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Army Staff Sgt. Greg P. Gagarin

Died June 3, 2007 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

38, of Los Angeles; 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 Sgt. James C. Akin, Sgt. Tyler J. Kritz and Sgt. Robert A. Surber.

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.”

Family remember soldier killed in Iraq

The Associated Press

You could tell when Army Staff Sgt. Greg P. Gagarin was home — you could hear it.

“Greg loves to set off firecrackers every time he comes home,” said his father, Ernesto, in the northern Illocos Sur province of the Philippines.

Gagarin, 38, of Los Angeles, was killed June 3 by an explosive in Thania, Iraq. He was assigned to Fort Lewis, Wash.

“He was more than a great artilleryman. He disciplined his men and worked with them,” said Brig. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas. “His soldiers believed in him and we all cared deeply for him.”

A 19-year Army veteran, Gagarin served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and was on his third tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed.

“He loved the action,” said Gagarin’s eldest brother, Gary.

“My brother was a good person. He had a kind heart. He loved his family. He never said anything bad about anyone,” said his sister, Aileen Gagarin.

He also is survived by his wife, Elma, son, Troy, 7, and daughter, Natasha, 4.

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