah and, just a few hours before his death, had called his father to say the operation had been a success. Sides was the first Yakima soldier to be killed in combat, and townsfolk flew flags at half-staff, posted sympathy signs on reader boards, and sent flowers and letters of condolence to the family. Sides joined the Marines after graduating from Eisenhower High School, his family said, and also attended the alternative Stanton Academy. An avid dirt-biker, Sides planned to pursue a lifetime career in the military, his family says. "He was a brave man," recalled father John Sides, "he was a very loving man." His stepfather, Paul Billings, said Sides saw Iraq in part as a personal mission. "He wanted to do something right for those people and he believed in it," Billings said. 841st to die • June 20, 2004 Marine Staff Sgt. Marvin Best, 33, of Prosser, was killed in action in Al Anbar province. Assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Best had wanted to be a Marine since he was a kid. A prep track athlete, rodeo enthusiast, and avid outdoorsman, he enlisted in 1989 just out of high school. He studied criminal law at Columbia Basin College while working as a military recruiter in Kennewick, and intended to pursue a career in law enforcement after service retirement. When he re-enlisted in 1995, his widow Shelly was against it. "I always wanted him to get out," she said. "But I told him, 'Do what you have to do.' " Said his sister, Lorna Nuez: "I'm just proud he would give his life so we can be free." His mother, Charlotte, remembers Marvin as "gung-ho and a true patriot." Just before her son left on a mission in February, he promised to play it safe, but said, "I'll die for the man next to me." He also told her: "Don't be worried about me until you see the cars come up the driveway with the flags on them." They arrived the day after the Yakima Valley held a funeral for its first Iraq casualty, Dustin Sides, also a Marine. 874th to die • July 8, 2004 National Guard Spc. Jeremiah W. Schmunk, 21, of Richland, died when his vehicle came under attack by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire. Schmunk, a prep wrestler and grad of Warden High School, was assigned to the 1st Cavalry, Washington National Guard, of Moses Lake. He called his mother the day before his death with a brief message: "Mom," he told Shirley Schmunk, a widow, "I love you. I'm OK. Goodbye." Friend Nathan Wurzer said Schmunk joined the Guard for the experience and the college benefits. Wurzer recalled a buddy who had an impulse for fun. Passing by a motel swimming pool one morning—at 3 a.m.—"We stripped down and jumped into the pool," Wurzer said. "He was the best friend I will ever have." 890th and 891st to die • July 14, 2004 Army Pfc. Jesse Jack Martinez, 20, of Tracy, Calif., and Cpl. Demetrius L. Rice, 24, of Ortonville, Minn., both members of the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, were killed in a truck accident on a mission near Tal Afar. Their infantry carrier collided with a fuel truck and rolled over. Martinez, the son of an Army veteran and the fourth soldier from small-town Tracy to die in Iraq, had called his mother two days earlier, telling her he'd be home soon on a two-week leave. "I am going to miss having him around," said his mother, Jan Martinez. "Jesse was one of those types of people that once you got him out of his shell, he was a friend for life." Rice, the oldest of five siblings, was remembered as "a good kid" by high-school principal Terry Rheingans, recalling Rice had said he was proud to be a soldier. His mother, Valorie Rice, said that when her son called, the whole family would join in the conversation and "try to keep his spirits up." The last time he phoned, "He was ready to come home, like a lot of them. But he knew why he was there, why this needed to be done." 918th to die • August 3, 2004 Marine Capt. Gregory A. Ratzlaff, 36, whose parents live in Olympia, died from non-combat-related injuries at Forward Operating Base Duke. Military officials said the officer accidentally shot himself. Ratzlaff, who was married, piloted CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters. His unit, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 at Miramar, San Diego, had arrived in Iraq in July. Ratzlaff entered the service in 1990; his awards include two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. 923rd to die • August 5, 2004 Army Spc. Donald R. McCune, 20, of Ypsilanti, Mich., died in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries sustained Aug. 4 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol in Balad. McCune was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 81st Brigade Combat Team, Washington Army National Guard out of Moses Lake. His stepfather, Benjamin Lewis, an Army sergeant, said he and McCune bonded over their military service and recalled with a twinkle that his stepson "liked to push buttons." Said his mother Darcy: "I believe we're there [Iraq] for a reason, and I hope someday his death means something, that something's been accomplished. He's not just a statistic." 924th to die • August 5, 2004 Marine Sgt. Yadir Reynoso, 27, of Wapato, Yakima County, was killed by enemy fire during the fighting near Fallujah. A high-school wrestler, Reynoso is remembered by friends as the friendly guy who greeted them with a headlock. Divorced and a father of one son, Reynoso was the son of Mexican immigrant farm workers in the Yakima Valley. He joined the Marines shortly after high-school graduation in 1997. His father recalls him one day casually asking "Hey, old man, is it OK if I join the Marines?" Said his sister Patty: "My brother died with full honor . . . It goes deeper than that. It's part of our roots. He's a hero among Mexicans." 936th to die • August 13, 2004 Marine Lance Cpl. Kane Funke, 20, Vancouver, Clark County, died from the explosion of an incendiary device during security and stability operations around Fallujah. He was an infantryman and ammunition carrier. Funke grew up in Montana and went to high school in Vancouver, where he was a wrestler. "He was doing what he always wanted to do since he was about 8 years old," said stepfather Dale Johnston. "That's about all he could think about, some branch of the military." Funke was buried in Polson, Mont., where an uncle, Eric Funke, gave the eulogy: "At 8 years old, Kane knew he wanted to be a Marine. He'd hide out in people's backyards at night all camo'd [camouflaged] up." 945th to die • August 17, 2004 Marine Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Powers, 21, of Mansfield, Douglas County, died Aug. 17 in fighting near Fallujah. Cook was assigned to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. Abandoned as a child, and adopted by relatives in Mansfield, young Powers became a crusader and fund-raiser for other disadvantaged kids. He was a football player at Mansfield High School, where he graduated in 2001. His death in Iraq was followed two days later by the death of his sister's fiance, also a Marine, in Iraq. In a tribute, Powers' family said Caleb was a true Marine and "until his last day, that is the way he lived his life. He was one who always had a smile on his face and enjoyed life to the fullest. Caleb died as a proud Marine who will be missed by all." 959th to die • August 24, 2004 Marine Sgt. Jason C. Cook, 25, of Okanogan, Okanogan County, died of combat wounds in the prolonged fighting in Fallujah. Married just two years, Cook was on his second tour in Iraq (his armored vehicle bore the name of his wife, Yovana). He joined the Marines shortly after graduating from Okanogan High School in 1997, and was an anti-tank assault guided missileman assigned to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. "There just wasn't anything Jason wouldn't do for you," said stepfather Del Miles of Yakima. "He was right there for you." 1,023rd to die • September 14, 2004 Sgt. Jacob H. Demand, 29, of Palouse, Whitman County, was killed during fighting in Mosul when his patrol was attacked by insurgent forces. Assigned to the Stryker Brigade at Fort Lewis, Demand was born in a San Diego naval hospital and grew up in Pomeroy, Wash, and then nearby Palouse, where he was a three-sport letterman in high school, graduating in 1995. He joined the service just out of school and had almost finished an eight-year tour of duty. He had planned to leave the service, but was forced to remain under the Pentagon's expanded stop-loss order, due to troop shortages. He was sent to Iraq in January 2004. His buddies said they were delighted to serve with him. "He loved to talk; man, could he talk," said friend Sgt. Ben Herman at Demand's funeral. "It was always good to be on duty with Jake. He could keep you entertained for hours . . . He knew how to make everybody laugh." He is survived by his three children, who live with his ex-wife in Indiana. 