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Andre Craig, Jr.
Private First Class, United States Army
 Connecticut State Flag
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release
 
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 806-07
June 27, 2007
 
DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
 
Private First Class Andre Craig, Jr., 24, of New Haven, Connecticut, died June 25, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas

For more information related to this release the media may contact the Fort Riley public affairs office at (785) 239-3410


27 June 2007:

An Army gunner from New Haven was killed Sunday in Baghdad when a roadside bomb detonated near his convoy.

Specialist Andre Craig, 24, had been in Iraq about six months and leaves behind a 5-month-old daughter, Taylor, according to a WTNH News Channel 8 report.

Andre Craig Jr. PHOTO

As a convoy gunner, Craig was in an exposed position, one of the most vulnerable in an attack or explosion.

A group of women gathered Tuesday at his family's house on Rosette Street said his relatives did not want to speak with a reporter because the tragedy is "too overwhelming."

The U.S. Department of Defense did not confirm Craig's death or release any details Tuesday.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr.'s spokeswoman said he had not yet been in contact with the family because he was waiting for information from defense officials.

Early in Tuesday's graduation ceremony for Wilbur Cross High School, a moment of silence was observed for Craig, a 2003 graduate of the city school system.

While home for two weeks within the last month, Craig saw his daughter for the first time, WTNH reported.

The family may be planning a service in New Haven and burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.

Other Greater New Haven soldiers who have died in the Iraq war include Marine Cpl. Jordan Pierson, 21, of Milford; Army Staff Sgt. Richard S. Eaton Jr., 37, of Guilford; and Army Staff Sgt. Thomas E. Vitagliano, 33, of West Haven.


27 June 2007:

A New Haven soldier whose daughter was born earlier this year has been killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb, the governor's office said Wednesday.

Army Specialist Andre Craig, a graduate of Wilbur Cross High School, died Monday in Baghdad when a bomb exploded near the convoy on which he was serving as a gunner.

Craig, 24, returned to New Haven recently for a brief visit to celebrate his birthday and to meet his infant daughter, Taylor, who was born while he was serving in Iraq.

Craig was the 38th military member with Connecticut ties to die since the war began in 2002. Two Connecticut civilians have also been killed.

Craig lived with his 20-year-old brother, Jonathan, and was known to friends, family and children in his neighborhood as "Dre," according to neighbors.

Craig and his five siblings were close to their mother, a nurse's aide at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, said family friend Khabira Hill.

"He wanted to make her proud," Hill told The Hartford Courant.

Craig's family plans to hold a funeral service in New Haven and have him buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


27 June 2007:

NEW HAVEN, Conn. --A New Haven soldier whose daughter was born earlier this year has been killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb, the governor's office said Wednesday.

Craig, 24, returned to New Haven recently for a brief visit to celebrate his birthday and to meet his infant daughter, Taylor, who was born while he was serving in Iraq.

The governor has ordered that flags be flown at half staff until Craig's burial.

"He took on the most hazardous duties to protect our country's freedom," Rell said in a statement. "His bravery, his courage and the sacrifice he made for each and every one of us will never be forgotten."

Craig was the 38th military member with Connecticut ties to die since the war began in 2002. Two Connecticut civilians have also been killed.

Craig lived with his 20-year-old brother, Jonathan, and was known to friends, family and children in his neighborhood as "Dre," according to neighbors.

Craig and his five siblings were close to their mother, a nurse's aide at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, said family friend Khabira Hill.

"He wanted to make her proud," Hill told The Hartford Courant.

Craig's family plans to hold a funeral service in New Haven and have him buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


27 June 2007:

The family of a soldier killed in Iraq Monday blamed his death on exhaustion, saying soldiers there are not getting enough rest.

Private First Class Andre Craig Jr., 24, of New Haven, died of wounds sustained from the explosion of a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Craig, a graduate of Wilbur Cross High School, was an infantryman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kansas.

He entered the Army in October 2005 and began serving with the 1st Infantry Division in March 2006. This was his first deployment to Iraq.

Craig, whose nickname was Dre, called his family by cell phone Saturday to tell them he was on 24-hour security duty, said Erik Brown, his godfather and family spokesman. After that, Craig went out on a mission and was killed, he said.

"He was very tired, he was exhausted," Brown said Thursday. "Due to that exhaustion, we believe that's why we lost Andre. The soldiers are not getting rest, they're tired."

An Army spokeswoman at Fort Riley did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the family's assertions.

Brown and family members wore T-shirts with Craig's picture and the words, "Dre 2007 in God we trust."

Craig, 24, returned to New Haven recently for a brief visit to celebrate his birthday and to meet his infant daughter, Taylor, who was born while he was serving in Iraq.

