We had a good run, girl.
On Jan. 31, Sgt. William M. Sigua, 21, was killed when his unit was attacked with small-arms fire in Bayji, Iraq, north of Baghdad. Piecing together fleeting details from his comrades, his family said it appears that he was manning a Humvee's gun turret when he was shot.Do read the entire LA Times article about Army Sergeant William M. Sigua here. Read more at Military Times and find more here and here. Visit Sergeant Sigua's Guest Book and find his picture on Soldier Wall.
Fellow soldiers remembered the young paratrooper as someone who "had the ability to place everyone at ease with a word," Capt. Tim Peterman, company commander, wrote in an e-mail to Sigua's family. "In combat, Will always distinguished himself by displaying a level head and laid-back demeanor uncommon for someone his age."
His older brother, David, said Will was popular in high school and always had girlfriends, but never mocked or bullied teens with less social standing. "It didn't matter if someone wasn't one of the cool kids," his brother said. "Will treated everyone nicely."
In Iraq, Sigua found time to correspond with a fifth-grade class back home. Letters to friends and family related his hopes and disappointments. They also displayed his steadfast whimsy in the face of adversity.
"Christmas is here and it really doesn't seem like it," he wrote Herrera. "I walked outside and everyone had a Grinch-like attitude and that didn't help.... Later today we coordinated with the dog handlers to let us put on the bite suit and try to run away from his attack dog. That should make it seem more like Christmas."
His father, who had grown up in the Philippines, always held military service in high esteem. Will's grandfather had been imprisoned in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, and two other relatives survived the Bataan Death March, his brother said.
At a recent memorial service, 850 people jammed a hotel ballroom. The town mayor paid his respects, and the Fire Department bagpipe team played a dirge. Cousins talked of undying respect. Old friends spoke of his fun-loving nature and empathy and wisdom.
"Will was proud to be there," Herrera said of his time in Iraq. "That's what got a lot of us through these last few weeks. He wanted to be there."
Alejandro Carrillo was a slight 14-year-old, nervous and unsure, when he showed up in Master Sgt. Phillip Zamora's Junior ROTC class.Read the entire LA Times article about Marine Sergeant Alejandro Carrillo here, find more here and visit Sergeant Carrillo's Guest Book.
"He didn't know what to expect," Zamora said. "One of the things that always fascinated me was how much attention and love these kids needed."
The Carson teenager soon found a father figure in the man he called "master sergeant" no matter how well he got to know him. Before he graduated from Carson High School, Carrillo told his instructor that he had no intentions of suffering a death without meaning on the streets.
"He told me he'd rather die serving his country than in the street," Zamora said.
Carrillo was meticulous about his hair, about being shaved, about his serious demeanor. He seemed to emulate Zamora, who would chew him out and praise him in turn to build discipline.
Soon after graduating from high school in 2002, Carrillo joined the Marine Corps. Zamora said he worried about him, just like he had about all of the boys and girls he had instructed over eight years at the campus. Zamora asked his protege if he knew what he was getting into.
"I told him, 'You know what's going on in today's world, you know the conflict we're in,' " Zamora recalled. "He said he did. He said he wanted to serve his country."
Carrillo's young wife, Maria, who also had been in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, told Zamora it was not just that. Carrillo wanted to be like Zamora.
Carrillo was in Iraq but had to return suddenly when his 25-year-old brother, Marvin Vasquez, was shot to death Jan. 30, 2005, during a confrontation with Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies.
"Alex reiterated to me, 'This is what I mean, master sergeant, when I said I didn't want to die on the streets,' " Zamora recalled.
On Jan. 30, exactly two years after his brother's death, the 22-year-old Marine sergeant was killed during combat in Al Anbar province, west of Baghdad. He was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Zamora said Carrillo wanted to go to college and study psychology. Growing up in a tough neighborhood, Carrillo wanted to work with children and help ease their lives, Zamora said.
"He really wanted to work with kids. He wanted to give back what was given to him," Zamora said. "He was very adamant about that."
