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US troops killed in Afghanistan and Africa

Army Sgt. Robert J. Barrett

Rob Barrett's family knew he was going into the military since he was 8 years old. He became fascinated after his older sister, Rebecca, joined ROTC in high school.

"I knew once he turned 18, that there was nothing I could do about it," said his mother, Carlene Barrett.

Rob Barrett graduated from B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River, Mass., in 2007 and joined the Massachusetts National Guard the next year. He got to serve at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

On April 19, Barrett was on an Afghan military base in Kabul helping his unit train local men to be police officers. A suicide bomber pretending to be one of the trainees detonated a bomb. Barrett, 20, died in the blast.

He also leaves behind his 2-year-old daughter, Sophie, and his father, Paul Barrett. He left a poem for his family before heading to Afghanistan:

"I am a father, a son, a grandson, a cousin, a brother.

I am a friend, a mentor, a leader, a soldier.

I volunteered to put my life on the line for flag, freedom and country, for my fellow soldiers, for you, my little girl, for you, my weeping mother and father."

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Army Staff Sgt. Scott W. Brunkhorst

Scott "Brunk" Brunkhorst could assemble a car engine as easily as he could decorate a room, but was really a romantic deep down, his wife said.

"If I could dream up a guy, it would be him," Krystal Brunkhorst said. "He knew everything about everything."

Krystal Brunkhorst said the last time he was home, her husband took her skiing in the mountains and showed her a DVD slideshow he had made.

The Fort Bragg-based Army staff sergeant was killed March 30 while on foot patrol in the Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan. The 25-year-old, who lived with his wife in Fayetteville, N.C., graduated from Bridgewater-Raritan High School in New Jersey.

His mother, Linda Brunkhorst, said her son was close to his soldiers and went to great lengths to help the new warriors adjust, even carrying some of the men's packs around for them.

"He was like their dad, you know?" she said.

"He loved his wife, he loved his family, but his soldiers were very important to him."

Brunkhorst's family said he could have left the military in August, when his five-year commitment ended, but he decided to re-enlist.

He also is survived by his daughter, 3-year-old Kendall, and father, Richard.

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Army Spc. Joseph T. Caron

Joseph Caron, named for his Vietnam veteran grandfather, always knew he would join the military, friends and family said.

He took part in the Air Force JROTC as a Washington High School Patriot, and enlisted in the Army as an infantryman out of high school.

He was assigned to Fort Bragg, and his unit deployed to Afghanistan in September.

"For him, there was no other choice," said his high school wrestling coach, Jason Wiklund. "What he wanted to do in life was to serve his country."

Caron, of Tacoma, Wash., died April 11 in Char Bagh after insurgents attacked his unit. He was 21.

"He believed wholeheartedly in what he was doing, and his concerns were for his fellow soldiers and the difficulty of the mission that they're performing," said his father, Jeffrey Caron.

Friends and family say Caron liked making people laugh. He was "always there with a joke when you needed it most and always putting forth 110 percent with fiery intensity," said Bravo Company commander Capt. Adam Armstrong.

"We knew we could depend on him in times when he was needed most," Armstrong said in a release.

Caron is survived by his father, Jeffrey Caron, and mother, Tani Hubbard, as well as his stepmother, brother and sister.

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Army 1st Lt. Salvatore S. Corma

Even as a child, Salvatore Corma was gracious, thanking his little league coach after every game. That coach, now the mayor of Deptford, N.J., wrote a letter recommending him for admission to West Point military academy. Corma, a 2008 West Point graduate, again expressed his gratitude.

"He sent a letter to my house when he graduated from the academy, thanking me for the help," Mayor Paul Medany said. "It was a short thing, but the kid remembered us."

Corma, of Wenonah, N.J., died April 29 in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan's Zabul province. He was assigned to Fort Bragg.

"As far as having Sal as a leader, he was outstanding; one of the best I have ever served with," said Sgt. Michael T. Herne. "He always placed the mission first, then the men, and then himself."

Corma, 24, was accomplished in martial arts and guitar. He also enjoyed trips to the shooting range.

