2017 Gold Star Families - Team Fastrax™ Warrior Weekend to Remember 2017
New 2017 Gold Star Families
Honored Warrior – Army CPT George "Jordy" Alsfelder
CPT George "Jordy," devoted and loving son of Robert, Jr. and Deborah (nee Taylor) Alsfelder and brother of CPT Robert Alsfelder III, CPT James William Alsfelder (Ret.) and Katherine Eileen Alsfelder. Cherished great-grandson of Helsie Patrick of Wilmington, OH. Jordy was preceded in death by his grandparents, Robert and Katherine Alsfelder and James and Eileen Taylor. Jordy passed away suddenly on May 8, 2016 at the age of 26 of a heart attack. He was a 2008 graduate of Cincinnati Country Day School and a 2012 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Jordy had a huge, contagious smile that made everyone around him happier. His quick wit and sharp sense of humor lit up a room and put a smile on everyone's face. Jordy was an active, fun-loving person who played basketball, baseball, golf, dodgeball, and surfed, ran track, and enjoyed hiking. He was an avid sports fan and had an especially strong love for Ohio State football and Indiana University basketball. Jordy cared about his family and friends more than he cared about himself. He was proud to serve his country with honor and considered it a privilege to lead soldiers. His passing leaves an enormous void in the lives of so many that will never be filled.
Fallen Warrior – Army SFC Jack B. Beers
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Sergeant First Class Jack Blaine Beers (ASN: RA-23877112), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company B, 3d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade. Platoon Sergeant Beers distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on the evening of 7 April 1969 during an attack by an estimated reinforced Viet Cong company on his platoon's night location near the town of Bao Loc, Lam Dong Province. Sergeant Beers moved through the initial barrage of rocket, automatic weapons and small arms fire to reach a section of the perimeter under heavy ground attack, and was painfully wounded by shrapnel from an incoming rocket when he arrived at a machine gun bunker. Despite his injury, he directed that position's fire against the aggressors and momentarily halted their assault. After hearing a rocket hit in the platoon's command post and a cry for help from his radio telephone operator, he started toward the stricken post, but was seriously wounded in the legs and stomach by shrapnel from enemy grenades and rockets as the communists began attacking from all sides. Disregarding his safety, he encouraged his men to hold their positions and crawled to a radio to call for artillery support. Although he was in an exposed location, he continued to adjust artillery strikes until he was mortally wounded by hostile small arms fire. Platoon Sergeant Beers' extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Fallen Warrior – Army SSG Bryan Burgess
SSG Bryan A. Burgess of Cleburne, TX entered the Army in March 2003 and arrived at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in Sept, 2009. Burgess was assigned to the 101st Airborne 1st Brigade Combat Team 2nd Battalion 327th Infantry Regiment No Slack Charlie Company.
His Awards include: Bronze Star; Bronze Star of Valor; Purple Heart; Army Commendation with 3 Oak Leaves; Army Achievement with one Oak Leaf; Army Good Conduct with Double-Knotted Rope Clasp; National Defense Service; Afghanistan Campaign with One Bronze Campaign Star; Iraq Campaign with One Bronze Campaign Star; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary; Global War on Terrorism Service; Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral "4" device; NATO ISAF; Two Certificates of Achievement; Combat Infantryman Badge and Air Assault Badge.
Bryan was assigned to mission Strong Eagle III in March of 2011. Their mission was to extract Taliban leader “QZR.” With only 16 days left of his tour, Bryan marched into Kunar Province, Afghanistan with his team. The Taliban were ready. Bryan’s unit No Slack was ambushed as they proceeded into the valley where the Taliban had set up their headquarters. Bryan was mortally wounded and as Medic Eric Matheson held him Bryan asked, “Where’s my chariot?”
Bryan died on March 29, 2011. His last words have been immortalized in the song “Chariots” from the film “The Hornet’s Nest.”
Fallen Warrior – Marine LCpl Alec E. Catherwood
Alec Catherwood was 19 years old, a Lance Corporal and had been a Marine for under a year and a half, when he deployed to Afghanistan. His unit had been gone under 3 weeks when he was killed. His friend Joe Lopez was also killed that day, and there were multiple injuries as well. The 3/5 Marines lost 25 men and many, many were wounded in action. Alec was awarded the Purple Heart, and the Combat Action Ribbon. He had received the Korean Defense Service Medal, the Global war on Terrorism Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.
