Facing Our Losses - Iraq 2005

Washington's toll in Iraq in 2005.

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 2,134th to die, Dec. 7, 2005—Marines Cpl. Joseph Bier, 22, of Centralia, was killed by a homemade bomb in Ramadi, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and died after the Humvee he was driving was hit by the roadside device during a combat operation. Three others were wounded. A machine gunner originally with the 1st Marine Division based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Bier served a stint on the security detail at Bangor Submarine Base before winding up in Iraq. In an interview with the Marine Corps News, he said, "I thought, 'Finally, I get to do what Marines do.' It took me three years to get here, but I am glad to finally deploy." Actually, he was a little surprised at what he found, he said. "I expected this place to be a little more hectic, to have more enemy contact. I'm a little disappointed; I think it's a little quiet. I expected more to happen here. It's not like what is shown on TV." In a statement, his family said: "Joe was a challenging child to raise because he was always trying to live to his potentials and occasionally beyond them. … Few men live a life they love and die doing what they love among friends and brothers they love." For Bier's memorial service, community members lined up with flags along Centralia's Belmont Street in silent remembrance. 2,105th and 2,106th to die, Nov. 24, 2005—Army Staff Sgt. Steven C. Reynolds, 32, of Jordan, N.Y., and Pfc. Marc Delgado, 21, of Lithia, Fla., were killed on Thanksgiving Day in Baghdad. They were responding to a report of corpses in a suburban area when their Hummer hit a bomb in the road and flipped over into a canal. Both were assigned to the 170th Military Police Company, 42nd Military Police Brigade, based at Fort Lewis. Reynolds, an avid fisherman when young, was a 1992 graduate of Jordan-Elbridge High School and had long wanted to be a soldier, said his mother, Shirley Reynolds. "He was so happy when he got his orders to go overseas," she recalled. His father, Norman, said Steve did hazardous work, knocking down doors and searching for weapons. But, "He was doing what he really loved." Delgado's mother, Ellen, recalled that her son's first e-mail from Iraq read: "We just got shot at and it was sooo cool." The mother said her reaction was, "Oh, my God, my son thinks he's invincible." She had wanted Marc to go into the Navy after graduating from Durant High, as his brother did, but he wanted to join the Army like his father, she said. Ellen Delgado also recalled her son's last e-mail: "He said he was ready to come home." 2,067th and 2,068th to die, Nov. 11, 2005—Army Cpl. Donald E. Fisher II, 21, of Tacoma, and Pfc. Antonio Mendez, 22, of Puerto Rico, both Fort Lewis soldiers, were killed in a convoy vehicle collision near Kirkut, Iraq. Fisher's father, Donald, a disabled Army vet, said his son was committed to the American war effort in Iraq. "We're talking about a kid who, as a kid, cried because someone stole the flag off our flagpole." The son joined the Army shortly after graduating from high school. He was on his second duty tour in Iraq, which had been scheduled to end within a month. Mendez enlisted in the Army in June 2004. He arrived at Fort Lewis in October that year. "He said it was boring over there, so he was volunteering for every mission," said his father, Carmelo. "There were only 14 trucks, and he hated to sit around. He made me send him his Nintendo. … He had a beautiful heart." Both men were serving their first deployment in Iraq and were assigned to the 40th Transportation Company, 593rd Corps Support Group. They were the first from the company to die in the war. Fisher's older brother, Robert, is also stationed at Fort Lewis, and his sister is a member of the Washington National Guard at Camp Murray. 1,903rd to die, Sept. 19, 2005Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Morrison Sr., 45, was killed by a roadside bomb near Taji, Iraq. A postal worker from Yakima, Morrison was married with a son and a stepson. He was recalled to duty as an inactive reservist who had retired from the Army in 1995, having joined just out of high school in 1979. "He always had a smile on his face," said co-worker Gerald Corbray. "We used to sing karaoke together. He couldn't sing, but he could do push-ups." In Iraq, he was assigned as a U.S. Army special operations medic serving with the Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command from Fort Bragg, N.C. His family reports he was born in Ohio, raised in Kentucky, and was a football fanatic. Morrison "represented everything that is good and kind and caring in this world," said Maj. Gen. Herbert Altshuler, at Morrison's funeral service. Said his father, Kenneth: "That boy was an all-American boy." He understood the risks of war, added sister Sherry Dunn: "He had come to terms with it. This is the way he wanted to go." His family said in an obituary that Morrison's son, Larry Morrison II, 19, a private in the Army, will assume his father's scheduled Iraq service rather than accept a hardship waiver. 