National Guard Video Honors Sacrifices in War on Terror
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., April 15, 2004 Jeffrey Wershow died in Iraq in July. A year after the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Wershow became a National Guard icon.
Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, is telling everyone he can about the 22-year-old infantry specialist from the Florida Army National Guard.
Blum tells Wershow's story while showing a video about what National Guard soldiers and airmen have contributed to the global war against terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001. The 3-minute, 37-second video is a collage of film clips and still photos set to the Toby Keith song "American Soldier," which was No. 1 on the country music charts as the first year of the war in Iraq was coming to a close.
Veteran members of the National Guard Bureau's public affairs team produced two videos to pay tribute to the fallen Guard members.
One is grounded in Toby Keith's hit song "American Soldier." It shows National Guard troops performing their duties in Afghanistan, Iraq and supporting homeland efforts.
The other is a memorial to the Guard members who have been killed during the war against terrorism. Their names are displayed against an American flag that is waving in the breeze. "Taps" is the mournful musical score. The 3-minute, 17-second video ends with the sobering message, "All Gave Some; Some Gave All."
Army Guard Sgts. 1st Class Paul Mouilleseaux and Tom Roberts shot most of footage and photographs and produced the videos that are being distributed to National Guard personnel throughout the country.
Blum presented the award-winning military journalists with Air Force Achievement Medals for their poignant portrayals of the National Guard at war.
"What the National Guard does and means was the message we tried to convey in the Toby Keith video," said Mouilleseaux, who also has two Emmy Awards. He was a staff photographer on news teams for a Louisville, Ky., commercial television station, WHAS-TV, which won Midwestern regional Emmy Awards in 1994 and 2000.
"With the memorial video, we wanted to inject some honor and pride and emotion into the sacrifices that these Guard soldiers and airmen have made to make sure they are never forgotten," Mouilleseaux added.
Wershow, who went to war with the 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry, appears twice in that National Guard video that also speaks to the sacrifices that Guard soldiers and airmen have made during the war. Wershow is seen in the green haze of a night-vision lens, planting the American and Florida flags beside a breach in a defensive wall in northern Iraq.
Florida Army Guard and active Army soldiers invaded Iraq, Blum explains, in the dead of a night before coalition forces actually launched Operation Iraqi Freedom on the night of March 19, 2003.
Wershow did not have long to savor that moment, Blum relates a little later during the video as a casket covered with Old Glory is carried onto an Air National Guard plane. He was shot in the head and killed in Baghdad while buying a can of soda on July 6.
"Jeffrey Wershow was one of our Guard members who went into the fight before the fighting officially started," Blum has observed. "And Jeffrey Wershow was one of the people who made the ultimate sacrifice."
There have been many Jeffrey Wershows during the past year, as the National Guard has paid a dear price in blood and tears while holding up its end of the fight against tyranny and terrorism, against those who would do this country harm.
Sixty-five Guard members have died because they have been willing to go into harm's way.
Fifty-five Army Guard soldiers and one Air National Guard officer had given their lives during the first year of operations against Iraq by March 20, according to Defense Department casualty reports.
That was the day that California Army Guard 1st Lt. Michael Vega, 41, died at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington from injuries suffered when his vehicle rolled over during a firefight in Iraq on March 11.
Another eight Guard soldiers and an airman have died while taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom, in which terrorists based in Afghanistan have been the focus of attention since April 2002.
Twenty-seven of the Iraqi casualties have been killed in action or have died of combat wounds, according to DoD reports. Three have been killed in action in Afghanistan.
Many others have been wounded and lost limbs and have begun coming to grips at places like Walter Reed with the reality of resuming their lives, which have been forever altered by warfare.
They will be remembered in many places. The 56 who have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom came from 25 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, based on Defense Department casualty reports.
Five belonged to Army Guard units in Iowa, the state that has been hardest hit.
California and Alabama have each lost four Guard soldiers. Indiana has lost three Guard soldiers engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom and another during Operation Enduring Freedom.
July and November were the deadliest months during the first year of the Iraqi war. Eight Guard Soldiers perished during each month. Seven more died during August, September and December.
Improvised explosive devices have taken many of the lives that will again be remembered with tears and "Taps" during Memorial Day observances in late May.
But the sacrifices have been made in many ways.
Illinois 1st Lt. Brian Slavenas and Iowa Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Smith and Sgt. Paul Fisher were killed when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 2.
Ohio Spec. Todd Bates drowned south of Baghdad on Dec. 10 after diving into the Tigris River to try to save his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Aaron Reese, who fell overboard during a river patrol. Both men with the 135th Military Police Company died.
And many people now know the story of Florida Spc. Jeffrey Wershow because the chief of the National Guard Bureau is telling everyone he can how the college student and aspiring politician left his Florida home to put his life on the line, as so many National Guard people have done when their country has called.
National Guard Casualties, War Against Terrorism
Following are the names of those who have died while participating in Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom operations. The list includes their ages, states or territories in which their Guard units are based, and the dates and countries of their deaths. KIA indicates they were killed in action. DOW indicates they died of wounds. All were members of the Army National Guard except for two who belonged to the Air National Guard, indicated by asterisks.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
1st Lt. Michael Vega, 41, California, March 20, Washington, DC.
