“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
― Nelson Mandela
[I would include brave women in that quote, as I am confident Mr. Mandela would.
Army Spc. Krystal M Fitts
DOD Identifies Army Casualty"Her efforts and contributions as a member of the Fury Female Engagement Team have been exceptionally admirable." said Lt. Col. Timothy Gilhool, commander of the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion. "Krystal was unafraid, her presence made the difference. I cannot capture in words my sorrow at her passing or my pride in her service to the Nation." That was how he remembered Spc. Krystal Fitts, killed by indirect fire on July 17th, in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Spc. Krystal M. Fitts, 26, of Houston, Texas, died July 17 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from injuries suffered from indirect fire. She was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Spc Fitts joined the Army in 2009, as a chemical operations specialist, and, after training at Fort Jackson, SC, Fort Leonard, Wood, MO, and Fort Benning, GA, she was was on her first deployment, and was assigned to to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She had volunteered for the Fury Female Engagement Team, and had been trained in Pashto, so her unit could communicate with the Afghan people more easily.
“She was attached to the company six months before deploying and immediately impressed those around her with her motivation, tenacity and drive to learn,” C Company's Captain Sam Perlik said. “Her dedication to the unit and support to fellow paratroopers will be missed, and her contributions well remembered.”
The Fayetteville Observer reported that Capt. Sam Perlik, said Spc. Fitts filled a critical role in the unit and took on an ever-increasing number of duties well beyond the scope of her experience and training.
The day she died, Spc Fitts posted a posted a photograph to her facebook page, one of those photos that people send around that have captions. This one was of a Service Member with a bandage on his forehead holding a helmet with a bullet hole in it. When she posted it, she said: "Let's be Grateful for Our Many Blessings today. Remember So Many have given of their lives that we have the privilege and the duty to make the most of ours...We Will Never Forget their Sacrifices... let us do our best to live worthy of this FREEDOM they fought and gave their all for us to enjoy... wrap our Gold Star Families in your love and support... they pay every day every heartbeat LORD we ask you to bring comfort and peace to their aching hearts... ♥ chaps"
Of course, as everyone has many sides to their personality, Spc Fitts was not just an outstanding soldier, but also a woman who dreamed of going home, dreamed of a spa day with her girl friends and mom when she returned, a woman who loved hot tubs and beachs, and a woman whose boyfriend was a southern gentleman.
During her time in the Army, Spc Fitts was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Parachutist Badge.
Spc Fitts was a daughter, a sister, and a girlriend. She has many who mourn her passing.
Marine Cpl. Joshua R Ashley
DOD Identifies Marine Casualty"Josh died a hero, protecting this nation," John Ashley said on Thursday of his son, Marine Cpl Joshua Ashley, a Military Police Officer and dog handler with the II Marine Expeditionary Force, 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, who was killed by an IED (improvised explosive device) on July 19th in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Cpl. Joshua R. Ashley, 23, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., died July 19 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"Josh was a very independent person," said John Ashley. "When he would set his sights on something, whether it was for work or in the Marines, whatever he went after, he got. Josh always strived to be the top and number one in his class."
Cpl Ashley's partner was Sirius (who can be seen in the photo above.) They were together when Cpl Ashley was killed. Sirius survived and is accounted for, according to Cpl Ashley's father.
Stephen Demuth, 23, a close friend of Cpl Ashley's remembered:"Since he joined, he always wanted to go to Afghanistan and he wanted to be a canine handler," Demuth said. "He wanted to go to Afghanistan and he wanted to serve his country, so he met his goals of becoming a canine handler. He served overseas, but unfortunately, he payed the ultimate sacrifice."
Rebeccas Frankel, the journalist who took the photograph above, writes on her log, "There will be many reasons why Ashley's death is going to be an especially harsh blow to the MWD community. The first is that this fresh loss comes, once again, too close on the heels of the deaths of MA2 Sean Brazas and Cpl. Keaton Coffey. The second is that, unlike the Brazas and Coffey (who were killed "during combat operations"), Ashley was killed by an IED, the very thing he and Sirius were trained to detect. And the last reason -- or at least the last one I will list here -- is that it's hard to imagine that someone like Ashley could be killed by anything. A formidable presence by any measure, he stood well above six feet tall and was an avid weightlifter; he was, in a word, enormous. And from a distance, Ashley appeared indestructible.
Charismatic and a born leader, Ashley originally of Rancho Cucamonga, CA, was admired by many. 'He didn't have to try,' says Tech Sergeant Justin Kitts who was an instructor from the Air Force when Ashley and Sirius came through YPG. Ashley, who he remembers as 'funny and who take care of the other guys,' was one of his favorite students and his death has Kitts "shook up." And "after six months of classes coming through," he told me yesterday, 'that means something.'
"It's not real yet. It's hard," Chelsea Kelley said of losing her high school friend. "He was the sweetest person I ever met. He put everyone else before himself." After graduating from Etiwanda High School in 2007, Cpl Ashley enlisted in the Marines in 2008. During his high school years, he lettered in water polo and swimming all four years, and was captain of the water polo team.
Cpl Ashley was deployed to Okinawa, Japan, from 2009 to 2011, and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from 2011 until he was deployed to Afghanistan in May of this year. He is survived by his father John, his mother Tammie, and brothers John and Jordan and many others who loved him.
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, 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, CalNM, and me, Chacounne. 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.
Helping our troops: If you wish to assist our military and their families, consider Operation Helmet, or sponsoring a deployed service member at TroopCarePackage.com. 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.
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.