Thursday, July 12, 2012

Defense Department Identifies Six Killed in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced yesterday the death of six soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died in a massive explosion on July 8, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit in Maidan Shahr, Wardak province, Afghanistan, with an improvised explosive device.  They were assigned to the 978th Military Police Company, 93rd Military Police Battalion, Fort Bliss, Texas.

An Army spokesman said the military usually waits 24 hours after the family is notified before making a public announcement of a soldier's death.  The delay in this case was because of multiple deaths from a single incident, where the names are not released until all families are notified and 24 hours have passed.

In addition to these six deaths, bombs and attacks killed 16 Afghan civilians, five policemen and two members of the U.S.-led coalition in southern Afghanistan on the same day, Afghan and NATO authorities said.

The six American deaths occurred just south of Kabul, when their armored vehicle struck a bomb.

The following are brief profiles of the soldiers lost in this attack.

Pfc. Trevor B. Adkins was 21 years old and from Spring Lake, N.C. He was a 2010 graduate of  Overhills High School where he was remembered fondly by teachers and staff.

"He wanted to be an MP. That's what he always talked about," said Stephanie Creech, his former chemistry teacher. "He loved junior ROTC. He absolutely loved it."

An Overhills High guidance counselor described Adkins as "quietly awesome."

Spc. Erica P. Alecksen was just 21 years old and from Eatonton, Ga.  She  joined the Army shortly after graduating from Putnam County High School in Georgia in 2009.

“She loved being in the Army,” said Alecksen’s grandmother, Maurine Huggins. “She was always praised for her ability to follow orders.”

But she didn’t take herself too seriously and had tremendous wit, her aunt said.

“I’m probably the coolest dork,” reads the Facebook cover photo she changed June 30. It was her last post.

"It's hard to put words to it,” Alecksen’s father, Lars Alecksen said. “Every word you could express is just a small part of what we're feeling."

According to information provided by her family, her regular duty involved driving MRAP – mine-resistant, ambush-protected – vehicles on patrol missions. She also was involved with the communications and security center, as well as KP, mail and food delivery.

She called her father almost every day while in Afghanistan.

"It meant the world to me," her father said. "You can write letters, send e-mails, there's different forms of communication. But for me, that voice, and hearing her joy, it just gave me heart and it gave me hope."

Alecksen had been an MP with the 978th since August 2010. The unit first deployed in June 2011.

Relatives said the young soldier was married and her husband has been living in El Paso, Texas, where she was based at Fort Bliss.

Erica Alecksen is survived by her husband and a large family.

Pfc. Alejandro J. Pardo, 21, of Porterville, Calif., was described as an All-American boy, who hoped to someday open a pizza parlor in Chicago. Pardo, a 2009 graduate of Granite Hills High School in California’s Central Valley, joined the Army about a month after graduating.

He was in the middle of a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Pardo played cello in middle school and performed with a school orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City, said Veronica Padilla, a parent of a former classmate. As a teen, Pardo was active in the church youth group at St. Anne's Parish.

Hannah Risvold, 20, of Springville, said she spoke via the Internet with Pardo a few days ago. He told her he lost friends in the war a few days earlier and was excited at the prospect of coming home in November.

"He was an All-American kid," said Risvold, who was in the church youth group with Pardo when they were teens. "He always had a smile on his face."

His aunt said he volunteered to go to Afghanistan but imagined the day he would be out of uniform.

"He told me when he got out of the service that he really wanted to open a pizza restaurant in Chicago," she said.

Aneliz Jimenez, a former member of the church youth group, said she gave him a small pink bow when he left for assignment in Korea.

"I told him he needs a dash of color," Jimenez said. "He wore it under his uniform. A year later when he got back, he told me he was still wearing it."

Tulare County Board of Supervisors Chairman Allen Ishida requested on Wednesday that all United States flags to be flown at half-staff at all County buildings in remembrance of Alejandro Pardo. The city of Porterville lowered its flags Tuesday.

“Our thoughts are prayers go out to the family of Alejandro Pardo and all the families who have lost young men and women who died serving our Country,” Ishida said. “Tulare County will fly our flags at half-staff and encourage individuals, businesses, and other organizations to join us in remembrance of Mr. Pardo for his sacrifice to our Country.”

Pardo is survived by his mother Kate and an older brother, Anthony.

Staff Sgt. Ricardo Seija, 31, of Tampa, Fla., joined the Army in 2000 and was on his first combat mission to Afghanistan, arriving there in March.

He was initially scheduled to return in November. But his mother and father are elderly and facing health issues. He was granted permission to return in August to spend time with them and his son, 8-year-old Ricardo, from his first marriage.

Seija’s parents are Colombian, but he was born in Chicago and spent much of his childhood there. The family moved to Tampa in 1998.  Seija attended and graduated from Tampa’s Leto High in 1999 and soon thereafter enlisted in the Army.

"He wanted to defend his homeland," his mother, Ignacia Seija said. "He loved this country very much."

"I want America to remember him as a hero. And he'll always be in my heart."

The youngest of three sons, Seija had previously served in South Korea, Puerto Rico and Germany.

He was recently remarried – in March of 2012, just before this deployment – and he leaves behind his wife, Sunny, in El Paso, Texas.

Seija is also survived by his mother, Ignacia Seija, his father, Ricardo Seija, both of Tampa; a son from a previous marriage, Ricardo Seija, 8, of Missouri; and two older brothers, Jose Seija, and Eduardo Seija, both of Chicago, Ill.

Spring Grove, Pa. was home to Pfc. Cameron J. Stambaugh, who died Sunday at age 20.

According to his family, Stambaugh always wanted to be a soldier and he and his brother – who is less than a year younger -- made a pact when they were kids to join the military. His brother is stationed at Fort Hood in Texas now. Military service ran in the family, with his grandfather serving during World War II.

Stambaugh had been in Afghanistan for only about three months and was wounded by shrapnel only three weeks after he arrived, but recovered and was back on duty.

His father said he regretted his son being placed in harm's way.

"I regret him being over there," he said. "Absolutely, we should not be there. It's senseless. The people over there just live to kill. They're probably celebrating."

"He was only a kid."

The soldier’s father described him as quiet, confident and inquisitive, saying "He could get into your head without saying a word."

Along with the rest of his family, Stambaugh had a lifelong passion for hunting and fishing.

Spc. Clarence Williams III, 23, was from Brooksville, Fla. and was just weeks away from the end of a six-month deployment when he was killed.

A 2008 graduate of Hernando High School, Williams was an avid hunter and fisherman who was happiest in the woods or in the water, according to his family. He played football at Hernando High and sang in the choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Brooksville.

His father, Clarence Williams Jr., is a corporal with the Florida Highway Patrol who served in the Army and still is a reservist. Williams wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, and to experience some adventure beyond Brooksville, so he enlisted in 2009 for five years, with plans to become a military police officer.

He also participated in the Hernando County Sheriff's Office Explorer's program.

"He was a fine young man," said Col. Mike Maurer, the second-in-command at the sheriff's office who befriended the future soldier. "It would almost be the highlight of your day when he walked in to say hello."

The young man would make the occasional return visit and meet the new Explorers. On at least one occasion he came in wearing his Army uniform. He made for a great role model, Maurer said.

"He was a real respectful, nice kid," he said.

Williams, who had already earned an associate's degree in criminal justice, last saw his family in December, and left for Afghanistan in February. He spoke to his family often by webcam or phone. Williams was able to wish his sister a happy Independence Day last week.

Rodney Byrd, who coached Williams in high school, had known him since he was a little boy.  He said Williams was a great kid who turned into an outstanding man.

“He was a 'yes sir, no sir' type guy," Byrd said. "Very good kid, very honorable kid. Honest and had integrity.”

Clarence Williams III is survived by his father, his mother, Talisa Williams; and his sisters, Abrill Edwards of Kissimmee and Samantha Williams of Brooksville.

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