Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lester Domenico Baroncini, Jr., Army, Sergeant -- Rest In Peace

Lester Domenico Baroncini, Jr., 33

Army, Sergeant
Based: Ft. Bragg, N.C.
2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: October 15, 2006
Samarra, Iraq
Gender: Male
Hometown: Bakersfield
High School: Bakersfield High (Bakersfield)
Burial: Greenlawn Southwest Cemetery, Bakersfield

I have the greatest pleasure to served with him and would consider him to be a brother. The thing that I missed most about him would have to be the time we spent together at Ft. Bragg as well as all the other place that we travel together. He is the kindest person I have ever met, which reflect by his families value and ethic. Thank you for everything you have done for me, I am a better person because of you. You will never be forgoten in my heart.
— Sgt. Nguyen Huynh
October 19, 2009 at 12:26 p.m.

From the LA Times:
Lester Domenico Baroncini Jr. always wanted to be the same thing for Halloween: either a cowboy or a soldier. Those who loved him knew him as both.

The only son of a Bakersfield ranching family, Baroncini was a straight-shooting roper and rider, loyal to his country, his family, his horse Patsy and his dog Boo.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Baroncini left the 30,000 acres he grew up on to enlist in the Army.

"He came to his parents and he told them he really felt called to serve his country," said Father Craig Harrison, a priest at the family's church, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Bakersfield. "They've just been waiting for him to come home and start ranching again."

Baroncini and another soldier were killed Oct. 15 when two land mines exploded near their Humvee in Samarra, Iraq, northwest of Baghdad. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

In the Army, young recruits teased the 33-year-old rancher, labeling him "Old Man."

The reserved but easygoing Baroncini was "one of the best troopers we had in the company, one of the hardest-working guys you'll ever meet," said Lt. Jake Cross, 25, who served with Baroncini at Ft. Bragg and is stationed in Iraq. "A lot of guys depended on him for his experience and for his knowledge."

Spc. Robert Erath, 35, hit it off with Baroncini right away because the two were older than many of the other soldiers.

Baroncini worked in the armory at Ft. Bragg, issuing weapons to new soldiers. "It's a pretty hectic job [and] can be very, very stressful," Erath said.

Baroncini, who could rattle off the names of weapons and parts just from their serial number, "was just a wizard at it," Erath said. "It's really hard to lose a brother like that."

Baroncini aided with relief efforts in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in October 2005, and hoped to revisit the city he helped rebuild when he returned, Harrison said. Baroncini was scheduled to return home at the end of October.

Baroncini's high school shop teacher wasn't at all surprised when he heard that his former welding student had joined the Army. "You don't find many like that," Mike Battistoni, 54, said of Baroncini, who would help out around the classroom, tutoring other students.

Baroncini's patriotism went way back, said James Gill, who befriended Baroncini in high school history class, bonding over football. The two were both strong supporters of U.S. efforts during the Persian Gulf War, said Gill, 33, an Air Force technical sergeant in Wichita Falls, Texas.

With any serviceman he'd encounter, Baroncini would tell them "thank you, flat out," Gill said. "He stood up for what he believed in, right, wrong or indifferent."

Baroncini was as reliable on the range as he was on the battlefield, said his friend Levi Kophamer, 26, a Bakersfield farmer who worked part time with Baroncini at a cattle ranch north of the city a few years ago.

"He said he was going [to the ranch] to work, and that's what he did," Kophamer said of their time together, mending fences and caring for cattle. "He showed up and worked hard all day long, outworked a lot of people."

Baroncini later worked full time feeding cattle at another Bakersfield ranch. "What he did, he did it right, or he wouldn't do it at all," said Baroncini's great uncle, Dick Baroncini, 85.

Family friends reminisced in an online memorial how Baroncini would take the time to ride and hunt with a former girlfriend's little brother. His sister, Anici Baroncini Schultz, told Harrison that she remembered her brother as a little boy so scared of the dark he'd make her walk down the hall ahead of him to turn on the light.

In addition to his sister, Baroncini is survived by his parents, Lester and Pixie Baroncini; a brother-in-law, Kevin Schultz; three nephews, Nathan, Mason and Ty Schultz; a great-uncle, great-aunts and cousins.

Lester and Pixie Baroncini, parents of Army Sgt. Lester Domenico Baroncini Jr., who died in Iraq while serving in the Army, were presented medals Domenico earned during his service to his country. His funeral was held at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

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