1,899th to die, Sept. 15, 2005Marine Lance Corporal Shane C. Swanberg, 24, of Kirkland, was killed when rockets began falling on his encampment at Ramadi, Iraq. He had been on duty in Iraq for just 10 days and may have been sleeping when the sudden shelling began. "I pray that he just didn't know what happened," said his father, Brian Swanberg, a retired police officer. Shane, a 2000 graduate of Juanita High School, joined the Marines in 2002, stirred by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "He was anxious to get to Ramadi," said his mother, Linda Swanberg, a veteran of the Redmond Fire Department. "He told me, `Mom, I want to get over to help my buddies.'" Before he was rotated to Iraq in early September, Swanberg wrote in an e-mail to his family, "I guess you don't really realize how serious it us until you get fired upon." His survivors include a brother who is an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Lewis. Said Brian Swanberg: "It's surreal. You honestly expect it won't happen to you. There's no describing the depth of emptiness and loss." 1,881st to die, Aug. 31, 2005Army Spc. Jason E. Ames, 21, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier, died in Mosul of non-combat injuries, one week after his 21st birthday. Further details of his death were not released. Ames, of Cerulean, Ky., was just a few weeks short of his return home from duty. He was a native of Flora, Ill., and graduated from Trigg County, Ky., High School in 2002. Married, he leaves a widow and a son who resided at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma. A friend, Ariana Abriam, posting a note on the Fort Lewis Stryker Web site, remembered Ames as "a great person with a great heart." 1,860th to die, Aug. 20, 2005Army Sgt. Willard Todd Partridge, 35, a Fort Lewis-based military policeman, was killed in his vehicle by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Partridge, from Natchez, Miss., was married and had two daughters. "We're a very patriotic family," said cousin Shelley Poole. Todd "joined [the service] because he loved our country," she said, noting that he was out of work and hoped to better support his family in the Army. An outdoorsman and hunter, Partridge was a pitcher on the local youth baseball team that advanced to regional and state championships. Family members recalled Partridge's outgoing nature, the hugs he always offered, and "his smile," Poole said. "He always has a smile on his face." 1,851st to die, Aug. 15, 2005Army Spc. Jose L. Ruiz, 28, of Brentwood, N.Y., a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier, was killed by small arms fire in a drive-by shooting in Mosul, Iraq. He died two weeks before he was scheduled to return home to the U.S. Married and the father of a baby girl, Ruiz graduated from Brentwood High, which, Pentagon officials said, may have graduated more soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistanfoursince 2003 than any high school in the country. The soldier's widow, Alexa, said Ruiz "felt that he had fulfilled his dream of becoming a warrior and defending other people." Ruiz's stepfather, Eduardo King, said he supported his son but opposed the war. "He would always ask his mom, 'Is Daddy proud of me?'" King said. "At first, I didn't want my son engaged in a profession where he might have to hurt people. But I always told him, 'You are this family's hero.'" 1,792nd to die, Aug. 4, 2005Army Pfc. Nils G. Thompson, 19, a Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade soldier, was killed by enemy fire while on routine patrol at a police station in Mosul. He died the day after his 19th birthday. Raised in New York, Thompson lived in Pennsylvania and followed a family tradition of service to his country, said his mother, Frances Thompson. "He knew since he was a little boy that being in the military was all he wanted. He never wavered." An Army chaplain said Thompson, a devout Catholic, was a frequent Bible reader in Iraq. Upon completion of his service, he had planned to rejoin his parents on their farm near Confluence, Pa. Thompson joined the Army as soon as he turned 18, his family noted. "The war was on, and we were afraid," said his mother. "But we all stood behind him and supported him." 1,778th to die, Aug. 3, 2005Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem, 20, who grew up in the Issaquah-Kent area not far from his final resting place, the Tahoma National Cemetery, was one of 14 Marines killed south of Haditha, Iraq, when a bomb exploded, flipping their armored assault vehicle. It was one of the war's deadliest incidents. Stationed with the Marine Forces Reserves in Billings, Mont., where he moved after his junior year at what is now Rainier Christian School in Auburn, Bloem was one of 10 children. He joined the Marines with his twin brother, Alcides, and in January, before departing for Iraq, told his local newspaper in Billings, "I just want to be a Marine. I love it. I'm going to stay in 20 years." Staff Sgt. John Clark, who recruited Bloem, said, "Nick had a dream of being the commandant of the Marine Corps, and I tell you, he would have given it a hell of a go." Said Bloem's father, Al: "There wasn't a time that I talked to him that he felt what he was doing was useless, or vain or ineffective." 