US troops killed in Iraq and Kuwait

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2009 10:25 AM

Army Spc. Tony Carrasco Jr.

At Gadsden High School in Anthony, N.M., Tony Carrasco was remembered as a hard worker who didn't cause problems.

"He was an ag student who was involved in the horticulture program here," said principal Carey Chambers, who arrived at the school after Carrasco graduated but heard teachers' memories of him. "By all accounts of everyone we talked to, he was a good kid."

Carrasco, 25, of Berino, N.M., died Nov. 4 in Ad Dawr, Iraq, when he was shot during an attack. He was assigned to Fort Riley.

His sister, Susana, wrote in an online message board that she remembered her brother's jokes and all the times he told her to be strong and not take life for granted.

"Those are the things that help me go on. I am very proud of you. You are my HERO!" she wrote.

Carrasco graduated from high school in 2003 and entered the Army in January 2008. A field artillery specialist, he deployed to Iraq earlier this fall.

He is survived by his wife, Johana Lizeth Martinez Gavaldon-Carrasco; stepson, Axel Antonio; stepdaughter, Ilse Iveth; parents, Antonio & Juana Carrasco; and sisters, Rosalia, Susana and Jessica.

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Army Spc. Christopher M. Cooper

Christopher Cooper was remembered as someone who was kind and charitable, dropping $20 bills in the lap of a homeless person and collecting tattered U.S. flags left on the streets after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Cooper entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 2000 and served five years, completing an Iraq tour. After a few months of civilian life in Oceanside, Calif., he joined the Army Reserves, then enlisted in the U.S. Army.

"He wasn't one for complaining and it lifted those around him," retired Spc. Chris Conover wrote in a message posted on the Daily Kos Web site. "You could always talk to him if you needed someone to have a heart-to-heart with."

Cooper, 28, died Oct. 30 in Babil province in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion at Schweinfurt, Germany.

An obituary said Cooper was a "restless soul" searching for his place in the world until he joined the military.

"He always looked forward to returning home to visit his family and friends but then could not get back fast enough to be reunited with his brothers in the military," the obituary said.

Cooper is survived by his mother, Sherry Kennon; brother-in-law and sister, Damon and Lori Coachman; and niece Kayla Coachman.

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Army Pfc. Derrick D. Gwaltney

Derrick Gwaltney couldn't wait to come home from Iraq and see his wife and 2-year-old daughter _ and the son the couple was expecting, his family said.

They had spoken to him on Thanksgiving, just days before he died.

"We put him on speaker phone so everyone could yell, 'Derrick, we love you! Happy Thanksgiving!' He kind of chuckled and laughed and said, 'Thanks everybody.' He said, 'I'll talk to you later mom.' That was it," said his mother, Patricia Gwaltney.

Gwaltney, 21, of Cape Coral, Fla., died Nov. 29 south of Basra. His family said he was found alone with a single gunshot wound to his head. He graduated from Sandusky High School in Ohio in 2006 and enlisted in the military in 2008. He was assigned to Fort Lewis.

His sister, Latisha Gwaltney, said he was apprehensive about his deployment but was "strong-willed and brave."

Whitney Brechner of Cape Coral remembered her "Insomnia Buddy" in a posting on an online message board. She recalled the late-night talks and adventures playing "World of Warcraft" the two would have in the wee hours.

"Derrick was an incredibly caring and selfless man," she said. "He was a loving father and a wonderful friend."

He is survived by his wife, Heidi, daughter and stepdaughter.

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Army Chief Warrant Officer Matthew C. Heffelfinger

Matthew C. Heffelfinger's father says he was humble and could do without drawing attention to himself.

"He was one who walked the walk and commanded respect by his actions without needing to talk that talk," Craig Heffelfinger said.

Heffelfinger, 29, joined the Army in April 2000. He was assigned in December 2007 to Schofield Barracks and served as a Kiowa helicopter pilot.

On Nov. 8, he died in a helicopter crash in Tikrit, Iraq, along with Chief Warrant Officer Earl R. Scott of Jacksonville, Fla.

About 250 people attended services for Heffelfinger in rural Kimberly, Idaho, his hometown. Throughout the community, signs on businesses honored him and flags were flown at half-mast.

"We were humbled to see so many businesses with signs showing support and their sincere condolences," Craig Heffelfinger said.

Heffelfinger leaves behind his wife, Tanya, and the couples two children.

