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In Tribute |

U.S. troops who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

EDITOR'S NOTE: These tributes, published in alphabetical order, were supplied by The Associated Press.

Army Pfc. Paul Conlon Jr.

Born with a small hole in his heart, Paul Conlon Jr. had to be delivered during an emergency Caesarean section. He was born “legally dead,” his mother said.

“The odds were stacked against him,” said Maria Conlon.

Conlon, 21, of Somerville, Mass., was killed Aug. 15 by a roadside bomb and assault in Afghanistan's Wardak province. He was assigned to Fort Campbell, Ky.

Army Sgt. David Cooper

David Cooper once joked to his friend, “There's no rush like bullets flying over your head in the morning.”

“He would smile and blow it off,” said his friend Matt Mountjoy. “He really was a brave person.”

Cooper, 25, of Williamsburg, Ky., died Aug. 27 of wounds suffered from small-arms fire in Qadasiyah, Iraq. He was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Spc. Kevin Dickson

During one recent call, Kevin Dickson spoke to his sister-in-law, Ashley Dickson. He was looking for help buying an engagement ring for his girlfriend.

She asked him how much he wanted to spend.

“He said, ‘It doesn't matter; there's no limit,'” she said.

Dickson, 21, of Steelville, Mo., died Aug. 2 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained in a noncombat incident. He was assigned to Fort Carson, Colo.

Marine Sgt. Michael Ferschke Jr.

Michael Ferschke Jr. and his mom talked a lot by phone and he was always giving advice or trying to help his friends and family.

“He was like a male ‘Dear Abby,'” Robin Ferschke said. “He helped me through things, and I helped him. He always used to say his dad was his hero, but he's our hero.”

Ferschke, 22, of Maryville, Tenn., died Aug. 10 during combat operations in Iraq's Salahuddin province. He was assigned to Okinawa, Japan.

Army Spc. Steven Fitzmorris

Steven Fitzmorris' mother smiled thinking about her son's ego. He was complex and multidimensional, she said, and was different things to different people.

“If 15 people were asked to describe him, they would give you 15 different adjectives,” said Rosemarie Fitzmorris-Currier. “He was just Steve.”

Fitzmorris, 26, of Columbia, Mo., was killed Aug. 25 in Adhamiyah, Iraq, by small-arms fire. He was assigned to Fort Carson, Colo.

Army Pvt. Jair De Jesus Garcia

In the Army, Jair De Jesus Garcia was happy. Even though family members had tried to talk him out of enlisting last year, his enthusiasm infected them.

“You should have seen his face. And you could see it on his pictures if you could only see them,” said his mother, Maria Luisa Avneri. “He was very, very proud of what he was doing.”

Garcia, 29, of Chatsworth, Calif., was killed Aug. 1 by a roadside bomb in Chowkay Valley, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Sgt. Kenneth Gibson

Kenneth B. Gibson was too sweet for words – just listen to his one-time baby sitter, Sabrina Scaggs. He was an irresistible, “gotta-love-him kind of guy,” she said.

“You had to love him, because he was just adorable,” she said. “Absolutely adorable.”

Gibson, 25, of Christiansburg, Va., died Aug. 10 of wounds suffered from an explosive in Tarmiyah, Iraq. He was assigned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Army 2nd Lt. Michael Girdano

Although only a sophomore, Michael Girdano was a “key component” of his high school football team's undefeated season, said John Simon, a coach.

“He had an incredible will to win,” Simon said. “He had intensity and leadership.”

Girdano, 23, of Kiski Township, Pa., was killed Aug. 1 by a roadside bomb in the Chowkay Valley of Afghanistan. He was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Sgt. Jaime Gonzalez Jr.

Jaime Gonzalez Jr.'s wife said she was drawing strength from his faith, and that her trust in God had not been shaken, despite the tragedy of her husband's death.

“I have my own little WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) now. It's ‘What would Jaime do?'“ said Erica Gonzalez. “He would never let me be mad or upset about anything. If I woke up in a bad mood, he just wouldn't let me stay mad. He was full of life, and so positive.”

Gonzalez, 40, of Austin, Texas, was killed Aug. 3 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when his vehicle encountered a mine. He was assigned to Laredo, Texas.

Army Spc. Michael Gonzalez

When Michael Gonzalez returned from basic training, he still had a sense of humor. He could find something funny in the most serious situations, but he also had a new level of maturity.

“He came back a different person,” said Rick Auteri, who knew Gonzalez as a fellow employee of a ShopRite. “He came back a man.”

Gonzalez, 20, of Spotswood, N.J., died Aug. 28 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered by an explosive. He was assigned to Fort Totten, N.Y.

Army Cpl. James Hale

James Hale taught his sons to play soccer, football and baseball, and he saw his newborn daughter over a webcam but never got to hold her.

“That's what they always wanted was a girl, and she looks just like her daddy,” said his mother, Virgie Fox.