1,747th to die, July 5, 2005Army Spc. Christopher W. Dickison, 26, of Seattle, was killed in Baqubah, northwest of Baghdad, when his Humvee drove over a roadside bomb. A sharpshooter and platoon leader, Dickison was assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, in Fort Riley, Kan. Though he was scheduled for discharge in April, his tour was extended by the Army into January 2006. Dickison, who attended Evergreen High School and obtained a GED from Highline Community College, and his twin sister, Ronda, were the fifth and sixth children of a West Seattle family whose front yard Chris had turned into a neatly manicured putting green and lush garden. Unable to find steady work after jobs at Kenworth Truck and Sears, Dickison joined the Army in 2002. "When he first went in he wasn't too happy," said his father, Rod Dickison. "He didn't know Iraq was coming up, but the longer he was in, the more he liked it." Dickison had plans to marry after his tour; his fianc?ives in South Carolina. Said Christopher's mother, Leanna: "He was just one of the nicest guys you would know. He might be shy and quiet, but he would give you the shirt off his back." 1,738th to die, June 23, 2005Naval Reserve Petty Officer 1st Class Regina Clark, 43, of Centralia, was killed by a suicide bomber who attacked Clark's convoy while it was returning from checkpoint duty near Fallujah. Five other U.S. troops were also killed, three of them female. The bombing, which wounded 1311 of them womencaused the most female casualties for the U.S. military in a single day since the Iraq war began in 2003. A single mom with a teen son, Clark had done two earlier duty tours since Sept. 11, 2001. When she shipped out this time, said friend Kim Boehl, "There were a lot of hugs and kisses. I really thought she'd come back, so [her death is] a big shock." Clark was a culinary specialist deployed with Naval Construction Region Detachment 30, Port Hueneme, Calif., and was temporarily assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force to help search Muslim women at checkpoints. At home, Clark worked as a state corrections officer and had separated from her husband, a Navy man, more than a decade ago. Son Kerry Clark, whose grandmother lives nearby, said he was struggling over what to do without his mother. "That's the hard point," he said. "I've got friends, thank God." 1,685th to die, June 9, 2005—Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Chavez, 20, of Seattle, died with four other Marines while conducting combat operations near Haqlaniyah, Iraq. The five were killed by a roadside bomb as they advanced through the Sunni stronghold northwest of Baghdad. A graduate of Ballard High School, where he never missed a day, Chavez was a tank crewman with the II Marine Expeditionary Force, stationed at Camp Pendelton. He was born in Texas, grew up in Seattle's Central District, and joined the Marines fresh out of high school in 2003. He and his unit were deployed to Iraq just three months prior to his death. Among his military awards were the National Defense Service Medal and War on Terrorism Service Medal. Said his sister Lydia: "He was really just into being family, because all we've ever had is each other." 1,670th to die, May 31, 2005—Army Sgt. lst Class Steven M. Langmack, 33, of Seattle, was killed by small arms fire in Al Qaim, northwestern Iraq, where U.S. forces had been rooting out nests of insurgents. A Special Forces soldier based at Fort Bragg, N.C., Langmack was married and had two children. His parents live in Seattle. Langmack enlisted after graduating in 1990 from Kennedy High School in Burien, where he was what a coach called a good, all-around baseball player. The service "just seemed like a good way for him to spend a couple years," said his mother, Louise Langmack. But he decided to make the military his career, serving in Gulf War I and then, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks—a month after he became a Green Beret—in Afghanistan. He served as a senior Special Forces communications sergeant until his reassignment to the Special Operations Command in early 2004; he arrived in Iraq three months before his death. "Steve felt very fulfilled by being a soldier," said Louise Langmack. "He felt very committed to what he was doing, but he wouldn't talk about it." 1,664th to die, May 30, 2005—Air Force Staff Sgt. Casey Crate, 26, of Spanaway, Pierce County, was one of four airmen who died northeast of Bagdad in the crash of a single-engine training plane on Memorial Day. A special operations combat controller, Crate was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The plane was part of the Iraqi air force, officials said. The Air Force is "what he wanted to do. He excelled at it," said his mother, Linda Crate. Casey Crate graduated in 1996 from Spanaway Lake High School and attended Pierce College before enlisting in 1998, starting his tour in Afghanistan. An Iraqi was also killed in the crash of the Comp Air 7 SL single-engine plane. The