Mickel D. Garrigus
Sergeant, United States Army
No. 110-07 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2007
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Sergeant Mickel D. Garrigus, 24, of Elma, Washington, died January 27, 2007, in Taji, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat patrol.Garrigus was assigned to the 543rd Military Police Company, 91st Police Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.
For further information in regard to this release the media can contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at (315) 772-8286.
Last Friday, the Garrigus family gathered around the phone at their home in Elma to speak with Sergeant Mickel David Garrigus, who was serving as an MP in Iraq.
Deadra, his mother, and David, his step-father, both got a chance to speak to their son, finishing up his second tour of duty in Iraq; so did his wife, Natasha, who was visiting with their son Ethan. The boy, who had his first birthday the previous Monday, heard his father’s voice as well.
But that would be the last time Mickel would speak with his family. A day later, the 24-year-old who had lived in Elma since kindergarten, was killed when a roadside bomb detonated near his unit’s Humvee in Baghdad.
“You don’t think that’s the last time you’re going to talk to your son,” Deadra Garrigus said. “It just makes me numb.”
On Monday, the family members gathered again. This time they were choosing old photos to use at Mickel’s memorial service.
Photos from grade school, soccer teams, his 2001 graduation from Elma High School and his 2004 wedding crowd the family’s coffee table. There’s dozens of pictures with his wife and child — “the most important people in his life,” according to his family.
Deadra said that hundreds of people — “even people we haven’t seen in years” — have stopped by their home, offering food and support. “Elma has been hit hard by the war, and everybody in this town is giving us support,” she said.
Mickel’s 16-year-old sister, a sophomore at Elma High School, described a somber mood at school on Monday. His brother Matthew and sister Nichole, 22 and 21, respectively, were out yesterday afternoon getting matching tattoos in honor of their brother.
“We know my son is gone, but we keep thinking that he’s not,” Deadra said.
The family has arranged for a memorial service at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Assembly of God church in McCleary.
Mickel enlisted in the Army a month after graduating, following his step-father into the armed forces.
David, who had raised Mickel since he was a small child, said “I was proud of him, I was in the Air Force myself, and we shared that bond. He really loved the military, and he was proud of his country.”
After serving as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, he was sent to Iraq. Mickel ascended to the rank of sergeant quickly, and by his second tour of duty that began in November, he was in charge of his unit.
“He decided he was going to make a career out of it, because he thought that was the best thing to do for his wife and kid. He was going to re-enlist for a third tour of duty,” David said.
In doing so, Mickel passed on the opportunity to serve at a base back home in the states.
“He told me he didn’t join the Army to sit around,” Natasha said Monday by phone from their home in Nevada, even though she wanted him to transfer back home. “He wanted to fight for his country.”
Natasha said she found out about Mickel’s death late at night on Saturday, after getting back from visiting his parents. Two National Guard members knocked on her door, and told her that her husband had died. “I called his parents immediately because I didn’t want them to find out the way I did,” she said.
The two met while she was working at a Taco Bell near Fort Lewis. “He came in and stayed there for three or four hours, and finally worked up the nerve to ask me if I was getting off soon. I thought he was a stalker at first, but I gave him my number thinking he wasn’t going to call me. We ended up talking on the phone for a month before our first date,” she said through tears.
They were married on January 23, 2004, — making their anniversary just four days before he died.
“(Mickel) was the best father. He never wanted to put Ethan down, so still, to this day, Ethan has to be held for an hour after he falls asleep. He couldn’t wait for Ethan to start walking so he could do stuff with him,” Natasha said.
Deadra said the Army has already said they would take care of Natasha and Ethan, setting up a college fund for the child and arranging for widow’s benefits.
“He was a wonderful father,” Deadra said while pointing to her favorite photo of her son and her grandson, both holding footballs. “He was a big Seahawks fan, and he wanted to make sure his son was, too.”
The Seahawks will follow Mickel to his grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where, in his military will, he had requested a full military burial. “Natasha asked if we wanted anything to be buried with him, so we decided to put his Matt Hasselbeck autographed hat in with him,” Deadra said.