In addition to his wife and son, Carrillo is survived by his parents, Daniel Carrillo and Luisa Bravo; three brothers, Allan, Juan and Luis; and a sister, Dayana. He was buried with military honors at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Taylor told his wife, Diane, that this would be the last Thanksgiving and Christmas they had to spend apart.Read the entire LA Times article about Navy Lieutenant Commander Keith Edward Taylor here and find more here.
Taylor was killed Jan. 29 in a rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on the eve of Iraq's elections, two months shy of his scheduled departure. A Defense Department civilian also was killed, and four other Americans were wounded. Taylor was assigned to the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command, Iraq Detachment.
"We were both scared when he was going," his wife said. "It was bittersweet for him -- he was sad to go, but he was eager to go and make a difference."
Born in Tucson, Taylor was raised in Florida. He later majored in English at Cal State Long Beach and went to the University of Redlands for a master's degree in business administration. He worked in a variety of jobs as a civilian, including overseeing contracts at McDonnell Douglas Corp. and UC Irvine.
But Taylor was most proud of being a father, his wife said. He always wore a smile and exuded a warm, outgoing personality and loved playing with his children.
"He was the absolute best husband," his wife said. "He was absolutely a gentlemen among men, and I will miss him."
In addition to his wife and daughter, Taylor is survived by his former wife, Leslie, and their two daughters, ages 13 and 10; his parents; and two siblings.
"He was such a kind and loving person," said his mother, Jasmine Crowl of Orange. "He liked to protect the ground troops."
Read the entire LA Times article about Army Chief Warrant Officer Cornell C. Chao here and read more here.
When the family moved to Fullerton, Chao took up golf, eventually playing on the Sunny Hills High School team.
From an early age, Chao set his own path. "He didn't follow, and he didn't expect to be followed," said Shane Ahn, who met Chao in fifth grade and was close to him through high school. "In many respects, he knew his path well before anyone else [in our class] did."
Chao joined the Army right after graduation. He started at the bottom -- an enlisted man serving in the infantry in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. After a brief stint at Long Beach City College, he made the military his career.
Read the entire Iraq War Heroes article about Marine Lance Corporal Anthony C. Melia here, visit Corporal Melia's Guest Book and read more about him here, here and here.
"I watched my wife die inside as she made a sound like I've never heard coming from somebody before," Mike Melia said. "When the doorbell rang and she saw the Marines standing there, her heart, soul and spirit disappeared. She went so far down so quickly. Our life got changed."
As soon as she saw the uniformed Marines on her porch, Vicki Melia collapsed on the entryway floor.
On Monday, she spoke of the moment she realized her 20-year-old-son was killed.
"I knew right away," she said. "He was the light of my life."
His father said Melia had been killed by a random bullet while searching on foot for armed insurgents in Al Anbar province. He was assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
To his family, Melia was a man of honor and dedication, fighting in a war he believed in, but on Monday afternoon the family clung together and wept as they recalled his childhood and remembered the boy who grew up in Thousand Oaks.
"He loved to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers," recalled his Aunt Marcy Douglas of Reno, Nev. "He liked lots of action. He also loved riding a dirt bike."
"He never hesitated to hug and kiss his parents in public and was always thoughtful of others," his mother said. "He was the captain of his football team at Thousand Oaks High School."
He had also played Titan Football, was a good friend, would open doors for others, could be trusted and loved to eat his mother's homemade teriyaki barbecue beef jerky, she said. He had lots of friends and was close to his parents; his sister, Nicole, 22; and his younger brother, Daniel, 17.
Melia's girlfriend, Jamie Chunko, 18, was hoping to marry him as soon as he returned home. His stay in Iraq, which had been scheduled to end this month, was extended to April, his mother said.
Even though he was fighting a war, she said, he made sure his 3-year-old nephew, Nicholas, whom he adored, got a Spider-Man blanket from him for Christmas.
"When he wasn't fighting, he found a computer and ordered that for Nicholas," said Vicki Melia, her eyes filled with tears.
Melia was determined to follow his heart. He had wanted to join the Marines since he was 10, so he could be "the best of the best." He'd begged his parents to sign the paperwork required to enlist at age 17, but his mother told him he had to wait until he was 18, old enough to take on that responsibility himself.
