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Began Oct. 7, 2001. In all, more than 1,750 troops have been killed, 97 of them with ties to Washington. (Updated September 2, 2011)
(Information compiled from military and media.) 1,727th to die: August 6, 2011 – Army Spc. Alexander Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, was killed with 29 other American service members and seven Afghan soldiers when Taliban fighters fired a rocket at their CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Wardak province, Afghanistan. The attack brought the single largest loss of life for American service members in any one incident in the Afghanistan War. Among the dead were 22 members of the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6, who had been dispatched to help Army Rangers in a firefight. Bennett, a member of the helicopter crew, was assigned to the Army Reserve's 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment out of New Century Air Center southwest of Kansas City, Mo. His mother Kim Robertson said she couldn't imagine her son pursuing any other life than the one he made as a soldier, a job he dreamed of growing up in Tacoma. "It was almost like he was born to take that path," she said Bennett attended Foss and Curtis high schools before joining the Army. He was remembered by his family and friends as a jokester with a mischevious grin. "Alex was the gutsiest soldier I have ever met," said Sgt. Matthew Martinez of Poulsbo, who served with Bennett in Iraq. He "was always on the verge of getting in trouble. With all the things you go through when you're on a deployment, he kept me going when he didn't even know I was watching him. I'll spend the rest of my career as a Chinook backseater trying to live up to him." 1,667th to die: July 15, 2011 – Army Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith, 28, of Colville, Stevens County, died of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenades in Helmad province, Afghanistan. A decorated combat medic, he was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Born in Redmond, Goldsmith moved with his family to Colville as a sixth grader. He graduated from Colville High School in 2001, later working as a parking lot attendant, ski lift operator, and as a ski patroller. He joined the Army in 2004 as a Special Forces recruit. During one of several tours overseas, Goldsmith suffered a gunshot wound to his foot during a late-night firefight. The Army says he tended to six injured Afghan troops before being forced to seek medical help for his own injury. Nothing was more important to Goldsmith "than fighting alongside his buddies and saving people's lives," Staff Sgt. Robert Cogan said. "He died doing both." 1,597th to die: May 29, 2011 – Army Capt. Joseph W. Schultz, 36, of Port Angeles, was killed in Wardak province, Afghanistan, while on a mounted patrol when the vehicle he and his Special Forces team were traveling in struck a bomb. Schultz, who was married and had also served in Iraq, was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C. His mother, Betsy Reed Schultz of Port Angeles, says her son grew up in Sacramento and graduated from the University of Oregon with bachelor's degrees in political science and economics. Bonnie Kuchler, a family friend, said "Just everything about the way he talked, he held himself - it was just obvious" he was a natural leader. He was honored in a memorial event by the California legislature, where Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez recalled that Schultz joined the service after 9/11, giving up a promising political career that included working for Gov. Gray Davis and President Bill Clinton. 1,588th to die: May 26, 2011 – Army Spc. Adam J. Patton, 21, of Port Orchard, and five other soldiers died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with a bomb in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. They were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. The troops weree investigating a trailer in a field and as they touched down in their helicopter the bomb exploded, the Army said. His family said Patton was excited to join the Army three years after graduating from Kitsap High School's ROTC program. "He was really into sports, He enjoyed soccer. He was in the ROTC program at the high school the whole time he was there," his stepfather Craig Kottre said. Patton's first deployment was in 2009 and his mother recalls that he was concerned about his return to Afghanistan in late 2010. He told her "where he wanted to be buried and who he wanted his truck to go to," Sandi Kottre said. "When you see a man or woman in uniform," she added in an interview, noting her son died just before Memorial Day 2011, "tell them thank you." 1,553rd to die: April 24, 2011 – Marine Lance Cpl. Joe M. Jackson, 22, of White Swan, Yakima County, died while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was following another Marine who was carrying a mine detector on a steep slope when his foot slipped outside the detected area and a bomb exploded, killing only him. Jackson, assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton, Calif., was a Gila River tribal member raised in the Yakama reservation community of White Swan, where he graduated from high school in 2009. Jackson's foster father, Shawn Marceau, remembered Joe dressing up like a Marine at age 13. Marceau, whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the Marines, recalled that Joe "was pretty rough, really rough around the edges…If the military [hadn't been] the carrot out there for him, I don't think he would have graduated. He's always been very much driven to join the Marines -- that was his ultimate goal." 1,501st to die: March 12, 2011 – Army Sgt. 1st Class Dae Han Park, 36, of Lacey, a Green Beret stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, died when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive in Daykundi province, Afghanistan. Park was assigned to Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group. The Army said he was riding on a combat reconnaissance patrol vehicle when the bomb exploded, wounding two other soldiers. A graduate of Watertown (Conn.) High School, where he was on the tennis team, Park was known as Michael Schneider growing up. After high School he went on to the University of Connecticut where he decided to change his name to represent his Korean heritage. He enlisted in the Army in 1998 as an infantryman, qualified as a Ranger in 2000, and deployed first to Iraq in 2003 as a rifle squad leader. He was married, and had two daughters. 1,492nd to die: March 3, 2011 – Army Sgt. Jason M. Weaver, 22, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord MP, died in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 170th Military Police Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade. Weaver was born in Orange, Calif., and grew up in Anaheim and Fullerton. He was a football player, a linebacker, and graduated from El Dorado High School in Placentia in 2007. Family members said they tried to talk him out of joining the Army because of the potential danger, but he was set on serving his country. "He loved the Army. He was very brave," said his aunt, Gloria Wood. Said his buddy, Spc. Brian Gabel: "Jason took the responsibility of being the 'point man' for our foot-patrols. He knew it was a dangerous job, but that's the kind of guy he was." 1,490th to die: Feb. 28, 2011 – Army Pfc. David R. Fahey, Jr., 23, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord MP, died in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the enemy, using an improvised explosive device, attacked his position. Fahey was assigned to the 170th Military Police Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade. Fahey was from Norwalk, Conn. His uncle and aunt, Tom and Fran Fahey, adopted him and his siblings, Phyllis and Nicholas, when he was a child. A graduate of Yorktown High, Fahey enlisted in the Army in 2007, trained to be a military police officer, and deployed to Afghanistan in June, 2010. In a statement, his uncle recalled that David loved football and soccer, and was an avid snowboarder who also favored fast cars and the Yankees. "David was a funny, honest and trusted friend to many," said the uncle. "His smile would light up a room. He had a quick wit and was always ready with a joke or funny story. He is a hero to his country and his family." 1,454th to die: Jan. 7, 2011 – Army Pfc. Robert J. Near, 21, of Granger, Yakima County, died in Kandahar, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations. The cause of his death remained a mystery to his family. Military officials would say only that it was "under investigation." Near was born in Woodland, Calif., and moved with his father to Granger, where he graduated from high school in 2007. The following year, he moved to Idaho and studied computer programming and repair at the Centennial Job Corps. He joined the Army in March 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan last year. At his burial near Yakima, his cousin, Amber Mackie, recalled jumping on trampolines, swimming and walking fence lines with Near. "He was always kind of showing off a little bit…always happy," she said. His father said he grew up with a healthy curiosity, a penchant for chess, and a positive attitude. "He had fun all the way to the very end," Dale Near said. 1,433rd to die: Dec. 12, 2010 - Army Cpl. Sean M. Collins, 25, of Yelm, died in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Five other soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky, were killed in the suicide bomb attack that also leveled a building. A 2004 Yelm High School graduate, Collins "always wanted to be in the Army," said brother Travis Collins. "I think it was the fiber of his being." A former classmate also serving in Afghanistan, Sgt. Gerad Nelson, said "I remember being there in the cafeteria and talking to him about all of us joining. This was shortly after 9/11 and we all agreed to do our part." Paddy Collins, Sean's father and a retired Army lieutenant, said "I had the distinct honor to enlist him." Collins' Afghanistan tour started in June and was his third deployment. He served two tours in Iraq. "When he re-enlisted, he did so in Iraq in the middle of a combat tour," Paddy Collins said. "Courage is not the absence of fear," he added. "It's facing your fears to do what you have to do. Sean had courage." 1,423rd to die: Dec. 7, 2020 – Marine Sgt. Jason D. Peto, 31, of Vancouver, died from wounds received Nov. 24 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. A graduate of Mountain View High School, Peto attended Clark College, then joined the Marines in 2004. "It was his courage and loyalty that led him to volunteer to join his fellow Marines in Afghanistan," said Father Joseph Mitchell at Peto's memorial. Cousin Brian Moore remembered Peto as "Easygoing, kind, polite, considerate, that was Jason." Friends said that serving the country runs in the family – Peto's father and brother were also Marines. "He loved his country. He really felt it was a noble and just cause. He was just committed and dedicated," said family friend Blaine Lanz. He leaves behind his widow and high school sweetheart, Tiffany Peto.
1,204th, 1,205th, 1,206th and 1,207th to die: July 24, 2010 – Army Staff Sgt. Conrad A. Mora, 24, of San Diego, Sgt. Daniel Lim, 23, of Cypress, Calif., Spec. Joseph A. Bauer, 27, of Cincinnati, and Spec. Andrew L. Hand, 25, of Enterprise, Ala., all Fort Lewis soldiers, died at Qalat, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked their military vehicle with a bomb. They were assigned to the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Mora, married, with a young son, enlisted in 2004 and military life "was his passion," said his brother-in-law, Christian Lleva. Raised in the Philippines, Mora attended San Diego's Morse High School and played football there. Lleva, a Marine, said the family was disappointed Mora had to deploy to Afghanistan for the second time after having served a year in combat. But "We [service members] don't really have anything to say about it," said Lleva. "If they want us to go somewhere, we don't have a choice." Lim enlisted in 2006, a year after graduating from Pacifica High School in Garden Grove. He was also remembered by family and friends as someone who always thought of other people before himself. He shared a special bond with his younger sister, caring for her after school, that he was lovingly dubbed "Mom." In Afghanistan, he stood in line for hours each week to call his parents, wanting to reassure them that he was OK. "What we should remember of Daniel is that he is a man who gave all, gave all for his family, his sister, his community and our country," said Nicholas Oh, Lim's godfather. Bauer, who signed up in 2007, had recently enlisted for another six-year tour, and planned to make the Army his career. He grew up in Cincinnati, attended Clermont Northeastern High School and took classes at the University of Cincinnati. He was a big sports fan and a proud soldier, said his widow Misty Bauer in a statement. "Always loyal, caring, honest and willing to defend others, he was drawn to a life and career that shared his values, the United States Army," she said. "Joseph was extraordinary and I am absolutely blessed to be his wife. Joseph is a hero in my eyes and I will always love him." Hand, a soldier since 2004, was married and had two sons. A 2004 graduate of Enterprise High School, where he was a member of the football and track teams, he joined the National Guard in 2005, serving in Iraq and Kuwait. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 as an active duty soldier. His widow Amanda Hand said in a statement that Andrew enjoyed hunting, and fishing with his father, Kenneth, who was Andrew's football coach at Enterprise High. "Andrew absolutely loved being a father," she said, "and adored our children. They were the light of his life, and he was theirs. He was and always will be their ultimate hero." 1,197th to die: July 18, 2010 – Army 1st Lt. Robert Bennedsen, 25, of Vashon Island, died in Qalat, Afghanistan from a roadside bomb he stepped on while trying to help other injured troops. He was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany. He was a 2004 graduate of Vashon High, where he was on the wrestling and football teams and won the school's top scholar-athlete award. He also served as a teenage volunteer firefighter on the island. He received his bachelor's degree in business from Seattle University. His family remembers Bennedsen as a scholar and athlete who loved scuba diving and restoring old cars. On his Facebook page, his plans included, he wrote, finishing up "my 67 Camaro rs/ss. I have the engine at the race shop now, its nothing too fancy, just a 350ci small block. I hope to be pushing no less than 450 horsepower, mmmmm my baby car." A ROTC graduate, he had been in Afghanistan just one month before he was killed. Joining the military "was his lifelong dream," said sister Jamie Bennedsen, adding: "He was the most caring, respectful person I have ever met in my life." 1,159th to die: July 3, 2010 – Army Pfc. Jacob A. Dennis, 22, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Powder Springs, Ga., died at Landstuhl Medical Center, Landstuhl Germany of injuries sustained in a weapons system accident at Forward Operating Base Lane, in Zabul Province, Afghanistan; The incident is under investigation. Dennis was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He graduated from North Cobb Christian School in Kennesaw, Ga., where he played soccer and ran track. He also was involved in theater and the school band and was a member of the youth ministry at Roswell Street Baptist Church. He attended culinary school at Chattahoochee Tech before enlisting in the military in 2006. He met his wife, Allysha, while stationed at Fort Lewis. Said his aunt Beth Wright, "You couldn't meet him and not love him. I never in my life can remember a time where Jacob had a bad attitude about anything." 1,133rd to die: June 22, 2010 – Marine Cpl. Joshua R. Dumaw, 23, of Spokane Valley, died while supporting combat operations in Nimruz province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. According to his family, Dumaw was with his platoon securing an area in southwestern Afghanistan when he stepped on a hidden bomb. Dumaw was a graduate of West Valley High. His wife was pregnant with the couple's first child, and he'd planned to return home in a few months for the birth. The couple had decided to name the boy Bode Alexzandyr Dumaw, so that his initials would be BAD. "He was very proud of what he was doing, serving his country," said Stacie McGarvey, a family friend. Another friend, Ashley Byrd, said Dumaw was known for helping out others. "He was the nicest guy I ever met. He would always have a smile on his face," Byrd said. "He's going to be loved and missed by everybody." 1,083rd to die: May 22, 2010 - Army Spc. Jason D. Fingar, 24, a Stryker soldier from Columbia, Missouri died in Durai, Afghanistan of wounds suffered when his military vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (he was posthumously promoted to his present rank). He was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, at Fort Lewis. He was deployed to Afghanistan in July 2009 and due to return home June 30. "I will always remember Jason Fingar as a young man of remarkable integrity and endless courage," said fellow soldier Aaron Estabrook. "Even in his brief life he made the world a better place, and those that encountered his smile will never forget him." Friends recalled Finger as a serious musician who played guitar and piano, and wanted to learn to play other instruments. Another soldier buddy, Corey Phan said Fingar and the other members of the platoon talked constantly about their love of music. "He and his dad both played guitar over at the Salvation Army," recalled neighbor Danette Knedler. "His dad had a guitar waiting for him for when he came home" for his last visit. 1,082nd to die: May 19, 2010 – Army Staff Sgt. Shane S. Barnard, 38, a Fort Lewis soldier from Desmet, S.D., died in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when he stepped on a secondary improvised explosive device. He was assigned to explosives disposal duties with the 3rd Ordnance Battalion, and was working to defuse another device when the second bomb exploded. Barnard, who served in the 1990s and re-enlisted in 2005, and was on his second deployment in Iraq. His mother Lois Jones said her son attended grade school in Havre, Montana and high school in Great Falls before graduating at a school in Italy. Barnard, originally trained as a combat medic, was married and had three children. 1,060th to die: May 6, 2010 – Army Spc. Wade A. Slack, 21, a Fort Lewis soldier from Waterville, Maine, died at Jaghatu, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using rockets or mortars. He was assigned to explosives disposal duties with the 3rd Ordnance Battalion. Slack enlisted out of high school in 2007 and was on his first deployment to Iraq. He couldn't be with his family for his 20th birthday, recalls sister Meghan Slack, so he asked his family to hold a party without him back home. "That was Wade," she said. "He made people feel special and loved." A friend, Sgt. James Cribbett, recalled Slack's good sense of humor. At Slack's funeral, attended by Maine's governor, Cribbett recalled how Slack and his unit slogged through a heavy rain, slipping and sliding as they climbed a mountain in Afghanistan. "This," said Wade, turning to his sergeant, "wasn't in the brochure." 1,055th to die: May 2, 2010 – Army Master Sgt. Mark W. Coleman, 40, of Yelm, Thurston County, died when an improvised device exploded during a patrol in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. He grew up in the farmlands of south central Washington and in 1998 graduated from Goldendale High. He loved his friends and his cars, said his mother, Alice Eshelman, but "he wasn't the best student - unless he was studying something that really interested him." Coleman was married and had two children, and was devoted to military service. The family was told he died trying to protect his troops during a firefight. "He was always more concerned about his troops than himself," said Eshelman."They were young and green, and he always talked about wanting to be sure to get them home safely." 1,043rd to die: April 11, 2010 – Army Spc. Joseph T. Caron, 21, of Tacoma, died from an enemy explosive while on foot patrol in Kandahar province. A student at Washington High in Parkland, where he was on the wrestling and football teams, Caron joined the service after graduation in 2007 and became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. His family last saw him home on leave around Christmastime. "He was scared," said his stepmother Karen Caron, "but he knew he had a job to do and a mission to do." Said his father Jeffrey Caron, an Army veteran, "He believed wholeheartedly in what he was doing, and his concerns were for his fellow soldiers and the difficulty of the mission that they're performing." Added his uncle, Patrick Caron: "He was a good soldier. He knew the risks. He had accepted those risks. He just wanted to fight his way through it." 1,031st to die: March 29, 2010 - Army Pfc. James L. Miller, 21, of Yakima, died in Dashat, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis. He enlisted 2008 and was on his first deployment. Married, with a child, Miller was expected home for the 4th of July. "He was excited. [It was] almost time to come home," said his mother Kim Miller. "He had just Skyped his wife and saw his little girl and was talking about her talking to him, saying, 'Daddy! Daddy!'" Miller graduated from Chugiak High School in Anchorage, then moved to Washington and studied mechanics at Yakima Valley Community College. He joined the Army in 2009 to provide for his family, his mother said. "He was serving his country. He had three more months, and he would've been home. But that didn't happen," Kim Miller said. 1,023rd to die: March 16, 2010 – Army Sgt. Joel D. Clarkson, 23, a Fort Lewis Ranger from Fairbanks, Alaska, died at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, of wounds sustained March 13 during combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He'd been seriously wounded in a fierce engagement with a heavily armed enemy force whose base of operations were destroyed along with weapons and ammunition. Clarkson, on his fifth deployment, "was the epitome of the Ranger Team Leader - he cared deeply for his men, always led from the front, and was at his best when the situation was the most dire," said Ranger commander Col. Michael E. Kurilla. Clarkson is survived by his widow and their son. 1,014th to die: March 4, 2010 – Army Sgt. Anthony A. Paci, 30, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Rockville, Md., died at Gereshk, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered during a vehicle rollover. He was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Family members said Paci was in the top position on a Stryker vehicle and yelled for his driver to swerve to avoid an oncoming car carrying an Afghan family. The Stryker rolled over in the process, injuring two soldiers and killing Paci. "The measure of his life is far greater than the number of years he lived, but this you all know," said Capt. Rick Thompson, an Army chaplain. "For what we do with our time is the greatest measure of our lives." Paci earned his high school GED and joined the Army, serving as a mortar man in Iraq. Married, he was the father of three children. 1,004th to die: Feb. 21, 2010 – Marine Lance Cpl. Eric L. Ward, 19, of Redmond, died in a what the Army would only say was a "hostile incident" while supporting combat operations in Helmand province. A machine gunner, he was assigned to the II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was a fourth-generation Marine, who, said his father Steven Ward, had dreamed of joining the Corps from an early age. Ward "was always the person to make you laugh no matter what happened," said friend and fellow Marine Trey Hoover. "No matter what happened, where we were at, even if we were sleeping in the field getting a torrential downpour rained on us, he'd always make it funny." Ward, who attended Snoqualmie Valley Public Schools, always bought extra sets of school supplies to give to those who were less fortunate, recalled Steven Ward. "He was a natural leader," said Ward. "He was proud to serve. He was proud for his family. He was strong." 983rd to die: Feb. 9, 2010 – Army Sgt. Adam J. Ray, 23, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Louisville, Ky., died in southern Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. In a statement, his mother and father, Jim and Donna Ray of Kentucky, said: "Adam was a brave young man. He first wanted to join the Army after visiting a WWII museum when he was in the third grade. He fell in love with the military life - which I am sure he would say was very different than what he thought it would be. Yet he loved what he was doing. He hated the war but he truly believed that America was doing the right thing…. Being Adam's parents was a privilege and an honor." 969th to die: Jan. 26, 2010 – Army Sgt. Carlos E. Gill, 25, a Stryker soldier from Fayetteville N.C., died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center of an illness. He was evacuated from Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, on Dec. 19, 2009, where he was supporting combat operations. He was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade. In an obituary, his family said Gill "accepted Christ at an early age" and was active in his church back home, where he'd served as a youth usher, percussionist and trustee, and sang in the choir. A 2002 graduate of Pine Forest High School, he was on the track team and marching band – he was later a member of the band at Fayetteville State University. The son of a retired Army sergeant, Gill is survived by his fiancé and a daughter. 956th to die: Jan. 13, 2010 – Army Spc. Kyle J. Wright, 22, a Stryker from Romeoville, Ill., died at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered earlier that day when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade. "He decided [to enlist] when he was sitting in a classroom watching the Twin Towers fall," said his father, Richard Wright, adding his son was "a hell of a standup kid." He was a Marine Corps JROTC member in high school, where he graduated in 2006. Young Wright was on his first deployment in Afghanistan, where he was interested in improving the treatment of women, and used his fluency in Arabic to explain the culture to fellow soldiers, said his father. "He was just an unbelievable guy, wildly popular among the band of brothers that he served with." 935th to die: Dec. 25, 2009 – Army Staff Sgt. David H. Gutierrez, 35, a Stryker from San Francisco, was mortally wounded by a bomb while on patrol Christmas Day in Howz-e Madad, Afghanistan. A member of Fort Lewis' 5th Stryker Brigade, Gutierrez enlisted in 1998 and deployed to several locales including Iraq before being sent to Afghanistan in 2009. A graduate of Santa Teresa High School in San Jose, he attended San Jose City College and met his wife while working as a bouncer at a club in San Jose. "He had his life in the uniform," said his widow, Patty Gutierrez, mother of their three children. "But when he came home, he was the patient one, my go-to guy." 922nd to die: Nov. 19, 2009 – Army Staff Sgt. John James Cleaver, 36, of Marysville, was killed in Zabul province, Afghanistan, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a truck near where Cleaver was serving as a medic and convoy commander. Cleaver, 36, was on his second deployment to Afghanistan and his fourth deployment to a war zone. Assigned to the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, he served in the Army since 2006, and in the Navy for 10 years prior. Divorced, with two sons, Cleaver grew up in the Midwest. He planned to settle in the Seattle area and become a nurse after he retired from service. His commander, Capt. Burton Furlow, remembered him as "one of the most disciplined paratroopers that I have ever had a chance to work with. He always set a standard and ensured that his paratroopers always meet that standard." 920th to die: Nov. 17, 2009 – Army Spc. Joseph M. Lewis, 26, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Terrell, Texas, died in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He enlisted in 2005 and served a yearlong tour in South Korea. He arrived at Fort Lewis in February 2007. Married, with one child, Lewis, according to his family, enjoyed "staying in shape, playing video games, building miniatures, watching 'Family Guy' and 'South Park,' and spending every spare moment with his love and new wife Teresa." At his memorial service, Lt. Col. William Clark said Lewis "understood that as a cavalry man, you have to keep moving forward; as a cavalry man, you have to saddle up." 914th and 915th to die: Nov. 5, 2009 – Army Spc. Aaron S. Aamot, 22, of Custer, Whatcom County, and Spc. Gary L. Gooch Jr., 22, of Ocala, FL, both Fort Lewis Strykers, died in Jelewar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Both were assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Aamot, a graduate of Ferndale High, was one of eight Aamot children. He joined the military shortly after his high-school graduation, said his brother Matt, seeing the army as a stepping stone to a career in law enforcement. Only days before his death, Aaron had been home on leave for a two-week visit, for which the family is thankful, said Matt. "Everyone is taking it hard, but we're Christians, so it's a temporary interlude until we see him again. Our faith will help us out." Gooch was raised in south Florida and graduated in 2006 from Dunnellon (FL) High School. "We grew up with mom playing all these World War II videos," said his sister Keely Murphy, who until mid-2009 also served in the Army and did tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We both wanted to serve our country. We both knew that would be the only way to make something of ourselves because mom did the best she could, but we just didn't have the money for college. He was supposed to come home in a week...He told Mom he wanted to go snowboarding and horseback riding."
898th, 899th, 900th, 901st, 902nd, 903rd, 904th and 905th to die: Oct. 27, 2009 – Seven Fort Lewis Stryker soldiers – Army Pfc. Christopher Ian Walz, 25, of Vancouver; Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y., Sgt. Fernando De La Rosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas, Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind., Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo., Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La., and Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill. – were killed when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device in the Arghandab Valley, Afghanistan. All were assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, at Fort Lewis, and their bodies greeted at Dover Air Force Base by President Obama. In a separate incident, Pfc. Brian R. Bates, 20, of Gretna, La., also a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier, was killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar. Walz played football at Hudson's Bay High School, where he graduated in 2002 and attended Clark College. "One goal he had was to become a police officer;," recalled ex-teacher Richard Sharp. "He went into the military for that." Said his former wife Katrina, "Everybody loved him. He had lots of friends. I don't know a single person who didn't like him. He got along with everybody." Gonzalez, married, with one child, enlisted in the Army in 2001 and, according to his mother Bienvenida Gonzalez, was a "good boy." Queens Borough President Helen Marshall called Gonzalez "a highly-decorated Green Beret who was the recipient of 23 medals and citations - one of which was the Bronze Star, His death in the line of duty while leading his squad on a patrol in southern Afghanistan defines the word hero." De La Rosa, married, with two children, was on his third tour of duty in the Middle East. "If you look at my brother he was just like our leader....he was leader to other military personnel...to us he was our leader," said brother Rolando de La Rosa. Griffin was the son of a Mormon bishop, a champion wrestler and college student who was struggling to find his way in the world when he turned to the military, his family said. When his body arrived back in the U.S., his parents met with President Obama at Dover AFB. "He was a hard-core kid, and no matter how much you required from him, he was always able to deliver," recalled his prep wrestling coach Steve Joseph. "When everyone else was getting down ... he was [saying], 'We can do this. Come on.'" Jackson, married, with one child and another on the way, had a troubled childhood, but grew up to become a responsible father and soldiers, his family said. They proudly noted that the Missouri governor ordered state flags flown at half staff in honor of his memory. Williamson's father, Leon "Buddy" Williamson, said his son was the first member of his family to enlist. "At the end of the day, he was doing what he wanted," Williamson said. "He's wanted to join the Army and be in the infantry since fifth grade....Patrick lays claim to a badge of honor that very few people can lay claim to: having served his country honorably and well." Stanker enlisted in 2006, in Chicago, shortly after graduating from Brother Rice High School, and began his training in Fort Benning, Ga. In March 2007, he was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade. "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing," Stanker posted on his Facebook page. Bates, married, with two children, "was hard-working, sure of himself," recalled Staff Sgt. David Gutierrez, one of his friends. "He would always accomplish the task at hand." Bates was also remembered as a devoted father and husband. "You could hear the pride in his voice whenever he spoke of his children," Gutierrez said. 896th to die: Oct. 26, 2009 - Army Chief Warrant Officer Niall Lyons, 40, Spokane, was one of seven soldiers killed when the MH-47 helicopter they were aboard crashed in Darreh-ye Bum, Afghanistan. Also killed in the crash were three agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Lyons, who had a son, graduated from Shadle Park High School in 1988, then graduated from the Geography Department at Eastern Washington University in 1995. His professors say that he made an impression on most of those he met, which made it even harder for them hearing the news of his passing. "I saw it in this morning's paper and it hit me between the eyes," Dr. Dan Turbeville said. "He was open and easy going, didn't get excited about things. He was just the sort of person that stood out in a classroom no matter how many people were there, you knew Niall was there." 882nd to die: Oct. 21, 2009 - Spc. Kyle A. Coumas, 22, a Fort Lewis Stryker solider from Lockeford, Calif., died in Kandahar province when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. It was his first deployment with the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "Life is good out here," he wrote home, six weeks before his death. He thanked his parents for a care package and said it got so hot he didn't need a sleeping bag at night. He wondered how people rode camels and said he hoped he could call sometime soon. "Nothing here has changed since before Alexander the Great," he added. His parents, Greg and Lori Coumas, wrote their thoughts in a message read at his funeral. "We wanted you to be safe and secure," they said, because "You needed to make sure everyone else was safe and secure." 880th to die: Oct. 17, 2009 – Army Pfc. Michael Dahl, 23, of Moreno Valley, Calif., a 5th Stryker Brigade soldier from Fort Lewis, died in Argahndab, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Dahl's friends remembered him as fun-loving but serious, humble yet proud of his work. Dahl "wouldn't trade his job for the world," wrote Spc. Peyton Cloninger, Dahl's friend, in a statement read at Dahl's memorial. "Not only was he a great friend, he was a good soldier," Cloninger added. Before deploying to Afghanistan, Dahl served for a year in Iraq, said his mother, Patricia Dahl. "I think my son's a hero," his father Michael Dahl Sr. said. "He died for what he believed in."
849th and 850th to die: Sept. 29, 2009 – Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Shaw, 37, of Natchez, Miss., and Staff Sgt. Jack M. Martin III, 26, of Bethany, Okla. both Special Forces soldiers from Fort Lewis, died when a bomb exploded near their vehicle on Jolo Island in the Philippines. Officials said they were part of a task force helping to quell militants there. Shaw, married, with five children, was remembered as a onetime standout runner at Natchez High School. "I think he held the state record at one time," former classmate Kareem West said. "He was maybe one of the best track stars ever at the school." He earned a track and field scholarship at Texas Southern University, and signed up for active Army duty in 1995. "He was the best God could have put out here," said his mother, Camille Felton. Martin, the youngest of five children, was born in Iowa and grew up there and in Oklahoma. He played football and was an honors student at Bethany High School, graduating in 2001. He dreamed of working as an educator or finding another way to help people when his time in the military ended, his family said. He was helping resupply a school construction project in the Philippines when he was killed. 847th to die: Sept. 26, 2009 – Army Spc. Kevin J. Graham, 27, of Benton, Ky., died in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis. Married, with a stepson, Graham always wanted to be a soldier, said his brother Sean, He dressed up in Army gear as a kid, playing Army games and eagerly listening to stories of World War II and Vietnam. He enlisted in 2007. Jonathan Goodman, the pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Benton, said Graham was proud to serve his country, adding that congregation often prayed for him after his parents would bring reports of his latest exploits.
843rd, 844th and 845th to die: Sept. 24, 2009 - Army Spc. Joseph V. White, 21, of Bellevue, Sgt. Titus R. Reynolds, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, and Sgt. Edward B. Smith, 30, of Homestead, Fla., all Fort Lewis Stryker soldiers, died in Omar Zai, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. White "was very protective of his teenage sisters," said his mother, Robyn. "Joseph White is our hero and will be greatly missed by many, many people." He was home schooled and attended Bellevue Community College before joining the Army in 2006. While on leave during the Christmas holiday, White proposed to his girlfriend and they married in May, a month and a half before his deployment. He was unhappy to leave his bride, said his mother, but "he went with a strong sense of duty and desire to maintain freedom and safety for others." Reynolds, said friend Emil Davitian, made his home the hotspot for get-togethers among friends. "We would get together and have video game tournaments," Davitian said. Others remembered Reynolds as the guy carrying someone's groceries or strumming an electric guitar and bass for his church band. "Titus would do anything for you," said neighbor Sheryl Sycks. "He was nice and mannerly, such a sweet kid." Smith, who joined the Army in search of a career, "was wonderful, there's nothing bad you can say about him," said his widow Jamie. "He just did everything in his power to try to make us happy. He was just that type of person." He loved talking about military technology and such, but worried about the risks of war, and coming home, said his sister, June Render. "'Thanks sis,'" she recalled him saying after she'd said a prayer for him, "'I needed to hear that.'"
832nd and 833rd to die: Sept. 14, 2009 – Army 1st Lt. David T. Wright II, 26, of Moore, Okla., and Sgt. Andrew H. McConnell, 24, of Carlisle, Pa., Fort Lewis Stryker soldiers, died of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan. Wright attended the University of Oklahoma on a track scholarship and earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 2006. After he enlisted, he become a platoon leader at Fort Benning, Ga. "It was 9/11 that did it for David," the Rev. Randy Nail said. "He wanted to do something about it, and he did." McConnell was the son of a military veteran; born in California, went to high school in Italy and attended Georgia Military College. His widow Sarah was expecting their first child when McConnell was killed. His sister Ashlee McConnell said her brother was married seven months before his death, but "they were seven months that made Andrew the happiest man in the world, and they were seven months that I know Andrew is thanking God for right now in Heaven."
808th, 809th and 810th to die: Aug. 31, 2009 – Army Spc. Tyler R. Walshe-Vietti, 21, of Shasta, Calif., Spc. Jonathan D. Welch, 19, of Yorba Linda, Calif., and Pfc. Jordan Brochu, 20, of Oakland, Maine, all Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldiers, were killed when a bomb exploded while they were on patrol in Shuyene Sufia, Afghanistan. They served in the fort's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. Walshe-Vietti was married with one child. His widow Kirsten remembered him as "the most amazing person I ever could have asked for." Their daughter's first birthday will be Nov. 11, Kirsten said. "I'm trying really, really hard to keep it together and to stay strong for my daughter." Welch, who joined the Army in 2007, was an avid fan of the Seattle music scene, said a friend, Samantha Grillo, who called Welch "really funny and very charismatic." Brochu's former high school guidance counselor, Nancy McClean, remembers him as a poet who was "very real" about expressing life. In a MySpace profile from earlier this year, he listed himself as his hero. "My life has been hell and no one thought or cared if I would make it and I'm still [here] and for once my head is held high. I joined to help make a difference and to grow me up. I don't believe in violence, but in some cases it is necessary."
799th, 800th, 801th and 802nd to die: Aug. 25, 2009 - Army Pfc. Dennis M. Williams, 24, of Federal Way, along with Capt. John L. Hallett III, 30, of California, Capt. Cory J. Jenkins, 30, of Arizona, and Sgt. 1st Class Ronald W. Sawyer, 38, of Trenton, Mo., all members of the Fort Lewis 5th Stryker Brigade, were killed when enemy forces bombed their vehicle in southern Afghanistan. All were with the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. Williams, marred with two children, graduated from Federal Way High in 2993 and joined the Army in 2007. Pat Adkins, a family friend, remembered him as a "sweet young man" with a quick sense of humor. His mother, Maria, said "He told us he didn't think he would make it back. He felt it was unsafe. ... He just wanted to be home." Hallett was married and had three children. In a statement, his widow, Lisa, recalled him as "an amazing father, devoted and joyful husband, thoughtful son, loving brother, and inspiring friend. John possessed incredible work ethic and inspirational integrity. He would always put the needs of others before his own." Jenkins, a BYU grad, was married, with one child. As an Army physician's assistant, Jenkins normally would have worked at a MASH unit, said his father, Stanley: "That's why we were feeling safe. He should have been out of harm's way." Sawyer, married with one child, was a medic who had served 17 years, said his father Ron. His son was on his first tour of Afghanistan. "I'm very proud of what he did with his life," he said.
790th and 791st to die: Aug. 17, 2009 – Army Pfc. Jonathan C. Yanney, 20, of Litchfield, Minn., and Spc. Troy O. Tom, 21, of Shiprock, N.M., both Fort Lewis Stryker soldiers, were killed near Arghandab in Kandahar province by a roadside bomb. "Extremely driven," was how former high school principal Marcella Swatosh described Yanney, saying "We knew that he wanted to go into something where he could help people. He was always very focused on wanting to help people, and it sounds like that's what he was doing." A friend, Samantha Lynn Fedele, recalled that Yanney "just had this big, bright smile. His smile would be the very first thing you noticed." Tom's father, David, a Navajo Nation Council Delegate, said Tom joined the Army in June 2006 after graduating from Aztec High School. He joined up because he wanted to physically and mentally challenge himself. "He was the nicest, the kindest, son. He made everybody smile. He always had a smile on his face. Never, ever did he get mad. We're going to miss him very much," his mother Carolyn Tom said. 730th to die: July 29, 2009 - Army Chief Warrant Officer Douglas Vose, 38, a Green Beret from Concrete, Skagit County, was fatally wounded after an intense fire fight with the Taliban in Kabul Province, Afghanistan. He was with the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group. He was posthumously awarded his third Bronze Star for heroism and valor, credited with saving the lives of several team members. High-level Taliban leaders along with 15 Taliban fighters were killed in the engagement. Married, with four children, Vose was described as confident on the battlefield and relaxed while enjoying a glass of fine red wine. "That's what made Doug so unique," said Dave Takaki, a retired master sergeant who served with Vose. He had a strong work ethic inherited from his late father, a Marine, according to Vicki Frank, a family friend. "He was the best citizen and had the sweetest temperament," she said. 697th to die: July 4, 2009 – Army Pvt. Aaron Fairbairn, 20, of Aberdeen, was killed when a Taliban suicide bomber drove an explosives-filled truck through the gates of his operating base in Paktika province, Afghanistan. "They killed my son, Aaron!" his anguished stepfather David Masters immediately Twittered, which led to worldwide news coverage and condolences. Fairbairn grew up in Central Park, near Aberdeen, and after graduating from Aberdeen's Weatherwax High in 2007, worked odd jobs until joining the Army the following year. "It didn't matter if you were two years old or 85 years old, he loved everybody and everybody loved him," said his mother Shelley Masters. His brother, Beau Beck, recalled that "Every conversation with Aaron started with, 'How's my truck doing?'" referring to his favorite truck back home. He rode in it one last time when it carried his body to his memorial service. 687th to die: June 25, 2009 – Army Lt. Brian Bradshaw, 24, of Steilacoom, was killed after his vehicle struck a roadside bomb and he transferred to a second vehicle when it, too, struck an improvised device in Kheyl, Afghanistan. A 2007 graduate of Pacific Lutheran University, Bradshaw was based with an airborne combat team from the 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, AK. He was an avid skier, outdoorsman and had served with Pierce County Search and Rescue. His father, Paul Bradshaw, said Brian frequently asked him to send children's items he could distribute to kids in Afghanistan. "When they were out on patrol, they would take crayons, colored pencils and books and toys to give to the children," said the elder Bradshaw. His son was there "to try and help people," he said. "That was his hope. He didn't go to win a war." 629th to die: Feb. 20, 2009 – Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy P. Davis, 28, of Aberdeen, died of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered a roadside bomb near Bagram, Afghanistan. He was stationed with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 720th Special Tactics Group, Florida. He had just celebrated his birthday and was coming up on his fifth wedding anniversary. His widow, Meagan Davis, mother of their year-old son, and Davis met while in training at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane. His mother, Sally Sheldon, lives in Aberdeen and his father, Mike Davis, in Ocean Shores. Davis grew up in Montesano, where more than 300 people turned out for his memorial service, filing every bleacher and chair in the high school gym where Davis once wrestled; he graduated in 1999. "He was, mentally, the strongest person I have ever known," said Jesse Huggins, Davis' best friend since Little League. "There are things that in life are so difficult, no one else is willing to volunteer for. He would." 581st to die: Sept. 9, 2008 – Marine 1st Lt. Nicholas A. Madrazo, 25, of Bothell, was killed by a roadside bomb in Parwan province, Afghanistan. Two other Marines and their Afghan interpreter were also killed. Madrazo was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 37, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa. "Nic" Madrazo graduated from Bothell High in 2001 and became a Marine officer through Seattle Pacific University's Navy ROTC program. He volunteered for duty in Afghanistan along with a soldier buddy. Madrazo had long wanted to be a soldier, said his brother Jared. "He would dress up in camouflage for Halloween and watch all the usual war movies that guys like," Jared recalled. Neighbor and longtime friend Beth Flansburg said "He helped me through all my hard girl times. He always had a smile on his face and wanted to make sure people were happy." His father Joe Madrazo remembered his son for that always-present smile, too, he said. "We cry and we remember him, but we know he is with our Lord," Joel Madrazo said.
579th to die: Sept. 9, 2008 – Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eichmann A. Strickland, 23, of Arlington, Snohomish County, was killed when the vehicle he was driving hit a roadside bomb in Afghnya Valley, Afghanistan. Strickland, who hoped to become a physician's assistant after leaving the Navy, graduated from Lakewood High School in 2001, and joined the Navy, becoming a corpsman. His family said he loved serving and turned down an opportunity for an early discharge from the service in June 2008. He instead extended his term so he could serve in Afghanistan. "He never told me what he did, or what he had to do," said his mother, Yolly Strickland. "There were just some things you don't share with your mom." His cousin Chris Sheppard remembered Strickland as "a compassionate guy, dedicated to helping others." Mother Yolly said he simply "gave his all…[was] never in trouble. He always smiled. He was that kind of person." 561st to die: July 13, 2008 – Army Cpl. Jason Bogar, 25, of Seattle, died in a battle that claimed the lives of eight other soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy. His outpost was attacked by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades from enemy forces in Wanat, Afghanistan. Bogar attended Bothell High School before earning his high-school degree in a Job Corps program in Mount Vernon. At 17, he enlisted in the Washington National Guard and did a tour in Iraq. He was remembered by his family as a fighter and a motivated photographer of civilians in the war zone. At a memorial service, his father, Michael Bogar, said Jason had "no use for self-indulgence" and felt he was in Afghanistan to help the children of the battle-torn provinces. In a letter that was found on his computer after his death, he wrote: "I feel my days are numbered so I want to say all this while I still can. I pray to god no-one will ever have to read this but as death is all around me if it falls upon me you will understand my recent feelings on this madness we call life. My views and outlook on life seems to be drastically changing recently. As many of you saw before I left when I quit drinking, I was just starting to live my life. Never have I felt as strong as I do about what I am doing here in Afghanistan is the right thing to be doing and is understood and accepted by god. As a result of that, death is easier to accept…"
519th to die: June 14, 2008 – Marine Sgt. Michael T. Washington, 20, of Tacoma, was returning from a mission when an improvised explosive device exploded near his Humvee in Farah province. Three other Marines also died. Washington served with Golf Company, 2nd Batallion, 7th Marine Regiment, in Twentynine Palms, Calif. A graduate of Stadium High School, where he played soccer, Washington was a third generation Marine – his father fought in Desert Storm and his grandfather in the Korean War. Young Michael joined up when he was 17, first serving in Iraq where he earned a commendation for bravery. His father Mike, a Seattle firefighter, recalls his son saying "Dad, I want to defend people who can't defend themselves," as a reason for enlisting. "It's important that everyone knows what a fine man he was," said the elder Washington. "He was his own person. He loved being a Marine. He had the world at his feet."
513th to die: May 31, 2008 – Army Pfc. Andrew Shields, 19, from Battle Ground, Clark County, was one of two soldiers killed from the blast caused by a suicide car bomb in Jalalabad. He was serving in eastern Afghanistan with the 173rd Special Troops Battalion (Airborne) and was trained as a medic, following in the footsteps of his father Jon, a Gulf War vet now a Clark County deputy sheriff. "He always liked the idea of jumping out of planes," Sheild's cousin Shawna Keyes, 19, said. "He lived for every extreme. When he did something, he didn't do halfway. He did it fully." At a funeral service in Vancouver, Mike Gregoire, husband of Gov. Chris Gregoire and a Vietnam vet, said Shields "chose the most difficult path, of being a soldier in war time. Four decades removed, I feel deeply the loss of men I served with who had such bright futures, but whose country called on them to service."
509th to die: May 26, 2008 - Army Spc. Christopher Gathercole, 21, a Fort Lewis Army Ranger from Santa Rosa, Calif., died in Ghazni, Afghanistan, from small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis. According to his friends and family, Gathercole grew up as a ward of the state and, after graduating from high school, joined the service with hopes of becoming a better person. "He wanted to change himself, and he wanted to change the world around him," said his brother, Edward. "In his opinion, he was doing the highest civic duty possible." The brothers grew up in Santa Rosa, living primarily in foster homes. Before joining the Army, Christopher lived at a treatment house for at-risk youth. "He was a tough kid, and I'm not surprised he went into the military," said former schoolmate Wes Anderson. "He made the best of what he had. He was awesome."
500th to die: May 20, 2008 - Lt. Jeffrey A. Ammon, 37, a Bangor Navy officer from Orem, Utah, died from injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device in the Aband District of Afghanistan. He was attached to Commander Navy Region Northwest, in Bangor, and was serving in Afghanistan as a member of Provincial Reconstruction Team Ghazni. Married, with two children, Ammon was supporting the military's economic mission in Afghanistan by making micro loans to small businesses. Ammon "was a helluva guy," said his brother-in-law Jim Edwards. He remembered the lieutenant as a loving, caring man who enjoyed hiking and camping and the outdoors. He was a creative thinker, said Edwards, especially when left alone with computers or a set of Legos: "Give him a box of Legos and he could build you anything."
488th to die: April 29, 2008 - Sgt. 1st Class David L. McDowell, 30, a Fort Lewis Army Ranger from Ramona, Calif., died in Bastion, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Lewis. A graduate of Poway High where he played football, McDowell was following in the footsteps of his father who was also an Army Ranger. Married, with two children, McDowell was remembered by his family and friends as a dedicated soldier and father. "Down to the last bone in his body, the guy believed in what he did," said a friend, Jesse Carlson. "It's very unique to find someone with that kind of conviction. You can't help but respect the guy and feel about as proud as you possibly can that he's your friend."
447th to die Oct. 26, 2007 – Army Staff Sgt. Joseph F. Curreri, 27, a Special Forces soldier from Fort Lewis, drowned in a lake in the southern Philippines, where he was participating in Operation Enduring Freedom operations against Islamic militants on the islands. Curreri ironically had been captain of his college swim team - a four-year letterman at the University of Southern California. He had also worked as a swim coach before joining the Army. Married and from suburban Baltimore, Curreri was a communications sergeant with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Green Berets from Fort Lewis. "It's very, very honoring to be his dad right now," Frank J. Curreri Jr. said. "I'm just starting to realize how many people he touched. For a man of his size and strength, his compassion and gentleness will floor you."
433rd, 434th and 436th to die: Aug. 28, 2007 – Army Sgt. 1st Class Rocky H. Herrera, 43, of Lacey; Sgt. Bryce D. Howard, 24, of Battle Ground; and Sgt. Cory L. Clark, 25, of Plant City, Fla., died when an improvised bomb exploded in Jaji, near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan. They were assigned to the 864th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade based at Fort Lewis. They were deployed to Afghanistan in March. Herrera, originally from Utah, was married and had three children and a stepchild. He was remembered as a good solider who looked out for others, and also as a keen boxer in his youth. His boxing coach, Leo Montoya, said Herrera was a regional fighter known as The Rock "He used to hit like a rock," said Montoya. "He used to have a beautiful stand and beautiful jab." Howard, a 2001 grad of Battle Ground (Clark County) High, was married and had two sons. A poem by his widow, Amber Howard, was read at his military funeral service. "Your heart," she wrote, "can be empty because you can no longer see him, but it can be full of the love that you shared." Clark had recently been promoted to sergeant, said his mother, Wrenita Codrington. Married to his high school sweetheart, he had three children. He joined the military and became a hard-working engineer, his mother recalled, ¬saying he told her, "I'd rather get a little dirty than a lot cold all the time."
425th to die: Aug. 20, 2007 - Army Spc. George V. Libby, 23, a Fort Lewis Ranger from Aberdeen, N.C., died Aug. 20 near Khowst, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the fort's 75th Ranger Regiment. Libby, a graduate of Aberdeen's Pine Crest High School, was an automatic rifleman and was on his second deployment to Afghanistan. "George joined the Army because of Sept. 11," his widow, Valorie Avent Libby, said in a statement released by the Army. "He believed in this mission, and I believed in him. My husband was a good and loving person."
377th to die: April 12, 2007 - Staff Sgt. Casey Combs, 28, of Auburn, and a second solider died in a roadside bombing near Miri, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He joined the Army in 2002, said his friend, Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Burrill , because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "He was angry that someone would try to attack his country like that, and he wanted to serve his country," Burrill said. "Combs never stepped away from a challenge or shirked responsibility." Married, with a son and daughter, Combs was a 1997 graduate of Sumner High School and was remembered by his widow, Amber, as "a good dad [who] cared a lot about his kids and liked to be home with them."
395th to die, June 16, 2006—Army 1st Lt. Forrest P. Ewens, 25, of Addy, Stevens County, died in Pech River Valley, Afghanistan, when his all-terrain vehicle struck an improvised explosive device during combat operations. He was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y. His widow, 1st Lt. Megan Ewens, was also stationed at Fort Drum. He was the son of Michael and Carol Ewens of Gig Harbor. His twin brother, Oaken, is a West Point grad, and another brother, Eli, is a Spokane National Guardsman. Raised in Addy, Forrest graduated in 2000 from nearby Jenkins High School in Chewelah, then Whitworth College in Spokane, where he captained the 2004 track team. "He was such a vibrant person. Just to see him, experience his smile, not every student has that impact, but Forrest was one of those people," said Whitworth professor Dale Soden. His Whitworth track coach, Toby Schwarz, recalled a recent conversation with Ewens. "We talked for a long time about his life and the difficult time ahead of him as he had to leave his wife behind and go to a very dangerous place, to do very dangerous work leading other young men into harm's way for a greater good. Forrest repeatedly commented on how his time with the [track] team helped prepare him for what he was about to face ..." Ewens knew that "no matter what happened, God was in control," Schwarz said. Ewens was buried at Arlington National Cemetery July 7
243rd to die, Oct. 29, 2005—Army Staff Sgt. Travis W. Nixon, 24, from St. John, Whitman County, died from wounds suffered after his patrol was fired on north of Lwara near the Pakistan border with eastern Afghanistan. A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, Nixon was a squad leader in B Company, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C. "He died while checking to ensure his soldiers were OK. He was our brother and will be remembered forever," said his company commander, Capt. Brandon Teague. Nixon, married, was a 1999 grad of St. John High, where he played on the eight-man football team and where his nickname was O.R.—Old Reliable. He was on his third tour of duty. "He had ample chance not to go back" for another tour, said his mother, Maggie Nixon of Tennessee. "But he was so proud of being an 82-Airborne Ranger." Said Jeremy Thompson, a hometown friend since the eighth grade: "I am hurt by the loss of Travis, yet I couldn't be more proud to say I knew Travis W. Nixon, I played football with Travis Nixon, I was a classmate with Travis Nixon, and I was a friend of Travis Nixon. He truly is an American hero. A hero that I admire and a hero I wish I could have sat down and talked with just one more time."
221st and 222nd to die, Aug. 18, 2005—Army Lt. Laura M. Walker, 24, of Texas, and Sgt. Robert G. Davis, 23, of Jackson, Mo., were killed outside Kandahar when a bomb blew up beneath their Humvee. Both were members of Fort Lewis' 864th Combat Engineer Battalion, which began a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in March. Davis, married with one child, was a 2001 graduate of Jackson High School and a member of First General Baptist Church in Jackson. He "was an excellent soldier, a model human being, and a very loving husband and father," said a Fort Lewis friend, Bryan Morris. Battalion commander Lt. Col. Paul Paolozzi said Davis was "the epitome of a self-made man" who was always thinking of the welfare of others, "Yet he never took credit for anything." Walker, the first woman from Fort Lewis to die in Afghanistan, was the battalion's public affairs officer. She had recently e-mailed the Tacoma News Tribune about the engineers' efforts to build a 75-mile highway from Kandahar to Tarin Kot. "When it opens, about eight months ahead of schedule, it will be a huge deal over here, and the president of Afghanistan will attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony," she wrote. Walker wore a 4th Infantry Division combat patch on her right shoulder, a distinction she shared with both of her grandfathers, who served in World War II and Vietnam.
178th to die, April 23, 2005—Pvt. Robert C. White III, 21, of Camden, N.J., died at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, of non-combat-related injuries. White was assigned to the 864th Engineer Battalion from Fort Lewis. White, who arrived in Afghanistan only two months before his death, worked in the Army's food service operations. He is survived by a widow and two children on the East Coast. He attended school in Camden until 10th grade and then moved to New York City, eventually enlisting in the Army Reserve in New Jersey in 2003. He was buried at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, near the tomb of poet Walt Whitman.
169th to die, April 6, 2005—Army Chief Warrant Officer Clint J. Prather, 32, of Cheney, was killed when a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter crashed in a sandstorm near Ghazni, Afghanistan. There were no signs of enemy fire, and bad weather may have been the cause. "His death was hard on us because we thought he would be safer in Afghanistan," said his stepfather, David Hackwith, who owns a body shop in Cheney. Parther, a former combat medic turned chopper pilot, was married, with two children, and was a cross-country runner at Cheney High. He was a veteran of Gulf War I. "He told me," said his stepfather, "he was more than willing to go to Afghanistan or Iraq. He said, 'If it will keep my kids and my wife safe, it sounds corny, but that's the way I feel.'"
155th to die, Jan. 3, 2005—Army Special Forces Sgt. Jeremy R. Wright, 31, stationed at Fort Lewis, died in Konar province when an improvised explosive device exploded near his vehicle. A native of Indiana, Wright was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). A cross-country and long-distance track star, Wright was a 1992 graduate of Southwestern High School in Shelby County, Ind. He was an Indiana state high school champion in the 3,200-meter run and a two-time All-America in cross country at Wabash College. Friends said Wright, accustomed to running the mountains of Afghanistan in his spare time, had a tendency to stand out in amusing ways—particularly the time he wore a pair of hoop earrings while dashing to first place in Colorado's 1999 Pike's Peak race.
149th to die, Nov. 27, 2004–Army Spc. Harley D. R. Miller, 21, of Spokane, was killed in a plane crash along with two other soldiers and three civilians in Bamian, Afghanistan. Military officials said the CASA 212 airplane Miller was flying in was under contract to the U.S. military. It crashed, apparently due to weather complications. Miller, married with a son, was a helicopter repair specialist assigned to the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. His mother, Christine Miller of Lynnwood, said her son recently told her he was in a safe zone in Afghanistan and not to worry. "He was very proud to be doing what he was doing," she said.
131st to die, June 30, 2004—Army Staff Sgt. Robert K. McGee, 38, originally from Tennessee, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group based at Fort Lewis, died in Manila from non-combat-related injuries. He was found dead in his hotel room; a cause of death was not released, and his death was not announced until January 2005; the Department of Defense said a review of deaths turned up the omission of an earlier news release. The Army subsequently would not respond to questions about the death or provide a photo of McGee. A soldier 17 years, McGee was married with two sons and was a Special Forces weapons sergeant. He specialized in unconventional warfare techniques, including underwater operations, and was an instructor on light-infantry tactics.
106th to die, April 22, 2004—Army Spc. Pat Tillman, 27, a Ft. Lewis Ranger and former NFL star whose family lives in University Place near Tacoma, was reported killed in an ambush by Afghan militiamen in the mountainous Pakistan border region. However, in December 2004 the Army admitted that Tillman was killed by friendly fire. As members of his own platoon accidentally fired on him, his last words were: "Cease fire! Friendlies!" President Bush called Tillman an "inspiration both on and off the football field." Tillman gave up a multi-million-dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist and fight shortly after 9/11, along with brother Kevin. "He always shunned the limelight," said Arizona Sen. John McCain, "and I'm sure he would want that continued, but his life deserves to be celebrated and for his story to be told."
91st to die: Nov. 14, 2003—Army Sgt. Jay A. Blessing, 23, Tacoma, a 1998 Lincoln High School graduate and special operations soldier, who died after driving a Humvee over a homemade land mine in Asadabad, Afghanistan. His family was informed of the death hours after leaving a funeral for another family member. From his obituary: "Jay volunteered to be a soldier, Ranger, and member of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Lewis. He was a Patriot and believed in what he was doing for his country and especially protecting the threat of terrorism against his family and loved ones back home. Jay was 'real' and exhibited a strong faith for his heavenly father; however, he was a bit unconventional when it came to organized religion."
25th to die, Feb. 21, 2002—Army Sgt. Thomas Allison, 22, of Roy in Pierce County, who was lost at sea off the Philippines after his Boeing MH-47E Chinook helicopter erupted in a fireball and disappeared, cause unknown. He was flight engineer with E Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers, a commando force seeking to rescue a nurse and an American missionary couple. During basic training, he wrote his parents, Pat and Buddy Allison, about the price of war: "I need to say something: For the next six years, I will be more or less away from home. A lot can happen in that time ... one of those is death ... and if I do die, I died for God and my country." In a letter just before his death in February, he noted, "Some of us will get to heaven first."
24th to die, Feb. 21, 2002—Air Force Staff Sgt. Juan M. Ridout, 36, Oak Harbor, who, with Army Sgt. Thomas Allison, was aboard the MH-47 aircraft that crashed into the sea in the southern Philippines. Ridout was assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Group, Kadena Air Base, Japan. He had been named the squadron's pararescueman of the year in 1999 for heroism, exchanging gunfire with enemy forces while rescuing an F-16 pilot shot down in Serbia. At Ridout's memorial service, fellow Staff Sgt. John Romspert said Ridout "was always the straight shooter and wisecracker, but he never forgot how to be humble; never once did he brag or boast about his combat mission in Bosnia or the warrior's rack on his uniform."
15th to die, Jan. 9, 2002—Marine Sgt. Nathan P. Hays, 21, of Wilbur in Lincoln County, one of seven Marines killed in a KC-130 crash in Pakistan. His father, James Hays, is a Washington State Patrol trooper. Hays was based at the Marine Corps air station in Miramar, Calif. Flags at his small high school, where he played offense and defense on the football team, were flown at half-staff. "If you ever met a guy who wasn't afraid of anything," said friend Chris Rettkowski, "it was this guy."
12th to die, Jan. 4, 2002—Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman, 31, Puyallup, the first U.S. soldier killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan. A communications specialist and father of two, Chapman died in an ambush. He was a Special Forces soldier based at Fort Lewis. Chapman and a CIA officer were searching for Al Qaeda members and were fired upon shortly after leaving a meeting with local Afghan leaders. His widow, Renae, said she'd like people to remember Nathan as a quiet professional "who just wanted to change the world." In a statement, President Bush said, "I can assure the parents and loved ones of Nathan Chapman that he lost his life for a cause that is just and important."
Ninth to die, Dec. 5, 2001—Army Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, 28, whose mother lives in Seattle. Prosser was one of three Special Forces soldiers killed by friendly fire when an errant 2,000-pound bomb missed its target. He was with the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Ky. "Cody is a hero, and I will love and miss him for the rest of my life," said his widow, Shawna. Prosser was buried in a California ceremony attended by Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Secretary of State Bill Jones, with a 21-gun salute by the 1st Special Forces Group of Fort Lewis. "Let Cody Prosser's service be a reminder that our freedom is not free," said Bustamante.