The casualty count for US service members killed in the Afghanistan war will soon break the 1,000 mark. Multiplying the numbers only partly reflects the many lives that are affected by each sad loss. Tonight we remember three soldiers, a marine, and a sailor who died while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
SSGT John A. Reiners, 24 of Lakeland, Florida
SGT Jeremiah T. Wittman, 26, of Darby, Montana
SPC Bobby J. Pagan, 23, Austin, Texas
PO1 Sean L. Caughman, 43, of Fort Worth, Texas
LCPL Alejandro J. Yazzie, 23, of Rock Point, Arizona
Please take a moment to remember them and their sacrifice.
Three Fort Carson, Colorado soldiers serving in Afghanistan died in an enemy attack on their unit with an improvised explosive device. The unit was working in Zhari province, Afghanistan on Febraury 13, when an insurgent approached on a motorcycle and detonated a bomb. The soldiers killed: SSGT John A. Reiners, SGT Jeremiah T. Wittman,and SPC Bobby J. Pagan, were with the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
Staff Sgt. John A. Reiners, 24, joined the U.S. Army in July 2004, where he worked as an infantryman and joined his current unit in April 2009. He served two previous tours in Iraq since joining the Army.
Reiners first deployed for Iraq in 2005. He was injured when his armored vehicle hit an explosive device, but he was able to escape the vehicle and lead his fellow troops to safety. Reiners was awarded more than a dozen medals, including the Purple Heart.
His second tour of Iraq lasted from late 2007 through 2008. There Reiner was wounded again by an explosive device, incurring a concussion. Despite the injuries, Reiners still hoped to become an Army Ranger instructor after returning from Afghanistan. He was serving his third tour when he was killed. His family says he died doing what he loved.
Staff Sgt. Reiners was a native of Lake Hamilton, Florida, where he ran track and joined junior ROTC at Haines City High School. He followed his grandfather, an Army veteran who earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star in Vietnam.
Staff Sgt. Reiners's local paper, The Ledger, wrote a moving story about Reiners and his family, which includes his wife and 2 year old son. He sent his wife a bouquet of flowers for Valentine's Day, which she received just hours after she found out her husband had been killed.
Casey Reiners said she chatted with her husband by computer on his final morning. He called two hours later to say he was about to go out on patrol.
"The last thing he said to me was, 'Casey, I feel your love with me and I carry it everywhere I go out here, and just know I won't be able to talk to you on Valentine's Day but just know all the love I possess I'm sending to you on that day and I'm constantly thinking about you,'" Casey Reiners said.
Staff Sgt. Reiners will posthumously receive a Bronze Star. His other awards include Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal - 2, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star- 2, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon – 2, NATO Medal, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantry Badge, Air Assault Badge.
Staff Sgt. John A. Reiners will be missed. REST IN PEACE
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Sgt. Jeremiah T. Wittman, 36, was killed by the same February 13 bomb attack that killed SSGT Reiners. He was a mortarman - fire support specialist and six-year Army veteran who joined the U.S. Army in March 2004. He served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and joined his current unit in March 2006. (source)
Sgt. Wittman was a native of Darby, Montana who loved the outdoors. He was a devoted family man and father to two young daughters. "He was a good man and a hard worker. He loved his family and always tried his hardest," said his widow, Karyn Wittman.
The newspaper article said the thing she'll miss the most about her husband is him being there for their 3-year-old daughter Miah, who was named after her father. "He wanted to fight so other people wouldn't have to," Karyn said. He was serving his second tour overseas when he was killed in action. (source) and (source)
Sgt. Wittman's awards include: Army Good Conduct Medal - 2, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge.
Sgt. Jeremiah T. Wittman will be missed. REST IN PEACE
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Spc. Pagan is remembered for being devoted to his family of eight brothers and sisters, and working to help his single mother. He followed his older brother and joined the U.S. Army in July 2008, after graduating from Anderson High School. He served as an infantryman, and joined his current unit in November of that year. This was his first deployment.
Pagan was looking forward to returning home soon and getting married. He was engaged to fellow soldier Diana Soriano, who is also deployed to Afghanistan as part of the same unit. She was the first to get the news of his death, and remembered Bobby Pagan as a loving man.
"He wanted someone to carry on his name, we never got the chance. Now he's in my heart," Soriano said. She returned to Austin to meet Pagan's family and to attend the funeral, then she'll return to Afghanistan to finish the mission they started together. (source)
Spc. Pagan's awards include: National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign, Medal w/Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantry Badge. He was awarded six Army medals, including the National Defense Service Medal.
