Yance Tell Gray – Staff Sergeant, United States Army

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release
September 13, 2007

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of seven soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died September 10,2007, in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered from a non-combat related vehicle rollover. They were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Killed were: 

Staff Sergeant Yance T. Gray, 26, of Ismay, Montana
Staff Sergeant Gregory Rivera-Santiago, 26, of St. Croix, Virgin Islands
Sergeant Michael C. Hardegree, 21, of Villa Rica, Georgia
Sergeant Omar L. Mora, 28, of Texas City, Texas
Sergeant Nicholas J. Patterson, 24, of Rochester, Indiana
Specialist Ari D. Brown-Weeks, 23, of Abingdon, Maryland
Specialist Steven R. Elrod, 20, of Hope Mills, North Carolina

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

11 September 2007:

MILES CITY, Montana – Staff Sergeant Yance Gray of Ismay was killed when the cargo truck he was riding in overturned in Baghdad, Iraq.

It happened yesterday.

The 26-year-old Gray joined the Army in 2000.

Soldiers Killed

Public information officer Major Garth Scott of the Montana National Guard says Gray was a member of the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, attached to the 1st Infantry Division at the time of his death.

Sergeant First Class Steven Klang of Baker is serving as the casualty assistance officer. He says Gray was a passenger in an M-915 five-ton cargo truck when it rolled over. Klang says he has not been told what caused the rollover.

A funeral with military honors is planned at Arlington National Cemetery. And a public memorial service is planned later in Ismay.

Gray was a graduate of Plevna High School, and the son of Richard and Karen Gray of Ismay. He is also survived by his wife and infant daughter, who live in North Carolina.

13 September 2007:

An 82nd Airborne Division Paratrooper died of wounds sustained when the truck he was traveling in rolled over near Baghdad, Iraq, Monday.

Staff Sergeant Yance T. Gray, 26, of Ismay, Mont, was an Infantry Team Leader with 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.


“The Army lost an exceptional leader with the unfortunate passing of Staff Sergeant Yance Gray,” said Staff Sergeant Nema Mobarakzadeh, a fellow soldier. “He was a man that genuinely cared for his men and always put their needs before his own.”

“His tactical and technical expertise as a soldier where matched by none,” added Mobarakzadeh.

Staff Sergeant Yance T. Gray Gray joined the Army in June 2000.

He arrived to the 82nd Airborne Division in June 2005 and was assigned to the 3rd Bn., 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment as an Infantryman.

“His memory will carry on through all of the people he has touched with his warmhearted nature,” Mobarakzadeh said.

Gray had three previous deployments. From January 2003 to August 2003 he deployed in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His other deployments were in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from January 2004 to April 2004, and from July 2006 to December 2006.

Gray's awards and decorations include: the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with one silver oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Non-commissioned Officers Professional Development Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the ranger Tab, and the Parachutist's Badge.

Gray is survived by his wife, Jessica Gray; his daughter, Ava Gray, both of Raeford, North Carolina; and his father, Richard Gray, of Ismay, Montana.

Mother of Montana soldier from Ismay killed in Iraq talks; Sen. Baucus to visit Iraq

September 13, 2007

Mother of Montana soldier from Ismay killed in Iraq talks; Senator Baucus to visit Iraq

The mother of a fallen Montana soldier tells us her son wanted to be in the military ever since he was a boy.

Staff Sergeant Yance Gray from Ismay died when a cargo truck he was riding in overturned and his parents say their son served for the love of his country. He was on his way to achieving his dream of becoming an Airborne Ranger.

Gray and five others wrote an opinion piece critical of the U-S war effort that ran in the New York Times on August 19th writing “we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. We are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse – namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force”.

They also wrote that even with these views they are committed soldiers determined to finish their mission.

Yance Gray's wife and five-month old daughter live in North Carolina while his parents live in Ismay.

Meanwhile Senator Max Baucus has asked the military for details surrounding the death of Yance Gray and later this week the Senator will also make his first trip to Iraq.

He plans to meet wth military officials, Iraqi political leaders and Montana soldiers. Last year Baucus' nephew Phillip Baucus was killed in Iraq while serving with the Marines.

“When I come back after several days, I will be in a much better position to know the right thing to do so we can resolve the situation in that country.”

Senator Baucus says he now regrets his 2002 vote to authorize force in Iraq.

MILES CITY, Montana – More than 300 people from across Eastern Montana gathered Thursday to honor one of their own, a fallen soldier who had remained steadfast to his mission despite raising questions about the war in Iraq.

Staff Sergeant Yance T. Gray, 26, of Ismay was remembered by family and friends as a “man of integrity,” loving father to an infant daughter and dedicated soldier who from childhood had set his sights on joining the 82nd Airborne Division.

Gray, who went by his middle name Tell, realized that goal and was nearing the end of four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan when he was among seven paratroopers killed September 10, when the truck they were riding in plunged off a highway overpass. Two suspected insurgents being transported as prisoners also were killed.

Just weeks earlier, an essay in The New York Times written by Gray and several other soldiers had questioned America's progress in Iraq. The soldiers wrote that claims of U.S. military gains were based on “flawed” assumptions and offset by political losses.  The uncertainties expressed in that article were largely absent from Thursday's memorial service at Grace Bible Church.

Pastor Pat Linger of the Ismay Community Church recounted Gray's upbringing on the family ranch and his determination from the age of 5 to enlist in the military.

“Tell wasn't a man of words. But the words he spoke meant something,” Linger said. “It wasn't out of ruthlessness that he entered the military. … This was his job, and he did it well.”

Honor Guard member Sergeant David Henry folds the flag at the memorial service for Staff Sergeant Yance Tell Gray

A slide show during the service displayed pictures of Gray as an infant sharing a bath with his two siblings, as a preteen clad in camouflage and as an adult dancing with his mother at his wedding three years ago.

Linger also recounted how Gray, who joined the military right out of high school, earned numerous awards and recognition, including the Bronze Star. He met his future wife, Jessica, while on leave. They married after a courtship that spanned two combat tours, Linger said.

The couple had their first child, Ava Madison, in April. Gray saw his daughter during a brief two-week leave shortly after her birth.

During his eulogy, Linger mentioned just a single line from the New York Times essay. It was the last one, which read: “We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”

Gray's hometown of Ismay, which, residents say, is the smallest incorporated town in Montana, is a ranching outpost made up of only a few houses, a grain elevator, a post office and a church. Gray's death hit its nine residents hard, said Kay Hoffman, who lives near the Grays and knew the soldier since he was a child.

His death, said Hoffman, “was something you didn't want to say out loud because that would make it true.”

Gray's mother, Karen, said before Thursday's memorial that she had been overwhelmed following her son's death and the subsequent attention given to the essay in The New York Times, which was titled “The War As We Saw It.” One of Gray's co-authors, Sgt. Omar Mora, also was killed in the September 10 accident.

Some war opponents seized on the deaths as reinforcing what they saw as the futility of Gray's mission.

Karen Gray said she remembered her son as a loving child who took pride in his military career and looked forward to being a devoted father.

“I have no regrets that he was in Iraq. He was doing what he loved,” she said. “My only regret is that he can't be a daddy for his little girl.”

His funeral is planned for Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Jessica Gray, with her infant daughter, Ava, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to visit the grave of her husband, Staff Sergeant Yance T. Gray


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/04/1981
  • DATE OF DEATH: 09/10/2007

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