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Army Spc. Stephen M. Okray

Died December 24, 2008 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom


21, of St. Clair Shores, Mich.; assigned to 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Dec. 24 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Christopher G. Smith and Spc. Stephen G. Zapasnik.

2 soldiers from Michigan remembered for devotion

The Associated Press

Two soldiers from Michigan who were among three who died when their vehicle crashed on Christmas Eve in Baghdad are being remembered by relatives for their devotion to their families.

The Department of Defense on Friday identified the soldiers as Staff Sgt. Christopher G. Smith, 28, of Grand Rapids; Spc. Stephen M. Okray, 21, of St. Clair Shores; and Spc. Stephen G. Zapasnik, 19, of Broken Arrow, Okla.

Bobbi Jo Smith told The Detroit News that her husband was an entertainer who loved to hold parties and grill briskets and ribs.

“He really lived for his family. He was that kind of guy,” Bobbi Jo said of her husband, who leaves behind a 15-month-old son.

Smith’s parents are Pastor Virgil Glenn and Donna Smith of the Evangelife Assembly of God Church near Bad Axe, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Okray’s aunt, Denise Okray, said her nephew loved to hunt and fish.

“When someone was worried or felt like there was a problem, he was like, ‘Shrug it off; it’s OK,”’ Denise Okray told The News. “He was always family-oriented.”

Zapasnik’s mother, Chris Zapasnik, said her son’s company commander told her that he and the two Michigan soldiers were riding in a Humvee when part of a road collapsed, sending the vehicle into a canal. All three were dead when they were pulled from the water several minutes after the crash, Chris Zapasnik told the Tulsa World.

The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.


Spc. remembered for big heart, risky stunts

The Associated Press

Jeff Okray remembers his brother, Stephen, as a kid building a 15-foot ramp so he could jump over a bush with his BMX bike in their backyard.

The jump failed, but as usual when Stephen Okray tried one of his risky stunts, he didn’t get hurt.

“He never got hurt, he always just bounced,” Jeff Okray said with a chuckle.

Okray, 21, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., died Dec. 24 in Baghdad of injuries from a vehicle roll-over. He was assigned to Fort Carson.

“He was a good kid. Growing up, he had a big heart,” said Okray’s uncle, Dan Okray. “He walked in the room, and it glowed.”

He joined the Army in 2005 and went on to serve in South Korea before deploying to Iraq in September. He loved hunting, fishing, cars and motorcycles.

“It was just a tragic ending to a good kid. Be it here or there. It was tragic either way,” his uncle said.

Jeff Okray said he didn’t know the root of his brother’s devotion to the military.

“We’re not a big military family, and no one was pushing him to do it,” he said. “He had something in him that he wanted to do it.”

He also is survived by his parents, Harry and Mary Beth.

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