US troops killed in Afghanistan and Africa

AP News
Posted: Mar 11, 2011 4:15 PM
US troops killed in Afghanistan and Africa

Army Spc. Joshua R. Campbell

The youngest of four brothers, 22-year-old Joshua Campbell grew up to enjoy working on cars and trucks, and fishing.

He had a favorite reservoir near Springfield, Ohio, where he once lived, and he and his stepfather, Mark Hamilton, liked to fish there. Then he followed in his three older brothers' footsteps in 2008 and joined the military. He became a heavy wheel vehicle driver in the Army, a job that let him work with trucks, as he liked to do.

"He loved to work on cars and trucks," his mother, Lori Pierce, told the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. "If he saw something that needed to be fixed, he'd get in there and start working on it."

Campbell, of Bennett, Colo., and another soldier were killed in a Jan. 29 attack on their unit in Helmand province. They had been assigned to Fort Bragg.

As a tribute, his brothers planned to take his ashes from Colorado to Dayton and North Carolina, and make stops at Campbell's favorite places along the way. Among the planned stops was Campbell's Ohio fishing hole, the C.J. Brown Reservoir at Buck State Park in Ohio.

"I love that they came up with this plan, because it's just such a beautiful tribute to their brother," his mother said.

Besides his mother, brothers and stepfather, Campbell's survivors include his father and stepmother, James "Reggie" and Tamara Campbell of Bennett.


Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew P. Carpenter

Andrew Carpenter was a lover of music who took great joy in working with children at a local YMCA.

He had been a fan of the "Batman" series since he was a child, and often dressed up as the character for children at the YMCA, according to an obituary published in The Tennessean newspaper.

His wife, Crissie Ponder Carpenter _ who was just weeks from delivering the couple's first child when Carpenter was killed in combat _ said her husband lived by a simple motto: "It is what it is." They married in 2010.

Carpenter, 27, of Columbia, Tenn., died Feb. 19. He had been shot through the neck five days earlier in combat in Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

The Marine graduated from Central High School, where he was in the marching band and shared in the group's state championship his senior year, the newspaper reported.

Carpenter joined the Marines in 2007 and was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, said his father, Kevin Carpenter. He was supposed to come home in the spring.

Crissie Ponder remembered her husband in a post on Facebook: "You will always be my soul mate and my best friend forever."


Army Sgt. Patrick R. Carroll

It took Patrick Carroll a year and a half after high school to figure out what to do with his life. When he found it, he was fully committed.

Carroll, of New London, Ohio, joined the Army.

After enlisting in 2005, Carroll spent 18 months fighting in Iraq. In August, he was sent to Afghanistan.

"He lived to be a soldier," his father, James Carroll, told the Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina. "He wanted to make a difference to everyone _ the American way of life thing and everybody having a fair shake."

While in Afghanistan's Kandahar province on Feb. 7, Carroll's unit was bombed, killing him. He was assigned to Fort Bragg.

Carroll graduated in 2003 from Nelson County High School in Bardstown, Ky. He enjoyed playing soccer, basketball, baseball and football.

Carroll became an intelligence analyst for the Army two years ago and was highly respected for his "candid assessments of the enemy and dedication to duty," said his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Casimir Carey.

He also is survived by his mother, Amy Bolding.


Army Spc. Nathan B. Carse

Nathan Carse left a steady job in engineering a year ago at age 31, choosing to join the Army as his late father had done.

His father, Charles Carse, served during the Vietnam War.

"My brother just wanted to fight for our freedom," Carse's sister, Kristin Purdy, told The Lima News. He had been working for the government in Louisiana and had earned a master's degree in engineering.

Carse, of Harrod, Ohio, was killed by a roadside bomb Feb. 8 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The combat engineer was assigned to the White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Purdy said her brother was especially close to his four nephews and always asked about them when he called home. He was a talented singer and dancer who also excelled at sports, she said.

He started on the Allen East High School football team and was a catcher on the baseball team. Carse also loved to hunt, his sister said.

