By Debbie Stevenson
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD Two were immigrants eager to serve their adopted country. One was not even old enough to vote. Another died trying to save a fellow soldier as he lay mortally wounded in the middle of a firefight. A fourth died just hours before he was to go home on leave.
In a scene repeated monthly since the 1st Cavalry Divisions departure for Iraq earlier this year, family, friends and fellow soldiers filled the First Teams Memorial Chapel on Thursday to honor 13 fallen comrades.
The brave soldiers we honor today proved their worth, said Col. Aundre Piggee, the divisions rear detachment commander. These soldiers personified the values of the American soldier.
Honored Thursday were soldiers from the 1st Cavalrys active duty ranks and also National Guardsmen from Arkansas, Rhode Island and Oregon.
Sgt. Skipper Soram was not a U.S. citizen, but still deeply believed in its values, said Sgt. Ricardo Rodriquez.
After joining the Army, Rodriquez said Soram was sent to Korea where he met his wife, who he said was the love of his life.
At 23, the native of Kolonia Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, was eager to serve his new country, Rodriquez said.
Once in Iraq with Bravo Battery, 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Soram continued to be a great leader, always doing what had to be done, no questions asked.
He never complained about anything, Rodriquez said. He would say, Im always ready.
Soram died Sept. 22 in Baghdad, the victim of a car bomb.
Also serving her adopted country in the Army was Sgt. Pamela Osborne with the 1st Cavalrys Division Artillery.
No one ever wondered if she was a woman of faith, said 1st Lt. Geoffrey Wright about Osborne, a 38-year-old mother of three who had immigrated to the United States at a young age from Jamaica.
While short in height, Wright said Osborne was a giant of a human being, who always smiled as big as her face would let her.
If she ever stopped smiling, no one would recognize her, Wright declared of the Hollywood, Fla., resident who died Oct 11 in a rocket attack on her camp in Iraq.
Spc. Anthony Monroe, 20,of Bismarck, N.D., was another soldier from the divisions artillery brigade who stood out for Wright.
Specialist Monroe was a young man ... old enough to make a decision men twice his age have not, Wright said. Some said he was just a boy ... but he had all the makings of a great soldier.
He was truly mature beyond his years, able to take the usual pranks that more seasoned soldiers tend to direct at the new kid on the block, Wright said to chuckles as he touched briefly on Monroes patience as he spent nearly half a day hunting down a key for a Humvee at the direction of a mischievous senior specialist.
Monroe died Oct. 11 in the same rocket attack as Osborne.
Spc. James Price was another young soldier who took the Army in stride, said 1st Sgt. John Friesen.
He had a toothy grin ... like it had something behind it like, I know something you dont know, Friesen said of the Cleveland, Tenn., resident who had been assigned to Bravo Battery, 4th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment after arriving at Fort Hood in December 2001.
Maybe he did, Friesen added to muted laughter in sections of the chapel.
At 22, Price was anxious to earn his combat patch. On Sept. 18, he got his wish.
That was his final mission, Friesen said. He was scheduled to go on R&R 15 hours later.
Chief Warrant Officer-3 Ronald Helton did not know the three Guardsmen he honored Thursday, but it was not difficult for him to find friends who had plenty of good things to say about Spc. Rodney Jones, Spc. David Johnson and Sgt. Russell Collier.
Jones, a 21-year-old from Philadelphia, Pa., was killed by a car bomb Sept. 30 in Baghdad. He was assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment. He joined the Army in September 2001 and arrived at Fort Hood in February 2002.
Helton said Jones best friend said he was more than just my buddy, he was a soldier who tried hard to do good in everything he did.
Johnson, 37, of Portland, Ore., signed up with the National Guard after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He was assigned to the Guards 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment from Cottage Grove, Ore.
Not satisfied with remaining home with his unit as a cook, Johnson volunteered to go to Iraq.
It cost him his life, Helton said.
