- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

From combined dispatches
The seven U.S. servicemen who died Monday in the bloodiest operation of the war in Afghanistan were patriotic family men fighting for America's safety and freedom.
Senior Airman Jason Dean Cunningham, a 26-year-old combat medic sent to Afghanistan to save lives, ended up giving his.
The Camarillo, Calif., native was a pararescueman with the 38th Rescue Squadron sent over to help injured members of a team in the country's eastern region.
"Jason died doing what he liked to do save lives," said his father, Larry "Red" Cunningham.
"We're very proud of our baby," said his mother, Jackie Cunningham.
Mr. Cunningham is survived by his wife, Theresa, and two daughters, Hannah, 2, and Kyla, 4.
Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, 36, of Windsor Locks, Conn., was remembered by his older sister, Lori McQueeney, as a good athlete and "a cutup."
"He's the life of the party," Mrs. McQueeney said.
Sgt. Chapman's girlfriend, Amy Pritchett, praised his well-roundedness. "Everything he did, he did great," she said.
The lure of a military career proved too great for Army Pfc. Matthew A. Commons, a high school honors student, soccer player and at 21 the youngest of the seven.
Single and headstrong, Pfc. Commons dropped out of the University of Nevada at Reno in 2000 to chase his dream of becoming an elite Army Ranger and follow his grandfather and father into the service.
"He mirrored my life in a lot of ways," said Gregory J. Commons, 50, an ex-Marine who served in Vietnam. "He served his country and he loved his country."
Sgt. Philip S. Svitak, 31, of Joplin, Mo., died trying to make a difference in Afghanistan, his mother said.
Her son spoke bravely before leaving, Roseann Svitak said. "If they send me over there and anything happens to me," he told her, "I'm proud to die for my country."
Sgt. Svitak, who had dreamed of military service since he was a boy, was a flight engineer assigned to 2nd Battalion of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment in Fort Campbell, Ky. He leaves his wife, Laura, and two young sons, 2-year-old Nolan and 4-year-old Ethan.
Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, 32, a Navy SEAL based in Norfolk, tumbled out of his helicopter but apparently survived the fall and was shot on the ground, said Marine Maj. Ralph Mills.
Petty Officer Roberts, a Woodland, Calif., native, was "a real nice kid. Kind of a tough kid who didn't let things bother him," said Jeff Sheline, his high school wood shop teacher. He leaves behind a wife and infant son.
Sgt. Bradley Crose, 22, of Orange Park, Fla., left his job as a math teacher to join the Army.
Sgt. Crose was a member of the 1st Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga.
"He was the most treasured thing I could give my country," his father, Ricky Crose, said Tuesday. "I want people to know the sacrifices he made."
Sgt. Crose studied mechanical engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland for two years before becoming a math major at Florida State University. He taught junior-high math and coached track for a while, but decided joining the Army would help him pay off student loans.
"He was a fine Christian and he was a warrior," said Mr. Crose, who wants his son buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Spc. Marc A. Anderson, 30, of Brandon, Fla., was the second member of the 1st Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment to die.
"I'm proud of him," said his mother, Judith Anderson, who lives in Jacksonville. "He is a hero."
The remains of the seven soldiers were returned to the United States from Ramstein Air Base in Germany early yesterday, Staff Sgt. Tom Hernan said. Dover Air Force Base in Delaware will prepare the remains for burial.
At least three others died and 11 were wounded during intense fighting Monday as two troop-carrying helicopters came under attack. Military officials said the al-Qaida and Taliban fighters used machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.


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