Monday, October 25, 2010

Remembering SGT Joshua Brennan, KIA 26 October 2007 During Operation Rock Avalance - Afghanistan

Mike Brennan, Gold Star father of SGT Josh Brennan, has become a treasured friend of mine.  Actually Mike, his wife, Michelle, their daughters, his sister and brothers and all of their family members are very special friends.  They are all so amazing, caring, thoughful and positive.  I am so fortunate to have them in my life.  Sadly the circumstances surrounding why they are in my life aren't so "happy."  I came to know Mike, and his family, after Josh died of wounds sustained on 25 October 2007.

I've been struggling the past few days trying to write a memorial post about Josh on this, the third anniversary of his death in Afghanistan.  No matter what I wrote it just didn't seem to be enough or right.

This morning I opened my email and found the following email from Mike:


I was just thinking about Josh on this anniversary date of when he was shot and Hugo was killed. I had to watch this video again of Janice singing "When Heaven Was Needing A Hero". Although hard to watch she did such a wonderful job and that song has gone through my head almost every day since Josh was killed. I don't know if you know the story but Janice sent that song to Josh to comfort him when Matthew Blaskowski was killed and he was feeling down. Than a month later it was the theme song for his own funeral. If you post anything tomorrow would you please attach this video for people to watch as a tribute to Josh's life. Thanks again for always being there as such a great friend.


I am honored to post this video Mike.  I have had Josh, you all and Janice on my mind so much the past few days.  You inspire me EVERY day with your strength and positive committment to keep Josh's memory alive. I love you dearly and wish like hell Josh was here.  THANK YOU for raising such an amazing young man.  He made a difference in so many lives and was loved by more than most ever hope to be.

Rest in Peace Josh always knowing how much you are missed, loved and honored by your family, battle buddies and friends.

I wrote this post last year on the anniversary of Josh's death.  There are some wonderful photos of Josh over there along with a video tribute to him set to the same song as his mother sang in the video above.  The video at the link above was done for Josh's funeral service.  Please take the time to go to last year's post and read it.  Most of all please keep Josh, his family, battle buddies and friends in your prayers.

Remembering SPC Hugo "Doc" Mendoza, KIA 25 October 2007, Kunar Province, Afghanistan

Battle Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment

SPC Hugo Victor Mendoza was born on 23 March 1978 in California and spent most of his childhood in El Paso, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 31 May 2005.

During his time in service, SPC Hugo Victor Mendoza completed Basic Infantry Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Medical Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

On 6 March 2006, SPC Mendoza reported to his first duty station at Caserma, Ederle, Vicenza, Italy. He was assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry – The ROCK. SPC Mendoza was then assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company with duty as a combat medic in Battle Company. He immediately found his home among the combat warriors of 1st Platoon – The Celts.

SPC Mendoza trained, deployed and fought side by side with his band of brothers in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII. SPC Mendoza distinguished himself in The ROCK as a heroic medic, charismatic Paratrooper, and an overall altruistic human being.

SPC Mendoza’s awards include: The Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Medical Badge, and Basic Parachutist Badge. SPC Mendoza has been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal for Service in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII.

SPC Hugo "DOC" Mendoza died of wounds sustained when he came in contact with enemy forces using RPG, machine gun and small arms fire during Operation Rock Avalanche combat operations on Oct 25, 2007 in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

SPC Mendoza's family recalls him as a very giving person; a man who treated everyone the way he wanted to be treated. SPC Mendoza planned to become a firefighter once he left the Army.

He was laid to rest at Fort Bliss, TX.

We will NEVER forget you "DOC". Rest in Peace brave warrior

"Honor the Fallen" has an article here that you should read.  His family and friends tell more about the incredible man he was.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SSG Sal Guinta Recounts the Events of the Day For Which He Will Be Awarded The Medal Of Honor On 16 November 2010

SSG Guinta tells the events of 25 October 2007 in this two part video series.

I continue to have such great respect for SSG Giunta. He is a humble man in every way and continues to bring such honor to his unit, fellow Soldiers, family and friends.

You're going to need tissues to watch these videos.