cause was not immediately known. Crate's mother recalled that her son was nicknamed "The Mission Hound," because "he loved to go on missions. Part of his last e-mail in quotes was: 'Out saving America,'" she said. 1,660th to die, May 29, 2005—Marine Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, 22, of Snohomish, was killed by small-arms fire while on patrol in Ramadi. He was an assaultman assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. His parents were told of Starr's death the following day, Memorial Day; he had celebrated his birthday only five days earlier. His family said Starr's tour of duty was almost complete, and he was killed just a month short of his return home. A 2001 graduate of Snohomish High School, Starr had passed up a $25,000 reenlistment bonus and instead planned to go to Everett Community College, possibly studying for a career in law enforcement. His unit was among the first in Iraq at the war's beginning. "He felt he had done his part and that was it," said his mother, Shellie Starr. In e-mails to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer last year, Starr described some of his firefights and his reasons for being there: "I want my peers who think that this stuff doesn't happen to realize that there are good men our age fighting and dying for their freedom," he wrote. 1,657th to die, May 28, 2005—Army Spc. Phillip "Nick" Sayles, 26, of Jacksonville, Ark., died when a roadside bomb went off near his position in Mosul. Sayles was a member of the Fort Lewis Stryker force and was killed just days after another Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Jacksonville was killed in Iraq (see below). The blast that killed Sayles also wounded 13 soldiers and eight Iraqis. Sayles joined up in May 2002, after graduating from Jacksonville's Cabot High School. He was "the kind of young man who was going to do the right thing and obviously what he felt was the right thing was to go into the military," said retired Army Maj. Robert Jones. "Nick was a quiet young man. He simply got the job done that he was asked to do. He was a good kid." Said Sayles' former commander, Capt. Bryan Carroll, at a Fort Lewis memorial service: "Nick lived up to every one of my expectations. Not only was he extremely intelligent, he was a natural leader and a brave soldier." 1,636th, 1,637th, and 1,638th to die, May 22, 2005—Army Lt. Aaron Seesan, 24, Spc. Tyler Creamean, 21, and Sgt. Benjamin Morton, 24, all Fort Lewis Stryker brigade soldiers, were killed within hours of each other in Iraq. Seesan, from Akron, Ohio, and Creamean, of Jacksonville, Ark., were members of the 73rd Engineer Battalion. Both were killed by a roadside bomb as soldiers hunted for such explosives to secure a roadway in Mosul. Morton, from Dodge City, Kan., died earlier that morning while he and other members of the brigade's unit known as Deuce Four raided the home of a suspected car-bomb maker. Morton was hit four times by enemy gunfire. Seesan was fondly remembered as one of kind by his fellow soldiers. At a Fort Lewis memorial, Capt. Kenneth Frey recalled that Seesan, a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy, had once shouted out during a mock casualty exercise, "man overboard" rather than "man down." Creamean, who had married while on leave in February, had been wounded twice earlier. In a letter read at the funeral, Creamean's widow recalled: "Tyler was a happy guy and could always light up a room. On our wedding day he said 'and party 'till dawn' instead of 'till death do us part.'" Creamean's mother, Rebecca Callaway-Hout, said his love for others was unflagging: "Even at the end, his colonel said he was yelling for the medics for the other guy." Morton, also married, was an avid photographer, said a buddy, Spc. Luis Cruz: "Every moment was a Kodak moment for him." But while other soldiers displayed posters of models and celebrities, Morton put up pictures of his wife. "It is an honor and privilege to have known and grown close to him," Cruz said. 1,578th and 1,579th to die, April 28, 2005—Two Fort Lewis Stryker soldiers, 1st Lt. William A. Edens, 29, of Columbia, Mo., and Sgt. Eric W. Morris, 31, of Sparks, Nev., were killed in Tal Afar, Iraq, near the border with Syria, when a roadside bomb detonated near their Stryker military vehicle. Edens, who was a platoon leader, is survived by his widow. Recalled Sgt. Mark Meikle, who served with Edens: "Soldiers like to have officers who are bright, confident, courageous, and physically fit, and that he was. He was proud of his men, and they were proud of him." Morris was born in Enumclaw and grew up in New York state. He joined the Army in 1998 and is survived by a widow and twin daughters. Morris was Edens' vehicle commander and gunner. Lt. Steven Willis recalled how serious Morris took his duty. After other soldiers had griped about 10 straight days of hard, long hours, he asked Morris how he felt about it. "Sir, complaining won't make it go away," Willis recalled Morris saying "and it doesn't suck so bad if we're all going through it together." 