By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – Family members, soldiers and friends gathered on Thursday to remember the many lives lost in Iraq during the month of April.
Ten soldiers missed roll call at the 1st Cavalry Division Memorial Ceremony at the 1st Cavalry Division Memorial Chapel; their pictures were framed and faced the congregation behind the soldier's tribute display of boots, a rifle and a helmet.
Soldiers such as Spc. James J. Coon will be missed by those who knew them.
Coon, a 22-year-old machine gunner with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Calvary Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, died April 4.
"Coon is six-foot six, there is nobody better that I would like to have on the ground with me," said Staff Sgt. Brian Cook. "Just the presence with him, but he was just too good with that 240 (a machine gun). That is why I left him on that gun turret."
Coon will be remembered for the little things he did.
"He would actually stand up in his turret and do this jig. Even days later the kids would recognize him when he would start doing that same dance," Cook said. "They would crowd around the vehicle."
Coon's dances helped to encourage those around him.
"For our guys, it kind of lightened the load," Cook said. " ... It made the guys laugh, it made them ease up, especially when the kids were laughing. It opened up the kids that were 12, 13 14 years old. It also broke that barrier between us and them."
Soldiers such as Coon will not only be missed by their families and friends but also by squad members. "He was the backbone of his squad," Cook said. "... His squad leader would tell me that was the best guy he had in his squad ... He is the epitome of an infantry soldier."
Nine more soldiers were honored during the ceremony.
Pfc. Gabriel J. Figueroa always enjoyed helping others and he always wore his Army-issued glasses, said Sgt. 1st Class John Shatto. The fallen combat medic was a compassionate, caring person who always promoted the happiness of those around him, Shatto said.
Figueroa served in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Figueroa, 20, died April 3.
Cpl. Joseph H. Cantrell IV loved his mother and brother more than anything, said Spc. Mathew Caines. The combat medic never went into a store without buying something for his brother. His mother was also the top person on his calling list whenever he reached a phone, Caines added. Cantrell served in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Cantrell, 23, died April 4.
Staff Sgt. Jerry C. Burge was determined to keep his men's heads in the game, said Sgt. Martell Middleton. The fallen combat engineer was never afraid to do the things he asked of others. He was often the first to help, added Middleton. Burge served in Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
He was 39 when he died on April 4.
Sgt. Jason A. Shaffer loved the outdoors, especially fishing, hunting and rock climbing, said Pfc. Glen Leach. He would rather be in the field than sitting behind a computer in an office building, Leach added. Shaffer had the attributes of a good soldier: he was quiet most of the time, but aggressive when necessary. He put God, his family and his country before himself, Leach said. Shaffer served in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Shaffer, 28, died April 5.
First Lt. Phillip I. Neel, 27, never made a rash decision and went well beyond the call of duty, said Staff Sgt. Christopher Davis. He was grateful and honored his family more than anything, Davis added, recalling a time when Neel spoke about his family to soldiers in a mess hall during the Christmas season in Iraq. He served Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The 2005 West Point graduate died April 8.
Sgt. Todd A. Singleton often broke the tension felt by fellow soldiers with his thumb, said Spc. Jared Farr. Singleton would take the funniest pictures with his cell phone and then send them to a number of soldiers, Farr added. While a prankster, Singleton had a serious streak. He was a family man and believed his 6-month-old daughter was God's gift to him. Singleton served Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. He was 24 when he died on April 8.
Sgt. Raymond S. Sevaaetasi helped and supported his soldiers whenever possible, said Capt. Ryan Corker. He was a great leader and will be deeply missed, Croker added. The 29-year-old squad leader and petroleum supply specialist served in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Sevaaetasi died on April 11.
1st Lt. Gwilym J. Newman touched the lives of all that knew him, said Capt. Alex White. The platoon leader had a brilliant smile. One of the things White remembered most about him was how he debated who would win in a fight between Superman and the Incredible Hulk. Newman served in Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. The 24-year-old was 15 days away from his 25th birthday when he died April 12.
Staff Sgt. Marlon B. Harper loved to be clean, and if he could stay clean while working underneath a tank, he would be the happiest person around, said Capt. Christopher Dunn. Harper would go home right after working and shower, Dunn added. The senior scout in the battalion scout platoon was liked by everyone, Dunn said. He often took on positions that were normally reserved for higher ranking officers, Dunn added. He said Harper was a man of strong faith, a strong father, husband and solider. He served in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Harper, 34, died April 21.
Contact Mason W. Canales at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7554