May God Bless SSG Guinta, his wife, parents, family and friends.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

kev, Uncle Jimbo's Birthday, Great Reader and the Arkansas Heritage& Blues Festival BBQ Contest

Work has kept me from getting this written sooner.  I know most of you can relate.

Last weekend my home was invaded by kev, Uncle Jimbo and Great Reader, Jihad Gene.  When we planned this soirĂ©e a year ago it never occurred to me it would be on Jimbo's birthday weekend.  Alas, we all muddled through that part.  Let me assure you he MADE IT his birthday WEEKEND.

The morning of the day they were all set to arrive i joined the Patriot Guard Riders and Rolling Thunder to honor and welcome home Fallen Hero PFC Brandon Dawson made his final journey home. 

Early in the afternoon kev rolled in.  It was wonderful to get to spend a few quiet hours with kev before hurricane Jimbo blasted through the front door in the late afternoon.   As the grill was burning down to the perfect temperature for the steaks Jimbo insisted on for his birthday dinner the three of us sat down for a Birthday BBQ Freefly.  kev and Jimbo hadn't done a freefly together in over 2 years so it took a few starts to get it rolling.  After we finished that freefly the "boyz" sat down to film one of their own.  Classic kev and Jimbo.  The Hillary 2012 is a must view freefly if you are a freefly fan.

Once the steaks were done Jimbo insisted on making our plates as if kev and I were in pre-school. Easier to let him than to fight it.  I know, scary picture, huh?

After Jimbo completed the "plating" of his birthday dinner he, kev and I went out to the deck and ate in the moonlight.  I'd love to say it was romantic but then I'd be lying.  It was, without a doubt, entertaining.

After dinner the three of us dashed off to the airport to fetch Jihad Gene.  As we rolled onto airport property JG called to ask where we were.  His flight landed early.  I gave him instructions on where to meet us.   As I parked the car I saw JG and pointed to him as kev and Jimbo exited the car.  kev went straight to JG.  Jimbo veered off in the opposite direction.  Sadly he came back before we could drive away.

Next stop - Beale Street.  I am happy to report that no humans or animals were injured during our time on Beale Street.

Back to the Hacienda.  I decided it was nap time and told the boys to wake me up when it was time for Jihad Gene to go to his hotel.  Yeah, I think I scared the bejeesus our of JG when I told him he could stay at my house but he might have to cuddle with Jimbo.  Or, as JG calls him, Jimblow.  Around 01:20 kev came to wake me up to take JG "home".  Jimbo's car was blocking in all of the others and we couldn't find the friggin' keys.  Finally around 01:45 I found them in Jimbo's hat - don't ask - and delivered JG to his motel.

Saturday 06:30 - alarm goes off.  Time to get everyone up and going to the Arkansas Heritage and Blues Festival BBQ Competition.  All three of the boys are judges.  Up the stairs to wake kev - from the doorway of his bedroom.  Yep, like many of you I learned that lesson the hard way.  NEVER walk up to the bed of a sleeping formerly deployed Veteran and reach down to shake him awake.  NO!  NEVER!  Back downstairs to hurricane Jimbo.  That's when I discovered my living room in shambles.  Waking Jimbo up is like attempting to crack open a coconut with a Q-tip.  Finally got him up, showered and dressed (kev and I were ready) then out the door for JG.  Stopped for gas.  Stopped for Burger King.  Late to pick up JG.  Off to Arkansas.

Jimbo and kev listening to instructions on judging the BBQ per Memphis in May rules and NOT Kansas City rules. 

Those bloody marys you see in front of them?  Well, they both got selected as judges in the bloody mary competition, too.  Not a bad way to start the day?  Of course at this point they haven't seen the HUGE container of beer iced down for the judges.  They did, however, find that soon. 