Fallen Warrior – Army CW3 James E. Groves
CW3 James E Groves III served in 3-17 CAV, 3 CAB. The 37-year-old Kettering Fairmont High School graduate was KIA when the helicopter he was piloting crashed near Kandahar, Afghanistan. His military decorations include Air Medal and Bronze Star. James was an instructor pilot with over 3000 combat hours and 7000 training hours. He was on a check ride with a new pilot, who had 100 hours of experience. They had just completed a live fire run and were coming around for another pass when the helicopter (OH-58 D Kiowa) lost power due to a fuel pickup device failure. James was unable to restart the engine and they crashed. James died due to extent of his injuries. His co-pilot survived but suffered multiple injuries. Groves, who enlisted following commencement in June 1994, was nearing the end of his second tour in Afghanistan, following two in Iraq. Groves was married to Katie Groves with sons, James IV, 12, and Shane, 9. James, who has an older sister, Jeannette, was born in Columbus on Nov. 7, 1975. The family moved to Kettering in 1978. He played baseball while growing up in Kettering and football for Fairmont High School. He attended Rosewood Elementary School, now the city’s arts center, for kindergarten and then went to Indian Riffle Elementary School. At Fairmont, one of his assignments for the student television station was to interview military recruiters. Groves, who attended officer training school and was an instructor pilot, was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Hunter Airfield. His resume included military intelligence and air assault.
Fallen Warrior – Marine Maj Elizabeth Kealey
Maj Elizabeth Kealey, a native of Indiana, Pennsylvania, died on-board an aircraft that crashed while conducting training aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.
Kealey, 32, commissioned in the Marine Corps May 27, 2005. She served within HMLA-169 as a UH-1Y Huey helicopter pilot and weapons training instructor. She deployed twice with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and once in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Her personal awards include the Air Medal with three Strike/Flight awards and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star in lieu of the second award.
Fallen Warrior – Marine LCpl Kevin "Adam" Lucas
Marine Lance Corporal Kevin Adam Lucas -- who went by Adam -- was killed during a battle in Iraq. A Defense Department press release said he died "while conducting combat operations against enemy forces." His parents, Kevin and Sandra Lucas, knew few more details Saturday afternoon. They knew their 20-year-old son came under enemy fire and was fatally shot during a security patrol Friday morning. They knew he would never receive the four care packages already sent his way. Or drive his "baby" -- a red Dodge 4x4 pickup parked in their driveway. But their son was a proud Marine who believed in his mission, and the couple spread that message Saturday without hesitation. Adam Lucas grew up in a family where you had to use the fingers on both hands to count all the relatives with military experience. After graduating in 2004, Lucas spent nearly two years in the Marines before leaving in March for his first tour in Iraq. Assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, he was stationed at Camp Blue Diamond, a Marine base in Iraq's Al Anbar province. He called his parents about three times -- the last on Mother's Day. He talked about the bad mosquitoes. And how he wanted them to send vitamins and protein drinks. And, of course, the unrelenting hot weather. But he believed in being there. "Americans need to keep remembering Sept. 11 and quit bickering over the little things," his father remembered him saying. He was due back in October and had planned a military wedding with his fiancée at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia in January. Another tour in Iraq awaited him six months later.
Fallen Warrior – Army SGT David J. Luff
Army SGT David Luff was excited about his son’s birth in May and was glad he was home for the day he had been looking forward to since getting married a year and a half earlier. But, he had just three weeks with his newborn before leaving for his second deployment to Iraq. He looked forward to returning home on leave in February and reuniting with his wife, Katie, and son, Aiden. He talked about his anticipation in text messages to his sister, Stacy Garrison, she told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He was an awesome guy. ... He loved his son and his wife very much,” Garrison said.
Luff, 29, of Hamilton, Ohio, died Nov. 21 in Tikrit when insurgents attacked his unit with small weapons. He was assigned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. His second wedding anniversary would have been Dec. 31. He began dating Katie when they were students at Hamilton High School.
