Nicole Suveges

Nicole Suveges—December 2008 Shipment Honoree

Johns Hopkins Grad Student Killed

Nicole Suveges
Nicole Suveges

BALTIMORE (WJZ)  Students and professors alike were shocked earlier this week to hear of one of their rising stars killed in a bombing in Iraq.

Mike Schuh reports Nicole Suveges was doing double duty.

The Johns Hopkins University campus first got a look at Nicole Suveges when she enrolled in 2000 as a grad student.

“She was just an outstanding person,” said Hopkins professor Matthew Crenson. “And from the very beginning, she was interested in the Middle East.”

But once the war in Iraq began, she changed her area of study. She wanted to know how the transition to democracy affected ordinary citizens. That’s what she was doing in Baghdad when she was killed.

It was Tuesday in Sadr City. A bomber blew up some government offices. Suveges and 10 others died. She was there helping the troops understand Iraqis.

The company says, “She came to us to freely give of herself in an effort to make a better world. A leading academic, she believed in translating what she learned into action.”

And she followed action. This was her second tour of Iraq as a civilian. The first was in 2006.

A decade ago she was an army reservist in Sarajevo.

“Well, she took a lot of chances,” said Crenson.

The young woman was known to be brave, and now she is sadly missed.

Crenson fondly remembers Suveges as a natural-born leader, someone who, despite her own workload, would organize parties and gatherings. She was a magnet to other students.

Suveges is originally from the Chicago, Ill. area. There’s no word yet on funeral arrangements.

(© MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Johns Hopkins Grad Student Dies in Iraq

University Stunned After Baghdad Blast

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 27, 2008; Page B03

Nicole Suveges was not the type of woman to back away from controversy.

So when Laura Locker learned that her friend, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, had joined the Army’s Human Terrain System, a program that embeds social scientists within military units, Locker said she was not surprised.

But friends and faculty members at Hopkins were stunned this week when they learned that Suveges, 38, was among four Americans killed in an explosion Tuesday in the District Council building in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.

“Two hours ago, I thought she was fine and I thought she was going to come back and defend her dissertation,” Mark Blyth, an associate professor of political science and Suveges’s primary faculty adviser said in a statement. “She was a very bright, engaging, sweet person, very intellectually curious.”

Political science professor Matthew Crenson, who was the director of graduate studies the year Suveges was admitted to Hopkins about eight years ago, described her as an “unusual student,” who brought a wealth of experience to the department.

In the 1990s, as a U.S. Army reservist, Suveges served in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In 2006, Suveges spent a year in Iraq as a civilian contractor and social science adviser to the military. She returned from that tour, Blyth said, with data to analyze for her dissertation on “Markets & Mullahs: Global Networks, Transnational Ideas and the Deep Play of Political Culture.” During her most recent tour, which began in April, Suveges was employed by Rockville-based BAE Systems, a contractor.

“She came to us to give freely of herself in an effort to make a better world,” said Doug Belair, president of BAE System’s Technology Solutions and Services line of business, in a statement. “Nicole was a leading academic who studied for years on how to improve conditions for others.”

Suveges expected that this tour in Iraq would provide the final data she needed to finish her dissertation. She received a master of arts degree in international affairs from George Washington University in 1998. She grew up in Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1992.

Blyth said that after the war in Iraq began, Suveges decided she wanted her research to focus on the transition from an authoritarian government to democracy, and the impact on ordinary citizens.

Locker said Suveges had two sides to her personality. There was the “tough Army woman,” and the “total sweetheart” who would do anything for anybody.

Locker said yesterday that Suveges was the type of person who could win people over.

“When I first met her, I was sure I wasn’t going to like her,” Locker said. “She was an Army woman, and she was Republican, very outspoken. I’m a diehard Democrat.”

Locker, who worked with Suveges when they were teaching assistants in 2003, said it was Suveges’s tenacity that won her over. Or maybe it was her love for dogs, the way she was willing to cook meals for a classmate she had never met because the woman’s father had passed away, or how unafraid she was to speak her mind.

“She was a conservative person in a liberal department,” Locker said. “She brought a much-needed perspective to our department . . .

“The fact that she was one of my only Republican friends says a lot,” Locker said. “I adored her.”

American Grad Student Dies in Iraq

(CNN) — An American graduate student who went to Iraq to find ways to help ordinary citizens persevere in a transitioning government was one of two American civilians killed in a Sadr City bombing.

Nicole Suveges, a married political scientist from Illinois, was part of a program that embeds academics into military units to help personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan navigate the local environment, according to her employer, BAE Systems.

Suveges, who started her tour with Human Terrain System in April, had been assigned to support the 3rd Brigade Combat Team for the 4th Infantry Division in “political, cultural, and tribal engagements,” a statement from the program said.

She was one of four Americans to die in the Sadr City bombing Tuesday. Two U.S. soldiers and a State Department employee, Steven Farley, who worked with the provincial reconstruction team, also were killed in the blast.

“Nicole was a leading academic who studied for years on how to improve conditions for others,” Doug Belair, president of BAE’s Technology Solutions & Services, said in a written statement. “She came to us to give freely of herself in an effort to make a better world.”

Suveges was the second BAE employee to die in a combat zone this year. Michael V. Bhatia, 31, a social scientist from Medway, Massachusetts, died in a roadside bombing May 7 in Afghanistan, BAE said.

Scott Fazekas, BAE’s director of communications, said Suveges and Bhatia were among three dozen social scientists hired by the company and its subcontractors to support the program.

The Johns Hopkins University graduate student was also working toward a doctorate in political science with an emphasis on international relations. The focus of her dissertation was on the transition from an authoritarian regime to democracy and how it affects ordinary citizens, the university said.

“Nicole was committed to using her learning and experience to make the world a better place, especially for people who have suffered through war and conflict,” William R. Brody, president of the university, said in a message Wednesday to the campus community. “She exemplifies all that we seek to do at Johns Hopkins: to use knowledge for the good of humanity.”

Mark Blyth, Suveges’ primary faculty adviser, said that when Suveges came to Johns Hopkins, she planned to write her Ph.D. dissertation on how ideas move across borders from society to society, exploring how radical Islamic ideas filtered through Western European mosques.

After the outbreak of the Iraq war, Suveges decided to shift her focus to the experience of ordinary citizens under a transitional government, said Blyth, a topic that had interested Suveges since her experience in Bosnia with the SFOR/NATO Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force.

“She was a very bright, engaging, sweet person, very intellectually curious,” Blyth said Wednesday.

BAE said Suveges’ experience, which included a tour in Iraq as a civilian contractor and a stint in Bosnia in the 1990s as an Army reservist, made her especially valuable in efforts to improve the lives of Iraqis.

A Human Terrain System statement said Suveges and others were attending a meeting of the District Advisory Council on Tuesday to elect a new chairman.

The officials were helping mediate disputes among the Sadr City leadership and “facilitate the development of a more representative local government,” the statement said.

