April is the cruelest month, breeding* * *
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
. . . so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
~ T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland (1922)
Tonight, we stand in silent tribute to four more young men, gone much too soon, whose deaths have left so many so proud -- but also so undone.
Staff Sgt. Jeffery L. Hartley, 25, of Hempstead, Texas
Staff Sgt. Hartley died April 8 in Kharguliah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.
Staff Sgt. Hartley, the son of a police officer and a career military man, was on his fifth deployment when he was killed.
Hartley was an Army Ranger and finished three deployments with the 3rd Ranger Battalion. Then, he went to the 3rd Infantry Division. He was on his second deployment when he was killed.
Sgt. Hartley’s hometown is in mourning.
Thursday in Hempstead, the Waller County seat about 50 miles northwest of Houston, flags flew at half-staff at City Hall and the Police Department, where Hartley's father, Lt. David Hartley, has worked for 16 years.
"He truly loved being in the military," said Hempstead police Detective Jason Martinez, a family friend. "He was very passionate about it."
His brother, David Hartley, also served in Iraq and recently left the military, Martinez said.
Martinez said the elder Hartley often speaks about his two sons with admiration and respect.
"He's always talking about how proud he is of both of them," he said.
Jeffery Hartley graduated from Hempstead High School in 2001. He played on the football team and was a member of the power-lifting squad, said Gail Schroeder, his 12th-grade English teacher.
Schroeder said he was a good student who made A's and B's and was popular and respectful.
"He was one of those kids who was at home with the athletes and scholars," she said.
Gail Schroeder, Hartley's senior English teacher, said she was devastated and saddened when she learned of his death.
"It's particularly hard when they were someone who was so well loved and so well liked and well respected," she said.
Lupe Carpenter, a local hairdresser, gave Hartley many haircuts during his childhood and high school years.
"He was a good kid in school, just a good kid in general," Carpenter said. "The town will miss him greatly."
The Hempstead, Texas, native joined the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artilley Regiment, in the fall of 2004 and accompanied the unit to Iraq in 2005.
Along the way, the 25-year-old radio operator -- a 25-Charley in Army lingo -- earned a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and six Army Commendation Medals. In March, he made his second deployment with the 1-10, one of six battalions in the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat team.
On Tuesday, just a few weeks before his scheduled return to Fort Benning, Hartley was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb near the town of Kharguliah.
He was the second brigade soldier to die in eight days after a five-month period in which just one other soldier was killed.
"He truly loved being in the military," (family friend) Det. Jason Martinez said.
Many of Staff Sgt. Hartley’s fellow soldiers have left messages for his family in his Guestbook:
SSG Hartley will truly be missed. He was a great person and outstanding soldier. No matter what the situation, Jeff always had a big smile and he could keep your spirits up.
I'm very sorry about the loss of Jeffery. He was a great Soldier and an even better person. I will always remember his abilty to grin and bear any situation. May God bless you always.
Jeffery was part on my family for a short time. We were with him when he was sworn in in Houston. I assure you all that this was one of America’s finest. His loss and those of all these young men are an American tragedy. Gone but never forgotten. God bless them all and God Bless America.
Staff Sgt. Hartley is survived by his parents; his brother, David Wayne Hartley; his sisters, Lisa Ann Willever and her husband Chris, and Kaylie Hartley; and numerous other family members and friends. He was preceded in death by another brother, Jeremy. A candlelight vigil will be held Monday, April 14, 2008 at 7:00pm at the Gazebo in Hempstead City Park behind City Hall. Arrangements for his funeral services are pending.
Thank you, Staff Sgt. Hartley. Your mission is done.
Spc. Jeremiah C. "Jere" Hughes, 26, of Jacksonville, Florida
Spc. Hughes died April 9 in Balad Iraq, of injuries sustained in a non-combat related incident in Abu Gharab, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Stryker), 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Spc. Hughes was on his second deployment. Before he left, he said that he would really miss his wife, his friends and his dogs.
Army Spc. Jeremiah Hughes left for Iraq in December with Hawai'i's Stryker brigade, three years after a previous tour and more than familiar with the difficulties of being in war and away from home.
"I'm gonna hate being away from my wife for over a year," the 26-year-old said on his MySpace page just before he deployed. "And I'm gonna hate not being able to spend time with her, or my friends, or my dogs. I'm really gonna dislike not being able to drink every once in a while when I get irritated by the things around me. And then of course, I can't say that I'm gonna be too fond of people shooting at me again, or trying to blow me up again, or any of that stupid stuff."
Hughes, who joined the Army in July 1999 and was assigned to Schofield Barracks in January of 2000, said on his MySpace page that he wasn't fond of living on the "rock," as he called Hawai'i.
Spc. Hughes, known as "Jere," died fulfilling a dream he'd had since he was a boy in Jacksonville: serving and protecting his country.
The Army specialist from a family of military men died Wednesday after suffering injuries in a noncombat incident in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.
