Facing Our Losses - Iraq 2004

Washington's toll in Iraq in 2004.

READ THE STORY • SEE THE IRAQ 2003 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2004 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2005 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2006 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2007 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2008 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2009 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2010 LIST • SEE THE IRAQ 2011 LIST • SEE THE AFGHANISTAN LIST 1,332nd to die, Dec. 30, 2004—Army National Guard Sgt. Damien Ficek of Pullman, two days short of his 27th birthday on New Year's Day 2005, was killed by small arms fire while on patrol in Baghdad. A member of the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment of Spokane, Ficek had spent four years as an Army regular and was a student at Washington State University until 2003, where he was also a sports massage specialist for Cougar athletic teams. Among his duties in Baghdad was to help train Iraqi soldiers. He graduated from Beaverton High in Oregon and was married a year and a half ago. "He was an active member of our community and an excellent student," said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins. Added Ficke's aunt, Joani Dufourd of Oregon: "The world has lost a very, very promising person in Damien Ficek. He was the most incredible man. I don't know how to tell you that any better." 1,330th to die, Dec. 29, 2004—Army Pfc. Oscar Sanchez, 19, assigned to the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade combat team, was fatally wounded in an enemy suicide bomb attack. Sanchez, who died two days short of his first wedding anniversary, was manning an observation outpost in Mosul when enemy forces launched a two-stage attack: suicide bombers crashing a truck into the outpost, setting off 1,500 pounds of explosives, followed by a second bomber in an explosives-filled car; 14 soldiers were wounded. Sanchez, of Modesto, Calif., joined the service 14 months earlier, at age 18, hoping eventually to help his family financially, relatives said. His mother was killed by her boyfriend when Sanchez was a boy, and he was raised by a caring father. "His hopes and dreams were always to take care of his brother and of getting his things together," said Stella Padilla, a cousin. "A home for his father. A home for his brother." 1,316th, 1,317th, 1,318th, 1,319th, 1,320th, and 1,321st to die, Dec. 21, 2004Army Pfc. Lionel Ayro, 22, of Jeanerett, La.; Spc. Jonathan Castro, 21, Corona, Calif.; Capt. William W. Jacobsen Jr., 31, Charlotte, N.C.; Staff Sgt. Robert S. Johnson, 23, Seaside, Calif.; Staff Sgt. Julian S. Melo, 47, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Sgt. Darren D. VanKomen, 33, Lewiston, Idaho. All Stryker Brigade soldiers from Fort Lewis, they were among 14 U.S. soldiers killed during a suicide-bomber attack at an Army mess hall near Mosul, Iraq.

Ayro, a devout Baptist"a man who would cry watching The Lion King," said a friendjoined the military with hopes of returning to a better life at home, planning to someday open a trucking business. Said his grandmother, Clementine Ayro: "I've seen these pictures, this thing that's happening, and my grandchild being one of themit's very, very hard."

Castro, who joined up before 9/11, was remembered by friends for his good nature but became disillusioned by the meaninglessness of the war, says his family. When the Army sent him a form to make a statement about his son's honorable death, says father Jorge Castro, "I threw it out. I'm not running for politicianwhy should I lie?"

Conversely, Jacobsen, the father of four who died on his ninth wedding anniversary, was born at Fort Bragg, N.C. To the Stryker Brigade Company A commanderthe first Fort Lewis commander to die in IraqGulf War II is "something he believed in, that we all believe," said his father, Bill, a retired lieutenant colonel.

Johnson, meanwhile, grew up "a man of peace" and a lover of the environment, says his father, Peter Johnson, and he became a soldier determined to do his job as required but, added his father, why was security so seemingly lax at the mess hall? "I believe this [bombing] could have been avoided," he said.

Melo, whose wife and son live in Spanaway, was a former Panamanian Army soldier who relocated to New York and then signed up with the U.S. Army. He was an always-neatly-dressed supply officer "who performed miracles," said a buddy. In a statement, his family said, "He was born to be a soldier but never took anything too seriously. His love for his family, his country, and fellow soldiers was evident in everything he did."

