Monday, August 29, 2005

48th Family Cookout on Lake Allatoona

Here are some extra pics to go with the story about the family cookout. You can include them on the blog if you want.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Getting Creative

Soldiers get creative at FOB St. Michael's.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sgt. Joseph Recar a member of the 220th Engineer Company

This is a picture of Sgt. Joseph Recar a member of the 220th Engineer Company out of Missouri and his two daughters on the last day of leave in May. Let me know if you would like more info for the picture. Thanks Sgt J Recars wife, Brandie Recar


web master


SFC Greg Simmons

This is my father SFC Greg Simmons. He is stationed at FOB Camp St. Michaels with the 48th BGD combat team. He has served in the military since Sept 1975.

Georgia's momment of silence

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue reacts during a prayer vigil and moment of silence to honor Georgia soldiers at the Capitol in Atlanta, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005. A day after war protesters held candle light vigils in nearby Decatur, Ga., and across the country, the state's chief executive joined with military families and the clergy to honor Georgia's troops. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, center, is flanked by members of a military color guard during a prayer vigil and moment of silence to honor Georgia soldiers at the Capitol in Atlanta, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005. A day after war protesters held candle-lit vigils in nearby Decatur, Ga., and across the country in scenes faintly reminiscent of Vietnam War days, the state's chief executive joined with military families and the clergy to honor Georgia's troops. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)

Widow of 48th Brigade Spc. Michael Stokely, 23, Niki Stokely, reacts during a prayer vigil and moment of silence to honor Georgia soldiers who have died in Iraq, at the Capitol in Atlanta, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005. A day after war protesters held candle-lit vigils in nearby Decatur, Ga., and across the country, the state's chief executive, Gov. Sonny Perdue, joined with military families and the clergy to honor Georgia's troops. Stokely was killed Aug. 16, 2005, in Iraq, after he stepped on an improvised explosive device, said his wife, Niki. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)

Robert Stokely, second from right, father of Spc. Michael Stokely of the 48th Brigade, embraces, from left, Wes Stokely, Niki Stokely, Abbey Stokely, and Melissa Sizemore, during a prayer vigil and moment of silence to honor Georgia soldiers at the Capitol in Atlanta, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005. Michael Stokely was killed Aug. 16, 2005 in Iraq. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)

Robert Stokely, right, father of National Guard Spc. Michael Stokely, 23, reacts during a prayer vigil and moment of silence to honor Georgia soldiers at the Capitol in Atlanta, as his wife Retta Stokely clutches a photo of the younger Stokely, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005. A day after war protesters held candle light vigils in nearby Decatur, Ga., and across the country, the state's chief executive, Gov. Sonny Perdue, joined with military families and the clergy to honor Georgia's troops. Stokely, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment, 48th Brigade Combat Team, was killed Aug. 16, 2005 in Iraq. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)

War protester James Hockenbarger, with a group from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., walks on a U.S. flag as the group sings in protest against the war outside the Capitol in Atlanta, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005, as Gov. Sonny Perdue joined with military families and clergy to honor Georgia's troops inside the Capitol. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Man, wife in line of fire

Sgt. Vanessa Chandler (left) and her husband Master Sgt. David Chandler of Rome are both serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom at Ali Base, an air base in Southern Iraq. Contributed photo

David and Vanessa Chandler met in Pakistan. The couple are stationed together at a base in Iraq.

by Sonya Elkins/Rome News-Tribune Staff Writer

Master Sgt. David Chandler of Rome doesn’t miss his wife on this deployment to Iraq — he meets her daily for lunch.

Sgt. Vanessa Chandler is also serving at Ali Base, an air base in southern Iraq. While the two are able to meet for meals on most days, it is against military rules for them to live together.

Having a spouse for support and much closer than a phone call away is nice both agree, but it does not remove the sting of being apart from the rest of their families.

David Chandler is a 1986 graduate of Coosa High School. His parents, Phil and Peggy Chandler, still live in Garden Lakes.

Missing special events, like summertime family activities, is one of the hardest parts of being away, said Vanessa Chandler, a native of Kansas. However, one of the greatest benefits of being together on the base is knowing that they are both safe.

The couple, who met in Pakistan, are no newcomers to military life. David Chandler has served for 19 years and Vanessa Chandler for 10.

They have both been in Iraq for about three months.

While being stationed with a spouse is not unheard of, it is not common either. They are one of three Air Force couples there right now, David Chandler said.

He is the base’s fuel manager and is responsible for all the base’s fuel, which powers aircraft, vehicles and even the generators that provide electricity to the military base.

Vanessa Chandler is in charge of cargo movement on the base.

Both agreed that their base is relatively secure compared to other Iraq bases. While they don’t have to worry about the daily attacks that other bases do, it’s still important to stay alert, said David Chandler.

“I’ve got to remind the men that even though nothing’s happening today, that doesn’t mean in five minutes there might not be a mortar flying over or a rocket,” he said. “We’re not sitting in Kansas. We’re in a war zone.”

Both said that they want people in the states to recognize all of the good things that have been done in Iraq during the war. They felt that coverage has focused on attacks and negative aspects of the war, rather then what they are doing for the Iraqi people.

While casualties and attacks are realities, it’s also important for people to remember why American soldiers are there in the first place, said David Chandler.

“I know I don’t want to die over here, but this is what we signed up for,” he said. “Until the job is done we need to be over here.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

3 more killed from 48th Brigade

The Douglasville-detachment deaths bring the 48th’s deathd since arriving in the Middle East to 16.

The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Three more members of the Georgia National Guard’s 48th Brigade have been killed in Iraq, bringing the total number of brigade deaths to 16 since the unit was deployed to the Middle East in May.

Eleven were killed in bombings from July 24 to Aug. 3.

The U.S. military announced Tuesday that three American soldiers were killed the night before when their vehicle overturned during combat operations in south Baghdad.

Officials said the latest guardsmen killed were from a Douglasville-based detachment of the 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment and were part of a convoy conducting a night mission at the time of the accident.

The Pentagon identified them as Sgt. Thomas Strickland, 27, of Douglasville; Spc. Joshua Dingler, 19, of Hiram; and Sgt. Paul Saylor, 21, of Norcross.

Their deaths bring to 15 the number of 48th Brigade soldiers who have died since the unit arrived in Baghdad in early June, including four in vehicle accidents. Another 48th soldier died in a vehicle accident in Kuwait in May.

Strickland is the first Douglas County resident to die in combat since Vietnam, said county spokesman Wes Tallon.

“We had a huge send-off for our Army National Guard unit in January,” Tallon said. “The whole community is very tight-knit, and you know this is something we hoped would never happen.”

Sgt. Joe Brown of Dallas, who is at home recuperating from wounds suffered in Iraq, said Dingler was a driver in his platoon.

“He was like a son to me. In fact, he called me dad,” Brown told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They were great soldiers and some of the best men that I’ve had the privilege of knowing. I am a better person because of having known them.”

Gov. Sonny Perdue has called for a moment of silence at 1 p.m. Thursday to honor Georgia soldiers who have fallen in Iraq. The observation will coincide with a prayer vigil from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the state Capitol.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

220th engineering company

Here are some pictures of some of the 220th engineering company who are a part of the 48th.

Dawn Perry

Sgt. Jason Uzzle

Sgt. Jason Uzzle of the 220th Engineer Company from Festus, Missouri
attached to the 48th Brigade. Jason was active duty in the Marines for
over 9 years. Then he joined the National Guard.

He is my love, my life and missed greatly by myself and two children;
Kyle 9 and Isabella 10 months old.

We pray everyday that all the soldiers come home safe and soon.

Lisa Uzzle

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A CO 1-108th "BAMA" soldiers in the one of the nearby markets

Group of our FISTERS here in FOB St. Michael

Just noticed the website here. All photos are from FOB St. Michael, 1-108th AR. I have a blog while deployed here with them, feel free to share any pictures and stories of mine with the families who visit your site.

SPC Schreck

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Moms hope to boost 48th morale

A fallen soldier’s mother leads effort to send care packages to Guardsmen.

By Sonya Elkins, Rome News-Tribune Staff Writer

Jan Johnson’s family has already paid the ultimate price in the Iraq war — the life of a son — but she is still looking for ways to give to the soldiers stationed overseas.

“People look at me and see the bad part of the war because of Justin and say, ‘How can you support this war after you’ve already lost one son?’” said Jan Johnson, whose son Justin, an Armuchee graduate, was killed in Iraq in April 2004. “I say, ‘How could I not support it?’”