So the way this works is that judges for the preliminary round are selected to go on site to each team and other judges are selected to "blind" taste test each team's entry.  No team names are listed.  All entries have a number.  At the end of the preliminary round the top three in each category go through on site and blind judging again to determine the winner of each category.  The team with the highest total points wins Grand Champion and is eligible for entry in Memphis in May's International BBQ Contest.

kev was selected to judge whole hog on site. Gotta say, he got screwed. The team he was assigned to judge was new and didn't know they were supposed to have things all fancied up, etc. Bummer. The team members were VERY nice. Just didn't put on the show kev should have gotten to experience. Jimbo has video footage of kev judging the whole hog but there are no photos.

Next Jihad Gene was selected to judge pork shoulders on site. He was assigned to judge team "Voodoo Que"

Who says we are heathen in the south?  Cloth table clothes, napkins and water glasses.  Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

JG was on a judging team with the lady in the photo as well as one of the premier Memphis in May judges.  Great experience for him he reports!  I think he's a professional now.

Jimbo was a blind taste test judge for the pork shoulders.

Yep...someone had found the palet cleansing massive cooler of free beer for the judges and it wasn't even noon yet.

And doesn't he look so dainty?

The rib competition was next.  kev was selected as a judge in the blind portion and Jimbo was selected as an on site judge.
Bless kev.  He told me that none of the ribs were as good as mine.  I love kev!  OK, even Uncle Jimbo said my pork butt and ribs were better than any he tasted on Saturday.  Awww.  Now they both want to have a team in next year's competition.  Oh, I don't think so but thanks for the vote of confidence guys!
I don't have photos of Jim at the on site judging but he has the video.
kev was then selected to judge the BBQ sauce competition.  I couldn't find one photo where he looked too pleased with any of the sauces.  Ha ha ha
The guys weren't slated for any of the finals judging teams so we loaded up and headed back across the river.  I had one more stop on the schedule that none of the guys knew about.  Uncle Jimbo and kev racked out in the back and snored their way home while Jihad Gene and I enjoyed a lovely UNINTERRUPTED conversation.  About half way back we passed by the funeral of PFC Brandon Dawson.  Gene and I both fell silent for a few minutes.  I feel the need to do that even now.  Rest in Peace Brave Warrior.
I've never been to Jihad Gene's house but had heard he had an Elvis bathroom.  I didn't ask questions.  Too afraid.  But here the boys are at the famous gates of Graceland!
Finally to the house.  I had invited a Vietnam Veteran, Frank, and his more than lovely wife, Nancy, over.  So we sat on the deck and drank beer, scotch, whisky and, of course, Irish Car Bombs into the night.  Jimbo and Frank more than entertained us with stories from their active duty days.  It was a fantastic time!  We packed a lot into a little bit of time.
Next day I dropped Jihad Gene at the airport way too early.  Returned home and Bert and Ernie were still sawing logs.  Eventually we all loaded up our cars and hit the road.
Looking forward to next year.  Rumor has it that Mr. Blackfive himself will join in the fun.  YAY!

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Denies Free Access to Funeral Procession of Fallen Soldier, PFC Cody Board

UPDATE #2 - from USFallen dot org - "UPDATE: The Governor of OK is working on having this matter resolved.  In the meantime, the Director of the Turnpike has agreed to pay the toll himself. It is important they understand it is not about the price, it is about dignity and honor owed to an American warrior and his family, who has paid the ultimate price."

UPDATED with a letter to the OK Turnpike Authority from a Gold Star Mother (below the original post).

PFC Cody Board died 4 October 2010 from wounds sustained by an IED.  PFC Board grew up in McKinney, TX but was originally from Oklahoma.  His family plans to lay him to rest in his native Oklahoma at Fort Sill National Cemetary.

I am DEEPLY disturbed by this article from USFallen dot org that states the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has denied the funeral procession free access to take PFC Board's body home for his interment.  DEEPLY disturbed. The following is posted in an article on their site: "Considering this young warrior has paid the ultimate price you would think his funeral procession would be allowed access free of charge.  To our shock and horror, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, after repeated requests for an exception, has informed the family they must pay the toll fees."

When I read the article I figured it just could not be true so I called the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority this morning.  Everyone I spoke with was nice.  HOWEVER, the story is true and that, quite honestly, makes me about as angry as I've been in a long time.