As the leader of four men in a special operations fire squad, Melia had been asked by his mother "to not be first in battle," she said. But he would not promise her that. He promised her the opposite. He was a born leader who told her he would always be the one leading, I lead by example, she said. ...
"Anthony was walking in the field looking around when a random bullet hit him in his temple and ended his life," his tearful father said.
His father recalled the many phone calls he and his wife received from their son in Iraq.
"No matter how tired he was, when he would come in from the field, the first thing he would do before he'd go to sleep, he would call his mother and tell her he was all right," said Mike Melia. "She adored him. They had a special bond."
"When he talked to me, he would tell me how horrible war is and how cruel the people he was fighting are," his father said. "He told me CNN refused to interview him because he believed in what he was doing and they only wanted to talk to people who didn't."
Mike Melia was also saddened at the many terrible scenes his young son had to witness in defending his country, he said.
"War is not pretty, but I believe the majority of Americans want to get the job done and then bring them home," Melia said.
Army Pfc. Michael Christopher Balsley walked and talked like his father, a Vietnam veteran who would tell war stories and watch military movies with his young sons. For Halloween when he was 4, Balsley dressed as GI Joe with his father's patches sewn on by his mother.Do read the entire LA Times article about Army Private 1st Class Michael Balsley here, see pictures and read more at his Guest Book and find more here and here and at Military Times.
A few years out of high school, Balsley became an Army cavalry scout, a tough assignment on the front lines of combat. His father asked him why.
"I guess I want my own war stories, Dad," Balsley replied.
After three months in Iraq, the 23-year-old soldier was on patrol east of Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee. He was killed in the explosion along with Army Sgt. Alexander H. Fuller, 21, of Centerville, Mass….
Born June 30, 1983, Balsley grew up in Hayward, Calif., a middle-class town that hugs the rolling East Bay hills south of Oakland's gritty urban plain.
Jim Balsley said his son was "sensitive. He kind of looked at the world a little different than most." As a little boy, he climbed their home's dangerously high roof to reach the neighborhood birds. His father built him cardboard wings and let him jump off a backyard picnic table instead.
The family kept a mean-spirited Muscovy duck, Simon, who was a "devil in disguise. He used to attack everybody. But Mike was the only guy that Simon liked. He used to sit on his lap," said Balsley's older brother, James III, 25, of Alameda, Calif., who is in law enforcement.
Jim Balsley said he wants his son to be remembered as a patriot. "Michael was a real person," he said. "Michael was not just another name in the newspaper about another fallen hero defending the United States. Michael was a real individual."
In the national news, he was one of three soldiers killed Jan. 24 at an Iraqi checkpoint outside Baghdad when a car bomb exploded. But to the folks in his hometown, Army Spc. Jason Chappell will always be the quiet kid who loved church, his family, and games like Monopoly and Clue.
As word of his death spread through this Riverside County city, teachers, friends and relatives remembered him as quiet and scholarly but also as a person who would throw himself completely into whatever he was doing.
“He was so determined in everything he did,” said Jennifer Mallon, who was on the school’s Academic Decathlon team with Chappell and appeared in the school theater group production of “The King and I” with him.
Rich Herold, who coached the Academic Decathlon team, agreed.
“He just drove us the whole year. He was so intense he would just drive us to do better and better,” Herold said. “It’s quite a blow. It’s the tragedy of war.”
Chappell, 22, maintained a 3.8 grade point average in high school and had an interest in computers. He joined the Army a year after graduating in 2000.
“Jason was always a quiet kid who loved church, family and country,” his aunt Susan Priest of Cathedral City said as she began to cry. “He joined the military to make himself a better person. He believed in what he was doing. We are all so proud of him.”
Read the entire LA Times story about Army Private 1st Class David T. Toomalatai here, find more articles at Military Times and visit Private Toomalatai's Guest Book.
