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Today, our hearts are with Fort Carson as we mark the passing of eight brave men.

KuangSi2

Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, 25 of Savannah, Georgia
Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, 27, of Tucson, Arizona
Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt, 24, of Applegate, California
Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk, 30, of South Portland, Maine
Sgt. Michael P. Scusa, 22, of Villas, New Jersey
Spc. Christopher T. Griffin, 24, of Kincheloe, Michigan
Spc. Stephan L. Mace, 21, of Lovettsville, Virginia
Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson, 22, of Reno, Nevada

Eight men died together Oct. 3 in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked their contingency outpost. They were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson.

Please join us in learning a little about these men whose lives meant so much to so many.

A group of about two hundred enemy fighters attacked two U.S. outposts in Nuristan province Saturday. The fiercest part of the battle lasted more than five hours, but the fighting carried on for nearly twelve. This battle is described as the deadliest single attack against U.S. troops in the Afghanistan War to date. Major Daniel Chandler, rear detachment commander for the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division told the story:

They were attacked, the unit fought bravely, and in the end, they won the day. The brave soldiers that we lost and all of the comrades that were left there, there were a lot of heroes on that day.

Fort Carson counts 279 soldiers lost since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began; the battle on October 3 marked the largest single loss for Fort Carson since the Vietnam War.

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Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin

KuangSi2

Vernon Martin loved children and cared about the future of his community. He felt strongly that there were too many children that didn't have role models to give them hope and direction, and he had a dream of someday opening up youth development center to mentor young people. He wanted to give them a positive place to spend their time. He and his wife had a business plan drafted, but his service in Afghanistan put it on hold.

Martin married his high school sweetheart, Britanny, and they have three children. While he felt a call to service and to make a difference, his decision to enlist was largely economic -- his wife tells the press that he joined the military to make a better life for their family. He was a loving father and husband, and Britanny says that he is the best thing that ever happened to her and the kids.

KuangSi2

He willingly served a tour in Iraq, but expressed reservations about going to Afghanistan. Britanny said he didn't feel comfortable with it. She last spoke with him the night before he died, and they had a "regular old conversation." Although he sounded tired, he was also optimistic. He said that it had been tough for a while but he thought things were improving.

The next day she was at home with her children and got the knock on her door. She thinks the two younger children are too little to know what happened, but the 6 year old son understands just fine. He told his grandmother:

I don't want to bury my daddy.

Vernon W. Martin joined the Army in August 2004. He deployed once to Iraq, returning in December 2007, and shipped to Afghanistan in May 2009. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal – 2, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Army Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon – 2, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, and Driver Mechanic Badge.

Martin leaves his wife and three children. He is also survived by his mother, a sister, a brother, three aunts, two uncles, and many cousins.

Sources are 3WSAV(a), and 3WSAV(b).

KuangSi2
Go in peace, Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin. Thank you for your service.


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Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos

KuangSi2

Justin Gallegos was ambitious and a self starter who joined the Army because he loved his country. He thrived in the military because he liked having structure and order, and he truly believed in what he was doing. He worked with the intention to end the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan. He liked to help people, and he was passionate about his service.

Gallegos attended Tucson High Magnet School and graduated from one of Tucson's alternative high schools called Aztec Middle College at the West Pima Campus in December 2000. After high school, he worked for Bessie Guadiana-Hoffman before he joined the military. She said he was strong, that he was a go-getter, and that even though the war ended his life, his memory will always be alive.

That's the type of individual Justin is. I won't say was because his spirit is still here. That's how he is.

Gallegos had a 5-year-old son who was the joy of his life. Guadiana-Hoffman recalled how much the boy meant to him:

He was a wonderful father and the greatest gift in his life was his son.

KuangSi2

And his enthusiasm for life was infectious. His brothers in arms called him "Taco Truck", and he could put anyone at ease, anywhere. His friends created a facebook page to honor him, and more than one hundred people have already joined to pay their respects. Jose Roman Jr., a friend from high school who also served in Afghanistan said:

I ran into you down range a while back...you recognized me and you looked so different it took me a while to recognize you. I hadn't seen you since we were at Tucson High...and how small is the fuckin' world where we could run into each other half way around it?! In the middle of that whole god awful organized chaos!! LOL I couldn't believe it man...so when I got the news...here...in England...I was thrown. I had to see a chaplin. Your jokester personality and smile always made me loosen up back at THS when I was such a shy/insecure kid. You were ALWAYS really cool to me. Thank you so much for being such a positive aspect in so many people's lives. We aren't/weren't in the same branches of service but you're still my brother in arms. Badger brother. Sounds corny but I swear not too many people back home understand that bond. Next time we fly...the pilot agreed to allow me to release chaff (flares) in your memory. And our muzzles will ALWAYS stay pointed down range! That's my word.

