Monday, August 24, 2009

A deadly week for local soldiers in Afghanistan

Two Fort Lewis soldiers with the first U.S. Stryker brigade to serve in Afghanistan died last Tuesday in a roadside bomb explosion, the Pentagon said Sunday.

Their deaths bring to three the number of local soldiers killed in Afghanistan last week.

Pfc. Jonathan C. Yanney of Litchfield, Minn., and Spc. Troy Orion Tom of Beclabito, N.M., a member of the Navajo nation, are the first members of the post's 3,900 member 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to be killed in Afghanistan.

Both soldiers were on their first deployments and died in a roadside bomb attack near Arghandab in Kandahar province, which has seen violence escalate in the runup to elections in Afghanistan.

The 5th, which is Fort Lewis's newest Stryker brigade, deployed to southern Afghanistan in June to battle the Taliban.

Tom, 21, a three year Army veteran, was an infantryman. He is survived by his parents, David and Carolyn Tom, two brothers and a sister of Beclabit, where his father is a delegate to the Navajo Tribal Council, the Daily Times of Farmington, N.M., reported.

"Students really thought highly of him," Paul reportedly said. "He had a great sense of humor, a great smile and he was trusted by his friends. He was a very intelligent guy, and he had passion."

Yanney, meanwhile, was 20 years old and a fire support specialist.

In a message posted on MySpace, Russ Yanney, who identified himself as Jonathan's father, said:

"His unit was en route to assist another unit under fire, and his vehicle struck an (improvised explosive device). He was my first-born son. I loved him very much and he will be greatly missed. His smile and desire to help and learn will always be remembered."

In his own MySpace page that he last used on July 31, Yanney cited his heroes as his father and grandfather. He said of himself simply that he was an honest and hardworking guy but was nervous when first meeting people though he could open up afterwards.

"I'm pretty active, so I don't like just sitting around doing nothing," he wrote on his MySpace page.

The two Fort Lewis soldiers were killed the same day as First Sgt. Jose 1st Sgt. Jose San Nicholas Crisostomo, a Spanaway resident and Vietnam veteran, at age 59 became the oldest member of the U.S. armed forces to die in Afghanistan.

It was the first time that three or more members of the armed forces from Washington's military bases or hometowns died on the same day since Nov. 18,2007, when three members of the 4th Stryker Brigade from Fort Lewis died in Baqouba, Iraq.

Crisostomo, originally from Guam but a leader in South Sound's Chamorro community, reentered the Army in 2008 after being away since retiring after a 24 year career in 1994. Crisostomo already had served tours of duty in Vietnam and the 1991 Gulf War, and received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. The husband and father of three left behind 10 grandchildren. The senior NCO did not serve with a Fort Lewis unit but with International Security Assistance Force Kabul.

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