Jan Johnson is a member of Blue Star Mothers of Georgia, a network of women with family and friends serving in active military duty. She is currently collecting donations for packages the group is putting together to send to the Georgia National Guard’s 48th Brigade Combat Team, hoping to boost the morale of the group that has suffered 11 deaths during the last three weeks in Iraq.

Jan Johnson’s own husband, Joe, who is currently training in New York, will be leaving to join the 48th Brigade in Iraq in about 2½ weeks. Her son Joshua is back at Fort Bragg after serving with Special Forces in South Africa.

Having so many relatives who have served overseas has given Jan Johnson an appreciation for soldiers’ need for the creature comforts we often take for granted at home, she said. Items as simple as baby wipes and Q-tips are valuable commodities in Iraq, she said.

Primary items they need for the packages include snack food, dry soup, baby wipes, toiletries and hard candy. No aerosol items can be sent. Donations can also be sent to help purchase items and cover the cost of shipping in checks payable to Blue Star Mothers.

“We need to provide and make life easier over there, since they’re trying to make our life easier over here,” Jan Johnson said.


Contact Jan Johnson at 895-2711 to arrange a pick-up or drop-off for care package items and to find out more about group membership. Checks can be sent to Blue Star Mothers, 225 Crater Drive, Fortson, GA 31808.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sgt. Charles Houghton Warren

Georgia National Guard Sgt. Charles Houghton Warren, right, stands with his wife, Carol, in this photo from August 2000, made available by family. Warren, 36, attached to the 48th Brigade out of Ft. Stewart, Ga. was one of three soldiers killed Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005, a victim of what a military commander described Thursday as a "vehicle-borne bomb'' that was used in an attack against a checkpoint. He is survived by his wife Carol, a 1-year-old son and a one-month old daughter whom he had never seen. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Alex Warren)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Battling sand, bombs in Iraq

Cpl. Brian Jarrell sits atop one of the “Hummer ambulances” he drives in Iraq. (Contributed photo)

A Cedartown Marine stays focused on his duty, not the danger, as he maneuvers down dangerous roads.

By Andy Johns, Rome News-Tribune Staff Writer

Brian Jarrell spent June 11, 2001, in training barracks on Parris Island, S.C.

Three years ago he spent that same day at a base in the mountains of Okinawa, Japan. Last year, he spent the date stationed near the beaches in Haiti.

This year he was in the sands of Iraq on June 11 — the Cedartown Marine’s birthday.

“It’s a normal day because you have no family to share it with except for your brothers in arms,” he said. “I wake up and do my job.”

Cpl. Brian Jarrell, 22, now serves as an ambulance driver in Fallujah, Iraq.

The Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal and humanitarian ribbon winner drives a “Hummer ambulance” that is capable of carrying four patients at a time.

“It has A/C and a nuclear, biological and chemical filter system,” he said.

Fortunately, he said, he only makes a couple of trips a week.

While most of his trips to the hospital are only three or four miles, “the roads are rough with potholes from previous bomb blasts,” he said.

Because of poor road conditions, he said his speed rarely tops 50 mph.

“What I worry most is hitting a roadside bomb,” he said.

He added that three miles in Iraq feels like much farther than three miles in the United States. “Danger can be just as soon as you pull out the gate,” he said.

Roadside bombs are often well-disguised and detonated by either cell phones or pressure.

“They can look like anything from a car to a dead animal on the side of the ro
Cpl. Brian Jarrell (far left) stands with members of his Marine unit stationed in Fallujah, Iraq. Contributed photo
ad,” he said. “They also bury them. Some are very hard to see.”

In addition to bombs and insurgents, Jarrell is fighting another enemy: the sand. “I was sick of sand as soon as I got here. You can’t keep nothing clean.”

Difficult as it seems, though, Jarrell has a simple way of looking at his life in Fallujah.

“We all have a job and we do it,” he said. “It’s about mission accomplishment and protecting our country and getting home safe to all of our families.”

Still, he said Iraq is not the worst place to be on Earth. “It was cooler in Haiti, but the conditions were way more harsh than Iraq,” he said. “That place is a poverty-stricken hellhole.”

In his free time he said he usually reads or helps the doctors by reading vital signs and pulling medical records.

The Iraqi nightlife is a little slow. “On base nothing really happens,” he said. “I am not at liberty to say anything else.”

Outside the base, Jarrell said he and his fellow soldiers receive mixed reactions.

