By LISA HOFFMAN
May 27, 2004
Since the war in Iraq began, 64 fallen American GIs have been interred in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. The cremated ashes of another rests in an aboveground columbarium there. Among those in the nation's most hallowed cemetery are:
Army Captain Russell Rippetoe, 27, of Arvada, Colorado
The first Operation Iraqi Freedom casualty to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Russell Rippetoe, like many of those who followed him in death, had the military in his blood. His father was a 28-year Army career officer, with two combat tours in Vietnam and three in Europe, where Russell, the younger of two children, was born.
Though not athletically gifted, Rippetoe used his determination to become captain of his high-school soccer team. A born leader with movie-star looks, he was also an Eagle Scout and homecoming king. After his service as an elite Army Ranger, Rippetoe hoped to become an FBI or Secret Service agent.
On April 3, 2003, Rippetoe and his men were inspecting cars at a nighttime checkpoint in western Iraq when an Iraqi woman jumped from a vehicle, and, as a ruse, screamed that she was hungry. Seconds after Rippetoe went to help her, the car, rigged with explosives, blew up. Rippetoe and two other Rangers died.
His father, retired Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Rippetoe, will participate in a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, as part of the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. Monday.
Army Sergeant Michael Woodliff, 22, of Punta Gorda, Florida.
More than once, Michael Woodliff dodged death in Iraq. His closest call came when a suicide bomber ran screaming at Woodliff, ripped open his shirt to display a bomb strapped around his waist and pulled the detonator cord – but the device malfunctioned. His fellow soldiers dubbed him “Lucky” after that.
Son of a retired Army major and brother to a nuclear-submarine seaman, Woodliff was a high-energy high-school wrestler who delighted in a good prank, a daredevil who always wanted to be a soldier.
“Everything he did, he did to help him become a better soldier,” his brother Matthew told a local newspaper.
He joined the Army in 2000, right out of high school, and shortly before his death re-enlisted for another three years. He had hoped to go home in February on a 30-day leave to marry his fiancee, Crystal Steward, but the Army needed him to stay.
Death finally caught him in Baghdad on March 2, 2004, when an improvised bomb hit his Humvee as he drove “point” for a convoy.
Navy Lieutenant Nathan White, 30, of Orlando, Florida.
When he was a child in Abilene, Texas, Nathan White once stood for hours waiting to wave to his father, an Air Force C-130 transport-plane pilot, as he flew overhead. But White didn't decide to follow his father's path in the sky until after he graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah.
While in college, White spent two years on a Mormon mission trip to Japan, where he mastered the language and fell in love with a Japanese woman he later married. After graduation, he jettisoned his law-school plans and joined the Navy to be a fighter pilot.
A serious, intelligent father of three, White shared his philosophy in his final e-mail home from the war. “Success in any endeavor is brought about by personal preparation and training for those inevitable obstacles of life.”
White's life ended April 2, 2003, in a tragic “friendly fire” incident early in the war. A U.S. Patriot antimissile system mistakenly shot down his F/A 18-C Hornet over Karbala, mistaking the aircraft as an Iraqi missile.
Army Specialist Uday Singh, 21, of Chandigarh, India
High-spirited and restless, Uday Singh decided he wanted to live in America at age 16 during a visit to his aunt and uncle in Lake Forest, Illinois – far away from his Punjab homeland.
Singh, who loved fast cars and war movies, dreamed big, seeing himself as a respected military man like his Sikh father and grandfather, and, later, as a successful American businessman. He enlisted in the Army in August 2000, serving first at Fort Riley, Kansas, and then Kuwait. Last September, he deployed to Iraq as a tank gunner. He wrote his parents that he had never been so scared.
Last December 1, Singh was in the lead tank when his patrol was ambushed near Habbaniyah, 65 miles west of Baghdad. After his death, the Army arranged for what apparently was the first-ever foreign military funeral in India. The three-star commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and a unit of Army soldiers gave Singh a service with full U.S. military honors in Chandigarh, complete with taps and a rifle salute.
For cremation, Singh's body was dressed in his Army uniform and draped with the U.S. flag. Some of Singh's ashes remained in India, but an urn containing a portion was buried in Arlington's Section 60 on January 8 – after he was posthumously granted U.S. citizenship and promoted to Sergeant.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Sharon Swartworth, 43, of Alexandria, Virginia.
Sharon Swartworth counted her lucky stars on September 11, 2001. The nose of the jetliner flown by terrorists into the side of the Pentagon came to rest next to the office she had moved from just a couple of months before.
An avid runner and computer whiz, Swartworth enlisted in the Army right out of high school, rising up the ranks in 26 years to become the Army's Judge Advocate Corps' top warrant officer, overseeing the efforts of scores of U.S. military legal administrators around the world.
Soft-spoken and 5-foot-2, Swartworth had an appearance that belied her toughness. In the Army, she had parachuted from planes and became a sharpshooter. Outgoing and athletic, she organized neighborhood dinners and cookie swaps.
Her November mission to Iraq was to be her military swan song, her last Army assignment before joining her husband, Navy Captain William Swartworth, and 8-year-old son William at his new posting in Hawaii. The Iraq trip was essentially a morale-building effort in which she and others awarded medals to troops in the war zone.
On November 7, she and five others died when an Army Blackhawk helicopter was shot down by enemy missiles near Tikrit. The only woman soldier from the Iraq conflict buried at Arlington, Swartworth died the day before her 44th birthday.
Marine Lance Corporal Brad Shuder, 21, of El Dorado Hills, California
Born poor in South Korea, Brad Shuder lucked out when an American couple adopted him at 22 months and brought him to California. There, Shuder grew into an energetic young man, the smallest on his high-school rugby team but the one with the most grit.
Considerate and fun loving, Shuder volunteered as a counselor to troubled junior-high kids, and developed a passion for cooking. Always, he wanted to give back to the country that had given him so much.
The day Shuder graduated from high school, he joined the Marines. He entered boot camp on October 11, 2001, with even greater purpose. “I joined because it was my dream,” Shuder wrote in a note his parents found after his death. “I wanted to protect my loved ones. I wanted to protect the United States.”
On his second tour in Iraq, enemy mortar fire took his life April 12 in one of the battles that Marines fought against insurgents in the restive Sunni stronghold in Fallujah.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal, 24, of Opa-Locka, Florida.
Big and boisterous, Nathan Bruckenthal followed a family tradition of public service. His grandfather fought in World War II, his father was a Long Island, New York, police chief and his stepfather was a career Army vet.
As a teenager, Bruckenthal became a volunteer firefighter. At 18, he joined the Coast Guard. After 9/11, he used vacation time to help out at Ground Zero. Eventually, he wanted a law-enforcement career.
One Coast Guard posting took him to Washington state, where the boisterous, 6-foot-2 Guardsman devoted his spare time to volunteering on the Makah Nation Indian reservation nearby. He served on its fire company, and coached kids in football. There he met his wife, Pattie, who was a college student studying the tribe.
The first Coast Guard member to die in combat since the Vietnam War, Bruckenthal was on his second Iraq tour when suicide bombers in boats tried to blow up an Iraqi oil terminal in the Persian Gulf on April 24. He and two others foiled the attack, but died as they did.
To honor Bruckenthal, the Makah tribe sent a special tribal blanket to be given to his wife. Three months' pregnant with their first child, the widow wrapped herself in it for comfort at her husband's graveside service May 7.
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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