Bernard L. Ceo – Specialist, United States Army

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 1051-05
October 16, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died in Al Taji, Iraq, on October 14, 2005, when they were conducting convoy operations and an 18-wheel tractor trailer accidentally struck the rear of their HMWWV, starting a fire and causing ammunition to detonate.  The soldiers were assigned to the Army National Guard's 243rd Engineer Company, Baltimore, Mrayland.

Killed were:

Sergeant Brian R. Conner, 36, of Baltimore, Maryland
Specialist Samuel M. Boswell, 20, of Elkridge, Maryland
Specialist Bernard L. Ceo, 23, of Baltimore, Maryland

For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.

He was a third-generation soldier who had only been in Iraq since July. Corporal Bernard L. Ceo, 23, of Baltimore, was one of three soldiers from Maryland were killed in an accident in Iraq on Friday.

“He felt it was his duty to go,” said Albert Ceo, Bernard's uncle, who said a strong family history of soldiers led his nephew to entering the Army National Guard. “He always said somebody has to go in to protect this country.”

Bernard's grandfather, father and some uncles have served in wars dating back to World War II, Albert Ceo said.

His grandmother, Isolene Ceo, described him as “just a regular fellow,” who loved to help people, especially children. He also served as a mentor for troubled kids at a youth institute, she said.

“He would probably just like to remembered as someone who loved this country,” said Albert Ceo. “I still can't believe it.”

Specialist Samuel M. Boswell, 20, of Elkridge, and Sergeant Brian R. Conner, 36, of Gwynn Oak were also killed in the convoy in Al Taji, Iraq, when an 18-wheel tractor-trailer accidentally struck the rear of their Humvee, starting a fire and causing ammunition to detonate.

The three soldiers were the first members of the Maryland National Guard killed in the line of duty overseas since World War II.

The soldiers were members of the Army National Guard's 243rd Engineer Company in Baltimore, military officials said Sunday.

Boswell's brother, Mike, who was serving as a civilian contractor working security a military unit in Baghdad, was just six miles away from where the accident occurred.

“I actually heard about the accident that same day, but I didn't know it my brother until later,” said Mike Boswell, who just returned to Baltimore on Sunday. “I was stunned.”

Mike Boswell said his brother, who had only been in Iraq for one month, enjoyed music, camping and spending time with their close-knit family.

“He was happy to be there,” he said. “He always liked being able to help people.”

Conner joined the Baltimore Fire Department in 1993 and was a lieutenant, department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said.

Through Cartwright, Conner's sister, who did not want to speak publicly or give her name, said Conner was born and raised in Baltimore, where he attended city schools and later got a GED. She said he enlisted in the Army in September 1986 and was on his second tour in Iraq.

He is survived by three daughters ages 10, 15 and 21, and a 3-month-old grandson.

“He was a cool guy, an upbeat person and outgoing,” Cartwright said. “He liked to kid and joke but when it came to being serious about his job, he got down to business.”

Conner had been a Guard member for more than 16 years and had served in Bosnia. Boswell joined the Guard in June 2003, and Ceo joined in December 2001.

Ceo was a full-time technician with the Guard and a member of the Honor Guard, which represents the Guard at official ceremonies.

The incident remains under investigation.

NOTE Corporal Ceo will be laid to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 28 October 2005.

By Jill Rosen
Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun
October 29, 2005

At the funeral yesterday for Corporal Bernard L. Ceo, hundreds of family members, friends and fellow soldiers remembered the 23-year-old National Guard soldier with prayers, hymns – and some words from people whose lives he touched.

After Ceo was killed this month with two other members of the Maryland Army National Guard in a Humvee crash in the Al Taji area of Iraq, one officer wrote Ceo's mother to tell her how he could tell how special her son was after sharing only one supper with him in Kuwait.

“I remember asking him, ‘Son, is there a letter missing from your name tag? Should it be Cleo with an ‘l' or maybe Ceon?'” the officer wrote. “He said, ‘No, it's just Ceo.' And I said, ‘Like chief executive officer?' And your son just laughed out loud and had a big smile on his face. I was impressed with his courtesy and his manners.”

Many such sentiments, recalling the Baltimore native's sense of duty, selflessness and integrity, filled the somber service at St. Bernardine's Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore.

To comfort the family, the Rev. Edward Miller drew from the Biblical verse: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

“He was that proverbial grain of wheat,” Miller said. “Did he not give of himself so that others could be lifted up?”

Ceo had hoped for a career of helping others, his family said. After the military, he wanted to carry over his love of working with children into becoming a teacher.

At Kennedy Krieger High School Career and Technology Center, he tutored special-needs students one on one. He tried to reach troubled youth at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School. He took a part-time job as a gym teacher at Harford Heights in Baltimore.

“He was giving of himself [at the Hickey School],” Miller said. “As a role model, a teacher, a guide, helping to raise young boys and girls up.”

The priest spoke of Ceo's many plans and dreams. One was recording music – he achieved that while overseas in Iraq. Another was marrying his longtime girlfriend Dajae Overton in an elaborate ceremony once he returned from the war.

After “he felt a call in his heart after 9/11 to give himself to his country,” Ceo enlisted in 2001, Miller said. He was a technician serving in the honor guard with the 5th Regiment Infantry.

Many of Ceo's nieces, nephews and cousins attended the funeral in black T-shirts, with the shadow of Ceo's dogtags printed on the front. On the back, a photo of him in uniform and the words, “Forever the heart of a soldier.”

Ceo and the two soldiers killed with him were the first Maryland National Guardsmen to die while deployed overseas since World War II, according to the military. Ceo was promoted posthumously from specialist to corporal. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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