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Minnesota Pays Heavy Price in Latest War Casualty ReportsTim King Salem-News.com
The state has seen its worst loss since 2005.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Fourteen more U.S. servicemen have died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Five are from the state of Minnesota, three are from Texas, and two are from the state of Georgia. Pennsylvania, Idaho, Oklahoma and Colorado each saw the loss of one person from that state.
Another American, 23-year old Army Private first-class Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho, was captured by the Taliban while on patrol.
Sergeant Joshua J. Rimer, 24, of Rochester, Pennsylvalnia died from wounds suffered in an explosion from a roadside bomb that detonated near his vehicle.
Josh Rimer enlisted in the Army in August 2003. Over the years he served two tours in Iraq. His tour of duty in Afghanistan began last April.
According to his Facebook, Josh Rimer was a rugged and faithful outdoorsman who loved silly movies and sports. A local newspaper noted that he listed his unattributed favorite quote as, “Who I am has become better than who I was.”
Joshua Rimer was assigned to the 4th Engineer Battalion, Fort Carson, Colorado.
Specialist Randy L.J. Neff, Jr., 22, of Blackfoot, Idaho, also died from wounds suffered in the improvised explosive device blast.
A Website covering casualty updates in Afghanistan, reported that Blackfoot Mayor Mike Virtue said he has spoken to Neff's mother, who told him her son was married and living in Colorado Springs.
The mayor is planning a city wide memorial. Specialist Neff recieved a number of awards, including a medal for serving in the War on Terrorism.
Randy Neff was assigned to the 4th Engineer Battalion, Fort Carson, Colorado.
A 34-year old Army Specialist named Raymundo P. Morales, of Dalton, Georgia., died July 21st in Methar Lam, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over. He was assigned to the 148th Brigade Support Battalion, Cedartown, Georgia.
Gov. Sonny Perdue issued the following statement, "The death of Corporal Morales reminds us all of the dangerous jobs our brave Soldiers are performing in Afghanistan. Mary and I continue to pray for the entire 48th Brigade as they proudly serve under very difficult conditions. We join all Georgians in mourning the loss of Corporal Morales, and in thanking his family and friends for his courageous service to our state and our country."
The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation, according to the DoD
The Department of Defense announced the death of four soldiers who died July 20th in Wardak Province, Afghanistan.
Sergeant Gregory Owens Jr., 24, of Garland, Texas died from injuries sustained during the blast from an improvised explosive device, followed by an attack from enemy forces using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
His awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon.
Greg Owens Jr. was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery (STRIKE), 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York.
Specialist Anthony M. Lightfoot, 20, of Riverdale, Georgia also lost his life in the Warcak Province July 20th. Along with three other soldiers, he died in an enemy attack from forces using an IED, small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fires.
Channel 2 Action News reporter Diana Davis sat down with the mother of 20-year-old Army Spc. Anthony Lightfoot. LyVonne Lawrenceville said, "I would never have thought I would have to bury my son. I would have thought my children would bury me." LyVonne Lightfoot is also an Army veteran.
Anthony Lightfoot was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery (STRIKE), 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York.
Specialist Andrew J. Roughton, 21, of Houston, Texas, also was killed that day when the explosion ripped through the vehicle he was riding in, followed by an RPG and small arms attack.
The Houston Chronicle writes that, "Andrew Roughton had a dream, and it didn't have anything to do with proving his mettle in combat. He wanted to make it on the gridiron, showing that even an undersized nose guard could succeed in college football if he was tough enough. But when life threw him and his young wife a curve via an unexpected pregnancy, Roughton decided that supporting his family came before football and classwork. He left his scholarship at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens and joined the Army."
Andrew Roughton was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery (STRIKE), 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York.
The oldest member of the squad to die that day was Private first-class Dennis J. Pratt, 34, of Duncan, Oklahoma. Like the others who died that day in Wardak, July 20th, he lost his life when his vehicle was hit by an IED, then an additional attack.
On a tribute page for this fallen soldier, Aaron Hall wrote, "Dennis was one in a billion, with a big smile and even bigger heart. Although he lived short life, it was rich with experience and meaning. I am proud to have known such a hero."
Dennis Pratt was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery (STRIKE), 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York.
Corporal Benjamin S. Kopp, 21, of Rosemount, Minnesota, died July 18th at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington of wounds suffered July 10th in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire.
His mother, Jill Stephenson, said Ben Kopp spent much of the last week in an induced coma in Washington, D.C.’s Walter Reed Medical Center. According to reports, doctors tried to reduce swelling in his brain, the result of a gunshot wound he received July 10th while serving in Afghanistan.
He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia.
Lance Corporal Brandon T. Lara, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, died July 19th while supporting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.
His mother, Gloria Lara, said "Being a Marine was always something he wanted to do." She added, "He knew probably by the age of 10 that he was going to be a Marine." He said he was fearless. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stated, "Lance Corporal Brandon Lara was a brave Marine who sacrificed his life fighting for the freedoms that are dear to this country." "We send our deepest condolences to Brandon’s family, friends and fellow Marines as they mourn this terrible loss."
Brandon Lara was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.
Two Air Force officers were killed when their F-15 fighter crashed July 17th near Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
Captain Thomas J. Gramith, 27, is from Eagan, Minnesota. He is one of the pilots in the aircraft.
A military spokesman at his base says the crash was not caused by enemy fire. "Right now, there's an investigation going on to determine the crash, however, we know the enemy didn't do it," Staff Sgt. Shawn Jones said. "We just don't know yet the specific cause of the incident."
The crash happened about 3:15 a.m. while the pilots were providing air support to ground troops, according to Jones.
Thomas Gramith was assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
Captain Mark R. McDowell, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the other pilot aboard the ill-fated plane.
The F-15E is reported to be the second loss of a deployed fighter from Seymour Johnson AFB since 2001. In April 2003, a jet crashed on a combat mission north of Baghdad, Iraq. Because the crash was considered a combat loss, the Air Force didn’t reveal the specific cause. Mark McDowell’s grandfather, Gilbert McDowell, told television station WRAL in North Carolina what motivated the captain. "He died doing what he wanted to do. He wanted to fly. He was called to fly ... God called him to be a pilot."
Mark McDowell was assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
The Department of Defense announced the death of three soldiers who died July 16th in Basra of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit using indirect fire.
Specialist Daniel P. Drevnick, 22, of Woodbury, Minnesota is one of the three soldiers killed that day in Basra. His death came at a time when U.S. forces are withdrawing from major operations in Iraq.
Dan's uncle Bernie Drevnick said, "He always felt a need to serve his country and do his duty." "We know Dan's not hurting anymore and someone who is divine is looking after him," Bernie said.The last time three Minnesota soldiers were died on the same day in Iraq was Feb. 21st 2005, when three National Guard troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.
Dan Drevnick was assigned to the 34th Military Police Company, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, Stillwater, Minnesota.
Specialist James D. Wertish, 20, of Olivia, Minnesota also died at Basra during the indirect fire attack. He is one of five servicemen from Minnesota included in this report.
Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, the Minnesota National Guard’s adjutant general, said in a statement, "We mourn the loss of these three soldiers." He added, "They were truly part of our National Guard family." The soldiers were reportedly killed when insurgents attacked their Basra position with mortars, rockets and artillery.
James Wertish was assigned to the 34th Military Police Company, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, Stillwater, Minnesota.
Specialist Carlos E. Wilcox IV, of Cottage Grove, Minnesota also lost his life in the attack. He was 27-years old.
Carlos Wilcox graduated from Tartan High School in Oakdale, his mother said. She explained that he studied at Arizona State University and spent time studying in Granada, Spain. He then returned to Minnesota and graduated from Metro State University with a biology degree. His mom Charlene Wilcox told reporters, "I had just sent him books to study for the MCAT (entrance exam) so he could apply for medical school."
Carlos Wilcox IV was assigned to the 34th Military Police Company, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, Stillwater, Minnesota.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
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