A friend, Mike Salvati, said Corma had real discipline.

"He just always wanted to do the right thing," he said.

Among Corma's survivors are his parents, Salvatore and Gertrude Corma.

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Army Sgt. Roberto E. Diaz Boria

Roberto Diaz Boria, known to his soldiers simply as "D," was remembered by his colleagues as a man who wanted to be a good leader.

"He loved to be surrounded by people and friends," said Maj. Alberto Irizarry, commander of Diaz's battalion, during a memorial service in Djibouti. "He was the spark of any activity and enjoyed making friends." Diaz, 47, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, died April 8 in Mombassa, Kenya, while supporting the war in Afghanistan. His death is under investigation. He was a National Guard soldier based in Cayay, Puerto Rico.

Little information could be found about Diaz after his death aside from a military press release with details of the memorial service in Djibouti. Among those surviving him are his wife.

Lorenna Fuentes, who wrote on a memorial website that Diaz was her cousin, said the soldier was "like a big brother to me."

"You were too funny and so loved by many," she wrote.

Sgt. Robert Creighton also said Diaz was an excellent leader.

"I will always remember 'D' as caring, generous and super-friendly," he said. He was "always up for a challenge and eager to lead the way."

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Army Sgt. Sean M. Durkin

Sean Durkin's famliy describes him as having been shy, funny and car-obsessed.

When the 24-year-old soldier learned he lost his legs after an explosion in Afghanistan, "the first thing he asked was whether he would still be able to drive his car," said his mother, Mary Ann Durkin.

He died before that could happen.

Durkin, of Aurora, Colo., was wounded March 27 when his vehicle was attacked near Foraward Operating Base Wilson.

He was hospitalized in Kabul, where President Barack Obama presented him with a Purple Heart the day after the attack. The president had made a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

Eventually, Durkin was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where doctors were cautiously optimistic he would recover. But a fungal infection set in, and Durkin died April 9.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Tom Cole said Durkin was a soldier of "highest integrity." He also had a sense of humor.

"When the going got tough," the general said, "Sean said something humorous to lessen the tension and get everybody focused on the mission."

Durkin grew up in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. He moved to Aurora, Colo., during his senior year of high school and graduated from Eaglecrest High School in Centennial in 2004.

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Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler O. Griffin

Becoming a Marine was Tyler Griffin's primary goal in life. That was his ambition since age 3, said his grandfather, Arthur Griffin.

"We weren't really sure about that because he was always such a little guy, but he did it," his grandfather said.

Griffin, 19, of Voluntown, Conn., died in combat April 1 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune. He joined the Marines' Delayed Entry Program a year before graduating from Griswold High School in 2008.

Griffin played baseball, football and ran track. He liked to laugh and listen to loud music. And he was passionate about the Marine Corps.

"He was die-hard for the Marines," said a friend, Kyle Kurisoo.

Three days of public remembrances for Griffin included a homecoming processional, services attended by Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell and a public picnic in his honor.

"He would have loved seeing the patriotism and the pride that has been on display in this community on his behalf," the Rev. Franklyn J. Ward said.

His request to be "buried with the heroes" was honored by interring him at Arlington National Cemetery.

Survivors also include his mother and stepfather, Susan and John Wilding, and sister, Sarah Catania.

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Army Pfc. Jonathon D. Hall

Jonathon Hall loved helping others as a military medic — a dedication that inspired his sister, Tristyn, to pursue a career in nursing.

"He was dedicated to becoming the best he could be ... and his focus was to help other people, whether that meant treating blisters on their feet or patching up open wounds," said Tennessee National Guard Capt. Jim Ridings, who helped Hall pursue his military career.

Hall, 23, died April 8 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. He had been injured when the vehicle he was in hit a roadside bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan, causing massive head injuries, according to his obituary.

He was assigned to Fort Campbell.

He lived most of his life in Anchorage, Alaska, though Hall also had some art schooling in Tennessee. He had considered becoming a commercial artist before deciding to join the military.

His family wrote in his obituary that he always looked forward to Thanksgiving, when the family would gather in Tennessee for good company and deer hunting.