Craig described "deplorable" conditions in Iraq, including women being raped and feces in the street, Brown said.

"They're terrorizing each other and we have our soldiers in the middle of a civil war," Brown said.

Still, Craig was happy doing his job, Brown said. Family and friends said Craig, who had been in Iraq about six months, wanted to be a state trooper and had planned to go to college.

The governor has ordered that flags be flown at half staff until Craig's burial.

"He took on the most hazardous duties to protect our country's freedom," Rell said in a statement. "His bravery, his courage and the sacrifice he made for each and every one of us will never be forgotten."

Craig was the 38th military member with Connecticut ties to die since the war began in 2002. Two Connecticut civilians have also been killed.

Craig lived with his 22-year-old brother, Jonathan.

Craig and his five siblings were close to their mother, a nurse's aide at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, said family friend Khabira Hill.

Craig's family plans to hold a funeral service in New Haven and have him buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Jonathan Craig's eyes welled up with tears as he recalled his brother's last visit with his daughter.

"The last words he said he said to me in the living room is take care of my daughter as if you were a father to her until I come back," Jonathan Craig said.



28 June 2007:

The last time Pfc. Andre Craig Jr., called home, on Saturday, he told his mom he was exhausted. The 24-year-old infantryman had been on patrol all night, family members said.

Then he left for a mission, they said. Soon afterward, the Humvee in which Craig was riding in was struck by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. He died Monday from his wounds, according to the Department of Defense.

"At least he talked to everybody before he died," Craig's former girlfriend, Rhea Knight, said Wednesday. Her eyes welled when she noted that she still had a record of his last call to her in her cellphone.

But family members said the call also left them unsettled, wondering whether the soldiers' exhaustion and the 24-hour watch Craig described had contributed to Craig's death.

"We believe that's why we lost Andre," said Erik Brown, Craig's godfather. "Had they been able to rest, Andre would be alive today."

An Army spokeswoman said no comment was available to the family's statements.

Brown served as a family spokesman while talking to reporters Wednesday. More than a dozen relatives stood behind him, many, like Brown, wearing T-shirts showing a photograph of Craig in uniform and the words "Dre-2007" and "In God We Trust."

Craig's mother and wife did not wish to speak with reporters, but relatives at the press conference outside a relative's home on Bassett Street held Craig's baby daughter, Taylor, who was born while he was in Iraq. She wore a white dress decorated with red and blue stars.

Craig returned home on leave last month, meeting Taylor for the first time and visiting with neighbors, who warned him to be careful in Iraq.

"Dre," as Craig was known, had long dreamed of joining the Army and also hoped to become a state trooper after his service, relatives and friends said. The Wilbur Cross High School graduate had hoped the Army would pay for his college education.

One of six siblings in a close-knit family, Craig served as a big brother figure to many children in the Hill neighborhood where his family lived, urging young people to stay out of trouble, residents there said.

Jonathan Craig, 20, recalled his big brother's love for clubbing and bowling, and the late-night phone calls from Iraq.

Seeing his daughter changed Andre, Jonathan said - he had a gleam in his eye, as if he suddenly had a new purpose in life.

But during his time home from Iraq, Jonathan said, Andre also seemed to have something on his mind, as if he knew something bad was going to happen.

Jonathan recited his brother's last words to him: "Take care of my daughter as if you were the father, until I come back."

Now the family will help raise Taylor, said another relative, Emerson Stevenson.

Craig had served about six months in Iraq, family members said. He joined the Army in October 2005 and served with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Fort Riley, Kansas.

During phone calls home, Craig would report on the conditions in Iraq, Brown said, telling relatives and friends about feces in the streets and women being raped. Craig was happy to work to improve conditions, Brown said.

Brown said he had misgivings about the war, particularly with American soldiers in the midst of a civil war. But he always supported his godson's job there. "Andre was a soldier," Brown said. "He felt that he was doing the right thing."

It was ironic, said John Elliott, a family friend, that Craig had made it out of a tough neighborhood to do something positive, only to be killed doing it.

Craig was believed to be the first New Haven resident to die in Iraq. Since 2001, 39 servicemen and women with Connecticut ties have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Elliott, 26, said joining the military was a way for young people from the neighborhood to pay for higher education.

"That's our way of getting to college and doing something positive," said Elliott, who served six years in the Army.

Now, Elliott said, he advises other young people considering the same path to wait until the war is over. Or to consider loans, he said.

Knowing other people who served in Iraq and who came home made it easy to assume that Craig would too, he said.

"It's a big eye-opener for everybody," he said. "It's a shock."


Posted: 28 June 2007
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