Franklin Watson

Lance Corporal Franklin “Frankie” Watson—December 2012 Shipment Honoree

Serving Operation Enduring Freedom

VONORE, Tenn. (WVLT)–A local Marine from Vonore was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Franklin “Frankie” Watson was with assigned to Company D, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, and Marine Forces Reserve, based out of Knoxville, Tennessee. LCPL Watson was sweeping for IED’s when his unit was attacked. Watson was 21 years old.

LCPL Watson
LCPL Watson

“Frankie” was a 2008 graduate and star athlete of Sequoyah High School and resident of Vonore, Tennessee. He was also a 2009 graduate of the Cleveland State Police Academy and attended college there to study Criminal Justice. He was employed at the Madisonville Police Department and he began his law enforcement career as a part time deputy with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. Frankie Watson enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 2010. As both a U.S. Marine and a law enforcement officer, Frankie Watson was committed to bringing the rules and the unruly into alignment. Peacekeeping and finding a solution — both as a Marine and a police officer — were at the core of Watson’s being.

His family said Watson was one of those rare people everybody seemed to love.

His cousins, Allie and Miriam Watson told me, “God knew what He was doing when He made him. That’s for sure. He made a soldier. He made a brave young man with a heart of gold.”

“He always smiled. He was always full of spunk. He was competitive and he seemed like he always wanted to be the best at everything,” said Watson’s uncle, Norman.

That competitive drive is why a family friend was lead to say.

I asked ‘Frankie why’d you choose the Marines?’ and he said ‘I wanted to go through the hardest one I could get in,’ Russell said.

Strong and athletic, Watson was also a Madisonville police officer and Monroe County sheriff’s deputy. His cousins told me his physical prowess made him an impressive Marine. His heart made him an impressive man.

Miriam said, “He’s one of the bravest men I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

Another cousin Randy Nash added, “He definitely had good character. You don’t find a lot of people like that anymore.”

Barely in Afghanistan for three months, Watson, a combat engineer in charge of disarming IED’s was shot in the chest during an attack on his unit.

Allie tried to hold back tears as she said, “Everybody thought he was going to come home. And he’s never going to come home anymore. And he called and he said he wanted to come home so bad, and God heard him. God took him home.”

When I asked them what they loved and remember most about Frankie each of his family and friends told me it was his smile and his ability to light up the room.

“Everybody that knows him says he’s got the best smile in the world,” said Russell.

“As soon as you got around him, it doesn’t matter how bad you were hurting, or bad you were upset or how bad your day was, he’d do something to make you laugh that’s for sure,” added Allie and Miriam.

His aunt Laurie called Frankie a hero.

“He was a man of honor. Always smiled, he was always happy,” she said.

And as they remember the hero they lost, family and friends wish they could have seen him one last time.

“I love him to death and I wish I could tell him that again.”

“I love him and I miss him and I wish I had got to tell him goodbye.”

But like so many families of those who serve, they’ll never have the chance.

The Watsons asked us to post this note. Miriam wrote it after she heard the news about her cousin.

“It takes a real man to do what you’ve done. You’ve not only inspired your friends and family, but the world. You showed them that you’re brave enough, to risk your own life, to give us freedom. You were our hero before you left, and you still will be. You mean everything in this world to us, and you’ll be missed so much. That great personality of yours, that beautiful smile; everything. You were pretty much my brother! You’re truly a great young man, who had a brave heart. You stand out, over so many people in this world, Frankie. You had a wonderful heart, and put it to great use! Some people come into our lives and leave footprints in our hearts and we are never ever the same again. You left footprints in my heart, that will always be there. You’re in a much better place that this, and with a man who is going to make everything better for you. I know you wouldn’t want to see me with tears streaming down my face, so I may cry, but I’m going to keep smiling because that’s what you would want, and I’m going to do exactly what you would hope for, no matter how sad I am, or how much I cry. Although this is my “goodbye” letter, goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you, until we meet again! So, when God is ready for me to see you again, I’ll be ready. I love you more than anything in this world, Frankie, and you will be missed!”


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LeRoy DeRonde III

PFC LeRoy DeRonde III—November 2012 Shipment Honoree

From his sister

LeRoy DeRonde
LeRoy DeRonde

Leroy was a great brother and my family and I miss him everyday. He had such a big heart and could always make us laugh.

Army Pfc. LeRoy DeRonde III was coming into his own, distancing himself from a hard-luck childhood and stepping up to take care of his family.

Leroy grew up in Jersey City, NJ. Leroy was the middle child of three, leaving behind his younger brother Harold, 18, and older sister Jennifer, 33.

When Leroy’s mother passed away from cancer in 2002, his cousin Owen and fiancé became his legal guardian. Leroy was 16 at the time. “At 20, it clicked for him. He would have to put the family on his shoulders to survive,” said Owen, adding that was when he began to seriously consider the military.

Leroy briefly attended Dickinson and Lincoln High Schools. After getting his GED and taking a few college credit courses, PFC DeRonde left home for basic training in January 2011.

In three months’ time he was one of five basic training graduates to be promoted to E-2 (private) and was awarded the 1st Battalion 48th Infantry Regiment Order of the Dragon Soldiers. DeRonde was then sent to be stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas. He was assigned to the 125th Brigade Support Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

In 2012 Army Pfc. LeRoy DeRonde III was sent to Afghanistan. In support of Operation Enduring Freedom Leroy and another fellow Soldier were attacked and killed by enemy forces in the Chak-E Warkdak District, on 27 May 2012.

“Army Pfc. LeRoy DeRonde III paid the ultimate price defending the United States of America and the principles which our country was founded,” said Healy the Governor of New Jersey. “Losing such a young life is a terrible tragedy and during this difficult time, I extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends. As we mourn with them, I hope they find comfort in knowing Army Pfc. DeRonde died a hero fighting for his country.”

Governor Healy signed an Executive Order that all flags be flown half-staff in honor of PFC DeRonde.

PFC LeRoy DeRonde III will be buried at the cemetery’s 9/11 Veterans Memorial section with full military honors.

Articles courtesy of: Jersey City Independent, CBS local, and bobcat.ws

U.S. Army soldier from Jersey City killed in Afghanistan

by Julia, Terruso and Richard Khavkine-The Star-Ledger
PFC LeRoy DeRonde II
PFC LeRoy DeRonde III

The 22-year-old Jersey City man saw the military as a way to do that, his family said, in a plan that began to form eight years ago when his mother, Elizabeth, died of cancer. Her absence shook the family’s foundation and then profoundly galvanized her eldest son.

“He realized he was going to put the family on his shoulders. The military was his calling to do that financially,” DeRonde’s cousin, Jason Owen, said last night outside the soldier’s family’s apartment on West Side Avenue. “From the time he decided that it was full steam ahead.”

