Troy Shane Ezernack
Staff Sergeant, United States Army
RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
October 12, 2005
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs - (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Staff Sergeant Troy S. Ezernack, 39, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, died in Qalat, Afghanistan, on October 9, 2005, of injuries sustained earlier that day when his combat patrol was attacked by enemy forces using a grenade. Ezernack was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Vicenza, Italy.
For further information related to this release,
contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.
Shortly after Troy Ezernack graduated from Woodlawn High School in 1984, he tried to join the Army and become an airborne trooper.
“Our daddy was the one who told Troy ‘Son, do what you want to do,' ” Ezernack’s sister, Deborah Hudson, said today. His heart pulled one way and then another, she said, and he finally did what he felt the greatest call to do. He became a preacher.
“He always wanted to go into the service,” his mom, Frances Harrison, said of the next-to-youngest of her four sons. “But God called him to be a preacher.”
But just over six years ago he took off the black cloth of the preacher and put on the mottled green of the Army uniform, and it was that uniform he wore on a night patrol in Afghanistan late Sunday Shreveport time, when he was killed in a grenade attack. He was 39.
“He felt he had fulfilled his commitment to God, and wanted to fulfill his commitment to his country,” his mom said in her Highland neighborhood home today, barely 24 hours after Army officers somberly walked to her front door to give her the news every mother dreads. “I couldn’t ask for a better son. I’m a real proud mother. He lived life to the fullest.”
Ezernack, a staff sergeant, served a full tour in Iraq, but re-enlisted and volunteered to go to Afghanistan, his family said.
They know little about how he died, but hope to learn more.
Older brother Paul Ezernack, who said he “practically raised him all my life,” had trouble holding back tears. He said he didn’t want to put politics into his brother’s loss, but wanted people to not forget his brother died for a reason, even if some have trouble understanding or agreeing with it.
“If we don’t finish what we’re doing over there, then my brother and all the others … it’s for no reason,” he said.
Ezernack wished to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery and, together with the soldier’s wife, Gail, who lived with him at his overseas base posting in Italy, his family plans to respect his wishes. They plan to hold a local memorial, though details have not been set.
The family is of modest means and this is bewildering to them, his sister said.
“How in the world are we going to get to Arlington?”
LANCASTER, Pennsylvania - The Pentagon says a Louisiana native who completed a tour of duty in Iraq was killed by a grenade blast during combat in Afghanistan.
A memorial servide is scheduled October 22, 2005, in Shreveport for Staff Sergeant Troy Ezernack. He'll be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Ezernack was an Army paratrooper. He enlisted in the military in 1999, after serving for eight years as pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Ezernack had been planning to remain in Afghanistan
for ten more months before being transferred to a base in Louisiana.
Relatives of Staff Sergeant Troy Ezernack, a Shreveporter who died Sunday in combat in Afghanistan, say he will be buried October 21, 2005, in Arlington National Cemetery. A local memorial service that tentatively had been set for October 22, 2005, will be rescheduled.
The "Donation Account for Staff Sergeant Troy Ezernack or the Ezernack Family" has been established at AmSouth Bank's southeast Shreveport branch, 8350 Millicent Way, to help with travel and funeral expenses not covered by the military.
A U.S. flag with scrawled prayers, names and best wishes hangs outside Deborah Hudson's tidy home in Shreveport's Highland neighborhood. Inside, a homemade service flag still bearing a single blue star adorns a wall. Both are sad reminders of a family's loss half a world away.
But while Hudson and her family -- mom Frances Ezernack Harrison, three brothers and a handful of other relatives -- are coming to grips with the combat death Sunday in Afghanistan of their family member Army Staff Sgt. Troy Ezernack, folks all around are restoring their faith in humanity.
"Tons of people have been over, bring us food and helping us out," said Hudson, the slain soldier's sister. "We've heard from people as far away as Chicago, and a lot of people Troy went to school with and people we knew in Waskom, (Texas,) people we went to school with and were raised with there. I'm just overwhelmed."
Her Highland home, a modest structure filled with knick-knacks, photographs and many items that honor her brother and his military service, has become the focal point for her grieving widowed mother and other relatives pending her brother's burial a week from now in Arlington National Cemetery.
Troy Ezernack, 39, graduated from Woodlawn High School in 1984 after a childhood that took him from Coushatta to Shreveport then to Waskom. His father, Wilbert Ezernack, was first in the Air Force then worked for Fabsteel in Waskom, so the family traveled. Troy Ezernack attended seminary in Longview, Texas, and became a Baptist minister, serving as a pastor for 11 years in Pennsylvania.
Then, just more than six years go, he pursued a dream he'd had as a teen and followed in his father's military path. He joined the Army and made the cut to become a paratrooper.
