A Cataldo, Idaho, resident was one of three Fort Lewis soldiers killed in Iraq recently as the military installation’s deadliest month of the war draws to a close.
Pfc. Charles B. Hester, 23, was killed on May 26 when a homemade bomb struck his vehicle during military operations in Baghdad, the public affairs office of U.S. Army I Corps said Wednesday.
Although he has been stationed at Fort Lewis since September 2004, his hometown is listed as Cataldo on his military records, and he previously lived in Bremerton, Wash.
Hester, an infantryman, had been in Iraq with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division – a Stryker Brigade Combat Team – since July. He had marked his third year in the Army earlier in the month.
A spokeswoman for Fort Lewis said the Army was awaiting permission from his next of kin before releasing further information and had no details yet about funeral services or memorials.
The Defense Department also announced that two members of another Stryker Brigade were killed Monday when another homemade bomb exploded near where they were walking after leaving their vehicle for a foot patrol. Staff Sgt. Thomas M. McFall, of Glendora, Calif., and Pfc. Junior Cedeno Sanchez, of Miami, were members of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
The three deaths bring the number of fatalities among Fort Lewis soldiers overseas to 19 for May. Earlier this week, Brig. Gen. William Troy, the acting commanding general of the post, told staff in a memo that starting next month Fort Lewis will stop conducting individual memorial ceremonies for its soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Instead it will hold one ceremony for all soldiers killed each month.
“As much as we would like to think otherwise, I am afraid that with the number of soldiers we now have in harm’s way, our losses will preclude us from continuing to do individual memorial ceremonies,” Troy wrote in a memo quoted by the Morning News Tribune in Tacoma.
“I see this as a way of sharing the heavy burdens our spouses and rear detachments bear, while giving our fallen warriors the respect they deserve. It will also give the families of the fallen the opportunity to bond with one another, as they see others who share their grief,” he wrote.
Fort Lewis has about 10,000 troops in Iraq, the News Tribune said.
So far in May, the post has held five memorials for soldiers killed in Iraq, including one for six killed in a single attack on May 6, the Associated Press reported. It has a June 4 memorial planned for four soldiers killed during the 4th Brigade’s first month in Iraq.
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