“Most are friendly because they want our help, but there are a few that do not want us there,” he said.

Jarrell said the Iraqi soldiers are “working out very slowly but are getting used to it.”

No matter where on the globe he is, his thoughts are never far from home and his wife, Lori, and daughter, Avriel, 2.

He also says he misses “the air, my friends, my family, and the Waffle House.”

Waffle House?

“I was brought up in a Waffle House,” he added. “My mama has worked there just about all of my life. I love that place. It’s great to eat.”

He has spent the past five months deployed in Iraq.

He already has plans for when his enlistment ends.

“When I get out in June of ’06, I plan on becoming a police officer of some sort,” he said. He hopes to work in either Floyd County or Polk County.

“I love to protect and serve, and (being) a police officer will let me do that. I want to still do my part for my country.”

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Families at Home Worry

News too slow for some with loved ones serving in Iraq

Andy Johns
Rome News-Tribune Staff Writer

Silver Creek’s Diane Lumpkin has had trouble sleeping at night.

With the Georgia National Guard’s 48th Combat Brigade suffering 11 deaths in the past three weeks in Iraq, family members back at home have been emotionally drained, fearing bad news in the middle of the night.

Lumpkin’s son Luke is serving in Iraq, and she said waiting to hear an update on casualties can be nerve-wracking.

When the news comes in about deaths, it is usually at least two days before the military releases the names of the fallen soldiers.

“You don’t know anything; you just know four soldiers died,” Lumpkin said. “Not knowing is the worst part.”

“Of course I was wide awake all night,” she added. “You just kind of wait to get a call or hear the news.”

Many other soldiers’ family members share her feelings.

“There’s a terrible fear that builds up inside you,” said Elaine Kidwill, whose son Robb is a Rome High School teacher turned Guardsman.

For Dana Baker of Cedartown, that terrible fear almost became a reality. Her husband Jeffery was hit by roadside bombs twice in four days two weeks ago. She said that he was able to call her on a cell phone before the Army called to tell her about his injuries, which were minor.

“I was just glad to hear him say he was OK,” she said. “He came really close to not being here anymore.”

Kidwill said she told her son that as soon as he hears of casualties, he should contact her via e-mail and let her know he is OK.

“He always tells me, ‘Mom, don’t worry about me until someone in a dress uniform shows up at the door,’” Kidwill said.

Others feel that no news is good news.

“I never worry about it,” said Dennis Goshorn, whose son Chris is driving tanks with the 48th. “Maybe I’m naive, but by the time it hits the news, I think the Army would have called us.”

Kidwill shares his view.

“I just don’t watch the news,” she said.

For some, just knowing that other families are having to grieve is bad enough.

“I just feel sorry for the families,” Baker said. “It’s their worst nightmare come true.”

For many like Lumpkin, worrying about a loved one overseas is nothing new.

“My husband was in Vietnam, and I can’t remember it being this bad,” Lumpkin said. Her father also served in World War II.

Many family members say that when they hear news of casualties, it is tough to think of anything but their loved ones.

“It’s just something you think about all the time,” Janice Carr said. “You can’t get it out of your head.”

Carr’s husband Marcus is in Iraq with the 108th Armor Division of the 48th.

“If you sit and think about it, you can go crazy,” Kidwill said.

“When I’m asleep he’s awake, so something could happen overnight,” Carr said. “It’s a terrible feeling.”

Even if they did know more, there is little that families could do.

“All you can do is just pray,” Kidwill said. “You just trust the Lord to get you through it.”

Goshorn said that his opinion of the conflict is unwavering. “If we’re going to go to war, we have to stick to it,” he said.

Kidwill agrees.

“We may not have found weapons of mass destruction, but we destroyed a monster,” Kidwill said of the downfall of Saddam Hussein. “This was a man who didn’t think twice about ordering someone’s head chopped off.

“From what my son tells me about those poor children, I don’t have a problem with us being there,” Kidwill added.

Carr said that while she tries to stay away from questioning the issues and politics behind the war, she is clear about one thing: “I just wish it was all over. I’m ready for them to all get out of there.”