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Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class David M. Mudge

David Mudge liked traveling, and trying new cuisines or "anything that wasn't what he had at home," his brother said.

Mudge joined the the U.S. Navy to see the world after a childhood of listening to his uncles and other relatives share stories about serving in the military. On the USS Rentz, Mudge was able to see the ancient pyramids in Egypt, a sight that left him in awe, his brother said.

"The sheer size of them and the age of them and everything just blew him away," Curtis Mudge said. "Pictures didn't do it justice."

David Mudge, 22, of Sutherlin, Ore., was killed Nov. 28 in an electrical accident aboard the USS Rentz. The ship was at Port Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, when Mudge died.

He grew up in a large, close-knit family, and he graduated from the Phoenix School in Roseburg, Ore. At age 19, he enlisted in the Navy.

"He was looking for something to do with his life that he would be able to be proud of," said Curtis Mudge. "He always looked up to the fact that our family was military oriented."

Mudge is survived by his parents, Larry and Judy Mudge; sisters Sarah Washburn, Allison Tomlinson and Angelica Mudge; and brothers Brian, Curtis and Jed.

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Marine Staff Sgt. Stephen L. Murphy

Stephen Murphy's foster family didn't know what to make of him when he first arrived in his early teens. His hair was purple and green, and he was always listening to heavy metal music.

"His hair was his pride and joy," said his foster sister, Lynn Quade. "He was such a heavy metal dude."

That was before Murphy, of Jaffery, N.H., spent 16 years in the Marines. He died Nov. 9 in Iraq's Anbar province. His death was not combat-related and is being investigated. Still, his military career made his family proud.

"He touched this earth, and he left behind all beautiful things for people in this town," said his mother, Carol Murphy, who lives in Troy, N.H.

Friends and family members say Murphy, 36, grew into a quiet, tender man who still loved to play his guitar and go skiing.

He once joined a search party to look for a lost boy. He found the child and waited with him at the base of a mountain for help to arrive.

Murphy joined the Marines shortly after graduating from Conant High School. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

Survivors also include his foster mother, Evelyn Covey, and three sisters.

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Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian M. Patton

Brian M. Patton was the kind of man who remembered to wish his wife of nine years a happy anniversary even from overseas.

He called to tell Amy Patton he missed her, and they talked about a trip they were planning to Hawaii. Then he hung up for the final time.

Relatives say the 37-year-old from Freeport, Ill., was killed Nov. 19 in a vehicle crash near a base in Kuwait, where he had volunteered to deploy.

The Gulf War veteran spent time in the Air Force Reserve between stints with the Navy, most recently with a reserve unit based in New York. He had recently worked in Dallas, Pa., as an officer at a correctional facility.

Colleagues and comrades say they could always depend on Patton, a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, to fill several roles: the jokester, the attention-grabber, the life of the party, the go-to guy.

"He was a natural leader," said Senior Chief Petty Officer David Kinnaird. "People would follow him. Definitely a wonderful sailor, one of my best sailors."

Patton also is survived by sons Brian and Nicholas; a stepson, Tyler; and two brothers, Robert and Scott.

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Army Pfc. Michael A. Rogers

Michael Rogers and his older brother grew up going to the Missouri River near their Montana home and catching crawdads.

They would bring the critters back to their mom, who would use them to make homemade gumbo.

Rogers, of White Sulphur Springs, Mont., also loved snowball fights and building snow forts, said his brother, James Westcott, a sergeant in the Marines.

Rogers died Nov. 27 in a non-combat related incident at Forward Operating Base Hammer, east of Baghdad. He was 23 and assigned to Fort Drum.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Private First Class Rodgers," Brig. Gen. John Walsh said. "There are countless others who are sharing in your loss."

At a service in Townsend, Mont., Westcott spoke of growing up in the country with his younger brother. When Westcott broke down at one point in the service, an aunt took his written words and read them for Rogers' family and friends.

"My little brother is on a new adventure now," Westcott wrote.

Walsh presented Rogers' family with commendation and good conduct medals during the ceremony.

Rogers is survived by his mother and brother.

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Army Chief Warrant Officer Earl R. Scott III

Earl "Scotty" Scott, an Army helicopter pilot, always loved the freedom of flying and never feared being in the air. He didn't want anyone else to be afraid of it, either.