The attack was blamed on a Shiite insurgent cell.

Suveges graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1992 and received a master’s degree in political science from George Washington University in 1998.

She had delivered papers to international relations organizations and served as a graduate teaching assistant, the company said.

At Johns Hopkins, she was managing editor for the Review of International Political Economy, the university said.

Maj. Mike Kenfield, spokesman for the Army’s training and doctrine command, said that the program was credited for “reductions in non-lethal operations” and that there had been talk about expanding the purview of the team to outside Iraq and Afghanistan.

CNN’s Joe Sterling contributed to this report

Luke Mercardante

Luke Mercardante—2008 Shipment Honoree

“I want no person to ever feel sad or pity for me or my Marines as we endure hardship and sacrifice, as this is our calling with the unknown outcome being of God’s master plan.”

1st Sgt Luke Mercardante
Combat Logistics Battalion 24 SgtMaj
OEF 08 / KIA on 15 Apr 08

24th MEU honors its first 2 to fall

Sources:  Paul Wiseman – USA Today, Military Times
Luke Mercandante
Luke Mercardante

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Even before the Marines here began fighting Taliban insurgents in the lawless southern provinces, they were holding a memorial service for two of their own.

Cpl. Kyle Wilks was remembered as a NASCAR-loving prankster. First Sgt. Luke Mercardante, the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in his logistics battalion, was “the glue that held us together,” said Maj. Keith Owens. “He helped our small problems from becoming big problems.”

“It hit us hard,” said Staff Sgt. Liandro Barajas, 28, of Yakima, Wash.

The deaths last week during a supply run — the Marine unit’s first major foray outside the safety of the sprawling military base at Kandahar airfield — are a brutal reminder of an enemy that is tenaciously hanging on seven years after U.S. and allied forces toppled the Taliban leadership for sheltering Osama bin Laden.

About 100 Marines left Kandahar airfield April 15 in a convoy of dozens of vehicles carrying supplies when a powerful improvised explosive device hidden in a culvert beneath the road detonated around midnight.

“The road was gone,” says Staff Sgt. Lauro Samaniego, 30, of Laredo, Texas, leader of a four-man bomb squad who had investigated IED attacks during two tours in Iraq. “This was one of the biggest ones I’ve ever seen.”

The blast gouged a hole 12 feet wide and 6 feet deep, stopping the convoy. Mercardante, 35, of Athens, Ga., and Wilks, 24, of Rogers, Ark., were dead. Two other Marines were injured, one seriously.

“They knew we were coming,” said Staff Sgt. Robin Clements, the assistant convoy commander. “We were making pretty good headway. Out of nowhere — a huge explosion. We could see it from the rear of the convoy. Immediately, we knew it wasn’t your ordinary IED. … That explosion could have demolished a tank.”

The bomb went off beneath Mercardante’s Humvee. He was originally assigned to sit in the lead Humvee but was moved farther back, where it was thought he’d be safer, Clements said.

Marine 1st Sergeant Luke J. Mercardante
Marine 1st Sergeant Luke J. Mercardante

When the sun came up, the Marines found that they’d been hit in a place of rare beauty — wildflowers, wheat fields, vineyards, streams — in countryside usually dominated by rock, dust and dirt. Samaniego’s team traced the detonator to a spot behind a mud wall about 50 yards from the convoy. The insurgent who planted it and set off the bomb was long gone.

Canadian troops from a nearby outpost fed the stranded Marines and filled in the crater, allowing the convoy to get moving again before mid-morning, says Lt. Col. Ricky Brown, commander of the Marines’ logistics battalion.

Afterward, the Marines’ commander, Col. Peter Petronzio, received handwritten, hand-delivered condolences from dozens of allied countries — a sign, he says, that despite widespread reports of divisions within the NATO security force, “we’re all in this together.”

On Tuesday, more than 100 Marines stood at attention before four empty boots and two sets of dog tags. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tom Nagy, a medical officer attached to the Marine unit, read from a letter Mercardante wrote to his sister.

“I want no person to ever feel sad or pity for me or my Marines as we endure hardship and sacrifice, as this is our calling with the unknown outcome being that of God’s master plan,” Nagy quoted Mercardante as writing.

Memorial Service for 1stSgt Luke Mercardante and Cpl Kyle Wilkes
Memorial Service for 1stSgt Luke Mercardante and Cpl Kyle Wilkes

The Marines say they won’t be looking for revenge when they launch their operations against the Taliban insurgents.

“You focus on what you can do for the living. You’re no good to anyone if you let your emotions get in the way,” Samaniego said. “Am I angry? No. Am I sad? Yes. We lost two men who were willing to fight for other people they never knew and for a culture that didn’t understand them and that they didn’t understand.”

“This is what we do.” Clements said. “We move on.” Her husband is also a Marine back at Camp Lejeune. Together, they have served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, alternating deployments so one of them could stay home to care for their children.

“I’m a mother of four boys,” she said. “I don’t want them over here doing this one day.”

Former VMI ROTC Instructor Killed in Afghanistan

Source:  Virginia Military Institute

LEXINGTON, Va., April 18, 2008 – Marine 1st Sgt. Luke Mercardante, who served on the staff of the VMI Naval ROTC unit from 2002 to 2005, was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 15, according to a Department of Defense news release.

Marine 1st Sergeant Luke J. Mercardante
Marine 1st Sergeant Luke J. Mercardante

Mercardante, 35, was acting sergeant major for Combat Logistics Battalion 24 of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit when he died.

While at VMI, Mercardante was an assistant Marine officer instructor, or MOI, and helped train cadets preparing to be commissioned as officers in the Marine Corps.

“As an assistant MOI, First Sergeant Mercardante was a superb Marine and a tremendous role model for all of us,” said Col. William Grace, commanding officer of the VMI Naval ROTC unit. “He loved being a Marine and helping develop our next generation of leaders. He was totally devoted to our cadets while at VMI and to his Marines while leading them in our nation’s effort in War on Terror. He will be missed.”

Mercardante’s impact on training cadets was so appreciated by the VMI Class of 2007 that the class selected him as an Honorary Brother Rat. The first year cadets attend VMI they are known as Rats, and the shared experience of that demanding time forges bonds among them that last a lifetime. Members of the class call one another “Brother Rat,” and the selection of a faculty or staff member to join that brotherhood is the highest honor a class can bestow.

Jamaal Walton, president of the Class of 2007, said the class member extend their condolences to the Mercardante family.

“First Sergeant Mercardante was chosen as an Honorary Brother Rat for our class because he was man of honor, integrity, and always went above the expectations of his duty,” Walton said. “He always lent a helping hand to others and made a positive impact to those who got to know him. Brother Rat Mercardante was truly a great Marine, a great friend, and most of all a great father.”

Sally Coffman Arciero, the class agent for the Class of 2007, said the class was the first that Mercardante saw matriculate and that “he grew into VMI along with us.”

Though his primary duties put him into close contact with those cadets involved in Naval ROTC, he made a special effort to meet all members of the class, she said.

