U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 1040-08
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died December 24, 2008, in Baghdad, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over. The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.
Staff Sergeant Christopher G. Smith, 28, of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Specialist Stephen M. Okray, 21, of St. Clair Shores, Michigan
Specialist Stephen G. Zapasnik, 19, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
The incident is under investigation.
A 19-year-old from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, was one of three Army soldiers who were killed in a vehicle accident in Iraq on Wednesday.
The three soldiers, all assigned to the Iraq Multi-National Division Center, died in the accident in southern Iraq, according to an Army news release.
While their names have not been released by the Department of Defense, one of the victims was Corporal Stephen Zapasnik, according to his mother, Chris Zapasnik.
Stephen Zapasnik and the other two men were riding in a Humvee when part of the road collapsed, their company commander told Zapasnik’s mother.
The humvee rolled into a canal, and all three men were dead when they were pulled from the water several minutes later.
Stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado, Zapasnik was in the Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment.
He joined the Army when he was 17 and did his basic training at Fort Sill, Chris Zapasnik said. More than anything, he wanted to fight in Iraq.
“He just said, ‘Mom, I need to go over there and take care of things, because if I don’t, who else will?’” his mother said.
Stephen Zapasnik’s parents last spoke with their son on December 17, 2008, when he called to check on his father, Gary Zapasnik, who is in the hospital. The father has had various medical problems this year.
Stephen Zapasnik was scheduled to come home for his mid-tour leave January 15, 2009, but because of his father’s condition, he could have returned early.
“I was afraid if I did (have him come home) that I would wreck his rhythm over there and cause him to get hurt,” Chris Zapasnik said.
On Christmas Eve, 20 days before they expected to see their son again, the Zapasniks learned of his death when Army representatives arrived at their Broken Arrow home.
Because the men were wearing Army dress greens, Zapasnik’s mother instantly knew her son was dead.
The family always knew there was a good chance that he would lose his life in Iraq.
“He said, ‘Mom, if I ever don’t come back, you know I will always be with you, and I will be with Jesus, and I will be fine,’” Chris Zapasnik said. “I know that he’s perfectly safe and spending Christmas up there with Jesus.”
Services have not been set, but Zapasnik will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, his mother said.
Zapasnik is survived by his parents, his sister Ashley 20, and Chris Hamil, 19, who has lived with the Zapasniks since he was 15 and whom Stephen considered a brother.
A memorial service will be held Friday for a Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, soldier who was killed Christmas Eve in a vehicle accident in Iraq.
The service for Army Specialist Stephen G. Zapasnik will begin at 11 a.m. at Centennial Middle School, 225 E. Omaha St. (51st St.) in Broken Arrow.
Burial with full military honors will be held January 6, 2009, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Zapasnik was one of three soldiers who were killed December 24, 2008, when their Humvee rolled over in southern Iraq after the road collapsed under the vehicle, according to the military.
Soldier, 19, Is Laid to Rest After Brief Military Career
Army Specialist Stephen G. Zapasnik had been in Iraq only four months when he was killed Christmas Eve.
Zapasnik, 19, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, died in southern Iraq in a vehicle rollover, according to the Department of Defense. Two other soldiers were killed in the incident.
Yesterday, a small group of mourners gathered under a gray sky as Zapasnik was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. They followed his coffin, sheathed in plastic to protect it from the rain, to the graveside service in Section 60 of the cemetery.
After seven riflemen fired off three shots apiece and a bugler chimed in with taps, the soldier's mother, Chris Zapasnik, received a folded flag and condolences from Army Secretary Pete Geren, among others.
Shortly after her son's death, she told the Tulsa World that she and Stephen had talked about the possibility that he would not make it home.
“He said, ‘Mom, if I ever don't come back, you know I will always be with you, and I will be with Jesus, and I will be fine,' ” she said. “I know that he's perfectly safe and spending Christmas up there with Jesus.”
Killed alongside Zapasnik were Staff Sergeant Christopher G. Smith, 28, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Specialist Stephen M. Okray, 21, of St. Clair Shores, Michigan.
The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Zapasnik joined the Army before turning 18 and joined the 2nd Brigade Combat Team five months later. He deployed to Iraq in September and had received several medals and awards during his brief military career.
According to the Tulsa World, several hundred mourners gathered in Broken Arrow last week to honor Zapasnik and talked about his strong faith, dedication, sense of humor and heroism. One recalled how Zapasnik was so dedicated to serving that he shed more than 90 pounds to become eligible for military service.
On Legacy.com, dozens of heartfelt posts spanned an online guest book in the days after Zapasnik's death. Describing herself as a “Proud army mom,” Chris Zapasnik posted her thanks for the support.
“I just want to thank you all so much for your prayers and kind words,” she wrote. “Stephen would be amazed at the outpouring of love and sympathy we are receiving from everyone, and we are so grateful that so many care and share our grief.” Though overcome with pain, anguish and grief, she is proud of her son and what he accomplished, she wrote.
“He was an astounding young man and he will live forever in my heart and soul,” she wrote.
Zapasnik was the 451st soldier killed in Iraq to be buried at Arlington.
Corporal Stephen Zapasnik, 19, left, died Wednesday in a Humvee crash in Iraq, his mother said. Zapasnik is pictured with
Chris Hamil, 19, who has lived with Zapasnik's family for four years and whom Zapasnik considered a brother.
The family of Army Specialist Stephen G. Zapasnik, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, watches as a flag is removed
from his casket during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Major General Richard J. Rowe Jr., right, presents a flag to Glenna Zapasnik, the mother of U.S. Army Specialist
Stephen G. Zapasnik, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery
Major General Richard J. Rowe Jr., right, talks to Glenna Zapasnik, the mother of U.S. Army Specialist Stephen G. Zapasnik,
of Broken Arrow, Okla., after presenting her with a flag during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009.
ZAPASNIK, STEPHEN G
SPC US ARMY
- DATE OF BIRTH: 04/18/1989
- DATE OF DEATH: 12/24/2008
- BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 8879
- 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