What as the name you called me? –
And why did you go so soon?
The crows lift their caw on the wind,
And the wind changed and was lonely.
The warblers cry their sleepy-songs
Across the valley gloaming,
Across the cattle-horns of early stars.
Feathers and people in the crotch of a treetop
Throw an evening waterfall of sleepy-songs.
What was the name you called me? –
And why did you go so soon?
Tonight we honor the lives of five young men who are gone far too soon. Two lost their lives in Afghanistan, in separate incidents supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, while the other three died together in Baghdad. All were inspired to serve our nation for different reasons, even though they shared the same quiet pride and dedication. Please join me over the fold to remember these fallen heroes. [NOTE: This is the first of two IGTNT diaries being published today. The second, by SisTwo, can be found here.]
Senior Airman Jonathan A.V. Yelner: "...a very dedicated, great guy"
DoD Identifies Air Force Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of an airman who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Senior Airman Jonathan A. V. Yelner, 24, of Lafayette, Calif., died April 29 near Bagram, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.
At Jonathan "Jake" Yelner’s MySpace page, he describes himself as an honest, forthright individual:
I say what is on my mind and the truth no matter what. I live life like I want to so I am not one of those guys that says, "Dam I wish I did that."
Jonathan enjoyed rock music, played golf and lacrosse and was starting to study martial arts. He was single, and interested in finding a woman "that is herself." But his determination to savor life was clearly evident in the few words he chose to follow his name:
"...living each day like my last. Cause it might be."
The outpouring of grief from his friends shows how deeply his loss will be felt.
I'm going to miss you so much. You were always there for us and I loved you and still do like family. You always have a place in my heart and at least I know that you would have been proud with the way you died. You died a HERO!!! You did something you believed in and you gave all you had.
... you are responsible for creating a part of who I am. My life was blessed by having you in it. Your voice, your laughter and your sense of humor will be missed. But know that you are a part of each and every person you have touched.
After graduating from De La Salle High School in Concord, California, Jonathan enlisted in the Air Force. Now his loss is being felt by family, friends and throughout the state he called home:
Yelner's father, Bruce, told NBC11 News that Yelner was a "very dedicated, great guy" who believed in the mission he was sent there to do. He also found great joy helping to build roads, buildings and establishing water supplies.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement on Wednesday praising Yelner for his work.
"Senior Airman Jonathan Yelner answered the call to defend the United States with bravery, integrity and a relentless devotion to the ideals and freedoms that we all hold dear," the statement read. "As the people of California honor Jonathan's service to our country, we are reminded of the extraordinary sacrifices made to protect our way of life. Maria and I offer our deepest condolences to Jonathan's family and friends as they mourn his loss."
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sgt. 1st Class David L. McDowell, 30, of Ramona, Calif., died April 29 in Bastion, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Becoming part of the Army’s elite Ranger team had always been a dream for David McDowell. That dream ended this week, when McDowell, who was on his seventh deployment to the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, died during an enemy attack.
From his earliest days, David McDowell dreamed of following his father’s footsteps and joining the Army, recalls his sister Becky McDowell.
"It was always Army from the time he could walk and talk," she said. "If you weren't talking about the Army, forget it. He didn't want to talk to you."
David McDowell would want to be remembered wearing his Ranger beret, Becky McDowell said.
"I'd always tell him how proud I was of him – that is what big sisters are for," Becky McDowell said. "He was a true American hero. He took care of his family and he took care of his country."
The youngest of three children, McDowell enlisted in the service shortly after graduating from Poway High School in 1996. Although his athletic and scholarly abilities could have taken him in other directions, McDowell was determined to follow his dream, says longtime friend, Jesse Carlson.
"He was more into becoming an Army Ranger," said Carlson, who noted that McDowell was doing military-style endurance training well before he officially joined the service.
"He worked harder than anybody I've ever known at making his goals happen," Carlson said.
"It's very unique to find someone with that kind of conviction," Carlson said. "You can't help but respect the guy and feel about as proud as you possibly can that he's your friend."
During his 12-year Army career, McDowell was the recipient of numerous awards, including two Bronze Stars with valor devices and a Purple Heart.
McDowell is survived by his wife, Joleen; son, Joshua, 11; daughter, Erin, 3; mother, Laurie Wathen of Julian; father, Steven McDowell of North Carolina; and sisters, Becky McDowell of Poway and Michele Delay of North Carolina.