Nick Bradley, one of Scott's close friends, recalled going on a plane ride with Scott at the controls. Scott urged his friend to take over, and decided he'd have a little fun when Bradley refused.

"He let go and we started falling. I had a full-blown heart attack that time," Bradley said.

Scott, 24, of Jacksonville, Fla., died Nov. 8 when his helicopter crashed in Tikrit. He was assigned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Scott had started his own lawn care business as a teen, but sold the business so he could pursue a career in aviation. He joined the Army in 2006.

The pilot loved to go camping, fishing, surfing and kite surfing. Friends and family also said he enjoyed playing drums. But he liked nothing more than being in the air.

"He loved the freedom of it, being able to fly where he wanted to," said his father, Earl Scott Jr. "I know he was doing what he wanted to do and I know he was proud to serve his country."

Among other survivors are his mother, Sandra; brother, William; and girlfriend, Tara Reyna.

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Army Staff Sgt. Amy C. Tirador

Amy Tirador had many interests and was passionate about them all.

She was an accomplished trumpeter who played "Taps" at funerals of relatives who served in World War II. She was a lacrosse player who helped start the girl's lacrosse program during her junior year of high school. And she was an Army medic credited with saving the life of a soldier during a convoy attack in Iraq.

"She was incredibly dedicated, and leaving work unfinished didn't seem to be part of her genetic makeup," Aimee Ruscio, a soldier who served with Tirador in Iraq, wrote in an Internet posting.

Tirador, 29, of Albany, N.Y., died Nov. 4 in Kirkush, Iraq. The Army is investigating her death, which it says was a noncombat incident. Her family has said Tirador was shot in the back of the head, and that it was not an accident or a suicide.

The 1998 graduate of South Colonie Central High School was an Arabic-speaking interrogator and interpreter. Tirador was assigned to Fort Lewis.

Survivors include her husband, Mickey Tirador, and her parents, Colleen Murphy and Gerard Seyboth.

"She loved her country, cherished her family, was devoted to and loved her husband dearly," cousin Cheryl Seyboth Shepard wrote in an online message board.

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Army Staff Sgt. Briand T. Williams

Briand Williams _ known to his comrades as "Sergeant Will" _ gave big hugs, and had an even bigger appetite, his mother said.

"When he'd come to visit me, he'd give me a big hug every time," said his mother, Tonya Flippen. "And the first words that would come out of his mouth were, 'What are you cooking me for dinner?'"

Williams, 25, of Sparks, Ga. was killed by an enemy sniper Nov. 22 in Numaniyah, Iraq. He was assigned to Fort Benning and was posthumously promoted to Staff Sergeant.

The soldier enlisted in 2002 after graduating from Valdosta High School in Georgia. Flippen said her son was determined to be a career military man.

"His mission was to go into the military and retire. That was his job," she said.

"He died doing what he loved.

Pvt. Wayland Waldrep said "Sergeant Will" was tough on him and the other soldiers, but only because he cared about them as a leader.

"He taught me how to be a better soldier and how to be on time," Waldrep said. "He never looked for the easy way out to do what's right for the situation. He was a good man."

Williams also is survived by his wife, Atiyhia Williams; daughter, Briana; son, Antonio Godbold; father, Fred Williams Jr.; and sister, Kyra Williams. His wife is pregnant with the couple's third child.

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Army Staff Sgt. Ryan L. Zorn

Ryan Zorn used to volunteer for holiday work shifts so other soldiers could spend time with their families, his mother said.

When he made it home, he played cards with his mother and two nieces.

"He didn't drink, and when he came home on leave, he always just stayed at home with the family," said the soldier's mother, JoAnn Zorn, of Wright, Wyo.

Zorn, 35, of Upton, Wyo., died Nov. 16 in a vehicle rollover in Tal Afar, Iraq. He was based at Fort Riley.

He trained there to be part of a military transition team _ a small group of soldiers that advises and teaches Iraqi soldiers _ and deployed in March for a yearlong tour.

Zorn was on his third tour in Iraq when he was killed, and during a 15-year military career, he had been stationed across the United States and in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Korea, his mother said.

"He had always wanted to go into the service, as much as we tried to talk him out of it," JoAnn Zorn said. "At high school, when they would have career day or anything like that, he said, 'No I want to go into service,' and that's what he did."

Zorn also is survived by his father, Myron; his brother; his grandmother; his nephew; and other relatives.