“I saw him making an effort to talk with and get to know all of us,” Arciero said. “It was a much appreciated effort…. I found him to be an intense man, and he supported that which he believed in with his entire being. He was an honorable man, a good leader, and a proud Brother Rat.”

In responding to his selection for the honor with a letter that was published in the Bomb, the VMI yearbook, Mercardante said, “Your class and this great institution has also played a significant role in my life and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be associated with such a prestigious, honorable, and respectable organization. From the day you matriculated … I developed a sense of respect and admiration for each of you and those who wear the VMI uniform.”

He said he was impressed as the members of the class developed over their cadetships.

“Keeping with the spirit of the Brother Rat,” he said, “I will represent you and your class at all times in the most professional and respectable manner, be an ambassador for VMI, be an individual that any of you can call upon at any time, and wear your class ring with great pride…. This is one of the greatest honors of my life after being able to call myself a Christian, a father, and a United States Marine.”

Former Athenian killed in Afghanistan

Source:  Joe Johnson, Online Athens

A U.S. Marine who grew up in Athens was killed in Afghanistan Tuesday by a roadside bomb near the Pakistan border, according to his family.

First Sgt. Luke Mercardante, 35, was attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a rapid-response force that is hunting down insurgents in the southern province of Kandahar, a former Taliban stronghold, relatives said.

The Pentagon hasn’t confirmed Mercardante’s death.

But his sister, Bridget Clark, said Marine Corps representatives came to her home in Bogart this morning to inform her that her brother had died.

Another Marine died and two were injured in the attack on their convoy, according to Clark.

Mercardante has been in Afghanistan since February, his second overseas deployment; he served as gunnery sergeant at a detention center in Al Asad, Iraq, in 2006.

He planned to marry when he returned to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina this fall, according to Clark.

He has two children from a previous marriage.

Born in California, Mercardante moved east as a child and split his time with family in Georgia and New York.

He attended Athens Christian School and graduated from Oconee County High School in 1990. Mercardante attended Gainesville College for two years before enlisting in the Marines in 1992.

One of his brothers, Patrick Mercardante Jr., is a former Athens-Clarke police officer and former athletic director for the local YMCA.

In addition to his brother and sister, Mercardante is survived by two other brothers, his mother, Gertrude Mercardante, of Bogart, and his father and step-mother, Patrick Mercardante Sr. and Katie Mercardante, both of Statham.

Harrison Brown

Harrison Brown—Oct 2008 Shipment Honoree

Soldier from Prichard, Alabama, killed in Iraq

Sources:  Garry Mitchell – The Associated Press, Military Times
Harrison Brown
Harrison Brown

PRICHARD, Ala. — A Ft. Benning, Ga.-based solider killed in Iraq was eulogized April 20 at his funeral as a “gentle giant” hero and a role model growing up in his hometown of Prichard.

More than 1,000 mourners filled the Nazaree Full Gospel Church in Mobile to bid farewell to Army Staff Sgt. Harrison “Duck” Brown, 31, who was killed April 8 in a bomb blast that hit his Humvee.  Brown, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Benning, was on his third tour of duty in Iraq.

“This young man is a hero. He died as a hero and from what we’ve heard today, he lived as a hero,” said the Rev. Dr. Ralph Huling, pastor of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., where Brown, his wife, Delisha, and three daughters — 9, 12 and 14 — worshipped.

A small musical ensemble played “When the Saints Go Marching In” as the 1,200-seat church in Mobile filled. A soloist sang “Amazing Grace.” The service swelled into a hand-clapping celebration of Brown’s life.

Among those exchanging upbeat memories of Brown before his flag-draped coffin was his uncle, Hezekiah Brown of Elizabeth City, N.C., who described his nephew as a “gentle giant who never wanted to hurt anybody.”

Others remembered how Brown influenced their lives with his admirable behavior.

Blount High School coach Ben Harris recalled Brown as a wide receiver on his team from 1991 until his graduation in 1994.

“He was a fine person all around,” Harris said.

Alvin Daniels, a former Blount classmate, said it’s a sad time, but Brown liked being in the Army.

“He was a good fellow, real quiet, laid-back,” Daniels said.

Brown also played on the school’s baseball and basketball teams before enrolling at Tuskegee University, where he played football for one year on a scholarship.

Brown left Tuskegee after his freshman year and enlisted in the Army to support his growing family.

Brig. Gen. William Forrester of Fort Rucker, Ala., represented the Army at the service, with an Honor Guard also from Rucker. Brown was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart.

Scores of veterans on motorcycles from the Patriot Guard escorted the funeral procession with police.

Prichard officials announced plans to name a street for Brow. Resolutions honoring Brown from the Alabama Legislature and the city of Mobile also were delivered to Brown’s family.

Burial was in the National Cemetery in Mobile.

FALLEN WARRIOR: Prichard soldier called a ‘gentle giant’

Source:  Jane Self Special to The Tuscaloosa News

Harrison “Duck" Brown
Harrison “Duck” Brown

Blount High School’s head football coach said Army Staff Sgt. Harrison “Duck” Brown was an outstanding wide receiver when he was in school in the early 1990s. In 1992, his team won the state Class 5A high school football championship. When he graduated from Blount in 1994, Brown received a four-year scholarship to play football for Tuskegee.

But he left school after one season and joined the Army.

“He said he had to do it to take care of his children,” said Mary Dozier of Prichard, Brown’s sister. “I was upset about that. I wanted that degree.”

Brown later told his only sister – he also had three brothers – that he had three requests of her.

Because all the children of the family looked up to her, he wanted her to make sure his three daughters went to college so they could have choices in life. His two oldest daughters, Katrina and Alexya live in Prichard with their mother, and Dozier sees them every day. His youngest daughter, 9-year-old Kilani, lives in Columbus, Ga., with her mother, Delisha Brown.

He also asked Dozier to look after their mother, Chris Ann Brown, who lives near Dozier, and to stay in regular touch with Delisha Brown.

He was stationed in Hawaii at the time and just wanted to make sure his sister knew his priorities.

“We’re a real close family, anyway,” Dozier said. “Always have been. Duck and I would sit and talk all the time.”

Dozier said one of her brother’s coaches gave him the nickname “Duck” when he was in the ninth grade.

“They said he waddled like a duck when he ran,” Dozier said, admitting that she agreed. “He was bowlegged and had these big ole hands and feet. He looked like a duck.”

The nickname stuck, following Brown through high school, college and into the Army.

Brown had just returned for his third tour of duty in Iraq a few weeks before he was killed on Easter Sunday, April 8, in a bomb blast that hit his vehicle in Baghdad. He was with the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning.

Brown was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart. On Sept. 22, the day Brown would have turned 32, Prichard officials will name a city street in his honor.

An uncle called Brown a “gentle giant” at his funeral, and many talked about what a good person he was.

One soldier he served with at Fort Benning said Brown was a quiet, dedicated man who put his soldiers’ needs before his own.

