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On Friday, the Department of Defense announced the name of a soldier who lost his life in Iraq on July 21st. His name is 1st Lt. Michael L. Runyan, 24, of Newark, Ohio, and his tribute was written by Twilight Falling.

Last Monday the Department of Defense announced names of three soldiers and two marines who died in Afghanistan late last week. They are Staff Sgt. Justus S. Bartelt, 27, of Polo, Ill.; Cpl. Dave M. Santos, 21, of Rota, Marianas Islands; Sgt. 1st Class John H. Jarrell, 32, of Brunson, S.C.; Sgt. Leston M. Winters, 30, of Sour Lake, Texas; and Sgt. Matthew W. Weikert, 29, of Jacksonville, Ill.

Please follow me below the fold to learn more about the lives of these six men and the families they leave behind.

1st Lt. Michael L. Runyan, 24, of Newark, Ohio

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The DoD reports:

1st Lt. Michael L. Runyan, 24, of Newark, Ohio, died July 21 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his convoy vehicle with an improvised explosive device in Muqdadiyah, Iraq.  He was assigned to the 52nd Infantry, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

"He was the sweetest kid and the toughest kid at the same time"

Michael Runyan was special. When he decided to do something, he did it, and he did it well.

In high school, Michael swam on the swim team, played tennis and was captain of the golf team his senior year. He qualified for the state golf tournament during his senior year, said his former coach, Pam Leonard.

(snip)

Michael was inspired when his brother joined the Marines, Leonard said. "He really took on the attitude that he wanted to serve in the military," she said. "He wanted to be an (Army) Ranger, and that's what he did."

Source: Newark Advocate

Michael graduated from Xavier University with honors in 2008, majoring in criminal justice and participating in the Army’s ROTC program. After graduation, he joined the Army. He distinguished himself early, and before long, he became a platoon leader and was responsible for more than 30 soldiers.  In early July, he was deployed to Iraq.

"He had a high degree of integrity," [his pastor, Rick Boyer,] said. "He was the kind of guy you enjoyed being around."

Michael was proud of being in the Army, Boyer said.

"I do know he was (in Iraq) because he wanted to be there," he said. "He was serving his country, and he did that with honor."

Source: Newark Advocate

Michael had only been deployed for a few weeks when his family got the worst news of all.  It arrived while his parents were on their way to visit his older brother, Alex, who is a Marine captain.

"We told them when they got here," Brittany Runyan said from her home yesterday. "The last day or two has been surreal. We are overwhelmed."

(snip)

"I know it sounds cliche, but Michael had this amazing energy," Brittany Runyan said. "He could make anyone laugh, and could always cheer you up. Everybody adored him."

(snip)

[Michael] knew exactly what he wanted in life and how to get it. And that was a life of service to his country. It was a bond he shared with his brother, a Marine Corps helicopter pilot.

"Michael was so very proud of what he was doing," Brittany Runyan said. "And we are so very proud of him."

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

Michael is survived by his parents, Renee and Jeffrey Runyan; his brother and sister, Alex Runyan and Leslie Hess; and his girlfriend, Shaina Cales, whom he planned to ask to marry him soon.

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On Monday theDepartment of Defense made the following announcement:

Staff Sgt. Justus S. Bartelt, 27, of Polo, Ill., died July 16 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

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Staff Sgt. Bartelt joined the Marines shortly after his graduation from Polo High School in Illinois. He was on this third overseas deployment at the time of his death. Bartelt had previously served in Iraq for 6 months in 2005 an in Afghanistan from August 2008 to March 2009. He had been promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant on January 1 of this year and served as a platoon sergeant based at Camp Lejeune.

Bartelt's awards and decorations include:

the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. ~source

Justice Bartelt is survived by his father, Steve Bartelt, his mother, Jeannie Kyker, and his stepfather, Kendall Kyker.

Thank you, SS Bartelt for your leadership and your service to our nation.

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On Monday, the Department of Defense also announced the following:

Cpl. Dave M. Santos, 21, of Rota, Marianas Islands of the Pacific, died July 16 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

This incident is under investigation.

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Dave Santos moved to the Philippines as a small child and lived there with his mother until he was 9 years old. At that time he moved back to Rota in the Marianas Islands to live with his father. Santos jointed the Marines right after graduation from Rota High School in 2007.  

Santos completed basic training at Camp Lejeune and received advanced training at Camp Pendleton in CA. He was initially deployed to Afghanistan in 2008-9 and was redeployed there about a month ago.

