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Army Sgt. Tyler J. Kritz

Died June 3, 2007 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

21, of Eagle River, Wis.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash.; died June 3 in Thania, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Greg P. Gagarin, Sgt. James C. Akin and Sgt. Robert A. Surber.

Eagle River soldier killed in Iraq

The Associated Press

EAGLE RIVER, Wis. — A 21-year-old Army soldier from Eagle River deployed to Iraq for a second time was killed there, authorities said June 6.

Sgt. Tyler Kritz died June 3 following a roadside bomb explosion, said Sgt. Glen George, a casualty assistance officer with the Army Reserve Center in Wausau. Kritz was serving with a field artillery unit out of Fort Lewis, Wash., George said.

Kritz enlisted in the Army following his 2003 graduation from Northland Pines High School and was deployed to Iraq for a second time last June, authorities said.

Northland Pines had a moment of silence in honor of him June 6 before the final day of classes began, teacher Jason Foster said.

“From day one, the first thing I remember about him is he was going to the military,” Foster recalled. “That was his goal. He was going to go active duty and serve his country.”

Kritz is the 75th soldier or Marine from Wisconsin killed in Iraq or associated with duties in Iraq. As of June 5, at least 3,494 members of the U.S. military had died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Catherine Caruso, a spokeswoman at Fort Lewis, declined comment until the U.S. Department of Defense officially announced Kritz’s death and the details surrounding it.

His parents, Joseph and Doreen Kritz of Eagle River, did not immediately return a telephone message from The Associated Press forwarded by the Gaffney-Busha Funeral Home in Eagle River.

Funeral arrangements for Kritz were pending, funeral director Joe Busha said.

Foster worked with Kritz in the Phoenix Center, the district’s alternative high school, during his senior year. He described Kritz as an intelligent student who enrolled in the alternative program because he got behind in some credits. He flew through the program.

“A lot of the time the kids who end up at the Phoenix Center are the students who are the round pegs in the square holes,” Foster said. “He wasn’t real obnoxious like a lot of high school kids.”

Foster recalled Kritz wearing a military jacket and staying in close touch with recruiters.

“He was shy. He was friendly. He kind of kept to himself,” Foster recalled. “He was well-liked. When he did talk, he had a sense of humor. I think his favorite subject was to be done with high school. He was motivated to be done.”

Kritz played as a defensive back on the football team as a senior but wasn’t a starter, said Foster, who helped coach the team that year.

He said Kritz looked forward to leaving Eagle River. “He wanted to be away at something different. He tried this life and now he wanted to go see what else there was to see.”

Five more Fort Lewis soldiers killed in Iraq

The Associated Press

FORT LEWIS, Wash. — The Department of Defense has identified five more Fort Lewis soldiers killed in Iraq, four when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle and a fifth fatally wounded in a separate encounter.

Sgt. Andrews J. Higgins, 28, of Hayward, Calif., died Tuesday in Baqubah of wounds sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team).

Since he reported to Fort Lewis in October 2000, Higgins had served primarily as a fire support specialist and forward observer. He was on his first deployment to Iraq.

The Defense Department said Wednesday that Staff Sgt. Greg P. Gagarin, 38, of Los Angeles; Sgt. James C. Akin, 23, of Albuquerque, N.M.; Sgt. Tyler J. Kritz, 21, of Eagle River, Wis.; and Sgt. Robert A. Surber, 24, of Inverness, Fla., were killed Sunday in Thania, Iraq.

They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team).

Higgins wanted to be a soldier and serve his country from the time he was a boy, going through Army basic training in high school and spending two years in the Army Reserves after graduation, but was increasingly disillusioned about the war in Iraq, his father, Jerry James Higgins, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“He was a wonderful person, the kind of soldier who chooses to go to someplace like Iraq for his country,” the elder Higgins said. “He was more and more disappointed with what was happening to the troops over there. He had made up his mind that he was not going to re-enlist when his enlistment was up in 2009.”

Higgins also is survived by his mother, Cheryl Higgins, and wife, Rachel Higgins.

Akin, who was driving the Humvee carrying the other three men, wanted to become president someday, family spokesman Victor Raigoza said in Albuquerque. Akin would have been 24 on June 28, according to his wife, Syreeta, of Rio Rancho, N.M.

“He was willing to put his actions where his mouth was,” Raigoza said. “If he one day occupied the office where war would be determined, (he felt) that it would be necessary for him to have experienced that.”

Syreeta Akin wrote on his Web page: “You always did what you loved to do, and that is serve your country. I appreciate your sacrifice (as) well as all others before you. Without people like you where would our country be?”

Kritz enlisted in 2003, arrived at Fort Lewis that November and died on his second assignment in Iraq, the Rhinelander Daily News of Wisconsin reported.

Students at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River observed a moment of silence to remember him Wednesday, the last day of classes. Teacher Jason Foster said Kritz was shy but friendly.

“He was well-liked. When he did talk, he had a sense of humor,” Foster said. “I think his favorite subject was to be done with high school. He was motivated to be done.”

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