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Army Sgt. Mark C. Palmateer

Died June 26, 2008 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

38, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment (Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition), New York Army National Guard, Jamestown, N.Y.; died from wounds sustained June 26 near Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, when his convoy encountered improvised explosive devices, small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Also killed were Sgt. 1st Class Matthew L. Hilton and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph A. McKay.

Family recalls soldier killed in Afghanistan

By Greg Marano and Jenny Lee

Poughkeepsie Journal

As Stephanie Palmateer turns 20 years old Tuesday, her thoughts will not be of the milestone of her young life, but of the sudden loss of her father Sgt. Mark C. Palmateer, killed in an attack in Afghanistan.

“It’s going to be hard,” said Stephanie Palmateer, of North Creek, Warren County. “I’m going to try to think of all the good memories I have of him.”

The Hughsonville native was killed in Afghanistan Thursday. The 38-year-old was the first Dutchess County man to be killed in action in that country.

Stephanie Palmateer said her father was a really happy-go-lucky person.

“He made the best out of every situation,” Stephanie Palmateer said. “I just thought about how much he loved me and loved his family and everybody around him.”

He also had eight brothers and sisters, many nieces and nephews dealing with the tragic loss.

“He was ‘Uncle Mark’ to all the kids,” his daughter said.

Mark Palmateer was always there for everybody, his daughter said.

Mark Palmateer and his father had a close relationship, just as Stephanie Palmateer had with her father, she said.

“The distance didn’t come into our relationship,” she recalled.

Others remember him for his dedication to his family and country.

In a phone interview from her home in Denham Springs, La., Mark Palmateer’s sister, Cathy Roule, recalled how he had talked for a while about joining the National Guard, then made a final decision shortly before he enlisted at age 33.

“When he told everybody, we were just so proud of him,” she said. “He’s my hero.”

He and two other soldiers died from wounds suffered near Forward Operating Base Shank in the rural Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan, when their convoy was hit with improvised explosive devices, small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Defense.

It reached 95 degrees that day in Logar Province, an area known for its farming.

Gov. David Paterson directed that flags on state government buildings should be flown at half-staff Thursday in honor of Mark Palmateer, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph McKay, 51, of Cambria Heights, Queens, and a Monroe County Marine who was killed in Iraq.

McKay was the other New York soldier who was killed alongside Mark Palmateer.

Mark Palmateer was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment (Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition), New York Army National Guard, Jamestown, Chautauqua County.

Sgt. Patrick Donovan said he and Palmateer became friends in the National Guard in 2004. He said he was struck by Palmateer’s decision to join the National Guard as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“He just wanted to do his part,” Donovan said. “He wasn’t eager to go to war, but he said, ‘If they need me, I’ll go.’”

Donovan said he and Mark Palmateer shared a bond because they were much older than the other recruits.

“It was always a dream of his to join the Army,” Donovan said.

Donovan called Mark Palmateer’s daughter, Stephanie, “his biggest motivation.”

“He was just always very proud of her,” Donovan said. “He talked about her all the time.”

Roule said the family hopes to hold funeral arrangements July 10 or 11 in Wappingers Falls or Poughkeepsie, but won’t be able to set firm plans yet.

Awarded medals

He was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the New York State Aid to Civil Authorities.

Posthumously, he was promoted to sergeant, and was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge.

“My heart goes out to the family. That knock on the door is life-shattering. When you have two officers at your door, you don’t need to ask, ‘Why are you here?’ “ said LaGrangeville resident Paula Zwillinger, founder of Semper Fi Parents of the Hudson Valley, a support group for parents of soldiers overseas.

Zwillinger’s son, Lance Cpl. Robert T. Mininger, a U.S. Marine, was killed June 6, 2005, during combat in Iraq.

“Having somebody local die really brings the war home to all of us,” Zwillinger said. “We take so much for granted every day. We get caught up in the realm of politics and forget there’s a war going on. We’ve been second-page news for the longest time. It’s only when something like this happens we get moved to the front page. It should be front-page news all the time.”

Terry Jones, who was Palmateer’s boss at Dunmore Corp. in Brewster, said Palmateer was an outstanding employee who was loved by everyone.

“He can make anyone smile,” he said. “He will be sorely missed by the Dunmore family.”

According to the military, Palmateer’s unit was assigned to a command responsible for training the Afghan National Army.

“When you lose a local guy, your heart really breaks. God be with that family,” Zwillinger said.

More than 6,500 members of the New York Army National Guard have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Twenty-six members of the New York Army National Guard have been killed in action since then, 23 in Iraq and three in Afghanistan.

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