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Fort Drum soldiers, civilian killed in June remembered at ceremony


FORT DRUM — Four soldiers and a civilian from the post, who died in June while on deployment to Afghanistan, were remembered Thursday as dedicated and skilled in their work and devoted to their friends and loved ones.

“They understood the heavy risk associated with selfless service, but they willingly made that choice to protect what mattered most: their families, their friends and their comrades,” said Col. Robert A. Rudolph, rear provisional commander for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, the brigade with which all five served.

Remembered during the afternoon ceremony were Lt. Cols. Todd J. Clark and Jaimie E. Leonard, Sgt. Javier Sanchez Jr., Pfc. Mariano M. Raymundo and civilian Joseph A. Morabito. Several family members of each were in attendance, creating a long train as they followed Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, 10th Mountain Division commander, from division headquarters to the post’s Memorial Park.

Lt. Cols. Clark and Leonard, along with Mr. Morabito, were killed in Zarghun Shahr, Paktika Province, on June 8 by a man wearing an Afghan military uniform.

Maj. Joseph C. Geraci said Col. Clark was a great cavalryman, comparing him to Civil War general John Buford for the personal sacrifices he made to serve, including his return after suffering serious injuries from an improvised explosive device in 2010, and the great love for his fellow soldiers reflected in several testimonials Maj. Geraci read during his remarks.

“He was a realist, and as genuine a man as they come, the real merchandise,” one soldier wrote.

Col. Leonard was remembered in a statement from a friend and mentor, Col. Ketti Davison, who is deployed in Afghanistan, as someone who loved Afghanistan’s complex history and culture and was determined to make a difference through her work.

“You couldn’t keep her inside of the wire,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Glenn J. Gleason said, reading Col. Davison’s statement. “She ran to the sounds of the guns.”

The mentor added that Col. Leonard’s service was driven by a love of her country and a desire to pass along America’s best traits to her Afghan counterparts.

Mr. Morabito, a retired Navy and New York Police Department officer who was a civilian law enforcement professional with the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, was remembered by Maj. Del P. Boyer as a “bigger than life” personality who was one of the most patriotic people he knew.

“He was our big brother,” Maj. Boyer said. “Joe’s character and personality could light up a city.”

Sgt. Sanchez, who died June 23 of injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device during a mounted patrol in Sar Rowzah, specially requested a change of unit to be closer to fighting.

“He said he would do whatever it took, dismount up the mountains, man a gun, drive, anything,” said Capt. Chester D. Boyles, who spoke for Sgt. Sanchez. “He didn’t let the men of Alpha Company down.”

Pfc. Raymundo died June 1 in Sharan. His death is still under investigation. Spc. Allen E. Florek said Pfc. Raymundo was the “textbook definition” of a perfect soldier and perfect friend.

A great follower and listener, Spc. Florek said, his friend was eager to help new soldiers and find answers to difficult problems. As one example of his character, Spc. Florek said, another soldier’s sleeping bag was drenched in a heavy rain that flooded their tent, at which point Pfc. Raymundo gave up his own and slept under a poncho liner.

“He taught me how to be a better soldier and better team leader,” Spc. Florek said.

None of the family members of the five being remembered was available for comment immediately after the ceremony.

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