Carse wasn't afraid to pick up a microphone for some karaoke, either _ Purdy recalled him giving a rendition of Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places."

"He was the sweetest kid alive," said former schoolmate Katie Moots. "He's going to be missed."


Marine Sgt. Matthew J. DeYoung

When Matthew J. DeYoung had time to call his family from Afghanistan, there was never discussion about the challenges and fears the Marine faced in his job, his mother said.

He wanted to know that everyone in the family was doing OK. His father said he never hung up without saying, "I love you."

"He was there for anybody," his mother, Teddi DeYoung, told the Ashland (Ore.) Daily Tidings. "He was so unselfish."

DeYoung, 26, of Talent, Ore., died Feb. 18 in Helmand province. His wife, Aisha, 24, told the newspaper that he died in the arms of his best friend after stepping on an explosive. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune, where his parents met.

His father was a Marine, and his mother was a member of the hospital corps. DeYoung appeared to love the military from the start.

"He was a Marine from Day 1," Teddi DeYoung said. "When he was a kid, he would run around with a plastic snake around his head and play Rambo."

DeYoung attended high school in Gilchrist, then Phoenix, Ore., where he graduated. He enlisted in August 2005. He and his wife married four months later. The couple had a 3-year-old daughter, McKenzy.

DeYoung's death came just after he recovered from a concussion suffered in a January encounter with an explosive, and he had been eager then to reunite with his comrades, his mother said.


Army Spc. Ryan A. Gartner

After two grueling tours of military duty in Afghanistan and the deaths of friends fighting in the war, Army Spc. Ryan Gartner was ready to call it quits and spend time with his young siblings.

Family members say when Gartner was home in Dumont, N.J., in December, he was wearing a bracelet in memory of a friend killed in action.

Gartner, 23, was scheduled to leave the Army this month. He shipped his belongings to his mother in Texas on Jan. 22 and had talked about working at his family's fourth-generation jewelry store.

"He was totally tired of everything, but he was hanging in there and he would soon be home," his stepmother, Patricia Gartner, told the Caller Times in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Ryan Gartner was born.

But on Feb. 1, just weeks before he was to leave the Army, Gartner was fatally shot in Afghanistan, his family said. The Department of Defense said his death was not combat related and that an investigation had started, but gave no other details.

Gartner was an interrogator assigned to Fort Sam Houston.

He also leaves behind his parents, Irvin Gartner and Caroline Oley; sister, Melanie; and brother, Jacobo.


Army Sgt. Kristopher J. Gould

At 5 feet 4 inches, Kris Gould wasn't tall.

But the 25-year-old Michigan native, called "Uncle Shorty" by his niece and nephew, made up in heart what he didn't have in stature, his family told The Bay City Times.

Gould, whose family said he was from Frankenlust Township, was killed Feb. 27 in Afghanistan's Ghazni province. It was his third tour of duty.

Gould joined the Michigan National Guard in 2003, before he'd even graduated from Valley Lutheran High School. He was deployed to Iraq two years later. The Pentagon said he joined the Army in 2007.

"This was a job we knew he enjoyed," his mother, Ann Gould, told the newspaper. "He was proud to do it and he was good at it."

Friends remember Gould for his insatiable love of sports. When he was home, he'd go dirt biking, motorcycle riding, hunting or four-wheeling.

"He was a very caring and loving man and was so very proud when he wore his uniform to serve his country," his family wrote in his obituary.

Gould was also active in his church.

"(He) had a heart for service, service for his country and service for the Lord as well," former teacher Beverly Feldkamp told WJRT-TV.

Gould is survived by his parents and sister. He was assigned to Fort Knox.


Army Staff Sgt. Bradley C. Hart

When Bradley Hart said, "How are you doing?" it wasn't just a pleasantry. He really wanted to know how you were feeling, his family said.

"He could see into people and see they were hurting," his mother, Darlene Hart, told WTOL-TV in Toledo, Ohio. "He was a good listener."

