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US troops who have died while serving in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa

Army Sgt. Andrew C. Nicol

Andrew Nicol was the captain of Exeter High School's wrestling team in Kensington, N.H. His coach, Bob Brown, remembers Nicol as a self-assured leader who often imitated Kramer from "Seinfeld" to lighten the team's mood.

He also was someone who was never intimidated and would often make last-minute comebacks with only seconds to spare.

"He was equally as confident in what he was doing (in Afghanistan) as he was on the mat with me," Brown said. "Once you've wrestled, everything else is easy."

Nicol also was active in the Boy Scouts and competed in motocross.

He joined the Army after graduation in 2006 and became an Army Ranger assigned to Fort Benning. In 2009, Nicol and his unit earned the Bronze Star for conducting a raid on insurgents in Iraq that killed six — including the No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Nicol was on his fifth overseas deployment, leading a team of Rangers on a tactical mission near Kandahar, Afghanistan, when a bomb detonated and killed him on Aug. 8 — just weeks before he was expected to return home.

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Army Pvt. Adam J. Novak

Adam Novak had been full of surprises for his family during the past two years.

He joined the Army in 2009 without first discussing it with them, then came home one day and broke the news, his stepfather, Rick Block, said.

Novak met his future wife, Celeste, during basic training, and they surprised his family by marrying in March. They were planning a formal ceremony for autumn before Novak was killed.

The 20-year-old from Prairie du Sac, Wis., died Aug. 27 of wounds from an improvised explosive device in Paktiya, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Fort Campbell.

The 2008 Sauk Prairie High School graduate grew up in Fergus Falls, Minn., where he was a Boy Scout and played soccer and frisbee.

He was respectful, witty and a good conversationalist — "the kind of person you want for a best friend," his former Sunday school teacher, Sandy Richards, said.

Novak was the youngest of five children, including a brother who also served in Afghanistan.

"He always had a great attitude and wasn't afraid to jump in and do hard things," his sister Brooke Warren said.

Survivors include Novak's mother, Sue, and his two brothers and two sisters.

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Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin E. Oratowski

Kevin Oratowski was a competitor, whether he was playing video games with his younger brother or striving to be the best in his work as a Marine.

"He sometimes was a slow starter, but a very strong finisher," said Terri Hanrahan, the principal at Illinois' Glenbard South High School, where Oratowski graduated in 2005. "When he put his mind to something, literally there wasn't anything he couldn't accomplish."

Oratowski, 23, of Wheaton, Ill., was killed by a roadside bomb Aug. 18 in Helmand province during his first combat deployment. He enlisted in 2008 and was assigned to Camp Pendleton.

At Glenbard South, he had developed from a quiet freshman into a magnetic, engaging leader by the time he graduated, teacher Pam Neuner said.

He also was patient, even when it came to his tag-along brother, Michael.

"I was the annoying little brother but he never complained about me being there," Michael Oratowski said.

The soldier, who volunteered at a local nursing home, had a "huge personality" but was polite and courteous, friends and neighbors said.

Survivors include his parents, Stephen and Mary, and sister, Carrie.

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Army Spc. James A. Page

James Page couldn't quite see himself in an Army uniform for his entire career. A skydiving jumpsuit was more his speed, his sister said.

Cristi Page said she and her brother were supposed to go skydiving when he was home on leave earlier this year, but bad weather fouled their plans. They had hoped to do it when he came home in December.

"He was a risk taker," she said.

Even though it wasn't his dream career, James Page joined the military for the sake of his little boy, 3-year-old Jarod. He didn't know he had a son until two year's ago, when an old girlfriend tracked him down and told him the news.

He joined the Army so he could support his son.

"His main goal had always been that when he had kids that he was going to be a good father," Cristi Page said.

James Page, 23, of Titusville, Fla., was killed by a roadside bomb Aug. 31 in Logar province, Afghanistan. He was based out of Bamberg, Germany.

Pfc. Devon Groom, who served with Page, said he would miss the soldier and his solid work ethic.

"He always wanted to go on missions," Groom said.

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Army Pfc. Bradley D. Rappuhn

Many adjectives described Bradley "Brad" Rappuhn, but friends say "halfhearted" was never one of them, whether it was in his leisure time — paintball, disc golf and drumming were some of his favorites — or in his work as an Army Ranger.

"I liked to call him B-Rad," his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Michael Wagner, said. "He was the only guy you would see at the gym or at work on his off time."

The 24-year-old from Grand Ledge, Mich., died Aug. 8 at Zhari Kandahar, Afghanistan, after his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device. He graduated in 2004 from Grand Ledge High School, where he was on the bowling team, and enlisted in the Army last year. He was assigned to Fort Benning.