Relatives said Hall had chosen to be an organ donor, and six Germans received organs from him to help them survive various ailments.

Also surviving Hall are his mother, Robynn Harrison, and father, Lt. Col. Steven Hall.

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Marine Lance Cpl. Randy M. Heck

Randy Heck loved music and playing his electric and bass guitars, and also was a big fan of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

He also was a new father who never got to meet his daughter, Cali. His wife, Kara, wrote on Heck's MySpace page that he would have been a wonderful father. She said she missed him and told him Cali was getting "so big."

"Watch over all of us," she wrote.

The former high school track team member was sent to survival training in the desert of Djibouti, Africa. He died there March 28 in a "non-hostile incident," according to the Department of Defense.

Heck, 20, of Steubenville, Ohio, was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

Heck had several relatives who served their country in the military, and he decided a long time ago that he wanted to do the same.

He was so eager to serve, he enlisted in the Marines before his 2007 graduation from Harrison Central High School in Cadiz, Ohio.

He also leaves behind his parents, Teresa Black and Eugene Heck.

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Army Sgt. Michael K. Ingram Jr.

Michael Ingram Jr. loved listening to music, and if the melodies were blaring, chances were it was Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson. Ingram, too, was an entertainer of sorts.

"He was a clown," said his fiancee, Jamie West. "He was always saying off-the-wall stuff to make you laugh."

His spare time sometimes left him with spare parts, as he liked to take things apart and then try to put them back together. He also enjoyed following the Tigers, the major league baseball team in his native Detroit.

The 23-year-old from Monroe, Mich., was killed by a bomb April 17 while on patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Fort Carson.

Ingram joined the Army shortly after graduating from Monroe High School in 2005, and he planned to eventually pursue a law enforcement career.

"He wanted to be a person who put them away," West said.

He'd been on his first deployment since last May. West said Ingram previously had been injured on duty but chose to postpone surgery until his scheduled return home in June so he could stay with his comrades.

Survivors include his parents and five siblings and step-siblings.

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Army Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz

Even as a small child, it was clear that Michael Jankiewicz had a military career ahead of him, his uncle said.

"I can remember him in a cowboy hat with a toy rifle telling us he'll take care of the bad guys," said Paul Jankiewicz. "He knew even then."

Sure enough, his nephew enlisted in the Army shortly after his 2006 graduation from Ramsey High School in Ramsey, N.J., where he often dressed in fatigues.

Jankiewicz completed two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. He was on his second tour of Afghanistan on April 9 when the military helicopter he was riding in crashed near Zabul province during a combat mission. Jankiewicz, 23, was among the dead. He was stationed at Fort Bragg.

Jankiewicz was an Army Ranger, a member of the military's elite rapid-strike force that specializes in covert missions.

He was a history buff and was very knowledgeable about American history and world politics. He occasionally played golf.

Jankiewicz was engaged to Sylvia Bereczki and recently asked his chaplain if he would consider performing a wedding service in the woods.

He also is survived by his parents, Anthony and Serena Jankiewicz.

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Army Sgt. Nathan P. Kennedy

Nathan Kennedy often pretended to be someone else when he called home. His grandmother, Mary Lou Kennedy, says he always made people laugh.

"He usually called me 'Mary Lou' just to torment me," she said. "I loved it."

Sgt. Kennedy, of Claysville, Pa., was a 2004 graduate of McGuffery High School, where he was a champion wrestler.

"He'd always come up with something funny to say to get the team relaxed," said his coach, Mark Caffrey. "He was a quiet leader."

Kennedy, 24, joined the Army after high school and was serving in Afghanistan on April 27 when his unit was attacked near Quarando Village. He died in the attack. He was assigned to Fort Carson.

Sgt. Kennedy's tight-knit family gathered regularly for Sunday dinners at his grandmother's house in Claysville. He called his father, Joseph Kennedy, once a week and arranged to be home for the birth of his twin sister's first child in February.

His mother, Penelope, died of cancer in 2001. The family learned of Sgt. Kennedy's death on what would have been his mother's birthday. He will be buried next to her.

He also is survived by an older sister and younger brother.