Spc. Bobby J. Pagan will be missed. REST IN PEACE
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A Seabee died in Kuwait while serving in the Navy Reserves:
Petty Officer 1st Class (SCW) Sean L. Caughman, 43, of Fort Worth died February 16 of non-combat causes while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Kuwait. Caughman was assigned to Fort Worth-based Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 22 as an Information Systems Technician. He joined the Navy Reserve in April 2000 and had been with the NMCB 22, nicknamed the "Lone Star Battalion" for the past year. (source)
PO1 Caughman and his fellow 1500 Seabees arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in September 2009. "In January, the battalion’s tour was extended to seven months as part of the 30,000-troop surge. More than 1,100 additional Seabees have deployed to Southwest Asia since, increasing the Navy’s ground presence in the region by 29 percent."
Unfortunately, little information was available on Petty Officer 1st Class (SCW) Sean L. Caughman. His unit, the "NMCB 22 is based at Joint Reserve Base NAS Fort Worth, Texas, with nine detachments at Navy Operational Support Centers in Texas and Oklahoma. Its mission is to train for mobilization readiness and construction operations in support of Commander, First Naval Construction Division"(source).
Petty Officer 1st Class Sean L. Caughman will be missed. REST IN PEACE
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Another Marine combat death was reported in Afghanistan:
Marine Lance Corporal Alejandro J. Yazzie, 23, of Rock Point, Arizona died 16 February while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California. Yazzie was killed by enemy fire during a joint patrol and fire fight in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was a member of India Company assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, nicknamed "The Super Breed" unit.
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has been embedded with the Marines, and got to know Alejandro Yazzie over the last week. He had tried to call his wife for Valentine's Day using Nelson's satellite phone, but couldn't reach her. On the day of his death, Yazzie planned to call his wife again, but never made it back from patrol. Yesterday on NPR, Nelson reported on the battle and the young marine's death.
Lance Cpl. Yazzie was from the small Navajo community of Rock Point, Arizona. Yazzie graduated from Rock Point High School in 2004 and joined the marines. The remains of the 23-year-old arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on February 18 (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana). LCpl Alejandro Yazzie is the eleventh member of the Navajo Nation to die in the Afghanistan or Iraq wars. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. said:
"All of the Navajo Nation is saddened and deeply grieved to learn of the death of another of our young Marines in Operation Enduring Freedom. Alejandro gave his life protecting us all and defending freedom, doing what he fervently believed in, and living a life of honor. Our hearts and our deepest condolences go out to his family and the community of Rock Point."
Alejandro Yazzie is survived by his parents, wife, three brothers, a sister and his grandmother, and his freinds and family on the Navajo Nation. Lance Corporal Alejandro Yazzie will be missed. REST IN PEACE
[Richard L. Jack, a veteran of the 1st Marine Division, bows his head during the chaplain’s invocation during the morning colors ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Feb. 3. Jack, a sergeant during the Korean War, is the president of the Oklahoma chapter of the 1st Marine Division Association. (02.04.2010 - Lance Cpl. Ned Johnson)]
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Helping our troops: If you wish to assist our military and their families, consider Operation Helmet, or Fisher House. Sponsoring a deployed service member at TroopCarePackage.com can provide letters or care packages that make a real difference in a military person's life. To assist the animal companions of our deployed military, information is available here. When our veterans come back home, they need jobs. Look at the programs of Veterans Green Jobs and Welcome Back Veterans. Encourage a Vet, and see if you can help out.
About the IGTNT series: I Got the News Today is intended to honor, respect and remind. Its title is a reminder that almost every day a military family gets the terrible news about a loved one. All of the U.S. casualties can be seen here. The DoD news releases are found here. Published photos of the returning fatalities are found on the Dover AFB page. Diaries about the fallen usually appear two days after their names are officially released, which allows time for the IGTNT team to find and tell their stories. Since 2001, there have been 998 American troops killed in Afghanistan. Since 2003, there have been 4376 American troops killed in Iraq.
Click the IGTNT tags below for previous diaries in the series which was begun by i dunno, and which is maintained by monkeybiz, noweasels, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, twilight falling, joyful, roses, SisTwo, a girl in MI, Spam Nunn, JeNoCo, Janos Nation, True Blue Majority, Proud Mom and Grandma, Sandy on Signal, and me, CalNM. These diaries are heartbreaking to write, but are an important service to those who have died, and show our community’s respect for our fallen brothers and sisters.
Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service members chronicled here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.