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Air Force Senior Airman Pedro I. Espaillat Jr.

Died May 15, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

20, of Columbia, Tenn.; assigned to the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.; died May 15 of non-hostile injuries in Kirkuk, Iraq.

Tenn. airman dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound

Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Tenn. — An airman from Tennessee who died in Iraq suffered an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, a Defense Department spokeswoman said.

Senior Airman Pedro I. Espaillat Jr., 20, of Columbia, died Saturday in Kirkuk, Iraq, according to Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Stephens. An autopsy is being conducted to determine whether the shooting was suicide or accidental.

He died about a month before he was scheduled to return to the United States, said his father, Pedro Espaillat Sr.

Espaillat was assigned to the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Air Force officials said. He worked as an airplane mechanic.

The father said he tried to persuade his oldest son to go first to college to study engineering, then make the military a career.

But Espaillat, a 2001 honors graduate at Spring Hill High School, chose to enlist. He did so one week before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“After he was in boot camp, I couldn’t pull him out. He wanted to be an engineer since he was little. Now he never will,” said the father.

Espaillat came to Maury County in 1993 with his mother and two brothers from the Dominican Republic. His father, an assembly worker at Saturn Corp., had arrived about three years earlier.

The son excelled in school, graduating 38th in a class of 228 at Spring Hill High.

Velma Oden, secretary for the guidance counselors at the school, remembered when the recruiting officer visited him at Spring Hill High.

“It was like going into the military was something he really wanted to do, one of his goals,” she said.

Espaillat was the second Tennessee serviceman to die in Iraq in a week.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Savage, 21, of Livingston, Tenn., died May 12 of wounds from hostile fire in Al Anbar province. He was based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

A son was a born to Savage and his wife, Cassandra, in April, just weeks after the father was deployed to Iraq. His family believes he died without seeing the first photos of the baby, Eldon Wyatt Savage.

“I talked to him (the day before he died), and I told him that his pictures were on the way,” his wife said. “I told him the pictures were in there with his cigarettes and he should be getting them any day now. I’m pretty sure he never got them.”

Savage grew up in Livingston and had dreamed since grade school of becoming a Marine.

“When he was in the fifth grade, he told me he was going to be a Marine,” said his mother, Eva Savage. “And that’s exactly what he did.”

Savage graduated from the public high school Livingston Academy in 2001. He was involved in sports, running for the track team and managing the boy’s basketball team, Ledbetter said. Principal Gary W. Ledbetter said he remembered Savage as “an involved student” and “one who liked to have conversations.”

“When he wanted to talk to me, it was usually about the military,” he said. “He also liked to talk to the (military) recruiters who came to the school.”

Savage also was the father of Madison, 19 months, and the stepfather of Jayden, 6, and Keyara, 5.

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