Sgt. Ivory Phipps, 44, Illinois, March 17, Iraq, KIA.
Master Sgt. Thomas Thigpen Sr., 52, South Carolina, March 16, Kuwait.
Sgt. William Normandy, 42, Vermont, March 15, Kuwait.
Spc. Jocelyn Carrasquillo, 28, North Carolina, March 13, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Christopher Taylor, 25, Alabama, Feb. 16, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Eric Ramirez, 31, California, Feb. 12, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Elijah Wong, 42, Arizona, Feb. 9, Iraq.
Spc. Joshua Knowles, 23, Iowa, Feb. 5, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt. Keith Smette, 25, North Dakota, Jan. 24, Iraq, KIA.
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hendrickson, 41, North Dakota, Jan. 24, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Michael Mihalakis, 18, California, Dec. 26, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Michael Sutter, 28, Michigan, Dec. 26, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Nathan Nakis, 19, Oregon, Dec. 16, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Reese, 31, Ohio, Dec. 10, Iraq.
Spc. Todd Bates, 20, Ohio, Dec. 10, Iraq.
Spc. Raphael Davis, 24, Mississippi, Dec. 2, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Aaron Sissel, 22, Iowa, Nov. 29, Iraq, KIA.
Cpl. Darrell Smith, 28, Indiana, Nov. 23, Iraq.
Spc. Robert Wise, 21, Florida, Nov. 12, Iraq, KIA.
Staff Sgt. Nathan Bailey, 46, Tennessee, Nov. 12, Kuwait.
Sgt. Paul Fisher, 39, Iowa, Nov. 6, Germany, DOW.
Spc. James Chance III, 25, Mississippi, Nov. 6, Iraq, KIA.
1st Lt. Brian Slavenas, 30, Illinois, Nov. 2, Iraq, KIA.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bruce Smith, 41, Iowa, Nov. 2, Iraq, DOW.
Pvt. Algernon Adams, 36, South Carolina, Oct. 28, Iraq.
Sgt. Aubrey Bell, 33, Alabama, Oct. 27, Iraq, KIA.
Pfc. Paul Bueche, 19, Alabama, Oct. 21, Iraq.
Spc. Michael Williams, 46, New York, Oct. 17, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt. Darrin Potter, 24, Kentucky, Sept. 29, Iraq.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rooney, 43, Massachusetts, Sept. 25, Kuwait.
Capt. Robert Lucero, 34, Wyoming, Sept. 25, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Michael Andrade, 28, Rhode Island, Sept. 24, Iraq.
Sgt. Charles Caldwell, 38, Rhode Island, Sept. 1, Iraq, KIA.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Camara, 40, Rhode Island, Sept. 1, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Darryl Dent, 21, District of Columbia, Aug. 26, Iraq, KIA.
Staff Sgt. Bobby Franklin, 38, North Carolina, Aug. 20, Iraq, KIA.
Pfc. David Kirchoff, 31, Iowa, Aug. 14, Germany.
Staff Sgt. David Perry, 36, California, Aug. 10, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt. Floyd Knighten Jr., 55, Louisiana, Aug. 9, Iraq.
Pfc. Brandon Ramsey, 21, Illinois, Aug. 8, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. David Lloyd, 44, Tennessee, Aug. 5, Kuwait.
Sgt. Heath McMillin, 29, New York, July 27, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Jon Fettig, 30, North Dakota, July 22, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt.1st Class Christopher Willoughby, 29, Georgia, July 20, Iraq.
Spc. Joshua Neusche, 20, Missouri, July 12, Germany.
Sgt. Roger Rowe, 54, Tennessee, July 9, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt. 1st Class Craig Boling, 38, Indiana, July 8, Kuwait.
Spc. Jeffrey Wershow, 22, Florida, July 6, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Richard Orengo, 32, Puerto Rico, June 26, Iraq.
Cpl. John Rivero, 23, Florida, April 17, Kuwait.
Spc. Richard Goward, 32, Michigan, April 14, Iraq.
Spc. William Jeffries, 39, Indiana, March 26, Spain.
*Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, Idaho, March 25, Kuwait.
Staff Sgt. Harold Best, 47, North Carolina, Oct. 7, 2003, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Spc. Jeremy Loveless, 22, Alabama, April 28, 2003, Fort Benning, Ga.
Operation Enduring Freedom
Sgt. Roy Wood, 47, Florida, Jan. 9, Afghanistan.
Sgt. Theodore Perreault, 33, Massachusetts, Dec. 23, Cuba.
Pfc. Kristian Parker, 23, Louisiana, Sept. 29, Qatar.
Sgt. Christopher Geiger, 38, Pennsylvania, July 9, Afghanistan.
*Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier, 24, Illinois, March 29, Afghanistan, KIA
Spc. Brian Clemens, 19, Indiana, Feb. 7, Kuwait.
Sgt. Michael Barry, 29, Missouri, Feb. 1, Qatar.
Sgt. Gene Vance Jr., 38, West Virginia, May 19, Afghanistan, KIA
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Romero, 31, Colorado, April 15, Afghanistan, KIA
(Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)