But DeRonde was one of two soldiers killed on May 27 when their unit was attacked in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said today. DeRonde, assigned to the 125th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss Texas, died in the Wardak District in central Afghanistan.

DeRonde is at least the 44th service member with ties to New Jersey to be killed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001. An additional 102 service members from New Jersey have died in Iraq since 2003.

“His life didn’t take hold until he was 22,” said Owen, who noted DeRonde sent monthly checks home. “He was really taking the reins, he was ascending. The real tragedy here is from an upbringing that wasn’t so good he was working … to help his family and to better himself.”

DeRonde was born and raised in the city’s Bergen neighborhood. As a child, he kept mostly to himself.

His father, Leroy DeRonde Jr., said he loved playing PlayStation 3 with his brother, Harold, who is now 17.

“The two were inseparable,” DeRonde’s father said. He added that since his son’s deployment a year ago, they would talk using the online video chat service Skype.

 photo of Leroy DeRonde III on his Facebook page.
photo of Leroy DeRonde III on his Facebook page.

“If he wasn’t on, my hands would shake,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing.”

Through the years, and in DeRonde’s short life, the tight-knit family has known both the fear of loss and tragedy.

At 5, Harold was diagnosed with leukemia and given three weeks to live. The family went to Disney World on a Make-A-Wish vacation. It was the only real vacation they ever took together, Leroy DeRonde Jr. said. By luck, Harold survived.

But when their mother died, DeRonde made a plan that required groundwork. He got his GED and then 15 college credits, both of which were required before he could join the Army, which he did in January 2011.

DeRonde, his family said, was kind of person who, when he figured out where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do, nothing could stop him.

After basic training, DeRonde’s family saw him off at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. — as one of a handful of graduates to have been immediately promoted to a Private E2.

“He’d been so quiet, but he knew everyone, they knew his name,” his half-sister, Jennifer Owen, said. “In six months, he really came out of his shell.”

Ahmed Altaie

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie—October 2012 Shipment Honoree

U.S. service member unaccounted for in Iraq

“I am Lt Col Joel Elsbury. In my 18 years with the USAF, I have been stationed in the United States, Germany, Iraq, and Turkey. I have traveled both officially and as a tourist to over 20 countries around the world. I have been blessed to meet and work shoulder-to-shoulder with patriots who, while they were not born in the United States, have honorably served and sacrificed in the Defense of a Nation they love. Staff Sgt. Ahmed Al-Taie is one such patriot. Born in Iraq, SSG Al-Taie immigrated to the US in the late 1970s when Ahmed was just 12 years-old. Later, he was naturalized, and joined the US Army as a 35P, Army Linguist. I cannot imagine the moral courage it must have taken for SSG Taie to answer his adopted country’s call to Arms in the land of his birth.

Without hesitation, SSG Taie not only deployed in defense of HIS Country, he willingly paid the ultimate price and gave his life for our freedom! I am so grateful the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project is honoring the memory of this patriotic American, whose courage led him to escape tyranny and embrace freedom, but whose greater courage led him to return to Iraq, fight, and die to end that tyranny.

I’m humbled to be SSG Taie’s brother in the profession of Arms, and honored to remember his patriotism and courage!”

Family seeks answers about lone U.S. servicemember unaccounted for in Iraq

By Matthew M. Burke, Stars and Stripes, Published: February 16, 2012
Ahmed Altaie
Ahmed Altaie

In almost nine years of war, more than 1.5 million U.S. troops served in Iraq, with 4,408 losing their lives. The last 40,000 crossed into Kuwait by Dec. 18.

Except for U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie.

Altaie is the lone U.S. service member unaccounted for from operations in Iraq.

The Iraqi-born reservist from Michigan was abducted more than five years ago in Baghdad after breaking the rules and sneaking outside the wire to meet his Iraqi wife.

In the days after he went missing, 3,000 coalition soldiers conducted more than 50 raids to find their comrade. At least one soldier was killed; others were wounded.

As the trail turned cold, Altaie’s family and friends grew frustrated by what they say is the U.S. government’s lack of effort to find him.

“They won’t talk about it,” Altaie’s ex-wife and self-described best friend, Linda Racey, said from Michigan recently. “They feel he’s not worth looking for. They’re not doing anything.”

Ahmed’s brother, Hathal Taie Altaie, said the family hasn’t been able to get answers from the government since the abduction.

“We need to know the truth,” he said. “Some say he’s in Iran. Some say he’s dead. At least they could find out if he’s alive or not.”

Now, after almost no movement in the case in about a year, the family has latched onto a glimmer of hope.

On Drill
Ahmed on drill to the far left

On Dec. 26, Altaie’s family was watching Al Arabiya News Channel when a man they say might have information about the missing solder appeared before the cameras.

Qais al-Khazali is the leader of Asaib Ahel al-Haq, an Iranian-backed militia responsible for abductions and the deaths of U.S. troops. In 2010, the group claimed to be holding Altaie and offered to exchange him for detained members of its group. On TV, Khazali pledged to put down his weapons so his group could join the Iraqi government. He said their “duty” to fight the Americans was over.

If Khazali was sincere about joining the Iraqi government, might he be willing to return Altaie, the family wondered?

“They claim they have Ahmed,” said Hathal Altaie. “They are probably liars, but we don’t know. This guy must know something. The U.S. government needs to pressure the Iraqis.”

No clear answers

U.S. and Iraqi officials remain quiet.

Raifet Ahmad, a spokesman for the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, said he had asked Baghdad officials what was being done to find Altaie and whether the government had questioned Khazali. He didn’t receive an answer.

Asked the same questions, the White House declined to comment, as did the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and the FBI. The Army, the office of the Secretary of Defense, Pentagon officials and the CIA directed inquiries to the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, which is responsible for investigating missing servicemembers from “past” conflicts.

The Missing Personnel Office took over the case from U.S. Central Command on Dec. 1, 2011, but spokeswoman Maj. Carie Parker said her office has yet to receive all of Altaie’s case files. She “couldn’t say” when the office would be up to speed on the case.

“In fact, we are still combing archives on old cases from as far back as World War II,” Parker wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes.

“Staff Sgt. Altaie’s status is ‘missing-captured’ and his status will not change until there is information that indicates otherwise,” she said. “The U.S. government is actively pursuing any and all leads thoroughly.”

Parker said efforts would be coordinated through the embassy in Iraq and directed Stars and Stripes to an embassy public affairs officer who never responded to calls or emails.

The perceived lack of cooperation between agencies doesn’t sit well with Altaie’s family. Hathal Altaie met with representatives of all of the major agencies about a month ago and learned nothing, he said.

“No one gave us any clear answers,” he said. “All we hear is, ‘We’re working on it. We’ll let you know.’ To be honest, they’re not doing enough.”

The family even pleaded its case to the office of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

“My office continues to monitor this case and to ensure that Staff Sgt. Altaie’s family is kept informed of any developments,” Levin said in a statement released by Kathleen Long, a spokesman in his office.

