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- Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
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- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Army Spc. Stephen G. Zapasnik
Died December 24, 2008 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
19, of Broken Arrow, Okla.; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Dec. 24 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover. Also killed were Spc. Stephen. M. Okray and Staff Sgt. Christopher G. Smith.
Okla. soldier killed in accident in Iraq
The Associated Press
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — A soldier from Broken Arrow has died after his military vehicle rolled off a collapsed road in Iraq and into a canal.
Cpl. Stephen Zapasnik was one of three soldiers killed in the accident Wednesday in southern Iraq, according to his mother, Chris Zapasnik. The Defense Department has confirmed the three deaths, but has not released the soldiers’ names.
“He said, ‘Mom, if I ever don’t come back, you know I will always be with you, and I will be with Jesus, and I will be fine,’” Chris Zapasnik told the Tulsa World. “I know that he’s perfectly safe and spending Christmas up there with Jesus.”
Zapasnik said her 19-year-old son was due to return home for his mid-tour leave on Jan. 15. He last spoke with the family on Dec. 17 to check on his ailing father, Gary, who has been hospitalized.
His condition would have allowed Zapasnik to take an early leave.
“I was afraid if I did (have him come home) that I would wreck his rhythm over there and cause him to get hurt,” Chris Zapasnik told the newspaper.
Funeral services are not yet finalized, but Chris Zapasnik said her son will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Zapasnik was assigned to Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. He and two other men were riding in a Humvee when part of a road collapsed, sending the vehicle into a canal, his mother said, relaying the details provided by her son’s company commander. All three men were dead when they were pulled from the water several minutes after the crash.
Army representatives wearing dress greens arrived at the family’s home in Broken Arrow later Wednesday to deliver the news.
Zapasnik said her son enlisted at age 17 and did his basic training at Fort Sill, intending to fight in Iraq.
“He just said, ‘Mom, I need to go over there and take care of things, because if I don’t, who else will?’” she said.
Town mourns soldier killed in Humvee crash
The Associated Press
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — Friends and family members remembered a Broken Arrow soldier who died in an accident in Iraq on Christmas Eve as a chubby kid who lost weight to get into the Army.
Stephen Zapasnik, 19, and two fellow soldiers were killed after their Humvee crashed into a canal after a road collapse.
Friends and loved ones gathered Friday at Centennial Middle School in Broken Arrow to say goodbye to Zapasnik. A picture on his casket showed him in uniform, striking a funny pose. It was an image reflected by those who spoke of the teenager who attended Broken Arrow schools.
His brother, Chris Zapasnik, said he regrets he didn’t get the chance to tell his brother just how much he loved and admired him. He said his brother volunteered to man the machine gun on top of his Humvee, a dangerous job because the gunner is an exposed target in a firefight.
“Stephen didn’t have to be a turret gunner,” Chris Zapasnik said. “He is a true American hero.”
Chaplain Greg Bilbruck read e-mails Zapasnik’s family got after his death, including many from soldiers who served with him and their loved ones.
A woman who was married to Zapasnik’s sergeant wrote that she and her husband took him in like a younger brother.
One Thanksgiving, Zapasnik came to their home to eat, and the woman listened as he talked about losing 100 pounds to get into the Army. She then watched him eat several plates of food and pieces of pie, and joked with him that he would be 300 pounds again if he stayed at her house much longer.
“He was an outstanding soldier and a wonderful man,” the woman wrote. “I hope Zap knew how much he was loved.”
Bilbruck told the crowd that Zapasnik was following The Soldier’s Creed, an oath that Army soldiers live by. The creed states that a soldier places the mission first, never accepting defeat and never leaving a fallen comrade.
“That’s what he was doing ,” Bilbruck said. “He gave up his life for our freedom.”
Zapasnik will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Spc. remembered for honesty, faith, kindness
The Associated Press
Stephen G. Zapasnik’s brother, Christopher, called Zapasnik a true American hero because he lived to serve his country.
“He always made me laugh,” the brother said, but also noted that what made his brother great was his “honesty, his faith and his kindness.”
“He always had my back,” the brother said.
Zapasnik, 19, of Broken Arrow, Okla., died Dec. 24 in Baghdad of injuries from a vehicle roll-over. He was assigned to Fort Carson.
He joined the Army when he was 17 and did his basic training at Fort Sill, Chris Zapasnik said. More than anything, he wanted to fight in Iraq.
“He just said, ‘Mom, I need to go over there and take care of things, because if I don’t, who else will?’” said his mother, Chris.
He also is survived by his father, Gary.
The family always knew there was a good chance that he would lose his life in Iraq.
“He said, ‘Mom, if I ever don’t come back, you know I will always be with you, and I will be with Jesus, and I will be fine,’” Chris Zapasnik said. “I know that he’s perfectly safe and spending Christmas up there with Jesus.”