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Army Sgt. Christopher M. Pusateri

Died February 16, 2005 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

21, of Corning, N.Y.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; killed Feb.16 by enemy small-arms fire in Mosul, Iraq.

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Corning family mourns son, husband who was expected home next month


Star-Gazette Corning Bureau

CORNING — Born on the Fourth of July, Sgt. Christopher Pusateri was proud to serve in the Army for a second tour of duty in Iraq — a tour that ended in a volley of bullets.

Pusateri, 21, of Corning, was killed Wednesday by enemy fire, said his mother, Brenda West, 39, of Corning. She does not know details of what happened.

“I know that he was shot and taken to the hospital in Mosul, and that’s where he passed away,” she said.

A 2002 graduate of Corning West High School, Pusateri served with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division as a mechanic who took care of an armored Humvee, said his stepfather, Chester West, 34. He was on a mission when he was killed, he said.

Pusateri is the second Corning area resident to be killed in the war in Iraq. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Allen Lane was killed July 28 in a mortar attack. He was a 1989 graduate of Corning East High School.

Pusateri was first in Iraq from March 2003 to January 2004. He had just re-enlisted before returning to Iraq in December and had become a sergeant in January, his mother said.

“He said, the last time I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, that as long as everything went well — so far, it had been going well — that he should be home in about a month or so,” she said.

“He didn’t expect to be over there that long. The first time, he was over there for 10 months. He didn’t expect to be maybe three or four months this time.”

Pusateri thought the situation was starting to wind down in Iraq, Chester West said. “He figured it was going to be all over since the voting was getting done, the war was actually over,” he said. “Then something went wrong.”

Those left behind at Corning West are mourning Pusateri’s passing.

“What a terrible loss,” said Pat Barnes, a teacher who worked very closely with him. Barnes recalled his sense of humor and polite manner. “Chris was a very nice kid.”

Barnes said the military was Pusateri’s dream, and he was not surprised that he became a sergeant.

“He was goal-oriented, very motivated,” he said. “He knew exactly what he wanted to do, and he pursued it.”

Pusateri signed up for the Army as a high school senior through the delayed enlistment program, his mother said.

“He was so proud of the fact that he signed up right after Sept. 11th,” said Ellen Robinson, Corning-Painted Post assistant superintendent for instruction. He had struggled through high school, but that changed after he decided to join the Army, she said.

Pusateri made the school’s honor roll several times during his senior year.

“As soon as he made that decision, he really was able to pull things together with the rest of his high school career because he had a goal and he was focused,” Robinson said.

“All of West High was pleased that he had gone into the service, and he had really been so successful.”

Pusateri was eager to start his military career.

“He went immediately after he graduated. He didn’t take any time off,” Brenda West said. “After graduation, I think he was home for a week and went right in the day before his birthday.”

He shipped out July 3, 2002, for boot camp in Fort Benning, Ga., she said. “We were kind of bummed that he wasn’t home for his birthday before he went.”

He married his high school sweetheart Christine, Brenda West said. She attended Corning East High School when they were married and finished her senior year in North Carolina. Their second anniversary was Monday — Valentine’s Day, his mother said.

After basic training, Pusateri was stationed in Fort Bragg. Before he went on his second tour of Iraq, he had put in a request to transfer to Fort Drum, N.Y., Brenda West said.

“He was looking forward to moving up here,” she said, noting his family did not get a chance very often to spend time with him. “We were hoping if he got transferred, we’d be able to see him on weekends.”

Arrangements are still being made to return Pusateri’s body from Iraq, his mother said. Funeral arrangements had not been completed Friday, she said.

Survivors include brothers and sisters Heather Pusateri, 19; Richard Pusateri, 18; Ashley Iannarilli, 11; and Lorenzo Iannarilli, 5.

Brenda West said her son had no problem going back to Iraq.

“He wasn’t concerned at all,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m going to do my time and come home.’ ”

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