Tonight we remember Sgt. John Kyle Daggett, a young man who recently died of wounds suffered in Iraq, and we bear witness to the bittersweet homecoming of two soldiers missing from the Korean War, Sgt. 1st Class George W. Koon and Sgt. 1st Class Jack O. Tye.
Please join me below the fold to pay tribute to their memory.
John Kyle Daggett: "The most honest-hearted person I ever met"
On Friday the Department of Defense announced:
Sgt. John K. Daggett, 21, of Phoenix, Ariz., died May 15 in Halifax, Canada, of wounds suffered May 1 in Baghdad, Iraq, when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Sgt. John K. Daggett, known as Kyle, was on his first tour of Iraq when he was wounded. Four days after he was injured, he was on a medical transport headed for Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., but when his condition worsened on the way, the plane stopped at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although medical teams labored for two weeks to save his life, Daggett died of his complications from his injuries.
Daggett grew up in Phoenix, where he attended Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, playing football for four years.
"He worked hard to put himself in the position of starter and a linebacker on our defense," said his former coach, Dana Zupke. "Every day, he came to practice with a positive attitude and can-do attitude ... he was just that kind of kid."
"He was the kind of kid you loved to coach football. He gave 110 percent. ... He was just a phenomenal, a phenomenal kid," said Zupke. ... "He was very outgoing and very bright and articulate. He was definitely a pleasure to be around." ... Zupke, who also teaches business classes at Pinnacle, knew Daggett off the field. "He applied the same ethic in the classroom. He was always very outgoing and contributed a lot to the class. Just an all-around joy."
Daggett was an avid outdoorsman who loved hunting, fishing, camping, and rafting. After graduation, Daggett and a cousin joined the army in June 2005. Daggett was assigned to a Stryker combat team and was a fire team leader and army ranger. He planned to attend college after his army service.
Jamie Patasin, Daggett's best friend since the two were high school freshmen, has been wearing Daggett's extra set of dog tags ever since he was injured. Patasin said that Daggett's family and girlfriend were with him when he died.
"For some reason I had it in my head that he could pull through because he's such a strong fighter," she said. "He was actually doing really, really well in the hospital. ... It was really hard. ... He was probably the most honest-hearted person I ever met."
Here are a few online remembrances posted by Daggett's loved ones:
I will always remember you telling me you were not afraid, that you were proud to serve in the army.
We're a Pinnacle High School family who was devastated to hear of the loss of your remarkably courageous son John Kyle. The school had a very heartwarming memorial for him today and many flowers and notes have been left at the front of the school in fond and loving remembrance of him. You have our very deepest sympathies in the loss of such a remarkable son, along with our prayers for God's love and support for all of you during this most difficult time. John Kyle Daggett, you will always be in our hearts.
Darling Kyle, the only son of my cousin Jack. Your huge and loving family is left with memories of your kind and loving manner and we miss you dearly. How can we find the words to bid you farewell. You will live on in our thoughts, prayers and hearts forever and you will never be forgotten. We love you so much and we salute you for your sacrifice to our country and for our freedom. God be with you.
It just seems so surreal that you are gone. Thank you so much for watching out for me in high school and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done for this country. You may be gone but now you are safe and free. You are a hero to all and I am proud to say that you are my friend. I will see you again someday. We have lost a friend but we have gained an angel!
He is survived by his father, Jack Daggett; his mother, Colleen Czaplicki; his stepfather, Paul Czaplicki; his older sister, Kendall; and two stepsisters.
May he rest in peace.
POWs Returning Home
On Friday the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced that the remains of two U.S. servicemen, missing from the Korean War, had been identified and were being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
They are Sgt. 1st Class George W. Koon of Leesville, S.C.; and Sgt. 1st Class Jack O. Tye of Loyall, Ky.; both U.S. Army. Koon will be buried tomorrow [Friday]in Leesville, and Tye will be buried Monday in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
Representatives from the Army met with the soldiers' next-of-kin to explain the recovery and identification process, and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the Secretary of the Army.