The Department of Defense reports that Santos's death is under investigation. The story appears to be a particularly tragic one:

His father described him as a “wonderful son” and “loved by many.”

...He last visited Rota in April 2009, and that’s the last time his biological father saw him alive. ~source

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Santos leaves behind a large family including his wife, Lotty Ann Atalig Santos, and their 3-year-old son, Anthony David A. Santos. His funeral will be held in Rota, CNMI, next week.

Thank you, Dave Santos, for your service to our nation. Our prayers are with your wife and daughter.

**********************************************

The Department of Defense also announced:

the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died July 15 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.  They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

Killed were:
           Sgt. 1st Class John H. Jarrell, 32, of Brunson, S.C.
           Sgt. Leston M. Winters, 30, of Sour Lake, Texas.

John Jarrell joined the Army in 1996.

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It appears he was a great soldier to work with, evident by a letter sent to his family from a high ranking military officer. In the letter, the officer says Jarrell was "the best squad leader" and that "it was an honor to work with him." ~source

His sisters, Casey Long and Jessica Jarrell, describe him as "something special."

Jarrell was a heavily decorated soldier whose awards and decorations include:

Bronze Star Medal with Valor device; Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Meritorious Unit Commendation; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; Combat Infantry Badge; Parachute Badge; Air Assault Badge; Driver’s Mechanic Badge – with Driver – Tracked Vehicles; and Weapons Qualification: M4, expert. ~spurce

In addition to his two sisters and his parents, Jarrell leaves behind a wife, Wendi, a daughter, Emma, and a son, Brantley.

Thank you Sgt. 1st class Jarrell for your long and meritorious service to our country. May your wife and children be surrounded by comfort and love.

*********************************************************
Staff Sergeant Leston M. Winters joined the Army in July of 1998 and arrived at Fort Campbell in 2010. He served as a civil affairs medical sergeant and was promoted to Staff Sergeant posthumously.

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He earned many awards and decorations for his service including:

Army Commendation Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; and  Weapons Qualification: M4, expert. ~source

SS Winters is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, his daughter, Emma, and his son, Remington, all of whom live in Palmyra, TN, a second son, Jonathon, who lives in Grmany, and his parents who live in Sour Lake, Texas.

A memorial service for SS Winters and Sgt. 1st Class Jarrell will be held in Afghanistan.

******************************************************

Finally, on Monday, the Department of Defense announced the following:

Sgt. Matthew W. Weikert, 29, of Jacksonville, Ill., died July 17 in Paktika province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

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Sgt. Weikert was a 2000 graduate of Jacksonville High School in Illinois. He served in the Marine Corps before joining the Army. As a Marine, he served three tours of duty in Iraq. After a year as a civilian, he joined the Army. He served a fourth tour of duty in Iraq with the Army before being deployed to Afghanistan.

He is the father of 10-year old Jayse Schaecher Weikert who

spoke proudly and lovingly of his dad.

“The soldiers who served with him respected him a lot,” he said. “There were even people with higher ranks who respected my dad.”

~snip~

“He loved all of his soldiers,” said Megan Schaecher, Jayse’s mother. “This job was such a passion for him. I know that he felt it was his duty to be over there so all of the children today would live in peace and never be called to war.”

~source

Matthew Weikert earned many awards and decorations including the:

Combat Action Ribbon Navy/Marine; Presidential Unit Citation Navy/Marine; Meritorious Unit Commendation; Army Good Conduct Medal; Marine Corp Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Navy Reserve Sea Service with 2 Stars; NATO Medal; Combat Infantry Badge; Combat Action Badge; and Weapons Qualification: M4, expert. ~source

In addition to his wife and son, Weikert is survived by his parents.

Thank you, Sgt. Weikert, for your many tours of duty in the Middle East. Our thoughts and prayers are with your wife and son.

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May all five men rest in eternal peace. Poppies are the universal symbols of remembrance. May we never forget the sacrifices that these men made for our nation.
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The purpose of the I Got the News Today series is 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.

Click here to see the series, which was begun by i dunno, and is currently maintained by Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, noweasels, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, twilight falling, joyful, roses, SisTwo, a girl in MI, Spam Nunn, JeNoCo, Janos Nation, True Blue Majority, CalNM, and Wide Awake in KY.

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.

Originally posted to blue jersey mom on Sun Jul 25, 2010 at 05:26 PM PDT.

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