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- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Army Cpl. Justin D. Ross
Died March 26, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom
22, of Green Bay, Wis.; assigned to 863rd Engineer Battalion, Army Reserve, Wausau, Wis.; died March 26 in Saubalgay, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by small-arms fire.
Son of preacher killed in Afghan firefight
By Steve Contorno
Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette
An Army Reserve soldier from Green Bay died March 26 during action in Afghanistan.
Spc. Justin D. Ross, 22, was shot and killed when his unit came under fire from insurgents in Helmand province, said Lt. Col. Nathan Banks of the 364th Public Affairs Operations Center.
He was assigned to the 863rd Engineer Battalion of Wausau. His unit specializes in route clearance, the first soldiers to enter an area before more units move in.
Ross was promoted posthumously to corporal.
A spokesman for New Freedom Church in Howard said that its pastor, Ron Ross, and his wife, Debbie, flew to Dover Air Force Base, Del., on March 27 for the return of their son’s body.
“Being this soon into the grieving process, you are still in shock,” said Gerald Heins, the assistant pastor at New Freedom. “You are still trying to make sense of it, trying to understand what happened.”
Justin Ross was a 2007 graduate of Bay Port High School and joined the military Oct. 26, 2007.
Ross was deployed in August 2010 and has been in Afghanistan since October. His unit was scheduled to return between August and September.
While the investigation into Ross’ death is ongoing, preliminary reports say his unit came under small arms fire from insurgents while on a route clearance mission. Ross was the only casualty, and the first of his unit.
“[Route clearance] is a dangerous job soldiers do day in, day out,” Banks said. “They clear obstacles for soldiers to get past and carry on their mission. These guys encounter fire every day.”
Ross’ unit had high praise for their fallen brother, Banks said.
“He was an outstanding soldier. He loved to be in the Army and he loved what he did and he loved working with his follow soldiers,” Banks said. “His unit is going to miss him.”
Heins said Ross will be remembered as a wonderful man who was proud to serve his country.
“From what I understand, he really enjoyed it,” Heins said. “He loved the guys from his squad and he enjoyed the process and the idea of being able to defend his country.”
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Spc. Justin Ross who lost his life serving his country yesterday in Afghanistan,” Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement. “We hope that they are able to take some measure of comfort in knowing that he is a Wisconsin hero.”
Before leaving for Delaware, Ron Ross wrote on his Facebook page, “We thank God for freedom and all those ... who have paid the ultimate price. We are proud of you Justin!”
Material from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Mourners pay respects at fallen corporal’s visitation
By Tony Walter
Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Danielle Duquaine brought more than condolences to the visitation for fallen Cpl. Justin Ross on April 4.
In her hands she held the identification patches of her boyfriend, Tye Gouin, and Theodore Kulas, who were with Ross when he was killed in Afghanistan on March 26. She would wait in line with more than 200 people and give the patches to Ross’ parents.
She said Gouin, also a member of the Army Reserve, phoned her March 27 to tell her that they came under small-arms fire when Ross, a 22-year-old graduate of Bay Port High School, was killed.
The visitation was held at First Assembly of God in Green Bay because the church where Ross’ father, Ron, is pastor — New Freedom Church in Howard — isn’t big enough to handle what turned out to be a large number of well-wishers.
The line formed in the foyer of the church, then led into the nave of the church where Ross’ family stood in front of Justin’s flag-draped coffin. Two honor guards stood at attention next to the coffin.
Not everyone who came out on the chilly afternoon knew Justin or his family.
Bud Figgins of Bellevue, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, came with his wife, Becky, because he knows about the sacrifice that was made.
“We think we need to be here because somebody has to remember the fallen,” Figgins said.
Katharine Carter and her son, Derren, of Pulaski knew Justin.
“He often came over to our house and I always had some food ready,” she said. “We’re here because he gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Those entering the church passed more than a dozen veterans who stood at attention holding American flags.
‘Now I see what freedom costs,’ soldier’s brother says
By Paul Srubas
Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Silence fell on the crowd of 700-plus mourners gathered outside First Assembly of God Church as the name of Cpl. Justin Ross was called once, twice, three times.
The symbolic roll call for members of Ross’ Army unit opened a somber military honors funeral for the 22-year-old Howard soldier, who was killed March 26 in Afghanistan.
Seven soldiers fired a three-volley rifle salute and another played “Taps” while six honor guards folded the American flag that had draped Ross’ casket. Brig. Gen. Charles Martin of the 372nd Engineering Brigade of Fort Snelling, Minn., presented the flag to Ross’ family.