Luff, a 1999 graduate of Hamilton High, also was known for his sense of humor and good-natured attitude. He was a big fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals, and semipro wrestling. He also leaves behind his parents, Dave and Lucy Luff.
Fallen Warrior – Army SGT Anthony R. Maddox
Sgt. Anthony R. Maddox joined the Army in January 2011, and attended Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He completed Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia, graduating as a Petroleum Supply Specialist. He served as a Petroleum Supply Specialist and a Heavy Wheeled Vehicle Operator for Foxtrot Forward Support Company, 10th Brigade Support Battalion, 1/87 Infantry Battalion in Fort Drum, NY. In January 2013, he was deployed with his unit to Andar Ghanzi Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While in Afghanistan, he sustained severe burn injuries over 97% of his body as a result of a petroleum accident. He passed away two days later, on 7/22/2013.
Fallen Warrior – Army SGT Gary L. McKiddy
SGT Gary L. McKiddy, Miamisburg, Ohio. Silver Star, Bronze Star with V, 26 Air Medals, Purple Heart, Good Conduct, Vietnam Cross with Palm, Vietnam Medal of Merrit. McKiddy was a door gunner on an OH-6A light observation helicopter and was assigned with C TRP, 1ST SQD, 9TH CAV RGT, 1 CAV DIV. He was killed on May 6, 1970, when the helicopter he was in was shot down. Gary was either thrown or jumped free of the crash upon impact with the ground. Although the chopper was burning, Gary risked his own life when he returned to the chopper and retrieved the copilot, Jim Skaggs, and carried him to safety. Gary again returned the chopper, even though it was burning out of control and ammo from inside of the chopper was "cooking off", in an attempt to rescue the pilot, WO1 Tommy Leon Whiddon. As Gary entered the chopper and positioned himself to retrieve the pilot, the fuel cells exploded and killed both men. When the rescue team arrived, Gary was found stretched across the seat that he had just removed Skaggs from, laying across Whiddon with one arm behind him. The transmission had fallen across Gary's back pinning him in. The military tells us that this happened after the explosion and he was already dead when this occurred. Gary was awarded the Silver Star for his action, however, there is a bill pending in Congress that if approved will provide for Gary to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions; the bill is HR 369. Gary had flown more than 650 combat missions and was awarded 37 medals during his 6 months in Nam.
Fallen Warrior – Army SGT Luther W. Rabon
SGT Luther W. Rabon Jr. “Will” was born on August 21, 1978 in Lexington, SC. He was the son of Luther Sr. and Martha “Sissy” Rabon. He is the father of four beautiful children, Summer Rain, Grace Rene, Trinity Rose, and Noah Michael Allen Rabon. He was the husband of Catherine Rabon, the brother of Amy Terry, the uncle to Matthew and Dillon Terry and the friend to many.
Will was a great son, husband, father, brother, uncle, and friend. He had a larger than life personality, and could cure the sourest of moods with one of his famous smiles and awesome bear hugs. He loved to spend time with his family and friends, and was often the life of the party. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, dirt track racing, and most of all he loved being a soldier.
Over the years, he had many jobs but was not truly satisfied until he became a soldier. He was a member of the Honor Guard and felt truly blessed to be able to pay respect to his fellow soldiers by being a member of such a great team.
He was assigned to the 1221st Engineer Clearance Company, South Carolina National Guard, Graniteville, S.C. He died Oct. 1, 2010 in the Orgun district of Paktika province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his military vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
Fallen Warrior – Marine PFC Enrique C. "Henry" Sanchez
PFC Enrique C. "Henry" Sanchez, a native of Garner, N.C., was awarded the medal for heroic achievement while serving as a turret gunner with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 1-Brigade Combat Team, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). On June 8, 2006, Sanchez was part of a four-vehicle patrol in Ramadi, Iraq, when an insurgent-fired rocket propelled grenade skipped off the ground and exploded under Sanchez’s humvee, igniting the fuel tank. As his vehicle began receiving small-arms fire, Sanchez immediately returned fire from his turret-mounted machine gun as flames swelled around the humvee. Sanchez continued to lay down accurate fire on the enemy positions allowing the personnel inside to escape the burning vehicle. He continued to fire until his machine gun was empty. By the time Sanchez exited the vehicle, he had suffered second degree burns, but he had silenced two enemy positions. Sanchez had to crawl out from the top of the flame-ridden humvee in order to escape. Sanchez was killed during the same deployment when his Humvee ran over an explosive device in Ramadi, Al Anbar province, Iraq on 27 July 2006. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He posthumously earned the Bronze Star with valor device. He was 21 years old.