1,024th to die • September 14, 2004 Marine Maj. Kevin Shea, who turned 38 on the day he died, was killed by indirect enemy gunfire at Camp Fallujah, becoming the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq. A 1984 graduate of O'Dea High School in Seattle, Shea attended the Air Force Academy but cross-commissioned to the Marines when he discovered his eyesight was too poor to become a pilot. He served in combat in Gulf War I and became an engineering teacher at the U.S. Naval Academy. He coached rugby and mentored at the Academy for three years, where students named him an honorary member of the class of 2003. His widow, Ami, and two children live at Camp Pendleton, Calif. A Naval Academy statement called him "an innovator, a visionary, an intellect, one tough guy, and a great Marine." Shea befriended schoolchildren in Iraq, adds his mother, Eileen Shea of Washington, D.C. "He was hoping [the military] could do a lot of good, rebuild the schools." 1,029th to die • September 16, 2004 Marine Cpl. Steven Arnold Rintamaki, 21, of Lynnwood, was killed by a bomb while manning a Humvee gun in Al Anbar province. Adopted at 8 months, Rintamaki attended Meadowdale High School and a former private school, Westside Place, in Seattle. His family says that as a photogenic child, he appeared in advertisements for such businesses as Nordstrom and The Bon Marché. As a budding child violinist, he also played in the Seattle Symphonette Orchestra. "He searched for challenges all through his life," said his mother, Myra. His birth mother, Stacey Malaspino Swinson, reunited with him just after he signed up for the Marines at age 17. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. 1,037th to die • September 21, 2004 Army Pfc. Nathan E. Stahl, 20, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment from Fort Lewis, died when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. A resident of Highland, Ind., Stahl was remembered as an upbeat friend who favored war movies and dreamed of becoming an Army Ranger. "He's a great guy," recalled former girlfriend Dena Hemphill, with whom he broke up before leaving for Iraq—not wanting her to wait for him because of the war's risks. "It shouldn't have happened to him." At his high school, where teachers remembered him as a favored student only a year earlier, the signboard read: "Nathan Stahl, Our Hero, Class of 2003." 1,039th to die • September 22, 2004 Army Pfc. Adam J. Harris, who had turned 21 five days earlier, died in Mosul after being shot by a sniper while on routine patrol. From Abilene, Texas, Harris was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, part of the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. His mother, Denise Bush, is a secretary to the commander of Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, and his stepfather, Steven Bush, is a food superintendent for the Air Force, deployed in the Middle East. "You never think it's going to happen to you," Denise Bush said in a statement. "It's just devastating." 1,075th to die • October 11, 2004 Army Staff Sgt. Michael Burbank, 34, of Bremerton, was killed when a suicide bomber smashed a produce truck, loaded with explosives, into Burbank's convoy vehicle. His unit is part of the Army's 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Lewis. Burbank grew up in Bremerton, where he met his wife, Shawna. He enlisted in 1997 and was deployed to the Middle East three times. His in-laws, Brant and Pam Culley, said Burbank was like a son to them. "His favorite saying was, 'It's not for us to wonder why, it's to go and do or die,' " said Brant. Burbank's mother, Dorothy, of Texas, says the Burbanks are military through and through, and "Michael just carried on the family tradition." 1,096th to die • October 15, 2004 Army Spc. Jonathan J. Santos, 22, of Bellingham, was killed in Karabilah when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Santos, a linguist with the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) from Fort Bragg, N.C., was Whatcom County's first troop casualty in Iraq. He attended Sehome High School, where he was on the wrestling team. His mother, Doris Kent, said Jonathan's father, stepfather, and both grandfathers were military men. In a recent conversation, Jonathan told his mother: "Mom, don't always believe what you see in the news. I'm OK. Don't worry about me." Kent, who continues to care for Jonathan's two teen brothers, says she looked up her son's name on the list of dead, finding he was number 1,096 in a war she didn't want him to fight. "I'll remember that number forever," she said. 1,139th to die • November 8, 2004 Marine Staff Sgt. David G. Ries, 29, Vancouver, Clark County, was killed in a roadside bomb attack during the battle of Fallujah. A reservist and 10-year Marine who volunteered for a second tour of duty, Ries was traveling in a convoy when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. The Marines said Ries was an electrician with the 6th Engineer Support Battalion at the Marine Corps Reserve Center in Portland. Friend David Loper remembered Ries as "very dedicated and very honorable . . . He just said, 'I have my job to do and I'm going to do it.' " Ries left a wife and two young children. 1,145th to die • November 9, 2004 Marine Lance Cpl. Nathan R. Wood, 19, of Kirkland, was killed in the battle of Fallujah. His unit of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Expeditionary force was battling door-to-door in an apartment complex when he was shot, officials said. Wood grew up in the Kirkland area and enlisted, despite his parents' protests, after graduating from Juanita High School in 2003. "Anybody who has kids over there now," said Wood's uncle, Bill Olson, "our prayers are with them. We're very proud of the soldiers and Marines and the sacrifices they are making, but we can't really say we support the war." 1,147th to die • November 9, 2004 Air Force Master Sgt. Steven E. Auchman, 37, of Lacey, was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his location in Mosul. Married with two children, Auchman originally hailed from Waterloo, N.Y., and joined the Air Force in 1985. He worked in radio maintenance and was assigned to the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Lewis. Auchman was scheduled to spend three months in Iraq helping support Stryker Brigade movements, and was to return in January 2005. "Steven," said his commander, Col. George Bochain, "was a wonderful father, a true hero, and a superb airman." 1,148th to die • November 9, 2004 Army Maj. Horst G. Moore, 38, a member of the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, died in Mosul when an enemy mortar round detonated within his unit living area. Moore, from Los Fresnos, Texas, was born in Germany and raised in Oklahoma, and was a career soldier with 16 years in the military. He was married with one child. His widow, Raquel, said she was told the attacker "killed himself, killed my husband and another soldier." Known as Gary, Moore was honored in a flag-raising ceremony at the elementary school in his small Texas town. "He was one of those patriotic individuals who loved serving his country," said his wife. 1,169th to die • November 11, 2004 Army Spc. Thomas K. Doerflinger, 20, assigned to the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, died in Mosul when his unit was hit by small-arms fire during combat operations. Doerflinger, of Silver Spring, Md., was remembered by his family as a good-humored kid who wrote poetry and short stories. His father, Richard Doerflinger, is the deputy director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. His sister, Anna, recalled that their parents were not happy with his choice to enlist as war loomed, "but he said he'd rather join then than in a time of peace." In a statement, his parents declared: "He understood the risks of his chosen path and gave his life doing what he had committed himself to doing—standing against those who have no respect for human life. Even as we grieve for our loss, we honor the ideals he stood for and ask others to do the same." 1,228th to die • November 22, 2004 Army Spc. Blain M. Ebert, 22, of Washtucna, Adams County, a tank commander, died in Baghdad when enemy forces engaged his unit with small-arms fire. His family said he was shot by a sniper as he peered from the tank's command hatch. The son of an Eastern Washington farmer assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, Ebert had recently escaped serious injury when a car bomb went off near him. Friends called him a big country kid who loved the outdoors, hunting, and snowmobiling. He played on his high-school football team in Washtucna, a small town where the community had in the past gathered clothing and candy for Ebert to distribute to kids in Iraq. "He believed in what he was doing over there," said his father, Mike Ebert. 1,267th and 1,268th to die • December 3, 2004 Army Staff Sgt. Salamo J. Tuialuuluu, 23, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, and Sgt. David A. Mitts, 24, of Roy, Pierce County, both Stryker Brigade soldiers stationed at Fort Lewis, were killed in an ambush. The Army said their unit was fired on by enemy hiding in a nearby mosque in Mosul; several other U.S. soldiers were wounded in the firefight as well. Tuialuuluu's widow, Andrea, was five months pregnant with the couple's second child, officials said; Mitts' widow and high-school sweetheart, Tara, was in her seventh month of pregnancy with their first child. Mitts, who had a twin brother, was a 1999 graduate of Warrenton (Ore.) High School. He was remembered as a hunter and fisherman, and his death resonated throughout his small Oregon birthplace, Hammond, located near Astoria. "He was a hometown boy all the way through," said school principal Rod Heyen. "This will hit this community very hard." Said Mitts' step-grandmother, Judy Shoop: "He was there to fight for his country. He was brave right up until the end." 1,272nd to die • December 4, 2004 Army Staff Sgt. Kyle A. Eggers, 27, of Yakima, was killed near Al Habbaniyah when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Eggers, born in Nebraska and raised in Texas, was the father of three children and the son-in-law of Yakima City Council member Susan Whitman. A prep cross-country runner, he joined the Army just after graduation from high school in Texas and served in the Army for nine years. His widow, Jennifer, is a reserve officer with the Yakima Fire Department. "He was an exceptionally fine human being, a nice guy, and great soldier," said James Reddick, spokesman for the Army's Yakima Training Center, where Eggers had once been posted. Family friend Suzanne Hendrickson said Eggers' family was "very supportive of his desire to serve his country. They were proud of him." 1,273rd to die • December 5, 2004 Army Pfc. Andrew Martin Ward, 25, of Renton, died in Ramadi when his unit, part of a river convoy, was hit by small-arms fire from enemy forces. Ward, who had seven siblings, was assigned to the 44th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Howze, Korea. He signed up for the military in August 2003, after the war in Iraq had begun, and had been posted in Korea. A fisherman, hiker, and outdoorsman, Ward had been a student at Lindbergh High School in Renton and earned a GED from Renton Technical College. "He died fighting for freedom for our country, for the world, and for Iraq," his mother, Estrella O'Francia Tankersley of Kirkland, said in a statement. "He was a loving, caring, and forgiving son—a gentle soul who loved getting away from all of the materialistic lifestyles we have created." 1,288th to die • December 9, 2004 Army Warrant Officer Patrick Leach, 39, a Federal Way native whose parents live in Tacoma, died when an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter collided with a UH-60 Black Hawk on the ground in Mosul, killing another soldier and injuring four others. Leach, a pilot, was a member of the South Carolina National Guard's 1st Battalion, a unit of Task Force Olympia headquartered at Fort Lewis. An airline pilot in private life, Leach was a veteran of Gulf War I and a graduate of Jefferson High School in Federal Way, where he was on the wrestling team. He was married with five children, two from a previous marriage. Friend Leo Friedwald said, "We lost one of our best. Best friend. Best pilot. Best person. Best guy." 1,316th, 1,317th, 1,318th, 1,319th, 1,320th, and 1,321st to die • December 21, 2004 Army Pfc. Lionel Ayro, 22, of Jeanerette, La.; Spc. Jonathan Castro, 21, Corona, Calif.; Capt. William W. Jacobsen Jr., 31, Charlotte, N.C.; Staff Sgt. Robert S. Johnson, 23, Seaside, Calif.; Staff Sgt. Julian S. Melo, 47, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Sgt. Darren D. VanKomen, 33, Lewiston, Idaho. All Stryker Brigade soldiers from Fort Lewis, they were among 14 U.S. soldiers killed during a suicide-bomber attack at an Army mess hall near Mosul. Ayro, a devout Baptist and "a man who would cry watching The Lion King," said a friend, joined the military with hopes of returning to a better life at home, planning to someday open a trucking business. Said his grandmother, Clementine Ayro: "I've seen these pictures, this thing that's happening, and my grandchild being one of them, it's very, very hard." Castro, who joined before 9/11, was remembered by friends for his good nature, but became disillusioned by the meaninglessness of the war, said his family. When the Army sent him a form to make a statement about his son's honorable death, said father Jorge Castro, "I threw it out. I'm not running for [office]; why should I lie?" Conversely, Jacobsen, the father of four who died on his ninth wedding anniversary, was born at Fort Bragg, N.C. To have been the Stryker Brigade Company A commander—the first Fort Lewis commander to die in Gulf War II—is "something he believed in, that we all believed [in]," said his father, Bill, a retired lieutenant colonel. Johnson grew up "a man of peace" and a lover of the environment, says his father, Peter Johnson. He became a soldier determined to do his job as required. His father wonders why security was so seemingly lax at the mess hall, saying: "I believe this [bombing] could have been avoided." Melo, whose wife and son live in Spanaway, was a former Panamanian Army soldier who relocated to New York and then signed up with the U.S. Army. He was a neatly dressed supply officer "who performed miracles," said a friend. In a statement, his family said, "He was born to be a soldier but never took anything too seriously. His love for his family, his country, and fellow soldiers was evident in everything he did." VanKomen, with a wife and stepdaughter in Olympia, grew up in a big family in Idaho, joined and left the service twice, then returned a third time, winding up in the middle of Iraq. His mother, Betty Clemens, recalled her son telling her not to worry about his duty in Iraq. "This is something I'm going to do," he told her, "and something I have trained for. And if I die, that is God's will." 1,330th to die • December 29, 2004 Army Pfc. Oscar Sanchez, 19, assigned to the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade combat team, was fatally wounded in an enemy suicide-bomb attack. Sanchez, who died two days short of his first wedding anniversary, was manning an observation outpost in Mosul when enemy forces launched a two-stage attack: suicide bombers crashed a truck into the outpost, setting off 1,500 pounds of explosives, followed by a second bomber in an explosives-filled car. Fourteen soldiers were wounded. Sanchez, of Modesto, Calif., had joined the service 14 months earlier, at age 18, hoping eventually to help his family financially, relatives said. His mother was killed by her boyfriend when Sanchez was a boy, and he was raised by a caring father. "His hopes and dreams were always to take care of his brother and of getting his things together," said Stella Padilla, a cousin. "A home for his father. A home for his brother." 1,332nd to die • December 30, 2004 Army National Guard Sgt. Damien Ficek of Pullman, was killed two days short of his 27th birthday by small-arms fire while on patrol in Baghdad. A member of the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment of Spokane, Ficek had spent four years as an Army regular and was a student at Washington State University, where he was also a sports-massage specialist for Cougar athletic teams. Among his duties in Baghdad was to help train Iraqi soldiers. He graduated from Beaverton (Ore.) High School and was married a year and a half before his death. "He was an active member of our community and an excellent student," said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins. Added Ficke's aunt, Joani Dufourd of Oregon: "The world has lost a very, very promising person in Damien Ficek. He was the most incredible man. I don't know how to tell you that any better."  IRAQ 2005 1,338th to die • January 4, 2005 Army Pvt. Cory R. Depew, 21, of Beech Grove, Ind., died in Mosul when his Stryker military vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Depew, a cavalry scout who had wanted to be in the service since he was an eighth-grader, was assigned to Fort Lewis' 25th Infantry Division Stryker Brigade combat team. He joined the Army in December 2003, the year he graduated from high school, and was sent to Fort Lewis in May 2004. Divorced with an 18-month-old son, Depew had spent some of his last days at home, in October 2004, helping build a church peace garden. "He knew times were going to get tough, [but] he never felt like he was in danger," said his mother, Ann May. "At age 21, they think they are invincible." 1,342nd to die • January 4, 2005 Army Pfc. Curtis L. Wooten III, 20, of Spanaway, Pierce County, died after being hit by shrapnel in Balad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle. Wooten was assigned as a tank gunner to the 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, posted in Schweinfurt, Germany. Born in Fort Riley, Kan., to Army parents, Wooten was a 2002 Spanaway Lake High School grad who joined the military in part to help his family financially. "He wanted to make my burden easier," said his mother, Dairyene. Added his father, Curtis Wooten Sr.: "I feel pride in his service because he followed what I did, but it sucks that it ends this way." His friend, Michael Parker, remembered Wooten as high-spirited, but, like many soldiers, sobered by war's reality. "He told me, 'They got me over here killing people I don't know,' " said Parker. Wooten "always had to be paranoid, on guard, seven days a week, 24 hours a day" to survive. 