Racey, who has spearheaded efforts to keep the case active, said she believes Levin’s office has “blown off” the family, as have the other agencies.

Racey and Altaie have known each other for more than 20 years and remained close after amicably divorcing in 2001, she said. Once the point person for the family, Racey said the agencies won’t talk to her anymore because she kept pushing for answers.

“I’ve been on the case for five years and three months,” she said. “I’ll never give up on this.”

Last moments

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaei second from right
Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altae in fatigues

Altaie and his parents left Iraq when he was 12, his mother, Nawal, said. An aviation enthusiast, Altaie found work in Michigan as a mechanic on airplanes, but was laid off in 2001. The couple divorced that year.

The Ann Arbor Muslim was operating on auto-pilot, a man without a plan, until a visit to Iraq in 2003 with his family. Nawal said that her son fell in love again with the country of his birth, especially Baghdad. During his trip, which lasted for several months, he met the woman who would become his wife, Israa Sultan, according to Racey.

The family left Iraq once again as the security situation worsened, Nawal said.

Family members said Altaie was committed to going back to Iraq, and the fluent Arabic speaker could have taken lucrative contractor jobs there as a translator. Instead, he joined the Army Reserve in December 2004, according to Hathal. Family members said he wanted to support the mission in Iraq — as a proud American citizen and soldier. In 2005 he returned, as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Baghdad, and acted as a translator in the embassy for VIPs.

Altaie and Sultan were married in 2006, his wife told the Detroit News in June, her only interview since the abduction. The marriage would have been against military regulations, since troops are not allowed to marry citizens of a country that the U.S. military is involved with in a conflict. However, Army spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell would later say that Altaie had not broken the rules because of the timing of his marriage.

On Oct. 22, 2006, Altaie called Racey to make sure she was taking her insulin for her diabetes, she said. It was Ramadan, and Altaie told her he had given his new wife’s family $100 to buy a leg of lamb for the feast. He told them he would return the next day at 4 p.m., Racey recalled.

Racey could hear ordnance exploding in the background. What he said next now haunts her.

“He said, ‘It’s getting real dangerous here,’” she said. “‘If I die, Linda, I want to be buried next to you,’” he told her. “That’s the last thing he said.”

The next day, Altaie stole off from Baghdad’s Green Zone in civilian clothes on a new scooter for an unauthorized visit to Sultan, Racey said, according to her early conversations with the FBI and other agencies.

There are discrepancies regarding the circumstances, but Army officials acknowledged that Altaie was married to Sultan. Altaie wasn’t a bad person, Racey said, but he was known to sometimes break the rules. When he worked at the airport, for example, he would leave work early, asking someone to punch out for him later. He had snuck out of the fortified zone to visit Sultan on several occasions without consequence. This time would be different.

When the 41-year-old linguist, then a specialist, arrived in the Karradah neighborhood of Baghdad, his phone rang. It was the man who had sold him the scooter. The caller heard cars approaching and then listened to Altaie’s cries as he was confronted by several armed masked men before he reached the front door of Sultan’s family home.

Racey said that the FBI interrogated the scooter salesman later, and he told them he heard Altaie’s wife screaming the name of a neighborhood thug. Altaie broke free from the kidnappers and took shelter in Sultan’s family home, hiding in a closet. But the kidnappers came in and took him, cuffing and stuffing him into a Mercedes before driving off.

“This last mistake cost him his life, possibly,” Racey said.

Failed deals

Racey believes the kidnapping was an inside job. “The [kidnappers] knew he would be there at 4 o’clock,” she said.

Sultan now lives in Michigan, where she was taken “for her own protection” as a “spouse of a U.S. Army soldier,” according to Mark Edwards, a spokesman for U.S. Army Human Resources Command.

Hathal Altaie said the family hadn’t spoken to her in more than a year.

Initially, the U.S. government offered a $50,000 reward for information that led to Altaie’s recovery. Caldwell said that in the days after the abduction, U.S. forces conducted dozens if raids, including some in the Shiite militant stronghold of Sadr City. They detained men who confessed to the kidnapping, but said they sold Altaie to another group.

The Ahl Albait Group issued a statement claiming responsibility for the kidnapping. Altaie’s family was confident that he would be returned unharmed, because they believed a U.S. soldier would have value in negotiations.

Four months after Altaie was abducted, a video with no sound surfaced on a militant website showing the soldier standing, reading from a piece of paper. His mother said she barely recognized her handsome son.

“He looked very different from when I saw him [last],” Nawal said, adding that he appeared to have been beaten and looked as if his teeth had been broken.

“I never saw him again,” Nawal said.

In 2009, according to media accounts, an insurgent group tried to coordinate an exchange for Altaie’s body, but the body they handed over belonged to another missing American service member.

Then in 2010, a Reuters reporter said he had spoken with the leader of the kidnappers, a man claiming to be from Asaib Ahel al-Haq. He claimed that Altaie had been killed in 2006 by another group and that they had received the body.

Around the same time, relatives saw a statement from Asaib Ahel al-Haq on a website saying they wanted to exchange Altaie for detainees.

That never happened.

Cold case

The family is tired of the roller-coaster ride.

They say the U.S. government has kept them in the dark, and they have lost faith in their efforts.

Racey now believes she knows why the case has gone cold.

Three months ago, she got an anonymous call from someone who claimed to be on the Army search team. The man told her the Army considered him absent without leave for venturing outside the Green Zone and wouldn’t spend any more money or risk any more lives trying to find him.

Altaie’s family said they are speaking out now because they want to put those rumors to bed. True, he broke the rules, Racey said, but he had left before and always returned. It shouldn’t mean that the U.S. stops looking, she said. People who think he went over to the other side are dead wrong, Racey said. Altaie loved his job in the military and wanted to make a career out of it. Racey is in constant touch with Altaie’s parents, and said Nawal believes her son is alive and prays for his safe return.

Racey doesn’t share her optimism.

“I don’t think he’s still alive,” she said. “I’m a realist.” Still, she said she has dreams in which Nawal calls her to report a miracle, that Altaie has been found alive.

Today, Altaie would be 46. He has been promoted twice while in captivity. Friends and family remember him for his passions: music, flying airplanes and dressing well. Nawal said she will never forget her son’s smile.

“I’m always thinking of him, wishing he would come back,” Nawal said. “We want to know if he’s dead or alive. Please.”

Source: Military Times –HONOR THE FALLEN


Aaron J. Ward

PFC Aaron J. Ward—September 2012 Shipment Honoree

By Jia-Rui Chong Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, June 15, 2008
Pfc. Aaron J. Ward
Pfc. Aaron J. Ward

Aaron J. Ward had a choice about serving in Iraq. Because he was the last male Ward in his family, the Army offered him the opportunity to avoid going, he told his mother. He asked her what she would tell Army officials if they asked her opinion on the matter.