Fallen Warrior – Air Force Capt Lance Peter Sijan
(Medal of Honor) While on a flight over North Vietnam, Captain Sijan ejected from his disabled aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than 6 weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food. After being captured by North Vietnamese soldiers, Captain Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a prisoner of war camp. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered one of his guards and crawled into the jungle, only to be recaptured after several hours. He was then transferred to another prison camp where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length. During interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors. Captain Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner. During his intermittent periods of consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Captain Sijan's extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.
Fallen Warrior – Army SSGT Wesley R. Williams
SSG Wesley Ross Williams was born on March 17, 1987, at Darnell Army Community Hospital on Fort Hood, Texas. He grew up in Park Layne, Ohio. Skateboarding, video games, and AFJROTC occupied much of his time. During his senior year at Tecumseh High School, he joined the United States Army. He took his oath of enlistment on July 6, 2005. He earned his Infantry Blue Chord and his Parachutist Badge before being assigned to Ghostrider Company, 3rdBrigade, 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment in Vilseck , Germany. Wes’s first deployment was to Iraq from August 2007 to October 2008 as a Radio Telephone Operator. When he returned from this deployment he married his high school sweetheart, Krista, in December 2008.
In February on 2009, Wes was assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. He deployed to Iraq again from September 2009 to October 2010 as a Rifleman with Bayonet Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
Wesley and Krista welcomed Faith Evelyn into their family in August 2011. Wes was a proud papa. His third tour took him to Sperwan Ghar, Afghanistan as a Squad Leader in 3rd Platoon. On December 10, 2012, Wesley died of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by an IED. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60-10393, in April of 2013. Their second daughter, Valerie Marie, was born in July of 2013.
SSG Wesley Ross Williams earned the following awards and Decorations: Army Commendation Medal w/2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal w/4 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Good Conduct Medal (2nd Award), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/2 Campaign Stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon (Numeral 3), NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Parachutist Badge. Bronze Star, and Purple Heart.
Ambassador Gold Star Families
Fallen Warrior – Army SFC Ofren “AC” Arrechaga
SFC Ofren “AC” Arrechaga was KIA 29 March 2011, Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Ofren was born in Havana, Cuba, on December 22, 1982. He and his family moved to Hialeah, Florida, when he was 14. In February 2001, at the age of 18, Ofren enlisted in the United States Army. He was assigned to Alpha Company, 2-327 Infantry Regiment (No Slack), 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) where he remained the entirety of his 10 years in active duty service. During Ofren’s career he was deployed four times, three to Iraq, once to Afghanistan. In April 2010, Ofren deployed to Afghanistan in what would be his hardest deployment yet. By the first week of July, 11 of his brothers had given their lives. On March 29, 2011, the day after Alston’s third birthday, Ofren and five others would do the same. Their final mission and sacrifices can be seen in the documentaries The Hornets Nest, and No Greater Love. Ofren is best known among his men for his ability to boost morale. Even on the worst of days he could make just about anyone laugh, even if they were laughing at him instead of with him. Ofren loved his job but he loved his guys more and that was evident in everything he did. Shortly before his death Ofren received orders to be a Ranger Instructor at Fort Benning. He was beyond excited to have a few non-deployable years with his family.
Fallen Warrior – Army SPC Donald “Scott” Morrison
On September 26, 2010, my son, SPC. Morrison, Donald “Scott” was KIA. This was his first deployment during Operation Enduring Freedom. Prior to deployment he was stationed at Fort Hood, TX to the 584th Mobility Augmentation Company, 20th Engineer Battalion.