Friends said he wasn't a complainer, even when he had to repeat grueling training exercises or when he was hit by shrapnel in a grenade blast.

He would have disliked all the fuss involved in his memorials and funeral, they said. His preferred activities were more laid-back: fishing, camping, riding his Harley, playing practical jokes and being with his beloved black Labrador retriever, Bill.

Survivors include his parents and three siblings.

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Army Pfc. Bryn T. Raver

Weeks before he died, Bryn Raver was at home on a visit, doing some of the things he loved with the people who loved him.

They visited an amusement park and took a float trip along the Buffalo National River in Arkansas, a perfect time to camp, fish and chow down on Cajun barbecue, his father said.

Raver, of Harrison, Ark., died in Nangahar, Afghanistan, on Aug. 29 — shortly before his 21st birthday — after his military vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade the previous day. Raver was assigned to Fort Campbell.

His brother, Justin, said Raver was "an action person." He enjoyed high-performance cars, being outdoors and racing all-terrain vehicles.

He had quit high school but eventually earned a GED diploma. Raver's grandfather, a Korean War veteran, inspired him to join the military, his father said.

Charles Raver said what makes him most proud is that his son knew the job was dangerous but died living the life he wanted.

"I told him to keep his head down, and he said it's getting intense and told me you never know," Charles Raver said.

The soldier also is survived by his wife and a young daughter.

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Army Spc. James C. Robinson

James Robinson was a hardworking defensive player on his high school's soccer team nine years ago.

He put the same kind of effort into defending his country as an Army infantryman serving in Afghanistan.

Tom Gannon, Robinson's former soccer coach, said Robinson was a model athlete at Monroe High School in Monroe, Ohio. He said Robinson, of Lebanon, Ohio, was a likable person who never caused any problems.

"I'm sure his dedication to soccer carried over to his military (career)," Gannon said.

Robinson, 27, joined the Army in 2005, four years after graduating from Monroe High. He was serving in Afghanistan's Paktika province on Aug. 28 when his unit, from Fort Campbell, Ky., came under attack. Robinson was killed.

"He was very fun-loving, a good man of character," said Monroe High Assistant Principal Robert Millisor.

"I really respect his courage and dedication and willingness to serve," Millisor said. "You can't ask for more than that out of somebody."

Besides playing on the Hornets soccer team, Robinson also was a member of the Monroe's science club.

He leaves behind his wife, Kathryn, daughter, Victoria and stepdaughter, Emily.

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Marine Sgt. Ronald A. Rodriguez

Ronald Rodriguez was a quiet man who enjoyed playing soccer outside with his two boys, Angel and Diego.

Friends and family said he always enjoyed playing sports, but that took a back seat to other duties. His friend Jonathan Morales, who grew up with the Marine, said Rodriguez helped with chores around the house and worked at a movie theater in high school instead of participating in athletics so he could help support his family.

"The most important thing for him was family," said former neighbor Hugh Beckford.

Rodriguez, 26, of Falls Church, Va., was killed by a roadside bomb Aug. 23 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton. He graduated from J.E.B. Stuart High School in 2002 and joined the Marines almost immediately after. He hadn't even turned 18 yet.

Morales recalled his friend as just a good all-around guy.

"He had a lot of friends," he said. "He was very likable. The guy was diligent and hardworking, too."

The Marine's father, Francisco Rodriguez, recalled him as a "brave soldier."

Rodriguez also leaves behind his girlfriend, Yesenia Mendoza.

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Marine Sgt. Jose L. Saenz III

Jose "Joey" Saenz III believed he was meant to be a Marine, according to his twin sister, Bettina.

He kept in touch with his family while overseas by planning four-way phone calls on Fridays, which he often used to tease one of his three sisters, or to talk about dreaming of fajitas and a welcome-home party.

As father to a 5-year-old-son, Jose IV, he also had started to think about civilian life, his twin sister said.

Saenz, 30, of Pleasanton, Texas, was killed Aug. 9 by an explosive device while on patrol in Helmand province during his third tour of duty. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton and had served in Iraq.

"He wore his uniform with a lot of honor," his mother, Leonor Saenz, said.

The San Antonio native graduated in 1999 from Pleasanton High School, where he played football and was active in band and art activities. Before joining the Marines a few years later, he worked as a mechanic at several places, including the Walmart where he met his wife, Christy Heritage-Saenz.

Saenz, a fan of the Tejano duo Grupo Vision, was fearless even in tough times and was known as a prankster, relatives said.