VanKomen, with a wife and stepdaughter in Olympia, grew up in a big family in Idaho, joined and left the service twice, then returned a third time, winding up in the middle of Iraq. His mother, Betty Clemens, recalled her son telling her not to worry about his duty in Iraq: "This is something I'm going to do," he told her, "and something I have trained for, and if I die, that is God's will." 1,288th to die, Dec. 9, 2004—Army Warrant Officer Patrick Leach, 39, a Federal Way native whose parents live in Tacoma, died when an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter collided with a UH-60 Black Hawk on the ground in Mosul, Iraq, killing another solider and injuring four others. Leach, a pilot, was a member of the South Carolina National Guard's 1st Battalion, a unit of Task Force Olympia headquartered at Fort Lewis. In private life an airline pilot, Leach was a veteran of Gulf War I and a graduate of Jefferson High in Federal Way, where he was on the wrestling team. He was married, with five children—two from a previous marriage. Friend Leo Friedwald said, "We lost one of our best. Best friend. Best pilot. Best person. Best guy." 1,273rd to die, Dec. 5, 2004—Army Pfc. Andrew Martin Ward, 25, of Renton, died in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, when his unit, part of a river convoy, was hit by small arms fire from enemy forces. Ward, who had seven sibilings, was assigned to the 44th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Howze, Korea. He signed up for the military in August 2003, after the war in Iraq had begun, and had been posted in Korea. A fisher, hiker, and outdoorsman, Ward had been a student at Charles Lindbergh High School in Renton and earned a GED from Renton Technical College. "He died fighting for freedom for our country, for the world, and for Iraq," his mother, Estrella O'francia Tankersley of Kirkland, said in a statement. "He was a loving, caring, and forgiving son. A gentle soul who loved getting away from all of the materialistic lifestyles we have created." 1,272th to die, Dec. 4, 2004–Army Staff Sgt. Kyle A. Eggers, 27, of Yakima, was killed near Al Habbaniyah, Iraq, when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Eggers, born in Nebraska and raised in Texas, was the father of three children and the son-in-law of Yakima City Council member Susan Whitman. A prep cross-country runner, he joined the Army just after graduation from high school in Texas and had served with the Army for nine years. His widow, Jennifer, is a reserve officer with the Yakima Fire Department. "He was an exceptionally fine human being, a nice guy, and great soldier," said James Reddick, spokesman for the Army's Yakima Training Center, where Eggers had once been posted. Family friend Suzanne Hendrickson said his family was "very supportive of his desire to serve his country. They were proud of him." 1,267th and 1,268th to die, Dec. 3, 2004–Army Staff Sgt. Salamo J. Tuialuuluu, 23, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, and Sgt. David A. Mitts, 24, of Roy, Pierce County, both Stryker Brigade soldiers stationed at Fort Lewis, were killed in an ambush. The Army said their unit was fired on by enemy hiding in a nearby mosque in Mosul, Iraq; several other U.S. soldiers were wounded in the firefight. Tuialuuluu's widow, Andrea, was five months pregnant with the couple's second child, officials said; Mitts' widow and once-high-school-sweetheart Tara was in her seventh month of pregnancy with her first child. Mitts, who had a twin brother, was a 1999 graduate of Warrington High School in Oregon. He was remembered as a hunter and fisherman, and his death resonated around his small Oregon birthplace of Hammond, near Astoria. "He was a home-town boy all the way through," said school principal Rod Heyen. "This will hit this community very hard." Said Mitts' step-grandmother, Judy Shoop: "He was there to fight for his country. He was brave right up until the end." 1,228th to die: Nov. 22, 2004—Army Spc. Blain M. Ebert, 22, of Washtucna, Adams County, a tank commander, died in Baghdad when enemy forces engaged his unit with small-arms fire. His family said he was shot by a sniper as he peered from the tank's command hatch. Ebert, son of a dryland Eastern Washington farmer and who had recently escaped serious injury when a car bomb went off near him, was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Friends called him a big, country kid who loved the outdoors, hunting, and snowmobiling. He played on the high school football team in Washtucna, a small, town where the community had in the past gathered clothing and candy for Ebert to distribute to kids in Iraq. "He believed in what he was doing over there," said his father, Mike Ebert. 