James David Connell, Jr. – Sergeant First Class, United States Army

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
May 15, 2007

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.They died May 12, 2007, in Al Taqa, Iraq, of wounds suffered when their patrol was attacked by enemy forces using automatic fire and explosives.They were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.

Killed were:

  • Sergeant First Class James D. Connell Jr., 40, of Lake City, Tennessee
  • Private First Class Daniel W. Courneya, 19, of Nashville, Michigan
  • Private First Class Christopher E. Murphy, 21, of Lynchburg, Virginia

14 May 2007:

A Lake City family learned their soldier son died in Iraq over Mother’s Day weekend.

Forty-year old Sergeant First Class James David Connell, Jr. was one of four American soldiers killed in an attack about 20 miles south of Baghdad on Saturday.

An Iraqi interpreter also died in the bomb blast in an area known as the “triangle of death.”

Connell had many loves, including his family, football and the military. His family had the opportunity to spend time with him and take a number of pictures during Connell’s leave just two weeks ago.

Those happy times have now turned to sadness.

Connell’s 14-year-old daughter, Courtney was the first to realize her soldier dad probably wasn’t coming home.

Military personnel pulled into the driveway of Connell’s parents’ home in Lake City on Saturday afternoon to tell his family Connell’s second tour of duty in Iraq had ended tragically.

“I asked my dad why he does it, and he tells me everyday it’s always what he wanted to do so no one else has to do it,” said Connell’s son, Nick, of his father’s devotion to his job.

During Connell’s 19 years in the Army, he visited 42 states and 13 different countries.

At the beginning of the month, he shared his experience with students at Lake City Middle School where two of his own kids attend class.

Connell’s story became a story in the local paper.

Nick Connell says, “He was a hero to the United States. I hope everybody prays for him.”

He was a hero with intuition. Already injured once by shrapnel, Connell recently told his brother things were getting worse in the Middle East. He asked his brother to take care of his kids because he feared he wouldn’t be coming back.

Now, they’re all preparing for his funeral.

“I’m very proud of my dad I just want them to pray about him,” says Courtney Connell.

There is no word yet on when Connell’s body will be brought back to the United States.

Funeral services will be held in Lake City so family and friends can attend. However, Connell will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery as he wished.

Lake City soldier killed in attack
Family says sergeant first class one of five who died in ambush on patrol
14 May 2007

Every Sunday, the Connell family in Lake City gathers for dinner.

This past Sunday, they gathered to mourn the passing of Sergeant First Class James David Connell Jr., 40, a Platoon Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division who was killed Saturday during his second tour in Iraq.

Family members said he was one of five killed when his patrol came under attack near Mahmudiyah, Iraq. Connell’s family learned of his death Saturday afternoon.

The Pentagon has not confirmed the identities of the four U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi interpreter who were killed during the attack. It happened at 4:44 a.m. Saturday, according to the American Forces Press Service.

U.S. Army Major General William B. Caldwell, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said three other soldiers in the patrol were missing. An al-Qaida front group claims to have taken the soldiers, according to The Associated Press. Mahmudiyah is about 20 miles south of Baghdad in an al-Qaida-dominated area known as the “triangle of death.”

When Connell was in East Tennessee on leave earlier this month, he visited Lake City Middle School and talked about the work and the military lifestyle, his children said Sunday.

He spoke to his 12-year-old son Bryan’s class and 14-year-old daughter Courtney’s class.

Family members said Connell had just recovered from a shrapnel wound to his one of his legs when he came home for two weeks of leave.

“He’s a hero,” Courtney said.

She said that during her father’s leave, he took each of his three children out of school for one day to spend the day with them. He took his oldest son, 16-year-old Nick, horseback riding in the Smokies. He took Bryan to Knoxville Center and to a movie.

Courtney wanted to go to West Town Mall. She wanted to get a pedicure and so did her father. They got them together, she said, her face brightening at the memory.

Nick said his father lived in a village in Iraq two weeks at a time and patrolled two weeks at a time. He couldn’t talk about where he was exactly, said Nick.

“He said it was hard,” said Courtney.

In the back bedroom of the Connell home, Connell’s father, James Sr., looked at pictures from his son’s most recent military leave on a flat-screen monitor.

The pictures appeared one at a time, an electronic slide show from just one week ago when the family had celebrated Bryan’s birthday.

In one picture, he stands on a trampoline with the younger children of the family. In another, he sits in uniform on the couch with his two sons.

Connell has three brothers and one sister, all present Sunday. He played little league in Lake City and graduated from Anderson County High School in 1984. He grew up in the house where the family was gathered Sunday.

“He’s just a real good son,” said James Connell Sr. “Everybody loved him.”

The family plans a memorial service in Lake City at Hatmaker Funeral Home. No time or date has been set.

Jeff Connell said his brother would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Sgt. 1st Class Connell is the 29th member of the military with East Tennessee ties to die in Iraq.

May 15, 2007

The seven American victims of a weekend ambush in Iraq were members of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Army officials in Iraq said Tuesday.

The attack near Mahmoudiya, in a Sunni stronghold 20 miles south of Baghdad, left four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator dead, and three other soldiers missing.

On Monday, the Pentagon acknowledged for the first time that it believes the missing soldiers are in terrorist hands. The Islamic State of Iraq — an al-Qaida front group that has claimed to have captured the soldiers — has warned the U.S. to stop its massive search for the missing.

Military officials have not released the names of the soldiers but confirmed they were assigned to Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the ”Polar Bears,” said Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie, a public affairs officer at the Multi-National Division headquarters in Baghdad.

Fort Drum commanders referred all questions about Saturday’s incident to Army officials in Iraq.

Families of the soldiers released the names of two of the dead on Monday — Sergeant First Class James David Connell Jr., 40, of Lake City, Tennessee, and Private First Class Daniel Courneya, 19, of Vermontville, Michigan.