He's also survived by his father.

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Marine Lance Cpl. Nathaniel J.A. Schultz

Nathaniel Schultz got some practice for his career as a boy, playing Batman and Robin with his sister Grace Maguire.

Maguire said "he was my Marine" and always looked out for her when they were kids. Schultz also worked at the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch, helping troubled young people. Indeed, helping people is why he became a Marine.

"To fight for righteous, individual freedom for myself and all children of God no matter where they were raised," he wrote on a questionnaire asking why he signed up.

"He was the one who wanted to fix everything. He wanted to help everybody," said another sister, Deanna Maguire.

Schultz, 19, of Safety Harbor, Fla., was killed Aug. 21 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune. He graduated from Countryside High School in Clearwater, Fla., in 2009 and enlisted soon after.

Deanna Maguire said Schultz played guitar and liked to skateboard. He also loved being outdoors — hiking, hunting, fishing or hanging at the beach.

Schultz, the youngest of his siblings, was part of a close-knit family, Deanna Magiure said.

"He was the life link because of his personality," she said. "He held us all together."

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Army Pfc. Justin B. Shoecraft

Justin Shoecraft was known among his relatives as a hard worker and generous guy, the type who wouldn't hesitate to offer to give folks a hand in times of need.

"If you said, 'Hey, I need help with something,' he was there to help you," Blue Shoecraft said of his son.

The 28-year-old from Elkhart, Ind., enjoyed stock car racing, playing games with his younger cousin and working on old cars and old bicycles with his dad.

The younger Shoecraft died Aug. 24 at Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device at Kakarak. He was about five weeks into his deployment.

Back at Elkhart Memorial High School, where he graduated in 2000, he was a quiet leader who once persuaded a bully to stop picking on another student during a weightlifting class, former classmate Adam Meyers said.

Shoecraft worked for the postal service before joining the Army about two years ago. He was based in Vilseck, Germany.

Survivors include his mother, Donna, and two siblings. He also leaves behind his wife, Jessica, whom he married just before leaving for basic training.

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Army Spc. Tristan H. Southworth

Tristan Southworth was a popular kid in high school — a three-sport standout who excelled in basketball and often sat with his popular, athletic friends at lunch. But it wasn't uncommon to see him sitting with less popular kids or hanging with special-needs students.

"I think that says a lot about him," said his basketball coach, Aaron Hill. Hill said Southworth also was a caring person who didn't like to act like he was a star of the team.

"He was a very selfless kid, liked to give other people credit," Hill said.

Southworth, 21, of West Danville, Vt., died Aug. 22 in Paktika, Afghanistan. He was based out of Jericho, Vt.

His family wrote in his obituary that Southworth loved to be around his family and especially loved children and German shepherd dogs. He also loved to play baseball, but felt a higher calling to serve his country.

"Being in the Army is something he wanted to do his whole life. Even in high school, he was one of the kids who signed up. ... If something bad was going to happen, Tristan was the type of kid that would save someone. He did what he loved," said Darren Mayo, who played sports with Southworth in high school.

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Army Sgt. Kyle B. Stout

Kyle Stout's family is remembering him as a loyal, dedicated and selfless soldier who loved serving his country.

Friends and acquaintances posting on an online memorial website described him as courageous, outgoing and fun-loving. They said he obviously cared for his soldiers and was always smiling.

One woman, who identified herself only as Christy, wrote that Stout was "extremely sincere and genuine." She said Stout visited her on slow afternoons at the restaurant where she worked to entertain her and "never had a mean thing to say to or about anyone or anything."

The 25-year-old native of Texarkana, Texas, died July 30 of injuries from an improvised exploded device that went off near a security checkpoint in Kandahar.

Stout, who attended Texas High School in Texarkana, joined the Army in July 2006 and became a canon crew member. He was assigned to Fort Campbell and had deployed to Iraq from October 2007 to November 2008.

In his down time, his favorite hobbies included hunting, fishing and hanging out with friends, his family said.

He's survived by his parents, Billy and Robin Stout; an older brother, Michael; and an older sister, Melissa.

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Navy Chief Petty Officer Collin Thomas

Collin Thomas was remembered as a man who was devoted to his family and his fellow Navy SEALs.

Thomas' memorial service was private, and little has been published about him. But the 13-year military veteran was remembered for his talents in the armed forces.

John Admire wrote in an online memorial that he had recently had dinner with Thomas and "was impressed with Collin and how much he had grown since I'd known him as a youngster."

