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US troops killed in Afghanistan and Africa

Army Sgt. Eric C. Newman

Eric Newman was so respected by his commanding officer that the leader greeted the soldier in public with a reference to the TV show "Seinfeld" — "Hello, Newman."

The greeting was frequently uttered by Jerry Seinfeld to his nemesis on the show, Newman. Brig. Gen. Robert Ashley's respect, though, was no joke.

"The highest praise I can give to him is to say, 'I served with him in combat,'" Ashley said at Newman's funeral. Ashley's remarks were reported by The Hattiesburg (Miss.) American newspaper.

Newman, 30, of Waynesboro, Miss., was killed in a bombing Oct. 14 in Akatzai Kalay, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Fort Bragg.

Newman had gotten his start in public service with the Waynesboro police department several years ago.

"He was an outstanding individual," Waynesboro Police Chief James Bunch said. "And it doesn't surprise me at all that he would sacrifice himself for his country."

Newman's sister, Kimberly Del Bosco, said Newman was a "great big brother and always tried to protect me."

"He always tried his best to do everything the best possible way that he could," she said.

___

Army Sgt. Justin A. Officer

As a youngster, Justin Officer wasn't very fond of school, but he had a natural talent for art and drawing.

His father, Timothy Officer, said the soldier requested art supplies during his deployments, though he wasn't sure if his son got around to finishing any drawings or paintings. It wasn't his only hobby.

Justin Officer "liked typical boy adventures, like camping, fishing and playing video games," his father, who was in the Air Force, told The Wichita Eagle.

The 26-year-old from Wichita, Kan., died Sept. 29 in Kandahar province. He joined the Army in 2004, had served two tours of duty in Iraq and was assigned to Fort Campbell.

His father told the newspaper that Officer planned to leave the Army and pursue school but changed his mind and extended his enlistment long enough to take the deployment.

"I asked him why many times, until he left," his father said. "His only reply was he could help the new kids that were assigned to his unit and might save their lives."

Survivors include his mother, Stacy; brother, Timothy; and sister, Kylea.

___

Army Spc. Ronnie J. Pallares

Ronnie Pallares liked writing, music and following his favorite teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Lakers.

When he was growing up in Rancho Cucamonga, his family saw him going into journalism or becoming a police officer. They didn't know he had any interest in joining the military, his mother told the Los Angeles Times.

So, it came as a surprise in 2008 when a 17-year-old Pallares asked his mother for permission to enlist in the Army.

"I looked him straight in the eye and asked him, 'You are telling me that you are willing to die for this country?' He stood up and said, 'Yes, Mom. Either you sign this or I will sign up when I am 18.' I decided to support him," Brenda Pallares told the Times.

Ronnie J. Pallares, 19, of Rancho Cucamonga, was killed in an explosion on Oct. 23 in Ghazni, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Fort Bragg.

His mother said he was weeks away from leaving Afghanistan, and they both were eager for his return home.

Pallares had a positive attitude, said his Little League coaches Dawn and Ronald Smith, and on a recent trip home, he had talked about also coaching one day.

"Things could be looking bad, and he would say, 'Let's turn it around!'" Dawn Smith said. "He was always trying to help the other guys on the team."

___

Army Sgt. Brian J. Pedro

Brian Pedro wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and stepfather. He wanted to make the Army his career, his mother said.

In April, he deployed on his second Afghanistan tour. He was 27 and based out of White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

He died nearly a half a year later in an Oct. 2 attack on his unit in Pol-e-Khumri, and despite his family's grief, Pedro's mother said his grandfather and stepfather are proud he died doing what he wanted to do.

"He was loved by all and will be missed by a whole lot of people," his mother told KGET-TV in Bakersfield, Calif.

Pedro, who lists his hometown as Rosamond, Calif., attended Twentynine Palms High School and graduated from El Camino High School, Oceanside, Calif., in 2002. He enlisted in the Army in 2006.

Pedro had been a utilities equipment repairman in the Army, the military said. He will be posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge.

Pedro's survivors include his wife, Shanna; parents Lululima and David Nelson; and grandmother, Carol Nelson.

___

Army Spc. Matthew C. Powell

Matthew Powell was a "big teddy bear" who kept working hard until he met with success, friends and family said.

