Monday, November 10, 2003

Port Huron soldier killed in Iraq - thetimesherald.com 

Port Huron soldier killed in Iraq
Army staff sergeant dies when vehicle hit by explosive
Times Herald


The Associated Press/APN
SOLDIER DIES: A U.S. military vehicle burns after an explosion Saturday in Fallujah, Iraq, in this image from television. Staff Sgt. Mark D. Vasquez of Port Huron Township was one of two U.S. soldiers who died in the attack.

Staff Sgt. Mark Vasquez



FORT RILEY/16TH INFANTRY: www.riley.army.mil/Units/1BCT1ID /1-16IN.asp

FORT BENNING/RANGER SCHOOL: www.infantry.army.mil/rtb

BRADLEY FIGHTING VEHICLE: www.fas.org/man/ dod-101/sys/land/ m2.htm


Port Huron Township native Staff Sgt. Mark D. Vasquez was killed Saturday when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle was destroyed by a homemade explosive device. Here is a look at the Bradley's characteristics:

PURPOSE: The Bradley is an armored, fully tracked vehicle designed to carry infantry into battle. It's not considered a tank because it's smaller, faster and doesn't have a large-caliber main gun. Went into service in 1981.

WEAPONS: Main armament is the M242 25mm "Bushmaster" chain gun. Also has a 7.62mm coaxially mounted machine gun and a TOW missile launcher.

CREW: Commander, gunner and driver. The infantry version of the Bradley, the M2, can transport six or seven soldiers.

SPEED: 45 mph.

WEIGHT: 50,000 lbs.

COST: $3.1 million each. The military has about 1,600 Bradleys.

NAME: Named for World War II Gen. Omar N. Bradley.

MADE BY: United Defense of Arlington, Va.

It was two years ago that Lydia Chappelle of Fort Gratiot last saw her younger cousin.

An active young man with a daughter and pregnant wife at home, Mark D. Vasquez of Port Huron Township was turning the Army into a career when Chappelle began teaching the practical joker to play golf.

On Sunday, Chappelle wiped away tears as she leafed through pictures of Vasquez and his two young children and remembered the time they spent together laughing on the golf course.

Vasquez, an Army staff sergeant who had recently qualified as a Ranger, was killed Saturday when an "improvised explosive device" hit his Bradley Fighting Vehicle while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, about 40 miles west of Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense. He's the first local soldier killed in the war.

Vasquez, 35, was deployed to Iraq less than two months ago. He'd been assigned as a squad leader to Co. A, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regt., 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., since October 2002.

Vasquez and his wife, Nicole, have a daughter, Breanna, 6, and a son, Cameron, 2.

"We thought he was trained well enough to be OK," said Chappelle, 46, early Sunday evening.

"They weren't even in battle; this was a peace-keeping mission."

A second soldier is believed to have been killed in the attack with Vasquez, but the Department of Defense did not release any details Sunday.

As of Sunday, the Pentagon and families have identified 389 U.S. service members who have died supporting U.S.-led operations in Iraq. The total includes accidental and non-combat related deaths. Other U.S. deaths have been reported but have not yet been identified.

Vasquez, a Red Wings fan, missed his unit's first deployment to Iraq while training at the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga.

A practical joker, and at times mischievous, family members said Vasquez rarely was without a smile.

"I knew he wanted to go (to Iraq) ... he felt he had missed out before," Chappelle said. "We expected him to come back."

Searching for a path in life, Vasquez joined the Army in 1993. He had dropped out of Port Huron High School at age 17.

Before joining the Army, family members said, Vasquez had little direction. The military gave Vasquez the two things he needed most -- direction and discipline.

Mike Vasquez of Port Huron, a former paratrooper, said he urged his cousin Mark to enlist in 1993.

"I told him 'I think the Army would help you grow,'" he said.

Mike Vasquez, 42, last spoke to his cousin shortly after his Ranger training ended this year.

"He said he had a job he had to do, and he was going to do it. I think that's probably what he would say (right now) -- he was doing his job."

The only other local casualty reported so far in Iraq was Marine Staff Sgt. Jessie Fuentes, a Croswell native who was wounded prior to the war's start. Fuentes' mother, Alice, said in July her son was recovering in California from injuries suffered behind Iraqi lines.

The last Michigan soldier to be identified as killed in Iraq was Army Spc. Artimus D. Brassfield, 22, of Flint. He was killed Oct. 24 in a mortar attack on an outpost near Baghdad.

Port Huron soldier killed in Iraq - thetimesherald.com


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