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Army Sgt. Joseph M. Vanek

Died November 12, 2007 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

22, of Elmhurst, Ill.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Nov. 12 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit using small-arms fire.

Soldier from Elmhurst killed in Iraq during 3rd tour of duty

The Associated Press

ELMHURST, Ill. — A 22-year-old soldier from this Chicago suburb died in Iraq during his third tour of duty, his family said.

Army Sgt. Joe Vanek was killed by small-arms fire in Baghdad, his father, Frank Vanek, told the Chicago Tribune. The 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., confirmed Nov. 13 that Vanek died Nov. 12.

He served with the division’s 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

“Sgt. Vanek was an expert and professional at his job,” Spc. David Heath, a fellow paratrooper, said in a statement released by the unit. “He earned a great amount of respect from his men.”

Joe Vanek joined the military after graduating from York Community High School, his father said.

“He thought it was the right thing to do,” Vanek said.

The younger Vanek joined the 82nd Airborne in March 2004, about nine months after enlisting. His honors and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Parachutist’s Badge.

“He lived every day to the fullest,” Spc. Jason Burrows, another fellow paratrooper, said in the division’s statement. “He knew when to have good time, and he knew when to focus for missions. I would follow him into combat any day.”

Vanek is survived by his parents and an older sister. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

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