January was a hard month for Washington State’s military community. It lost five service members who grew up here or served here to fighting in Afghanistan, the most casualties in a single month since July 2010 when seven were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those numbers of fallen service members remain well below the heavy fighting Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers saw during the Iraq surge and during the first months of the 5th Stryker Brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan in the late summer of 2009. But they’re a reminder that difficult days lay ahead even as the Obama administration speeds up its plans to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.
The increased casualties do not necessarily reflect Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s greater presence in Afghanistan this year. Two of this month’s casualties were Marines in California- and Hawaii-based units; one was a soldier from Tacoma fighting with an armored brigade from Fort Bliss, Texas.
Here are tributes to the fallen service members from their local newspapers.
Pfc. Neil Turner, 21, of Tacoma was killed Jan. 11 in a training accident. “He was always that guy you could count on,” a friend of his told The News Tribune.
Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Wise, 34, was killed in by enemy gunfire on Jan. 15. He was a decorated Special Forces soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord who told his hometown newspaper in 2004 that “I wanted to serve my country, and do something that I found exciting.”
Marine Capt. Daniel Bartle, 27, died in a helicopter accident Jan. 19. He was valedictorian at Ferndale High School and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Lt. David Johnson, 24, was the first casualty in a yearlong deployment for Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He was a graduate of a small Christian university in Springfield, Mo., on his first deployment.
And on the last day of the month, Marine Sgt. William C. Stacey, 23, of Seattle was killed by an IED during a foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. His parents are professors at the University of Washington. They told The Seattle Times their son could have done anything in life.