In late November 1950, Koon was assigned to the Medical Company, 9th Infantry Regiment, and Tye was assigned to Company L, 38th Infantry Regiment. Both were members of the 2nd Infantry Division advancing north of Kunu-ri, North Korea. On Nov. 25, the Chinese Army counterattacked the Americans in what would become known as the Battle of the Chong Chon (River). This combat was some of the fiercest of the war, and the 2nd Division initiated a fighting withdrawal to the south. Koon and Tye were captured by Chinese forces during the intense enemy fire, and subsequently died while in captivity from malnutrition and medical neglect.
In 2002, two joint U.S./Democratic People's Republic of Korea teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated and excavated a mass burial site located 20 miles northwest of Kunu-ri, along the route taken by captured U.S. POWs being moved to permanent POW camps along the Yalu River. The teams recovered remains at the site believed to be those of several U.S. servicemen, including Koon and Tye.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory and JPAC also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons in both Koon's and Tye's identification.
George Walter Koon: "He's back home now"
One of nine children born to the late Charlie T. and Rebecca J. Koon, George Walter Koon enlisted in the army in 1936, right after graduating from high school. was a newlywed when he reenlisted in the army in November 1950. He was captured by the Chinese later that month and sent to a POW camp.
In January 1951, Koon's family received a telegram saying he was missing in action. In April, another telegram came. The mailman, who was a family friend, gave it to one of Koon's sisters and stayed as she read it to the family. "Of course, they all wept," [his brother Carl] Koon said.
In April 1951, the Chinese began moving SFC Koon and a number of other prisoners to a second POW camp. SFC Koon was weak from malnutrition, and was suffering from dysentery and gangrene. Despite his illnesses, he was expected to endure the 30 mile hike to the second war camp. Unfortunately, SFC Koon died in route to the other POW camp.
It was later learned that two young boys were hiding in the bushes as these prisoners were being moved. They watched as SFC Koon and 10 others who had also died were buried in a mass grave, presumably by Chinese or North Korean forces. Miraculously, years later the two would recall their observations to American forces, who in cooperation with the North Koreans, located the grave in 2002. Of the eleven who were buried that day in 1951, only SFC Koon and one other soldier have been identified.
In 2002 Rev. Carl Koon, George's brother, was notified that George's dog tags had been found in a mass grave, and in 2006 the Department of Defense took DNA samples from Carl, which later were matched to his brother's remains. Unfortunately, George Koon's wife, Virginia, never got to know the full story; she died about five years ago. Carl Koon, age 88, and their sister, Alice Crapps, 96, are the only surviving siblings.
George Koon was buried with full military honors in Leeville, South Carolina, yesterday - nearly 58 years after his death. The Patriot Guard participated in the services.
At his mother's suggestion, Carl named his son after his brother. The 53-year-old namesake, George Koon, is pastor at First Baptist Church in Gilbert and [delivered] the eulogy. "He's back home now," Carl Koon said.
May he rest in peace.
Jack O. Tye: Home at last
At this writing, little information was available online about Sgt. Jack O. Tye. If anyone finds additional information about him, please post it in the comments.
Sgt. 1st Class Jack O. Tye was captured along with George Koon and, like Koon, died of malnutrition and medical neglect while a POW.
Jack O'Neil Tye will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery tomorrow, with the Patriot Guard in attendance.
May he rest in peace.
For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website or call 703-699-1169.
As of this writing, 4,078 members of the U.S. armed services have been confirmed killed in action in Iraq; 3 are missing or captured; 1 death is pending confirmation; in Afghanistan, 501 U.S. forces and 310 other coalition forces have died. (The Department of Defense news releases can be found here.) Almost 30,000 servicemen and women have been wounded in Iraq, and suicides among servicemen and women are at a record level. The death toll among Iraqis is unknown, but is at least in the tens of thousands and probably in the hundreds of thousands. At least 145 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, silvercedes, MsWings, greenies, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, Wee Mama, twilight falling, labwitchy, moneysmith, joyful, roses, SisTwo, Avila, SpamNunn, a girl in MI, 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.
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