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Army Staff Sgt. Garrick L. Eppinger Jr.

Died September 17, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

25, of Appleton, Wis.; assigned to 395th Ordnance Company, 687th Combat Sustainment Support Brigade, 646th Regional Support Group, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserve, Wausau, Wis.; died Sept. 17 in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Wis. soldier served with local Reserve unit

By Duke Behnke
The (Appleton, Wis.) Post-Crescent

APPLETON, Wis. — A 25-year-old Appleton soldier was shot and killed Sept. 17 while serving in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Garrick L. Eppinger Jr. was on his third overseas deployment, having previously served in Iraq in 2005 and 2009.

He was one of more than 100 Army Reservists from the Appleton-based 395th Ordnance Company who headed to Fort Hood, Texas, in July for training before deploying to Afghanistan.

His parents, Garrick Sr. and Linda Eppinger, said the details of his death were not immediately known.

“All we know is he was shot in Afghanistan,” Linda Eppinger said.

Eppinger, a graduate of Appleton North High School, was the youngest of five children.

Eppinger’s parents are Navy veterans and knew the risks of serving in the military. That doesn’t make their loss any easier.

“It’s really rough right now,” Linda Eppinger said. “We’ve had a lot of support from our family and friends, but it’s just not something you expect to land on your doorstep.”

Linda said she had talked to her son the day before his death on Facebook.

Garrick Sr., who served 21 years in the Navy, said his son was fully dedicated to the service. He said co-workers and officers who served with his son described him as “Johnny on the spot” and someone they could rely on.

“He didn’t just treat it as an obligation or occupation,” Garrick Sr. said. “He took pride in that he was accomplishing something that had a bigger picture in mind.”

Garrick Sr. said he was at peace with his son’s death because he told him, in a letter and in a conversation, that he loved him and that he was proud of him.

“I got a chance to state my peace with him before he left,” he said. “A lot of parents tend to think of things that they should have said. If they’re in earnest and try to put as much of that [down], knowing full well that the child may not come back, then they’re at peace when something like this happens.”

He said his son had strong faith in God and “a strong love of country.”

Family: Investigation launched into soldier’s death

By Duke Behnke
The (Appleton, Wis.) Post-Crescent

APPLETON, Wis. — Army investigators have launched a probe into the death of Staff Sgt. Garrick L. Eppinger Jr., who was deployed in Afghanistan, his sisters said.

The sisters — Shandra Smith, Robbyn Stanley and Amy Strong — said their brother worked a desk job when he was found dead Sept. 17 at Bagram Airbase.

“Garrick wasn’t infantry,” Smith said. “He wasn’t in the line of fire. He wasn’t in one of the valley areas where there’s fighting. You would almost expect then that something could happen, but he was on a base, near where he worked.”

Military officials have yet to confirm that an investigation is underway. Media inquiries were directed to the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command public affairs office in Indianapolis.

Eppinger, a member of the Appleton-based 395th Ordnance Company of the Army Reserve, was a supply specialist for a munitions post at Bagram. He had been at the base for about a month.

He was promoted to staff sergeant posthumously.

Stanley said Eppinger was shot but that the circumstances of his death were unknown. She said a death on base was “highly irregular” and that an investigation by military police was ongoing.

She said she received her information from a captain assigned to the family as a crisis officer.

“They found him behind the ammunitions post where he worked. That’s all we know,” Stanley said. “We won’t know any details until they complete their investigation.”

Smith said the family was told the investigation could last six months to a year.

The Army has not released Eppinger’s body to the family, putting a hold on funeral arrangements. Eppinger’s sisters flew to Dover Air Force Base, Del., to witness the dignified transfer of their brother’s body.

They stood at a distance, as required by the military, as soldiers carried Eppinger’s flag-draped casket from a transport plane.

“That was hard, knowing we can’t see him,” Stanley said.

The sisters said they leaned upon each other to get through the ordeal.

“It’s shock. It’s disbelief,” Smith said. “You want to hope that they were mistaken, that it wasn’t him. Everyday it’s actually a little harder because he’s still not here.”

The sisters talked to Eppinger two days before he died. Stanley had arranged for Eppinger to witness her son’s baptism via Skype. The baptism now has been postponed.

“He was happy,” she said. “He was really excited to be able to be there that way and be with our family and share that.”

Eppinger was on his third overseas deployment, having previously served in Iraq in 2005 and 2009.

The sisters described Eppinger as a caring and loving father, brother and son.

“He loved his family,” Stanley said from the home of their parents, Linda and Garrick Eppinger Sr. “He would do anything for us.”

“He was a wonderful, warm-hearted young man,” Smith added. “He selflessly gave of himself to everyone. He always went out of his way to ask how you were.”
Stanley said Eppinger loved his job in the military.

“He chose that profession,” she said. “He was proud of it, and we’re proud of him.”

Body of fallen soldier due to return home

By Duke Behnke
The (Appleton, Wis.) Post-Crescent

APPLETON, Wis. — The body of Staff Sgt. Garrick L. Eppinger Jr. will return home Sept. 29, landing at Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville on a private flight from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Robbyn Stanley, Eppinger’s sister, said her brother’s body is scheduled to arrive at 11:13 a.m. and will receive planeside honors — a formal military transfer of the casket from the plane to a hearse.

She said the casket will be escorted from the airport to Valley Funeral Home, 2211 N. Richmond St., where Eppinger’s funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 1. Visitation will take place from 2 to 7 p.m. Sept. 30 and from 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 1.

Eppinger, 25, died Sept. 17 while serving at Bagram Airbase in eastern Afghanistan. He was a member of the Appleton-based 395th Ordnance Company of the Army Reserve and had been at the base for about six weeks.

The circumstances of Eppinger’s death have not been disclosed. Stanley said her brother was shot on base and that he worked a desk job as a supply specialist for a munitions post. She said U.S. military police are investigating his death.

The Defense Department directed media inquiries to the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command public affairs office in Indianapolis, but no one at that unit answered or returned The Post-Crescent’s calls.

“We won’t know anything until they’re done with their investigation,” Stanley said. “The body is being released because the autopsy has been completed.”
Stanley said the Army did not disclose the findings of the autopsy.

“It’s military procedure,” she said of the lack of information. “We’re used to it as a family.”

Eppinger was in his third overseas deployment, having previously served in Iraq in 2005 and 2009. His parents, Linda and Garrick Eppinger Sr., each served in the Navy.

Members of the Appleton American Legion family will gather at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at Valley Funeral Home to salute Eppinger. A color guard will lead the contingent into the funeral home in pairs.

“While Sgt. Eppinger was not yet a member of the American Legion, his parents, Garrick Sr. and Linda, are,” said Laurel Weyenberg, commander of American Legion Post 38. “At this time of tragic loss for the family and the community, we felt having our organizations come together to show our support as a family was warranted.”

Stanley said Eppinger’s funeral will end with a 21-gun salute and the playing of bagpipes outside the funeral home.

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