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died April 28 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their forward operating base with indirect fire.
Pfc. Adam L. Marion, 26, of Mount Airy, N.C. He was assigned to the 171st Engineer Company, North Carolina Army National Guard, Saint Pauls, N.C.
Sgt. Marcus C. Mathes, 26, of Zephyrhills, Fla. He was assigned to the 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), located at Fort Polk, La.
Sgt. Mark A. Stone, 22, of Buchanan Dam, Texas. He was assigned to the 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), located at Fort Polk, La.
Adam L. Marion: "He loved life to the fullest"
All throughout North Carolina’s Surry County, flags are flying at half mast, in memory of Mount Airy resident and National Guardsman Adam L. Marion, who graduated from Surry Central High School in 2000.
"I think people need to understand Adam died too young," said Mark Snow, one of Adam's high school teachers and a family friend. "He died for a good cause. Remember him not for the way he died, but for the way he lived."
Algebra teacher Sharlene Mills remembered him as someone who brought life to her classroom: "This is where Adam used to sit, right in the front, right here near me. I always had a good view of that smile on his face."
The academic world didn’t appeal to Adam, who found his calling working with children who had been abused or neglected.
"If they had an outing at the pool, or if they had outings at the picnic shelter or wherever they had outings he would go with them and help volunteer," said a former fellow volunteer.
Janie O’Neal of the Childrens Center of Surry County says Marion took it a step further, often mentoring misguided kids.
"He was a friend to them but he was also somebody that they looked up to, kinda like a big brother," O’Neal added.
Those who knew Adam describe him as devoted to his family and community. Only weeks ago, they had spent time together, when he was home on leave.
"He loved to have fun," [family friend Kathy] Robertson said. "Just being around him would make you laugh, and he loved to cut up and pick. He was just fun to be around."
The family and community are overwhelmed with grief, friends said yesterday.
"He was such a good, fine young man," Robertson said. "He was a good Christian boy. And he loved life to the fullest. They're devastated. It's a loss for our community."
Adam enlisted in the service in March, 2007. He was trained as a Combat Engineer, and then assigned to operate a "Husky" vehicle, which leads improvised explosive device clearing operation convoys.
According to his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Price, the Husky operators are chosen for their maturity and proven ability as a professional combat engineer. He said, "Pfc. Marion recently conducted route clearance in Sadr City, the most dangerous area of Baghdad, and his expertise resulted in finding multiple Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) as well as other explosives threats. His efforts and contributions saved countless coalition lives and have undoubtedly been felt throughout the theatre of operations. Pfc. Marion will be dearly missed by the Soldiers of the 171st Engineer Company."
Among Adam’s honors are Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terror Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge, Armed Forces Reserve Medal w/M Device, Army Service Ribbon, Army Good Conduct Medal, and the Overseas Service Bar.
He is survived by his parents, Pam and Donnie Marion or Mount Airy, and by an older sister.
Marcus Mathes: "He died doing exactly what he wanted to do"
The local newspaper, the Tampa Tribune, titled the story about Marcus Mathes’ death "War Brings End to Their Love Story." According to his widow, Julia Mathes, she fell in love with her husband the first time she saw him.
"Oh my God," she said. "I know people talk about love at first sight all the time, but I was just staring at him. He would catch me looking, and I'd do that look-away thing. It was just, like, attraction right there, but it was a strong, strong attraction."
A native of Zephyr Hills, Florida, Marcus joined the Army in 2005. Before deploying to Iraq last November, he served in Afghanistan. Marcus died alongside his best friend, Mark Stone of Texas.
"They were standing out by their trucks, getting prepared for another mission," said his father, Ralph Mathes of Tampa. "One mortar landed right between them, killed them both instantly. His commanding officer called and explained that everything went very quickly."
His brother-in-law, Bryan Harvey later found Marcus’s Bible near his body.
At times, Marcus could be a serious, take-charge person, said Julia, but he believed in putting others’ welfare before his own. In fact, she says that aspect of his personality – coupled with the attacks of September 11 – led to his decision to enlist in the service.
"He was so sweet," Julia Mathes said, according to the Tribune. "We talked not long ago about how we decided his gift from God was making other people happy. Even if he was upset or something, he made sure everyone else was OK. That was his gift."
