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Honoring those who fought and died in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn
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Army Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers

Died July 13, 2008 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom


24, of Snellville, Ga.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy; died July 13 of wounds sustained when his outpost was attacked by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades from enemy forces in Wanat, Afghanistan. Also killed were 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling and Pfc. Sergio S. Abad.

Hard-hit C Company suffers another agonizing blow

By Michelle Tan

Staff writer

It was the single deadliest attack since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.

More than 200 enemy fighters swarmed a small, remote combat outpost near the village of Wanat, near the country’s porous border with Pakistan.

They brought with them machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. The U.S. and coalition soldiers were outnumbered by at least 2 to 1.

The battle was fierce. Enemy fighters fought their way onto the newly established base known as Combat Outpost Kahler. The Americans and Afghans, numbering fewer than 100, fought back, defending their post and calling in airstrikes.

When the fighting stopped, the enemy had suffered heavy casualties, with reports of more than 100 killed or wounded.

But the Americans had suffered, too.

Nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 15 others were wounded. Apart from helicopter crashes, the bloody July 13 battle inflicted the deepest wound on a single U.S. battalion of any attack since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan almost seven years ago.

The soldiers, from 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, of Vicenza, Italy, were supposed to be coming home soon. The brigade deployed to Afghanistan in June 2007 and about 680 soldiers are already home in Vicenza, with the last of the soldiers expected home by the first week of August.

But this final attack on the battalion’s C Company soldiers would make it the hardest-hit company to have served in Operation Enduring Freedom. The company has lost 15 men since deploying to Afghanistan, the most for one Army company in both operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In total, 24 men from the battalion have been killed during this deployment.

After the fierce combat that 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry endured in the past 15 months, several of its soldiers earned valor awards including the Silver Star, the third highest award for valor, and the Bronze Star with V device, said Maj. Nicholas Sternberg, spokesman for the 173rd.

Specific information on the awards was not available at press time.

The nine soldiers killed July 13 brought to 42 the number of soldiers from the 173rd killed during this deployment. Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through July 16, nine soldiers from the 173rd have been killed in Iraq, 58 in Afghanistan.

The men killed July 13, all of them from C Company, are:

* 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Hawaii.

Brostrom, who led the company’s 2nd Platoon, was a ROTC graduate from the University of Hawaii. He received his commission in June 2006 and arrived at the 173rd in June 2007.

* Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24, of Long Beach, Calif.

Garcia had been in the Army since October 2002. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, N.C., before reporting to the 173rd in July 2006.

* Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, of Snellville, Ga.

Ayers joined the Army in April 2006 and went straight from basic and advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga., to the 173rd, where he had been assigned since September 2006.

* Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, 25, of Seattle.

Bogar deployed twice with the National Guard before coming into the active Army in October 2007, and he had been with the 173rd since November 2007.

* Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, 24, of Clinton, Tenn.

Hovater joined the Army in February 2006. His first assignment after initial entry training at Fort Benning was the 173rd. He had been with the unit since July 2006.

* Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, 27, of Jasper, Ga.

Phillips joined the Army in November 2005. The 173rd was his first assignment; he arrived at the unit in May 2006.

* Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, of Haw River, N.C.

Rainey joined the Army in August 2005. He arrived at the 173rd, his first assignment, in February 2006.

* Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Mo.

Zwilling had been in the Army since February 2006. After basic training, AIT and airborne training at Fort Benning, he reported to the 173rd in July 2006.

* Spc. Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Ky.

Abad joined the Army in January 2006. His first unit of assignment was the 173rd, where he had been since August 2006.

Previously, the single deadliest incident to claim multiple U.S. lives in Afghanistan, excluding helicopter crashes, was Jan. 29, 2004, when a weapons cache explosion in Ghazni killed eight soldiers.

A memorial service for the nine C Company soldiers on July 18 in Vicenza drew an overflow crowd that included many of the 680 soldiers who had just returned from Afghanistan, said Sgt. Maj. Kimberly Williams, a spokeswoman for Southern European Task Force. Officials estimate about 900 people participated, including about 500 who crowded into the theater on post because the chapel was full.

“This was an especially emotional ceremony,” she said, “because [in attendance were soldiers who had just returned.”


Families remember Ga. soldiers killed in attack

By Associated Press

ATLANTA — Matthew B. Phillips had plans to go fishing with his dad when he returned from Afghanistan in a few weeks. The 27-year-old Army corporal was one of nine soldiers — and one of two from Georgia — killed in an insurgent raid on an American outpost in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend. The Pentagon announced the deaths Wednesday.

Family members said Phillips spent Christmas planning his own funeral so his loved ones wouldn’t have to worry about it. He had been married just two years to his wife, Eve.

“I’d always tell him, ‘You’re going to be fine, you’re coming home, the odds are with you,’” his father, Michael Phillips of Dawsonville, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

Matthew Phillips’ sister, Mary Nix of San Antonio, gave birth to a son the day before she learned of her brother’s death. She renamed the baby Matthew after hearing the news. The Pentagon listed Matthew Phillips’ hometown as Jasper. His wife lives in Cumming.

He was part of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy. His fellow soldier, Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, also was scheduled to come home in just a few weeks.

Ayers’ family already had started buying decorations for a party to welcome him back, said his father, Bill Ayers of Snellville. Though Jonathan Ayers was unnerved about his assignment in Afghanistan, he was dedicated to the military, his father said.

“He liked spit-and-polish type things,” Bill Ayers said. “He would fuss at us if our shoes weren’t cleaned just right.”

The insurgent raid on Ayers’ and Phillips’ camp was the deadliest incident for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since June 2005, when 16 American soldiers were killed as a rocket-propelled grenade shot down their helicopter. On the same day in another part of Afghanistan, Master Sgt. Mitchell Young, a 39-year-old Green Beret from Jonesboro, also was killed.

He died when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Kajaki Sofla.

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