I finally spoke directly with Mr. Jim Hazeldine, Assistant to Director of Turnpike Authority who, well into the conversation, told me he is a Veteran of the Navy.  When I said, "Happy Birthday yesterday" he asked if yesterday was the Navy's birthday.  I told him it was, in fact, the Navy's 235th birthday.  He had no clue.

Mr. Hazeldine said that their hands are tied on this issue.  He said that the law states that the only vehicles that are allowed free access are emergency vehicles that are "running hot."  He went on to explain that the toll road is not a publically funded road.  That it was built with bond funds therefore it is not a public entity and they cannot grant free access.

Cry me a river!

I told Mr. Hazeldine it was a sad day in our nation when the family of a fallen Soldier had to deal with this along with their grief.  I added that toll costs should be the LAST thing any family of a fallen HERO should have to worry about or pay PERIOD.  He told me there is a non-toll highway that runs near the toll road that the family had been made aware of.  Seriously?  He also told me that they have been working with the funeral home so that the funeral procession will not have to stop to pay the toll but that the funeral home will be billed for the tolls.  SERIOUSLY?  I replied that I'd write a check myself before I'd stand by for the funeral home to add in the cost of tolls for PFC Board's family.

Then Mr. Hazeldine went into a speech about how IF there was a law passed that allowed free access to funeral processions of the fallen that would create a need to raise the toll for other cars.  REALLY?  And even if it did - SO WHAT?  Then he compared the Turnpike to a utilitiy.  I reminded him that our utility rates increase often because low income and welfare recipients cannot often aford their high utility rates in the winter and summer.  I also reminded him this is about a young man who GAVE HIS LIFE for our nation.  I told him you CANNOT and SHOULD NOT put a price on that.

I think you get the picture.

From USFallen dot org:

Office of Governor
Brad Henry, Governor
Telephone: (405) 521-2342
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CST

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority
Tim Stewart, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer
Hours: Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. CST

Letter from a Gold Star Mother to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority - God Bless you Cheryl

To the Director of the Authority,Tim Stewart, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer,

I received mail stating that recently a family wanting to use the toll to take their son, PFC Cody Board , to his final resting place....wait... no... their SOLDIER SON... were expected to pay the toll charge for the procession to utilize a "pay for use" highway. I AM SOOOOOO ASHAMED to say that your company is American... so disgusted with your disregard for the price of your freedom... the freedom to have something that produces revenue for so many people, mainly our government... who hired this soldier to defend OUR freedoms! GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK!

We lost our Hero Son 3 years ago on September 23, 2010, thank God we live in a place that did not charge us for use of the airport authority who ensured a protected runway that our son was flown to. Thank God we have people who are not afraid to STAND UP for what they believe is RIGHT AND TRUE. Thank God that ALL our active public safety members didn't charge us for use of their time and vehicles those multiple days to honor our son traversing from the airport to the funeral home, to the church, to the school gymnasium, to the cemetary. Thank God the State or school didn't charge us for a day of closing the school because over 2000 people attended SFC Matthew Blaskowski's funeral and there was no other place large enough for his funeral. Thank God people in our community UNDERSTAND SACRIFICE AND THAT IT AFFECTS ALL OF US DEEPLY. Well those of us who understand the true cost of freedom.

I swear that if I ever come your way, that I will NOT use your SELFISH Toll road to traverse across that part of our FREE COUNTRY... what is free about that?!!!! Seriously. How many soldiers have lost their lives from your area? I would think the majority of people traveling that toll on that day would have gladly pay extra to allow that family and that HERO to make the journey to his final resting place an undisturbed one.

Another thing... I find it funny how the Authority were making it "easier" for the family to not have to pay the toll on the day of procession... SERIOUSLY... maybe it would make the authority LOOK BAD when a funeral procession had to individually stop and pay toll for each car involved.. or that it would SLOW the entire process for the authority to have all those vehicles waiting for each other after the toll to reform the procession.

I AM SO DISGUSTED and SORRY that there are people in OUR FREE country who CARE THAT LITTLE for our freedoms to not RESPECT and HONOR those families and those HEROES who sacrificed so you could be TOTAL IDIOTS about this issue. Just remember sirs, CARMA. What you give is what you get...I pray that God will forgive you for your blatant disrespect of another human beings most tragic time. Truly, think about your purpose here on this earth, money will get you nowhere in the end.

