Aram Jordan Bass – Staff Sergeant, United States Army

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 1232-05
November28, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  They died in Baghdad, Iraq on November 23, 2005, when their unit came under direct fire during combat operations.  Both soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Killed were:
Staff Sergeant Aram J. Bass, 25, of Niagara Falls, New York
Sergeant William B. Meeuwsen, 24, of Kingwood, Texas

The circumstances of the soldiers' deaths are under investigation as a potential friendly-fire incident.

Body of soldier returns to Falls

Former Marine killed in firefight in Baghdad
Courtesy of the Buffalo News
5 December 2005

Staff Sergeant Aram Bass wanted to go to Iraq.

NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK – The body of Staff Sergeant Aram J. Bass, an ex-Marine who joined the Army so he could serve in the Iraq War, was returned to Western New York on Sunday.

An honor guard of Bass' fellow soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, provided full military honors as the casket was unloaded at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in the presence of his family.

Bass, 25, of Niagara Falls, was killed in a firefight in Baghdad on November 23, 2005. At first, the Army said he was killed when a firebomb exploded while he was aiding wounded comrades. However, the following week, the Army said the death was under investigation as a possible friendly fire incident.

“They're not giving us any indication of what happened,” said his widow, Breanne C. Sterner-Bass of Youngstown. “It takes as long as two months to complete an investigation.”

Bass, a Niagara Falls native, had served four years in the Marine Corps after graduating from Niagara Catholic High School in 1999. He reached the rank of Sergeant and had been stationed at Parris Island, South Carolina, Seattle, Hawaii, Okinawa and the Philippines.

“We had met right after he got out of the Marines,” Sterner-Bass said. “He went to school for a semester [at Niagara County Community College], but it wasn't for him.”

Bass told his then-girlfriend he wanted to serve in Iraq, because he felt he was trained to help.

“I said, “I'm not going to be the one to stop you,' ” Sterner-Bass recalled.

He joined the Army in April 2004 and left for Fort Campbell two months later.

The couple married December 28, 2004, when Bass was home on a leave he had taken after finding out Breanne had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

His wife, 22, underwent treatment and received a clean bill of health three weeks ago.

In early October, Bass left for a one-year tour of duty in Iraq. They spoke by telephone every few days. On November 20, 2005, three days before he died, they talked for the last time.

“He told me he was exhausted. He'd been up for two days,” said Sterner-Bass. Her husband wasn't allowed to give her any details of exactly where he was or what kind of operations he had been involved in, but they spoke every couple of days.

“The last time I talked to him, he said, “If I never get the chance to tell you, I want you to know how amazing you are.' He said that twice,” Sterner-Bass remembered. “That's something I hold with me now. I wonder if he knew he wasn't going to talk to me again.”

Sterner-Bass said she didn't have any such premonitions. “I guess I never wanted to think that, but as soon as I saw the men get out of the car, I knew,” she said.

She received the news of her husband's death the same day he died, on the night before Thanksgiving.

Bass, who was 6 feet, 5 inches tall, loved sports and played varsity basketball and football for Niagara Catholic. A wide receiver in football, he made second team all-league in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association “A” League in 1997 and 1998. He also enjoyed weightlifting and going to the firing range.

Bass, a Niagara Falls native, also is survived by his parents, William I and Deborah L. Johnson; his stepmother, Cheryl; and his stepfather, Kirby Johnson, all of Niagara Falls.

Other survivors include two brothers, William II of Amherst and Cameron Weingartner of Niagara Falls; five sisters, Nicole, Rafikka and Jodi, all of Niagara Falls, Katina May of Youngstown and Kenya Harrigan of Amherst; his grandparents, Richard Case of Warren, Pennsylvania, and Susanne H. Case and Will, both of Niagara Falls; and two lifelong friends from Niagara Falls, First Lieutenant Shawn Carbone, who also is serving in Iraq, and Robert Kendzia.

A service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday in St. John de LaSalle Catholic Church, 8469 Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls. Nine soldiers of the 101st Airborne will serve as pallbearers, and some Marines also will take part in military honors for Bass.

He will be buried later this month in Arlington National Cemetery.

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