“Now I see what freedom costs; I won’t take that for granted,” Ross’ brother, Nathan Ross, told well-wishers.
Ross, the son of the Rev. Ron and Debbie Ross, was on a route-clearing mission when his unit came under small-arms fire. Ross was the only U.S. casualty.
The two-hour funeral on April 4 was held at First Assembly rather than at Ross’s father’s church, the New Freedom Church in Howard, to accommodate the hundreds of friends, family members and fellow soldiers who turned out to pay their respects.
Ross’s grandfather, the Rev. Robert Ross of Montana, told the congregation the loss of his grandson was like the trials and tribulations thrust upon Jacob and Job of the Bible’s Old Testament.
The challenge is to understand that “for some things, there are no human answers,” Robert Ross said. “We have to leave this place and say, ‘God is still God’ ... and I’m not going to allow my spirit to become bitter.”
First Sgt. Derek Andrasic presented 10 posthumous military awards to Ross, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service medals.
“In a theater of war, the safest place to be is right behind us, the 428th, whose motto is ‘clear the way,’ ” Andrasic said. “Justin Ross will be right with us, leading the way, clearing the way for us.”
Following the funeral, a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” while an honor guard carried Ross’ casket to a temporary shelter outside the church. At least 50 elementary school children gathered on the sidewalk across the street from the ceremony to watch.
Ron Ross said his family was awestruck by the outpouring of community support.
Ross will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Fallen soldier remembered as ‘quiet leader’
The Associated Press
Around groups of people, Justin Ross was quiet and sometimes shy. But around his friends, his personality blossomed, and the son of a pastor began to shine.
“He never, ever thought of himself,” friend Amy Staeven told WBAY-TV. “He was always there to encourage, (and) never had anything bad to say about anybody.”
The Green Bay, Wis., native enlisted in the Army reserves in 2006. He graduated from Port Bay High School in 2007 and Universal Technical Institute in 2009.
His high school principal told WFRV-TV that Ross was a quiet leader who enjoyed building things and working with his hands.
The 22-year-old died March 26 after he was shot in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. He was posthumously promoted to corporal.
His father, the Rev. Ron Ross, said the combat engineer had begun conducting missions on foot to clear bombs from roadways and was enjoying the chance to truly see and experience Afghanistan.
“He . believed in what he was doing,” his father said in a statement, according to WLUK-TV. “He also told me that after meeting guys from the Afghan Army that he now understood why we were over there.”
Ross was based in Wausau, Wis.
Ceremony will honor fallen Wis. reservist
By Nancy Quick
The (Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.) Daily Tribune
Justin Ross will be remembered at a ceremony at 11 a.m. May 27 on the lawn of the Wood County, Wis., Courthouse.
Ross was killed in Afghanistan on March 26, when his unit came under small arms fire from insurgents while on a routine clearance mission. The ceremony has been planned by the Wood County Veterans Memorial Committee.
"We are sad but proud to place a name on the wall," said Jim Strasser, a member of the committee. "Placing a name on the wall means that a member of the community has paid the ultimate price so that we may live free."
Ross was born in Wisconsin Rapids, moved away with his family, and returned in 1997 when he attended Grove Elementary School. He is the son of the Rev. Ronald and Deborah Ross of Green Bay. Many members of his extended family live in this area, including his grandparents, David and Ruth Freeberg. Some members of his family will take part in the ceremony.
Ross was a member of the 428th Army Reserve Unit out of Wausau. As a combat engineer, it was his job to work in route clearance in Afghanistan.
In addition, 22 legacy stones will be dedicated at the ceremony. These stones honor military members and their families for service to their country. Many have served during war time and others during peace time.
"We are always happy to dedicate new legacy stones to honor and recognize members of the community for their military service," Strasser said.
Steve Day of Port Edwards will be the speaker. He is the Coast Guard deputy commander for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs Atlantic Area. The Rev. Timothy Wenger of St. Luke's Lutheran Church, and retired chaplain of the U.S. Army, will give the invocation and benediction.
Also taking part in the ceremony will be members of the Wood County Veterans Memorial Committee, including Tom Marshall and Brian Ruesch. Strasser and Elmer Loechler of Wisconsin Rapids made arrangements for members of American Legion Post No. 9 to give the rifle salute. Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2534, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 101 and Post 9 will provide the color guard.
Students from Lincoln High School will sound taps, and members of Explorer Post 120, the military exploring program, will provide special assistance.