A Look at Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan in January
February 09, 2010The following is a look at the members of the armed forces killed in Afghanistan in January.
Marine Cpl. Jamie R. Lowe
Jamie R. Lowe's parents wanted their son's funeral to be upbeat and patriotic, just like he was, so they asked people to show up in blue jeans and played lively music.
Jeff Milner, who was Lowe's best friend at Cisne High School in Cisne, Ill., before he graduated in 2007, told mourners being a Marine was all Lowe had wanted.
“He didn't just want to be a regular Marine,” he said. “He wanted to be a recon Marine. That's a pretty big goal to accomplish in such a short time.”
The 21-year-old from Johnsonville, Ill., died Jan. 11 while supporting combat in Helmand province. He was assigned to Okinawa, Japan.
“I talked to him on the phone from Afghanistan, and he told me he really loved what he was doing,” Milner said. “I don't think he would have wanted it any other way.”
Bobby Mooney, who works with youth at Lowe's church, said Lowe appeared to be a leader even when he was a young teenager on his first church trip.
“The other students looked at him to see what to do,” Mooney said. “Even older boys took their cues from him.”
Survivors include Lowe's parents, Kevin and Teresa.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Meinert
Before he joined the Marines, Jacob A. Meinert wrote about anticipating the challenge and the self-respect it would yield, words that would later be included on a memorial card distributed at his funeral: “Courage allows the ordinary to become great. ... Some day, possibly very soon, instead of quoting history I will be making it.”
The 20-year-old from Fort Atkinson, Wis., died Jan. 10 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province. He was assigned to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and had served in Iraq.
Meinert couldn't wait to serve his country and even arranged his classes to graduate early from Fort Atkinson High School in January 2007 so he could join the Marines, counselor Curt Brokmeier said.
The tall, lanky teen with an infectious smile had played trombone in school and particularly enjoyed being part of the jazz band. Friends recalled how he loved attending rock concerts or going fishing and how he overcame a fear of heights to learn to jump out of planes.
Mary Lou Mijokovic, his great aunt, said Meinert embodied a Marine Corps motto -- The Few, The Proud, The Marines.
Meinert is survived by his parents, three siblings and the family dog, Bosco.
Army Staff Sgt. Daniel D. Merriweather
Daniel Merriweather loved his cowboy boots and big belt buckles -- and loved the Kool-Aid and candy his mom would send him in care packages.
“Daniel is all country,” said his mother, Pamela Finnie.
But her son also was concerned: It was his third tour of duty in a combat zone, and he didn't think he was coming home this time. She told him to have faith and pray.
“He told me he didn't think God would hear him,” Finnie said. “But I think he did pray and got a chance to get himself together, and here we are.”
Merriweather, 25, of Collierville, Tenn., was killed by a roadside bomb Jan. 13 near Kandahar. He was assigned to Fort Bragg and lived in North Carolina with his wife, Rachelle.
Merriweather graduated from Overton High School and enlisted in the Army two days before graduating. The high school football player -- he was a linebacker -- didn't make his mom happy by joining at first, but she and others came to understand his patriotism and purpose.
“He'd just say it was something he had to do,” said Thomas Ammons, one of the soldier's close friends.
Merriweather also is survived by two sons, Kale Michael Rausch and Daniel Merriweather Jr.; father, Daryl Finnie; two sisters; three brothers; and numerous other relatives and friends.
Army Staff Sgt. Thaddeus S. Montgomery
Many who knew Thaddeus Montgomery knew he loved the outdoors -- so much so that he took a job in Yellowstone Park, where he spent the summer in 2001.
Greg Forsythe, of West Yellowstone, Mont., had known Montgomery and called him a “unique individual and a good kid.”
Montgomery, 29, died Jan. 20 at Lorengal Outpost of noncombat related injuries. He was assigned to Fort Carson.
A decorated soldier, he served in Korea and Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan.