Connell’s family learned of his death Saturday afternoon, they said.

The soldier had just recovered from a shrapnel wound to the leg and had visited his family on leave earlier this month. The family is now planning a memorial service in Lake City and a burial at Arlington National Cemetery, according to his brother, Jeff Connell.

”I’m proud of my dad, because he didn’t really fight for himself, he fought for the country,” Connell’s teenage daughter, Courtney, told Knoxville’s WATE-TV.

In Michigan, students at Maple Valley High School created a memorial for Courneya, who graduated in 2005 and was well-known in the small community southwest of Lansing. He was a member of the school’s track and soccer teams and played clarinet in the band.

”It’s a tribute of photos, posters, plaques and a picture of him in his uniform,” school official Kelly Zank told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

His death was announced Monday over the school’s public address system, and a moment of silence was observed, she said.

Courneya’s mother, Wendy Thompson, said his wife, Jennifer, called family members Saturday night to tell them he had been killed. Thompson said her husband, Army Specialist David Thompson, was in Iraq and returning home after learning of his stepson’s death.

If all three soldiers now missing were taken alive, it would be the biggest single abduction of U.S. soldiers in Iraq since March 23, 2003, when Private Jessica Lynch and six others were captured in an ambush near Nasiriyah that also left 11 Americans dead.

19 May 2007:

In Lake City, family and friends saying goodbye as well as thank you to fallen soldier, First Sergeant James David Connell.

Volunteer TVs Whitney Daniel was at the memorial service for the fallen soldier. She takes a look at Sergeant Connell’s love for life, for his family and for America.

Sergeant Connell is known throughout Lake City as a friend and a dad. He’s known as “Tiger” or “Sarge,” and now, to so many, he’s treasured as a hero.

“We believe in the Bible and the Bible says “If you sow good seed, you reap good seed,” uncle Charles Connell said.

Living an eternal life with his Commander.

“We’re a really, really close family and our hearts are really sad,” Connell said.

As a community grieves with the Connell family, the Patriot Guard Riders surround them all with their patriotism.

“We’re showing the family that we love them, we don’t know them, but we love them,” said Deb McKay from the Patriot Guard Riders.

Three weeks ago, Sergeant James Connell came home on leave, his Uncle Charles says that trip brought many lasting memories.

“When we was sitting in the living room, he walked in there and he gave me his uniform that he wore home, and I will always cherish it,” Connell said.

In fact, on that trip home, Sergeant Connell did a lot of things that his family and his four kids won’t soon forget.

“He spent all his time with his kids, one on one, and he took them to Dollywood and rode all the rides with them and really lived it up,” Connell said.

Looking back, his family says James was making each moment count, because he somehow knew.

“He had a feeling he wasn’t going to be coming back. He told his brother, Jeff, he said, ‘Look after my kids, I probably won’t be coming back,'” Connell said.

A week later, James died when the military vehicle we was traveling in was bombed. Now, a sea of stars and stripes leading to God’s house tells a community of one brave soldier’s sacrifice.

“One of his sons asked him, ‘Dad, why do you do this?’ and he says, ‘Son, I do this so no one else will have to,'” Connell said.

Connell will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery May 25th with full military honors.

Lake City soldier killed in Iraq comes home one last time
By: Robin Murdoch, Reporter
21 May 2007

An East Tennessee soldier killed in Iraq received a hero’s homecoming on Monday.

A motorcade led Sergeant First Class James David Connell Junior back to Lake City for the final time.

Connell’s family held a memorial service in their hometown on Friday.

This Friday, he’ll finally be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Monday was about bringing him home.

Outside the gates of the Air National Guard Base, the Patriot Guard Riders remained parked and poised.

Duane Romine, Ride Captain for the Patriot Guard Riders says, “We don’t want another soldier to come back like they did at Vietnam. We want them to come back with honors whether alive or deceased.”

Yesterday, the Patriot Guard waited for the body of a soldier they’ve never met.

Connell Junior was one of four American soldiers killed during an ambush is an area known as the “Triangle of Death.” An Iraqi interrupter also died in the blast. Three other soldiers went missing.

Connell was 40 years old.

Steve Greene of Kalitta Charters says, ” I am in awe of all these soldiers. I am in awe. Their dedication and service is absolutely incredible.”

Kalitta Charters was contracted by the government to fly soldiers killed in the line of duty home. Since January first, the company has flown over 200 missions.

Greene adds, “You wish there was something else you could do. In this case, my airplane is bringing him home and then I get to come down here and be a part of the support to the family.”

Greene rode with the Patriot Riders on Monday.

Community members were lining the streets of Lake City on Monday when the motorcade drove by. They stopped everything to say good bye and salute the soldier.

Maria Hooks, Friend says, “There wasn’t a dry eye that lined this street. There wasn’t a dry eye. Everyone was just hit by the emotion of everything.”

The flagged draped coffin evoked both pride and pain.

Their hometown hero was back where he belonged and at peace.

Hooks adds, “He did what he did so I can go to work everyday and play with my niece. I do what I do on a daily basis because of people like him. We owe him our life.”

“At Dover in big letters it says honor, support and dignity. That’s all we can do is hope for that. That’s all we are trying to provide,” adds Greene.

Connell’s motorcade paused in front of his parents house for a moment of silence on Monday.

Students from Lake City Middle School also came outside to salute it as it went by.

Another motorcade is expected to lead Connell to Arlington National Cemetery for his burial later this week.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Connell Children’s Expense Fund. You can contact Jenny Sharp at the Lake City Branch of the Bank of America for more information.

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  • DATE OF BIRTH: 06/11/1966
  • DATE OF DEATH: 05/12/2007








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