Justin T. Gallegos joined the Army in May 2003 and had served two tours of duty in Iraq, for one ending in November 2006, and the second in May 2008. He deployed to Afghanistan in May 2009. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart – 3, Army Commendation Medal – 2, Army Achievement Medal – 2, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon – 2, NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge.

Gallegos leaves his son, his mother, brother, and two sisters.

Sources are Arizona Star Net, KVOA News 4, and Auburn Journal.

KuangSi2
Go in peace, Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos. Thank you for your service.


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Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt
KuangSi2

Joshua Hardt was the youngest of three boys, and he took his share of bumps. His brothers say that he was tough. When they were little boys, they used to use him as their crash-test dummy. His brother Jeff told a reporter that one time they talked him into doing a back flip on a Big Wheel. Apparently, that didn't work out very well.

He didn’t do a very good job and landed on his neck.

Joshua loved the outdoors, and particularly loved to fish. And he was a star football player at Placer High school -- so much that the school retired his helmet when he graduated in 2004. His coach, Mike Savins, said that Hardt hadn't played in a couple of years when he transfered to Placer, but it wasn't long before he became a defensive lineman to be reckoned with.

He started out a little rocky and came here and really turned things around, really thrived in our football program and made good friends. He wanted to join the military and really was looking forward to it after high school.

KuangSi2

Sabins last spoke with Hardt when he was back from a tour in Iraq. Hardt was married and was extremely happy. He was crazy about his wife, and had giant hopes for their future. In fact, Joshua joined the military to make a better future for them, both by providing for his wife, and for taking action to make a difference in the world. Sabins remarked:

It makes you ask a lot of questions why. I understand what drew him to it. But this is really tough.

Joshua M. Hardt joined the Army in June 2006 and deployed to Iraq for one year, returning in 2008. He was sent to Afghanistan in May 2009. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal – 2, Army Achievement Medal – 1, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Medal, NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge

Hardt leaves his wife, parents, and two brothers.

Sources are news10, and Sacramento Bee.

KuangSi2
Go in peace, Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt. Thank you for your service.


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Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk

KuangSi2

Joshua Kirk was homeschooled, and then started attending Southern Maine Community College in the fall of 2004, where he met his wife of four years, Megan. He felt strongly about serving his country, and he enlisted in the Army in the Spring of 2005.

He was a devoted father and husband, but chose to return to Afghanistan because the mission was important to him. His mother, Bernadette Kirk Bonner, will never fully understand why he chose that path, but she is certain how she wants her son to be remembered:

As a man who loved life, his wife, his daughter, his family and his country. He died doing what he believed in.

KuangSi2

Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk joined the Army in May 2005. He served two tours of duty to Afghanistan, the first spanned from May 2007 to July 2008. He shipped for his second tour in May. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal - 2, and Combat Action Badge.

He leaves his wife and daughter, mother, four grandparents, five sisters, two nieces, five nephews and several cousins.

Sources are Seacoast Online, Spokesman Review, and KXLY.

KuangSi2
Go in peace, Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk. Thank you for your service.


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Sgt. Michael P. Scusa

KuangSi2

Michael Scusa was a 2005 graduate from Lower Cape May Regional High School, where they had a moment of silence at the beginning of the day. Scusa was polite and quiet, and he answered questions formally with "Yes, sir" or "no sir." He was driven to succeed in the military, and was known to wear a backpack loaded with bricks and go for a run through town to train.

Scusa was in basic training a month after graduating from high school. Valerie Davis, his high school math teacher, said that serving his country was the only thing he ever wanted to do.

Michael married Alyssa about two years ago. She said that he was a fun and goofy, and she will always remember him as one who always made people smile. They have a one year old son, Conner, who is named after Michaels' friend who also gave his life serving his country. She said that she last spoke with him the night before he died.

KuangSi2

This Monday, Oct 23, is his 23rd birthday.

Michael P. Scusa enlisted in July 2005. He deployed to Iraq from October 2006 to December 2007, and shipped to Afghanistan in May. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, and Drivers Mechanic Badge - Wheeled Vehicle.

Scusa is survived by his wife, his son, and his mother.

Sources are KKTV, PhillyCom, NJ.com, and Cape May Country Herald.

KuangSi2
Go in peace, Sgt. Michael P. Scusa. Thank you for your service.


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Sgt. Christopher T. Griffin

KuangSi2

Christopher Griffin grew up in a quiet town in Michigan's UP, and he always dreamed of being a soldier. His math teacher remembers that he was quiet and unassuming, and that he would do whatever he could to help anyone in need. He was always driven to help.

He thought he wanted to become a teacher when he finally came home from the service. He was an avid Civil War buff, and wanted to study history seriously. His aunt, Kendra Griffin, said that he wanted to have a family, and that he would have made a wonderful husband and father.