“It wouldn’t be normal if I said, ‘Yeah, take him,’ ” Debbie Ward told him. “But if you feel you need to do this, I’ll stand behind you.”

“I need to do this,” he told his mother. “I need to give the guys over there a break.”

Debbie Ward understood: “Aaron just always thought of everybody else.”

The 19-year-old Army private first class from San Jacinto, southeast of Riverside, left for Iraq at the end of February.

On May 6, he was killed when his unit was attacked with small-arms fire while cordoning off an area and searching buildings in Anbar province, west of Baghdad.

Ward was assigned to the 170th Military Police Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade at Ft. Lewis, Wash.

He had joined the Army in April 2006, inspired in part by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and his family history.

His great-grandfather was an Army Ranger during World War II. His grandfather served in the Army and Navy in Vietnam. Two uncles served in the Navy, one during the Gulf War. His sister Samantha was on a Navy ship off Bahrain, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Debbie Ward, 47, was proud when her son enlisted. He hoped to become a career soldier or maybe use his training to become a police officer or firefighter.

“I really thought Aaron would excel in there,” she said. “He had no fear of anything.”

Ward quickly finished his studies to earn his diploma at Mountain View High School in San Jacinto and left for boot camp last July.

When he came back to San Jacinto on leave in December, he so loved what he was doing that he worked for two weeks at his recruiter’s office in Hemet, encouraging a new crew of young men to sign on.

It was around this time that his friendship with Kati Jakubac, 19, started to bloom.

Jakubac had met Ward in 2006 when one of her friends invited him to hang out with them at a Starbucks in Hemet.

“He seemed really intimidating at first — a Mr. Tough Guy,” she said. “I was kind of afraid of him. But once I got talking to him, he was like a real teddy bear.”

When he left for Ft. Lewis, they started swapping flirty text messages. They exchanged about 7,000 text messages that February, Jakubac said. She was worried that she was causing problems for him on base. “He had to do a lot of push-ups,” she said. “But he said, ‘I’d rather get in trouble than not be able to text.’ ”

One night in February, she sent him a text message saying that she didn’t want him to leave. His reply: “I just wanted to let you know I love you.”

Army Pfc. Aaron J. Ward, 19, San Jacinto

Military police officer is killed in combat in Iraq

About two weeks later, he left for Iraq. Twice a day, or at least several times a week, he woke his mother and Jakubac with his cheerful voice.

“I would answer the phone at 1:30 in the morning and I would hear this voice, ‘Good morning, beautiful,’ ” Debbie Ward said. The calls always seemed to come in the middle of the night, but they didn’t mind.

Ward didn’t want them to worry, so he always told them it was boring in Iraq. “He said, ‘Don’t think of me going to Iraq, just think of it as me going camping,’ ” Jakubac said.

The last time Debbie Ward talked to her son was May 3. He called to say happy Mother’s Day in advance because he was getting busy on missions and wasn’t sure if he would be able to call later. He also said that he planned to ask Jakubac to marry him when he got home.

The next day, he called Jakubac. She missed him because she was busy talking to customers at the Greek restaurant she manages.

He died two days later.

Jakubac now thinks about how she would have said yes to his proposal and how she probably would be moving to Washington state, near his base.

She visits his grave at Riverside National Cemetery regularly and spoke on her cellphone one day as she was having lunch there.

“The hardest part of him being gone is not the not seeing him, but all the what-ifs,” she said.

Sources: Military Times –HONOR THE FALLEN

Mikayla A. Bragg

Army Specialist Mikayla Bragg—August 2012 Shipment Honoree

Longview Soldier killed in Afghanistan

Mikayla Bragg
Mikayla Brag

Mikayla Bragg joined the Army after graduating from Mark Morris High School in 2008. She was deployed in August from Fort Knox, Kentucky to Khowst Province, Afghanistan. She was a truck driver with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.

Mikayla A. Bragg was killed on 21st December 2011. She was killed while on duty in a guard tower. Mikayla was scheduled to return from her first tour in early January.

About 50 or 60 people attended the half-hour service, and most of them were friends Mikayla had met in the military.

Spc. Mikayla Anne Bragg
Spc. Mikayla Anne Bragg

The most emotional part of Thursday’s service was the roll call, in which an Army officer called the names of all Soldiers in Mikayla’s unit, according to her mother.

“They called out my daughter’s name. They call out Spc. Bragg, and there was no answer. They call out Spc. Mikayla Bragg, and there was no answer. And then they would call out her full name Spc. Mikayla Anne Bragg, and there was no answer.” It was very emotional and hard when her name was called out.

Spc Bragg leaves behind her mother Sheyanne Baker, father Steve Bragg, step-mother Amber Bragg, Sister Kandyce Bragg, half-brother Allen Davids and half-siblings Joseph Bragg and Ariel, Darien and Julian DeForge.


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Riley Gallinger-Long

Navy Corpsman Riley Gallinger-Long—July 2012 Shipment Honoree

Navy Corpsman Riley Gallinger-Long
Navy Corpsman Riley Gallinger-Long

Riley Gallinger-Long died last week while conducting a patrol in Helmand province when he was shot in the lower back while tending to a wounded Marine.

Lieutenant Oliver David says “It’s always a tough loss whenever we lose one of our corpsmen. They’re part of our fighting unit. Sailors and Marines working side by side every day. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to his family and his friends.”

Riley was less than a month into his first deployment.

Riley, a 2010 graduate of Forest Grove High School in Cornelius, Oregon was a son, grandson, brother, uncle, husband and friend. Riley was a young man known as a kind, humorous, generous, humble, genuine person and a member of the Latter Day Saints.

The family paints a picture of an avid fisherman and a patriot who was born on July 4 1992.

He hoped the military would prepare him for a future as a fire chief or emergency medical technician.

Riley & Hope Gallinger-Long
Riley & Hope Gallinger-Long

Hope’s reflection on the day she got the news. “A black car pulled up and three people in uniform got out,” she said. “And I knew – just everything stopped.”

The men broke the tragic news that her husband had died earlier in the day, and Hope says she screamed, “No!” over and over again.

“It’s not supposed to happen to him. He’s supposed to come home. We’re supposed to have our life. We’re supposed to be together,” she says nine months later – not nearly long enough to heal.

Hope Gallinger-Long offered thoughts about the death of her husband, killed far from home in Afghanistan. She wants Corpsman Gallinger-Long remembered not as a statistic, but as a vital, loving human being devoted to his family and his nation.

Riley Gallinger-Long's flagged coffin
Riley Gallinger-Long’s flagged coffin – Associated Press photo

“He was the sweetest guy,” buddy Cody Brown said. Riley was praised as a hero who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Some months after his death, his brother Zack reflected on how his family is coping.”