He wasn't the strongest student, and he wasn't a starter on Northshore High School's football team. But he attended every summer workout to sweat with a purpose, and he held his head high when he walked on the field in September with his former coach.

"He seemed to realize that he was doing something good, and that was good to see, that he was proud of what he was doing, that he was proud of his accomplishments," the coach, Mike Bourg, told The Times-Picayune newspaper.

Shelly Jones, who taught Powell in Sunday school, likened him to the teddy bear: "So sweet, so strong, so tall," she said.

Powell, 20, of Slidell, La., died Oct. 12 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered in a bombing. He was assigned to Fort Campbell.

Jones' 17-year-old daughter, Bethany, recalled Powell as "the sweet big brother figure in my life" whom she could always count on to cheer her up, even if he was serving overseas.

"He was always the funniest one," she said, "the one doing the random dancing in the middle of the party, always being goofy."

___

Army Spc. Joseph T. Prentler

Joseph "Joey" Prentler was in elementary school when he began telling his family he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up: a soldier, just like his grandfather.

It was a career choice he stuck with through the years, and one that would take him far from his family's farm in Fenwick, Mich. — first to Georgia for basic training and then to Vilseck, Germany, where his squadron was based.

"Going from when you're 8 and making that decision and sticking with it, that's really honorable," Prentler's cousin, Sonya Jakeway, told The Daily News of Greenville.

The 2008 graduate of Carson City-Crystal High School was killed in Mama Kraiz, Afghanistan, on Oct. 4 after being injured by an improvised explosive device.

Teachers said Prentler was often quiet in school, but friends and family said they'll remember the 20-year-old for his goofy and fun-loving attitude — especially when he spent time with his family and his 13-year-old brother, Dakota.

"I want to be like him," Dakota Prentler told WOOD-TV, saying he plans to join the military one day, too.

He's also survived by his parents.

___

Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph E. Rodewald

Joe Rodewald grew up in a small town not far from the University of Oregon in Eugene.

When he graduated from South Albany High School several years ago, he was such an avid fan of the UO football team that he was voted "Most Devoted Duck Fan" by his senior class.

"He was a very special kid," said Rodewald's high school football coach Andy Lusco.

On Oct. 13, Rodewald, 21, was killed in combat in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton.

"He grew into being one of the finest young men I ever coached," Lusco said.

KVAL-TV in Eugene reported that hundreds of people attended Rodewald's memorial service at an Albany church last month, including Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Oregon football coach Chip Kelly.

"I recognize there are dignitaries here like the Governor," said Rodewald's father John Rodewald. "And it's hard to say that right up there is Head Coach Chip Kelly."

Rodewald would have been "so excited" to know the Oregon football coach would attend his memorial, his father said.

___

Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles M. Sadell

Charles Sadell was just out of Missouri's Harrisburg High School in 1995 when he enlisted in the Army. A family friend told station KBIA that Sadell, known as "CJ" to his friends, was searching for direction.

He found it, along with a lengthy and decorated career that took him from his home in Columbia, Mo., to Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, Germany, Iraq and most recently to Afghanistan, where he was deployed this spring.

An avid outdoorsman who loved to spend time hunting, fishing and nailing balls on a golf course, the 34-year-old intelligence analyst married Kristin Dawn McMillan in 1999. The couple have two sons, Cameron and Hunter. They lived in Weston, Mo.

"He was just a very stand-up guy," the friend, Kristen Adams told KBIA Radio. "He was very respectful. He was a great husband, an amazing father; just an all-around great guy. Everyone that met him just fell in love with him because he was just a charmer."

Sadell was hurt Oct. 5 when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Arif Kala, Afghanistan. He died Oct. 24 at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He was assigned to Fort Drum.

___

Army Sgt. Mark A. Simpson

Mark Simpson was the youngest in his family but could go toe-to-toe with his four siblings, whether they were exchanging pranks or debating professional football teams and his beloved New England Patriots.

"We would razz each other over who would win, and when the Patriots did win, oh, he'd rub it in really good," his sister Carol Goewey told the Peoria Journal-Star in Illinois.

The 40-year-old Star Trek fan from Peoria, Ill., graduated from Richwoods High School in 1988, and later worked in several states.