Monday morning, two Army officers walked to the family's door and delivered dreaded news. Troy had been killed in combat the previous day, Sunday in Shreveport, Monday Afghan time. His is the first reported combat death of a Shreveporter in Afghanistan.
At first, the family didn't know much about how he had died. Part of the reason, they surmised, was that the operation he was in was ongoing.
Wednesday, the official release went out.
"The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom," it reads. "Staff Sgt. Troy S. Ezernack, 39, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, died in Qalat, Afghanistan, on October 9, 2005, of injuries sustained earlier that day when his combat patrol was attacked by enemy forces using a grenade. Ezernack was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Vicenza, Italy." (Troy Ezernack's widow, Gail, originally is from Pennsylvania, the family said.)
The Times first reported Ezernack's death online Tuesday afternoon and on Page 1A Wednesday. Since then, his family has heard from well-wishers from throughout the city and the remainder of the country.
Ezernack's mother is retired. Her first husband, her children's father, died in 1991. Her second husband also is deceased. Deborah Hudson cleans houses for a living and is a cancer survivor. In Wednesday's Times, they wondered how they would ever manage to get family members to Arlington to say goodbye to their son, brother and uncle.
Shreveport and the nation answered them.
One member of Shreveport's legal community, who has asked to remain anonymous, has offered to fly one family member to and from Washington. The Army provides tickets and accommodations for two family members, including Ezernack's widow, Gail Ezernack, who was at her husband's unit's base in Italy.
"The military has said it will provide two airline tickets and hotel accommodations," said Stacie Humphrey, the soldier's niece by marriage. She's handling the family's Internet responses to offers to help and helped set up an account for the family at AmSouth Bank.
"And the Fisher House said they've got frequent flier miles they're giving to Troy's sister Deborah and brother Paul." She said the family still hopes to find a way to get three other tickets to Washington so all of Troy Ezernack's close family can attend his burial.
She said the family is still trying to contact Troy's first wife, Caroline, who hailed from Oklahoma. They have lost touch with her over the years.
Troy Ezernack's death has shocked people who knew him but never met him.
Houston resident Angel Sherwood sent Ezernack a care package through the family assistance Web site anysoldier.com and never expected to hear back from any of the soldiers who enjoyed her charity. So she was pleasantly surprised when Ezernack sent an e-mail thanking her. They never met but became pen pals. And she learned all about his wife, his little Jack Russell terrier and his deep religious convictions.
"He had such a good character," Sherwood said. "He was so excited about getting to come home at the end of the month. He'd planned on him and his wife traveling all through Europe and visiting castles. He was really looking forward to that."
Ezernack reported he'd been going out on patrol more that usual and wondered whether he'd be able to come home on leave as planned or get extended, she said. "But he never spoke badly about anything, always on the good things. For instance, he could hardly wait to get some pizza, little things like that."
He also knew he had a job to do and planned to do it, Sherwood said. "He said he was in it for the long haul. As long as there was a war, he was going to remain there."
Some of that comes through in a recent e-mail he sent her, along with photos of his squad and a group of Afghan children they befriended.
"I wanted to send you a picture of my squad," he wrote in late July. "They are a great bunch of guys. And most of them have fought in Iraq and now are in (Afghanistan). ... The other picture that I'm sending is with us and a bunch of the children that greet us on every patrol."
One of those squad members called Sherwood to tell her that her friend had died.
"It broke my heart. He was supposed to go home.
I think about his wife, Gail, in Italy all alone right now. I can't imagine
what she's going through."
An Italy-based soldier killed this week in Afghanistan will be memorialized Friday in Vicenza, officials said Thursday.
Staff Sergeant Troy S. Ezernack, 39, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, died in Qalat on October 9, 2005, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday. Ezernack was killed when insurgents attacked his patrol with grenades, officials said. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at the Caserma Ederle post chapel, said Major Carl Fehrenbacher, the Southern European Task Force’s rear detachment public affairs officer.
Ezernack was from Shreveport, Louisiana, family members said, and was a six-year veteran of the Army. He had served a tour in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan earlier this year.
Family members said they were told Ezernack was killed by a grenade explosion when he and other soldiers were searching a building.
“He often told me, ‘The reason I’m doing this is so that people can sleep in peace at night.’ Even though he lost his life, he was fighting for what he believed in,” his mother, Francis J. Harrison, told KTBS television station.
“He always wanted to be a soldier — always. That was his passion.”
Harrison said that in her last phone conversation with her son, he told of receiving his next military assignment: Fort Polk, Louisiana.
“He asked for an assignment in Louisiana and he got it. And he said, ‘Mom, I’ll be three hours away.’ And that’s the last I heard from him.”
Ezernack leaves behind a wife. He will be buried
in Arlington National Cemetery, officials said.
