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- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Army Staff Sgt. Kimberly A. Voelz
Died December 14, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
27, of Carlisle, Pa.; assigned to the 703rd Explosive Ordnance Detachment based in Fort Knox, Ky.; killed while responding to an explosive ordnance disposal call Dec. 14 when an improvised explosive device detonated in Iskandariyah, Iraq.
Friends remember soldier killed in Iraq as a tough tomboy
By Dylan T. Lovan
FORT KNOX, Ky. — The tough tomboy had a quirky side, too.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Voelz had to be tough — she was the only woman in a unit of specially trained soldiers who dash into a war zone looking for hidden explosives.
But the same blonde-haired tomboy who loved to roll around with the dogs in the backyard decorated her bedroom in antique furniture and white lace, and could whip up a tasty chocolate cake with peanut butter icing, said Nikki Puig, a friend who met Voelz at Fort Knox.
Puig was one of about 100 friends and fellow soldiers who packed into the Main Post Chapel at Fort Knox Friday for a service to mourn the death of Voelz, who was killed in Iraq last week.
“You couldn’t be around her and not instantly want to be around her more and more,” Puig said. “She made you feel good about yourself, about anything around you. You couldn’t be in a bad mood around her.”
Puig remembered the first time she saw Voelz’s elegant bedroom, and was surprised that such a tomboy could have a domestic side.
“She was a quirky little girl, Puig said. “When I first walked into her bedroom I was like, ‘This isn’t you at all.’”
“Oh yeah,” Voelz told her. But “this is it for decorating.”
Voelz, 27, of Carlisle, Pa., was the lone woman in the 17-member explosive ordnance disposal unit based at Fort Knox. The unit left for Iraq in September; Voelz died Sunday when an improvised explosive detonated while she was trying to defuse it.
Her commander in Iraq, Capt. Chad M. Carlson, said Voelz was headed toward a bright future in the Army. Voelz was just a few credit hours away from officer candidate school, and she and her husband, Staff Sgt. Max Voelz, had recently re-enlisted.
“I immediately recognized her natural leadership,” Carlson wrote in a letter, which was read at the service. “She had a wild streak in her, and she was always ready for the tough missions,” Carlson wrote.
Her husband was at her side when she died at a hospital in Baghdad.
The two met while in explosive ordnance disposal school at Indian Head, Md. They married in June 1999 and she later joined him at Fort Knox, where she become a team leader in her ordnance group.
“She was a soldier, but also a soldier’s wife and somehow fit into both worlds,” said Maj. Stan Harlow, a chaplain who presided over the service.
The Army has provided no other details of Voelz’s death, but Puig called it “a fluke mistake; it was nothing she did wrong.
“We want people to understand the circumstances she died under. She was in hostile areas, even though people say the war is over,” Puig said.
A memorial service was also held for Voelz in Iraq on Thursday. Her husband attended that service, according to the Army.
Voelz will be buried in Pennsylvania next week, the Army said.
Her name will be placed on a memorial for fallen members of explosive ordnance disposal units at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Carlson wrote in his letter.
Female soldier from Pennsylvania killed in Iraq
CARLISLE, Pa. — A female soldier from Pennsylvania died in her husband’s arms in Iraq hours after an improvised explosive device she was trying to defuse went off, family members said.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly A. Voelz, 27, of Carlisle, was killed in Iskandariyah, Iraq, as her unit was responding to an explosive ordnance disposal call, the Defense Department said.
As she was being taken to the hospital, her husband, Staff Sgt. Max Voelz, who was stationed nearby, received word of her injury and rushed to her side at the military hospital at the Baghdad airport, her family said. She died a few hours later.
“He was there to hold her when she died. God wanted that,” said Floyd Fahnestock, her father, a Monroe Township resident.
Kimberly Voelz, a 1994 graduate of Trinity High School in Lower Allen Township, and her husband were both assigned to the 703rd Explosive Ordnance Detachment from Fort Knox, Ky. The couple met during bomb disposal training and married four years ago.
The two were members of separate teams, Max at the unit’s main base and Kimberly at a satellite base nearby. She did five to seven missions a day, her father said.
The Fahnestocks said they were proud that their daughter died a hero.
“She believed in what she was doing over there to help the Iraqi people,” said Carol Fahnestock, her mother. “She died for America.”
The Bronze Star and Purple Heart, awarded posthumously, will be pinned to her uniform when she is buried, they said.
Family members said they were not surprised that their daughter chose such a dangerous specialty after enlisting in the Army eight years ago.
“My sister has been a daredevil all her life,” said her younger brother, Chad. “She liked the adventure.”
“She would tell me about some of the stuff that happens over there just like I would talk about doing a tax return,” Floyd Fahnestock said.
Kimberly Voelz’s body was scheduled to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. She will be buried at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery with full military honors.
Voelz was the 10th woman to die in the Iraq conflict.
— Associated Press
Explosives unit recovering from loss of second soldier
FORT KNOX, Ky.— Lan Sutton could hear the hurt in her husband’s voice.
He was calling to tell her another friend, Staff Sgt. Richard P. Ramey, had been killed in Iraq.
“I knew he was in shock. I could hear how it was tearing him apart,” Sutton said of her husband, Staff Sgt. Ben Sutton of the 703rd Ordnance Co., based at Fort Knox.
Sutton and Ramey knew each other for about six years and worked together in Iraq.
Soldiers at the post held a memorial Friday for Ramey, a Canton, Ohio native killed in an explosion on Feb. 8 in Iraq. He is the second member of the unit to die in Iraq since December.
Family members and unit commanders say the rest of the tight-knit, 15-member company will be back in Kentucky by March, when they will be given time to recover from losing two fellow soldiers.
The deaths of Ramey and Staff Sgt. Kimberly A. Voelz, 27, of Pennsylvania, in December, have hit the unit hard, said Lt. Col. Keith Angles, the battalion commander.
Voelz, her husband Staff Sgt. Max Voelz and Ramey led teams of soldiers who defused explosive devices. Max Voelz returned to the United States after his wife died in his arms.
Three teams of soldiers are now without leaders, Angles said.
“When you lose a staff sergeant, you’ve lost the whole team,” Angles said. “Now, they’ve lost three team leaders. It’s devastating.”
Ramey, 27, was killed in an attack in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, about 20 miles outside of Baghdad. He was working on disarming an explosive device when it went off, Angles said.
Voelz died near Iskandariyah, Iraq, as her unit was responding to an explosive ordnance disposal call. As she was being taken to the hospital, her husband, who was stationed nearby, received word of her injury and rushed to her side at the military hospital at the Baghdad airport, her family said. She died a few hours later.
Members of explosive disposal units rarely see tragedy like this, Angles said.
“Sometimes, more than anything else, it’s bad luck,” Angles said. Fewer than one percent are severely injured or killed each year, he said.
During the memorial service, attended by about 100 people at the post’s main chapel, friends and fellow soldiers remembered Ramey as someone who loved the outdoors, practical jokes and his 9-year military career.
Sitting near the front of the chapel were a half-dozen wives of soldiers from the explosives unit, including Sutton. The wives hugged and consoled the Rameys at the end of the service.
Max Voelz continually broke down while discussing his friend at the service. Ramey’s loss is felt by everyone left in the unit, he said.
“I don’t have the words that can lessen our grief,” Voelz said, before pausing to compose himself.
After the memorial service, Ramey’s parents, Jerry and Julie Ramey, spoke briefly, saying they were proud of their son. The Rameys hugged Lan Sutton and Meadow Barker, whose husband Sgt. Shawn Barker, also served with Ramey.
The Rameys told Barker and Sutton to visit them “any time” as the group hugged and cried together.
“I am so grateful for the friends he had,” Julie Ramey said. “He had wonderful friends.”
— Associated Press