The 25-year-old enjoyed working with his hands. He especially loved fishing and working on cars. Hart was quiet and kept to himself, said his father, Charles Hart.

The Perrysburg, Ohio, native died Feb. 17 in Djibouti, Africa, in an incident not related to combat. He was assigned to Fort Bragg.

Hart's oldest brother also was in the military. Hart was one of six children.

"He felt like it was his duty to serve his country, and he thought everybody should," said the brother, Travis Powell. "That was really awesome, that's how he lived."

During the last conversation Darlene Hart had with her son, he said he was tired and would talk to her the next day. She told him: "Sweet dreams, say your prayers," she recalled.


Army 1st Lt. Daren M. Hidalgo

Daren Hidalgo was no stranger to West Point when he entered the military academy in 2005. His older brother was a senior at the school, and their father graduated from there in 1981.

Finishing near the top of his class four years later, the youngest Hidalgo son _ a third brother is in the Marines _ headed to Afghanistan. There, his compassion and loyalty quickly became evident.

When his family asked him what he wanted for Christmas, Hidalgo said he wanted to make sure his platoon had gifts, so his family organized a care-package drive and sent 30 Christmas gifts to his unit. When it came time for his birthday, Hidalgo asked them to send a coffee maker so soldiers could have fresh coffee at their new outpost, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

"Serving your nation and community is important," Hidalgo's father, Jorge Hidalgo, an immigrant who arrived in the U.S. from the Dominican Republic as a child, told the newspaper. "That's the philosophy of this family."

Daren Hidalgo was killed by a roadside bomb Feb. 20 in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. Two weeks earlier, he'd been injured in another bombing. He told his family he didn't want to leave his soldiers to undergo treatment, so he instead took antibiotics and returned to the field.

The Waukesha, Wis., resident is also survived by his mother and sister. He was assigned to Vilseck, Germany.


Army Staff Sgt. Chauncy R. Mays

Growing up, Chauncy Mays heard his grandfather's stories about being a tank gunner in the Army. So he decided to join the military, too.

The Cookville, Texas, native enlisted just after he graduated from Chapel Hill High School in 2004. He eventually became a bomb expert who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 25-year-old was killed Feb. 28 in Afghanistan's Wardak province when a homemade bomb exploded. The blast also killed another soldier in his unit.

When he was home on leave in 2007, he gave an interview to his hometown newspaper about his experiences being deployed in Iraq.

"I didn't go in for money, or honor or glory," he told The Daily Tribune. "I went in to make sure my Mom and Dad and my friends and family stayed safe over here."

Mays said knew he might have to give his life for his country.

"I'm not scared of it because I could just as easily get killed right here than in Iraq," he told the newspaper. "When it's your time, it's your time."

Friends told KLTV that Mays hoped to teach after he left the Army.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters, parents and four siblings, The Daily Tribune reported.

Mays was assigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.


Army Spc. Jonathan A. Pilgeram

Jonathan Pilgeram called his family's Montana ranch home and always planned to return after he finished his military service.

Raised in a small town near Great Falls, he proved early in life to have a gift for working with cattle and learned to drive a small four-wheeler before most town kids learned to ride bikes. As a teen, he was so dedicated to ranch work that he quit high school sports, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

But he also wanted to serve in the military, and not long after he enlisted, he came to be considered a leader in the Army and earned his way into air assault school, said Brig. Gen. Steven Feldmann of the Army's Sustainment Command in Rock Island, Ill.

"He was as fit for the Army as he was for ranching," said Maj. Chuck Rizer, an Army chaplain, adding that Pilgeram was "somebody any soldier would want as a battle buddy."

Pilgeram, 22, died Feb. 17 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, after he was wounded in an attack on his unit. He had been assigned to Fort Campbell.

He was the only son of Rodney and Roberta Pilgeram, and a 2007 graduate of Centerville High School.


Marine Cpl. Lucas T. Pyeatt

Luke Pyeatt began helping others at an early age. He was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Eagle Scout and later a missionary in Russia. When he enlisted in the Marines four years ago, he saw it as another way to help people.