Montgomery, who was raised in Decatur, Ala., is survived by his mother, Debra Hays, of Florence, Ky.; father Thaddeus Montgomery, of Alexandria, Va.; fiancee, Yih Shu Wong, of Malaysia; and a young son, Thaddeus Montgomery III, who lives in Cullman, Ala.
Montgomery's mother told the Altoona (Penn.) Mirror newspaper that since her son's death, condolences have “come from all over the world,” and she has been told her son will be remembered as a man “who helped his friends.”
“He tried to make it easier for his guys,” she said.
Army Capt. Paul W. Pena
Paul W. Pena was a hard worker but wasn't one to sing his own praises. As a skinny teenager in the Junior ROTC program at San Marcos Baptist Academy in San Marcos, Texas, he worked quietly behind the scenes, ensuring that the unit's annual inspection and other events went smoothly.
He rose to the rank of cadet major and graduated from the academy fifth in his class in 2000, said school spokeswoman Shelley Henry. Then he attended the military academy at West Point, graduating in 2004.
Henry said Pena visited the school after serving in Iraq and didn't seem apprehensive about returning to combat.
“He was just a leader, and I don't think he was the kind to go in afraid,” she said. “He was a brave soldier.”
Pena, 27, died Jan. 19 in Arghandab River Valley of wounds from an explosive. He was assigned to Fort Bragg.
A teacher at the San Marcos academy, Max Smith, recalled Pena as a diligent, well-behaved boy. “He always came back here and let you know he was OK and that he appreciated all you'd done for him,” said Smith, a retired Army colonel.
Pena's survivors include his mother, Cecilia.
Army Staff Sgt. Anton R. Phillips
Anton Phillips, a father of three, “took care of his soldiers like family,” a fellow officer said.
“He rallied them to do their jobs to the best of their ability and he led by example,” said Capt. Alexis Jackson, who served with Phillips.
As an executive officer for the 5th Maintenance Company out of Kaiserslautern, Germany, Phillips earned respect from both his leaders and peers, according to The Provider, a blog about the 82nd Sustainment Brigade, which is supporting the war in Afghanistan.
Phillips, 31, of Inglewood, Calif., died Dec. 31 at Forward Operating Base Methar Lam. According to the Department of Defense, Phillips was assigned to the base in Afghanistan.
The Defense Department has announced that it is investigating Phillips' death.
“Sgt. Phillips was beyond reliable,” 1st Lt. Craig A. Long, 5th MC platoon leader, said at a service for Phillips. “He was more than just a team leader, he was a friend and his door was always open to anyone, day or night.”
Phillips is survived by daughters Lexus, 13; Antoneth, 8; and Alina, 5. The Provider reports that more than 200 soldiers attended a memorial service for Phillips at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
Marine Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Poole Jr.
When Timothy “Bubba” Poole was 4 years old, he stared up at a Marine at a Toys for Tots event. The rigid man in uniform broke attention, though, and picked up the little boy, holding him for a few minutes and whispering.
That night, Timothy Poole Sr. was putting his tucking his son into bed.
“I want to grow up to be a Marine,” little “Bubba” told his father. The elder Poole still doesn't know what that Marine told his son, but he's never forgotten those moments. And that 4-year-old kept his word, joining the Marine Corps once he was old enough.
Poole Jr., 22, of Bowling Green, Ky., was killed by a roadside bomb while patrolling in Helmand province. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune and graduated from Warren East High School in Bowling Green in 2007.
“Bubba” Poole was remembered by his family and others as a quiet, polite young man who loved to skateboard.
“He had the heart of a Marine and could run like the wind,” said Sgt. Joel Extine, who recruited Poole into the Marines. “He was the kind of kid we wanted to enlist.”
Poole also is survived by his mother, Tina Martin; brother, Cecil; and three sisters, Elizabeth, Katrina and Jessica.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael P. Shannon
Michael Shannon would keep a straight face while telling a joke, his family says, and it often took a moment to realize he was kidding.
Although he had a healthy sense of humor, Shannon was serious about the Army.
“He was a soldier through and through,” said his wife, Donna. “The Army was his life. The only thing equal to the Army in his life was his family.”