After completing basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Marcus took part in advanced individual training at Fort Bliss, Texas, and was then assigned to Fort Polk. He was on his second tour of combat duty in Iraq when the fatal attack occurred.
According to his pastor, Kevin Ahrens, who spoke to the Florida Baptist Witness:
"His mom told me he was glad to go over to Iraq in October because many of the people he replaced were family men and ladies who were going to be able to get home for Thanksgiving and Christmas," Ahrens told the Witness. "He accepted special orders to fill these positions and said it was an honor."
With her voice fading, [his mother Sue] Sawyer continued talking about a comment Marcus put on his MySpace page about a month ago: "’I did what I came here to do. I sent somebody home,’ and I saw that and in my words, I thought, ‘mission accomplished.’
Marcus’ family members are focusing on their cherished memories of a young man they remember as fun and lighthearted.
Stepmother Joyce Mathes recalls that she and her husband shared a cruise to Puerto Rico with Marcus and Julia just last year.
"Marcus was always fun," Joyce Mathes said. "We'd hike to waterfalls and go scuba diving, and he loved it - anything to do with nature and being outside. I know he died a soldier and doing exactly what he wanted to do. That was Marcus, but it didn't totally define him.
"It was that fun-loving, big smile and just having a good time. I'll miss him as a friend as much as I will as a son."
Mathes' awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the NATO Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
Survivors include his wife, Julia Ehrman Mathes; his mother and stepfather, Sue and Mike Sawyer of Sebring; his father and stepmother, Ralph and Joyce Mathes of Tampa; and brothers Kyle Mathes of Illinois and Zach Sawyer of Sebring.
Mark A. Stone: "This is just such a total shock...."
As a boy growing up in Buchanan Dam, Texas, Mark Stone was known for being quiet and soft spoken.
"He chose his words wisely," said Zane Lewis, Stone's best friend. "He would never talk just to talk."
The two met at Kingsland Christian Academy, a 40-student high school that stayed open an extra year so Stone could graduate from it, said Joannie Jackson, whose husband ran the school. Lewis described Stone as the guy who one time helped him, without a word of complaint, unload an entire truckload of printers for the family business. It's the kind of thing Stone was always willing to do, Lewis said, seemingly just for the chance to hang out.
Every now and then, Mark would unpack his father’s Army uniform, simply to admire it. So no one was surprised when the young man joined the Army in September 2004.
After completing basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and finishing advanced individual training at Fort Bliss, Texas, Stone was assigned to Fort Polk in October 2007. He was deployed to Afghanistan, where he spent one year. Then just a few months ago, Stone arrived in Iraq and was promoted to sergeant. Days ago, he spoke to his older brother, Jason.
"He thought things might be getting worse there," Jason Stone said. "But everything was all right."
It was the last conversation the two brothers would have. On April 28th he died in an attack that also claimed the lives of two other American soldiers, including his best friend, Marcus Mathes. Now the quiet, contemplative young man is being honored by family and friends for his devotion to military service and his faith in God.
"I think everyone will remember him the way he was, a fun-loving kid who loved to be a solider and loved God," said Jason.
The brothers grew up in Kingsland where both attended Calvary Hill Church Mark’s photo is among those of congregation members and their relatives who are active in the military. Sadly, he is the first casualty of this close-knit church family.
"We never even had one of them wounded, nevertheless killed, and this is just such a total shock," said Reverend Joannie Jackson, who has known the Stone brothers since before the boys were teenagers. "This is just such a total shock. It’s just really unreal."
In addition to his brother Jason, Mark Stone is survived by his father, Don. His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the NATO Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
To date, 4065 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Iraq. Of these, 102 have been women. More than 30,000 men and women have been wounded, and 145 have taken their own lives while on active duty. The Department of Defense Press Releases, from which the information at the start of 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, 496 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Afghanistan.
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.
Sending a care package to a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan is easy. Read how in this great series by Ninepatch. Brighten the day of a soldier in 2008.
And don’t forget them when they get home! Read welcomebackveterans.orgto learn what you can do.
About IGTNT: 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, noweasels, MsWings, greenies, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, twilight falling, labwitchy, joyful, roses, SisTwo, SpamNunn, a girl in MI and me, moneysmith. 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.
As you read this diary, please remember that the families and friends of those profiled here also may read it. Whatever your feelings about the war and occupation, please let your comments demonstrate our respect for the sacrifices of our fallen military and our compassion for their families.