Simpson did construction and worked as a bailiff in Colorado and had been in law enforcement in Texas before joining the military in 2004 to support his family and see the world, the newspaper reported.

"He was going to do this until he could retire or they kicked him out," his sister said. "He knew he needed to do this."

Simpson, known by comrades as "Pappy," died in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Sept. 26, a day after his vehicle was hit with an explosive. He was assigned to Fort Hood and had served in Iraq.

He and his wife, Aletha, have three daughters. He's also survived by his parents, George and Carol.

___

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam O. Smith

Adam Smith was a steady kind of guy, at ease when he was playing sports or just hanging out with family and friends.

"Adam was a courageous warrior with an unflappable attitude who earned the respect and admiration of his teammates and fellow citizens alike, and he took great pride and passion in being a Navy SEAL," said Capt. Tim Szymanski, commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, according to a statement.

He enjoyed playing all sorts of sports and hanging out with his family, according to his obituary.

The 26-year-old sailor from Hurland, Mo., was killed Sept. 21 in a helicopter crash during combat operations in Zabul province. He was assigned to an East Coast-based SEAL team.

The 2002 Bevier High School graduate entered the Navy in 2004. He had been stationed at Virginia Beach, Va., and also served in Iraq with his brother Andrew and two of his cousins, his obituary said.

Survivors include his parents and their spouses, as well as his seven sisters and three brothers.

___

Marine Cpl. Stephen C. Sockalosky

Stephen Sockalosky — who was known by his middle name, Coty — loved the Atlanta Braves. One of his teachers loved the baseball team, too, and Sockalosky used that to his advantage.

The Rev. Roy Gibbs, who taught Sockalosky at Crisp County High School, said his former pupil would start chatting him up about the team before a test. It was his way of trying to put it off, the Cordele Dispatch newspaper reported.

Sockalosky also was in the Junior ROTC program at the high school, the beginning of his career in the armed forces. In a statement read by U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall at Sockalosky's memorial service, Staff Sgt. Royzell Cooper recalled the young man's dedication. Sockalosky received more than 80 awards in the program and made a list of goals.

"They included joining the Marines, getting married and living a happy life," Cooper said. "He also said that he wanted to be better with God."

Sockalosky was a Marine when he died Oct. 6 after he was wounded by a roadside bomb in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

He also had a chance to get married. He leaves behind his wife, Brittany.

___

Marine Lance Cpl. John T. Sparks

John Sparks found his comfort zone operating machine guns, so much that it prompted one comrade to say Sparks "loved" the weapons.

He also loved to drive snazzy cars, watch WWE wrestling and chow down on pizza, tacos or macaroni and cheese, according to his obituary.

"He always carried his weight, and when others couldn't, John would pick up their slack," his roommate, Cpl. Jeffery Holsey, said during a memorial in Afghanistan, according to an account of the event posted online by the 1st Marine Division.

"He was a selfless person," Holsey said. "He always gave everything and never asked for anything in return."

The military said the machine gunner from Chicago was killed Oct. 8 — days after his 23rd birthday — during combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He had enlisted in 2008 and was assigned to Camp Pendleton.

Sparks attended Chicago's Paul Robeson High School, where he played football and ran track, and went on to Westwood College, where he studied criminal justice.

Survivors include his mother, father and brother.

___

Marine Sgt. Ian M. Tawney

When he was 15, Ian Tawney organized a yearlong trip to Argentina and returned speaking fluent Spanish, his mother said.

He was full of life, added his wife. The Dallas, Ore., native liked hunting, snowboarding and riding motorcycles. "He loved to laugh," his wife, Ashley Tawny, told The Oregonian.

"He just knew what he wanted in his life, and he went for it," his mother, Theda, said. "He was a man of great integrity."

Tawney, 25, was killed in combat on Oct. 16 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton.

He is remembered as a devoted husband and friend who loved the outdoors.

In addition to his wife and mother, Tawney is survived by his father, John Tawney; brothers Shayne Chandler and Jacob Tawney; and sisters Stacy Barham, Karin Lamberton and Karla Cowan.

Tawney’s wife is expecting the couple's first child, a daughter, in January.

"It's going to be a real blessing to have a part of him through her," Theda Tawney said.

