Fallen Warriors

The Gold Star Standard

Kim Elle, executive director of Augusta Warrior Project, holds a flag given to her in memory of her father, Air Force Capt. Ted G. Sweeting, who was killed in a military plane crash in 1971. 

Threatened to be lost in the recent controversy involving President Trump and Gold Star families is the sacrifice fallen service members made to the country. Augusta Chronicle reporters Nefeteria Brewster and Amanda King talked to family members of five such heroes who have local ties to let them tell the stories of their loved ones.



Remembering the 28 military personnel stationed at Fort Gordon or from the Augusta area who died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.



Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan War)





  • Spc. Hilda I. Clayton, 22: Assigned to 55th Signal Company, Fort Meade, Md.; from Augusta; died July 2, 2013 in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
  • Spc. Ember M. Alt, 21: Assigned to 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Fort Carson, Colo.; from Beech Island, S.C.; died June 18, 2013 in Bagram, Afghanistan.
  • Spc. Joshua N. Nelson, 22: Assigned to 297th Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Gordon.; from Greenville, N.C.; died Sept. 16, 2012 in Spin Murani, Afghanistan.
  • Staff Sgt. Willie J. Harley Jr., 48: Assigned to 176th Engineer Brigade, Army National Guard; from Aiken, S.C.; died Oct. 1, 2010 in Paktika, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. Taurean T. Harris, 22: Assigned to 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Gordon; Liberty, Miss.; died Aug. 2, 2008 in Titan Valley, Afghanistan.










Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn (Iraq War)





  • Sgt. John F. Burner III, 32: Assigned to 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Fort Gordon; from Baltimore, Md.; died Sept. 16, 2010 in Iskandariya, Iraq.
  • Spc. Eugene R. Vogel III, 27: Assigned to 67th Signal Battalion, Fort Gordon; from Red Lion, Pa.; died Sept. 29, 2009 in Camp Delta, Iraq.
  • Spc. Christopher K. Boone, 34: Assigned to 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas; from Augusta; died Feb. 17, 2007 in Balad, Iraq.
  • Sgt. Roberto Arizola Jr., 31: Assigned to 297th Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Gordon; from Laredo, Texas; died June 8, 2005; Baghdad, Iraq.
  • Sgt. Cari Ann Gasiewicz, 28: Assigned to 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Gordon; from Depew, N.Y.; died Dec. 4, 2004, Ba'Qubah, Iraq.










2012 -- Iraq War Ends



Over the past eight years, nearly every American has been affected by the war in Iraq, which officially ended on January 1, 2012.


About 2 million U.S. service members were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Records show that 4,484 died in Iraq and 32,313 were wounded.



Also affected have been the fathers and mothers of the troops, the anxious spouses back home, the Americans disillusioned by the bloodshed and those still confident the right action was taken.



These are some of their stories.




Iraq veteran saw, underwent changes

“Culture shock” is a bit of an understatement when describing the transition from Wagener, S.C., to the war-torn streets of Iraq. For Johnny Strang, who celebrated his 19th birthday in Baghdad, returning to civilian life had just as many challenges, though.


War was difficult on the homefront for soldier's mother

Jackie Somers refused to think her son could be in danger. She accepted that Johnathan Somers was somewhere else, but in her mind it wasn’t Iraq. “He was not overseas in a war,” she said.


Having husband, son fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan was woman's nightmare

In 2007, Mary Jo Hammond was sometimes asked which person she worried about most: her husband or her son.


War protester says demonstrations were about bringing troops home, not loss of life

Denice Traina has received all kinds of responses to a street-corner protest: supportive honks, the rude gesture, even an occasional flying beer can.


Political war raged at home as troops fought in Middle East

The war in Iraq was often a bitterly partisan contest at home, with the Republicans who started the war pitted against the Democrats who ultimately ended it.

As the dust begins to settle, both sides remain divided on what was accomplished and what remains to be done.


Political refugee from Iraq defends his homeland

When the bombs started falling in 2003, Salih al-Badrany wondered whether the second invasion of his native Iraq would be as fleeting as the first one.







Related Stories





2010 -- Remembering lost soldiers



About the project


Iraqi Freedom was not free. The war cost the lives of 4,484 U.S. service members. Eighteen were from Augusta and nearby counties.

The Augusta Chronicle looks at how their families have coped with the loss. Some chose not to respond to requests for interviews. Some said they didn't want to recall that awful moment. Others wanted people to know the person they loved.

Asked what she hoped readers would learn about her son - Pfc. William R. Strange III, of Adrian, Ga., who was killed in 2004 - Lillie Jenkins replied: "That he was a good son, and he changed some lives. He really changed some lives."



Army Sgt. George E. Buggs - Barnwell, S.C.

3rd Division Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Fallen: 03/23/2003

Nasiriyah, Iraq

Obituary »
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Video: A clip from the TV movie 'Saving Jessica Lynch,' including a scene in which Sgt. Buggs is depicted (3:43). See profile for details.

Widow, son still wonder why soldier died in Iraq

BARNWELL, S.C. --- As a child, Guy Buggs had a father who doted on him, coming home from Fort Stewart every Thursday and spending four straight days with him. Then, when he was 12, his father was gone.

  First area man to die in Iraq loved military

Army Sgt. Orenthial J. Smith - Allendale, S.C.

Company A, 123rd Main Support Battalion

Fallen: 06/22/2003

Baghdad, Iraq

Obituary »
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Smith’s family still not convinced war was justified

MARTIN, S.C. — When the people in Army uniforms came to tell her, Iratean Smith screamed before they could say anything.

  Smith chose Army, but worried about Iraq duty

Army Master Sgt. Thomas R. Thigpen Sr. - Augusta, Ga.