“We are all coping with his death and while it has changed all of us, we are all closer and stronger than ever before. …It was seeing all the people in the community from all walks of life coming together with such passion over a shared loss.”

Riley is survived by his wife, Hope Gallinger-Long his identical twin, Wyatt Gallinger-Long, his mother Susan Blanchard and his father Jeff Gallinger.


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Ryan T. McCaughn

LCPL Corporal Ryan T. McCaughn—Jun 2012 Shipment Honoree

U.S. Marines
AR RAMADI, IRAQ 11/07/2006

Ryan T. McCaughn & mom
Ryan T. McCaughn & mom

Lance Corporal Ryan T. McCaughn was born in Jacksonville N.C., the home of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. He spent his early years in North Carolina and Missouri and ultimately settled in Manchester, New Hampshire. There he was raised by his mother Cote and his stepfather Raymond Bauclair Jr. Even as a child, friends said that Ryan was clear in his military ambitions. Both of his parents were former servicemen; his mother served briefly in the U.S. Army and his father, Thomas McCaughn was a Marine. His older brother Chris served in the Air Force and his brother Sean Merlin served in the Navy.

Ryan, 19, was less than two months into his deployment in Ramadi, a city in central Iraq, when a homemade bomb exploded near his vehicle.

At 17, he asked his mother to help him sign up for duty. “He said he was going to sign up anyway when he was 18,” Schmidt said, “but he would feel better if it was with her consent.”

Ryan occasionally returned to Central High School after graduating. Once, he came to talk to students about life in the Marines. Later, he came as a recruiter.

Ryan is remembered fondly for his sense of humor. Friends described Ryan as an irrepressible comedian who used to torment his school bus driver and sometimes splashed around in puddles just for laughs. He performed on stage with Maskers, his high-school drama club, and wasn’t afraid to dress up as a woman if the part demanded it.

At 17, he asked his mother to help him sign up for duty.

“He said he was going to sign up anyway when he was 18.” Ryan felt he had a serious commitment to the Marines and to his country. Ryan occasionally returned to Central High School after graduating. Once, he came to talk to students about life in the Marines. Later, he came as a recruiter.

Rebecca Spiro, his English teacher during senior year, said she hardly recognized him just one year later. One time Ryan wrote a poem in Ms. Spiro’s fittingly titled “Soldier.”


“Many soldiers have had to experience the ultimate Sacrifice,” Ryan wrote. “Even in death, a soldier will show Pride. All you can do is hope that they finally found Peace.

Ryan T. McCaughn's mother
Ryan T. McCaughn’s mother

“I just can’t believe it,” his mother, Nicole Cote, stated. “It’s not supposed to happen this way. Your kids aren’t supposed to leave you.”

Nicole Conte (right) was escorted out of St. Anne-St. Augustine Catholic church in Manchester, N.H., after the funeral of her son, Marine Lance Corporal Ryan T. McCaughn.

Marines stood guard by his flag-draped casket as mourners offered condolences to his friends and family, the Manchester Union Leader reported on its website. They wore yellow ribbons marked with the Marine’s initials and donned black T-shirts that bore Ryan’s image on the back. The shirts read, “We are proud, thankful and will miss you fiercely. You will not be forgotten.”


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Robert B. Cowdrey

Staff Sgt. Robert B. Cowdrey—May 2012 Shipment Honoree

Email sent to LHCP board member on May 9th 2012.—My name is Justin Cowdrey I am am the oldest of 3 brothers, my father was Brian Cowdrey I came across a post about my dad on facebook and wanted to thank you and the people you work with, it means a great deal to my family and I to see that people still care once again I thank you for the story. Spc Justin Cowdrey

A Fort Bragg paratrooper and Flight Medic who deployed two months ago was killed in combat in Afghanistan

From SSG Cowdrey’s wife.

Robert in Helicopter
Robert in Helicopter

It is with heavy hearts and deep sorrow that we announce the death of our soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert B. Cowdrey, 39, who died Oct. 13 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, from injuries suffered during combat operations. Robert was a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend, a mentor, and a very passionate and dedicated flight medic with the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. His death leaves a hole in our hearts that can never be filled. There are no words adequate enough to express how much Robert was loved, how much he will be missed, and how the lives he touched – and saved – will be forever changed because he was on this earth.

Robert is survived by his wife, Kimberly, and their three sons, Justin, Charles and Daniel. SSG Cowdrey oldest son Justin joined the Army as helicopter mechanic. He is currently stationed in Germany.

Staff Sgt. Robert B. Cowdrey
Staff Sgt. Robert B. Cowdrey & Kimberly

Robert was born 26 May 1972 in Atwater, Ohio. Robert graduated from La Junta High School in 1990. Then in June 2003 he decided to join the Army. Robert loved the outdoors. Bow hunting with his brother Quentin was something he looked forward to every year. He also loved driving around in his truck with his family, listening to his favorite songs (“Rise Above” by Seether was always blaring), eating his wife’s home cooked meals, taking his German Shepherd for walks and spending quality time with family and friends, especially his sons.

Robert deployed four times after joining the Army, including a tour in Iraq from July 2004 to July 2005 and three tours in Afghanistan, according to a news release. In addition to his latest deployment, Robert served in that country from January 2007 to February 2008 and from April 2009 to March 2010.

Robert with family
Robert with family

Robert’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, three Air Medals, two Army Commendation Medals for valor, three Army Commendation Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Combat Medic Badge, the Combat Action Badge and the Aviator Badge.

Sources: War On Terror News & Fay Observer

Phillip A. Meyers

Air Force Tech Sgt Phillip A. Meyers—April 2012 Shipment Honoree

Myers died Saturday near Helmand province. He was awarded the Bronze Star at a March 19, 2008, ceremony at Lakenheath. He also had won the Air Force-level 2008 Major General Eugene A. Lupia Awards military technician category for significant achievements.

Other family members drove to Dover on Sunday from Virginia. The military paid for all family travel expenses to Dover.

At precisely 11 p.m., a dark blue shuttle bus carrying family members arrived, and an eight-member carry team, all wearing white gloves, marched to the aircraft. They slowly mounted the long stairs to the cargo bay and walked to the spot where a K-loader was positioned with Myers’ transfer case.

Phillip Myers Memorial
Phillip Myers Memorial

The senior officer on the team, Maj. Gen. Del Eulberg, the Air Force’s civil engineer, was joined by Col. Dave Horton and Maj. Klavens Noel, a chaplain, at the cargo bay door. The chaplain offered a brief prayer.

The team then raised the case and positioned it at the end of the K-loader, which descended slowly to the tarmac. The team then slowly bore the case to a white panel truck and loaded it inside.

The van then was driven off with an escort to the mortuary area. The ceremony was marked by silence, except for two orders from an officer.

Campbell, the chair of the Gold Star Families, said she believes that Sunday’s recognition of the significance of Myers’ sacrifice is important.