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mourning for the 48th

Spc. Johnathon Haggin's former wife, Anna Haggin, right, is hugged by longtime friend Cynthia Laws Thursday, Aug. 4, 2005, after a memorial service for the fallen soldier in St. Marys, Ga. Haggin, a member of the Georgia National Guard's 48th Brigade, was killed in action on June 30 along with three other soldiers while on patrol in Iraq. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

Loretta Stapp cries as she looks at a photo of Spc. Johnathon Haggin held by his daughter Leaundra Haggin Thursday, Aug. 4, 2005, during a memorial service in St. Marys, Ga. Haggin, a member of the Georgia National Guard's 48th Brigade was killed in action June 30 along with three other soldiers while on patrol in Iraq. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

3 more killed in 48th Brigade

A U.S. Marine inspects the remains of a vehicle destroyed by a roadside bomb Wednesday, killing 14 Marines and a civilian interpreter, in Barwana, near Haditha, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2005. This was the deadliest roadside bombing suffered by American forces in the Iraq war. (AP Photo/Jacob Silberberg)

ATLANTA (AP) — Three more soldiers from a Georgia National Guard unit have been killed in Iraq.

The three, who were members of the guard's 48th Brigade, were killed Wednesday in a car bomb attack, military officials said. Another was seriously wounded.

Identities of those killed had not been released.

Other details of the attack were not immediately available but 2nd Lt. Selena Owens, a spokeswoman for the unit, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the attack ``was along one of those same routes we've been having problems with.''

The incident marks the third time in 10 days that the 48th Brigade has suffered multiple fatalities from attacks in Iraq. So far, the unit has lost 11 soldiers since arriving in Iraq.

The 48th Brigade is the largest combat unit of the Georgia National Guard to deploy since World War II. The brigade, which arrived in Iraq in May, has 2,700 members from across Georgia, and is augmented by about 1,600 others from Alabama, Illinois, Missouri, Maryland, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

Sgt. Kinlow's widow

Daphanie Kinlow, right, is escorted by Roger Green, with Norris W. Gunby Sr. Funeral Home, in Lincolnton, Ga., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005, after the burial of her husband Sgt. James Ondra Kinlow. Sgt. Kinlow was killed in Iraq while serving with the Georgia National Guard's 48th Brigade, A Company, 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment. (AP Photo/The Augusta, Chris Thelen)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Spc. John Thomas remembered

John Thomas, 83, holds a photo of his grandson, Spc. John Thomas, 33, Tuesday Aug. 2, 2005, in Valdosta, Ga. The younger Thomas, a former Marine, was among eight Georgia National Guardsmen killed recently by roadside bombs in Iraq. (AP Photo/Elliott Minor)

Luke Lumpkin, Rome, Ga,

Here are some pictures of my brother, Luke Lumpkin, and family during family time at Fort Stewart in May.

Luke is pictured with his neice, Lily Fowler, and nephew, Landon Fowler. In the picture next to the tree, Landon is on Luke's right and a cousin named Maitlan Wilson is on his left. Our father is also pictured and his name is Anthony Lumpkin. My husband is in the family picture and his name is Bradley Fowler.

Thanks for doing this!

Leann Fowler

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bombs strike heart of platoon

(Spc. Jeff Anderson / 48th Brigade Combat Team)

2nd platoon, Alpha company has lost one-fourth of its men in recent attacks

By Gray Beverley,
Rome News-Tribune Correspondent

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Tent 6-512 used to be filled with laughter.

Bouncing inside the canvas shell next door was once the excited banter of soldiers letting off steam after a hard day’s work.

That was then.

“Now it’s just an ordinary, dark, gloomy place,” said Sgt. Calvin Barthell of Americus. “The person that slept (on the cot) beside me: He’s gone. A bunk or two over: He’s gone. I look across the room. Another guy slept there. It’s empty space. It will never be the same.”

In just less than a week, a single infantry platoon in the 48th Brigade Combat Team lost about a quarter of its men.

Last weekend, four soldiers were killed by a massive underground bomb. On Saturday, four more died the same way.

“We went from accepting death to expecting it,” said Spc. Rodney Davidson of Thomaston. We’re pretty numb right now.”

The infantry soldiers of 2nd platoon, Alpha company, said goodbye Monday to Sgt. 1st Class Victor Anderson of Ellaville, Sgt. David Jones of Augusta, Spc. Jonathon Haggin of Kingsland and Spc. Ronnie Shelley of Valdosta.

Sgt. Victor Anderson

Anderson, 39, was so determined to join the fight in Iraq that he hired an attorney to battle an Army medical ruling that stood in his way.

