Monday, May 27, 2013

26 Heroes Who Died April 23 to May 16, 2013

April 23 - They died in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from enemy indirect fire. Killed were:
- 1st Lt. Robert J. Hess, 26, of Fairfax, Va, and
- Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard, 32, of Selah, Wash.

The Yakima Herald Republic reports:
[Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard] was born in Yakima on April 2, 1981 and grew up in Selah. He attended Lince Elementary and played Little League Baseball. He and his brothers were part of a happy flock of neighborhood children that played in the streets near Crusher Canyon under the close supervision of many loving parents. Aaron learned a love of speed on his Big Wheel, plunging down Fifth Avenue with his feet off the pedals, in order to gain maximum velocity. He decided then that when he grew up he wanted to be an elk, and, were that not possible, a pilot in the US Armed Forces.

Aaron attended Selah Middle School and Selah High School, where he was a varsity wrestler and pole vaulter. He served as a page in the Washington State Senate. He played the trumpet in the Yakima Community Band that was directed by his grandfather. The band even took a great trip to play in Europe.

Aaron was an avid hunter and loved roaming the hills and canyons and mountains of Central Washington with his brothers and beloved Labrador retrievers. He was an accomplished bow hunter and exceptionally knowledgeable about elk. His expertise and frank posts as “Colockumelk” on the “Hunting Washington Forum” earned the respect of a far-reaching network of friends. Aaron and his brothers looked forward to the annual elk hunts that brought together the Blanchard Men for a week in the woods of camping, laughing, and hunting.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after graduation from high school in 1999. He completed basic training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego and earned certification as an Aviation Mechanic at Pensacola, FL. He made three major deployments including two combat tours in Iraq as a platoon Sergeant. Aaron’s Marine career took him all over the world, across the oceans and through the skies, from Southeast Asia to Iraq.

In 2002 he met the love of his life, Becky. After discharge from the Marine Corps, Aaron and Becky were married. Together they shared a “once in a lifetime” love, filled with laughter and adventure. In 2008 they celebrated the birth of a son, Hunter, and in 2011, the birth of daughter Amalia. He was a doting father and committed husband. The love he gave to his family was his greatest achievement.

In 2005, Aaron and Becky enrolled at Central Washington University, where Aaron was a bull rider for the university Rodeo Club. He joined the Army ROTC program, seeking the bachelor’s degree and leadership training required to be a helicopter pilot. Aaron led the CWU “Wildcat” Battalion to national recognition as the nation’s “Most Outstanding Senior Army ROTC Battalion,” and earned his commission as second lieutenant upon graduation.

Aaron completed pilot training at Ft. Rucker, Alabama; he was reassigned to Ft. Drum, New York, in 2011. In January 2013, his unit spent three weeks in Colorado, where he trained in high-altitude flying in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. He loved flying his Apache helicopter and showed off his expertise at an air show at Ft. Drum, New York. In early April 2013, he joined the 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade in Afghanistan, flying an AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter.
. . .
Military colleagues describe him as having a huge heart: “If you told him he couldn’t do something, he’d do it, no matter what.” He took care of others. He is described as having a wonderful spirit, easygoing, able to get along with everyone, and adventurous. Aaron’s friends and colleagues nicknamed him “Rudy,” a reference to Rudy Ruettiger, who, against tremendous odds, pursued and achieved his dream of earning a place on the Notre Dame football team.
. . .
Aaron’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the NATO Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Service Ribbon , the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Army Aviator Badge, the Navy-Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, four Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and two Rifle Expert Badges. He also completed Marine Combat Training, Aviation Machinist Mate Courses, the Apache Aviator Qualification Course, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course, and the Aviation Office Basic Course.
April 27 - They died near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, in the crash of an MC-12 aircraft. The cause of the crash is under investigation, however initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash. Killed were:
- Capt. Brandon L. Cyr, 28, of Woodbridge, Va.
- Capt. Reid K. Nishizuka, 30, of Kailua, Hawaii
- Staff Sgt. Richard A. Dickson, 24, of Rancho Cordova, Calif.
- Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin, 30, of Morehead, Ky.

