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Since 2001, 1954 U.S. troops have died while serving in Afghanistan, and since 2003, 4486 U.S. troops have died while serving in Iraq.

The IGTNT (I Got The News Today) series is a reminder that nearly every day, somebody gets the heartbreaking news that a friend, former classmate, or beloved family member will not be coming home from war.

Tonight we remember two Soldiers who died
while serving in Afghanistan:

Spc. Manuel J. Vasquez, 22, of West Sacramento, California
Spc. Benjamin H. Neal, 21, of Orfordville, Wisconsin

Please take a moment below to remember them,
and all those who have lost their lives in these wars.

The Department of Defense announced the death of an infantry soldier.

Spc. Manuel J. Vasquez, 22, of West Sacramento, California

Spc. Vasquez died April 24 in Paktika province, Afghanistan. Vasquez was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, based in Grafenwoehr, Germany.

Manuel Vasquez spent his childhood in West Sacramento but spent most of the past 10 years living with his father in Citrus Heights, where he went to Mira Loma High School. He joined the Army after high school, and several of his family members are also serving in the military.


Spc. Vasquez came home for vacation less than six months ago to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. Manuel was in the center of everything, stationed at the barbecue preparing food for others.

"A gentle giant is what we called him, because he was so big," Vasquez's aunt told KCRA.
Spc. Vasquez arrived in Afghanistan in August 2011 and was promoted to Specialist in January. He was scheduled to leave in June.

Instead his family was shocked to hear that Spc. Vasquez had been discovered shot and killed in a lookout tower. An investigation is underway to determine events surrounding his death.

In Auburn Journal, his heartbroken grandparents recall a young man who was quick with a joke or a smile, gravitated toward electronic games like many his age, enjoyed eating and barbecuing, and went too soon.
Among those Spc. Vasquez leaves behind are his mother, father, grandparents, siblings and cousins, and friends in the 172 Infantry Brigade.
Spc. Manuel Vasquez is missed. May he rest in peace.

The Department of Defense confirmed the death of a Fort Bragg paratrooper.

Spc. Benjamin H. Neal, 21, of Orfordville, Wisconsin

Spc. Ben Neal died April 25 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Ben Neal grew up in the small town of Orfordville, about 10 miles west of Janesville, Wisconsin. He was a team leader on his high school wrestling team, and a 2009 graduate of Parkview Senior High School in Orfordville.

Neal joined the Army as an infantryman in June 2009 after graduation and became a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. He previously served and eight-month tour in Afghanistan in 2010. He died during his second deployment to Afghanistan.


"Ben Neal was a charismatic, fun-loving paratrooper whom I never saw frown," Lt. Col. Ced Carrington, the 1st Battalion Commander, reported the FayObserver. "He took great pride in being a team leader and was respected by all of Battle Company and throughout the battalion. Ben was a true paratrooper in every sense of the word. His loss will be sorely felt by his fellow paratroopers and the entire 1st Battalion family."
The Army awarded Spc. Neal the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Parachutist Badge, among other medals and decorations.
"Ben was a very good, good person. Wonderful personality," Parkview School District Administrator Steve Lutzke told the The Daily Advance. He said Neal had "strong faith" — both a religious faith and faith in the United States' future.

"He just felt a need to serve and he felt this was something he could do to help our country and help the world," Lutzke said.

The school district has 950 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Grief counselors were on standby at school Thursday.

"As you can expect, this is a huge loss for our school district and our community. He still has family members in our school," Lutzke said.

Among those Spc. Neal leaves behind are his family and hometown friends, and fellow paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne.
Spc. Benjamin Neal is missed. May he rest in peace.

* * *
Thanks to Timroff for our faithfully lighted candle IGTNT logo;
Other Photos by CalNM and linked Sources

Helping our troops: If you wish to assist our military and their families, consider Operation Helmet, or sponsoring a deployed service member at Fisher House provides housing for families of injured troops and veterans who are recovering in hospitals, and Guardian angels for soldierspet assists the animal companions of our deployed military.

When our veterans come back home, they can find support at Welcome Back Veterans. Our recently returned veterans need jobs, and Veterans Green Jobs is now hiring for positions and filling training sessions. VGJ corps retrains veterans as leaders in forest and resource conservation, green construction, and energy efficient upgrades of homes in rural areas. Encourage a Veteran, and see if you can help out.

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About the IGTNT series: I Got the News Today is intended to honor, respect, and remember the fallen, and to remind us that each casualty has family and friends who received the terrible news that their loved one has died at war. 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. The US Department of Defense news releases are found at defense gov/releases. Icasualties lists the names of those killed, and shows the number of wounded. Published AP photos of the returning war fatalities are found on the Dover AFB page. 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, Wide Awake in Kentucky, Ms Wings, maggiejean, JaxDem, theFatLadySings, Ekaterin, 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.

Originally posted to IGTNT on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 06:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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