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Army Staff Sgt. Christopher G. Smith

Died December 24, 2008 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

28, of Grand Rapids, Mich.; 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 Spc. Stephen G. Zapasnik.

2 soldiers from Michigan remembered for devotion

The Associated Press

Two soldiers from Michigan who were among three who died when their vehicle crashed on Christmas Eve in Baghdad are being remembered by relatives for their devotion to their families.

The Department of Defense on Friday identified the soldiers as Staff Sgt. Christopher G. Smith, 28, of Grand Rapids; Spc. Stephen M. Okray, 21, of St. Clair Shores; and Spc. Stephen G. Zapasnik, 19, of Broken Arrow, Okla.

Bobbi Jo Smith told The Detroit News that her husband was an entertainer who loved to hold parties and grill briskets and ribs.

“He really lived for his family. He was that kind of guy,” Bobbi Jo said of her husband, who leaves behind a 15-month-old son.

Smith’s parents are Pastor Virgil Glenn and Donna Smith of the Evangelife Assembly of God Church near Bad Axe, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Okray’s aunt, Denise Okray, said her nephew loved to hunt and fish.

“When someone was worried or felt like there was a problem, he was like, ‘Shrug it off; it’s OK,”’ Denise Okray told The News. “He was always family-oriented.”

Zapasnik’s mother, Chris Zapasnik, said her son’s company commander told her that he and the two Michigan soldiers were riding in a Humvee when part of a road collapsed, sending the vehicle into a canal. All three were dead when they were pulled from the water several minutes after the crash, Chris Zapasnik told the Tulsa World.

The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

Staff sgt. remembered as outdoorsman, good cook

The Associated Press

Christopher G. Smith took two years of classes at Kellogg Community College, studying for a possible sports medicine career and playing soccer there, before enlisting in the Army in May 2001.

Virgil Smith knew his son was looking for “something big and exciting” to do with his life, but said he never anticipated him joining the Army.

“Chris was such his own man in that way,” Virgil Smith said. “He was very thoughtful in what he would do and once he made a decision, that was it.”

Smith, 28, of Grand Rapids, Mich., died Dec. 24 in Baghdad of injuries from a vehicle roll-over. He was a 1999 high school graduate and was assigned to Fort Carson.

Smith, who was on his second tour in Iraq, was an outdoorsman who loved to hunt and fish and was an avid University of Michigan fan. He enjoyed socializing and cooking for large groups. He even thought about going to culinary school at one point.

“He cooked literally for 30 to 40 people at a time. He just enjoyed that,” his father said.

He also is survived by his wife, Bobbi Jo, and their 15-month-old son, Adler.

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