We've paid enough of a toll and so did PFC Cody Board and his family.


Cheryl Blaskowski
Gold Star Mother (this means we lost a loved one in the military, didn't think you would know that either
SFC Matthew Blaskowski
KIA 23 Sep 2007


Monday, October 11, 2010

PFC Brandon Dawson, American Hero, Makes His Final Journey Home to Tunica, MS

Army PFC William Brandon Dawson made his final journey home to Tunica, MS last Friday morning.  He came home to a Heroe's welcome. 

It was a beautful morning.  Clear blue skies.  Warmer than normal temperatures.  The Mississippi delta in full harvest mode.  As I drove through the countryside on my way to the airport I though about so many things I had read about PFC Dawson.  This was a young American, a Patriot, that was the epitome of a role model.  Gone way too soon.  Way too soon.

There was a large crowd at the airport.  Family, close friends, former classmates, local dignitaries, civilans and police & fire department representatives from several counties.  The airport personnel could not have been more respectful or honorable to PFC Dawson and his family. 

The crowd who came to pay their respects was equally as thoughtful and considerate.  Not a word was spoken once the plane landed and the flight crew began preparations for the casket to be removed from the jet.  After PFC Dawson was on the tarmac the family gathered to say prayers over him as we all stood with our hands over our hearts and, in many cases, tears filling our eyes.  It was one of the most gut wrenching yet touching moments I have ever experienced.

From MyEyeWitnessNews - " Brandon Dawson's family had hoped he would go to college and become a paramedic or a firefighter.  Instead, after graduating from Rosa Fort High School in Tunica in 2009, Brandon decided to join the military, just as his mother, father, grandfather, uncle and brother had done" 

His mother goes on to say in the article, "He was such a good child," she tells ABC24 about Brandon. "I never had any problems with him. He always did what he had to do. Always."

And when Private Dawson was told to drive the lead truck in his convoy while on patrol in Kabul, his mother says her son did what he had to do, following an order that would turn out to be his last. A shoulder-fired rocket hit Brandon's truck, killing him and another soldier.

His Uncle, Larry Williams, an Army man as well said helped raise Brandon and his three younger brothers and would like Mid-Southerners to remember his nephew as a true American patriot.  "He was a man who did what he had to do for this country," he says with pride in his voice. "Because like I told him, there isn't any country like the United States."

Patriot Guard Riders and Rolling Thunder came from MS, TN and AR to honor PFC Dawson

There were police and fire department representatives from local and surrounding counties.

Flag Line

Sheriff's Deputies

The line of motorcycles, police cars, fire deptartment vehicles and aother cars was a couple of miles long.  When the motorcade left the Tunica, MS airport it made it's way past PFC Dawson's high school and down the main highway before turning into town for the funeral home.  The high school allowed the students to line the roadway to pay their respects.

Citizens standing in respect for PFC Dawson

I found a facebook page by Military Wall of Honor that you should read.  PFC Dawson's family members and community members tell about an incredible young man.  INCREDIBLE.  You can also read more about PFC Dawson in this article by the DeSoto Times Tribune.

Rest in Peace Brave Warrior.  This American is grateful for your service and sacrifice and for the amazing family who miss you, love you and honor you so.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Navy Veteran Marvin Hume of Sunset Beach, NJ Honors the Fallen Every Summer Night

Jim Axelrod CBS News reported this amazing story in July:  A friend of mine emailed me the link and I wanted to share it with anyone reading this blog.  PLEASE watch the video.  It's about 2 minutes long.

Every night from Memorial Day to mid October on Sunset Beach in southern New Jersey, eighty nine year old Marvin Hume, a Navy Veteran, raises a flag that has draped the casket of a Fallen Hero.  He does this to honor his or her service and sacrifice.  He was "booked" every night through this summer (2010) and is already "booked" every night next summer.