Dozier said her little brother was always a good kid. She was about 7 when he was born so she looked after him a lot.

“Duck always did what I told him to,” Dozier said. “He was no problem. Duck was always quiet, not like the others. Duck probably didn’t get more than four whippings his entire life.”

She said the whole neighborhood got excited when he came home on leave.

“It would be like a big block party. Everybody was so glad to see him,” she said. “He was such a great person to be around. He was such a joy. He was smooth talking. He’d be telling those kids something and they’d be listening. He always talked real soft, never talked loud. But he made his point.”

She said she tried to talk him out of re-enlisting in the Army, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He loved what he was doing. He told her not too many 30-year-old black men could say they’ve experienced what he had.

“He said, ‘I have traveled and seen this world, and if I had to do it over again, I’d do it again.’ I said, ‘aw shucks.’ He re-enlisted two days later,” Dozier said.

“When he was about to leave this last time, he told me it was perfect. Here he was going back to the war and saying it was perfect,” she said.

The day before he was killed, Brown was on the phone with his mother for nearly an hour, Dozier said.

“They were giggling and laughing for the longest time. He’d always call Mama,” she said.

Brown had also tried several times to reach his older brother who had a birthday on April 6 to wish him happy birthday. He never reached him, but left several messages.

“My brother has recorded them on a CD now,” Dozier said. “He kept saying ‘Hey, this is your little brother calling.’ Oh, I sure do miss him.”

William Kerwood

William Kerwood—September 2008 Shipment Honoree

Thank you for thinking of my brother and sending out the care packages in his name. I hope it helps those in need and I appreciate your kind deed.


William Kerwood
William Kerwood

LHCP received the below email with a request for us to honor William Kerwood as a honoree.

“I’ve started & stopped this email so many times the last few days, the memories bring the feeling of loss back to the surface when least expected & get me tickled all over again at the same time. But I’m determined to do this for Bill, so here it goes.

Bill Kerwood, in all my time as an Air Force wife I have never met another man like him. Bill was the kind of guy that always had a smile on his face, a wicked sense of humor & willingness to help out any way he could. He loved his job but wasn’t one to brag about his accomplishments. I think we’d known him for 2 years before we knew he had received the Distinguished Flying Cross for the rescue of a downed U.S pilot in Yugoslavia. That’s just the way he was. He’d be gone for weeks sometimes months but as soon as he was back it was time to “fire up the grill & toss back a beer.” Those were the best times.

He was the one of the funniest people I’ve had the honor of knowing. There was one of those weekend cookouts where he got the idea to try one of his Golden Retriever’s dog biscuits to see if they were any good…I can’t think of a time I’ve laughed harder. And he decided those dog biscuits were better then some of the MREs he had had. Then there was the New Year’s Eve we hung out & he decided to dress his wife & I up in his chem gear & helmet…somewhere around here I still have the pictures of that night.And the Halloween when the same Golden Retriever was dressed up like “Bat Dog” & Bill dressed up like Jason. The kids would walk up to pet Jake & then here would come Bill & scare them half to death…those poor neighborhood kids.

There are so many things I could say about Bill. He was a great husband, friend, son, brother, & father. And for those of us who were lucky enough to know him even for just a little while, lost a little bit of ourselves the day we lost him. But, there’s comfort in knowing he died doing a job he loved for a country he loved & we’ll see him again on the other side. Be at peace, Bill. We’ll see you again.”

In Remembrance of William Kerwood

Casualties of Afghan Campaign Honored
Five Were Killed In Copter Crash

Source:  By Leef Smith, Courtesy of the Washington Post, Arlignton Nation Cemetery Website
William Kerwood
William Kerwood

The flag-draped coffin was borne by a horse-drawn caisson and followed by mourners who made their way through Arlington National Cemetery yesterday to honor four airmen and a soldier who died when their helicopter crashed in Afghanistan in November.

The men were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, working together in an MH-53M helicopter when it fell about seven miles east of Bagram Air Base. Nearby villages reported that the helicopter crashed near a riverbed and caught fire. Officials said mechanical failure might have been to blame.

Killed in the November 23, 2003, crash were Air Force Major Steven Plumhoff, 33, of Neshanic Station, New Jersey, and three other airmen, Staff Sergeant Thomas A. Walkup Jr., 25, of Millville, New Jersey, Technical Sergeant Howard A. Walters, 33, of Port Huron, Michigan, and Technical Sergeant William J. Kerwood, 37, of Houston, Missouri.  Also killed was Army Sergeant Major Philip R. Albert, 41, of Terryville, Connecticut.

Yesterday, the men’s remains were interred with full honors in a common grave whose headstone will be marked with each of their names. The service included a flyover by an MH-53 Pave Low helicopter — the largest, most advanced line of helicopters in the Air Force’s inventory — from Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Kerwood, an 18-year veteran, was among the first troops to deploy to Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, according to news reports.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for helping rescue a downed U.S. pilot in the former Yugoslavia in 1999.

  • Sources:
    • Washington Post
    • Military Times

Bryant Wayne Mackey

Bryant Wayne Mackey—2008 Shipment Honoree

Fallen staff sgt. remembered as selfless, hard worker

Sources:  The Associated Press, Military Times

Bryant Wayne MackeyMaj. David Olsen, who worked for about eight months with Army Staff Sgt. Bryant W. Mackey, described him as a “quiet professional” who always put his soldiers before himself.

“I needed experienced leaders to prepare all of these young soldiers for the war in Iraq,” he said, and Mackey “was one of the hardest workers in my troop.” Olsen recalled when Mackey injured his foot, refusing to take time off even though he couldn’t put his boot on.

Mackey, 30, of Eureka, Kan., was killed Feb. 20 in Mosul, Iraq, when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle. He was a 1996 high school graduate and was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.

“On his second combat tour, even to his last breath, he would not give up,” Brig. Gen. David Quantock told Mackey’s family and friends at the funeral.

Mackey enjoyed football, especially watching the Washington Redskins and Kansas State Wildcats. Trained to drive tanks, Mackey enlisted in August 2001. He had been injured in his first tour, trying to move a comrade out of harm’s way, said his mother, Karen Nielsen.

He also is survived by his wife, Marie, and children, 10-year-old Ryan, 7-year-old Koby, and 5-year-old Stephanie

Friends Remember Eureka Solder Killed in Iraq

Source:  by Jim Graw, KWCH

Another Kansas soldier has died in Iraq. The Pentagon says 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Bryant Mackey died after a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle.

People close to Mackey say he was funny, a team-player who was dedicated to both his family and his country. They say he was well aware of the dangers of war but was proud to be a soldier.

Waylon Stitt and Kelly Ebberts both graduated with Mackey from Hamilton High School in 1996.  SSgt. Mackey joined the U.S. Army just before September 11th and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. The first time he was injured by gunfire, but his friends say that wasn’t about to scare him away from serving his country.