“I really do believe, when people know that other people care and remember, it does bring them some comfort,” she said. “Their loss will always be there, but it’s always comforting to know that others are not forgetting the sacrifice.”

Begleiter, who has said he launched his FOIA effort with the National Security Archive in 2004 to restore the return ceremonies at Dover to a rightful place of honor, had this to say Sunday: “This is an important victory for the American people to be able to honor their returning servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Myers was dedicated to his airmen, father says

The Associated Press
Phillip Myers Flag Coffin
Phillip Myers Flag Coffin

When Phillip A. Myers decided to join the Air Force, his father didn’t expect him to choose bomb technician as his specialty.

“That was the biggest thing that surprised me,” said his father, Eddie. The younger Myers half-jokingly told his father that he took on the job because it paid more, but he wound up loving the work.

“If there’s anything we can find comfort in, it’s knowing that he died doing what he loved to do,” his father said. “That is without a doubt. He was just so enthused about it.”

Myers, 30, of Hopewell, Va., died April 4 near Helmand province of wounds suffered from an explosive. He was assigned to Royal Air Force Lakenheath in the United Kingdom.

Eddie Myers said his son looked out for the people serving under him.

“If he thought a job was too dangerous, he would get out and check it out himself,” he said. “That might be why we don’t have Phillip here today. But to me, that’s admirable.”

He graduated from high school in 1996 and worked at the Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell before joining the military.

Phillip also is survived by his wife, Aimee, and their two children, Dakotah, 6, and Kaiden, 3.


USAFE Enlisted Heritage

On April 4th, 2009, Sergeant Myers gave his life in defense to his nation in performance of his duties while deployed in Afghanistan. He died of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device. He is survived by his wife Aimee and his two beautiful children, daughter Dakotah and son Kaiden.

The 30-year-old father of two is only the second airman from RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall who has been killed while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

TSgt Myers was born in Hopewell, Virginia on March 10th, 1979. He attended Hopewell High School where he was enrolled in an accelerated education program and graduated in 1996, one year ahead of schedule. After graduating high school, he entered the civilian workforce as a corrections officer at Riverside Regional Jail and upon reaching his highest potential for promotion, decided to join the Air Force.

TSgt Myers enlisted on March 12th, 1999 and completed Basic Military Training on June 28, 1999. He then continued his training at Eglin Air Force Base attending Naval School for Explosive Ordnance Disposal. After graduating the 10-month program, TSgt Myers departed to his first duty assignment with the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Flight, Aviano Air Base, Italy.

During his assignment he deployed to Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was selected as 31st Mission Support Group Airman of the Quarter and was a vital team member during three Nuclear Surety Inspections receiving recognition on numerous accounts from the Inspector General as “Top Performer”. In August 2003, TSgt Myers was assigned was assigned to the 39th Civil Engineer Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Flight, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey directly supporting Operation Northern Watch. During this period, he graduated from Airman Leadership School at the top of his class, earning the prestigious John L. Levitow Award and was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant on December 1st, 2003.

TSgt Myers arrived at the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Flight, RAF Lakenheath, England in September of 2005. While assigned to the Liberty Engineers, TSgt Myers’ continued superior performance earned him the Air Force Combat Action Medal and Bronze Star while deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His leadership by example and management actions directly contributed to the squadron being recognized as the United States Air Forces in Europe 2006 and 2008 “Best Large Civil Engineer Squadron” and led the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight in winning the United States Air Force “Best Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight”, 2007 SMSgt Gerald J. Stryzak award. Additionally, TSgt Myers’ phenomenal impacts earned him the 48th Fighter Wing Lance P. Sijan award and United States Air Force Military Technician of the Year, 2008.

Jason R. Workman

Petty Officer First Class Jason Workman—March 2012 Shipment Honoree

With the death of Navy Seal Jason Workman, San Juan County, and the nation as a whole, has lost one of its best warriors.

Navy Seal - Petty Officer First Class Jason Workman
Navy Seal – Petty Officer First Class Jason Workman

Workman, an elite Navy Seal, was killed in action in Maidan Wardak province, Afghanistan on August 5, 2011. Blanding native and Navy Seal Jason Workman was killed in action on August 5. Courtesy photo

Petty Officer First Class Jason Workman will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA with full military honors. Funeral services had not been announced as of the press deadline.

A memorial service is still in the planning phases in Blanding.

Members of the Workman family from San Juan County, including his parents and brother, traveled to the East Coast to greet the body and participate in funeral services.

Homes throughout San Juan County flew flags in recognition of Workman’s service and sacrifice.

The Blanding native, age 31, had served in the United States Navy for the past eight years. As a member of the elite Seal Team Six, Workman was one of the best trained and most accomplished members of the U.S. Armed Services.

He was killed in a Chinook helicopter when it was brought down by enemy fire. In total, 38 men were killed in the accident, including, reportedly, Workman’s entire troop.

The helicopter was ferrying the group of Navy Seals to a firefight involving Taliban troops and U.S. Army Rangers. The helicopter was arriving in the area when it was hit. It has been reported that all those who were in the helicopter were killed instantly.

While there are roughly 2,500 Navy Seals, there are believed to be just four squadrons of the Seal Team Six. Workman is believed to have been a member of the Gold squadron, known as a “Premier” squadron. The Red squadron, an “Assault” squadron, is believed to be the group that was involved in the death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in May, 2011.

For many years, the existence of the secretive Seal Team Six was not even officially acknowledged by the United State government. The majority of the group’s activities are highly classified.

While the group was disbanded in 1987 and renamed the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), commonly known as DEVGRU, it is still generally called Seal Team Six. It is one of three special mission units of the United States military. Seal stands for Sea, Air and Land.

Workman is a 1997 graduate of San Juan High School, where he excelled in sports and academics. An accomplished athlete, Workman was a leader for the Broncos on the football field, basketball court and baseball field. He earned a host of All-State awards.

Workman served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil and Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelors degree in criminal justice from Southern Utah University.

After graduating from SUU, Workman joined the United States Navy with the intention of becoming a Navy Seal. He served in the Navy as a Seal for the past eight years, including several years as a member of the elite Seal Team Six.

Workman is the son of Betty and Rodney Workman of Blanding. He is survived by his wife, Stacey; 21-month-old son, Jax; parents; and three brothers, Corey (Eva) Workman of Blanding, Stephen Workman of New York, NY, and Timothy (Joan) Workman of New Jersey.

Navy Seal Jason Workman
Navy Seal Jason Workman

Workman is the fourth serviceman, and second member of the special forces from San Juan County, to be killed in action in the Middle East.

Lance Cpl. Quinn A. Keith, of Blanding, was killed on September 6, 2004. The Marine was killed in a car bomb attack near Fallujah, Iraq.

