Charles Thomas Heinlein, Jr. – Private First Class, United States Army

U.S. Department of Defense

Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

August 3, 2007

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died July 31, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Washington.

Killed were:
Specialist Zachariah J. Gonzalez, 23, of Indiana
Private First Class Charles T. Heinlein Jr., 23, of Hemlock, Michigan
Private First Class Alfred H. Jairala, 29, of Hialeah, Florida

For more information related to this release, the media may contact the Fort Lewis public affairs office at (253) 967-0152, (253) 967-0148, or after hours at (253) 967-0015 (ask for the public affairs officer on call).

DETROIT, Michigan – 4 August 2007

For Private First Class Charles T. Heinlein Jr., the U.S. Army was one of the most important things in his life.

“The only things more important were family and friends,” his father, Thomas Heinlein said in a telephone interview Saturday.

Charles Heinlein, who grew up in Hemlock, Michigan, was one of three soldiers who died Tuesday when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad, the Department of Defense announced Friday night.

The 23-year-old Heinlein died along with Specialist Zachariah J. Gonzalez, 23, of Indiana and Private First Class Alfred H. Jairala, 29, of Hialeah, Florida. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington.

“He was in his 14th month (of duty),” Heinlein's father said. “If they wouldn't have extended it, he would have been home by the end of June, beginning of July.

“He was tired, but he had no problem with them extending it. He thought he wanted to do his duty and wanted to do what was right. He thought what he was doing over there was good.”

In April, the government announced active component Army units would serve 15 months instead of 12 months, Fort Lewis public affairs officer Joe Jimenez said.

“This unit had finished its 12 months,” Jimenez said. “This battalion has had 40 casualties since they deployed from Fort Lewis in June of 2006.”

Thomas Heinlein said the family was told of his son's death Tuesday by the U.S. military.

Charles Heinlein attended Merrill Public Schools and Hemlock High School near Saginaw, which is about 90 miles north of Detroit.

He earned his General Education Diploma.

Jimenez said Charles Heinlein enlisted on September 28, 2005 and was assigned to the unit at Fort Lewis in February 2006.

He had received the Army Commendation, National Defense Service, Iraq Campaign, and Global War on Terrorism Service medals, and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Donna Lynch of Hemlock said her grandson had talked about enlisting, but didn't know which branch.

“Then he decided it would be the Army,” Lynch said. “He said it was hard at first, but after he got adjusted Charlie said it would be his career.”

Charles Heinlein also is survived by his wife, Jessica, in Washington state, and a sister, Jody.

Funeral services and burial were scheduled for Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C. A memorial service was planned for Friday at the Hemlock-Merrill VFW Post in Hemlock.

8 August 2007:

When Private Charles T. Heinlein, 23, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery today, his father will remember an independent little boy who grew up to be “the best man I know.”

Heinlein and two other soldiers were killed in Iraq on July 31, 2007, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle. He was with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) out of Fort Lewis, Washington.

The son of Thomas Heinlein of Hemlock and Nina Heinlein of Texas, he went to Merrill Schools and attended Hemlock High School. He and his wife, Jessica, lived in Washington state. He also is survived by his grandmother, Donna Lynch, Hemlock; his sister, Jody Heinlein, and his niece, Logan, both of Texas; and many other relatives and friends.

Heinlein's funeral service will be today in Arlington National Cemetery. A memorial service open to everyone will take place at 6 p.m. Friday at the Hemlock-Merrill V.F.W. Post, 17595 W. Gratiot Road.

Thomas Heinlein was in the Washington D.C. area when he talked with the Daily News by phone. He said he remembered a little boy who could “irritate his father and drive his teachers up the wall” at times.

“Charlie was a kid who marched to his own drummer,” he said.

He said his son was an individual who was very smart, but sometimes found school boring. He loved to read, and he loved music. His taste in music ranged from “Phantom of the Opera” to the jazz singer Nina Simone to the heavy metal band Metallica.

Charlie, as he preferred to be called, also loved to cook. His dad said he would put together the most amazing recipes, with a pinch of this and a little bit of that. But there was one problem.

“He never could cook the same recipe twice because he didn't remember what he did,” Thomas said. Charlie then would cook up a new amazing recipe.

Thomas said his son had a knack of finding friends and turning them into family. He cared about his fellow soldiers “more than anything.”

“He was very proud to be part of the Army,” Thomas said. “It was like a family for him.”

Thomas had opposing emotions about his son being in the Army.

“I was proud of him and scared to death,” he said.

Charlie felt a strong sense of duty and felt the United States was doing good things in Iraq. Part of his work was taking supplies to places like schools and hospitals, and he was proud of what he did there.

Thomas viewed his son's body Tuesday evening.

“I said my final goodbyes for now,” Thomas said.

He feels that Charlie now is watching over them, that he loves his family so much that it would take more than death for him not to watch over them.

Still, there's the loss.

“I've lost a large section of my future,” Thomas said.

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