1,356th to die • January 13, 2005 Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian A. Mack, 36, of Phoenix, died in Mosul when his military vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. Mack was assigned to the Stryker Brigade's 25th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. He had been in the service since age 20, according to his family. The Fort Lewis–related website posted letters from a dozen members of other families who knew and loved Mack. "My son Andrew considered him a great friend, leader and a brave soldier who instilled the best on his soldiers and had the ability to make them braver," wrote a woman who said her son was at the scene when Mack was killed. Known to some soldiers and friends as Daddy Mack for his mentoring skills, Mack left behind a regiment of admirers, as well as a widow and teen daughter. At a Fort Lewis memorial, former brigade Sgt. Maj. Carlton Dedrich said Mack "was the one I sent soldiers to when they wanted to be better. He was the best, and he loved to train soldiers. He was the most passionate leader and soldier that I ever met." 1,364th to die • January 15, 2005 Army Sgt. Nathaniel T. Swindell, 24, of the Bronx, N.Y., died in Mosul from an accidental non-combat-related injury when the gun of an Iraqi National Guardsman misfired, hitting Swindell in the back. A member of the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Swindell had just days earlier written his mother, Kim, in an e-mail. "I'm fine," he said. "We've just been hard-charging over here for three months. But now we have the swing of things." Married, Swindell was a 2000 graduate of Samuel Gompers Vocational and Technical School in the Bronx and joined the service for its vocational and advancement opportunities, said his family. His letters home were often about the kids in Iraq, said his mother: "The children really touched his heart." His father, Vernon, said Swindell "happily" joined the service, although "We didn't really want him to go to Iraq. But we didn't voice our opinion. I'm proud he did whatever he wanted to do." 1,372nd to die • January 22, 2005 Army 1st Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe, 27, of Newport, Ore., died of wounds received when he was shot by a sniper in Mosul. Hoe was a platoon leader assigned to the Army's 25th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. He was an avid bodysurfer in his native Hawaii and later moved to Oregon with his family, where he met and married his wife, Emily, in June 2004. She received an e-mail from him just hours before his death. "He told me how he was going to love me forever and how he couldn't wait to see me," she said. When his former University of Hawaii ROTC classmate, 2nd Lt. Jeremy Wolfe, was killed in a 2003 Black Hawk helicopter crash in Iraq, Hoe said, "His dedication to duty and commitment to his fellow soldiers will be greatly missed by those who knew him." His friends now say the same about Hoe: "This young man understood national pride and service to his country," said Michael Chun, president of Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii. "And when a person like Nainoa stepped up to the plate, it really caught your eye." 1,441st to die • February 3, 2005 Army Sgt. Stephen R. Sherman, 27, from Neptune, N.J., died in Mosul from wounds sustained when a homemade bomb detonated near his vehicle. Assigned to the Fort Lewis 25th Infantry Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Sherman had escaped death two months earlier in a mess-hall bombing that killed 22, including six fellow Strykers. He attended High Technology High School in Monmouth County, N.J., and "never followed the crowd," recalled history teacher Diane Mannion. "He had good values and was very self-directed." Sherman graduated with a B.A. from the University of Oregon in 2001, and enlisted in 2003 after managing a car-rental business in the Cayman Islands. In a statement, his family said Sherman was an outdoors and survival-trek enthusiast, and remembered him as "a great son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin and a dedicated soldier who was devoted to making the world a better place . . . We will always remember Stephen as a hero, and he will forever be missed by his family and by his many friends . . . He died fighting for what he believed in." 1,470th to die • February 16, 2005 Army Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore, 22, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Gresham, Ore., was killed when a bomb detonated near his vehicle during action in Mosul. Plumondore had joined the service hoping to take advantage of college assistance programs and had planned perhaps to become a law-enforcement officer, his family said. He was an expert marksman, did duty as a sniper, and was filling in for another soldier when the fatal bomb went off. "What he told us was, 'Saddam really messed these people up,' " said his mother, Elfriede Plumondore, and Adam wanted to help Iraqis who "were so afraid and had lived in fear for so long." Plumondore, a standout student athlete at Gresham High School, "had a lot of friends. He was a three-sport athlete," said his former prep coach, Lonnie Wells. "So he knew a lot of kids—that crosses a lot of groups. He was friendly with everybody." Ron Plumondore said his 6-foot, 235-pound brother was a "gentle giant. I can't say he had an enemy or that he hated anyone. He always could bring a smile to anyone." 1,471st to die • February 17, 2005 Army Sgt. Frank B. Hernandez, 21, of Phoenix, died in Tal Afar when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade combat team at Fort Lewis, Hernandez was married, had one child, and planned to someday go into law enforcement. He gave up a college golf scholarship to join the service, and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. On the Stryker website, a woman who said her son served with Hernandez wrote to the sergeant's family: "I wish that there was something I could do or say to take away or ease that pain and sorrow you feel, but, of course, nothing will . . . [Hernandez] will always be remembered as a true American hero." A high-school teacher from Arizona added: "He reminded me every day why I teach. Frankie brought such enthusiasm and joy to the classroom that, even when I should have been irritated with him, I wasn't." 1,477th to die • February 19, 2005 Army Spc. Clinton R. Gertson, 26, of Houston, died in Mosul from injuries sustained from enemy small-arms fire. Gertson, with the 24th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis, was a survivor of an earlier Army mess-hall bombing in Mosul that killed 22 people. "He was an all-American boy who loved to hunt, fish, farm rice, and run cattle," said his father, Gayle, at the family's farm outside Houston. "After 9/11 happened, he said he just felt he needed to go defend our country." Gayle said Clinton, known to friends as "Big Country," could have returned home only weeks before his death, but had re-enlisted to become a sniper. "He knew full well there was going to be bloodshed in Iraq," said his dad. "But after he got there and saw the people, it really firmed up in his mind he had done the right thing." 1,506th to die • March 4, 2005 Army Staff Sgt. Juan M. Solorio, 32, of Dallas, was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Mosul. His unit at the time was under attack by small-arms fire. Assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, Solorio was a sniper instructor at Fort Lewis. Family members said Solorio, who joined the service out of high school in Texas, was a hiker, rock climber, and camper in his non-military life. He had two sons and left a widow. Family members shared his recent e-mails, one with a picture of Solorio and an Iraqi soldier. The Iraqis need "to have [America's] support so they could defend themselves," he said. Another e-mail told of Solorio's visit to Biblical sites. "He looked at the historic significance, not just an area of conflict," said brother Fabian Solorio. In a statement, widow Gabby Solorio said Juan was "an extraordinary son, husband, and soldier. He died with his boots on and we would have had it no other way." 1,514th to die • March 11, 2005 Army Staff Sgt. Staff Sergeant Donald Griffith Jr., 29, assigned to the Stryker Brigade's 14th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lewis, was killed following a car-bomb attack in Tal Afar. Military officials told his family that Griffith, from Mechanicsville, Iowa, died from small-arms fire while trying to save fellow soldiers. A Harley motorcycle lover and one of seven siblings, Griffith joined the Army in 1996, around the same time he was married; his ninth wedding anniversary was a week off when he died. "He always told me, 'Don't worry about me, because I'm OK. All you'll do is have a nervous breakdown if you worry,' " said his mother, Diana Griffith. His Iowa hometown lowered flags to half-staff, and townsfolk lined the streets with other flags in his honor. Griffith sent an e-mail to his sister, Amanda, only hours before his death, saying, "It's pretty positive over here right now . . . haven't been shot at for over two weeks. So, I guess that's a good sign, isn't it?" Said his mother: "People tell you it's getting better [in Iraq] . . . I can't believe it's getting better, or my son would still be alive." 1,518th to die • March 16, 2005 Army Spc. Rocky D. Payne, 26, of Howell, Utah, was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Payne, a member of the 497th Transportation Company from Fort Lewis, died while assisting U.S. forces in protecting and delivering mail in Iraq. His family recalled that Payne, an Eagle Scout, excelled at playing the piano, loved animals, and was drawn to children of all ages. He served first in the Marines and was involved in the initial assault on Baghdad. Honorably discharged, he enlisted in the Army and returned to the war front. Payne "gave his life willingly in the defense of those who cannot defend themselves," said Army Capt. Benjamin Marx at a memorial service. Another speaker, 1st Lt. Cecilia Motschenbacher, said Payne was "at peace" with the possibility of death in Iraq. "He saw the big picture, knew his place in the world," she said, and also read from a letter Payne left to be opened in the event of his death. "If you are reading this," Payne wrote, "it means I gave my life for a better cause." 