“We graduated with 17 people in our class,” says Stitts. “It was the biggest class in 28 years, and with a class so small you can just imagine how big our hearts were for each other.”

Ebberts says, “When you hear about it happening on TV and then it’s someone that you know, went to school with, palled around with, that’s when it hits your heart.”

SSgt. Mackey leaves behind a wife and three small children who have been living in the Howard area during his second tour in Iraq.

In Memory of Sgt. Bryant Mackey

Source:  Kansas Patriot Guard

The Patriot Guard paid tribute to SSGT Bryant Mackey and his family with a two-part mission.

Bryant Wayne MackeyFirst part was the escort of SSGT Mackey from the Independence KS Municipal Airport to Countryside Funeral Home in Fredonia KS on Wednesday 27 February 2008.  Riders from Independence, Caney, Fredonia, Yates Center, Chanute, and the Wichita area provided escort.

Second part was the funeral, followed by the graveside service on Friday 29 February 2008 in Fredonia, KS and Howard, KS.  An estimated 300 or more motorcycles plus a couple dozen cages from all over Kansas and Missouri arrived in Fredonia early Friday morning to stand guard at the funeral.  Following the funeral, we escorted SSGT Mackey to graveside services in Howard where he received full military honors provided by the US Army from Fort Riley.  US Army Brigadier General David Quantock presented SSGT Mackey’s wife, Marie, and his parents a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and many other heroic medals that Mackey had earned.  Kansas Highway State Troopers were present in large numbers.  SSGT Mackey’s brother is a Master Trooper.  They provided an honor guard at the funeral.

Nino D. Livaudais

Nino D. Livaudais—July 2008 Shipment Honoree

Nino D. Livaudais

Sources:  USA Today, Associated Press, Military Times 
Nino Livaudais
Nino Livaudais

Livaudais, 23, was the “image of an American,” his best friend says.  “He’s a hero, definitely,” that friend, Hayden Hatch, told Salt Lake City’s KSL-TV.  “They had to do a terrorist-type thing in order to get him.  He was definitely a strong individual.  He was a good guy.  I’m proud to say he was my friend.”

Livaudais was killed in a suicide car-bomb attack April 3 while coming to the aid of a pregnant woman standing next to the car.  The woman, who had been a passenger in the car, also was killed.

Hatch, friends with Livaudais since junior high school, last saw him in the summer when he went home to Utah for a visit.  Hatch said Livaudais didn’t talk much about Iraq, except to say he was willing to serve.  “He was definitely an image of an American.  He loved his country.  He loved his family.  He would do anything for either,” Hatch said.

Jackie Livaudais, who has two children with Nino and is pregnant with a third, said she was proud of her husband.  “He had a purpose,” she said.  “He was doing his part as an American. I knew I never was going to get him behind a desk.  He wanted to make the world better and get the bad guys.”  She wasn’t surprised her husband would have rushed to aid a pregnant woman.  “What man wouldn’t run to that?” she said.

Livaudais, who also served in Afghanistan twice, planned to make the military his career.  He graduated from high school in Ogden in 1997, joined the Army in 1998 and became a Ranger in 1999.

Utah Soldier Buried at Arlington

Source:  Arlington National Cemetery Website
 April 17, 2003

Nino LivaudaisARLINGTON, Virginia — With a breeze off the Potomac River freshening the unseasonably warm noon, a group of 50 mourners solemnly watched as Army Staff Sgt. Nino Dugue Livaudais of Syracuse was buried Wednesday in Arlington National Cemetery.

The 23-year-old Army Airborne Ranger from the Davis County community was one of three soldiers killed April 3 at a coalition checkpoint near Haditha Dam in western Iraq when they approached a vehicle while attempting to help a screaming pregnant woman. In an apparent suicide attack, a bomb in the vehicle detonated, killing the two female occupants along with Livaudais, 27-year-old Captain Russell B. Rippetoe, of Arvada, Colorado, and 21-year-old Specialist Ryan Long of Seaford, Delaware.

Livaudais, whose 24th birthday would have been April 30, was born in the Philippines and emigrated to the United States with his mother, Divina, who lives in Syracuse. His late father Howard, an Air Force veteran, was a survivor of the Bataan Death March.

Besides his mother, four brothers and two sisters, Livaudais is survived by his 21-year-old wife, Jackie, a native of Clinton, and their two sons, Destre, 5, and Carson, 2, who live in Fort Mitchell.   Alanama Jackie Livaudais is pregnant with the couple’s third child.

According to statements released through Fort Benning, his family remembered Livaudais as a humble man who cared for the less fortunate.      “He was always looking out for others,” Jackie Livaudais said. “He’d pile needy men into the back of his pickup and take them to McDonald’s where he’d buy food for them.”

As a matter of practice before leaving on a combat deployment, Army rangers write a letter to be forwarded to their families in case they die.  Fort Benning officials released a portion of Livaudais’ last letter to his loved ones.

“Please know I died defending my family and my beliefs,” he wrote. “I just hope in the event of my death, that a lot more of my comrades and fellow Americans’ lives will be saved.”

A memorial fund for Livaudais’ children has been set up through America First Credit Union.

Kevin Sheehan

Kevin F. Sheehan—June 2008 Shipment Honoree

In Remembrance of Kevin F. Sheehan

Sgt. Kevin F. Sheehan
Sgt. Kevin F. Sheehan

A member of the Vermont National Guard for about 12 years, Sgt. Kevin Sheehan volunteered to go to Iraq when his unit was mobilized.  Sheehan, a project manager at Engineers Construction in South Burlington, Vt., died when his unit was attacked while escorting a military intelligence detail.  The 36-year-old left behind a wife and two children, ages 3 and 6.


Nathan J. Schuldheiss

Nathan J. Schuldheiss—May 2008 Shipment Honoree

In Remembrance of Nathan J. Schuldheiss

Source:  by Linda Borg, The Providence Journal
Nathan J. Schuldheiss
Special Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss

PROVIDENCE — Special Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss was nothing if not well-prepared.  In his will, written before he left for Iraq, the counterintelligence specialist left $1,000 for the bar tab at his funeral.

He also asked that his ashes be spread over the Gulf of Mexico, in international waters 3 miles out, because he was someone who didn’t belong to any one place.

Everyone expected to celebrate Nathan’s homecoming on Thanksgiving.  But, on Thursday, Nathan and two other special agents were killed near the Balad Air Force Base in Iraq when an improvised explosive device burst next to their military vehicle.

Nathan Schuldheiss was 27 years old, a graduate of Roger Williams University School of Law and a civilian assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.  His job was to ferret out insurgents who might pose a threat to the military men and women assigned to the region.  During his five months in Iraq, the work done by Nathan Schuldheiss and his team led to the arrest of 13 insurgents.

Nathan was on his way to interview a group of informants when the bomb exploded, according to his father, Jeff Schuldheiss, who lives in Newport, where he runs a bed-and-breakfast.