Sgt 1st Class Nathan Winder, of Blanding, was killed in Iraq on June 26, 2007. He served as a Special Forces Medic in the U.S. Army.

SFC James E. Thode, a platoon sergeant from the Blanding armory, was killed in action in Afghanistan on December 2, 2010.

In total, 27 local members of the military have been killed in action, including five in the Vietnam War, 14 in World War II, and four in World War I.

Source: San Juan Record – San Juan County mourns death of Jason Workman Navy Seal from Blanding

Jason Workman Memorial

The funeral service for Jason Workman was held in the stake center today. There was a large crowd. Gov. Herbert as well as Elder Webb, a 70 representing the church and several dozen Navy Seals attended the funeral. Bishop Joe Lyman conducted and did a good job. All his brothers, as well as his mother gave moving tributes and memories about his life. One of his close friends in the Seals also gave insights as to the level of danger in his assignments, and how well he had performed in each mission.

It was a fitting tribute to Jason and many of his friends came to pay tribute. After the funeral they asked us to remain in our seats and they took the casket followed by his family outside. They did a 21 gun salute, plus they played taps. Jason will be buried in the Arlington cemetery this coming Friday. He was only 33 years old.

Alejandro J. Yazee

Lance Cpl Alejandro J. Yazzee—February 2012 Shipment Honoree

Navajo lance corporal killed in Afghanistan

The Associated Press
 A Marine prepares to search an Afghan man Lance Cpl. Alejandro Yazzie (right) stands guard. Yazzie was killed six hours after this photo was taken

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A Marine from the small Navajo community of Rock Point has died in Afghanistan, community members and the Department of Defense say.

The remains of Lance Cpl. Alejandro Yazzie, 23, arrived Thursday at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Yazzie, assigned to the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, died Tuesday while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, according to a Defense Department release.

Tribal officials say Yazzie was a 2004 graduate of Rock Point High School and is survived by his parents, three brothers, a sister and his grandmother.

No additional details on his history of service were immediately available.

According to tribal statistics, 11 Navajos serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan have been killed.

A Burst Of Gunfire, And A Marine Lost In Marjah

by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR Story, February 19, 2010

Forcing hundreds of Taliban fighters out of a key stronghold in southern Afghanistan is proving far more difficult than expected for thousands of U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers. The militants are using roadside bombs and snipers to slow the joint force to a crawl during the week-old offensive in the Taliban-controlled area called Marjah, in Helmand province.

That’s what happened Tuesday to a Marine and Afghan patrol tasked with moving the front line deeper into the militant stronghold. NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who was with the patrol, reports their efforts came at a painful price.

U.S. Marines from India Company of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment are itching to move out.

They drape extra ammunition belts over their shoulders. They check their weapons. They wait impatiently for Afghan soldiers to join them on the patrol, who are hours late.

The joint patrol finally heads out at about 2 p.m. Marines with portable minesweepers walk ahead, clearing a path for the armored vehicles rumbling behind. American and Afghan troops fan out over wheat and opium poppy fields.

Their objective on this sunny afternoon seems modest: push south about a mile from their base in northwestern Marjah.

1st Lt. Justin Gray leads India Company’s 2nd Platoon.

“We’re going to speak with the locals, find out what we can do for them, and basically give them the advice of, ‘Hey, you don’t want to get caught in the crossfire.’ Because there is going to be fighting. The Taliban wants to fight us and we want them out of Marjah, so it’s best for locals to just get out of town,” Gray says.

The locals have already obliged. As the Marines and their Afghan army counterparts advance, compound after compound that they search is empty.

In fact, the whole village seems abandoned. There is no sign of the turbaned farmers who toil in the fields, or women in brightly colored tunics who wash clothes and dishes in the fast-flowing canal. There are no children playing on the dirt streets.

Yet the patrol is not alone. Like villains in a video game, Taliban militants in black tunics pop up on rooftops, from behind mud walls or in trenches.

They fire at the patrol with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. The Marines return fire. Capt. Jordan Condo barks orders for his men to direct their attention to a building and suppress the gunfire coming their way, but the militants then disappear.

Condo, who is with the Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, gets bad news over the radio from a support aircraft overhead. The surveillance has spotted a person with a rocket-propelled grenade moving north.

Gray suggests a quick fix: “OK, let’s blow them up before they can establish that ambush site. Hey, easy day.”

Condo receives approval for Harrier jets to carry out Hellfire missile attacks.

The attacks destroy the ambush site. Condo says the militants are badly wounded or dead.

“[That’s] good for us, because we would have eventually met that ambush site,” he says.

Still, the encounters with the Taliban take their toll.

Just before sunset, the patrol leaders call it a night; it’s too dangerous to push on.

The Marines and Afghans have barely covered a half-mile in nearly four hours. They approach a field near an empty mosque, searching for a place to set up camp.

Three militants hiding nearby train their weapons on the approaching group.

As gunfire erupts, the Marines and Afghans take cover, crouching behind mounds of dirt. They return fire.

Among them is Lance Cpl. Alejandro Yazzie, a combat engineer from Rock Point, Ariz.

Automatic weapons fire rattles and the Marines shout as the firefight unfolds, when Yazzie is hit.

“Corpsman up! Corpsman up!” Marines yell, calling for a medic.

Condo shouts, “Hey, we got a KIA, KIA.”

Yazzie is the KIA, or killed in action. A bullet struck him in the head, killing him almost instantly.

The 23-year-old is the first Marine in this battalion to die in the offensive. Yazzie had planned to call his wife on my satellite phone that night.

The Marines go after the Taliban gunmen. Condo again calls for air support. This time, two Cobra helicopter gunships respond with rounds and rounds of fire.

But the gunships hit the wrong trench. They leave to refuel as darkness falls.

Lance Cpl Alejandro J. Yazzee's coffin
Lance Cpl Alejandro J. Yazzee’s coffin – Associated Press photo

Yazzie’s body is gently placed in the back of an armored vehicle. He is driven back to company headquarters to begin the trip home, a half a world away.

Yazzie’s coffin arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Thursday. The AP reports that funeral arrangements are pending in his Navajo community in Arizona.

A team of Marines carries the transfer case containing the remains of Yazzie upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Thursday.

Amy R. Sinkler

PFC Amy R. Sinkler—January 2012 Shipment Honoree

Joined Army to leave small NC hometown

The Associated Press
Amy R. Sinkler Casket - Associated Press photo
Amy R. Sinkler Casket – Associated Press photo

Amy Sinkler’s reason for joining the military was simple: She wanted to get out of the little town where she grew up and spent her life, and see the world.

“Basically, we were in our hometown forever,” her best friend, Brittany Rahman, told The Fayetteville Observer. “We grew up there, didn’t travel much, so we wanted to get away and see different stuff.”

Sinkler graduated from West Columbus High School in Chadbourn, N.C., in 2006. Rahman graduated a year earlier. Both wound up joining the military.