"This young man really spent his entire life becoming what he eventually became _ a Marine serving his country," said family friend Cathy Clore.

Pyeatt, of West Chester, Ohio, spent several years in Newport News, Va., but moved to the Midwest after graduating from Woodside High School in 2004.

He went on the mission to St. Petersburg, Russia, with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but returned early after getting injured.

He joined the Marines in 2007. Just days into his first deployment, Pyeatt, 24, was killed in a bombing Feb. 5 while on patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

"He felt it was his duty to serve. It was his honor. We're proud of him," his sister, Emily Smalley, told the Oxford Press in Ohio.

He also is survived by his parents, Cindy and Lon "Scott" Pyeatt.


Army Spc. Matthew W. Ramsey

Matthew Ramsey was eager to return home from Afghanistan to be with his son and wife, who was expecting the couple's second child.

While he was away, Ramsey would check in with her on Facebook at least once a day, and he called frequently when their son was born last year. Family said the infant could recognize his father's voice. Hearing it made him giggle and babble.

"His kids and his wife were his life," his father, Wayne Ramsey, told the Los Angeles Times. "She was his true love. Even when they had an argument, they would talk, come back and communicate."

His father also described his son as a "team captain" type who liked to encourage others.

Ramsey, 20, Quartz Hill, Calif., and five others were killed Nov. 29 in Nangarhar province when an Afghan border policeman they were training opened fire on their unit, the military said. Ramsey had been assigned to Fort Campbell and was on his second tour in Afghanistan.

His survivors include his father; his mother, Melissa; his wife, Mirella, whom he met as a student at Quartz Hill High School; and his son Zachary. His wife planned to name their second son Timothy.


Army Sgt. Robert C. Sisson Jr.

When Robert Sisson came home to visit family, he enjoyed getting together for holidays and their yearly Valentine's Day bowling party. Sometimes he'd just go fishing all day with his dad.

Sisson's grandfather, Ronald Sisson, said his grandson was well-suited to being a soldier. The younger Sisson had spent time working in retail and landscaping before enlisting. Once he did, he thrived, receiving numerous awards and commendations.

"If there was something to be done, it was he that volunteered," Ronald Sisson told The Beaver County Times. "He did the dangerous stuff and was always the first one to stick his neck out."

Robert Sisson, 29, of Aliquippa, Pa., died Feb. 21 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Fort Carson. Sisson graduated from Center Area School District in 2000 and excelled as a baseball player there.

His maternal grandfather, Raymond Lucente, said the soldier had stomach pains before he died. Medics thought he may have had the stomach flu. When they went to check on him the next day, he had died in his sleep.

"He was a joy to have around," Ronald Sisson said. "He had a disarming personality."


Army Spc. Omar Soltero

Omar Soltero wasn't afraid to talk about the risks he faced in Afghanistan. But he knew his family was.

Before his Army unit deployed to the country, the 28-year-old tried to reassure his younger brother, Adrian.

"He said, 'don't worry, I'll be back,'" Adrian Soltero told WOAI-TV. "That was the last thing he said (before deploying.)"

The infantryman from San Antonio was killed Jan. 31 in Afghanistan's Wardak province after he was injured by a roadside bomb.

Family members said Soltero was a patriot who loved America, where he was born. But he also loved Mexico, his parents' native land, and sometimes traveled with a Mexican flag, according to the San Antonio Express-News. He'd been deployed twice to Kosovo.

"From when he was a little kid, he said when he turned 18 he wanted to join. He wanted to fight the bad guys," his father, Gustavo Soltero, told the newspaper. "He loved his country."

Soltero is survived by his two sons and his fiancee, along with three siblings and his parents.

He was assigned to Fort Polk.


Army Spc. Christopher G. Stark

When Christopher Stark's high school began a Junior ROTC program, he was one of the first to sign up. Even before he was old enough to enlist, his family and friends said the Monett, Mo., teen talked about joining the Army.