1,525th to die • March 23, 2005 Army Spc. Travis R. Bruce, 22, a Fort Lewis military police officer from Rochester, Minn., died when an enemy mortar round detonated near his position while he was guarding a police station in Baghdad. Assigned to the 504th Military Police Battalion, Bruce had celebrated his birthday two weeks earlier, sending e-mails to "almost everybody" to remind them, said his father, Kenneth Bruce of Vancouver, Clark County, who retired from the Army in September 2004 after 25 years. Travis' aunt, Sue Ketchum, said Bruce was "very proud to be a soldier . . . Before he went in the military he was a young boy. He became a man. He knew himself, knew his capabilities, and was really coming to terms with the important role he played." Bruce joined the service out of high school and had hoped to become a police officer after leaving the Army. One of his high-school teachers, Heather Tarara, recalled Bruce's appearance at a Veterans Day program in Rochester. "I remember how nervous he was," she said, "just standing up in front of all of those people. He seemed so vulnerable . . . [but] he had been through things none of us had ever seen." 1,530th to die • March 30, 2005 Army Sgt. Kenneth Levi Ridgley, 30, of Steilacoom, Pierce County, died March 30 in Mosul of injuries sustained by automatic weapons fire; his unit was inspecting a suspicious car at a checkpoint when a suspect inside grabbed a gun and began shooting. A member of the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Ridgley was originally from Olney, Ill. He married his wife, Charity, in Lakewood, Pierce County, in 2004 and was living in Steilacoom. He was planning to adopt Charity's son from an earlier marriage. "Since he was a kid, being in the Army was all he ever wanted to do," said Ridgley's brother-in-law, Earl Strausbaugh. "When he was only 8 or 9 years old, he'd go down and hang out at the recruiting office." Back in Olney, friends like James Daniels treasured small memories of days with Ridgley growing up—such as a frog-gigging outing at a local pond. Ken "fell out of the boat," Daniels said. "After we got done, we had all these frogs and we didn't know how to clean them. We had to wake up his dad." Ridgley was on his second tour of Iraq when killed. "I said, 'Levi, get out of that place,' " Olney city official Tom Totten recalled telling him before he returned. "I need to go back," Ridgley responded. "It's just something I need to do." 1,536th to die • April 2, 2005 Army Staff Sgt. Ioasa F. Tava'e Jr., 29, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, died in Mosul when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small-arms fire. Tava'e, an infantry sergeant in Fort Lewis' 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, was the son of Filogia and To'o Ioasa Tava'e. He was the fifth Samoan soldier from the region to die in Iraq. Community churchgoers reported that their pastor offered a moment of silence during the next day's service. Remembrances of Tava'e quickly filled the Fort Lewis Stryker website, many similar to this one: "My dearest brother Tava'e, words can't explain how hard the news of your death hit me. We all prayed that after the death of Sgt T. Time and SSG S. Tuialuuluu that we would lose no more Samoans to this war, but the Lord had different plans for us and you . . . Growing up in Manu'a, and all the times we spent in high school we were so immune to the problems outside . . . We lived a simple life. May the world always remember your ultimate sacrifice." 1,542nd to die • April 4, 2005 Army Staff Sgt. Stephen C. Kennedy, 35, a 1988 Bremerton High School graduate, was killed in an ambush during fierce fighting at an insurgent base south of Balad Ruz. A "Happy Birthday" balloon was tied to the mailbox at his family home in Oak Ridge, Tenn., when relatives learned of Kennedy's death; they had planned to honor him on his 36th birthday two days later. Kennedy was a member of the 278th National Guard Regimental Combat Team, Knoxville, Tenn. He was married with four children. Said wife Tiffany: "The only words that went through my mind were, 'Oh, God, why Stephen?' " Kennedy's father is a retired Navy veteran who was stationed at the Bangor submarine base in Kitsap County, where Stephen spent his teen years. He joined the Marines after high school and served in Gulf War I. Kennedy loved his military job, his widow said. He believed in going to Iraq, she said, "and doing what he was doing was right, because it was for his family and it was for his country. That's what I want everybody to know." 1,543rd to die • April 5, 2005 Army Spc. Glenn J. Watkins, 42, of Tacoma, a truck gunner, became the 100th member of the military with Washington state connections to die in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars when he was mortally wounded after a car bomb detonated near his Humvee in Baghdad. Watkins, who had been a construction worker, was originally from Idaho Falls, Idaho. He served four years in the Navy starting in 1981, then joined the Army, serving in active and guard units. He was in Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry from Kent—part of the Washington National Guard's 81st Brigade—and was scheduled to return stateside. But like 70 others from his brigade, he volunteered for another six months in Iraq, joining with some California buddies from the 184th Infantry. "He loved that unit," said his widow, Anne. He called her a few days before his death and said, "I'm back with my boys!" The couple had four children from Anne's earlier marriage, one of them now a member of the Army's 82nd Airborne. 1,560th to die • April 18, 2005 Army Pfc. Sam W. Huff, 18, a military police officer from Fort Lewis, died in Baghdad of injuries sustained a day earlier when a roadside bomb went off near her Humvee. Since the war's beginning in 2003, Huff (Sam was her birth name, not a nickname) was the 37th U.S. female to die in combat. Raised in Tucson, Ariz., Huff joined the service in July 2004, planning to become an FBI agent after her service. Said Sgt. Sam Jones, in a letter read at Huff's funeral: "Beneath that beautiful young lady was a backbone of steel." Said a friend, Jeremy Vega: "She always joked about being in the military police so she could boss guys around. She was a born leader . . . and didn't take crap from people." Huff was the only child of Robert Huff, a retired policeman, and Margaret Williams, a former Marine. "Thank God these kids are willing to stand up, especially in a time of war," Robert said of his daughter and other soldiers. "She was willing. She's the bravest kid I've ever known. She was up and down that damned road between Baghdad and the Baghdad airport, which is notorious for those improvised explosive devices, but she knew the risks and she believed in the mission." 1,569th and 1,570th to die • April 23, 2005 Army Sgt. Anthony J. Davis Jr., 22, of Long Beach, Calif., a sniper assigned to the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, and 1st Sgt. Michael Bordelon, 37, from St. Mary's Parish, La., along with two soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., died in Mosul when a passenger car filled with explosives rammed into the Stryker troop transport they were riding in. Davis died instantly, and the mortally wounded Bordelon died May 10 at Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio. Married with two young daughters, Davis had hoped to become a police officer after leaving the service. "He was proud of what he was doing," said his widow, Michell. "He never really told me any of that stuff. I think he knew that I probably wouldn't be able to handle it and he didn't want me to worry about him." Michell had talked with her husband just days before his death, when he told her all was well and he couldn't wait to get home to see his daughters. Davis never got to meet his youngest daughter, Aniya, born two weeks after he was deployed in 2004. Bordelon was on his second tour in Iraq, where his duties included sending home personal letters to the relatives of other Stryker soldiers killed in action. A family friend in Lousiana, Dan Martin, recalled that Bordelon happily helped neighbors around their homes, fixing a car or assembling new lawn furniture. "He was the kind of guy that anybody would want as a neighbor," Martin said. "He was just a really good guy." Bordelon left behind a widow and three children. 1,578th and 1,579th to die • April 28, 2005 1st Lt. William A. Edens, 29, of Columbia, Mo., and Sgt. Eric W. Morris, 31, of Sparks, Nev., two Fort Lewis Stryker soldiers, were killed in Tal Afar, near the border with Syria, when a roadside bomb detonated near their Stryker military vehicle. Edens, a platoon leader, is survived by his widow. Recalled Sgt. Mark Meikle, who served with him: "Soldiers like to have officers who are bright, confident, courageous, and physically fit—and that he was. He was proud of his men, and they were proud of him." Morris was born in Enumclaw and grew up in New York. He joined the Army in 1998 and is survived by a widow and twin daughters. Morris was Edens' vehicle commander and gunner. Lt. Steven Willis recalled how seriously Morris took his duty. After other soldiers had griped about 10 straight days of hard, long hours, he asked Morris how he felt about it. "Sir, complaining won't make it go away," Morris told Willis. "And it doesn't suck so bad if we're all going through it together." 