1,569th and 1,570th to die, April 23, 2005—Army Sgt. Anthony J. Davis Jr., 22, of Long Beach, Calif., a sniper assigned to the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, and lst Sgt. Michael Bordelon, 37, from St. Mary's Parish, La.—along with two soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo.—died in Mosul, Iraq, when a passenger car filled with explosives rammed into the Stryker troop transport they were riding in. Davis died instantly, and the mortally wounded Bordelon died May 10 at Brook Medical Center in San Antonio. Married, with two young daughters, Davis had hoped to become a police officer after leaving the service. "He was proud of what he was doing," said his widow, Michell. "He never really told me any of that stuff. I think he knew that I probably wouldn't be able to handle it and he didn't want me to worry about him." Michell had talked with her husband just days before his death, when he told her all was well and he couldn't wait to get home to see his daughters. Davis never got to meet his youngest daughter, Aniya, born two weeks after he was deployed last year. Bordelon was on his second tour in Iraq, where his duties included sending home personal letters to the relatives of other Stryker soldiers killed in action. A family friend in Lousiana, Dan Martin, recalled that Bordelon happily helped neighbors around their homes, fixing a car or assembling new lawn furniture. "He was the kind of guy that anybody would want as a neighbor," Martin said. "He was just a really good guy." He leaves behind a widow and three children. 1,560th to die, April 18, 2005—Army Pfc. Sam W. Huff, 18, a military police officer from Fort Lewis, died in Baghdad of injuries sustained a day earlier when a roadside bomb went off near her Humvee. Since the war's beginning in 2003, Huff—Sam was her birth name, not a nickname—was the 37th U.S. female to die in combat. Raised in Tucson, Huff joined the service in July 2004, planning to become an FBI agent after her service. Said Sgt. Sam Jones, in a letter read at Huff's funeral: "Beneath that beautiful young lady was a backbone of steel." Said a friend, Jeremy Vega: "She always joked about being in the military police so she could boss guys around. She was a born leader ... and didn't take crap from people." Huff was the only child of Robert Huff, a retired policeman, and Margaret Williams, a former Marine. "Thank God these kids are willing to stand up, especially in a time of war," Huff said of his daughter and other soldiers. "She was willing. She's the bravest kid I've ever known. She was up and down that damned road between Baghdad and the Baghdad airport, which is notorious for those improvised explosive devices, but she knew the risks and she believed in the mission." 1,543rd to die, April 5, 2005—Army Spc. Glenn J. Watkins, 42, of Tacoma, became the 100th member of the military with Washington state connections to die in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A truck gunner, he was mortally wounded when a car bomb detonated near his Humvee in Baghdad. Watkins, who had been a construction worker, was originally from Idaho Falls, Idaho. He served four years in the Navy starting in 1981, then joined the Army, serving in active and guard units. He was in Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry from Kent—part of Washington National Guard's 81st Brigade—and was scheduled to return stateside. But like 70 others from his brigade, he volunteered for another six months in Iraq, joining up with some California buddies from the 184th Infantry. "He loved that unit," said widow, Anne. He called her a few days before his death and said, "I'm back with my boys!" The couple had four children from Anne's earlier marriage, one of them now a member of the Army's 82nd Airborne. 1,542nd to die, April 4, 2005—Army Staff Sgt. Stephen C. Kennedy, 35, a 1988 Bremerton High School graduate, was killed in an ambush during fierce fighting at an insurgent base south of Balad Ruz, Iraq. A "Happy Birthday" balloon was tied to the mailbox at his family home in Oak Ridge, Tenn., when relatives learned of Kennedy's death; they had planned to honor him on his 36th birthday two days later. Kennedy was a member of the 278th National Guard Regimental Combat Team, Knoxville, Tenn. He was married with four children. Said wife Tiffany: "The only words that went through my mind were, 'Oh, God, why Stephen?'" Kennedy's father is a retired Navy veteran who was stationed at the Bangor submarine base in Kitsap County, where Stephen spent his teen years. He joined the Marines after high school and served in Gulf War I. Kennedy loved his military job, his widow said. He believed that going to Iraq, she said, "and doing what he was doing was right, because it was for his family and it was for his country. That's what I want everybody to know." 1,536th to die, April 2, 2005—Army Staff Sgt. Ioasa F. Tava'e Jr., 29, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, died in Mosul, Iraq, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire. Tava'e, an infantry sergeant in Fort Lewis' 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, was the son of Filogia and To'o Ioasa Tava'e. He was the fifth Samoan soldier from the region to die in Iraq. Community churchgoers reported thattheir pastor offered a moment of silence during the next day's service. Remembrances of Tava'e quickly filled the Fort Lewis Stryker Web site, many similar to this one: "My dearest brother Tava'e, words can't explain how hard the news of your death hit me. We all prayed that after the death of Sgt T. Time and SSG S. Tuialuuluu that we would lose no more Samoans to this war, but the Lord had different plans for us and you … Growing up in Manu'a, and all the times we spent in high school we were so immune to the problems outside ... We lived a simple life. May the world always remember your ultimate sacrifice." 