May 1 - Staff Sgt. Michael H. Simpson, 30, of San Antonio, Texas, died in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit on April 27, with an improvised explosive device in Arian, Afghanistan.

May 2 - The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, of injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. Killed were:
- Spc. Trinidad Santiago Jr., 25, of San Diego, Calif., and
- Pfc. Charles P. McClure, 21, of Stratford, Okla.

May 3 - They died near Chon-Aryk, Kyrgyzstan, in the crash of a KC-135 aircraft. The cause of the crash is under investigation. Killed were:
- Capt. Mark T. Voss, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colo.,
- Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney, 27, of Palmdale, Calif., and
- Tech Sgt. Herman Mackey III, 30, of Bakersfield, Calif.

May 4 - They died while conducting combat operations in Farah province, Afghanistan. This incident is under investigation. Killed were:
- Staff Sgt. Eric D. Christian, 39, of Warwick, N.Y., and
- Cpl. David M. Sonka, 23, of Parker, Colo.

They died May 4, in Maiwand, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when their vehicle was attacked by an enemy improvised explosive device. Killed were:
- 1stLt. Brandon J. Landrum, 26, of Lawton, Okla.,
- Staff Sgt. Francis G. Phillips IV, 28, of Meridian, N.Y.,
- Spc. Kevin Cardoza, 19, of Mercedes, Texas,
- Spc. Thomas P. Murach, 22, of Meridian, Idaho, and
- Spc. Brandon J. Prescott, 24, of Bend, Ore. 

The Bend Bulletin reports:
[Spc. Brandon J.] Prescott and the others perished when an improvised explosive device, or IED, detonated as their armored vehicle passed by on routine patrol about 1:30 p.m. local time, said Maj. Joseph P. Buccino of Fort Bliss, Texas. . . . Theirs was the only vehicle in the convoy that was struck.
. . .
That all five died in the same vehicle is unusual, Buccino said. “It just almost never happens," he said. “That's extremely rare given the amount of armor (on the vehicle) and the amount of protection the soldiers wear."
. . .
During his short career in the Army, Prescott earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, as well as the Combat Infantryman Badge and other distinctions, according to the Army.
The Oregonian:
Prescott was the younger in the family's first set of twin boys, born in West Covina, Calif., said his older brother, Aaron. The second set of twins, Jake and Josh, now 23, arrived soon after.

Prescott grew up in Dana Point, Calif., and graduated from Dana Hills High School in 2006. Two years later, their mother moved the brothers to Bend, where he took classes at Central Oregon Community College. Their father, Joseph Prescott, lives in Montgomery, Texas; their mother, Tracey Prescott has returned to Dana Point.

She said her son volunteered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and took part in a firefighting academy before joining the Army in 2010 in Portland.

Prescott was due to return home in September. However, he signed up for another three years when he discovered he would have to leave his unit behind, Aaron Prescott said.

The older twin said he spoke to Prescott on the phone about four hours before he was killed. The soldier said he loved and missed his family He is survived by his mother, father and three brothers.

"He was a hero and an inspiration for all of us," Aaron Prescott said. "Before he left for Afghanistan, he told us that if he died, he wanted us to be proud of him and hold our heads up because we know he was doing something he loved."

Tracey Prescott described Prescott as a selfless, humble man who loved his family and the beach. She, Aaron and Jake were flying to Dover, Del., to claim his body. Service arrangements were to be announced.

"I'm a broken woman right now," Tracey Prescott said. "I'm sad and angry, but also very, very proud of my son. He definitely was a special kid."
May 14 - They died in Sanjaray, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.  Killed were:
- Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey C. Baker, 29, of Hesperia, Calif.,
- Spc. Mitchell K. Daehling, 24, of Dalton, Mass.,
- Spc. William J. Gilbert, 24, of Hacienda Heights, Calif., and
- Pfc. Cody J. Towse, 21, of Elk Ridge, Utah.

May 15 - Sgt. 1st Class Trenton L. Rhea, 33, of Oakley, Kan., died May 15, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after drowning while attempting to cross a body of water during combat operations.

May 16 - They died in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device. Killed were:
- Sgt. Eugene M Aguon, 23, of Mangilao, Guam, and
- Spc. Dwayne W. Flores, 22, of Sinajana, Guam.

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