1,169th to die: Nov. 11, 2004—Army Spc. Thomas K. Doerflinger, 20, assigned to the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, died in Mosul, Iraq, when his unit was hit by small-arms fire during combat operations. Doerflinger, of Silver Spring, Md., was remembered by his family as a good-humored kid who wrote poetry and short stories. His father, Richard Doerflinger, is the deputy director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. His sister, Anna, recalled that Doeflinger's parents were not happy with his choice to enlist as war loomed, "But he said he'd rather join then than in a time of peace." In a statement, his parents declared: "He understood the risks of his chosen path and gave his life doing what he had committed himself to doing—standing against those who have no respect for human life. Even as we grieve for our loss, we honor the ideals he stood for and ask others to do the same." 1,148th to die: Nov. 9, 2004—Army Maj. Horst G. Moore, 38, a member of the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, died in Mosul when an enemy mortar round detonated within his unit living area. Moore, from Los Fresnos, Texas, was born in Germany, raised in Oklahoma, and was a career soldier with 16 years in the military. He was married with one child. His widow, Raquel, said she was told the attacker "killed himself, killed my husband and another soldier." Known as Gary, Moore was honored in a flag-raising ceremony at the elementary school in his small Texas town. "He was one of those patriotic individuals who loved serving his country," said his wife. 1,147th to die: Nov. 9, 2004—Air Force Master Sgt. Steven E. Auchman, 37, of Lacey, was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his location in Mosul. Married, with two children, Auchman originally was from Waterloo, N.Y., and joined the Air Force in 1985. He worked in radio maintenance and was assigned to the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Lewis. Auchman was scheduled to spend three months in Iraq where he was helping support Stryker Brigade movements and was to return in January 2005. "Steven," said his commander, Col. George Bochain, "was a wonderful father, a true hero, and a superb airman." 1,145th to die: Nov. 9, 2004—Marine Lance Cpl. Nathan R. Wood, 19, of Kirkland, was killed in the battle of Fallujah. His unit of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Expeditionary force was battling door to door in an apartment complex when he was shot, officials said. Wood grew up in the Kirkland area and enlisted, despite his parents' protests, after graduating from Juanita High School in 2003. "Anybody who has kids over there now," said Wood's uncle, Bill Olson, "our prayers are with them. We're very proud of the soldiers and Marines and the sacrifices they are making, but we can't really say we support the war." 1,139th to die: Nov. 8, 2004—Marine Staff Sgt. David G. Ries, 29, Vancouver, was killed in a roadside bomb attack during the battle of Fallujah. A reservist and 10-year Marine who volunteered for a second tour of duty, Ries was traveling in a convoy when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. The Marines said Ries was an electrician with the 6th Engineer Support Battalion at the Marine Corp Reserve Center in Portland. Friend David Loper remembered Ries as "very dedicated and very honorable. ... He just said, 'I have my job to do and I'm going to do it.'" Ries leaves a wife and two young children. 1,096th to die: Oct. 15, 2004—Army Spc. Jonathan J. Santos, 22, of Bellingham, was killed in Karabilah, Iraq, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Santos, a linguist with the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) from Fort Bragg, N.C., was Whatcom County's first troop casualty in Iraq. He attended Sehome High School, where he was on the wrestling team. His mother, Doris Kent, said Jonathan's father, stepfather, and both grandfathers were military men. In a recent conversation, Jonathan told his mother: "Mom, don't always believe what you see in the news. I'm OK. Don't worry about me." Kent, who continues to care for Jonathan's two teen brothers, says she looked up her son's name on the lists of dead, finding he was number 1,096 in a war she didn't want him to fight. "I'll remember that number forever," she said. 1,075th to die: Oct. 11, 2004—Army Staff Sgt. Michael Burbank, 34, of Bremerton, was killed when a suicide bomber smashed a produce truck, loaded with explosives, into Burbank's convoy vehicle. His unit is part of the Army's 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Lewis. Burbank grew up in Bremerton, where he met his wife, Shawna. He enlisted in 1997 and was deployed to the Middle East three times. His in-laws, Brant and Pam Culley, said Burbank was like a son to them. "His favorite saying was, 'It's not for us to wonder why, it's to go and do or die,'" said Brant. Burbank's mother, Dorothy, of Texas, says the Burbanks are military through and thorugh, and "Michael just carried on the family tradition." 1,039th to die: Sept. 22, 2004—Army Pfc. Adam J. Harris, who had turned 21 five days earlier, died in Mosul after being shot by a sniper while on routine patrol. From Abilene, Texas, Harris was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, part of the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. His mother, Denise Bush, is a secretary to the commander of Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, and his stepfather, Steven Bush, is a food superintendent for the Air Force, deployed in the Middle East. "You never think it's going to happen to you," Denise Bush said in a statement. "It's just devastating." 1,037th to die: Sept. 21, 2004—Army Pfc. Nathan E. Stahl, 20, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment from Fort Lewis, died when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device during fighting in Iraq. A resident of Highland, Ind., Stahl was remembered as an upbeat friend who favored war movies and dreamed of becoming an Army Ranger. "He's a great guy," recalled former girlfriend Dena Hemphill, with whom he broke up before leaving for Iraq—not wanting her to wait for him because of the war's risks. "It shouldn't have happened to him." At his high school, where teachers remembered him as a favored student only a year earlier, the signboard read: "Nathan Stahl, Our Hero, Class Of 2003." 