Saturday, July 05, 2003
By Associated Press, 7/4/2003 14:23
Kevin Ott had worked with a youth group and sang in the church choir in his hometown of Orient, Ohio. He decided to join the military after the Sept. 11 attacks, and even when he was deployed to Iraq, his father says, he wasn't afraid of dying.
''He was completely at peace,'' said Charles Ott.
Ott's body along with that of another soldier were discovered June 28 near Baghdad, three days after they were reported missing some 25 miles away. Ott, 27, was part of an artillery unit based at Fort Sill.
Pam Condo, 49, remembered the time her brother gave her a ride on his beloved motorcycle.
''I was afraid because I knew he loved to go really fast, but to my surprise, he went really slow because he knew I was scared,'' she said.
Ott played defensive end for a season at Bluffton College, was on the football and basketball teams in high school, and coached his nephew's little league team, Condo said. His calls and letters during the war were reserved, but his family could tell he was proud.
''He absolutely loved Army life,'' Charles Ott said.
Army Pvt. Shawn Pahnke
Shawn Pahnke grew up with military pride his father was a Vietnam veteran and his grandfather served in World War II and he was fulfilling his lifelong dream to serve in the military.
''His last letters talked about how proud he was to be a soldier,'' said his father, Tom Pahnke. ''He was glad that he was finally doing what he was trained to do.''
Pahnke, 25, of Shelbyville, Ind., was killed June 16 by a sniper in Iraq. He had enlisted in October after getting married and was stationed in Germany.
Tom Pahnke said his son missed the birth of his son, Dean, on March 20, but was able to speak with his wife, Elisha, on a cell phone.
''She had Shawn on the phone talking to him while she had the baby,'' Tom Pahnke said. ''Shawn was able to hear the baby cry for the first time and know that he had a son.''
Army Spc. Jose Amancio Perez III
Combat medic Jose Amancio Perez III's irrepressible sense of humor was matched only by his genuine desire to help others.
''One of the things he always wanted to do was be a paramedic, and he was using the combat medic as a step to do that and help people,'' said Spec. Alvie Jones.
''He had an amazing sense of humor. He could crack a smile out of a stone wall.''
Perez, 22, from San Diego, Texas, and stationed at Fort Sill, died May 28 when his convoy was ambushed.
When his flag-draped casket arrived in his hometown of about 5,000 people where his family is one of the largest the hearse was met by hundreds of neighbors lining the roadway, waving flags and holding candles. Residents later raised two long columns of flags to attention.
Perez was remembered as a sharply dressed, competitive young man who worked hard but knew how to enjoy himself.
''He also loved the Army,'' said his best friend, Rene Salaiz. ''He spoke of it proudly, just like when he caught an interception in a (high school) football game. He flashed his dog tags around.''
Army Military Police Staff Sgt. Brett Petriken
Brett Petriken was such a loyal Detroit Lions football fan that he had game tapes sent to him overseas.
''He loved to watch them, win or lose,'' said his stepmother, Kathy Petriken.
He also loved a good joke, and knew how to make people feel at ease, said his uncle, Dave Petriken. ''Nobody had a bad word to say about him,'' he said.
Petriken, 30, from Flint, Mich., and stationed in Germany, was killed in a traffic accident May 26 in Iraq.
Just before he left for Iraq, he told his mother not to worry.
''He said `I have a bulletproof vest and a bulletproof Humvee. Mom, I'm trained for this,''' Deborah Petriken said.
Jeff Blanchard, a former high school substitute teacher, said Petriken was ''just a clean-cut, polite, nice young man.''
''You never had to ask him to be quiet, you never had to ask him to sit down,'' he said. ''When it's that quality of an individual, it really hurts.''
Petriken is survived by his wife, Christina, and 8-year-old daughter.
Army Staff Sgt. Andrew R. Pokorny
Andrew Pokorny's commitment to the Army and his fellow soldiers had been unwavering ever since he joined the service fresh out of high school and began his career as a mechanic.
''He just loved the camaraderie. He loved being with other soldiers, the soldiers who were under him,'' said his wife, Martha. ''Everything about them came first.''
Pokorny, 30, of Naperville, Ill., died June 13 in a vehicle accident in Iraq. He was stationed at Fort Carson.
Martha Pokorny said her husband's commander told her Pokorny had saved another soldier's life before losing his own.
His sister, Barbara Bonnet, said that despite her worries she had understood her brother's commitment to his job.
''This was his thing. He was proud to be doing it,'' she said. ''He was ready to get down there and do it and do it right.''
Martha Pokorny said her husband also served six months as a mechanic with the Army Rangers in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1992.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Gladimir Philippe
The eldest of nine children, Gladimir Philippe called home from Iraq often and counseled his little brother to swear off girls and keep his head on straight.
''He was like my best friend and my brother at the same time,'' said Fedlyn Philippe, 16, Gladimir's youngest brother. ''He was a person I could just talk to. I looked up to him a lot.''
Philippe's body and that of a fellow soldier were found May 28 near Baghdad. The soldiers were reported missing three days earlier from the town of Balad, 25 miles north of the Iraqi capital.
Philippe, 37, of Roselle, N.J., was part of an artillery unit based at Fort Sill. He enlisted in the Army in 1988 after graduating from high school.
