2 Fort Lewis Explosive Experts Killed in Longest U.S. War - That's Afghanistan

Army Staff Sgt. Shane S. Barnard is one of two Fort Lewis bomb disposal specialists to recently die in Afghanistan, in what this week became America's longest war.

Memorial services were held for Barnard Wednesday at Fort Lewis, and he has just been added to SW's War Dead pages, now grown to 77 obits of troops with Washington state connections killed in Afghanistan, and 282 in Iraq.

Barnard, from South Dakota, died in Zabul Province, Afghanistan May 19, when, while defusing one bomb, he stepped on a second one. He was assigned to Fort Lewis' 3rd Ordnance Battalion and was on his second Army tour, having served in the 1990s as an infantryman; he later became a combat medic. Barnard was 38 and married, with three children.

As USA Today reminded us this week, the Vietnam war lasted 103 months but on June 7, Monday, the Afghanistan war hit its 104th month, with no end in sight. President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to the fighting last week, saying "it is absolutely critical that we dismantle that network of extremists that are willing to attack us."

The U.S. toll now exceeds 1,100 in Afghanistan where, a few weeks before Barnard died, so did 3rd Ordinance Battalion member Spc. Wade A. Slack, 21, a Fort Lewis soldier from Waterville, Maine, killed in a mortar attack.

At Slack's funeral, attended by Maine's governor, one of his friends, Sgt. James Cribbett said Slack lightened the load for others with his good humor.

Cribbett recalled one moment when his unit slogged through a heavy rain, slipping and sliding as they climbed a mountain in Afghanistan.

"This," said a plodding Wade, turning to his sergeant, "wasn't in the brochure."

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