Collier, a medic with the Arkansas Guards 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery Regiment from Russellville, Ark., was killed Oct. 3 in Taji as he ran to the aid of a mortally wounded soldier in the midst of a firefight.
He left the safety of his position and ran to Sergeant Potts side, Helton said.
Watching Colliers wife receive her husbands many medals at his funeral, Helton said he couldnt help but wonder if there would be a Medal of Honor in there for the noncommissioned officer from Harrison, Ark.
I dont know what the requirements are, Helton said, before quoting the Bible: Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down ones life for his friends.
The two soldiers died together in the street, but one has to wonder how many lives were saved after the fight led to the discovery of a huge weapons cache the next day, said Capt. Kurtis as he honored Sgt. Christopher Potts memory.
Kurtis said Potts, 38, was a good noncommissioned officer for the Guards 1st Battalion, 103rd Field Artillery Regiment from Providence, R.I., who led by example. At home with his wife and two children of Tiverton, R.I., neighbors described him as thoughtful and generous and just the kind of neighbor everyone wants to live next to.
Those who knew him are blessed, Kurtis said.
Other 1st Cavalry troopers and Guardsmen honored Thursday were:
n Spc. Ronald Baker, 34, of Cabot, Ark., died Oct. 13 in Landstuhl, Germany, after being wounded. He was assigned to the Arkansas Guards 39th Support Battalion from Lonoke, Ark. He was wounded Oct. 7 in Taji by a car bomb.
He was a good person, a hard worker, said Helton, noting friends described him as a prankster who could keep a straight face when pulling the wool over someones eyes.
With his unit short of gunners, Helton said Baker volunteered to go on the mission that cost him his life on a day he was supposed to have had off.
n Sgt. Jack Hennessy, a young infantry sniper who rose quickly through the ranks was a good friend to myself, said Spc. Cody Turner, describing Hennessy as always laid back and known for being surrounded by good friends having good times.
Hennessy, a 21-year-old from Naperville, Ill., joined the Army in 2001. He was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment after arriving at Fort Hood in March 2002. He was killed Oct. 1 by small arms fire.
Sgt. Jack Hennessy was a great leader, good friend, Turner said. Jack will be missed by all of us. ... But as you all know, Jack is in a much better place.
n Sgt. Thomas Rosenbaum, 25, died Sept. 18 in Baghdad after his convoy detonated a roadside bomb. He was a nuclear, biological and chemical weapons noncommissioned officer with the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. He joined the Army in May 1997 and arrived at Fort Hood in July 2001.
The Hope, Ark., resident had a tremendous sense of humor, Friesen said.
Living in the barracks at Fort Hood, Friesen said the troops turned to him as a guy soldiers went to when they need a question answered.
n Sgt. Carl Thomas, 29, of Phoenix, Ariz., died in Baghdad after a bomb detonated near his post. The Detroit, Mich., native joined the Army in November 1996 and had been assigned to Fort Hood since November. He went to Iraq with the 1st Cavalrys Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment.
Soldiers of his platoon looked to Sergeant Thomas as a mentor, as a leader, said Capt. Audie Cavazos. The soldiers of the Iraqi National Guard noticed his leadership. ... They had many good things to say about him.
Mrs. Thomas, your husband was a true hero, Cavazos said. You have my deepest sympathy.
n Spc. Joshua Vandertulip, 21, of Irving died Oct. 14 in Baghdad, when his dismounted patrol came under enemy fire. Vandertulip was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood.
Needing a crutch to get to the podium after being wounded outside Fallujah, Spc. Kwani Rhodes said Vandertulip was very energetic and loved challenges.
His selfless service is just one of the Army values shown by Specialist Vandertulip, Rhodes said in his brief tribute.
The service concluded with the militarys traditional roll call, playing of Taps and a 21-gun salute.
Our fallen have finished the final season of their life, said Capt. Steve Roberts, a division chaplain who offered the concluding message for the 45-minute tribute.
They kept the faith, they answered the call to serve, Roberts said. Our challenge today is to embrace each season.
Contact Debbie Stevenson at email@example.com