Four exceptional young men have died recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. The loss - to their families, their communities, and our nation - is incalculable. Please join me in honoring them here tonight and perhaps provide some small measure of comfort to those who mourn their passing:
Staff Sgt. Brian P. Hause, 29, of Stoystown, Pa.
Spc. Deon L. Taylor, 30, of Bronx, N.Y.
Cpl. Adrian Robles, 21, of Scottsbluff, Neb.
Lance Cpl. San Sim, 23, of Santa Ana, Calif.
BRIAN P. HAUSE: "A lot of people loved him"
On October 24 the Department of Defense announced
the death of an airman who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Staff Sgt. Brian P. Hause, 29, of Stoystown, Pa., died Oct. 23 of non-combat related medical causes at Balad Air Base, Iraq. He was assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. The incident is under investigation.
Brian Hause graduated from the Johnstown Christian School in Hollsopple, Pennsylvania, in 1998 and was interested in photography and motorcycles. He joined the Air Force in December 2001 and had served a tour of duty in Kuwait earlier this year.
Hause arrived in Iraq just three weeks ago. On Thursday he was found unconscious in his room at Balad AFB and was rushed to the base hospital, where he died.
The Hauses talked to their son on the phone on Tuesday and "everything seemed fine," John Hause said. "We can't understand it. ... It's hard."
Hause, who was divorced, leaves behind two children, Lexie, 7, and Cody, 4, who live with their mother in South Carolina. Besides his children and his father, he is also survived by his mother, Kathryn Hause, and three older brothers and seven nieces.
May he rest in peace.
DEON L. TAYLOR: "All the young guys followed him"
On Friday the Defense Department also announced
the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Spc. Deon L. Taylor, 30, of Bronx, N.Y., died Oct. 22 in Bela Beluk, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York Army National Guard, Syracuse, N.Y.
Deon Taylor grew up in the Bronx, dreaming about making a difference in other people's lives:
"He always wanted to be a cop - ever since he was a little boy," said his aunt, Alexis Rodgers. "He always wanted to help. He wanted to make it better."
He went to high school in Lewiston, Maine, where he was a notable athlete. ‘He had the opportunity to play basketball," Rodgers said. "He always took an opportunity to improve himself."
Taylor joined the New York Army National Guard in 1997. In 2003 he graduated from SUNY at Old Westbury with a degree in sociology and criminology. He joined the New York Police Department in 2005 as a transit cop and a year later was promoted to the narcotics division in Brooklyn and worked undercover. He was deployed to Afghanistan in January as a fire direction specialist and was due home in December, in time for Christmas.
He was nearing the end of his second tour of duty in Afghanistan - and looking forward to coming home and marrying his girlfriend of four years, Caitlin Casey. The couple was to marry in August in Casey's hometown of Springfield, Mass.
"We had a Yankees-Red Sox rivalry," she said. "He was a wonderful man. ... We were soulmates."
His uncle NYPD Detective Mo Weathers said:
Narcotics is very dangerous, [but] Deon wanted to make a change in the community and see a change by taking drug dealers off the streets. ... I can't even say how proud we are of him - it's not even a word. ... He was a good young man. ... He went over there to do the right thing and train people. He served his country, his city and his state, his community. He was a father, a brother, a son.
Taylor's father, Leon, said that many people in his family and in the community looked up to his son: "All the young guys followed him. ... So many went to college and on to the force because of him. Just being with him was wonderful."
His grandmother Shirley Taylor said that Deon "encouraged his four cousins and his brother to become police officers - and they did":
They followed him through high school, college and on to the force. All the guys looked up to him because he did all the right things. He was the hero of the family. There were so many beautiful things about him. He was strong. He was a standout guy. He was always the gung-ho guy. We can't make any sense out of this.
Taylor's eight-year-old son from a previous marriage, DaRue, lives with mother in upstate New York. Taylor's grandmother Shirley said, "Deon was a hands-on father. They were very close."
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg released thisstatement:
Today, our City received terrible news: We lost one of our Finest, Police Office Deon Taylor, who was killed in action in Afghanistan yesterday while serving in the United States Army. Officer Taylor worked in the Narcotics Bureau in Brooklyn, helping keep our streets safe from drug dealers, and he served in the U.S. Army, protecting our country from terrorists abroad. ... Today, we are reminded that hundreds of city workers - many of them members of the NYPD - are fighting bravely overseas to preserve our freedoms, some giving their lives, as Office Taylor did. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones during this difficult time.
"Deon was the apple of my eye," his grandmother said. "I'm going to miss that big smile and that big bear hug he used to give me. But no more, no more."