“He volunteered to go to Iraq,” Jeff Schuldheiss said yesterday.  “His boss said, ‘You don’t have to go.’  But he had this calling.  He couldn’t shake it.  He told his mom, ‘If anything happens, remember, I had a full life.’ ”

Nathan was a natural leader, his father said, someone whose dreams were writ large.  He talked about pursuing a career with the CIA or the FBI and joked about running one of those organizations one day.  But he also talked about sailing around the world and opening a club with his friends.

“He was the consummate gentleman and smart aleck when we needed some humor,” a special agent wrote on a Web site called The Officer Down Memorial Page.  “I will always remember his mischievous smile and his grace.”

Robert Waterman, a professor of political science at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., remembered Nathan as a student with remarkable self-confidence who was adept at making connections between political theory and contemporary politics.

“He always seemed to know what he was doing,” Waterman said. “You felt that something important would happen to him.”

Nathan was an adventurer, a young man with a real sense of wanderlust.  As an Air Force brat, his family was always on the move and, as an adult, he visited all but 2 of the 50 states.

Jeff Schuldheiss said his son decided to work in counterintelligence because he knew that the experience would be invaluable and possibly life-changing.

“He was absolutely patriotic,” his father said.  “He has a quote in his will that says something like, ‘War is not the worst of things.  Even worse is the person who believes that there is nothing worth fighting for…’ ”

Despite his 27 years in the Air Force, Jeff Schuldheiss was completely unprepared for the knock at the door Thursday, when two uniformed Air Force officers informed him about their sorrow over the “untimely death of your son.”

“It didn’t click,” he said.  “They’re not coming for him.  No.  It can’t be.  It’s absolutely a mistake.  This isn’t right.”

Schuldheiss never once considered that his son wouldn’t return from Iraq because Nathan was always so dedicated and well-equipped and determined to finish whatever he set out to do.

Nathan J. Schuldheiss
Nathan J. Schuldheiss

“I’m 53 years old and I know that not everybody is the same as the next person,” his father said.  “There are some people who are the leaders, the coaches, the people who continue to get better.  Nate was a shooting star who burned so brightly.”

Nathan, the wanderer, will be remembered as he lived.  A funeral service will be held in Colorado, where his mother, Sarah Conlon, lives.

His gravestone will be placed in Spokane, next to his maternal grandmother’s grave.

And, in a couple of weeks, his ashes will be spread over the Gulf of Mexico, where he loved to sail.


Nathan J. Schuldeiss
Nathan J. Schuldeiss

Special Agent (SA) Nathan Schuldheiss graduated from Gonzaga University in Spokane Washington in 2002 with a degree in Political Science. He went on to attend Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island where he was awarded his Juris Doctorate in 2005. While attending Law School, Special Agent Schuldheiss was awarded a Legal Fellowship in Clarendon Chambers, Lincoln’s Inn, London, England. In addition, Special Agent Schuldheiss also served as a legal intern for the Spokane County Superior Court, Spokane Washington.

In September 2005, Special Agent Schuldheiss was hired by the United States Air Force and selected to attend the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). In March 2006, he successfully completed the special investigators course and was credentialed and certified as a Federal Agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Special Agent Schuldheiss was subsequently assigned to AFOSI Detachment 204, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

In May 2007, Special Agent Schuldheiss volunteered and was deployed to the AFOSI Expeditionary Detachment 2411, Balad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During this time, Special Agent Schuldheiss was chosen above his peers as Civilian Special Agent of the Quarter for July – September 2007.

On 1 November 2007, Special Agent Schuldheiss was killed when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Special Agent Schuldheiss was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Defense of Freedom Medal.

  • Sources:
    • Legacy
    • WBZTV

Peter Burks

Peter H. Burks—April 2008 Shipment Honoree

In Remembrance of Peter H. Burks

Sources: Associated Press, Miltary Times
Peter H. Burks
Peter H. Burks

A Dallas soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq is being remembered as a dedicated team player who felt the call to serve.

Army 2nd Lt. Peter H. Burks, 26, died Nov. 14 when his vehicle was hit just outside the Green Zone in Baghdad.  He was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany.

Alan Burks of Celina said he wasn’t surprised that his son’s last actions involved checking on the five men with him.  “He told me, over and over and over again, he said:  ‘Dad, my job is to get my 17 guys home safe.  Then after that I’ll get myself home safe,’ ” Burks said.

Peter Burks moved with his family to Dallas in 1987 and graduated from Trinity Christian Academy in Addison and Texas A&M University. He worked in marketing for the Dallas Desperados and FC Dallas.

“He’s as good as they come,” his father said.  Alan Burks said his son had long talked about military service.  “He felt the call to serve.  He’d tried corporate life and he just said, ‘I have to go do this Dad.  This is what I’ve got to do.’ ”

He joined the Army in 2006 and went to Officer Candidate School. He was deployed to Iraq about three months ago.

Besides his father, he is survived by his mother, Jackie Merck, of McKinney; his fiance; three sisters; a brother; a grandmother and a grandfather.

Peter Haskell Burks:  Dallas soldier killed in Iraq was strong in body and mind

Source:  Joe Simnacher, Dallas Morning News

Throughout his life, 2nd Lt. Peter Haskell Burks was known as a dedicated team player, a trait he maintained as an Army troop leader in Iraq.

On Wednesday he was commanding a unit just outside the Green Zone in Baghdad when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Lt. Burks received shrapnel wounds to his head, and five of his men were injured.

“Peter’s first words when the explosion happened … he asked his men, ‘Are you OK?’ ” said his father, Alan Burks of Celina. “Then he said, ‘I’m OK.’ From what we’ve learned from the officers who were there, he was conscious for a short period of time.”

Lt. Burks, 26, died at the scene Wednesday. His body arrived Friday in Dover, Del., en route to Dallas from Iraq.

Lt. Burks’ last actions were no surprise to his father.

“He told me, over and over and over again, he said: ‘Dad, my job is to get my 17 guys home safe. … Then after that I’ll get myself home safe.’ ”

Born in Atlanta, he moved with his family to Dallas in 1987. He was a 1999 graduate of Trinity Christian Academy in Addison, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, played football and baseball, and belonged to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“He’s as good as they come,” Mr. Burks said. His son was physically and mentally strong as well as disciplined and committed, he said.

Lt. Burks was the ultimate teammate and a man of strong faith “who could always be counted on to do the right thing,” his father said.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in 2003. He worked in France as a tour guide for a year, before returning to Dallas and a community relations internship with the Dallas Cowboys. He went on to marketing work for the Dallas Desperados and FC Dallas, the Frisco-based soccer team.

Then he joined the Army.

“He’d been talking about military service since he was a very young man,” his father said. “He felt the call to serve. He’d tried corporate life and he just said, ‘I have to go do this Dad. This is what I’ve got to do.’ ”

He joined the Army in 2006. He excelled in training, receiving leadership awards and progressing to Officer Candidate School, where he was voted president of his class, his father said.

Lt. Burks was commissioned in October 2006 and sent to Fort Sill, Okla. In July, he was assigned to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany.