1,636th, 1,637th, and 1,638th to die • May 22, 2005 Army Lt. Aaron Seesan, 24, of Akron, Ohio; Spc. Tyler Creamean, 21, of Jacksonville, Ark.; Sgt. Benjamin Morton, 24, of Dodge City, Kan., all Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldiers, were killed within hours of one another in Iraq. Seesan and Creamean were members of the 73rd Engineer Battalion. Both were killed by a roadside bomb as soldiers hunted for such explosives to secure a roadway in Mosul. Morton died earlier that morning while he and other members of the Brigade's unit, known as Deuce Four, raided the home of a suspected car-bomb maker. Morton was hit four times by enemy gunfire. Seesan was fondly remembered as one of a kind by his fellow soldiers. At a Fort Lewis memorial, Capt. Kenneth Frey recalled that Seesan, a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy, had once shouted "Man overboard!" rather than "Man down!" during a mock casualty exercise. Creamean, who had married while on leave in February, had been wounded twice earlier. In a letter read at the funeral, Creamean's widow recalled: "Tyler was a happy guy and could always light up a room. On our wedding day he said 'and party 'til dawn' instead of ' 'til death do us part.' " Creamean's mother, Rebecca Callaway-Hout, said his love for others was unflagging: "Even at the end, his colonel said he was yelling for the medics for the other guy." Morton, also married, was an avid photographer, said a buddy, Spc. Luis Cruz: "Every moment was a Kodak moment for him." But while other soldiers displayed posters of models and celebrities, Morton put up pictures of his wife. "It is an honor and privilege to have known and grown close to him," Cruz said. 1,657th to die • May 28, 2005 Army Spc. Phillip "Nick" Sayles, 26, of Jacksonville, Ark., died when a roadside bomb went off near his position in Mosul. Sayles was a member of the Fort Lewis Stryker force and was killed just six days after another Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Jacksonville had been killed in Iraq. The blast that killed Sayles also wounded 13 soldiers and eight Iraqis. Sayles joined in May 2002 after graduating from Jacksonville's Cabot High School. He was "the kind of young man who was going to do the right thing, and obviously what he felt was the right thing was to go into the military," said retired Army Maj. Robert Jones. "Nick was a quiet young man. He simply got the job done that he was asked to do. He was a good kid." Said Sayles' former commander, Capt. Bryan Carroll, at a Fort Lewis memorial service: "Nick lived up to every one of my expectations. Not only was he extremely intelligent, he was a natural leader and a brave soldier." 1,660th to die • May 29, 2005 Marine Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, 22, of Snohomish, was killed by small-arms fire while on patrol in Ramadi. He was an assaultman assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. His parents were told of Starr's death the following day, Memorial Day; he had celebrated his birthday only five days earlier. His family said Starr was killed just a month short of his return home. A 2001 graduate of Snohomish High School, Starr had passed up a $25,000 re-enlistment bonus and instead planned to go to Everett Community College, possibly studying for a career in law enforcement. His unit was among the first in Iraq at the war's beginning. "He felt he had done his part and that was it," said his mother, Shellie Starr. In e-mails to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2004, Starr described some of his firefights and his reasons for being there: "I want my peers who think that this stuff doesn't happen to realize that there are good men our age fighting and dying for their freedom," he wrote. 1,664th to die • May 30, 2005 Air Force Staff Sgt. Casey Crate, 26, of Spanaway, was one of four airmen who died northeast of Baghdad in the crash of a single-engine training plane on Memorial Day. A special operations combat controller, Crate was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The plane was part of the Iraqi air force, officials said. The Air Force is "what he wanted to do. He excelled at it," said his mother, Linda Crate. Casey graduated in 1996 from Spanaway Lake High School and attended Pierce College before enlisting in 1998, starting his tour in Afghanistan. An Iraqi also was killed in the crash of the Comp Air 7 SL single-engine plane. The cause was not immediately known. Crate's mother recalled that her son was nicknamed "The Mission Hound" because "he loved to go on missions. Part of his last e-mail in quotes was: 'Out saving America,' " she said. 1,670th to die • May 31, 2005 Army Sgt. 1st Class Steven M. Langmack, 33, of Seattle, was killed by small-arms fire in Al Qaim in northwestern Iraq, where U.S. forces had been rooting out nests of insurgents. A Special Forces soldier based at Fort Bragg, N.C., Langmack was married and had two children. His parents live in Seattle. Langmack enlisted after graduating in 1990 from Kennedy High School in Burien, where he was what a coach called a good all-around baseball player. The service "just seemed like a good way for him to spend a couple years," said his mother, Louise Langmack. But he decided to make the military his career, serving in Gulf War I and then, after the 9/11 attacks—which occurred a month after he became a Green Beret—in Afghanistan. He served as a senior Special Forces communications sergeant until his reassignment to the Special Operations Command in early 2004; he arrived in Iraq three months before his death. "Steve felt very fulfilled by being a soldier," said Louise Langmack. "He felt very committed to what he was doing, but he wouldn't talk about it." 1,685th to die • June 9, 2005 Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Chavez, 20, of Seattle, died with four other Marines while conducting combat operations near Haqlaniyah. The five were killed by a roadside bomb as they advanced through the Sunni stronghold northwest of Baghdad. A graduate of Ballard High School, where he never missed a day, Chavez was a tank crewman with the II Marine Expeditionary Force, stationed at Camp Pendleton. He was born in Texas, grew up in Seattle's Central District, and joined the Marines fresh out of high school in 2003. He and his unit had been deployed to Iraq just three months prior to his death. Among his military awards were the National Defense Service Medal and War on Terrorism Service Medal. Said his sister Lydia: "He was really just into being family, because all we've ever had is each other." 1,738th to die • June 23, 2005 Naval Reserve Petty Officer 1st Class Regina Clark, 43, of Centralia, was killed by a suicide bomber who attacked Clark's convoy while it was returning from checkpoint duty near Fallujah. Five other U.S. troops were also killed, three of them female—the most female U.S. military casualties in a single day since the Iraq War began in 2003. A single mom with a teen son, Clark had done two earlier duty tours since Sept. 11, 2001. When she shipped out this time, said friend Kim Boehl, "There were a lot of hugs and kisses. I really thought she'd come back, so [her death is] a big shock." Clark was a culinary specialist deployed with Naval Construction Region Detachment 30, Port Hueneme, Calif., and was temporarily assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force to help search Muslim women at checkpoints. At home, Clark worked as a state corrections officer and had separated from her husband, a Navy man, more than a decade before. Son Kerry Clark, whose grandmother lives nearby, said he was struggling over what to do without his mother. "That's the hard point," he said. "I've got friends, thank God." 1,747th to die • July 5, 2005 Army Spc. Christopher W. Dickison, 26, of Seattle, was killed in Baquba, northwest of Baghdad, when his Humvee drove over a roadside bomb. A sharpshooter and platoon leader, Dickison was assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, in Fort Riley, Kan. Though he was scheduled for discharge in April, his tour was extended by the Army into January 2006. Dickison, who attended Evergreen High School and obtained a GED from Highline Community College, and his twin sister, Ronda, were the fifth and sixth children of a West Seattle family whose front yard Chris had turned into a neatly manicured putting green and lush garden. Unable to find steady work after holding jobs at Kenworth Truck and Sears, Dickison joined the Army in 2002. "When he first went in, he wasn't too happy," said his father, Rod Dickison. "He didn't know Iraq was coming up, but the longer he was in, the more he liked it." Dickison had plans to marry after his tour; his fiance lives in South Carolina. Said Christopher's mother, Leanna: "He was just one of the nicest guys you would know. He might be shy and quiet, but he would give you the shirt off his back." 1,778th to die • August 3, 2005 Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem, 20, who grew up in the Maple Valley area not far from his final resting place, the Tahoma National Cemetery, was one of 14 Marines killed south of Haditha when a bomb exploded, flipping their armored assault vehicle. It was one of the war's deadliest incidents. Stationed with the Marine Forces Reserves in Billings, Mont., where he'd moved after his junior year at what is now Rainier Christian School in Auburn, Bloem was one of 10 children. He joined the Marines with his twin brother, Alcides, and in January, before departing for Iraq, told The Billings Gazette: "I just want to be a Marine. I love it. I'm going to stay in 20 years." Staff Sgt. John Clark, who recruited Bloem, said, "Nick had a dream of being the commandant of the Marine Corps, and I tell you, he would have given it a hell of a go." Said Bloem's father, Al: "There wasn't a time that I talked to him that he felt what he was doing was useless, in vain, or ineffective." 