Shannon, 52, of Canadensis, Pa., died of a heart attack Jan. 17 while serving in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was assigned to a unit in Heidelberg, Germany.
The New York City native first enlisted in 1977. He earned a bachelor's degree at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, then a master's in criminal justice at Long Island University in Brookville, N.Y.
He met his wife while working as a corrections officer in New York. He retired in 2001 as an assistant deputy warden.
“His attitude was, we're all going die some way,” Donna Shannon said. “No one has a master plan to avoid it, so don't use it as an excuse to not do your part for your country and your family. That's the kind of man he was.”
He had three children, Rhea, 21, Michel'le, 18, and George, 9.
Marine Sgt. David J. Smith
David Smith loved to dance -- and when he stepped onto a dance floor, people made sure to make room.
His girlfriend, Kimberly Mott, said Smith loved to be the center of attention, recalling the way he danced at his sister's wedding last summer.
“He always wore a hat, and he would always incorporate the brim of the hat with the dancing,” Mott said. “Even if he didn't have a hat, he would pretend it was there.”
Smith, 25, of Frederick, Md., was critically wounded Jan. 23 in a suicide attack in Helmand province. He died of his injuries three days later. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton and was pursuing a degree from East Carolina University.
The Marine always wanted to make a difference, which is why he went to Iraq in 2006 and volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan.
His desire began as a child: He spent hours pretending to rescue his older sister from danger and always wanted to be a heroic soldier when playing with his younger brother, Daniel Brown.
“We would always tear up my mom's basement, make forts out of cushions and everything, and fight each other and shoot each other,” Brown said. “And he'd get wounded and I'd fix him up.”
Smith also is survived by his mother, Mary Jane McWilliams, and father, Leonard Smith.
Marine Lance Cpl. Zachary D. Smith
Everyone speaks highly of Zach Smith in his hometown, Hornell, N.Y.
“He always lifted everyone's spirits,” says a former employer. “He was the funniest kid I ever met,” says a childhood friend.
His former football coach heaped on the most praise.
“They don't come any better,” Hornell High School athletic director Gene Mastin said. “If Hornell ever had a favorite son it was probably Zach Smith. He was universally liked. Everything about him was good.”
Given his widespread popularity, Hornell residents took it hard when they learned the 19-year-old Marine lance corporal died in combat Jan. 24 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Just a year and a half out of high school and six months into his marriage, Smith had only been in Afghanistan for a month when he was killed. He was assigned to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii
Smith's death is a big loss for the community, said Mayor Shawn Hogan, who is neighbors with Smith's family.
“You often hear about these brave young men dying, and it's always somebody else's brother or son,” Hogan said. “Now this is something we have to cope with.”
He leaves behind his wife, Anne Smith, parents, Chris and Kim Smith, brother, Nate Smith and sister, Grace Smith.
Air Force Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith
Bradley R. Smith was about family -- the close-knit one he came from, and the one he was building with his wife, Tiffany, and newborn daughter -- but he also enjoyed spending time with the guys.
“Brad was a boy's boy,” said a friend, Tim Kalb. “He had an eager spirit and was always looking for the next adventure.”
He recalled nights when Smith and his friends would camp in the forest, make inedible burnt breakfasts over a fire -- and the time they accidentally set the woods ablaze.
Others at his funeral remembered how Smith played football, mentored youth at his church and bought fast-food meals for homeless people standing in intersections.
Smith, 24, of Troy, Ill., died Jan. 3 of wounds from a blast near Kandahar Airfield, less than a month after being deployed. He was assigned to Fort Riley.
His youth pastor, John Shaw, said the 2004 graduate of Triad High School had taught him to live more zealously and share his faith.
“He got excited about the smallest things, and he always had a plan, he was always thinking,” he said.
Smith's survivors also include his parents, Gary and Paula, and his brother and fellow airman, Ryan.
Army Capt. David J. Thompson
David J. Thompson was a compassionate, understanding man who had a heartwarming laugh and had wanted to be a soldier since he was a youngster, according to notes left by friends in an online memorial.