He was deployed to Iraq about three months ago.

Lt. Burks “was like the perfect son,” said Daryl Davis, a family friend of 24 years. “He was the epitome of good and value.”

He wanted to serve his country and raise a family, Mr. Davis said.

Lt. Burks was engaged to Missy Haddad of McKinney.

In addition to his father, Lt. Burks is survived by his mother, Jackie Merck of McKinney; three sisters, Alison Burks of Celina, Sarah Burks of Dallas and Georgia Burks of Celina; a brother, Zac Burks of Celina; a grandmother, Irene Merck of Fayetteville, Ga.; and a grandfather, Haskell Burks of Fayetteville, Ga.

Pete Burks

Source:  Dallas Morning News


On November 13, 2007, while serving our great country, 2nd Lieutenant Peter “Pete” Burks was called home to eternal life.  Pete was a man of great Faith, honor and courage, and is incredibly missed by everyone.  He had the ability to light up any room with his glowing personality and quick sense of humor, and lived life with a passion admired by all.  Born April 10, 1981, in Atlanta, GA, Pete brightened many lives in his 26 years.  After graduating from Trinity Christian Academy in 1999, he attended the University of Georgia, then transferred to Texas A&M, where he completed a BA in international studies.  During his time at A&M, Peter served as the president of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and was also a sportswriter for The Battalion, among other activities.  After graduating, he worked as a tour guide in Nice, France, and also worked for the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Desperadoes and FC Dallas.  He loved sharing the good word of Christ, and was very active in Young Life.  In April 2006, Peter proudly answered his call to service by joining the U.S. Army.  He received many honors in his training courses, and his fellow soldiers considered him a fearless leader and man of integrity.  He served in the Second Stryker Cavalry Regiment as a troop leader, and made a lasting, positive impression in his short time with his platoon.


I want to thank you and your committee that is honoring our Peter Burks this month.  Seeing his face on your page of honorees brings tears to my eyes…tears of sadness because of the loss of his life and also the impact his death has had on his family/fiancée but also tears of proudness for his service and the faith he held onto to the end.  We are SO proud of Pete and are thankful that groups like yours are willing to honor the fallen.

I worked with Jim (LHCP Vice President), while nominating Pete, and he was wonderful to work with.  So a HUGE thank you to your organization for all you do!

Beth Hebert
(friend of the Burks family)

  • Sources:
    • McKinney Messenger
    • The Eagle
    • Denton Record-Chronicle

Jesus Fonseca

Jesus Fonseca, Jr.—March 2008 Shipment Honoree

In Remembrance of Jesus Fonseca, Jr

Source: The Gazette
January 15, 2008
Jesus Fonseca Jr.
Jesus Fonseca Jr.

Jesus Fonseca’s father feared for his safety and did not want him to join the Army.  But the teenager could not be deterred. “He wanted to be somebody.  That’s what motivated him,” said his father, who is also named Jesus.  “He didn’t make it.  But he tried.”  Fonseca, 19, of Marietta, Ga., was killed Jan. 17 in a car bomb exploded in Ramadi.  He was stationed at Camp Casey, South Korea.  Fonseca emigrated from Mexico with his family when he was a young boy, in 1980.  High school English teacher Sheila Evans said Fonseca often helped classmates who were struggling with the language.  She recalled one phrase in a class paper he wrote about patriotism:  “I think the best way I can love my new country is to serve my new country.”  The soldier was married in December 2003, the same year he graduated from high school.  His wife, Marlen, lives in the Mexican state of Jalisco.  Fonseca had been in Iraq for seven months and was scheduled for leave in January, but it was canceled.

Soldier from Georgia dies in Iraq

Source: Associated Press
Military Times

MARIETTA, Ga. — An Army private from Georgia was killed Monday in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, the Pentagon said Thursday.

Jesus Fonseca Jr., 19, of Marietta was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division based at Camp Casey, South Korea. He died in a car bombing with two other soldiers.

His parents, Jesus and Gloria Fonseca, told WAGA-TV in Atlanta that their son graduated from Sprayberry High School and had been in the United States for 10 years. They said they would like to bring his body from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Georgia, then bury him in Mexico in accordance with his wishes.

Message from Jesus’s family.

Thanks a lot for the Honor! And so much thanks for keep Jesus in your memories!

I just updated Jesus’ guest book with some pics.

Best regards,

Minerva Serna & Paul Fonseca

Charles Milam

Charles Luke Milam—February 2008 Shipment Honoree

Columbine “defining moment” for sailor who died in war

Source: by Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News, Thursday, September 27, 2007
Charles L. Milan
Charles L. Milan

Charles Luke Milam may have been inspired to follow a hero’s path because of a day he never talked about, a terrible April day in 1999 when he was a student at Columbine High School.

“He wasn’t shot or wounded or shot at,” Keith Milam said Thursday, “but absolutely, it was the defining moment of his life.”

Two months after the Columbine killings, Milam, 26, enlisted in the Navy, following in the footsteps of his brother, Keith, and two grandfathers.

This week, the decorated hospital corpsman — known to everybody as Luke — died in combat in Afghanistan. It was his fourth tour of duty. He had served three tours in Iraq, and would have gone back however many times it took to get the job done, his brother said.

“He felt it was his duty to do whatever he could to help people in the military,” Milam said. “He was a hero in every sense of the term.”

His brother surmises that living through the Columbine horror helped shape his brother’s future.

“It wasn’t something Luke ever talked about, but the fact he chose to become a hospital corpsman may have had something to do with (Columbine).”

What was clear — something transformed Luke after he graduated. “He did OK in high school, but after he joined the military he was a star,” his brother said.

Milam was the first in his family to enter a medical field, dedicating himself to helping people deal with injuries and death in combat situations.

“Luke was responsible for the health and well-being of the men in his platoon,” Keith Milam said. “He basically served as their doc — from everyday aches and pains to severe combat trauma.”

Recognition followed. The Purple Heart was just one of many awards. Another — one the family is especially proud of — was being named Special Operations Command Operator of the Year.

Milam, who remained single, chose the military as his career. But he never lost a chance to return to Colorado for his favorite sports, from mountain biking and hiking, to scuba diving and sky diving.

Funeral arrangements for Thursday are pending with Drinkwine Mortuary. As word of Milam’s death spreads to childhood friends, his old Scout troop and to military buddies, the anticipated crowd continues to grow larger and larger, his brother said.

Burial will be at Fort Logan National Cemetery. Milam’s commanding officer is escorting his body back to Colorado from Dover Air Force Base.

“I think that speaks to how valuable Luke was to his organization,” his older brother said. “He was the best of the best.”

Luke Milam

Charles Luke Milam
Charles Luke Milam

Luke Milam was not only big and strong but saw himself as the man his Marine Corps brothers could turn to in combat if they were hurt. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Navy petty officer from Littleton was a hospital corpsman trained to care for Marines engaged in special-combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Milam, 26, was on patrol with coalition forces in Afghanistan when they apparently were hit by a rocket attack near the town of Musa Qula.