Arlington National Cemetery held a special meaning for Mickel. “He fell in love with knowing that all the heroes rest there, too,” Deadra said. Mickel will be buried with the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart he earned.
The military is paying for Natasha and his parents to fly to Arlington for the funeral, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 8. But his siblings might not have the chance to go.
Family friend Carolyn Evans is trying to make it possible for the rest of the family to go. She’s set up a fund at Timberland Bank that will accept donations from people who want to support the Garrigus family. “I think it’s important to try and see that all the siblings can go to the funeral,” she said.
If the effort raises more money than the family needs, the extra money would be used to help other families in the same situation, Evans said.
Donations can be made at any Timberland Bank location, and questions or comments may be sent to [email protected]
The Garrigus family said Mickel should be remembered as loyal and hard-working. Despite growing up and going to school in small-town Elma, he loved the big city life and loved playing soccer.
“He’s one of those kids who you got 100 percent from all the time,” said Steve Valentine, Mickel’s high school soccer coach. “He always worked really hard, but he didn’t do anything flashy to stand out. When I think back to all of the kids that I’ve coached, kids like him are the ones that stand out.”
“He did a lot of growing up in between basic training and Iraq. And when he had Ethan, he really grew up,” Deadra said.
“He died after saving a woman’s life,” David said. “She was in his unit and he kept telling her to put her gear on, but she wouldn’t. Finally, he pulled rank and ordered her to do it and that’s when the (Improvised Explosive Device) exploded, and she made it through.”
“He was so brave. I just don’t know what else to say about him,” Natasha said.
21 January 2007:
Army Sergeant Mickel Garrigus loved to stay active, his mother recalls.
Growing up in this small town in Grays Harbor County, he kept busy playing basketball and soccer and going to movies with his family, among other activities.
On Saturday, the 24-year-old military policeman was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Taji, Iraq, the Pentagon said Tuesday. He was two months into his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Sitting in her living room, Deadra Garrigus talked about her son while surrounded by pictures of him that will be displayed at his memorial service Saturday in McCleary.
She pointed out her favorite: her son and his wife, Natasha, kissing the forehead of their baby boy, Ethan, who recently turned 1.
"His pride and joy was his baby and his wife," she said.
Another passion was his military career.
His stepfather, Dave, encouraged Mickel and his brother, Matthew, to join the service. Matthew, now 23, served four years in the Air Force.
"(Mickel) loved the military. He lived for the military," his mother said. "He was going to make it a career."
He served as a guard at Guantanamo Bay before he transferred to Fort Lewis and was assigned to the 571st Military Police Company.
Match made at Taco Bell
In 2003, he spotted Natasha working at a Taco Bell near the Army post. He returned later and spent several hours there, getting up the courage to introduce himself.
She found herself attracted to his personality and blue eyes.
"He just had this confidence about him," she said. "He was like the sweetest and cutest guy."
They married January 3, 2004, two weeks before he left for Iraq the first time.
Mickel returned a year later, re-enlisted and requested a transfer to a military police company based at Fort Drum, New York.
He continued to love sports. His mother sent care packages with newspaper clippings so he could follow his favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks, while overseas. His wife recalled waiting in line for hours at the Tacoma Mall so her husband could get an autograph from the team's starting quarterback.
Their son was born Jan. 22, 2006, and Mickel took on a new mission in life.
"He wanted to be the best dad he could be, and he was," she said.
Natasha and her son moved in with her family in Nevada before he deployed to Iraq for a second time.
On Saturday, hours after she returned home from visiting his parents, casualty officers notified her of Mickel's death.
She turns 22 today. "I never see myself celebrating a birthday ever again," she said.
On Friday, the day before Natasha flew back to Nevada with her son, Mickel called his parents. After a brief conversation with his mother, he asked that she pass the phone to Ethan.
His son inadvertently hung up as Mickel spoke to him.
Mickel was unable to call back.
A memorial for Sergeant Mickel Garrigus will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Assembly of God Church of McCleary, 208 W. Pine Street.
The American Red Cross will fly his parents to his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Family friends have established a bank account for donations so his siblings can attend.
Donations can be made at any Timberland Bank branch under the Garrigus Fund.
If you have questions or comments, e-mail [email protected]
3 February 2007:
Donations to the Mickel Garrigus fund have exceeded the target, and the family of the 2001 Elma High School graduate who was killed in Iraq last weekend will be able to attend his military burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday, according to fund organizers.
“We’ve had such an outstanding response,” said Carolyn Evans, a family friend who set up the account at Timberland Bank. “We’re definitely going to be able to get the family back there for the burial. We’ve got all the airfare taken care of, they’ve got a place to stay and we’re trying to work on ground transportation at this point.”
Garrigus was killed on January 27, 2007, when a roadside bomb exploded near his Army unit’s Humvee near Baghdad.
The Pentagon pays for the mother, father and spouse of soldiers killed in action to attend military burials. Now, Mickel’s brother Matthew, sisters Nichole and Kyla, and grandmother Ginny will be flown to Virginia for the February 8, 2007, burial as well.
“I’m just so proud of our community for coming together and helping these people,” Evans said. “In the first 48 hours we received more than $2,200 in donations, and I don’t even know the exact figure, but we’re going to have money left over.”
According to Evans, the money left over will be used to send other family members of fallen soldiers to burials at Arlington. “There was a soldier from Vancouver who died the other day, and I’m going to see if we could help his family out. It’ll all be in Mickel’s name.”
Evans said people went beyond donating money. Families from Virginia who read about Mickel’s death e-mailed to offer their houses to the family so they wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel. An anonymous retired Continental Airlines worker spent a day researching how to get cheaper airfare.
The Seahawks even pitched in. After hearing about the Garrigus family’s plan to bury their son with his signed Matt Hasselbeck hat, the team donated an undisclosed amount of money to the fund, and are planning to send flowers and team representatives to Mickel’s memorial service today at 3 p.m. at the Assembly of God Church in McCleary.
Donations to the Mickel Garrigus fund can still
be made at any Timberland Bank location, and questions or comments may
be sent to [email protected]
4 February 2007:
Memorial celebrates father, friend, soldier
Courtesy of The Olympian
Fellow soldiers described Army Sergeant Mickel Garrigus as a man of honor, integrity and personal courage at a memorial service Saturday.
"He didn't want to join the Army to be a paper pusher. ... He wanted to do something for his country. And you know what? He did," said Sergeant Brian Miller, who served with Garrigus for five years.
Miller spoke of his determined and goal-oriented friend before a crowd of about 200 at a memorial service Saturday at the Assembly of God Church of McCleary.
Garrigus, 24, a military police officer from Elma, was killed January 27, 2007, by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Tagi, Iraq.
The governor's husband, Mike Gregoire, attended the service to express condolences and offer Garrigus' family a letter from the governor.
The service included a video showing pictures of a grinning child goofing around with his three siblings, a teenager in a football uniform, a 2001 Elma High School graduate and a father holding his sleeping infant son.
Garrigus' son, Ethan, who turned 1 last month, and wife, Natasha, were his pride and joy, family said.
"He started off as a great soldier, and I've seen him become a great man," Miller said. He saw his friend mature into a devoted husband and father, he said.
Garrigus served as a guard at Guantanamo Bay before he was transferred to Fort Lewis and assigned to the 571st Military Police company. He was two months into his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Family friend Carolyn Evans said friends and family donated enough money for Garrigus' three siblings and grandmother to accompany his mother and stepfather, Deadra and Dave, to his military burial, set for Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.
She said during the service that Garrigus could always make her laugh, regardless of her mood. She read an e-mail from Garrigus' childhood friend, Sid Sandstrom.
In it, Sandstrom recalled playing soccer, football and other sports with Garrigus, always a competitor. He wrote that he hoped Ethan would grow up with that same competitive streak.
Spc. Glen Jones, who also met Garrigus in the
Army, said his friend was a smart aleck when they met. Over time, Jones
learned Garrigus was also a man dedicated to helping others, he said. "Mickel
was a family person," Jones said. "He liked to take care of people."
Courtesy of the Daily World:
13 February 2007:
Minutes after gray clouds began to blot out the sun at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, a hearse carrying the casket of Sergeant Mickel David Garrigus led a procession of vehicles to a gravesite on the edge of a field filled with rows of white headstones.
At around 1 p.m., six military pallbearers met the hearse, their boots sounding in unison on the pavement. They carried the flag-draped casket from the hearse and placed it on a green canvas as a group of around 50 family members, friends and colleagues gathered around the burial site.
Garrigus, a 2001 graduate of Elma High School, was killed by an improvised explosive device January 27, 2007, in Taji, Iraq, just outside Baghdad. According to accounts, shortly before the bomb blast, he had ordered a private to put on all her safety gear, which likely saved her life in the explosion that took his.
Garrigus, a military policeman who had also served as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, had started his second tour in Iraq in November. A dedicated soldier, he quickly rose through the ranks to Sergeant, and was planning to re-enlist for a third tour of duty over the objections of his family. Garrigus even chose to go to Iraq over serving on a base in the United States. Eventually, Garrigus wanted to become a policeman in civilian life.
The pallbearers lifted the flag and held it taut over the casket as Army Chaplain Lieuteannt Colonel James D. Gray began the service.
“Today, we’ve come to lay to rest a patriot who honorably served our nation in the preservation of the heritage of freedom,” Gray said.
He recited “An Old Soldier’s Prayer,” a poem by Lewis Millett that concludes, “So to you who have answered duties siren call, may God bless you my son, may God bless you all.”
As Gray neared the end of his remarks, a military band could be heard playing a march at another funeral nearby.
When Gray finished, seven soldiers standing at a distance, fired three volleys into the air and following that, a bugler played “Taps.”
The six pallbearers folded the flag, and Brigadier General Rodney Johnson, on one knee, presented it to Garrigus’ widow Natasha. The couple celebrated their third anniversary shortly before his death.
Another flag was presented to Garrigus’ mother, Deadra Garrigus.
The entire Garrigus family, including his siblings and grandmother, was able to travel to the funeral because of a fund set up by friends in their hometown of Elma. So much money was collected that the excess will be used to help other families make it to their children’s funerals.
Garrigus also leaves behind a 1-year-old son, Ethan.
Garrigus is the 304th person killed in Operation
Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was laid
to rest with the Purple Heart and Bronze Star he earned, in section 60,
Courtesy of the Gannett News Service
13 February 2007
Natasha Garrigus struggled to maintain her composure at her husband's funeral Monday while she balanced her 1-year-old son in one arm and an American flag in the other.
The flag, folded into a triangle, was presented to the 22-year-old widow by Army Brigadier General Rodney Johnson during the funeral for Army Sergeant Mickel David Garrigus at Arlington National Cemetery.
"He honored the flag," said Lieutenant Colonel James D. Gray, the Army chaplain who conducted the service. "Now the flag honors him."
Garrigus, 24, died January 27, 2007, in Taji, Iraq, after a roadside bomb blew up near his Humvee during combat patrol. Garrigus, whose wife and son now live in Indian Hills, just south of Carson City, was a military police officer assigned to the 543rd Military Police Company, 91st Police Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.
During the service, Gray said Garrigus was a devoted Christian who "highlighted the Bible with scriptures precious to him."
The officer reminded the dozens of mourners who gathered at the grave site that the cemetery was more than just a place for the dead.
"It is here that we have gathered to honor a soldier," he said.
The somber ceremony took place under the gray skies of a chilly winter afternoon. Garrigus, who grew up in Washington state, was the 304th service member killed in Iraq to be buried at Arlington and the 50th with Nevada ties to be killed in the war on terrorism. A total of 3,102 service members have been killed since the 2003 invasion.
Garrigus' flag-draped casket arrived in a silver hearse, and the wooden casket was carried by six soldiers to a fresh plot of earth on the west side of the cemetery. A 21-gun salute preceded a lone bugler's mournful "Taps."
Garrigus was on his second tour of duty. He joined the Army just a month after graduating from Elma (Wash.) High School. He spent a year as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then was sent to Iraq for the first time in 2004. When he returned to Iraq last year, his wife and son went to live with her parents in Indian Hills.
The soldier spoke to his wife and son on the telephone the day before he died. Relatives and friends say Garrigus was a loving father and husband who doted on his son, Ethan.
Garrigus met his wife near Fort Lewis, Washington, where she worked at a Taco Bell. The two had been married for three years.
Natasha Garrigus told the Reno Gazette-Journal that her husband was a friendly guy who wanted to become a highway patrol officer. He was studying online to earn a criminal justice degree.
"He always said he wanted to be the best dad
he could be," she said.
Sergeant Chose Second Iraq Tour to Be With Friends
Soldier Remembered as Athlete, Family Man
By Jamie Stockwell
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Army Sergeant Mickel Garrigus was not ordered back to Iraq for a second tour of duty. The 24-year-old military police officer returned voluntarily in November because of his unrelenting passion for his country and the friendships he had forged with so many other soldiers, family said.
"He had a choice of going to a non-deployment base but said, 'Nope, my friends are in Iraq. . . . I will be with them,' " his mother told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last month. "He believed in the people that were there."
Garrigus, of Elma, Washington, died January 27, 2007, while on patrol in Taji, Iraq, two months after beginning his second tour. Yesterday, about three dozen mourners gathered on a grassy knoll at Arlington National Cemetery to pay tribute to the man they called a patriot.
Standing among hundreds of stark white tombstones and leafless trees, seven Army soldiers fired a three-volley salute into the chilly afternoon air. A bugler played taps, and Garrigus's wife and mother were handed American flags moments after a military chaplain had assured his family that on the day of his burial, "the flag honors him."
Garrigus was the 304th person killed in the war in Iraq to be buried at Arlington Cemetery. He was a military police officer assigned to the 543rd Military Police Company, 91st Police Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, New York.
Garrigus was a 2001 graduate of Elma High School in Washington. In school, he played football and soccer and was known for his competitive streak, according to news reports. He enlisted in the Army after graduation, several months before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks launched the military careers of scores of other young men and women. He immediately decided to make a career of the military, his mother told reporters.
"That was his life," Deadra Garrigus told the Seattle Times.
After spending one year as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Garrigus was sent to Iraq in January 2004, one week after marrying his wife, Natasha. In the Army, he grew up quickly and went from a somewhat wild sports enthusiast to a mature sergeant, his family said, the kind of man who on the day of his death ordered a fellow soldier to wear all of her protective gear. That equipment saved her from the same blast of shrapnel that killed Garrigus, other soldiers told his family.
And he also grew into a family man, his mother told several reporters. Natasha Garrigus, 22, and his 1-year-old son, Ethan, were his "pride and joy," she said.
At a Feb. 3 memorial service for him in McCleary, Washington, a friend who served with Garrigus for five years told mourners that his friend "didn't want to join the Army to be a paper pusher. He wanted to do something for his country. And you know what? He did."
Garrigus was encouraged to join the military by his stepfather, Dave Garrigus, an Air Force veteran who had raised him since he was a toddler. Garrigus's brother, Matthew, 23, served four years in the Air Force. Other survivors include his sisters Nichole Garrigus and Kyla Ostenson.
On the day before his death, Garrigus called his family. His wife and son were with his parents.
"It was 6:07 p.m. I talked to him for a few minutes, I said I love him, he loves me," his mother told reporters. "He asked, 'How's my son?' He never called Ethan by his name, always 'my son.' "
Ethan was fine, she said, running and walking around his grandparents' house. His soft baby gurgles were the last thing Garrigus heard as Ethan accidentally hung up the phone. The next day, the young father was killed.
GARRIGUS, MICKEL D
Posted: 3 February 2007 Updated: 4 February 2007 Updated: 13 February 2007 Updated: 14 February 2007 Updated: 23 March 2007 Updated: 2 July 2007
Photo Courtesy of Holly, March 2007