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Connecticut Army National Guard Sgt. Felix M. Delgreco

Died April 9, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

22, of Simsbury, Conn.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry, Army National Guard, New Haven, Conn.; killed April 9 when an improvised explosive devise and small-arms fire struck his mounted patrol in Baghdad.

Friends, family remember fallen soldier

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — Sgt. Felix DelGreco, the first Connecticut National Guardsman to die in Iraq, was remembered Saturday as someone full of love, life, and dreams to one day run for president.

“He was just very good at everything he did,” Eric Allen, a friend of DelGreco’s since first grade, told the hundreds who filled St. Joseph’s Cathedral for his funeral.

In their late-night talk sessions, DelGreco used to tell him about his 2024 presidential campaign over french toast or a game of pool, Allen said. He inspired his friend to join the Coast Guard, and promised him a spot in his administration or on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Military officials said DelGreco, 22, of Simsbury, was killed April 9 when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb and gunfire.

His unit, the Bristol-based C Company, 102nd Infantry, had arrived in Kuwait in March, and began operations in Baghdad two days before his death.

“A solider at age 17. A leader at age 22. He was the all-American kid from next door,” Gov. John G. Rowland said.

DelGreco enlisted in the Guard while still a student at Simsbury High School. A former Eagle Scout, he truly lived the Boy Scout oath, said Richard Gugliemetti, DelGreco’s former scoutmaster.

He recalled how he quickly became a favorite cook on camp outs, despite some of his strange, original recipes. His military comrades also appointed him unofficial cook during a nine-month stint providing security at West Point last year, Gugliemetti said.

“Simply put: Felix DelGreco made us all better people,” he said.

The soldier was awarded a posthumous Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He had served a six-month tour in Bosnia in 2001, and volunteered to go to Iraq in December, said Maj. Gen. William Cugno, commander of the Connecticut National Guard.

“In my mind, he was a hero,” Cugno said.

Since March 2002, 13 military servicemen and women with Connecticut ties have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Simsbury soldier found a way to fit in

HARTFORD, Conn. — Felix Delgreco always soaked up his surroundings, easily fitting in, whether it was in a Simsbury High study hall or on the sunny steps of an Italian cathedral.

The 22-year-old Simsbury man, the first Connecticut National Guardsmen to die in Iraq, was remembered and mourned on Easter Sunday by former school teachers and administrators.

“He was one of those kids you just wanted to bring home and adopt,” said Bergouhi Spencer, Delgreco’s high school Latin teacher of four years. “He was just a wonderful young man with a smile on his face.”

Delgreco, a sergeant in the Bristol-based C Company, 102nd Infantry, was killed during an ambush on his patrol in Baghdad on Friday. Military authorities said his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb and gunfire. His unit arrived in Kuwait in March and began operations in Baghdad just two days before his death.

As a teen, he had an abiding interest in the military and enlisted in the Guard in 1999 while still in high school.

“He was a great guy, popular with his friends,” assistant principal Walter Zalaski said Sunday. “He just fit into Simsbury.”

Delgreco was not married and had no children. His parents declined to speak to the media and funeral plans were unavailable. Gov. John R. Rowland ordered flags to remain at half-staff until sundown on the day of Delgreco’s funeral. He was the second Connecticut soldier to die in Iraq in the past week. Bridgeport Spc. Tyanna Avery-Felder died Tuesday when the truck she was riding in hit a makeshift explosive device along the road.

Since March 2002, 13 military servicemen and women with Connecticut ties have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Delgreco’s unit, the 102nd Infantry is one of the oldest serving companies in Connecticut. Established in 1672, the unit has been involved in the major wars in U.S. history, beginning with the Revolutionary War until the present. He deployed to Bosnia in 2001 and to West Point in 2003 in the operation ordered up by President Bush for homeland defense.

While stationed at West Point, Delgreco was checking the credentials of alumni returning for a 10-year reunion when he spotted a familiar face. Spencer’s son, a West Point graduate, was back for reunion.

“Of all the people, it was Felix who checked him into West Point,” Spencer said. “Of all the people.”

Spencer remembers Delgreco as a boy with a keen curiosity and a joy to have in class. She took her Latin class to Europe every year and Delgreco was along for four of them. She gave her students Latin nicknames each year, but Delgreco was the exception, she recalled fondly. He came ready-made with a moniker.

“Felix means lucky or happy in Latin and we used to kid him about that,” she said. “I can just see him sitting there.”

Spencer said also still see him basking on the steps of a Florence cathedral, blending in with his trademark European beret-style cap that he wore on all the trips abroad.

“He was just a part of the fabric, sitting there in the sun,” Spencer said.

On a trip to the rolling countryside of southern Spain, the class was near a monastery perched atop a hill and accessible by donkey. While Spencer’s group was assembled at the foot of the hill, her husband, Arthur, was taking in the sights through his binoculars.

“We were just looking around viewing the scenery and there’s Felix,” Bergouhi Spencer said. “Way up at the top we could see him with another student. They just climbed up. It was something he wanted to do. He was just like a native every where he went.”

Delgreco would often come back and visit his former teacher, once showing up proudly in his uniform, she recalled. She learned of his death Saturday night and memories came flooding back of the boy that always fit in.

“This morning throughout (Easter) service, I’m thinking about new life, resurrection and I can’t reconcile the two right now in my mind,” Spencer said. “He’s fitting into heaven right now because he was such an angel.”

— Associated Press

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