Many referred to him as John Paul or simply “JP.” Douglas Jenison of Ohio called him “one of the greatest men I ever knew and served with.”
Thompson, 39, of Hooker, Okla., was killed Jan. 29 in Wardak province. The Army said only that he died of injuries from an incident that is under investigation. He was assigned to Fort Bragg and was on his second deployment to Afghanistan.
He enlisted in the Army in 1989, beginning a career that would take him from South Carolina to Alaska and included humanitarian aid deployments with the North Carolina National Guard.
From 1999 to 2002, he served in the Guard and attended East Carolina University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He was commissioned as a chemical officer.
Thompson lived near Fort Bragg with his wife, Emily, and daughters Isabelle and Abigail.
Survivors include his parents, Charles and Freida Thompson, and sister, Alisha Mueller.
Marine Cpl. Nicholas K. Uzenski
Family and friends of Nicholas K. Uzenski say the 21-year-old Marine from Tomball, Texas, was known for his faith, his competitive nature and his grin.
“Compared to his smile alone, I have accomplished nothing,” Uzenski's father, William, said at his son's funeral in Bozeman, Montana, where some of his family lives.
The military said Uzenski died Jan. 11 during combat in Helmand province but it said it would not release details because he was on a sensitive reconnaissance mission. He was assigned to Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan, and had deployed to Afghanistan in November.
He had graduated from Franklin Central High School in Franklin, N.Y., in 2006. Then he enlisted in the Marines two years ago and studied at the School of Infantry in California.
“He was a guy you naturally gravitated toward because you loved being around him,” said Maj. Jordan Walzer, who was Uzenski's officer in charge in Afghanistan. “We will sorely miss our brother.”
He was scheduled to return home in June.
Survivors include his mother, who lives in New York, as well as his stepmother, two sisters and three half-brothers.
Army Pfc. Geoffrey A. Whitsitt
Geoffrey Whitsitt was a country boy who loved running through the woods and fields near his rural South Carolina home as a child, dreaming of the day he'd finally be a soldier.
“He was my fishing buddy and my friend,” said Whitsitt's father, Steve. He and his wife, Debbie, said their son never waivered from his dream of becoming an Army Ranger.
“He had a warrior spirit,” his mother said.
Whitsitt, 21, of Taylors, S.C., was killed by a roadside bomb Jan. 13 in Afghanistan. He was assigned to Fort Bragg.
He was homeschooled until 10th grade, then attended Greenville Tech Charter High School. He graduated in 2007. Whitsitt's brother, Steven, is a sailor stationed in the Persian Gulf.
The Whitsitts remembered their son as a young man who was living his dream -- but also as a man of faith who was trying to live a life that was “pleasing to God,” Steven Whitsitt said.
“He was rough, he was the little guy, and he was the little guy with a big attitude some of the time,” the soldier's father said. “But he had a compassionate heart.
Steven Whitsitt said his son will be missed by many -- “but he will inspire a lot of people also.”
Army Spc. Kyle J. Wright
Kyle J. Wright's choice to join the military, following the path of his father and grandfather, had roots in Sept. 11.
“He decided when he was sitting in a classroom watching the Twin Towers fall,” Richard Wright said of his son, whom he called “a hell of a standup kid.”
Kyle Wright went on to be a member of the Marine Corps JROTC program at Romeoville High School in his hometown of Romeoville, Ill., before graduating in 2006.
“He was just an unbelievable guy, wildly popular among the band of brothers that he served with,” the elder Wright said.
The 22-year-old died Jan. 13 at Kandahar Air Field of wounds from a roadside bombing earlier that day. He was assigned to Fort Lewis, where he fell in love with a girl who stole his heart.
He “was the toughest, smartest, bravest man, and I don't just say that because he's my son,” Richard Wright said.
Kyle Wright was on his first deployment in Afghanistan, where he was interested in improving the treatment of women and used his fluency in Arabic to explain the culture to fellow soldiers, his father said.
Survivors include his mother, stepmother and several siblings.