1,029th to die: Sept. 16, 2004—Marine Cpl. Steven Arnold Rintamaki, 21, of Lynnwood, was killed by a bomb blast while manning a Humvee gun in Al Anbar province. Adopted at eight months, Rintamaki attended Meadowdale High School and a former private school, Westside Place, in Seattle. His family says that as a photogenic child he appeared in advertisements for such businesses as Nordstrom and The Bon Marché. As a budding child violinist, he also played in the Seattle Symphonette Orchestra. "He searched for challenges all through his life," said his mother, Myra. His birth mother, Stacey Malaspino Swinson, reunited with him just after he signed up for the Marines at age 17. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. 1,024th to die: Sept. 14, 2004Marine Maj. Kevin Shea, who turned 38 on the day he died, was killed by indirect enemy gunfire at Camp Fallujah, becoming the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq. A 1984 gradudate of O'Dea High School in Seattle, Shea attended the Air Force Academy but cross-commissioned to the Marines when he discovered his eyesight was too poor to become a pilot. He served in combat in Gulf War I and became an engineering teacher at the U.S. Naval Academy. He coached rugby and mentored at the academy for three years, where students named him an honorary member of the class of 2003. His widow, Ami, and two children live at Camp Pendleton, Calif. A Naval Academy statement called him "an innovator, a visionary, an intellect, one tough guy, and a great Marine." Shea befriended school kids in Iraq, adds his mother, Eileen Shea of Washington, D.C. "He was hoping [the military] could do a lot of good, rebuild the schools." 1,023rd to die: Sept. 14, 2004Sgt. Jacob. H. Demand, 29, of Palouse, Whitman County, was killed during fighting in Mosul when his patrol was attacked by insurgent forces. Assigned to the Stryker Brigade at Fort Lewis, Demand was born in a San Diego naval hospital, and grew up in Pomeroy and then nearby Palouse, where he graduated from high school in 1995 and where he was a three-sport letterman. He joined the service just out of school and had almost finished an eight-year tour of dutyand planned to leave the servicewhen he was forced to remain under the Pentagon's expanded stop-loss order, due to troop shortages. He was sent to Iraq in January 2004. His buddies said they were delighted to serve with him. "He loved to talkman could he talk," said friend Sgt. Ben Herman at Demand's funeral. "It was always good to be on duty with Jake. He could keep you entertained for hours...He knew how to make everybody laugh." He is survived by his three children, who live with his ex-wife in Indiana. 959th to die: Aug. 24, 2004—Marine Sgt. Jason C. Cook, 25, of Okanogan, Okanogan County, died of combat wounds in the prolonged fighting in Fallujah, Iraq. Married just two years, Cook was on his second tour in Iraq (his armored vehicle bore the name of his wife, Yovana). He joined the Marines shortly after graduating from Okanogan High in 1997 and was an anti-tank assault guided missileman assigned to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. "There just wasn't anything Jason wouldn't do for you," said stepfather Del Miles of Yakima. "He was right there for you." 945th to die: Aug. 17, 2004—Marine Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Powers, 21, of Mansfield, Douglas County, died Aug. 17 from enemy action in fighting near Fallujah, Iraq. Cook was assigned to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. Abandoned as a child, and adopted by relatives in Mansfield, young Powers became a crusader and fund-raiser for other disadvantaged kids. He was a football player at Mansfield High, where he graduated in 2001. His death in Iraq was followed two days later by the death of his sister's fiancé, also a Marine, in Iraq. In a tribute, Powers' family said Caleb was a true Marine and "until his last day, that is the way he lived his life. He was one who always had a smile on his face and enjoyed life to the fullest. Caleb died as a proud Marine who will be missed by all." 936th to die: Aug. 13, 2004—Marine Lance Cpl. Kane Funke, 20, Vancouver, Clark County, died from the explosion of an incendiary device during security and stability operations around Fallujah, Iraq. He was an infantryman and ammunition carrier. Funke grew up in Montana and went to high school in Vancouver, where he was a wrestler. "He was doing what he always wanted to do since he was about 8 years old," said stepfather Dale Johnston. "That's about all he could think about, some branch of the military." Funke was buried in Polson, Mont., where an uncle, Eric Funke, gave the eulogy: "At eight years old, Kane knew he wanted to be a Marine. He'd hide out in people's back yards at night all camou'ed [camouflaged] up." 924th to die: Aug. 5, 2004—Marine Sgt. Yadir Reynoso, 27, of Wapato, Yakima County, killed by enemy fire during the fighting near Fallujah, Iraq. A high-school wrestler, Reynoso is remembered by friends as the friendly guy who greeted them with a headlock. Divorced, father of one son, Reynoso was the son of Mexican immigrant farm workers in the Yakima Valley. He joined the Marines shortly after high school graduation in 1997 (his father recalls him one day casually asking: "Hey, old man, is it OK if I join the Marines?"). Said his sister Patty: "My brother died with full honor. ... It goes deeper than that. It's part of our roots. He's a hero among Mexicans." 923rd to die: Aug. 5, 2004—Army Spc. Donald R. McCune, 20, of Ypsilanti, Mich, died in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries sustained Aug. 4 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol in Balad, Iraq. McCune was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 81st Brigade Combat Team, Washington Army National Guard out of Moses Lake, Grant County. His stepfather, Benjamin Lewis, an Army sergeant, said he and McCune bonded over their military service and recalled with a twinkle that his stepson "liked to push buttons." Said his mother Darcy: "I believe we're there [Iraq] for a reason and I hope someday his death means something, that something's been accomplished. He's not just a statistic." 918th to die: Aug. 3, 2004—Marine Capt. Gregory A. Ratzlaff, 36, whose parents live in Olympia, died from non-combat-related injuries at Forward Operating Base Duke, Iraq. Military officials said the officer accidentally shot himself. Ratzlaff, who was married, piloted CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters. His unit, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 at Miramar, San Diego, Calif., arrived in Iraq in July. Ratzlaff entered the service in 1990; his awards include two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. 890th and 891st to die: July 14, 2004—Army Pfc. Jesse Jack Martinez, 20, of Tracy, Calif., and Cpl. Demetrius L. Rice, 24, of Ortonville, Minn., both members of the Fort Lewis Stryker brigade, were killed in a truck accident on a mission near Talafar, Iraq. Their infantry carrier collided with a fuel truck and rolled over. Martinez, the son of an Army veteran and the fourth solider from small-town Tracy to die in Iraq, had called his mother two days earlier, telling her he'd be home soon on a two-week leave. "I am going to miss having him around," said his mother, Jan Martinez. "Jesse was one of those types of people that once you got him out of his shell, he was a friend for life." Rice, meanwhile, the oldest of five siblings, was remembered as "a good kid" by high-school principal Terry Rheingans, recalling Rice had said he was proud to be a soldier. His mother, Valorie Rice, said when her son called, the whole family would join in the conversation and "try to keep his spirits up." The last time he phoned, "He was ready to come home, like a lot of them. But he knew why he was there, why this needed to be done." 874th to die: July 8, 2004—National Guard Spc. Jeremiah W. Schmunk, 21, of Richland, died when his vehicle came under attack by a rocket propelled grenade and small arms fire. Schmunk, a prep wrestler and grad of Warden High School, was assigned to the 1st Cavalry, Washington National Guard, of Moses Lake. He called his mother the day before his death, with a brief message. "Mom," he told Shirley Schmunk, a widow, "I love you. I'm OK. Goodbye." Friend Nathan Wurzer said Schmunk joined the guard for the experience and the college benefits. Wurzer recalled a buddy who had an impulse for fun. Passing by a motel swimming pool one morning—at 3 a.m.—"We stripped down and jumped into the pool," Wurzer said. "He was the best friend I will ever have." 841st to die: June 20, 2004—Marine Staff Sgt. Marvin Best, 33, of Prosser, was killed in action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Best wanted to be a Marine since he was a kid. A prep track athlete, rodeo enthusiast, and avid outdoorsman, he enlisted in 1989 just out of high school. He studied criminal law at Columbia Basin College while working as a military recruiter in Kennewick and intended to pursue a career in law enforcement after service retirement. When he re-enlisted in 1995, his widow Shelly was against it. "I always wanted him to get out," she said, "but I told him, 'Do what you have to do.'" Said his sister, Lornna Nuez:"I'm just proud he would give his life so we can be free." His mother, Charlotte, remembers Marvin as "gung-ho and a true patriot." Just before her son left on a mission in February, he promised to play it safe, but said, "I'll die for the man next to me." He also told her: "Don't be worried about me until you see the cars come up the driveway with the flags on them." They arrived the day after the Yakima Valley held a funeral for its first Iraq casualty, Dustin Sides, also a Marine (see below). 815th to die: May 31, 2004—Marine Lance Cpl. Dustin L. Sides, 22, of Yakima, died in an ambush in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 9th Communications Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force. Sides, a military wrecker driver, was returning from a mission in Fallujah and, just a few hours before his death, had called his father to say the operation had been a success. Sides was the first Yakima soldier to be killed in combat, and townsfolk flew flags at half-staff, posted sympathy signs on reader boards, and sent flowers and letters of condolences to the family. Dustin joined the Marines after graduating from Eisenhower High School, his family said, and also attended the alternative Stanton Academy. An avid dirt biker, Sides planned to pursue a lifetime career in the military, his family says. "He was a brave man," recalled father John Sides, "he was a very loving man." His stepfather, Paul Billings, said Sides saw Iraq in part as a personal mission. "He wanted to do something right for those people and he believed in it," Billings said.

811th to die: May 30, 2004—Army Pvt. Bradli N. Coleman, 19, of Ford City, Pa., died in Baghdad from injuries sustained May 29 in Mosul, Iraq. Coleman was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. He lived at brigade headquarters at the Mosul presidential palace compound when mortar rounds hit his quarters, the military said. Said his father, Don Coleman: "Brad and I had talked in the weeks before how the [troop] shelters were starting to be targeted." Bradli Coleman joined the Army after graduating from high school last year. A footballer and wrestler, he was an inspiration to his younger brother, said Don Coleman. Bradli, he added, had a "nervous excitement" about being deployed to Iraq. "You'd look around and see all these people," the father recalled the son saying, "and start to feel like you were outnumbered five to 500." 808th to die: May 29, 2004—Army Spc. Michael J. Wiesemann, 20, of North Judson, Ind., died at Forward Operating Base at Quyarrah Air Base, Iraq, from non-combat-related injuries. Wiesemann, a cavalry scout assigned to the Stryker unit at Fort Lewis, was engaged to be wed upon his return from Iraq. He also intended to complete an unfinished mural on the wall of his former art classroom at North Judson-San Pierre High School. "Mike was an outstanding student," said art teacher Clayton Howard. Peggy Joyce, co-owner of The Point drive-in where Wiesemann once worked, remembers him as "a wonderful person an awesome artist, and—a wonderful marksman. He loved to shoot." 806th to die: May 29, 2004—Maine Pfc. Cody S. Calavan, 19, of Lake Stevens, was killed in an explosion at Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned as a machine gunner to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. It was the second sibling death in under a year for his family: Brother Joey, 15, was killed by a drunken driver nine months ago. Cody could have come home, as the sole-surviving son. "But the direct answer was," says father David Calavan, "' I'm trained at what I do, these people are depending on me, so I'm going.'" Calavan's family moved to Stanwood two years ago, after Cody graduated from Lake Stevens High School. "It's been really hard on our community to lose such a nice young man, a patriotic young man," said teacher Brent Barnes. "He's the first soldier we've lost in Iraq from Lake Stevens," said local American Legion official Dick Cowen, as flags around town were lowered to half-staff, "and we want his family to know that we love them and support them." 774th to die: May 12, 2004—Spc. Jeffrey R. Shaver, 26, of Maple Valley, became the first Washington National Guardsman to die in the war when his convoy vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. A medic assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry, Spokane, Shaver worked for Bryman College and later attended Green River Community College pursuing a helicopter aviation degree and planned to do search and rescue work. Trained at Fort Lewis, he completed a course in musculoskeletal injury management, which prepared him for triaging orthopedic injuries in the field. "He was a very loving person and loved life," his mother, Jane, said. "He was very strong in his faith. He placed his life in God's hands—he was doing it [fighting in Iraq] for his family. He was going to Iraq because he believed in his loved ones having freedom and to make sure we were safe here, and no matter what, it was all worth it for that." 769th to die: May 8, 2004—Spc. Maria Isela Rubalcava, 25, of El Paso, Texas, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade supply technician, was killed in a mortar attack on a coalition base in Mosul. She was thought to be the first El Paso woman ever killed in combat. "They took a piece of my heart," said her father, Ramon Rubalcava. "I only hope this war ends soon because I don't wish this pain on anyone else." Rubalcava's cousin, Hector Barragan, received the last e-mail from her the day before her death. "She was excited and happy because she was going to eventually come home and she was going to be stationed in Fort Bliss," in Texas, Barragan said. "She's always been a happy person, always smiling. When she came back from boot camp, she was cheerful and told us about how great it was." A family friend, Monica Orozco, said, "She was a beautiful person, funny, free spirited. She was the life of the party." 768th to die: May 8, 2004—Army Spc. Chase R. Whitham, 21, of Harrisburg, Ore., assigned to the 296th Forward Support Battalion, as part of the Fort Lewis Stryker brigade, was killed when an electrical current charged the water in a swimming pool in Mosul, Iraq. "It is tragic to lose a soldier to enemy hostile fire, but it is very difficult as well to lose a soldier in an accident," said Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Joseph Piek. Whitham was remembered in his hometown as good friend and athlete—a golfer and basketball player at Marist High, a Catholic high school in nearby Eugene. "He seemed like the type that liked challenges," said his friend Mark Ray. "He was real capable. When Chase put his mind to doing something, he would do it." That included making others laugh. "In fifth grade we dared him to eat a worm," said Ray. "He put it in his sandwich and ate it. He was always there for a dare, that's for sure." 761st to die: May 5, 2004—Army Pfc. Jesse R. Buryj, 21, with the 66th Military Police Company, Fort Lewis, died from friendly fire, perhaps from a Polish soldier in Karabala when his military vehicle was struck by a dump truck trying to run through a checkpoint. Buryj opened fire on the vehicle, hitting the driver, but the truck crashed into the soldier's Humvee. From Canton, Ohio, Buryj, who married his high-school sweetheart in October, had hoped to become a police officer on his return home. His sister, Angela, fondly remembers him as honest almost to a fault. "If he ever did anything wrong, if he ever got in trouble, he always told on himself," she said. 743rd to die: May 1, 2004—Army Sgt. Joshua Ladd, 20, deployed with the Fort Lewis-based 44th Corps Support Battalion, was killed after his vehicle was hit by a grenade near Mosul. A member of the Mississippi National Guard, Ladd signed up for duty at age 17, his family said. His hometown of Philadelphia, Miss., closed down on a Friday so folks could attend Ladd's funeral service. In honor of Ladd, neighbors erected flag poles on the Ladd property and then raised flags to half-staff. Candles and flower bouquets, including one from Ladd's school bus driver, lined the driveway. "Josh," the driver wrote in a note, "you will be missed in our thoughts and our hearts. You were an ideal student on my bus. We love you forever." 742nd to die: May 1, 2004—Army Spc. Trevor A. Win'E, 22, died in Tikrit, Iraq. A member of the Army's 24th Quartermaster Co., based at Fort Lewis, Win'E suffered fatal injuries after the convoy vehicle he was traveling in was struck by a roadside bomb. Win'E, whose brother Todd is in the U.S. Air Force, was raised in Orange County, Calif. He was on his high school's hockey teams and liked to fish and dive off the coast at Newport Beach. A neighbor remembered him as "one of those guys that if you ever met him you wanted to be his friend." 724th to die: April 28th, 2004—Army Spc. Jacob R. Herring, 21, Kirkland, died in Mosul from injuries caused by an improvised explosive device that struck his vehicle. Assigned to the Stryker brigade at Fort Lewis, Herring was wounded by shrapnel in December and could have returned home but opted to stay with his unit in Iraq. A 2001 graduate of Lake Washington High School, Herring's No. 55 football jersey was retired at his funeral service. Said buddy Mick Morrison: "He lived his life with the best that was in him, and we will miss him for it." 711th to die: April 24, 2004—Coast Guard Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal, 24, stationed at Neah Bay from 2001 through 2003, became the first guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam War. From Dania Beach, Fla., Bruckenthal and two Navy sailors died while providing protection for oil terminals outside Umm Qasr. A small, bomb-laden boat exploded as the threesome and other members of the Maritime Interception Operations team began an inspection. Bruckenthal was married, with a child on the way. "He was the big guy who got off the boat with the big guns," said his uncle, Steven Bruckenthal. "This is what you want your soldiers to be." 675th to die: April 14, 2004—Army Spec. Frank K. Rivers Jr., 23, Fort Lewis Stryker brigade solider, died from apparent heart attack during training drills in Iraq. He was a soldier's son, born in Walter Reed Army Hospital, and raised in Newark, N.J., his family said. He graduated from high school in Virginia, and joined the Army to follow in his father's footsteps. A younger brother, Lemar, also joined up, and is stationed in Germany. At Rivers' funeral, Maj. Gen. William H. Russ told family and friends,"You all recognize that Frank Jr.'s hero is Frank Sr." The 150 attendees stood and applauded father and son. 631st to die: April 7, 2004—Army Spc. Tyanna S. Avery-Felder, 22, a Fort Lewis Stryker brigade soldier, died from injuries sustained April 4 in Mosul when her convoy vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device. Avery-Felder, of Bridgeport, Conn., was one of three children. She graduated from Kolbe Cathedral High School and enrolled in Southern Connecticut State University, but left after a year. "She just came home one day and said, 'Mom, I just joined the Army,'" recalled her mother, Ilene Avery. "She was doing what she wanted to do." Conn. Gov. John Rowland, who ordered flags flown at half-staff, called the fallen solider a "hero" who gave the "supreme sacrifice for our freedoms." 610th to die: April 4, 2004—Army Spc. Philip G. Rogers, 23, of Gresham, Ore., was killed when a roadside bomb exploded next to the food truck he was driving on a mission in Mosul. Rogers, a cook, was assigned to the Army's Stryker brigade, the mobile infantry unit from Fort Lewis. He had called his family just two days before his death to say everything was OK. His father Rex, a Vietnam veteran, says Philip was an artist and budding chef who joined up to eventually take advantage of the Army's educational benefits. A 1999 high-school grad, he had a year of duty left. "When I got home from work," father Rex recalled of Philip's teen years, "he'd already have dinner ready. He was a good kid, a good son." 579th to die: March 22, 2004—Army Pfc. Bruce Miller Jr., 23, of Orange, N.J., died of non-combat-related injuries in Mosul, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Battalion stationed at Fort Lewis. Miller graduated from Teaneck Community School in 1999 and earned a diploma from Orange High School. He'd been offered a scholarship to William Paterson University before deciding to join the Army. "Junior wanted to go to college after his Army enlistment tour was over," his family said in a statement, "and he had become interested in studying law." Miller was "a kind, thoughtful, and religious young man who loved his family and was interested in art, poetry, and writing. He will be sorely missed. ..." 563rd to die: March 16, 2004—Army 1st Lt. Michael R. Adams, 24, of Leavenworth, died after a passing vehicle struck his tank near the Kuwait border and caused the barrel of the .50 caliber gun to swing and strike him. Adams, with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Brigade, was a 1998 graduate of Kentridge High School in Kent. Parents Don and Barbara Adams of Leavenworth received an e-mail from their son two days before the accident, saying, "The next time you hear from me, it'll be from Kuwait." Then he'd be heading home. He is buried at West Point, from which he graduated. "The motto at West Point is 'Duty, honor, country," said Don Adams. "He embraced those ideals." 539th to die: Feb. 16, 2004—Army Sgt. Michael M. Merila, 23, a military paralegal, fatally wounded about 35 miles west of Mosul when a roadside bomb struck his convoy. A 1998 graduate of Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Ariz., Merila joined the Army in 2001 and was stationed at Fort Lewis. Unmarried, he went to Iraq in November as a Stryker brigade legal advisor; he was posthumously promoted to sergeant. Merila's mother, Susan, is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and his father, Michael, a retired Army chief warrant officer. "Sgt. Merila," said Ft. Lewis commander Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano at a memorial service in Arizona, "was a tremendous soldier who had a bright future in the Army." 533rd to die: Feb. 9, 2004—Sgt. Thomas D. Robbins, 27, assigned to 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment (Stryker), Fort Lewis. He and a second solider from another unit were helping to move a collection of unexploded ordinance, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds which detonated accidentally. Robbins, married, went to high school in Delmar, N.Y. He was a "very good student who distinguished himself in art and a number of extracurricular activities," said his high-school principal, Michael Tebbano. Robbins played soccer in high school and ran track. He is pictured competing in the hurdles in a varsity track photo in the 1994 yearbook 514th to die: Jan. 25, 2004—Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Bunda, 29, Bremerton, killed when his boat capsized during patrol on the Tigris River. Was a sniper assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry, based at Fort Lewis. A 1992 graduate of Olympic High School, Bunda was married with two children. He was initially listed as missing in action until his body was found several weeks later—a fate that was "killing me softly," said his mother, Lita Vigil. Born and raised in the Philippines, Bunda came to live with his mother and stepfather in Bremerton in 1991. Said stepfather Thomas Vigil, a Navy vet: "He was a good soldier, a good father, and a good son. He died doing what he did best, and that's his job. He was a professional." 485th to die: Jan. 7, 2004—Army Pfc. Jesse D. Mizener, 23, was killed in Baghdad after a mortar round landed in the Army's Logistics Base. Mizener was assigned to the 542nd Maintenance Company at Fort Lewis. Married, with three children, Mizener grew up in Stockton, Calif. His childhood dream was to serve his country, said his widow, Nicole. Fellow solider Jasper Duran, at Mizener's funeral, said the two had a pact that if either was killed in Iraq, the survivor would comfort the other's family. "He was there for everyone. Everyone. You, me, the Iraqi people. He felt for everyone, not just himself," Duran said.  

 
comments powered by Disqus