Fallen Warrior – Marine LCpl Taylor Prazynski
Taylor B. Prazynski, Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps
Born at the Medical Center at Hill Air Force Base Utah 12 Nov. 1984. He graduated Fairfield High School, Fairfield Ohio and joined United States Marine Corps 5 Nov. 2003. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island South Carolina. 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment, L Company, 4th Platoon, Squad Automatic Weapon Gunner, MOS 0311, Infantry, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Served in Operation Secure Tomorrow, Port Au Prince, Haiti March-June 2004. Served in Operation Iraqi Freedom January 2005 – May 2005. He was killed in Action 9 May 2005, in Al Karmah, 16km Northeast of Fallujah, Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Awards Include: Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, Site 8111.
Fallen Warrior – Army 1LT Justin Smith
On 7 November 2005, 1LT Justin Smith and his platoon were conducting a vehicle checkpoint south of Baghdad. Their replacements were on the way and there were only a few vehicles left to search. Unfortunately, one of those vehicles was packed with explosives and detonated, killing Justin instantly. Three members of his platoon were also killed, as well as their Iraqi interpreter.
Fallen Warrior – Marine LCpl William “Billy” David Spencer
LCpl William “Billy” David Spencer was born September 6, 1986. He started school at Murray State after moving to TN. Billy met some friends in Paris, TN; and as a group the young men decided that to help pay for college they would join the Marine Corps. The day after reporting to his reserve station, his squad was activated to deploy overseas. Billy volunteered to go. He arrived in Iraq in September. One day when Billy saw his squad leader wounded in an Iraq shootout, he did the only thing he could do: He tried to save his commanding officer. He was killed in the process, hit by enemy fire on Dec. 28, 2006, in Al Anbar province. Nearly two years later, Spencer was awarded the Silver Star — the U.S. military’s third-highest honor — in a ceremony at Nashville State Community College.
Billy’s parents love to share his personality with this story. Billy was a wonderful runner and a great athlete. However, in high school Billy would get out of running laps in football practice by volunteering to read to elementary students. He loved animals and just being around everybody.
“I’ve had people tell me that time heals all wounds,” he said. “I don’t believe that to be true, because my wound, I tend to it every morning when I get up … I dress that wound every day.”
- David Spencer
Fallen Warrior – Marine SSgt Mark Anthony Wojciechowski (Tony “Wojo”)
(Purple Heart Recipient) SSgt Mark Anthony Wojciechowski (“Tony “Wojo”) was born March 10, 1984 at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, in Dayton Ohio. Tony enlisted in the Marine Corp before graduating high school and chose infantry and security forces for his primary and secondary MOS. After three years and his first re-enlistment, he chose the elite Explosive Ordinance Disposal for his new MOS. After graduating EOD School at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on August 2, 2006, he served in Okinawa, Japan and was then deployed to Iraq from February, 2007 to September, 2007. Tony also trained in the northern mountains of California where he attended the SERE course. Tony was then stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and from there he deployed to Iraq again in February, 2009. SSgt Wojciechowski was killed while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq on April 30, 2009. Tony was 25 years old. His awards include the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor, the Navy Achievement Medal with a Gold Star in lieu of his second award, Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
- Teresa Dillinger
Fallen Warrior – Marine Cpl Paul W. Zanowick II
Corporal Paul W. (Rocky) Zanowick, II was born in Miamisburg, Ohio on 31 December 1987. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported for recruit training at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina on 21 January 2008. After earning the title, “Marine”, Corporal Zanowick reported to the School of Infantry-East, Camp Geiger, North Carolina to attend the Basic Infantryman program of instruction and the Anti Tank Guided Missileman program of instruction graduating with a MOS of 0352. In October 2008, after completion of MOS training, Corporal Zanowick reported for duty with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California. On 1 June 2009, Corporal Zanowick was promoted to Corporal. On 4 October 2009, Corporal Zanowick deployed to Afghanistan with Regimental Combat Team 7 and served for 7 months in Helmand province in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. On 9 April 2011, Corporal Zanowick deployed a second time with Weapons Company, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was assigned as a vehicle commander with Blue Section, Combined Anti-Armored Team Two. Corporal Zanowick was mortally wounded while conducting offensive operations in the Upper Gereshk Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan on 3 June 2011. Corporal Zanowick is survived by his wife the former Ryan Lynn Detwiler from Pennsylvania, his 2 year old son, Uriah Zanowick of Twentynine Palms, California, his parents Paul and Nanette Zanowick, and his sister Nicole Zanowick all of Miamisburg, Ohio.