1,792nd to die • August 4, 2005 Army Pfc. Nils G. Thompson, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldier, was killed by enemy fire while on routine patrol at a police station in Mosul. He died the day after his 19th birthday. Raised in New York, Thompson lived in Pennsylvania and followed a family tradition of service to his country, joining the Army as soon as he turned 18. "He knew since he was a little boy that being in the military was all he wanted. He never wavered," said his mother, Frances Thompson. An Army chaplain said Thompson, a devout Catholic, was a frequent Bible reader in Iraq. Upon completion of his service, he had planned to rejoin his parents on their farm near Confluence, Pa. "The war was on, and we were afraid," said his mother. "But we all stood behind him and supported him." 1,851st to die • August 15, 2005 Army Spc. Jose L. Ruiz, 28, of Brentwood, N.Y., a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier, was killed by small-arms fire in a drive-by shooting in Mosul. He died two weeks before he was scheduled to return home to the U.S. Married and the father of a baby girl, Ruiz graduated from Brentwood High School, which, Pentagon officials say, may have graduated more soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 than any other high school in the country. The soldier's widow, Alexa, said Ruiz "felt that he had fulfilled his dream of becoming a warrior and defending other people." Ruiz's stepfather, Eduardo King, said he supported his son but opposed the war. "He would always ask his mom, 'Is Daddy proud of me?' " King said. "At first, I didn't want my son engaged in a profession where he might have to hurt people. But I always told him, 'You are this family's hero.' " 1,860th to die • August 20, 2005 Army Sgt. Willard Todd Partridge, 35, a Fort Lewis-based military policeman, was killed in his vehicle by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Partridge, from Natchez, Miss., was married and had two daughters. "We're a very patriotic family," said cousin Shelley Poole. Todd "joined [the service] because he loved our country," she added, noting that he was out of work and hoped to better support his family in the Army. An outdoorsman and hunter, Partridge was a pitcher on the local youth baseball team that advanced to regional and state championships. Family members recalled Partridge's outgoing nature, the hugs he always offered, and "his smile," Poole said. "He always has a smile on his face." 1,881st to die • August 31, 2005 Army Spc. Jason E. Ames, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier, died in Mosul of non-combat injuries one week after his 21st birthday. Further details of his death were not released. Ames, of Cerulean, Ky., was just a few weeks short of his return home from duty. He was a native of Flora, Ill., and graduated from Trigg County (Ky.) High School in 2002. Married, he left a widow and a son who resided at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma. A friend, Ariana Abriam, posting a note on the Fort Lewis Stryker website, remembered Ames as "a great person with a great heart." 1,899th to die • September 15, 2005 Marine Lance Corporal Shane C. Swanberg, 24, of Kirkland, was killed when rockets fell on his encampment at Ramadi. He had been on duty in Iraq for just 10 days, and may have been sleeping when the sudden shelling began. "I pray that he just didn't know what happened," said his father, Brian Swanberg, a retired police officer. Shane, a 2000 graduate of Juanita High School, joined the Marines in 2002, stirred by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "He was anxious to get to Ramadi," said his mother, Linda Swanberg, a veteran of the Redmond Fire Department. "He told me, 'Mom, I want to get over to help my buddies.' " Before he was rotated to Iraq in early September, Swanberg wrote in an e-mail to his family: "I guess you don't really realize how serious it is until you get fired upon." His survivors include a brother, Brian, an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Lewis, who said, "It's surreal. You honestly expect it won't happen to you. There's no describing the depth of emptiness and loss." 1,903rd to die • September 19, 2005 Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Morrison Sr., 45, was killed by a roadside bomb near Taji. A postal worker from Yakima, Morrison was married with a son and a stepson. He was recalled to duty as an inactive reservist who had retired from the Army in 1995, having joined just out of high school in 1979. "He always had a smile on his face," said co-worker Gerald Corbray. "We used to sing karaoke together. He couldn't sing, but he could do push-ups." In Iraq, he was assigned as a U.S. Army special operations medic serving with the Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command from Fort Bragg, N.C. He was born in Ohio, raised in Kentucky, and was a football fanatic. Morrison "represented everything that is good and kind and caring in this world," said Maj. Gen. Herbert Altshuler at Morrison's funeral service. Said his father, Kenneth, Morrison "was an all-American boy." He understood the risks of war, added sister Sherry Dunn: "He had come to terms with it. This is the way he wanted to go." His family said in an obituary that Morrison's 19-year-old son, Larry II, a private in the Army, would assume his father's scheduled Iraq service rather than accept a hardship waiver. 2,067th and 2,068th to die • November 11, 2005 Army Cpl. Donald E. Fisher II, 21, of Tacoma, and Pfc. Antonio Mendez, 22, of Puerto Rico, both Fort Lewis soldiers, were killed in a convoy vehicle collision near Kirkut. Fisher's father, Donald, a disabled Army vet, said his son was committed to the American war effort. "We're talking about a kid who, as a kid, cried because someone stole the flag off our flagpole." The son joined the Army shortly after graduating from high school. He was on his second tour in Iraq, which had been scheduled to end within a month. Mendez enlisted in the Army in June 2004 and arrived at Fort Lewis that October. "He said it was boring over there, so he was volunteering for every mission," said his father, Carmelo. "There were only 14 trucks, and he hated to sit around. He made me send him his Nintendo . . . He had a beautiful heart." Both men were serving their first deployment in Iraq and were assigned to the 40th Transportation Company, 593rd Corps Support Group. They were the first from their company to die in the war. Fisher's older brother is also stationed at Fort Lewis, and a sister is a member of the Washington National Guard at Camp Murray. 2,105th and 2,106th to die • November 24, 2005 Army Staff Sgt. Steven C. Reynolds, 32, of Jordan, N.Y., and Pfc. Marc Delgado, 21, of Lithia, Fla., were killed on Thanksgiving Day in Baghdad. They were responding to a report of corpses in a suburban area when their Hummer hit a bomb in the road and flipped over into a canal. Both were assigned to the 170th Military Police Company, 42nd Military Police Brigade, based at Fort Lewis. Reynolds, an avid fisherman when young, was a 1992 graduate of Jordan-Elbridge High School and had long wanted to be a soldier, said his mother, Shirley Reynolds. "He was so happy when he got his orders to go overseas," she recalled. His father, Norman, said Steve did hazardous work, knocking down doors and searching for weapons, but "He was doing what he really loved." Delgado's mother, Ellen, recalled that her son's first e-mail from Iraq read: "We just got shot at and it was sooo cool." Her reaction was, "Oh, my God, my son thinks he's invincible." She had wanted Marc to go into the Navy after graduating from Durant High School, as his brother had, but he wanted to join the Army like his father, she said. 2,134th to die • December 7, 2005 Marine Cpl. Joseph Bier, 22, of Centralia, was killed by a homemade bomb in Ramadi. He was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, and died after the Humvee he was driving was hit by the roadside device during a combat operation. Three others were wounded. A machine gunner originally with the 1st Marine Division based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Bier served a stint on the security detail at Bangor Submarine Base before winding up in Iraq. In an interview with Marine Corps News, he said, "I thought, 'Finally, I get to do what Marines do.' It took me three years to get here, but I am glad to finally deploy." Actually, he was a little surprised at what he found, he said. "I expected this place to be a little more hectic, to have more enemy contact. I'm a little disappointed; I think it's a little quiet. I expected more to happen here. It's not like what is shown on TV." In a statement, his family said: "Joe was a challenging child to raise because he was always trying to live to his potentials and occasionally beyond them . . . Few men live a life they love and die doing what they love among friends and brothers they love." For Bier's memorial service, community members lined up with flags along Centralia's Belmont Street in silent remembrance.  