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Tonight we pay tribute to two soldiers who died together in Iraq and will be sorely missed by their loved ones: Cpt. Andrew. R. Pearson, 32, of Billings, Montana, and Spc. Ronald J. Tucker, 21, of Fountain, Colorado.

Of everything in this world,
I guess I'll never know why,
Something as good as this could,
Flower up and die.

- From "Reason to Cry," by Lucinda Williams

Please join us below the fold to pay tribute to these two young men tonight.

On Friday, the Department of Defense announced the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom: Cpt. Andrew. R. Pearson, 32, of Billings, Montana, and Spc. Ronald J. Tucker, 21, of Fountain, Colorado. They were both assigned to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, and died on April 30 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device.


Andrew R. "Drew" Pearson: "I need to help these people"

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Andrew Pearson, also known as Drew, was born in Wyoming, but his family moved to Great Falls, Montana, when he was an infant, and when he was in high school, they moved to Billings. He loved playing football, hunting, and fishing. During and after high school, he worked at a local IGA grocery store.

"He was  one of the best kids we ever had work here in the store," said owner Shayne Meskimen. "Drew was always pretty special to me. Didn't have to follow him around making sure he was working. ... He was very much a go-getter. Very energetic, hardworking, conscientious."

"Everything he did seemed easy for him," said his stepfather, Jay Johnson. "He was just an above-average person. Everybody knew something about him was special."...

"He was a very smart and intelligent person and always had a smile on his face," Rene Johnson said.

Pearson joined the army in 1998 and was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after being endorsed by his base commander and nominated by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). Pearson eventually opted for a military career. "He went into it with his heart and soul," said his father, Ron Pearson.

For the 2001 academy yearbook, Pearson chose a quote from President John F. Kennedy to accompany his photo: "In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it."

Soon after graduating in 2001, Pearson and his wife, Jon Marie, got married, and the couple have four children: Danny, Gaby, Cheyenne, and Kristopher James.

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The mission of the H&H Company, which Pearson commanded, was to train and support Iraqi forces. In addition, the company worked to open and supply schools and hospitals.

"He loved going over there" to Afghanistan and Iraq, said his stepmother, Rene Johnson. "He said, 'It's what I need to do. I need to help these people.'"

His dad noted:

"He believed in what he was doing and gave his all for America. ... He was very resolute in what he was doing."

A couple of excerpts from posts at legacy.com acknowledge the influence this soldier had on the lives of others:

I served under CPT Pearson from Jan 2007-May 2007. He was a very personal commander, never too busy to talk to his Soldiers. I am still with 1-22 IN (D Company now) in Iraq and we will miss him sorely. He is gone, but will never be forgotten.

***

He will be truly missed. I attended school with Drew, he was always there to make you laugh when you needed a pick me up.

Pearson's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Air Assault, Combat Infantry Badge, Expert Infantry Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Ranger Tab.

In addition to his wife, children, parents, and stepparents, Pearson is survived by two brothers, two sisters, his grandparents, three uncles, and an aunt. Memorial services will be held at the War Memorial in Billings on May 10 and at Fort Hood on May 15, and he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

"He was a boy every family would be proud to call their son," Ron Pearson said. ...
"I want the world to know he was a hero," Rene Johnson said.

Additional photos of Andrew Pearson are here.

May he rest in peace.


Ronald J. "Ronnie" Tucker: "A good soldier who would help his fellow soldiers anytime, anywhere"

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Ronald Tucker, also known as Ronnie, died in the same incident that killed Andrew Pearson. Tucker was from Fountain, Colorado; he graduated from Fountain-Fort Carson High School in 2005 and joined the army that same year. Trained as a mortarman, he was assigned to Fort Hood in 2006 and went to Iraq this year.

His mother and two sisters declined to speak to the press at this time. An aunt explained that things are just "too raw" now.

The dean of students at Tucker's high school, Mitch Johnson, who had known Tucker since the latter was in first grade, remembered him as having "a passion to be successful" and being a hardworking student. And, like many of those profiled in the IGTNT series, Tucker was known for his sense of humor:

"If there was a good practical joke to be played, you could count on Ronnie having that grin on his face," Johnson said.

Tucker's former math teacher, Brent Bloyd, who had known him since he was eight years old, remembered Tucker as "incredible, phenomenal and amazing":

The educator has many photos on his wall of students who have meant a lot to him over the years but Ronnie, he says, was always the spark in the room.

An online post from someone who knew both Tucker and Andrew Pearson stated:

My former Company Commander, CPT Andrew Pearson (USMA 01, Montana) and a member of Mortar Platoon, HHC 1/22IN, SPC Ronald Tucker (Colorado) have been killed in action. CPT Pearson was a good man, a good leader. He always took care of his troops. SPC Tucker was a good Soldier who would help his fellow Soldiers anytime, anywhere.

This simple post from Tucker's aunt says it all:

Ronnie I am gonna miss you I love you Aunt Janet

Tucker's awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

The family has asked the Patriot Guard to participate in farewell services for Tucker.

May he rest in peace.


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 easy; read how in this great series. 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, 4,066 members of the U.S. armed services have been confirmed killed in action in Iraq; 3 are missing or captured; 5 deaths are pending confirmation; in Afghanistan, 496 U.S. forces and 308 other coalition forces have died. (The Department of Defense news releases can be found here.) More than 29,000 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.

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.

Originally posted to roses on Sun May 04, 2008 at 05:02 PM PDT.

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