Childhood friend Jonathan Story said Hughes, 26, had always wanted to join the military and practiced martial arts, bodybuilding and other training to reach that goal. The 1999 graduate of Sandalwood High School was active in the school's ROTC program and joined the Army shortly after graduating, Story said.
"He was a real patriot, the kind of guy who just wanted to go out there and do what he could," said Story, 27. "I think he would have been at least proud to know that he died trying to make a difference."
People who knew Hughes said his father had been in the military and he has two younger brothers serving in the Army.
Hughes' father, through a military spokeswoman, said his son served his country honorably. The family declined an interview request.
Hughes was assigned to an infantry division based in Hawaii and served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Story, a disabled Iraqi war veteran now living in Georgia.
"He's the kind of guy that if you were in a combat situation, you'd always want him beside you because he'd figure out his way out of anything," Story said. "You couldn't find a braver guy than Jere."
When news of Hughes' death spread Thursday among others who knew him and his family, there were plenty of broken hearts.
"I can't fathom what they are going through," said Chad Barnes, the Hughes family's neighbor.
Story said he will deeply miss his friend, whom he called a brother.
"I'm sad that he's gone," Story said. "He was the most loyal friend a guy could ever have."
As word of the tragic incident reached home, Hughes' family and friends were left remembering the 26-year-old soldier lost.
"Just for a nice kid to just end up in a strange place and be killed, it's just really a shock. It's cliché but it really feels like it will happen to somebody you don't know," said (Sandlewood High) physics teacher Jerry Langford. "When it hits home like that, it just makes you stop and really feel mortal."
"The fact is he made such a sacrifice for our nation and represents so many of the young men who have generously given their lives for our security," said Hughes' junior year English teacher, Linda Cugini.
She said it did not take her long to realize Hughes was a special student.
"You have great respect for him. He carried out what he believed in, and he followed it through to the very end. You can only have the utmost respect for him for that."
A blog post on Hughes' MySpace page indicates he left for Iraq from his base in Hawaii in late 2007 or early 2008 for a 15-month tour of duty. He had been to Iraq before, according to the post.
He joined the Army in July 1999, just weeks after his graduation from Sandalwood. He has been stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii since January 2000.
Spc. Hughes is survived by his wife, Angie, of Jacksonville. His body will be escorted by the Patriot Guard. Funeral plans are incomplete.
Thank you, Spc. Hughes. Your mission is done.
Tech. Sgt Anthony Lewis Capra, 31, of Hanford, California and Indian Head, Maryland
Tech. Sgt. Capra died April 9 near Golden Hills, Iraq, of wounds suffered when he encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to Detachment 63, 688 Armament Systems Squadron, Indian Head City, Md.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Capra was on his fourth and final deployment. He leaves behind a wife and five children.
Tech. Sgt. Capra, 31, was the son of Anthony and Sharon Capra of Stafford County (Virginia). He was the eldest of 12 children.
Capra served in the Air Force for 11 years. His father also was in the Air Force.
James Capra, 26, said his older brother influenced him and two other siblings to join the Air Force. His brother was a mentor, James Capra said, the one who kept in touch with everyone.
"It's like a puzzle," he said yesterday. "Our family is not complete without all the pieces together. He was our oldest brother and kind of an integral part of that."
His brother was known for his sense of humor and the way he cared for the family, James Capra said.
Capra arrived in Iraq in November and was scheduled to return home in May.
Friends say Tech. Sgt. Capra could "light up a room."
Husband, father, son, soccer coach and protector of American soldiers in Iraq are just a few descriptions of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony L. Capra.
Capra’s former boss, Capt. Shane Frith, commander of the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD Flight, characterized Capra as very capable and packed with a sense of humor.
"He was a character," said Frith. "You couldn’t be around this guy without laughing. He was a great guy. He would light up a room."
Frith added that Capra was a family man to the core. He and his wife have five children and came from large families themselves.
Capra was working from an Army forward operating base north of Balad Air Base, Frith said. He was on the "in lieu of" deployment to help the Army fill a manpower need for explosive ordnance disposal.
Frith said Capra had disarmed a roadside bomb when a hidden, secondary bomb triggered. Capra died of his wounds.
"It happens," (Tech. Sgt. Stephen) Hollar said. "We signed up for (EOD). We know things happen, but . . . It’s the loss of a brother."
Staff Sgt. Amanda Bryant also praised Capra. Some of her words came with tearing eyes.
"He was great to work with. He really believed in what he was doing. He was always smiling no matter what," she said.
"He was the sweetest ... person you will ever meet. He would help anybody," said Bryant.
Douglass Capra describes his nephew as a family man. He was the oldest of 12 children. His uncle says Capra and his wife both came from air force families. Capra's father was in the air force and several of his siblings are in the military. His uncle says this was supposed to be his last tour in Iraq.
Family members say he spoke to his wife over the internet . . . six hours before he died.