IRAQ 2006 2,180th to die • January 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. 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 School and Bellevue High School 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." 2,194th to die • January 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 Tal Afar. A former 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." 2,252nd to die • February 4, 2006 Army Spc. Roberto L. Martinez Salazar, 21, a Fort Lewis soldier from Long Beach, Calif., was killed while on patrol in Mosul 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 at a young age to Southern California, where he and his sister were raised by an aunt. "He was a very important part of my life," said his cousin, Adrian Mendoza. Salazar, a graduate of Millikan High School 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. It was granted posthumously. 2,275th to die • February 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 how 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 where he had to rise to the occasion and be the man," said his father, Charles. 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. Matheny died three weeks short of his 24th birthday. 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 Ramadi 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 2005, 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." 2,332nd 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. 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 2006; his daughter was born the prior August. He also leaves a widow and two stepsons. His sister, Sara Nichols, recalled that Twitchell was a typical 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." 2,385th to die • April 22, 2006 Army Spc. Eric Dean King, 29, Vancouver, Clark County, 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 passions were 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." 2,510th to die • June 23, 2006 Army Pfc. Devon J. Gibbons, 19, of Port Orchard, died at 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. Gibbons was assigned to the 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas. He lost a valiant struggle to heal from burns over 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 website 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." 2,515th 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 device. He was assigned to the 10th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas. Norton enlisted in the Army his senior year at Rainier High School 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. Dean added: "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." 2,570th to die • July 29, 2006 Marine Pfc. Jason Hanson, 21, of Forks, died while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province. 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." 2,590th to die • August 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 in Ramadi. 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 Melvin was proud to have been a pallbearer at the 1998 funeral of Seattle School Superintendent. 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 School in Seattle before transferring in 1992 to Harry S Truman High School 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 his 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." 2,609th to die • August 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, Mich., 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 soldier from Fort Lewis to die in Iraq. The Rev. Mark Suko of Discovery Baptist Church in Gig Harbor, DeRoo's 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." 2,639th and 2,640th to die • August 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 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' father, Michael, remembered his son as "a fun kid always smiling, laughing, [and] 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 had 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 long after their first encounter. 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 to serve his country." Friends called him a typical teen, in love with cars and girls, and 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." 2,658th to die • September 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, 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 young daughter. 2,665th to die • September 4, 2006 Army Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman McKinney, 20, of Redlands, Calif., died in Taji after she was struck by a military vehicle. McKinney, on her first tour in Iraq, was married to another soldier, Christopher McKinney, 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 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." 2,673rd to die • September 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. 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." 2,693rd to die • September 20, 2006 Army Master Sgt. Robb Gordon Needham, 51, of Vancouver, Clark County, was killed by sniper fire while on patrol in an undisclosed area of Iraq. A career soldier, Needham was in his 25th year in the Army, and was based with the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, at Fort Lewis. He was one of the oldest soldiers to die in the war and, to this point, 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. 2,706th to die • September 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 by other Fort Lewis soldiers at Mellen's funeral. They said he had a calming influence on his comrades and 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 sage-like." On his MySpace web page, Mellen wrote of the goal he wanted most to achieve this year: "Stay alive." 2,716th to die • September 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. Weber was a graduate of Cincinnati's Dater High School and signed up for the Army in 2004, planning to eventually take advantage of military educational benefits and become a history teacher. His aunt, Debbie 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." 2,744th to die • October 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 Philly's 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 Johnson's 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." 2,758th to die • October 12, 2006 Army Sgt. Gene A. Hawkins, 24, of Orlando, Fla., died in Mosul 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. "He wanted to go as far as he could." Hawkins attended Colonial High School 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. 2,778th to die • October 17, 2006 Army Staff Sgt. Ronald L. Paulsen, 53, of Vancouver, Clark County, died in Tarmiya 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 in 2005 after he had served in the active Army for 14 years and left in 1992. He was, at this time, the oldest soldier 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 the February before his death, 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." 2,854th to die • November 14, 2006 Army Spc. Justin R. Garcia, 26, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Elmhurst, N.Y., 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, pregnant with their first child at the time of Garcia's death, said he'd 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." 2,903rd to die • December 3, 2006 Army Cpl. Billy B. Farris, 20, of Bapchule, Ariz., stationed at Fort Lewis, died in Taji 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. 2,910th to die • December 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'Mim 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. Jordan planned to marry a woman he met in Germany, his family said. He attended Lake Stevens High School (later obtaining his GED), where he was 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." 2,913th to die • December 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. 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," noting that she "did a difficult job cheerfully, and she did it well." Her parents, Michael and Re McClung of Coupeville, said their daughter, a 1995 Annapolis grad, rejoined the service in 2005 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. 2,942nd to die • December 15, 2006 Army Staff Sgt. Henry Kahalewai Jr., 44, a Fort Lewis Stryker leader, died in a Texas hospital of injuries 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 he'd served almost two decades, "he was about ready to retire," said Aaron. Henry 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. In addition to his son, Kahalewai left two daughters, who live with his widow, Debbie, in Tacoma.

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