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Army Spc. Paul J. Sturino

Died September 22, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

21, of Rice Lake, Wis.; assigned to B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Sept. 22 from a non-combat weapons discharge in Quest, Iraq.

Brother takes different road after death of sibling in Iraq

Associated Press

RACINE, Wis. — Army Spc. Alonzo Sturino arranged his little brother’s hair in his casket at the Hanson Funeral Home, carefully placed rosary beads in his hands and made sure all other details were perfect.

They were things Sturino wished he didn’t have to do Sunday for his 21-year-old brother Spc. Paul J. Sturino, who died Sept. 22 in Quest, Iraq.

Paul Sturino had been assigned to B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment out of Fort Campbell, Ky. Family members say he died as the result of an accidental discharge from another soldier’s firearm.

Alonzo Sturino also had escorted his brother’s body to Wisconsin, first to Racine, where area relatives gathered for services, and then to the Sturino brothers’ hometown, Rice Lake.

After years of Alonzo leading and Paul following — from high school wrestling at Rice Lake High School, joining the Army, then going to Iraq — Paul’s death now sets the brothers on separate journeys.

Duane Sturino of Kenosha, the brothers’ uncle, said his nephews were having a friendly race to see who would be the first promoted to sergeant.

“Alonzo said he is even more motivated now because of Paul’s death,” Duane Sturino said.

Overcast skies and rain reflected the somber gathering at the funeral home, where the American flag flew at half-staff. Red, white and blue was the theme for the flower sprays that surrounded the casket, which was also draped in a flag.

Family members reminisced about the happy boy who often spent summers in Kenosha, where the Sturino family is widely known and well-loved. Paul’s grandparents, George and Gloria, ran a family restaurant in Kenosha for years. Paul also spent three summers on the Barracuda Swim Team in Kenosha.

“He was a fun-loving, well-liked young man,” Duane Sturino said.

The Rev. Jeffrey Thielen, who officiated at the slain soldier’s memorial service, reminded the Sturino family that Paul will always be in their hearts.

“He dedicated his life to make the world better for us, and for that we say, ‘Thank you, Paul,”’ Thielen said.

A burial with full military honors at the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery was planned, Spooner said.

Sturino is the fourth Wisconsin soldier to die in Iraq. Army Reservist Dan Gabrielson, 40, of Frederic, was killed July 9; Army Maj. Mathew Schram, 36, of Brookfield, died May 27 and Marine Sgt. Kirk Straseskie, 23, of Beaver Dam, drowned May 19.

Family says 21-year-old Wisconsin soldier accidentally shot

ELM GROVE, Wis. — The fourth soldier from Wisconsin killed in Iraq was fatally shot in some kind of accident, his family said Sept. 23.

Christine Straate, the fianc©e of the soldier’s father who lives in Elm Grove, said the family has been told some of the details surrounding the incident that killed Army Spc. Paul J. Sturino, 21, but she did not want to comment further.

“It was an accident,” she said.

Sturino, who graduated from Rice Lake High School in 2001, died Monday from what the Army called a “non-combat weapons discharge.”

He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and was in an area south of Mosul in northern Iraq.

Lt. Col. Kevin Curry, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said Wednesday the incident that killed Sturino remained under investigation.

The military’s labeling of the cause of Sturino’s death means only that there was no enemy contact at the time a weapon was fired killing him, Curry said.

“It doesn’t really fill in all the blanks yet. That is why it is under investigation,” he said.

Curry said it was unknown how long the official probe into Sturino’s death would take.

Three American flags fluttered in the breeze outside the home of Sturino’s mother, Christine Wetzel, near Rice Lake. A woman who answered the telephone at the home Wednesday said the family wanted to be left alone for now.

Randy Drost, one of Sturino’s high school teachers and his wrestling coach, said he was awaiting word about exactly what happened to the soldier. “We know what they’ve said can mean multiple things,” Drost said.

Since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, 211 Army soldiers have been killed — 131 in hostile actions and 80 in non-hostile situations with no enemy contact, Curry said.

As of Tuesday, 304 U.S. service members have died in the war and its aftermath, including three others from Wisconsin, according to the Department of Defense.

Army Reservist Dan Gabrielson, 40, of Frederic, was killed July 9 when his convoy came under attack from a rocket-propelled grenade north of Baghdad.

Army Maj. Mathew Schram, 36, of Brookfield, died May 27 when his resupply convoy was attacked with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades near the town of Hadithah about 120 miles north of Baghdad.

Marine Sgt. Kirk Straseskie, 23, of Beaver Dam, drowned May 19 after leaping into a canal to rescue a downed helicopter crew about 60 miles south of Baghdad.

A funeral date for Sturino has not been set, but his family wants him to be buried at Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery near Spooner in northern Wisconsin.

Fort Campbell soldier killed in Iraq

RICE LAKE, Wis. — A Fort Campbell soldier killed in Iraq hoped to return to his Wisconsin home, go to college and eventually become a history teacher, his family said Tuesday.

Spc. Paul J. Sturino, 21, of Rice Lake, died Monday from a non-hostile gunshot wound, the Army said. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., and was in an area south of Mosul in northern Iraq, where the death remains under investigation.

Sturino’s grandmother, Marilyn Peer, said the family was awaiting details of what happened.

“We don’t know anything,” she said. “This is a shock.”

Peer took calls at the home of her daughter, Chris Wetzel, who is Sturino’s mother.

Sturino is the fourth Wisconsinite killed during military operations in Iraq.

“He was a wonderful kid. He was terrific,” the grandmother said. “He loved to fish and hunt. He was always happy. He had the cutest smile.”

Sturino joined the Army in July 2001 after graduating from Rice Lake High School, Peer said. “I think he signed up because his older brother was in it.”

Sturino, who was single, was assigned to B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, said John Minton, a spokesman with Fort Campbell.

According to Peer, Sturino recently found out he had to serve another year in the Army because of the hostilities in Iraq and his discharge was frozen.

“His two years were up. He wanted to come home and go to college and be a teacher,” the grandmother said. “He had made up his mind in the service that he was going to be a history teacher. I think he realized the service was not for him.”

The soldier kept in touch with his family, according to Peer.

“We would get a letter from him and he would just wish he could come home and go fishing and hunting,” she said. “He was a lovable kid. He was so much fun.”

The 101st has had 22 soldiers die while participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Two other soldiers from Fort Campbell assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group have been killed.

— Associated Press

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