1,530th to die, March 30, 2005—Army Sgt. Kenneth Levi Ridgley, 30, of Steilacoom, Pierce County, died March 30 in Mosul, Iraq, of injuries sustained by automatic weapons fire; his unit was inspecting a suspicious car at a checkpoint when a suspect inside grabbed a gun and began shooting. A member of the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade Combat Team, "Levi" Ridgley was originally from Olney, Ill. He married his wife, Charity, in Lakewood, Pierce County, last year and was living in Steilacoom. He was planning to adopt Charity's son from an earlier marriage. "Since he was a kid, being in the Army was all he ever wanted to do," said Ridgley's brother-in-law, Earl Strausbaugh. "When he was only 8 or 9 years old, he'd go down and hang out at the recruiting office." Back in Olney, friends like James Daniels treasured small memories of days with Ridgley growing up—such as a frog-gigging outing at a local pond. Ken "fell out of the boat," Daniels said. "After we got done, we had all these frogs and we didn't know how to clean them. We had to wake up his dad." Ridgley was on his second tour of Iraq when killed. "I said, 'Levi, get out of that place,'" Olney city official Tom Totten recalled telling him before he returned. "I need to go back," Totten says Ridgley responded. "It's just something I need to do." 1,525th to die, March 23, 2005—Army Spc. Travis R. Bruce, 22, a Fort Lewis military police officer from Rochester, Minn., died when an enemy mortar round detonated near his position while he was guarding a police station in Baghdad. Assigned to the 504th Military Police Battalion, Bruce had celebrated his birthday two weeks earlier, sending out e-mails to "almost everybody" to remind them, said his father, Kenneth Bruce of Vancouver, Clark County, who retired from the Army just last September after 25 years. Travis' aunt, Sue Ketchum, said Bruce was "very proud to be a soldier. … Before he went in the military he was a young boy. He became a man. He knew himself, knew his capabilities, and was really coming to terms with the important role he played." Travis joined the service out of high school and had hoped to become a police officer after leaving the Army. One of his high school teachers, Heather Tarara, recalled Travis appearing during a recent Veterans Day program in Rochester. "I remember how nervous he was," she said, "just standing up in front of all of those people. He seemed so vulnerable … [but] he had been through things none of us had ever seen." 1,518th to die, March 16, 2005—Army Spc. Rocky D. Payne, 26, of Howell, Utah, was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Payne, a member of the 497th Transportation Company from Fort Lewis, died while assisting U.S. forces in protecting and delivering mail in Iraq. His family recalled that Payne, an Eagle scout, excelled at playing the piano, loved animals, and was drawn to children of all ages. He served first in the Marines and was involved in the initial assault on Baghdad. Honorably discharged, he enlisted in the Army and returned to the war front. Payne "gave his life willingly in the defense of those who cannot defend themselves," said Army Capt. Benjamin Marx at a memorial service. Another speaker, 1st Lt. Cecilia Motschenbacher, said Payne was "at peace" with the possibility of death in Iraq: "He saw the big picture, knew his place in the world," said Motschenbacher, who also read from a letter Payne left to be opened in the event of his death. "If you are reading this," he wrote, "it means I gave my life for a better cause." 1,514th to die, March 11, 2005—Army Staff Sgt. Staff Sergeant Donald Griffith Jr., 29, assigned to the Stryker Brigade's 14th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lewis, was killed following a car bomb attack in Tal Afar, Iraq. Military officials told his family that Griffth, from Mechanicsville, Iowa, died from small arms fire while trying to save fellow soldiers. A Harley motorcycle lover and one of seven siblings, Griffith joined the Army in 1996, around the same time he was married; his ninth wedding anniversary was a week off when he died. "He always told me, 'Don't worry about me, because I'm OK. All you'll do is have a nervous breakdown if you worry,'" said his mother, Diana Griffith. His Iowa hometown lowered flags to half-staff, and townsfolk lined the streets with other flags in his honor. Griffith sent an e-mail to his sister, Amanda, only hours before his death, saying, "It's pretty positive over here right now ... haven't been shot at for over two weeks. So, I guess that's a good sign, isn't it?" Said his mother: "People tell you it's getting better [in Iraq]. … I can't believe it's getting better, or my son would still be alive." 1,506th to die, March 4, 2005—Army Staff Sgt. Juan M. Solorio, 32, of Dallas, was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Mosul. His unit at the time was under attack by small arms fire. Assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, Solorio was a sniper instructor at Fort Lewis. Family members said Solorio, who joined the service out of high school in Texas, was a hiker, rock climber, and camper in his non-military life. He had two sons and left a widow. Family members shared his recent e-mails, one with a picture of Solorio and an Iraqi soldier. The Iraqis need "to have [America's] support so they could defend themselves," he said. Another e-mail told of Solorio's visit to biblical sites. "He looked at the historic significance, not just an area of conflict," said brother Fabian Solorio. In a statement, widow Gabby Solorio said Juan was "an extraordinary son, husband, and soldier. He died with his boots on and we would have had it no other way." 1,477th to die, Feb. 19, 2005—Army Spc. Clinton R. Gertson, 26, of Houston, died in Mosul from injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire. Gertson, with the 24th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis, was one of the earlier survivors of an Army mess hall bombing in Mosul that killed 22 people. "He was an all-American boy who loved to hunt, fish, farm rice, and run cattle," said his father, Gayle, at the family's farm outside Houston. "After 9/11 happened, he said he just felt he needed to go defend our country." The father said Gertson, known to friends as "Big Country," could have returned home only weeks before his death but had re-enlisted to become a sniper. "He knew full well there was going to be bloodshed in Iraq, but after he got there and saw the people, it really firmed up in his mind he had done the right thing." 1,471st to die, Feb.17, 2005—Army Sgt. Frank B. Hernandez, 21, of Phoenix, died in Tal Afar, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade combat team at Fort Lewis, Hernandez was married and had one child and had planned to someday go into law enforcement. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He gave up a college golf scholarship to join the service. On the Stryker Web site, a woman who said her son served with Hernandez wrote to the sergeant's family: "I wish that there was something I could do or say to take away or ease that pain and sorrow you feel, but, of course, nothing will. ... [Hernandez] will always be remembered as a true American hero." A high school teacher from Arizona added: "He reminded me every day why I teach. Frankie brought such enthusiasm and joy to the classroom that, even when I should have been irritated with him, I wasn't." 1,470th to die, Feb. 16, 2005—Army Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore, 22, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier from Gresham, Ore., was killed when a bomb detonated near his vehicle during action in Mosul, Iraq. Plumondore had joined the service hoping to take advantage of college assistance programs and had planned perhaps to become a law enforcement officer, his family said. He was an expert marksman, did duty as a sniper, and was killed on a day he was filling in for another solider when the bomb went off. "What he told us was, 'Saddam really messed these people up,'" said his mother, Elfriede Plumondore, and Adam wanted to help Iraqis who "were so afraid and had lived in fear for so long." Plumondore, a standout student athlete at Gresham High, "had a lot of friends. He was a three-sport athlete," said his former prep coach, Lonnie Wells. "So he knew a lot of kids—that crosses a lot of groups. He was friendly with everybody." Ron Plumondore said his 6-foot, 235-pound brother was a "gentle giant," adding: "I can't say he had an enemy or that he hated anyone. He always could bring a smile to anyone." 1,441st to die, Feb. 3, 2005—Army Sgt. Stephen R. Sherman, 27, from Neptune, N.J., died in Mosul, Iraq, from wounds sustained when a homemade bomb detonated near his vehicle. Assigned to the Fort Lewis 25th Infantry Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Sherman two months earlier escaped death in a mess hall bombing that killed 22, including six fellow Strykers. He attended High Technology High School in Monmouth County, N.J., and "never followed the crowd," recalled history teacher Diane Mannion. "He had good values and was very self-directed." Sherman graduated with a B.A. from the University of Oregon in 2001. He enlisted in 2003 after managing a car rental business in the Cayman Islands. In a statement, his family said Sherman was an outdoors and survival-trek enthusiast and remembered him as "a great son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin and a dedicated soldier who was devoted to making the world a better place. … We will always remember Stephen as a hero, and he will