He also worked hard to lose weight and to change his diet, said Sgt. 1st Class Don Whitmire, 49, of Bainbridge.

“He really went above and beyond to come,” Whitmire said.

Barthell said Anderson was an “all-around good person” who hoped his young boy, his “pride and joy,” would one day play professional baseball.

Barthell said he’ll never forget his longtime friend’s “shiny, bald head” or “that little perky smile that he had.”

He said Anderson, a Sumter County sheriff’s deputy, had talked about starting a retail business and buying a Corvette.

“He was a big kid,” Barthell said.

Sgt. David Jones

Jones also was a sheriff’s deputy, in Richmond County. Davidson said Jones wanted to be a military historian and could tell you about every ship and every battle in every war going back to biblical times. He enjoyed being a radio disc jockey as well, Davidson said.

When Jones was injured in an earlier bomb attack, Davidson said, the guys teased him about not being able to chew tobacco with a busted lip.

Jones was a “fun-loving person” who had “a good way of explaining” everything, Davidson said. Soldiers in the platoon say they smile when thinking about Jones’ laugh.

“He’s kind of like a big Santa Claus,” said platoon leader 2nd Lt. Joseph Latella, 24, of Dahlonega.

Spc. Jeff Anderson, 36, of Gainesville said he switched shifts with Jones on Saturday so Jones could go to a doctor’s appointment the next day.

“Words cannot describe (the grief),” Jeff Anderson said.

Spc. Jonathon Haggin

Whitmire said the 26-year-old Haggin was a former Marine and a “very, very good marksman” who was filled with energy, whether in the field or in the tent.

“This kid would run,” he said. “If you called from one side of the room to the other, he’d run over to you.”

Whitmire said Haggin suffered three broken ribs in a bomb attack about a month ago and was sent to a hospital in Germany for treatment. He said he was surprised to see Haggin back in Iraq about two weeks later.

“He found a way back from Germany on his own, because he just wanted to be with the guys,” Whitmire said. “Lo and behold, he showed up one day.”

Haggin finished his rehabilitation here, and Saturday was his first day back on a mission outside the camp walls, Whitmire said.

Sgt. Dave Grimes, in whose Kingsland home Haggin stayed, said Haggin loved playing “Ring Around the Roses” with his 3-year-old daughter, who was “his life.”

Spc. Ronnie Shelley

Spc. Matthew Heffner said Shelley, 34, loved his family “more than anything in the world” and “was one of those guys that anybody in the platoon could go talk to.”

Heffner said Shelley was always “honest and straightforward” but “had a way of putting it” so as not to hurt feelings.

“He just did the right thing whether it was the popular thing or not,” Heffner said. “Right now I’d probably be crying if I wasn’t still in shock.”

Jeff Anderson, who slept in the bunk next to Shelley’s, said, “I’m honored to be able to have served with somebody like him.”

Jeff Anderson said Shelley was one of the most “squared-away” soldiers and best people “you’d ever want to meet.”

He said his friend was excited to go home on leave in about two weeks and see his son, his “Little Man.” On the way out of the tent Saturday, Jeff Anderson recalled, Shelley said to him, “Last 15 days, Dog.”

“And (he) gave me a big smile and turned around and walked out,” Anderson said.

The explosion

Whitmire said he struggles knowing that, as platoon sergeant, he makes the schedule. He said Jones was concerned about going out that day and had been given the choice of staying behind.

“I take it personal, because I’m the one who makes up the rotation,” Whitmire said. “It’s just real hard to keep putting these guys down to go outside the wire. ... I just want to get in the truck and go in their place every time.”

Both Latella and Whitmire have been outside the wire every day since last week’s tragedy.

On Saturday, Latella’s group investigated a site where another platoon had just been hit by a mortar, the lieutenant said. His soldiers then conducted their scheduled objective and were headed back to the camp, he said.

“Everyone had that sigh of relief that it’s not that bad,” Latella recalled.

They were about 100 meters from a major road that, while not completely safe, seems less likely to be tunneled under, provides more of a buffer from the road’s edge — where many bombs are placed — and is heavily patrolled.

“I heard it,” Latella said of the explosion that followed. “I initially thought my gunner had dropped an (ammunition) can.”

Following procedure, Latella’s crew drove about 200 meters away, in case the convoy was being ambushed.