___

Marine Cpl. Jorge Villareal Jr.

Before he went to war, Jorge "JV" Villarreal Jr. sometimes acted as the peacemaker among a close-knit group of friends in Texas, settling disputes among buddies.

"He was like our brother, actually," friend Eric Gutierrez said, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Villarreal, a 22-year-old vehicle operator from San Antonio, was killed by a roadside bomb on Oct. 17 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton.

He had been an honors student at Kennedy High School and was buried not far from there. Friends and fellow classmates said he served as class treasurer, played football in a green and white uniform for the Rockets, and made the halls a friendlier place before graduating in 2006.

He joined the Marines the next year, and the military said he had deployed to the western Pacific before serving in Afghanistan.

"He had that inner strength that people admire and respect," his cousin Jorge Suarez said, according to TV station KSAT. "A strong man that stood up for what's right."

Survivors include his wife, Reyna Rodriguez; a stepdaughter; his parents, Yolanda and Jorge; and a sister, April.

___Marine Lance Cpl. Phillip D. Vinnedge

Phillip Vinnedge once downloaded a list of "impossible" tasks from the Internet that he set out to prove could be done, such as eating a spoonful of cinnamon, friends said.

"Phil kept checking things off the list," Zach Will, who grew up with Vinnedge, shared in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story. "He achieved everything he went for in life."

Vinnedge, 19, of St. Charles, Mo., tackled everything with a special focus: Boy Scouts, wrestling, skydiving, welding, trap shooting.

He displayed the same drive as a Marine.

Scout leader Mike Long said Vinnedge gave up wrestling his senior year to make sure he started his Marine Corps training injury-free after graduating from Francis Owell High School in 2009.

He loved challenges, according to his obituary. "From simple childhood bets and dares, to personal goals and accomplishments, Phillip never backed down from a challenge," it said.

The Camp Pendleton-based Marine was killed Oct. 13 in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Survivors include his parents, Dave and Julie Vinnedge, and his brothers, Corey and Jason.

___

Army Sgt. 1st Class Lance H. Vogeler

Even as a young Boy Scout, Lance Vogeler had the makings of a leader, according to his childhood pals.

Ryan Heffner, in an e-mail to the Frederick (Md.) News-Post, recalled a trip to Cunningham Falls when he was 10 or 11 — Vogeler would have been 13 or 14 at the time. Some of the kids decided to climb a waterfall instead of taking the easy way around.

Heffner said he became unsteady on the rocks and feared he might fall, especially because the others had made it up. Vogeler was there to calm him down and pull him up to safer ground.

"He told me no matter what happened, he wouldn't let me fall," Heffner wrote.

Vogeler, 29, of Frederick was killed Oct. 1 in Bastion, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit. He was assigned to Georgia's Hunter Army Airfield. He was a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School.

Vogeler had two children, 11-year-old Madison and 10-year-old Kyle, and he and wife Melissa is expecting a child.

As a high school student, Vogeler was fluent in sign language because his parents are deaf. That meant he had to translate during parent-teacher conferences, his French language teacher, Teresa Wilson, told the newspaper.

"You're telling them exactly what I'm saying, aren't you, Lance?" she would joke.

He would reply: "Oh, oui, madame."

___

Marine Sgt. Frank R. Zaehringer III

Frank Zaehringer's high school baseball team used to have an honor called the "Hustle Award."

Now, that honor is called the "Frank Zaehringer Award."

"He would always ask the same three questions," Malcolm said. "Number one: How was I? Number two: How was the team going to be? And number three: Are there any players anymore that are as tough as him, hustled like him, and had the long, flowing, white hair like him?" said Ron Malcolm, the baseball coach at Wooster High School in Reno, Nev.

Zaehringer, of Reno, was killed in combat on Oct. 11 in Helmand province. He was 23 years old and assigned to Camp Lejeune.

KTVN in Reno reported that his friends and family remembered him at a memorial service last month as an active young man with a good sense of humor. He also had a strong work ethic, Malcolm said.

"Frank showed himself to be a rare individual, endowed with intelligence, warmth, common sense, and an intense desire to give of himself for others," Malcolm said. "When Frank would come home on his leaves from the military, he would always come by the baseball field to see me. I loved him for that."

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