U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 1433-07
December 26, 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 George J. Howell 24, of Salinas, California, died December 21, 2007, in Riyadh, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was attacked by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Infantry Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York.
January 6, 2008:
When George Howell told his hometown friends that, at age 24, he had decided to enlist in the Army despite the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they tried to talk him out of it.
His best friend, Derek Paris, remembers Howell as unshakable.
“He just said, ‘I have to do what I have to do to take care of my family,' ” Paris said.
And so Howell left the Monterey County community of Prunedale for Army boot camp in Georgia in search of economic security for his wife and two small children, and training that might transfer to the civilian job market once his active-duty hitch was finished.
As with many enlistees, Howell's attitude toward the Army varied. Some days he would tell his wife that he could not wait to get out and, perhaps, go to college. Other days he talked of making the Army a career and applying for one of the elite units.
But before he could pursue either course, his unit, the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division, was deployed from Ft. Drum, New York, to Iraq.
The Private First Class, who loved football and riding four-wheel-drive vehicles at the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area, was assigned as a driver in the motor pool. The 10th Mountain Division has responsibility to provide security in the volatile Kirkuk region and assist in training Iraqi security forces.
On December 21, 2007, Howell was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb outside Riyadh, north of Baghdad. Four other soldiers were injured, two critically.
Howell's wife, Kristen, who is three months pregnant, was the first family member to be officially notified. She called her in-laws in California from her home in Watertown, New York.
“We're still in a state of shock,” said Howell's sister, Chardell. “It doesn't seem real.”
Howell had attended Seaside High School and North Monterey County High before leaving without graduating. Later he passed the test for his general equivalency diploma. For several years, he worked with Paris and Paris' father in their floor-installation business.
“He was just a hard-working dude,” Paris said. “It's like losing a brother.”
Kristen's mother, Dana Hensley, said she was proud of her son-in-law when he enlisted. “He kept getting laid off at work,” she said, “and so he stepped up and did the right thing to take care of the people he loved.”
The Army seemed a natural fit for Howell. His father, who died in 2001, served in the Army during the Vietnam War. Other family members had also been in the military. Howell signed up for a three-year hitch on active duty, followed by reserve duty.
He and Kristen had known each other since junior high school.
In his last call from Iraq, she said, her husband seemed tired of the multiple missions “outside the wire” but was more concerned with the well-being of his son, Raiden, 2, and daughter, Niya, 5.
“He had the biggest heart of anyone you'd ever meet,” Kristen said. “If you were his friend and you were true, he loved you.”
Hensley, who also lives in Prunedale, remembers her son-in-law's final call from Iraq.
“I told him I loved him, and he said he loved me too,” she said. “I said for him to be safe. He said, ‘I'll do the best I can.' ”
Hensley said she will always remember his smile. “When he smiled, his whole face lit up,” she said.
Kristen and the children plan to move from New York back to the Prunedale area to be near her family. She said the children are struggling with the idea that their father is gone forever.
“My daughter especially realizes that Daddy is dead,” she said. “She cries and she misses him. But she's doing a lot better than me. I cry a lot more.”
Howell's burial is scheduled for January 25, 2008, at Arlington National Cemetery. It would have been his 25th birthday.
13 January 2008:
Services set for soldier slain in Iraq
A Prunedale soldier who died in Iraq on December 21, 2007, will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery later this month.
Private First Class George Howell will be interred January 25, 2008, which would have been his 25th birthday, said his wife Kristen Howell.
Howell was killed by a roadside bomb in northern Iraq four days before Christmas while serving with the 10th Mountain Division. Howell was awarded a Purple Heart and the Army Service Ribbon.
Kristen Howell said she is planning local services for her husband, probably in early February.
Officials at the American Legion Post 593 in Prunedale are planning memorial services in February. The date and time for the services will be announced.
The local American Legion post is planning a fundraiser in March for the Howell family. The event will include a barbecue and a poker run led by the American Legion Riders.
Howell's late father Frank, a Vietnam veteran, was a member of the local post.
Howell left behind two children; daughter Niya, 5; and son Raiden, 2. Kristen Howell is pregnant with their third child.
A new life arrives for the Howell family
Donna Teresa Homefront Journal
15 July 2008
When Private First Class George Howell lost his life in Riyadh, Iraq, on December 21, 2007, his wife Kristen was expecting their new baby. Private Howell was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery and would never have a chance to hold his new baby. I received a joyous surprise the other day, when his mother-in-law, Dana Hensley, sent an e-mail and photo letting me know of their special family news. On July 7, 2008, Private Howell's son, Keioni George Howell was born, 8 pounds, 3 ounces in Texas.
The family, as you can imagine, is very happy about their new arrival. But they are also bittersweet, as George was not able to experience the birth of his new son.
“He is beautiful and very special, a gift his daddy left us, and I wish his daddy was here to hold him and show him how much he loves him. Keioni means ‘John.' Georgie picked it because he liked it, not because of the meaning. This baby also has his dad's first name as his middle name. I want him to know what a good and brave man his daddy was.”
While there is always joy with a birth, there is also the tragic fact that many children from military families have lost their fathers to war. Thankfully, many military families have a strong support unit with friends, family and organizations helping them get through these difficult times. The death of a family member affects all of us in different ways. For military families, their loss is a unique one that many civilians might never understand. However, showing continued compassion and support is welcome and very much needed, especially for the young children left behind. According to Dana Hensley, the sacrifices these families make is something that Americans will one day understand.
“These men and women are very special and they did the noblest of deeds by joining the service and supporting our freedom. Their families gave up more than others will ever know. The people who love them will be there to laugh and cry and feel all their pain and loss” says Hensley.
Here on the Central Coast, there will be a benefit for the Howell family on August 31, 2008. The event will be coordinated by the local band Joshua's Shadow and the Salinas Elks Lodge located on Airport Boulevard. It will be a special day of music, food and crafts and a motorcycle/car show from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The cost is $8 and children under age 12 are admitted free. Proceeds will benefit Private Howell's children Niya, Raiden and new baby Keioni. The public is welcome to attend, so come on out and join others in helping the Howell family.
Dana Hensley had a few words to share about her son-in-law. “I miss you Georgie, and I love you and you will always be in my heart. God take care of you till we meet again.”
I would like to extend my congratulations to Kristen Howell and her family about the news of their new son. He's a beautiful baby Kristen; I know he will bring you the joy and love that George brought to your life. If you believe in guardian angels, and I do, I have no doubt that there is one looking down on his family with a 10th Mountain Division uniform on and as proud as any new father would be. Keep a good watch on them Pfc. Howell and congratulations on your new son.
Donna Teresa can be reached at [email protected].
HOWELL, GEORGE JIMMIE
- PFC US ARMY
- DATE OF BIRTH: 01/25/1983
- DATE OF DEATH: 12/21/2007
- BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 8728
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard