Michelle Willard, The Murfreesboro Post, November 8, 2009
Since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003, 108 soldiers from Tennessee have fallen on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Eleven of the fallen heroes had ties to Murfreesboro, Rutherford County and Middle Tennessee State University.
They were all fathers, sons and warriors who gave their lives for love of country.
“We fight and sometimes die, so our families don’t have to,” fallen Marine Staff Sgt. Marc Golczynski said in an e-mail shortly before his death in 2007.
Capt. Pierre E. Piche, 29, was killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed on Nov. 15, 2003 in Mosul, Iraqi.
Piche’s hometown was Starksboro, Vt., but he was a 2000 graduate of MTSU, where he was a cadet in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Piche was stationed at Fort Campbell with the 101st Airborne’s 626th Forward Support Battalion.
1st Lt. Kenneth Michael Ballard, 26, died during a firefight with insurgents on May 30, 2004 in Najaf, Iraq.
Born in Mountain View, Calif., Ballard enlisted in the Army in 1995, but left briefly to attend MTSU, where he earned a degree in 2002.
Ballard was stationed with the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division in Friedburg, Germany.
Staff Sgt. Asbury F. Hawn II, 35, was killed by injuries sustained Aug. 14, 2005 when conducting a mounted patrol in Tuz, Iraq.
The Lebanon native was the first employee in the history of Nissan’s U.S. Manufacturing operations to lose his life in military service
Hawn was deployed with his unit, Army National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment from McMinnville.
Hawn was honored with a bridge dedication on State Route 840.
Lance Cpl. James D. “J.D.” Hirlston, 21, died Aug. 23, 2006 while conducting combat operations in Anbar Province, Iraq.
The Riverdale alumnus joined the Marines in June 2005 and deployed to Iraq that December, where he served as a rifleman.
He was stationed with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Spc. Raymond (Neal) Mitchell III, 22, was killed Jan. 6, 2007 in Baghdad.
The Smyrna native was assigned to the Golden Dragons, Charlie Company of the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, NY.
Mitchell was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, which were awarded posthumously, a National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Staff Sgt. Marcus A. Golczynski, 30, died March 27, 2007 from wounds received while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
He was on his second tour with the Marine Forces Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division in Nashville. “Many of us volunteered to do this a second time due to our deep desire to finish the job we started,” he said in an e-mail before his death.
His parents own Franklin Printworks in Murfreesboro.
1st Lt. Frank B. Walkup IV, 23, died June 16, 2007 from injuries sustained in Rashaad, Iraq, when an IED exploded near his position during a foot patrol.
The Riverdale grad and Woodbury native was a cadet in high school. After graduation, he attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he participated in ROTC. He was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant after graduation in 2005.
“He’s a hero,” his father Frank Walkup III said after his son’s death. “He did this well knowing what the consequences will be.”
Staff Sgt. Jonathan K. Dozier, 30, died from wounds sustained by an IED explosion on Jan. 9, 2008 in Sinsil, Iraq.
Dozier was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, based at Vilseck, Germany.
From the Richmond, Va., area, Dozier enrolled at MTSU in 1997. He was an Army sniper team leader.
1st Lt. William E. “Eric” Emmert, 36, of Fayetteville, died Feb. 24, 2009 in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds suffered when he was shot while participating in a local Iraqi Police function.
Emmert deployed with the 269th Military Police Company, from Murfreesboro, in November 2008.
In his civilian career, Emmert was a Special Agent for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Investigation Division and was a field agent in Lincoln and Moore counties.
Spc. Corey Kowall, 20, died Sept. 20, 2009 responding to a call to assist a convoy that had encountered an IED in Afghanistan.
The 2007 Siegel High graduate enlisted in the Army right after graduating and was in the Alpha Company, Second Battalion, 508th parachute infantry regiment in the fourth brigade combat team of the 82nd Airborne division of the U.S. Army, based at Fort Bragg, NC.
Kowall’s awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Expert Infantry Badge and the Parachutists Badge.
SPC Russell S. Hercules Jr., 22, was killed Oct. 1, 2009 from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire in Wardak province, Afghanistan.
The Blackman High graduate served with the Pathfinder Company 4th BN 101st Airborne 159th CAB, based at Fort Campbell.