151st Signal Battalion, Army National Guard, Greenville, S.C.

Fallen: 03/16/2004

Camp Virginia, Kuwait

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Widow preserves memory while building new life

Even though Master Sgt. Thomas R. Thigpen Sr. never lived in his wife’s new Grovetown home, his presence can be felt throughout.

  Sergeant saw return to service as duty

Army Pfc. William R. Strange - Adrian, Ga.

91st Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas

Fallen: 04/02/2004

Baghdad, Iraq

Obituary »
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Bombing engineer really a 'gentle giant'

METTER, Ga. --- Whenever she was in a sour mood, Lillie Jenkins could always count on "Rah Ra" to provide the tonic to draw her out of the funk.


Marine Lance Cpl. Rodricka A. Youmans - Allendale, S.C.

2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Fallen: 07/06/2004

Fallujah, Iraq

Obituary »
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Sadness, anger linger years after Youmans’ death

Manderlene Youmans used to go to her son’s grave every few days and sit in silence. She wouldn’t say anything. She would just stare at the tombstone, said her husband, Johnnie.

  22-year-old’s 'journey’ was cut short

Army Sgt. James Kinlow - Thomson, Ga.

2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade, Albany, Ga.

Fallen: 07/24/2005

Baghdad, Iraq

Obituary »
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Wife survives without high school sweetheart with 'grace'

A closet full of dark clothes and a sadness in her eyes are signs that Daphanie Kinlow, 38, remains in mourning five years after her husband, Sgt. James Kinlow, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. But she is making progress.

  Widow stays strong for children

Army Sgt. David Jones Sr. - Augusta, Ga.

2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade, Albany, Ga.

Fallen: 07/30/2005

Baghdad, Iraq

Obituary »
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Jones dies in Iraq

There was a moment after her husband was killed in Iraq that Karen Jones will never forget.


Army Staff Sgt. Dennis P. Merck - Evans, Ga.

878th Engineer Battalion, Augusta, Ga.

Fallen: 10/20/2005

Camp Stryker - Baghdad, Iraq

Obituary »
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Merck’s widow feels husband’s presence

A strange thing happened to Tanya Merck the day after she lost her best friend. A friend of her mother whom Merck had known all her life called to tell her about a dream she had.

  Merck was always motivated to help others

Army Spc. Joseph A. Lucas - Augusta, Ga.

5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Fallen: 12/15/2005

Balad, Iraq

Obituary »
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Grief remains with mother 4 years later

It’s easy to spot Barbara Gavin’s apartment from the rows of identical buildings at Ridge Crossing Apartments in Martinez. There’s a small banner hanging in her window with a gold star on a white field, trimmed with red.

Marine Cpl. Matthew V. Dillon - Aiken, S.C.

Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine, Miramar, Calif.

Fallen: 12/11/2006

Khalidiyah, Iraq

Obituary »
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Website: A memorial website created by Dillon's brothers in his honor.

Dillons learn to live with pain of loss

AIKEN — For Lucy and Neal Dillon, there is no end to the grief. There’s no healing, no belief it will be better some day. They have accepted it.

  Profile: Cpl. Matthew V. Dillon

Army Chief Warrant Officer Jason G. DeFrenn - Barnwell, S.C.

1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas

Fallen: 02/02/2007

Taji, Iraq

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Soldier’s death haunts father

Something that haunts Garth DeFrenn about his son’s death is how close he came to talking him out of going back to Iraq.

  Pilots died protecting fellow soldiers

Army PV2 Algernon Adams - North Augusta, S.C.

S.C. Army National Guard’s 122nd Engineer Battalion, based in Edgefield

Fallen: 10/28/2003

Fallujah, Iraq

Obituary »
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Profile: Algernon Adams

Army PV2 Algernon Adams was awarded a Purple Heart after he was wounded by shrapnel in August 2003.





Army Spc. Nathaniel Henry Johnson - Augusta, Ga.

Company D (Aviation), 82nd Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, N.C.

Fallen: 01/08/2004

Fallujah, Iraq

Obituary »
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Profile: Nathaniel Henry Johnson

Army Spc. Nathaniel Henry Johnson graduated from Glenn Hills High School in 2001.





Navy First Class Petty Officer Michael A. Jordan - Augusta, Ga.

Navy’s 5th Fleet, Destroyer Squadron 50

Fallen: 01/13/2006

Manama, Bahrain

Obituary »
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Profile: Michael Anthony Jordan

First Class Petty Officer Michael Anthony Jordan joined the Navy on June 26, 1990 and was a veteran of both Iraq conflicts.





Army Spc. Jason Lyle Moski - Blackville, S.C.

4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery, Fort Riley, Kan.

Fallen: 02/25/2005

Taji, Iraq

Obituary »
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Profile: Jason Lyle Moski

Army Spc. Jason Lyle Moski's name is inscribed on a brick in the walkway at Barnwell County's Veterans Memorial Park.





Army Sgt. Foster Pinkston - Warrenton, Ga.

Army National Guard’s 878th Engineer Battalion

Died: 09/16/2003

Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta (non-combat related illness)

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Profile: Foster Pinkston

Sgt. Foster Pinkston was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal for his service.





Marine Lance Cpl. Michael P. Scarborough - Washington, Ga.

1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Fallen: 10/30/2004

Fallujah, Iraq

Obituary »
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Profile: Michael Phillip Scarborough

Lance Cpl. Michael Phillip Scarborough is buried next to his grandfather and namesake, a World War II veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart.





Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Wilson - Thomson, Ga.

1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based in Fort Campbell, Ky.

Fallen: 11/23/2003

Mosul, Iraq

Obituary »
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Profile: Jerry L. Wilson

Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Wilson enlisted in the military in September of 1975.