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Army Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Blankenbecler

Died October 1, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

40, of Alexandria, Va.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas; killed while riding in a convoy that was hit by an improvised explosive device and rocket-propelled grenades on Oct. 1 in Samarra, Iraq.

Command Sgt. Maj. James Blankenbecler is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to be killed in hostile fire in the war in Iraq, Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd said.

Blankenbecler was born in Arlington, Va., and attended the old Groveton High School in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. He was interested in sports and played quarterback on the varsity football team. He joined the Army in 1983 and his career included service in Operation Desert Storm and at Fort Belvoir in the Army Personnel Command.

— Associated Press

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