Capra's uncle says Anthony's brother, who is serving in the U.S. Air Force in Germany, and his brother-in-law who is serving in Iraq, are supposed to be on the plane bringing him home.
From February 2003 to September 2007, Sgt. Capra was assigned to the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Flight at Eglin Air Force Base. He was awarded a Bronze Star in May 2006. During his service, Sgt. Capra was also awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Achievement Medal.
"It's a huge hit to the Eglin EOD flight because we knew Tony personally," said Capt Shane Frith, EOD commander, "We won't be able to forget his character and the way he represented the EOD community. The impact is tremendous on the local troops here."
In Tech. Sgt. Capra’s honor, the flags at the Capitol in Sacramento will be flown at half-staff.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (Friday) released the following statement regarding the death of Tech. Sgt. Anthony L. Capra, of Hanford, CA:
"California mourns the loss of Technical Sergeant Anthony Capra, a dedicated patriot who sacrificed his life for the cause of freedom. We are eternally grateful to Anthony for his valor, leadership and service to this country. On behalf of all Californians, Maria and I extend our deepest condolences to Anthony's family and friends during this difficult time."
Funeral plans for Tech. Sgt. Capra are not complete. He will be buried at Arlington Cemetery.
Thank you, Tech. Sgt. Capra. Your mission is done.
Sgt. Shaun P. Tousha, 30, of Hull, Texas
Sgt. Tousha died April 9 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Last Tuesday, Sgt. Tousha’s wife, Cristy, the mother of his adored stepchildren, left two messages for him on his MySpace page. One said "love you." The other said "Love You Baby." On Wednesday, he was killed.
Chester Tousha, 69, Tousha's uncle in Hull, last talked to Tousha about four months ago when he got a call in the middle of the night.
"He told me he loved me," the retired roughneck said. "He was a good kid. He just wanted to talk to someone, and I always picked on him."
Chester Tousha said he was close to his nephew, especially after Tousha's parents died.
Tousha's mother died of cancer when he was young and his father died in 2000 of heart failure, Chester Tousha said.
The next year Tousha joined the Army.
Chester Tousha said his nephew was raised in Hull, about 60 miles northeast of Houston, and graduated from Hull-Daisetta High School. He played football for the school and liked horseback riding.
"He called me about 2:30 a.m. from Killeen (where he was stationed at Fort Hood) five months ago and told me he loved me," he said. "He said he missed his daddy."
Sgt. Tousha, who was on his third deployment, was the 100th person from the Houston area to be killed in the war.
He was known as for being a practical joker with a great sense of humor and not being afraid to show off his southern roots. Those attributes, plus his love for the Dallas Cowboys, won him many friends throughout his career in the Army.
He is survived by his wife, Christy, who lives in Killeen and isn’t speaking to the media at this difficult time. However, on her Myspace page she wrote that she "feels empty."
Sgt. Tousha joined the military in February 2000 as a power-generation equipment repairer and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, in July 2005. He deployed to Iraq in March.
Sgt. Tousha's military awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Valorous Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Overseas Service Ribbon.
Sgt. Tousha is survived by his wife, Cristy, and his stepchildren, Maycee and Colton.
Sgt. Tousha will be buried at Boswell Cemetery.
Thank you, Sgt. Tousha. Your mission is done.
To date, 4033 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Iraq. The death toll for April is already 21. The Department of Defense Press Releases, from which the information at the start of each entry in this diary was drawn, can be seen here. The death toll among Iraqis is unknown, but is at least 100,000. and perhaps many times that number.
To date, 492 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The death toll thus far for 2008 is 17. 300 members of the military from other countries have also lost their lives.
Other sites have stories, video, pictures and remembrances, including: Honor the Fallen.
If you want to do something to assist our military and their families, please visit anysoldier.com or Fisher House. If you have frequent flyer miles you would like to donate to hospitalized veterans or their families, please see Fisher House’s Hero Miles program. Finally, if you would like to assist the animal companions of our deployed military, information is available here.
And don’t forget them when they get home! Read welcomebackveterans.org to learn what you can do.
I Got the News Today is a diary series intended to honor, respect and remind. Click here to see the series, which was begun by i dunno, and is currently maintained by Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, silvercedes, MsWings, greenies, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, Wee Mama, twilight falling, labwitchy, moneysmith, joyful, roses, SisTwo, Avila, SpamNunn, a girl in MI and me, noweasels. These diaries are heartbreaking to write, but, we believe, an important service to those Americans who have died, and to our community’s respect for and remembrance of them. If you would like to volunteer, even once a month, please contact Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, or me, noweasels.
As you read this diary, please consider that the families and friends of those profiled here also may read it and that many members of our community have served in Iraq or Afghanistan or have loved ones currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the very proud daughter of a Navy pilot, and the granddaughter of a Marine pilot and a submariner, I hope that the comments tonight will demonstrate our respect for the sacrifices of our fallen military and our compassion for their families, whatever our personal feelings about the war and occupation happen to be.