He said when one of the crews did not answer his radio call, he figured their truck had been merely disabled. They rushed back to lend assistance.

“That’s when I saw the wreckage,” Latella said, recalling that there was nothing he could do.

More than 500 pounds of explosives were used in the attack, officials said Sunday.

‘These men will not die in vain’

“The hardest part is when you don’t have the answers to their questions, (like) ‘Where do we go from here?’” Latella said.

Whitmire said there’s always apprehension about going outside the wire, but that his men have been eager to do so — especially, he said, knowing that somebody must continue the mission in Iraq.

“Part of healing is getting back in the saddle,” Davidson said.

Rousseau, who like Davidson was on both of the doomed convoys, said he had been “excited to roll” on Saturday to build back confidence.

“When this happened,” he said about the latest blast, “it pretty much shattered the confidence that we had hoped to get.”

These are not weak men. But lately they’ve had trouble sleeping, and it’s been hard to find an appetite, several soldiers said Monday.

“I lost my first crew last week and, to be honest with you, I don’t know how much more I can take,” said the 41-year-old Barthell. “It’s killing me.”

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Steve McCorkle said his battalion has captured about 300 suspected insurgents, including about 50 during the past three days.

He said the catastrophic size of the attacks against his men proves the enemy in Iraq has been rattled by their recent accomplishments.

“He struck in desperation,” McCorkle said. “Why else would he use 700 or 800 pounds of explosives just to blow up a Humvee? We’re obviously making an impact.”

McCorkle said he’s been hurt by the recent loss of soldiers and friends. But he said the surviving members will continue to bring the fight to the enemy.

“These men will not die in vain,” he said. “I can guarantee that.”

Monday, August 01, 2005

648th engineers group HHC PSD

Brad! Hope you are doing well today! Thinking about you as always. You are so very special to me and I am proud of the good work you are doing there. Keep it up!

Brad is with 48th Brigade, 648th engineers group HHC PSD. He works directly with the general as his "body guard" as a gunner on a humvee, getting the general where he needs to go on a daily basis.

Your favorite sister,
Jessica Underwood

Guard unit hit again by road blast

4 from 48th Brigade killed only days after similar attack

By Gray Beverley, Rome News-Tribune Correspondent

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Four soldiers of the 48th Brigade Combat Team were killed Saturday when a bomb exploded beneath their Humvee as they returned from patrol, military authorities said Sunday.

The attack was less than a week after four other members of the brigade lost their lives in a similar explosion.

“We’re doing everything we know to do,” brigade commander Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver said Sunday. “We’re deeply, deeply sorry.”

Rodeheaver said the brigade had mustered every asset and every force for keeping troops safe. “My sole mission in life is to bring every person home alive,” he said. “This just rips your heart out.”

Rodeheaver said the brigade has made progress in securing its patrol routes and, in the areas of the two attacks, had just last week found about a dozen bombs before they could be detonated by the enemy.

But, as in last week’s attack, Saturday’s bomb appears to have been in place for quite some time, the general said.

“All their targets seem to be targets of opportunity,” he said. “They’ll put a bomb in place and sit and wait until somebody rides by.”

Saturday’s attack occurred about 11 p.m., Rodeheaver said, and was within three kilometers of Camp Striker, the brigade’s home base. He said the four soldiers were riding in a Humvee that, while up-armored, was no match for an estimated 500 pounds of explosives used.

Officials estimated last week’s attack involved about 600 pounds of explosives.

Both bombs apparently were planted underneath roadways and gave no visible signs of their existence. Rodeheaver said no one else was injured and an investigation is under way.

The general called the fallen soldiers “personal friends” whose selflessness set an example. “These soldiers were heroes. They were doing America’s work,” he said. “They’re really a symbol of what humanity ought to be.”

In confirming the deaths, brigade spokeswoman 2nd Lt. Felena Owens said, “The brigade is in mourning. You can look in all the soldiers’ faces walking around here and see (it).”

The Georgia Army National Guard, First Battalion 108th Armory — based in Calhoun and comprised of 501 soldiers from the Rome, Canton, Dalton and Douglasville areas — is part of the 48th Infantry Brigade, the largest combat unit of the state National Guard to deploy since World War II.

The 4,300-member brigade has 2,700 members from Georgia, and is augmented by about 1,600 others from Alabama, Illinois, Missouri, Maryland, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. Its one-year deployment to Iraq began in May.