In his first months in Iraq, the 19-year-old medic was among three soldiers killed Jan. 27 when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee in Taji, north of Baghdad. [Also killed were Army Pfc. Jon B. St. John II and Army Cpl. Timothy A. Swanson.]
On his personal Web page at www.MySpace.com, Toomalatai posted a slew of photos of the person he would most like to meet: his infant son. "I've got a beautiful baby boy named Damien who's my life," he wrote.
In September, he was granted a week's leave. He spent the week at home with his son, learning about feeding schedules, naps and how to burp the baby. A month later, he shipped out for Iraq.
"Mommy, everything over here is fine," he wrote in an e-mail from Camp Taji to his mother two days before his death. Toomalatai had just learned that his father had been elevated to the status of bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Tell my dad that I'm still saying my prayers," he wrote. "See you soon."
"It's the last thing I have from him," his mother said. He sent it on a Wednesday. That weekend, she was giving her grandson a bath when the doorbell rang. "I saw the military man standing outside. I grabbed my grandson and started crying."
Damien, now 10 months old, spends weekends with the grandparents. The happy baby has brought some measure of comfort to Savali Toomalatai, 18, who is struggling with the loss of her big brother.
"Damien has his father's smile," she said. "Looking at him is like looking at my brother."
In addition to his parents and Savali, [and son Damien] Toomalatai is survived by his other siblings, Doreen, Elizabeth, James, Mara and Michael, as well as a large extended family.
Under a sky threatening snow, a brown van pulled up to Arlington National Cemetery yesterday to deliver the flag-draped coffin of Army Staff Sgt. Jamie D. Wilson.Do read the entire Washington Post article about Army Staff Sergeant Jamie D. Wilson here, see the Arlington Cemetery post and read more about Sergeant Wilson here.
The career soldier -- who had lived in orphanages and foster homes from the age of 10 -- knew as a young boy that he wanted to be in the Army and wasted no time trying to enlist when he turned 17. He needed parental consent, something he didn't have, so he got in line at his local courthouse and waited to talk to a judge.
"Everyone else there that day was in trouble, but he was just trying to join the Army," said Wilson's wife, Christine Wilson. "It was the judge who signed the papers."
Wilson, 34, of Temple, Tex., was killed by small-arms fire Jan. 22 while on guard duty at his post near Fallujah, Iraq. His wife said he had just cleared a car through a checkpoint and was getting back into his Humvee when he was struck by a sniper's bullet.
Lieutenant Colonel William Barefield, an Army chaplain, conducts the graveside service for Army
Staff Sergeant Jamie D. Wilson at Arlington National Cemetery.
"Joe, we got to the gulf on January 22nd, and my parents emailed me that night and told me what had happened. It's something I still can't believe. There were some rough days there, but I know you were right there helping me through. We've known each other for more years than I can count, Altar boys together, right on in to HS Football. You were a damn good friend, and I was proud to have known you. Fair winds and following seas bro."OS2 J.M. Urbano of CGC Munro (Whec-724)
"CPT Joe Lusk, you were an awesome individual. A great leader, caring person, and friend. I wish you peace. May God assign you to look after all of us. God bless you and your family."1LT Constable, Jason R. of 3/4 CAV, 25ID Hawaii
Read the entire LA Times article about Army Reserve Specialist Carla Jane Stewart here and find more here and here.
The daughter of Armenian immigrants, Stewart grew up with the trappings of privilege in La Canada Flintridge. She attended private schools, spent seven years studying ballet, took riding lessons and spent vacations water skiing and ice skating at her family's second home in Lake Arrowhead.
At 25, she married Brandon Stewart, a high school friend who had been a buddy of her younger brother, Richard. But 10 years later, estranged from her husband, her old dream of military service resurfaced.
At 35, nearing the cutoff age for enlistment, she joined the Army Reserve, whose soldiers receive combat training and attend weekend drills but can live at home and maintain their civilian careers.
Neither of her parents understood her choice, but they didn't try to dissuade their headstrong daughter
"Even if I had tried to stop her from going, it would have been impossible," her mother said. "I warned her that she might have to go to Iraq. She said, 'Mom, that's OK.' " She was proud to be a soldier, Aprahamian said. "She would say 'Mom, this uniform feels so right.'