The 22-year-old bomb specialist was killed Feb. 28 in Wardark province, Afghanistan.

His family said he was on his way to help defuse a bomb when his vehicle passed over another homemade bomb, which detonated. Another soldier also died in the blast.

"He said, 'Mom, this is what I do. It's just another day at the office," his mother, Teresa Stark, told the Springfield News-Leader. "'I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I love what I'm doing.'"

Stark said her son left for Afghanistan in December. He graduated from Monett High School in 2007.

"He really had a strong sense of family, community, country," his former biology teacher Deann Crockett told The Joplin Globe.

Stark is survived by his mother and brother, The Monett Times reported.

He was assigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.


Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron M. Swanson

Aaron Swanson knew he needed direction in his life after graduating from high school. He turned first to the Marines, enlisting in 2009. Then, in the middle of basic training, he committed himself to Christianity.

Swanson still was outgoing and still liked teasing his siblings and friends. But now he was a brave Marine with a sense of pride and responsibility.

"He was always the same brother, but he had changed," his sister, Kiersten Bekoscke, told the Buffalo News. "He had a stronger presence of God in his life."

Swanson, 21, of Lakewood, N.Y., would speak to Boy Scouts about his experience in the Marines when he wasn't fighting in Afghanistan.

Swanson, assigned to Marine Forces Reserve, Buffalo, N.Y., died Feb. 7 in Helmand province after his all-terrain vehicle hit a hidden bomb.

Swanson had told his sister he wasn't afraid to serve in Afghanistan.

"He was a Marine who loved being a Marine," Lt. Col. Mike Hubbard said.

Survivors also include his mother, Michelle Ford, and father and stepmother, Gene and Julie Swanson.


Marine Cpl. Johnathan W. Taylor

Johnathan Taylor played tight end at Lecanto High School in Florida, wearing No. 83. His nickname wasn't necessarily one a tight end wants, though: "Butters."

"That was for his ability not to handle the football when it was thrown to him," said his father, Mark Taylor, laughing. Still, the young man loved to be competitive and enjoyed going to the beach.

He was still young when the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks happened, Mark Taylor told The Tampa Tribune. But he was plenty upset.

"He always remembered that when he was younger and always talked about going into the Marine Corps, because that was the toughest outfit," Mark Taylor said.

Johnathan Taylor, 23, of Homosassa, Fla., died Feb. 22 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, where he had been on patrol and stepped on a roadside bomb. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

His father said he was well-trained in hand-to-hand and close-quarter combat. Johnathan was on his fourth deployment. The Marine's brother Christopher honored him with a Marine emblem tattoo and haircut, both just like Johnathan had.

"If you knew him for your whole life or even if you met him for five minutes ... you were a better man or woman for knowing him," Marine Cpl. Joshua Vance said at Taylor's memorial service.


Army Cpl. Andrew C. Wilfahrt

Andrew Wilfahrt was an artist who never stopped smiling.

In high school, the Rosemount, Minn., native excelled in choir and band, where he played clarinet. Later in life, he'd compose music and host parties for friends by offering them paint, canvas and an evening of creativity, The Star Tribune reported.

The military police officer was killed Feb. 27 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when a homemade bomb exploded. He was 31.

"(He) believed deeply in art and humanity," his family wrote in an obituary. "Andrew was fascinated by math, palindromes, maps, patterns, mashed potatoes and the absurd. He continually searched for meaning; observing and seeking to understand life and nature's many mysteries."

The 1997 graduate of Rosemount High School enlisted in the Army in 2009. He arrived in Afghanistan in July, according to the Rosemount Town Pages.

Family, friends and teachers remembered Wilfahrt as easygoing and bright.

"He had that smile that would greet you. That warm smile and he was very friendly," his high school band teacher, John Zschunke, told KARE-TV. He called Wilfahrt exceptional and passionate about music.

Wilfahrt is survived by his parents and two siblings. He was assigned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.