Sinkler, 23, was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack Jan. 20 in Baghlan province, Afghanistan. She was assigned to Fort Richardson, Alaska. She was a vehicle driver with a group at the post known as the “Rough Riders.”

Rahman said her friend had settled in well at the post, buying herself a car and marrying her high school boyfriend, Doug Sinkler.

The soldier was a strong-minded person and wasn’t one to hold back what she was feeling, Rahman said.

“That’s not Amy,” she said. “She’s going to tell you exactly how she’s feeling.”

Chadbourn native killed in Afghanistan attack

Pfc. Amy Renee Sinkler, 23, of Chadbourn died in Afghanistan when her convoy was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in an attack Wednesday evening. The West Columbus High School student graduated in 2006 and was a member of the 109th Transportation Brigade, the “Rough Riders,” assigned to Ft. Richardson in Alaska.

Sinkler was in the exposed turret of an armored MRAP in a convoy enroute to Forward Operating Base Killaghey in Baghlan Province when her vehicle was hit with the grenade at about 11:40 p.m. Afghanistan time, and she died about four hours later. Three others in the vehicle were not hurt.

She had joined the Army in August, 2009, joined the Rough Riders in January, 2010, and had served in Afghanistan since July for a 12-month tour. She was married to Doug Sinkler, her high school boyfriend.

Source: Whiteville article

Who Was Amy Sinkler?

Leo Dougherty
Amy Sinkler Work
Amy Sinkler Work

I don’t know Amy Sinkler.  I doubt you know her either.  She was just one of the more than 308 million people who make up the population of the United States.  Until recently her name meant nothing to me.  If I had passed her on the street I wouldn’t even know who she was.

I know her name now but I don’t know a whole lot more about her and there is this nagging feeling inside that I really should know more about her.  And there is this feeling of anger way deep down that keeps reminding me the majority of the more than 308 million people who make up the population of the United States should also know a lot about Amy Sinkler, and a lot more young people just like her.

Amy Sinkler was one of those young people who do a job not very many people want to do any more.  The little information I could find on her is that she was born August 11, 1987 in Whiteville, NC.  I was also able to find out that she graduated from West Columbus High School in 2006.

She was also a soldier in the US Army, 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

On January 20, 2011 in Baghlan, Afghanistan, Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler lost her life when insurgents attacked her unit with a rocket propelled grenade.  She was just 23 years old.  One other thing I now know about her is that her residence is now forevermore the Butler Branch Cemetery in Fair Bluff, North Carolina.

If you do a Google search on her name, this will be about all you will be able to find on her, at least as of this writing.  I want to caution you, though.  You will see her picture and you may find it captivating.  Her eyes seem to be looking at you and through you, as though she sees into your soul.  Once you realize it is just a picture and study the eyes you may see, as I did, that those eyes seem to portray a confident, perhaps contented young woman who is not only aware of the decision she has made to serve her country but is at peace with whatever may happen and however her decision may turn out.  It’s as though she knows.

Her half-smile also seems to portray a confident woman.  It is not the usual stone-faced photo typical of a young soldier, sailor, airman, marine or Coast Guardsman.  There just seems to be this peace and confidence in her face – as though she knows what her destiny is and she is prepared to face it.  And there is pride.

Her death is of course, like those of so many other young people who served our country, a tragedy.  Who knows what she and others like her could have done for our world, our country, or whatever community they might have chosen to settle in to?

The real tragedy of course, beyond the loss her family feels, is not so much that you and I do not know very much about her but that so many outside our world – the world of those who have served – not only will never know anything about her, they won’t care.

I wish I knew more about Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler, and a whole lot of other young people just like her.  They are after all comrades in arms.  More importantly though, I wish the majority of those more than 308 million people knew more about her as they go about their day to day lives, oblivious to what Amy Sinkler’s family has to endure, oblivious to her sacrifice and her family’s sacrifice on behalf of this grateful nation.

Remains of Army Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler
Remains of Army Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler – Associated Press photo

Coffin photo caption – Chaplain Lt. Col. Stephen A. Tillett, left, directs a prayer over the transfer case containing the remains of Army Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler of Chadbourn, N.C., upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del. on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011. The Department of Defense announced the death of Army Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Source: The Veterans Voice

Community honors fallen 3rd MEB Soldier

by SSgt. Jason Epperson, 3rd MEB PAO

2/4/2011 – JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Service members gathered at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Soldiers’ Chapel, Jan. 28, to honor Army Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler, who was killed Jan. 20 during a convoy patrol in Baghlan Province, Afghanistan.

Sinkler, 23, of Chadbourn, N.C., was a motor transport operator assigned to the 109th Transportation Company “Rough Riders,” 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at JBER.

“She took her job seriously, despite how miserable the conditions were,” said Army Lt. Col. Charles Russell, commanding officer, 17th CSSB (Provisional).

“Nothing seemed to ever dampen her spirits. Although she was not a fan of the climate in Alaska, she always maintained a positive attitude and had a positive effect on those around her.”

Sinkler attended Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

She was assigned to the 109th Transportation Company in January 2010.

In the short amount of time she was with the unit, she had made an impact, according to those who served with her.

“Pfc. Sinkler was that Soldier you would love to have in your squad, because she never complained about the job or the long hours that came with it,” said Army Sgt. Allen Patterson, Sinkler’s squad leader. “She was always joking and in a good mood that impacted all those around her.”

“Courageous. Selfless. Spirited. Resilient. Cheerful. These are the few words that can be used to describe Pfc. Amy Renee Sinkler,” Patterson said.

Army Chaplain (Maj.) Robert Williams called the chapel for a moment of silence to remember their fallen comrade.

“This great warrior died on foreign soil while fighting for her country, ” Williams said. “Our nation owes her our upmost gratitude and earnest thanks. To her loving husband, parents and family: know that your precious one loved her family and country deeply. Pfc. Sinkler joins the thousands who have given, so that you and I might enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy today.”

During the ceremony, Pvt. Christopher Everett played guitar and sang his original song, “My Prayer,” dedicated to Sinkler’s memory.

Sgt. 1st Class James Pollard conducted a last roll call in which Sinkler’s name was called, but not answered.

After the roll call, a rifle squad from the 95th Chemical Company fired a 21-gun salute.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Leatherbee, a bugler with the 9th Army band, played “Taps” followed by Army Staff Sgt. James Kuppersmith of the 4th Quartermaster Detachment playing “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes.

“Her untimely passing leaves us with an emptiness that will never go away,” Russell said, “She will live in all of us forever.”

Amy Sinkler Funeral
Amy Sinkler Funeral

Caption to picture for this article:  Army Sgt. James Patterson, 109th Transportation Company, 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, shares memories of Pfc. Amy Sinkler during a Jan. 28 memorial ceremony at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Soldiers’ Chapel. (U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson)