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Russell James Verdugo
Sergeant, United States Army
Arizona State Flag
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 523-05
May 26, 2005
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs - (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sergeant Russell J. Verdugo, 34, of Phoenix, Arizona, died May 23, 2005, in Baghdad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated as he was responding to a report of an improvised explosive device.  Verdugo was assigned to the 767th Ordnance Company, Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.

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

RP Verdugo Funeral Service PHOTO
'The flag honors him'
photo by Dennis Ryan 
An Old Guard casket party folds a flag over the casket bearing the body of Staff Sgt. Russell Verdugo Friday at Arlington National Cemetery

by Dennis Ryan
Pentagram staff writer
10 June 2005

The Old Guard casket party crisply folded the flag, which was presented to Kari Verdugo last Friday at Arlington National Cemetery's Section 60. The chaplain loudly proclaimed, "Staff Sergeant Russell Verdugo honored the flag, at last the flag honors him."

Verdugo, 34, died doing his job May 23 on a Baghdad street. His job was particularly dangerous and in demand in Iraq. The staff sergeant served with 767th Ordnance Company from Fort McNair.

He and his unit were preparing to dispose of an improvised explosive device, when a second bomb detonated, killing Verdugo and injuring seven other Soldiers.

The firing party executed what General Douglas MacArthur called, "the mournful murmur of musketry" and a bugler played the dirge-like notes of Taps on a wet and gloomy day.

Verdugo and his unit deployed to Baghdad in February. He planned to be married this summer, but he changed plans and moved up his wedding.

Kari Verdugo, 29, did not know a lot about the military or the nature of her husband's job before she met Russell on a visit from Chicago to Washington in November of 2002. The couple dated long distance until the teacher found a teaching job and moved to the area in August of 2004.

"A week after I moved here, he got news of deployment," she said. "I knew nothing about EOD. I gradually learned. You could ask him a simple question and he would answer with three more questions. He had an interesting sense of humor. He was always very generous and giving. He'd do anything for his family and friends."

Kari Verdugo said her husband was rather self contained and she would have to prod him a bit for more details.

"He'd say something pretty vague," she said. "Eventually I'd say can we just cut to the chase. He'd be vague to protect me, but he learned pretty quickly. He loved what he did."

Verdugo enlisted in the Army in 1993 and entered the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in 1999. He also served a tour of duty in Afghanistan from July 2003 to February 2004.

DATE OF BIRTH: 04/10/1971
DATE OF DEATH: 05/23/2005

RJ Verdugo Gravesite PHOTO
 Photo Courtesy of Holly, August 2005

RJ Verdugo Valentine Day 2006 PHOTO    RJ Verdugo Valentine Day PHOTO 2006
 Photo And Valentine Day Remembrance Courtesy of Holly, 2006

Posted: 11 June 2005  Updated: 21 August 2005 Updated: 16 February 2006
Purple Heart Medal

Bronze Star Medal

RJ Verdugo Gravesite PHOTO
Photo Courtesy of Holly, September 2005