Hale, 23, of Naperville, Ill., died Aug. 13 in Baghdad of wounds suffered when his vehicle struck an explosive. He was assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, and was on his second tour of Iraq.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Harris

Call Joshua Harris a warrior-artist. In addition to being a Navy SEAL, he was an accomplished artist whose paintings were once displayed in New York.

“His art had a great deal of force and darkness,” said Jim Moon, founder of Asolare Fine Arts Academy in Lexington, N.C. “It was extraordinarily strong and powerful.”

Harris, 36, of Lexington, drowned Aug. 30 after being swept away by turbulent waters while conducting a river crossing during combat operations in Afghanistan. He was assigned to Dam Neck, Va.

Harris, an all-county and all-conference football player, graduated from Davidson College in 1994 with a degree in studio art and pursued a master's degree in architecture from UNC Charlotte.

“There are not enough words to say about a son like Josh,” his mother said. “He was the most generous spirit you have ever met. He respected everyone who had a good will about them.”

Army Sgt. Gary Henry

Some of Gary Henry's jokes were perfectly lame, but in a good way.

“Every time he'd come over to our house,” said his best friend, John Reynolds, “he'd pick up the cat and sort of pass it over you back and forth, back and forth, until someone'd say, ‘What are you doing?“'

Henry's response: “Cat scan.”

Henry, 34, of Indianapolis, died when his patrol was struck by an explosive in Baghdad on Aug. 4. He was assigned to Danville, Va.

Marine Sgt. Nickolas Lee Hopper

Judy Hopper said she could tell her son Nick was in agony on his last visit home. “I could see the pain in his eyes,” she said. “I could see his ups and downs.”

Nickolas Lee Hopper, 27, of Montrose, Ill., died Sept. 8, 2007, from wounds received near the town of Hit, Iraq, on June 20, 2005. He was assigned to Cherry Point.

Hopper had been seriously wounded when a land mine exploded while he was providing security for a convoy. He had jumped off the vehicle he was riding on to assist somebody trapped in a vehicle when another mine exploded, causing serious arm and leg injuries. An autopsy made it clear his death was caused by the combat wounds.

Army Pvt. Timothy Hutton

Last winter, Timothy Hutton was home from basic training and up in some nearby mountains with friends, exploring, when their vehicle went in a ditch and got stuck.

He walked by himself in a blizzard to get help.

“I'm so proud of that young man. He has been a very good example of what the military is all about,” Navy veteran Al Lawson said.

Hutton, 21, of Dillon, Mont., died Aug. 4 in Baghdad of injuries from a noncombat incident. He was assigned to Bamberg, Germany.

Army Sgt. Errol James

Errol James was an enthusiastic dancer, recalled Spc. Jacob Adams.

“He used to say he had a gift for dancing. It didn't matter what kind of song it was, he would dance to it. The dance always looked the same to me,” said Adams.

James, 29, of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, died Aug. 4 at Forward Operating Base Torkham in Afghanistan of injuries suffered in a noncombat-related incident. He was assigned to Grafenwoehr, Germany.

Army Pvt. Janelle King

Tina Brooks described meeting Janelle King a pure pleasure. "All you could do was love being around her," she wrote.

King, 23, of Merced, Calif., died Aug. 15 in Baghdad of wounds from a noncombat incident. She was assigned to Fort Polk, La.

Marine Capt. Garrett Lawton

Those who eulogized Garrett Lawton spoke of his compassion, his dedication to his friends and family, and his sense of humor, which included a story from a college friend who spoke of frequent hallway fire-extinguisher battles and the time when Lawton requested that someone punch him in the face to ensure that he was tough enough for the Marines.

“He was the best human being I've ever known,” said his sister, Kenna Hubai. “It seems like everyone always has wonderful things to say about people when they die, even if they're not all true, but it is true for Garrett.”

Lawton, 31, of Charleston, W.Va., died Aug. 4 during combat in Herat province in Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

Army Pfc. Jonathan Luscher

Jonathan Luscher left a profound impression on teacher Carol Rubel.

“Still waters run deep,” Rubel said. “He didn't talk a lot, but when he did speak, he had a good sense of humor, and his comments were always very perceptive.”

Luscher, 20, of Scranton, Pa., died Aug. 17 at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan, from injuries that appear to be self-inflicted. He was assigned to Scranton, Pa.

Army Pvt. John Mattox

John Mattox's best friend and fellow serviceman, Marine Cpl. Lance Waller, walked through the cemetery after the service for Mattox, stopping every so often to talk with other mourners.

“He was just a good person, a loving person,” said Waller, Mattox's friend since fifth grade. “He made everyone around him better.”

Mattox, 23, of Daingerfield, Texas, died Aug. 10 at Forward Operating Base Bostick, Afghanistan, from injuries in a noncombat-related incident. He was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.

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