Stewart was buried Feb. 10 at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills, after a funeral at the Hall of Liberty that drew hundreds of friends, family members and fellow soldiers. There, her father paid a final tribute to his soldier daughter.
"She surprised the life out of me," said Edmond Babayan, who joined the Marine Corps after he immigrated to the United States at 18. "I thought I was the brave one in the family.... She turned out to be the brave, the tough, the best patriot of all of us.
"My little hero," he called her as he turned and faced his daughter's open casket. Then he said goodbye with a long salute and dropped to his knees.
Two Marines killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan were eulogized Wednesday as young men of honor and courage who "made the world a safer place" by volunteering to serve in the war against terrorism.Read the entire LA Times article about Staff Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan and Staff Sgt. Walter F. Cohee III here. Do visit Sergeant Morgan's Fallen Heroes Memorial.
"Their country called in November, and they volunteered," Lt. Col. David L. Spasojevich said of Staff Sgt. Walter F. Cohee III and Staff Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan. "They were chosen because they were the best. They were Marines' Marines."
Cohee, 26, of Mardela Springs, Md., and Morgan, 24, of Willits in Northern California, were killed in the Jan. 19 crash of a CH-53E Super Stallion in the snowy mountains near Kabul while on a resupply mission. Five members of the crew were injured....
The two crashes give Miramar the grisly distinction of being the U.S. military base that has suffered the most war zone fatalities in the war on terrorism.
Navy chaplain Lt. George R. Bradshaw said Morgan's 4-year-old son, Alex, can be proud that "the world is safer because his father had the courage to confront evil in a land faraway."
Morgan's widow, Teresa, is expecting the couple's second child.
Cohee and his fiancee, Vanessa Gerritsen, a graduate student at UC San Diego, planned to be married. Using military e-mail, he had asked her sister and parents for their blessing for the marriage.
"When I found out [Cohee] had died, I felt I died too," a tearful Gerritsen told reporters after the memorial. "I have no idea what my future holds or how I'm going to go on without him. He was the love of my life and always will be."
Cohee and Morgan were part of heavy helicopter Squadron 361, known as the Flying Tigers. Both had completed a deployment in the Middle East when the U.S. sent forces to Afghanistan to rout the Taliban government and Al Qaeda terrorist network.
"In disbelief, anger, grief and sorrow, we grasp for memories," said Spasojevich, the squadron's commanding officer. "They will be in our hearts forever."
Subway shoots robbery suspectsBad news:
Kills only oneStory:
An employee of a Subway restaurant shot two men who were trying to rob the store Monday night, killing one of them and wounding the other, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said.Read it all.
Sgt. 1st Class John W. Marshall, a career soldier on the verge of retirement, chose instead to enlist one last time because he felt he had a job to do in the Middle East.Read the entire LA Times article about Army Sergeant 1st Class John W. Marshall here. Find more here and here and visit Sergeant Marshall's Guest Book.
The 50-year-old sergeant, who grew up Los Angeles and later helped run a family business here, was killed Tuesday in an ambush in Baghdad, his relatives said Saturday. Marshall had been serving as a reconnaissance scout to secure safe passage for U.S. troops as they entered the city.
According to the Department of Defense, he was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade launched by Iraqi troops lying in wait.
"He knew it was dangerous. He didn't run from anything," his wife, Denise, said by phone Saturday from the couple's home in Hinesville, Ga.
Marshall was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment in Ft. Stewart, Ga. Just before his unit was sent to the Middle East last fall, Marshall's wife learned she needed eye surgery, and the couple talked over whether he should request a monthlong delay.
"He said he had prepared these guys and he had to go when they go. He said, 'I need to be there,' " Denise Marshall recalled. "So we agreed he should go. He was a scout to the end."
Denise Marshall, widow of Army Sergeant First Class John W. Marshall of Los
Angeles, center, red shirt, receives the American flag that draped the casket of her
husband from General Larry Ellis during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery. Pictured with her is one of Marshall's six children