A former church pastor and Army paratrooper who completed a tour of duty in Iraq was killed by a grenade blast during combat in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.
Staff Sergeant Troy S. Ezernack, 39, was the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church near the Lancaster County village of Elm for eight years before enlisting in the military in 1999.
Ezernack died Sunday of injuries sustained earlier in the day when his combat patrol was attacked. Ezernack was assigned to the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy.
A church member heard Tuesday that Ezernack had been killed and parishioners gathered Wednesday night at the small church.
"I didn't really know God or the Bible before Troy taught me," parishioner Kathy Balmer said. "He helped give my life a purpose, and his death is a horrible thing."
Ezernack baptized dozens of people, and sought to swell the church ranks by establishing a bus route to pick up children from the city of Lancaster.
The Louisiana native will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and an October 22, 2005, memorial service is scheduled in Shreveport, Louisiana. He left a wife, Gail.
Ezernack had planned to remain in Afghanistan for 10 more months before being transferred to a base in Louisiana. While in Iraq, Ezernack guarded government buildings during provincial elections in the northern city of Kirkuk.
In April 2003, Ezernack told The Philadelphia Inquirer: "My biggest worry is that I would do something stupid and get somebody killed."
A month later, he was interviewed by Stars and Stripes magazine about the elections.
"It's good they're electing officials. It's
democracy come true, but I'm also happy for selfish reasons," he said.
"I want to go home, and the sooner they take control of their own city,
the sooner I'm outta here."
LANCASTER COUNTY, PENNYLVANIA - A grenade attack in Afghanistan Sunday killed a 39-year-old U.S. Army staff sergeant who was the former pastor of a Penn Township church.
Staff Sertgeant Troy S. Ezernack, an Army paratrooper who completed a tour of duty in Iraq before volunteering to serve in Afghanistan, spent eight years as pastor of Trinity Baptist Church before enlisting in the military.
Word of his death spread through his former congregation after a church member who had stayed in touch with Ezernack was notified Tuesday that he had been killed.
Parishioners gathered Wednesday night at the small church on West Newport Road near the village of Elm.
The Rev. Don Crutcher led the small group in a prayer for Ezernack's family.
"I pray for the folks in Iraq and Afghanistan," Crutcher told the congregation. "Bless the soldiers willing to fight for us so we can enjoy freedom."
Although Ezernack left the church in 1999 to pursue a military career, several parishioners said his legacy endured.
"I didn't really know God or the Bible before Troy taught me," Kathy Balmer said. "He helped give my life a purpose, and his death is a horrible thing."
Ezernack baptized dozens of people, including 62-year-old Grace Wealand.
"Pastor Ezernack baptized me 11 years ago," Wealand said. "I loved him for how he helped bring me into Christianity."
Ezernack was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, which was based in Vicenza, Italy.
Ezernack and other paratroopers were storming a building in Qalat, Afghanistan, when they were attacked by insurgents. A grenade explosion killed Ezernack, according to the Department of Defense.
Ezernack, a native of Louisiana, graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1988 at Texas Baptist College, Longview, Texas.
He left the South for Lancaster County after learning Trinity Baptist Church needed a pastor.
Ezernack and his wife rented a small home on Cinder Hill Road in Warwick Township.
While pastor, Ezernack attempted to increase membership at the church by recruiting children from Lancaster city.
He established a bus route to pick children up from their city homes and bring them to the church.
In 1996, Ezernack found himself at the center of a police investigation.
Parents of children who took the bus from Lancaster to the church accused Ezernack of forcibly baptizing their kids.
Penn Township police and a county detective spent two months looking into the matter before clearing Ezernack.
Investigators determined the parents had signed permission forms allowing Ezernack to baptize their children.
Ezernack's mother, Francis Harrison, of Shreveport, Louisiana, was informed Monday about her son's death.
Ezernack's brother, Paul Ezernack, and sister, Deborah Hudson, also live in Louisiana. His wife, Gail Ezernack, lives on a military base in Italy.
Ezernack will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. A memorial service in Shreveport is planned for October 22, 2005.
He planned to remain in Afghanistan for another 10 months before being stationed at a military base in Louisiana.
While in Iraq, Ezernack was part of a security team guarding government buildings during the 2003 provincial elections in Kirkuk.
Ezernack told Stars and Stripes magazine in May 2003: "It's good they're electing officials. It's democracy come true, but I'm also happy for selfish reasons. I want to go home, and the sooner they take control of their own city, the sooner I'm outta here."
Ezernack also told the military magazine about the challenges of guarding the elections building.
"Sometimes, it gets pretty hairy out there," he said. "Other days, I just dip my Copenhagen and wait for the time to pass by."
Photo Courtesy of Holly, December 2005