Musa Qula lies in an opium-poppy growing area of Afghanistan where the Taliban has engaged in prolonged and fierce battles with British and U.S. troops this summer.

Milam, highly decorated in three earlier tours in Iraq, was killed in what Keith Milam, his oldest brother, said appeared to be an ambush.

But Keith Milam of Nashville said his brother — a 1999 Columbine High School graduate — was doing what he wanted to do. “Luke loved his job. He was living a dream,” Keith Milam said today. “He felt it was his calling to help the guys around him.”

“If there were guys in harm’s way, he needed to be there to take care of them,” he added.

At the time of his death, Milam was assigned to the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion.

Keith Milam said his brother was a “real outdoorsy guy” whose life revolved around backpacking, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, scuba diving and skydiving.

“He loved anything outdoors. He liked to keep in shape,” said his sister, Jaeme Milam of Denver. Jaeme Milam said her kid brother — the youngest of her three brothers — was following in the military footsteps of brother Keith and grandfather Charles.

He was planning to make the military his career, she said. “He loved what he did. He loved his guys and would have done anything for them,” she said.

Luke was awarded the Purple Heart from a wound suffered in Iraq; the Bronze Star; two Combat Action ribbons; two Good Conduct Medals; two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals; the National Defense Service Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

Keith Milam said that the outpouring of sympathy has been overwhelming. “He was highly regarded by the Navy and was even regarded more by the Marine Corps,” Keith Milam said. “We have heard from members of his unit. We understand that his commanding general and officer plan to attend the funeral at Fort Logan.”

In addition to his brother and sister, he is survived by his parents, Michael and Rita Milam of Seattle, and his brother Andrew of Denver.

Services for family and friends will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, at Drinkwine Mortuary in Littleton, followed by a 1 p.m. service at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Charles during the month of Feb 2008 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.  Our thoughts and prayers remain with Charles’s family and friends today and in the years to come.

Nicholas Gummersall

Nicholas A. Gummersall—January 2008 Shipment Honoree

Friends of Sgt. Gummersall Talk About His Life

Source: KPVI.com, August 9, 2007 
Sgt. Nicholas Gummersall
Sgt. Nicholas Gummersall

The Pocatello soldier who died in Iraq Monday when the building he entered exploded is being remembered.

Reports indicate that 23-year-old Sgt. Nick Gummersall and three other soldiers were killed outside of Baghdad. Gummersall was serving his third tour in Iraq and served another one in Afghanistan.

We received an e-mail from a fellow soldier who says Gummersall was one of the finest he served with. In his e-mail, Staff Sergeant Michael Bloom says, “He was one of the best soldiers you could serve with, and a good friend.”

Others may remember him more from his days as a stand out athlete at Century High School, where he helped the football team to two consecutive state championships. While there, he was also an all-state wrestler and spent three years with the varsity baseball team.

Family and friends say although there is no memorial service planned yet, there is one way to honor the fallen soldier.

Lewis Jensen, family friend: “Do everything to the fullest, like he did. He lived life to the fullest and had a great time doing it. Everyone that knows him can think of a great story and all the fun times they had with him.”

Gummersall’s body will return to American soil within the next 24-48 hours. We’re told he’ll be taken to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland. He’ll be there three to ten days before he comes back to Pocatello. Still no word on when a funeral will take place.

Nicholas Aaron Gummersall

Source: IdahoStateJournal.com
Nicholas Gummersall
Nicholas Gummersall

POCATELLO – Nicholas Aaron Gummersall, 23, was born in Pocatello, Idaho, on October 24, 1983, to Clay Gummersall and Carol Gummersall.

Nick was a graduate of Century High School, class of 2002, where he was active in football, where he brought home back-to-back state titles, baseball, wrestling and track. He was an amazing athlete. After high school he red-shirted for the Idaho State Bengals. His true passion was football.

Nick knew that he was meant to make a difference in many lives, so on September 30, 2003, he enlisted in the Army. He would later become an Airborne Ranger 2nd Battalion, “Ten feet tall and bullet proof,” Nick Gummersall.

Nick was the second son of six kids. He is survived by his mom and dad, Carol and Clay; best friend and older brother, Casey, 24; his sister-in-law, Haley, 23; his baby sisters, Kristine, 21, Kamie, 18, Kadee, 13; and his mini-me, Derek, 15.

Nick was so full of life with never-ending dreams and goals. He had a personality no one could ignore, or help but love. Everyone who came into contact with him was forever touched and a friend.

He will be sorely missed, always treasured and forever loved. Nick will live forever in our memories and our hearts.

Funeral services for Sgt. Gummersall, fallen soldier in Iraq, will be 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 17 at the Century High School football field, 7801 Diamondback Dr., Pocatello. The family will receive friends Thursday, Aug. 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Colonial Funeral Home, 2005 S. Fourth Ave., Pocatello. The public also is invited to visit a memorial erected in his honor at Colonial Funeral Home.

Memorial Service For Sergeant Nick Gummersall Held

Source: by Genevieve Judge, Local 8 News
August 19, 2007

In Pocatello Friday morning, a hometown hero was finally laid to rest.  Sergeant Nick Gummersall is being remembered as a friend, brother, son and hero.

Hundreds of friends and family arrived at Century High School Friday morning to pay their final respects to Sergeant Nick Gummersall.  “Proud of what he did but very sad for the family and his passing.  It’s a hard thing to go through.” Says Eldon and Gloria Peck, friends of the Gummersall family.

Nick Gummersall
Nick Gummersall

Sergeant Nick Gummersall’s body was taken around the Century High School football field one final time before friends and family say goodbye.  Eye of the Tiger played as Sergeant Gummersall’s body was brought out.

The memorial service was held at the football field where he played football as a diamondback for back-to-back state titles before graduating in 2002.  “Its a good send off to be on the field because that’s where he loved to be is to play football.” Says Cole Beebe, a friend of Sgt. Gummersall.

“Nick put his arm around our son and said this is my bud and it’s an awesome experience and he was like that with everybody he never knew or met.” Says Eldon and Gloria Peck.

Governor Otter along with the First Lady, Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase and Chubbuck Mayor Steve England in addition to many dignitaries from the military and close to a thousand family and friends celebrated the life of the Gate City hero.  Sharing personal stories, laughter and songs.

“He was an ugly baby to everyone except mom.  His bald, misshaped head was something only a mother could love.” Says Casey Gummersall, Sgt. Gummersall’s brother.

“He seemed to really like doing what he did.  Last time I talked to him, you could just tell he was proud of it.  We’re going to just miss him and he was a good friend.” Says Kevin Sutphin, friend of the Gummersall family.

Sergeant Gummersall is the second Century High School graduate and the second Pocatello solider to be killed fighting in the war in Iraq.

After the memorial service, a graveside service was held at Restlawn Memorial Park in Pocatello.