Good evening, friends. Tonight we honor the memory of two soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan on Wednesday. They are: Staff Sgt. Orion N. Sparks, 29, of Tucson, Ariz., and Sgt. Jonathan A. Gollnitz, 28, of Lakehurst, N.J.
On Friday, the Department of Defense reported that:
They died Sept. 26, in Pul-E Alam, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when an insurgent wearing a suicide vest detonated the device near their patrol. These Soldiers were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Schweinfurt, Germany.
I Got the News Today is a diary series 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. 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.
Click the IGTNT tags below to see the series, which was begun by i dunno, and which is maintained by Sandy on Signal, Monkeybiz, Noweasels, Chacounne, Twilight Falling, Joyful, SisTwo, Spam Nunn, True Blue Majority, CalNM, Wide Awake in Kentucky, Maggie Jean, Jax Dem, Kestrel 9000, TheFatLadySings, Ekaterin and me, blue jersey mom.
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.
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Army Sgt. Jonathan Gollnitz was a native of Fredonia in western New York State. He was the oldest of six sons. His brother, Kirk, is a Marine veteran. Gollnitz attended Fredonia High School through the 11th grade. I his senior year he transferred to Levant Christian School in Falconer, and he graduated on 2003.
Jonathan Gollnitz initially enlisted in the Navy and served for five years. He subsequently transferred to the Army. The Buffalo News reports that:
"He switched right over," his aunt said. "He wanted to be closer to the front lines instead of being on a ship."He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in November.
Lt. Col. Whit Wright, his regimental commander, wrote that Gollnitz:
quickly filled a gap in the platoon's junior leadership. Bringing a quiet professionalism to his work, he was able to build a strong team of soldiers that trusted and respected him. Jonathan...was also able to communicate with soldiers on a personal level and would often speak of his son and his plans for the future. SourceIn addition to his parents and younger brothers, Sgt. Gollnitz is survived by a 4-year-old son.
Thank you, Sgt. Jonathan Gollnitz, for your selfless service to our nation.
Less information is available about Staff Sgt. Orion N. Sparks. Although his home is listed as Tucson, his family lives in Washington state.
His commanding officer, Lt. Col. Whit Wright, describes him as a dedicated and skilled soldier.
Sparks was “a contagious optimist who was always in good spirits,” Wright wrote. The non-commissioned officer “could relate to soldiers on a personal level and helped guide them through life,” Wright continued. “Orion was an outstanding trainer of soldiers and a leader who was not afraid to get his hands dirty and lead from the front – a true NCO to the end. He was a cornerstone in Anvil Troop." SourceOn Friday, Governor Jan Brewer order all the flags in Arizona to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset in honor of SSgt Orion sparks. Here is a portion of her statement:
My heart aches as we learn that an Arizona soldier this week lost his life in the line of duty. Army Staff Sgt. Orion N. Sparks, 29, of Tucson, was killed Wednesday in Logar Province, Afghanistan, when an insurgent wearing a suicide vest detonated the device near Staff Sgt. Sparks' dismounted patrol. A second American serviceman was also killed in the attack: Sgt. Jonathan A. Gollnitz, 28, of Lakehurst, N.J.Thank you, SSgt Sparks, for your service and your sacrifice
Staff Sgt. Sparks was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and based in Schweinfurt, Germany. Please join me in extending Arizona's sincerest condolences and prayers for the families and loved ones of both Staff Sgt. Sparks and Sgt. Gollnitz.
As always, let us keep close to our hearts each of the uniformed men and women who defend our Nation on American soil and abroad. We can never repay these heroes for their service and sacrifice. May we offer our deepest gratitude and respect so that they always feel our heartfelt appreciation for all that they do to keep us safe and our Nation free.
Today is Gold Star Mothers' Day. Let us all send our condolences to the mothers and familes of Sgt. Gollnitz and SSgt. Sparks and to all the families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan. Poppies are the universal symbols or remembrance. May we never forget their service and their sacrifices.