Griffin decided that he was called to military service early on, and neighbors remember that he often dressed up as an army man for Halloween.  But he was committed to serve, and he didn't what others thought of his ambitions. One of his teachers remembered:

He didn't care if anyone approved or disapproved, but definitely he was going to do it because he knew it was the right thing to do. And that was his character.

Christopher was hard working, and was competitive -- he loved playing football and wrestling, and he worked hard to make himself better. His high school principal, Mark Pavloski, recalled:

He worked extremely hard in weight room to be successful. He was quiet and very soft-spoken, but attentive. He wanted to succeed.

KuangSi2

His hometown has already named a street after him. The town is also giving him a cemetery plot and are constructing a monument in his name in their memorial park.

Christopher T. Griffin joined the Army in June 2004. He deployed to Iraq from October 2006 until December 2007, and then to Afghanistan in May. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon - 2, NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge.

Griffin leaves his parents, four sisters, one brother, a nephew, four grandparents, and many uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Sources are Petoskey News-Review, KKTV, and 9&10 News.

KuangSi2
Go in peace, Spc. Christopher T. Griffin. Thank you for your service.


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Spc. Stephan L. Mace

KuangSi2

Stephan Mace was home just three weeks ago, and he just wanted to go fishing like he did when he was a kid. His parents said he seemed to know that it would be the last time he came home alive.

Mace was an avid outdoorsman, and he loved to hunt, fish, and play paintball. When he was growing up, he seemed to jump from one sport to the next. Jeff Brown, a former football coach, remembers that while Stephan wasn't always the fastest or the strongest kid, he was always the toughest, and he never, ever backed down. And he wasn't daunted by disappointment. One year his football team lost the championship in triple overtime, and although Stephan was the youngest member of the team, he was the one consoling the other players. He confidently told them, "Don't worry, we'll get them next year."

He had dreams of operating a tour company in Africa after the war. He had gone on several safaris with South African friend Adrian Bouwer, who said that Mace was a man of huge spirit and love of family and country. Africa wasn't big enough to keep Stephan down, though. He needed the world. Bouwer expressed this eloquently:

His spirit will live on in every camp fire under these skies.

His father said that Stephan gave everything he had to whatever he tried:

He excelled in everything he did. He loved to shoot, which is why I think he joined the military, so he could make a difference doing something he loved. I'm sure that's how he died.

KuangSi2

Stephan always wanted to make a difference. He was aware of the dangers that he faced in Afghanistan, but he still felt a duty to serve there. Although he expressed some misgivings about difficulties that troops face in Afghanistan, he was committed that he had to return. He felt it was his responsibility to help the defenseless, and the bond he had with his brothers in arms sealed his commitment.

Stephan L. Mace joined the Army in January 2008, and was serving on his first tour in Afghanistan. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal. Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal. Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NATO Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and Combat Action Badge.

Mace leaves his parents and three brothers.

Sources are Leesburg Today, and CNN.

KuangSi2
Go in peace, Spc. Stephan L. Mace. Thank you for your service.


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Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson

KuangSi2

According to his high school guidance counselor, Kevin Thomson sometimes struggled in school, but Kevin's hard work got him through. Hard work and direction from his mother, to supported him in every way. They were very close. But his determination and sense of humor usually brought him success.

When he deployed to Afghanistan, he liked to leave pointed notes on his facebook page:

KuangSi2

well, I'm here in Afghanistan. i will never complain about summers in reno again, 120 degree's is just stupid.

spiders arnt supposed to be the size of soccor balls. but they are here

Kevin attended Wooster High School in Reno, and worked Solaris Home, which is a grocery/drug chain.

Kevin C. Thomson joined the Army in May 2008. This was his first tour, beginning in May 2009. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge.

Thompson is survived by his mother.

KuangSi2
Go in peace, Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson. Thank you for your service.


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Additional sources are CBS4Denver, Denver Post, WIBW(a), and WIBW(b).

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Their names will join those of Fort Carson soldiers who fell before them in the Global War on Terror.

                       

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Please join me in offering special thanks to roses and blue jersey mom for their contributions to this diary.

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KuangSi2
IGTNT was created by i dunno, and is currently maintained by Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, greenies, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, twilight falling, joyful, roses, SisTwo, SpamNunn, a girl in MI, JeNoCo, TrueBlueMajority, Proud Mom and Grandma, JanosNation, MinistryOfTruth, and me, rb137.  

If you would like to contribute to the series, even once a month, please contact Sandy on Signal. Please direct comments specific to this diary to rb137.

Please remember that these comments will be read by friends and family who are torn by grief. Let us please leave politics aside as we enter and offer our respects and compassion.

Originally posted to rb137 on Sat Oct 10, 2009 at 05:24 PM PDT.

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