forever be missed by his family and by his many friends. … He died fighting for what he believed in." 1,372nd to die, Jan. 22, 2005—Army 1st Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe, 27, of Newport, Ore., died of wounds received when he was shot by a sniper in Mosul, Iraq. Hoe was a platoon leader assigned to the Army's 25th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. He was an avid body surfer in his native Hawaii and later moved to Oregon with his family, where he met and married wife, Emily, in June, 2004. She received an e-mail from him just hours before his death. "He told me how he was going to love me forever and how he couldn't wait to see me," she said. When his former University of Hawaii ROTC classmate, 2nd Lt. Jeremy Wolfe, was killed in a 2003 Black Hawk helicopter crash in Iraq, Hoe said, "His dedication to duty and commitment to his fellow soldiers will be greatly missed by those who knew him." His friends now say the same about Hoe: "This young man understood national pride and service to his country," said Michael Chun, president of Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii. "And when a person like Nainoa stepped up to the plate, it really caught your eye." 1,364th die, Jan. 15, 2005Army Sgt. Nathaniel T. Swindell, 24, of Bronx, N.Y., died in Mosul, Iraq, from an accidental non-combat related injury when the gun of an Iraqi National Guardsman misfired, hitting Swindell in the back. A member of the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Swindell had just days earlier written his mother, Kim, in an e-mail. "I'm fine," he said. "We've just been hard-charging over here for three months. But now we have the swing of things." Married, Swindell was a 2000 graduate of Samuel Gompers Vocational and Technical School in the Bronx and joined the service for its vocational and advancement opportunities, said his family. His letters home were often about the kids in Iraq, said his mother: "The children really touched his heart." His father, Vernon, said Swindell "happily" joined the service, although, "We didn't really want him to go to Iraq. But we didn't voice our opinion. I'm proud he did whatever he wanted to do." 1,356th to die, Jan. 13, 2005—Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian A. Mack, 36, of Phoenix, died in Mosul, Iraq, when his military vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. Mack, married with a daughter, was assigned to the Stryker Brigade's 25th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. He had been in the service since age 20, according to his family. The Fort Lewis-related Web site StrykerNews.com posted letters from a dozen members of other families who knew and loved Mack. "My son Andrew considered him a great friend, leader and a brave soldier who instilled the best on his soldiers and had the ability to make them braver," wrote a woman who said her son was at the scene when Mack was killed. Known to some soldiers and friends as Daddy Mack for his mentoring skills, Mack left behind a regiment of admirers, as well as a widow and teen daughter. At a Fort Lewis memorial, former brigade Sgt. Maj. Carlton Dedrich said Mack "was the one I sent soldiers to when they wanted to be better. He was the best, and he loved to train soldiers. He was the most passionate leader and soldier that I ever met." 1,342nd to die, Jan. 4, 2005—Army Pfc. Curtis L. Wooten III, 20, of Spanaway, Pierce County, died after being hit by shrapnel in Balad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle. Wooten was assigned as a tank gunner to the 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, posted in Schweinfurt, Germany. Born in Fort Riley, Kan., to Army parents, Wooten was a 2002 Spanaway Lake High grad who played sports and joined the military in part to help his family financially. "He wanted to make my burden easier," said his mother, Dairyene. Added his father, Curtis Wooten Sr.: "I feel pride in his service because he followed what I did, but it sucks that it ends this way." His friend, Michael Parker, remembered Wooten as high-spirited but, like many soldiers, sobered by war's reality. "He told me, 'They got me over here killing people I don't know,'" said Parker. Wooten "always had to be paranoid, on guard, seven days a week, 24 hours a day," to survive. 1,338th to die, Jan. 4, 2005—Army Pvt. Cory R. Depew, 21, of Beech Grove, Ind., died in Mosul, Iraq, when his Stryker military vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Depew, a cavalry scout who had wanted to be in the service since he was an eighth grader, according to his family, was assigned to Fort Lewis' 25th Infantry Division Stryker Brigade combat team. He joined the Army in December 2003, the year he graduated from high school, and was sent to Fort Lewis in May 2004. Divorced, with an 18-month-old son, Depew had spent some of his last days at home, in October 2004, helping build a church peace garden. "He knew times were going to get tough," said his mother, Ann May. But, "He never felt like he was in danger. At age 21, they think they are invincible."  

 
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