Thomas, 33, of Morehead, Ky., was killed Aug. 18 in eastern Afghanistan. His Navy SEAL team was based in Virginia. He graduated from Rowan County High School in 1995 and enlisted in the Navy in 1997. For a time he attended Morehead State University before enlisting. He had been engaged to Sarah Saunders.

His family wrote in his obituary that he was an adventurous person who always went out of his way for his fellow SEALs.

"They were his second family and closest friends," the obituary said.

A Navy press release said he was a gifted SEAL.

"His tireless professionalism, inspiring passion for life, and humble demeanor made him a role model for all who knew him," the release said.

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Army Master Sgt. Jared N. Van Aalst

Jared Van Aalst's high school wrestling coach said he wasn't an instant wrestling success at Plymouth Regional High School in his hometown of Laconia, N.H.

"Basically, he spent three years with the J.V. team. Not too many guys stay with it for that long," said Cam Sinclair.

But, as a senior in 1993, he became the co-captain of the Plymouth Bobcats wrestling team and, according to Sinclair, was one of the top wrestlers in his class in the state.

Van Aalst, 34, had a similarly determined career in the Army. He attended Ranger and sniper school. He served as a team leader, squad leader, instructor and shooter in the Army Marksmanship Unit.

He was deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in 2003 and then to Iraq. After his promotion to platoon sergeant, he was deployed twice to Iraq in 2005 and to Afghanistan in 2006. He was on his sixth deployment from Fort Bragg when he died Aug. 4 in the Kunduz province, Afghanistan, from wounds sustained during combat operations.

He leaves behind his wife, Katie Van Aalst, and daughters, Kaylie and Ava.

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Marine Cpl. Julio Vargas

Julio Vargas and his wife Rosita were looking forward to starting a family.

The two had married in December, and bought a house near Camp Pendleton, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Before Vargas deployed to Afghanistan, he had asked his father if he was ready to be a grandfather.

The 23-year-old Marine had been expected home at the end of September but was killed July 20 by a roadside bomb in Helmand province. He listed Sylmar, Calif., as his hometown.

"He was a good kid," Adalberto Cruz, a longtime family neighbor, told the newspaper. "He was always smiling and you'd never see him mad or anything. He was always real polite, really outgoing."

He graduated from Sylmar High School, and in February 2008, enlisted in the mlitary. He had been a vehicle gunner in Afghanistan.

"He was a real-life hero, one of our nation's bravest individuals, and his service and sacrifice in the name of freedom will not be forgotten," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

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Army Capt. Ellery R. Wallace

In a post on Facebook, Army Capt. Ellery "Ray" Wallace once wrote that Afghanistan resembled the landscape in Utah, where he had lived and gone to college.

In another post, he told friends and family, "Well the good news is wait, is being here in Afghanistan good news?"

Wallace, 33, was a husband, brother, and father of four. On Aug. 29, he and another soldier died in Nangahar. Both were wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on their vehicle on Aug. 28.

Wallace was assigned to Fort Campbell.

Before enlisting, Wallace followed his girlfriend to Utah. There he married and also graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor's degree in sociology and criminology.

He had dreamed since childhood of becoming a soldier, like his grandfather, his younger sister Jessica Bayless told the Salt Lake Tribune.

"He always felt the sacrifice for freedom was worth it, no matter the cost," Bayless said. "He was protecting his family and his country."

Wallace's survivors include his wife, Janelle L. Wallace; four children, Liam, Adara, Kael and Ehlana, all of Clarksville, Tenn; and his parents, Elton DeWayne and Elaine Wallace, of Elkhart, Texas.

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Army Spc. Christopher S. Wright

When Christopher Wright joined the Army as a lanky teenager back, all he wanted to do was become an Army Ranger.

It was all he could ever talk about, said his friend, Army Spc. Aaron Kleibacker.

"Chris loved what he did and he wouldn't want to do anything else," said another friend, Spc. Ethan Gronbeck. "He was a true example of what a Ranger is."

Wright, 23, of Tollesboro, Ky., died Aug. 19 in Pech, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Hunter Army Airfield. He graduated from Lewis County High School in 2005. He had long wanted to enlist in the military and did so within days of his 18th birthday.

His stepmother, Michele Cochran, said Wright told her he wanted to enlist to protect his family and their freedom.

"He was a man of more courage at his age than you can understand," she said.

Wright's teachers at Sacred Heart School in Jeffersonville, Ky., said the soldier had a strong sense of right and wrong and came to visit his old K-8 school while he was on leave.

"He told the kids how right it is to be responsible," said teacher Lynne Evanczyk.

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