The Army ''was something (Gladimir) chose to do,'' his brother said. ''He always told me not to join. He told me to play basketball and keep my head strong and don't worry about girls, and to do good in school.''
Army Maj. Mathew E. Schram
Mathew E. Schram grew up wanting to be a soldier, and joined ROTC in college before enlisting in the Army in 1989. He and his girlfriend, also an Army major, thought nothing about it when he was shipped out to the Middle East in April.
''We thought it was over. I wasn't worried about him at all,'' said Kam Gunther, 34.
Schram, 36, of Brookfield, Wis., and stationed at Fort Carson, died May 26 when his convoy was ambushed.
''Mat might have been a little embarrassed by all the attention he got,'' his father, Earl Schram, said after his son was honored posthumously.
''He was kind of a modest man. He wouldn't tell somebody else to do something if he wasn't willing to do it himself.''
The Rev. Daniel Pakenham said Schram lived by his principles.
''He set his mind on this and his heart and he lived by it,'' Pakenham said. ''He lived by it to the extent he would give his life for it. That's eloquence.''
Army Pfc. Jeremiah D. Smith
When Jeremiah D. Smith was killed in Iraq on May 26, it wasn't just his family who felt the loss. There also were his comrades at Fort Riley.
Smith, 25, of Odessa, Mo., was a cavalry scout in Baghdad putting him out front looking for possible trouble awaiting his fellow soldiers. He was escorting heavy equipment transporters when his vehicle hit unexploded ordnance, killing him.
''He was a hard-nosed hard charger who didn't stop,'' said Staff Sgt. Ryan Rust, who saw Smith just about every day at Fort Riley. ''We were brothers in arms. I respected him very much.''
Smith was married and had two daughters, ages 3 and 5.
His father, Doug Smith of Odessa, said his son was proud of being a soldier.
''But what he really wanted to do was to become a teacher,'' his father said. ''And he was going to use his Army benefits to pay for college. He wanted to help teach young people about life.''
Army Spc. Orenthial J. Smith
Orenthial J. Smith joined the high school football team his senior year, as a wide receiver and kicker. He didn't play every game, but that was OK the coach says Smith was happy just being part of the team.
''He liked the camaraderie and the relationships he built with the guys he played with,'' said Carlos Cave, football coach at Allendale-Fairfax High School in South Carolina. ''He tried extra hard. He always did whatever that was asked of him.''
Smith, 21, died June 22 after an attack on his convoy south of Baghdad. He joined the military right out of high school, and was stationed in Germany.
Smith's mother, Iratean, said her son had hoped to make the military his career. But still, she said, he had reservations about the war.
''He loved the Army, but he didn't like the war,'' she said.
After arriving in Iraq, her son told her ''Bush is trying to say the war is over, but the war is far from over,'' she said.
Army Sgt. Joseph Suell
Joseph Suell was known for giving it his all, whether on the basketball court or in the Army.
''Joseph was a dedicated young man,'' said Jesse Walker, Suell's basketball coach at Lufkin (Texas) High School. ''He gave everything he had, did what the coaches asked, never made excuses and was always on time.''
Suell, 24, a supply specialist stationed at Fort Sill, died June 16 in Iraq of a non-combat-related cause. His death is being investigated.
Suell was a point guard on his high school basketball team, earning honorable mention all-district status in 1996 and 1997, Walker said.
Ronald Kellam, who worked with Suell for seven months, said in an e-mail to the Lufkin Daily News from Iraq that Suell was a hero, doing a job many at home take for granted.
''A hero in his family's eye, a hero to many of the soldiers that he worked with. Joe's death came as a real shock to everyone here,'' he said.
''The day that Joe died was a day that I lost a brother.''
Survivors include his wife, Rebecca.
Army Sgt. Michael L. Tosto
Michael L. Tosto was a tank driver who didn't die from combat, but from pneumonia that his mother said developed rapidly and killed him before he could be airlifted from Baghdad to a military hospital in Germany.
Tosto, 24, who grew up in Chatham County, N.C., and was stationed in Germany, died June 17. Family members say his death came less than 48 hours after he started showing symptoms of pneumonia. He had been assigned to duty in Baghdad April 30.
Tosto is survived by his wife, Stephanie, and 19-month-old son, Cameron.
The last time his mother, Janet Tosto, heard his voice was when he called on her May 5 birthday.
''He loved driving tanks,'' said his mother, of Atlantic, N.C. ''He didn't like being away from his family now, and he just loved that little boy, but he really enjoyed what he did.''
His mother said Tosto's wife had received two letters from him since he died in which he was ''talking about how much he loved her and how much he wanted to spend the next 80 years with her.''
Army Staff Sgt. Michael B. Quinn
Michael Quinn was an ''all-American boy'' who helped raise sheep in high school, then enlisted in the Army to pay for college. He turned out to become a career Army man.
''He was a gung-ho soldier,'' said stepfather Peter Folgner.
Quinn, 37, of Tampa, Fla., and stationed at Fort Carson, died May 27 at a checkpoint shooting in Iraq.
''He would put his heart and soul into whatever he was doing,'' said his mother, Sally Quinn Taylor.
Folgner said Quinn planned to retire in four years and then move to Mississippi, where he hoped to become a military instructor. He is survived by his wife, Melissa, and 9-year-old son.
''He fought for our freedom, that we would have less danger from terrorists, and he was killed by terrorists, not soldiers,'' Folgner said.