This all started when Mr. Hume bought property from a man who had been raising and lowering his own flag each night.  When Mr. Hume bought the property the former owner asked him to continue the tradition of raising the flag each day and lowering the flag each night. 

For the past THIRTY EIGHT years Mr. Hume has held this sunset ceremony.  Every night the crowd is so large that, as Mr. Hume says, "you can't even see the ocean."  He has held over 6000 ceremonies to date.

June, the daughter in law of WWII Navy Veteran, George McKenna, attends every night.  "It's always emotional.  Sometimes the flags have bullet holes in them.  We're all here because of their sacrifice."

When asked how long he intends to do this Mr. Hume said, "Until I drop."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

COP Keating - Remembering the Fallen One Year After They Gave Their Lives For Our Nation

One year ago today eight American Heroes gave their lives and 22 more were wounded when OP Fritsche and COP Keating were attacked by the enemy in Kamdesh, Afghanistan.

Many of you came together here on this blog and at The Burn Pit (blog of the American Legion).  The American Legion Burn Pit Blog has updates here and here telling about what so many great Americans stepped up to do for the survivors and their families in an unprecedented short amount of time.

Today is an incredibly gorgeous day across our land.  Football season is in full swing. The season is changing from Summer to Fall.   But I ask that you please take some time to read about the Fallen Heroes of COP Keating.  Click on each link below to read more about what their families, friends, Brothers-in-Arms and community members have said about these men.  It is the VERY least we can do to REMEMBER them and HONOR their sacrifice.

Last night I was chatting with one of the survivors who told me that those who are still at Fort Carson will gather at the Post Memorial today to pay their respects to these eight Heroes.  While I'm not at Fort Carson I will continue today, and every day, to keep these men, their Brothers-In-Arms and their Commanders in my thoughts and prayers.

May God rest the souls of these men and continue to providew comfort to their families and friends.

SSG Vernon Martin was known as a giving husband and a loving father to his three children ages 2, 4 and 6 at the time of his death.  He was also known as a great brother. SSG Martin married his high school sweetheart and aspired to work with children in a youth development program when he left the Army.

SSG Martin was known for his laugh, his loving and giving spirit and his love of children and their causes.

He was a native of Savannah, GA.  He entered the Army in August 2004 and had served one tour in Iraq prior to his deployment to Afghanistan.  You can read more about the man and and Soldier he was in this article from KKTV.  There are so me very touching comments at the end of the article.

SSG Justin T. Gallegos, a native of Tuscon, Arizona, was on his third deployment.  He had previously served two deployments to Iraq and had been awarded, among other awards, three Purple Hearts.

SSG Gallegos was the father of a five year old son. 

Retired Army CSM Don Becker told a story about one of the times when SSG Gallegos was wounded in Iraq and earned his first Purple Heart.  Becker says Gallegos' vehicle was in a convoy when it was bombarded with grenades and machine gun fire and Gallegos took a chunk of shrapnel in his arm.  "But he continued to fight," Becker says, until one final grenade was thrown.  Becker says Gallegos told him, "I saw the guy that threw it. But I didn't shoot at him. So I started to open my mouth of course to ask why. He looked at me and said he was standing behind a bunch of kids."

You can read more about this SSG Gallegos in this article from KKTV.

SGT Joshua J Kirk was a husband and father of a three year old daughter

At the Memorial service at Fort Carson in October 2009 it is reported by Military Times that chuckles rippled through the nearly full chapel as letters were read from soldiers still in Afghanistan recounting the fallen troops’ lives and praising their bravery and friendship.  “I would have followed that man straight to hell if he thought it was a good idea,” one letter said of Sgt. Joshua T. Kirk, 30, of South Portland, Maine.

In this article from the Portland Press Herald Sgt Kirk's cousin, Ben Dinsmore of Killeen, Texas, said "Kirk had dreams of joining the Army when he was a kid. He said they played Army when they were growing up.

''We were thick and thin,'' Dinsmore said. ''We would grab any stick that looked like a gun and run around in the woods playing Army. I joined the Coast Guard and he joined the Army right around the same time.''