May he rest in peace.
On Friday the Department of Defense also announced the death of two marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom:
Cpl. Adrian Robles, 21, of Scottsbluff, Neb., died Oct. 22 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Lance Cpl. San Sim, 23, of Santa Ana, Calif., died Oct. 22 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
ADRIAN ROBLES: "He was the model Marine"
Before he graduated from Scottsbluff High School, Adrian Robles knew he wanted to be a marine. In his senior year, he joined the soccer team so that the conditioning would give him a head start when he joined up. "He became one of our goalkeepers," his coach, Pedro Sulu said. "He was always willing to learn, and very enthusiastic." His high school principal, Kirk Begley, remembered Robles' positive attitude and the smile that he usually wore. Robles was also involved in the school's computer club.
According to 1st Lt. Curtis Williamson of the 1st Marine Division public affairs office, Robles had served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006. Robles was a rifleman, which Williamson said is a centerpiece specialty of the marines. In early spring of 2008 he deployed to Afghanistan to help train Afghan forces, but his battalion's mission changed to a combat-centered one. Robles was scheduled to return home with his unit in November.
Williamson said it was clear that Robles was an exemplary marine:
I have been doing this for quite a while. ... I can’t remember ever seeing a Marine listed as receiving three Good Conduct Medals. At the age of 21, it is clear that he has worked very hard. It looks like he was the model Marine.
In addition to the Good Conduct Medals, Robles had received two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. He will also be awarded a Purple Heart because he died in action as a result of hostile wounds.
The family declined to speak to the media but has invited the Patriot Guard Riders to participate in his final journey home. The funeral is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, November 1, or Monday, November 3, 2008 in Scottsbluff.
May he rest in peace.
SAN SIM: "He wanted to do something for his country"
San Sim's family settled in Santa Ana, California, in 1985, after escaping Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge and then living in a refugee camp in Thailand. The youngest of 11 children, San Sim was born in the Philippines as his family worked to reach the United States.
Sim graduated from Santa Ana Valley High School, where he participated in wrestling. He enjoyed fishing and liked spending time with his many nieces and nephews. "When he got out of high school, he wanted to do something for his country," his brother Seng Sim said. "Everything else could wait."
Although his family are pacifists, San Sim "felt the need to serve the country that gave us the opportunity to escape from war," his sister Yasmine Sim said. "He was proud of what he did," said another sister, Serene Sim. "He felt like he was really doing something. After what happened on 9/11, he wanted to go out there and put in his own effort."
Although the other members of his family have been naturalized, Sim was still in the process of gaining his citizenship. His family is planning to petition the government to award him posthumous citizenship.
Sim was in the same unit as Adrian Robles, and like Robles, Sim was a rifleman. Sims was on his third tour abroad and had served twice in Iraq, earning commendations that included two Purple Hearts. He was shot on Tuesday and died the next day.
His wife, Karla Sim, said, "He thought family was important, but that it was also important to help those who are suffering."
As Buddhists, the family will observe one hundred days of remembrance. They are following traditions of wearing white, keeping candles lit to guide Sim's spirit home, and his mother shaving her head. Once his body has been returned to them in California, they will plan a memorial.
"We came to this country to escape war. And now he's died in war," Yasmine Sim said. "Our thoughts, prayers and wishes go out to the troops still out there."
May he rest in peace.
Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and families of the service members chronicled here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.
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, see Fisher House's Hero Miles program. If you would like to assist the animal companions of our deployed military, information is available here. Sending a care package to a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan is; read how at anysoldier.com. Other ways to support the troops are in this diary. And don't forget them when they get home. Visit welcomebackveterans.org and Hire Heroes USA to learn what you can do.
As of this writing, 4,187 members of the U.S. armed services have been confirmed killed in action in Iraq, one is missing or captured; and 314 other coalition forces have died. In Afghanistan, 622 U.S. forces and 378 other coalition forces have died. (The Department of Defense news releases can be found here.) More than 30,300 U.S. servicemen and women have been wounded in Iraq, and the suicide rate among servicemen and women is high. The death toll among Iraqis is unknown, but is at least approaching 90,000 and probably is in the hundreds of thousands. At least 153 journalists have been killed in Iraq during the war.
I Got the News Today is a diary series intended to honor service members who have died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; its title is a reminder that almost every day a military family gets the terrible news about a loved one. The series, which was begun by i dunno, is currently maintained by Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, noweasels, MsWings, greenies, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, twilight falling, moneysmith, labwitchy, joyful, SisTwo, a girl in MI, SpamNunn, JeNoCo, mediaprof, Pager, and me, roses. 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 noweasels.