There's much more about SGT Kirk at this link

SGT Joshua M Hardt entered the Army in June 2006.  This was his second deployment.  His first was to Iraq.  A Soldier who served with SGT Hardt said, "He was an amazing person and a great teacher."  Another commented that he always knew how to light up a room with his smile.

In an article in the LA times I found this about SGT Hardt:

"While he was still in high school, Joshua Hardt took one look at his future wife, Olivia, and told friends that some day he would be with her. That first date was low-key: a movie and Chinese food. He gave Olivia a piggyback ride into the cafe.  Later that night, he asked if he could give her a good-night kiss. She declined, but he touched his lips to her forehead. She reciprocated with a kiss on the cheek.  He ran down the driveway, kicked his heels in the air and exclaimed "Yes!" his wife remembers. "He was animated like that," she said"

You can learn more about SGT Hardt from this article and the touching comments published by KKTV

SGT Michael Scusa left behind his wife, Alyssa, and their 1 year old son Connor who was named for one of SGT Scusa's fallen comrades. He joined the Army in 2005 and had served one tour in Iraq.  He re-enlisted in the Army not long before deploying to Afghanistan.

 The Press of Atlantic City notes that "As a teenager, Michael Scusa used to jog down Kentucky Avenue in the Villas with a backpack filled with bricks to simulate Army training." 

The article also states, "Scusa left an impression on his Lower Cape May Regional High School teachers, who remembered him fondly as a sometimes-quiet student who blossomed over the years. He was enthusiastic about joining the military, they said. He enlisted while still in high school and shipped out shortly after graduation.  He visited his (high school) alma mater several times, but the first time he walked the halls in uniform and chatted with teachers was the most memorable.  He had changed, said his freshman English teacher Chris Rosenberg, who became friends with Scusa.  "He was a man," Rosenberg said.

From KKTV:  "Alyssa says she will remember her husband Michael as a goofy, fun loving person, who made everyone smile."  And  "Michael's father-in-law tells 11 News that Michael was proud to be a soldier. He believed in his mission and his family."

SPC Stephan Mace joined the Army in early 2008 and was on his first deployment.  He was from Lovettsville, VA, the second eldest of four brothers.  SPC Mace was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.  He is survived by his mother, father, three brothers and grandparents.

There is a moving video here of SPC Mace's final journey home.

SPC Mace is described as a Moto Cross champion, football player, hunter and all around fun-loving, loyal friend.  I urge you to take some time to read this story published by CNN of an interview done with SPC Mace's mother Vanessa Adelson.  I was moved to tears on more than one occassion.

In this article from the Colorado Springs Gazette his mother said, “There was a peace about him,” she said. “He told me many times: ‘I trust everybody in my unit to cover my back.’ He loved those boys he fought with like brothers.”

She said he showed no fear as he returned to the remote outpost where he later died

KKTV has more about SPC Mace.
SGT Christopher T Griffin of Kincheloe, MI was 24 and known for his infectious smile.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Tom McKee, a classmate who is now a student teacher at Rudyard High, said the whole town knew that Griffin would someday don his nation’s uniform.

“He always wanted to join the service,” McKee said. “Any time we played, we were Army men.”

At Rudyard, Griffin played football and wrestled. He was known as a generous kid with an easy laugh.

“He was a quiet person who had a great sense of humor and always smiled,” McKee said. “In the 15 years I knew him, I never heard him say a negative word.”

A rabid Green Bay Packers fan, he showed versatility on the high school gridiron. “If he had to learn a new position in a day, he would do it,” McKee said.

Griffin visited his home town after he’d joined the Army. McKee said he appeared content with the decision.

“He said he was doing what he loved to do.”

PFC Kevin C Thomson was born in California but raised in Reno, NV by his mother.  He enlisted in the Army in 2008.  This was his first deployment. 

From Freedom Remembered - PFC Thomson was known as a young man full of spirit and was very close to his mother - it was just the two of them.  He was also known as a consumate prankster and for embracing his love of country.  Kevin lost 100 pounds so that he could join the Army.  He was always known for being there for anyone who needed him.

KKTV has more about PFC Thomson at their link.