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Fla. Family Pays Homage to Soldier

March 6, 2002

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Sgt. Bradley Crose, one of seven U.S. soldiers who died in the bloodiest operation of the war in Afghanistan, was a deeply religious and patriotic young man who believed it was his duty to serve his country, his father said Tuesday.

``He was a fine Christian and he was a warrior,″ said Ricky Crose, who wants his 22-year-old son buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

``He deserves that honor. He was the most treasured thing I could give my country,″ said Crose, his voice breaking. ``I want people to know the sacrifices he made.″

Crose, Spc. Marc A. Anderson, 30, of Brandon, Fla., and Pfc. Matthew A. Commons, 21, of Boulder City, Nev., were members of the 1st Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga.

``I’m proud of him,″ said Anderson’s mother, Judith Anderson, who lives in Jacksonville. ``He is a hero.″

Lynn Stewart, a government teacher at Boulder City High School, about 30 miles away from Las Vegas, called Commons ``a good example of what’s right about kids in America.″

Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, 26, of Camarillo, Calif., was stationed at Moody Air Force Base near Valdosta, Ga., where he had a wife and two young daughters, said Lito D’Castro, Cunningham’s father-in-law.

D’Castro said he heard the news when his daughter called Tuesday. ``She was hysterical. She talked to her mom and said, `Jason is dead.‴

At least three others died and 11 were wounded during intense fighting Monday as two troop-carrying helicopters came under attack. Military officials said the al-Qaida and Taliban fighters used machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

A two-helicopter team was ferrying in reconnaissance troops south of the town of Gardez when one was hit by enemy fire, said Brig Gen. John W. Rosa Jr., deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A Pentagon official said Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, 32, fell out of the helicopter, but died from a bullet wound. He was apparently shot after surviving the fall, said Marine Maj. Ralph Mills, speaking for the U.S. Central Command.

``He was a real nice kid _ kind of a tough kid who didn’t let things bother him,″ said Jeff Sheline, a high school wood shop teacher who taught Roberts.

The other soldiers died during another two-helicopter mission to bring special forces into the battle area, Rosa said. Once on the ground, those forces got into a firefight.

Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, 36, of Windsor Locks, Conn., was remembered by his older sister Lori McQueeney as a good athlete and ``a cutup ... a card.″

``He’s the life of the party,″ McQueeney said.

The father of Army Sgt. Philip J. Svitak called his son ``the best kid in the world.″

``He did everything right. He had no bad habits. He loved his country. He loved his wife and his family especially,″ said Richard Svitak, 57.

Svitak, 31, of Joplin, Mo., was assigned as an aircraft repairman to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He learned in October that he might have to go to Afghanistan and told his mother not to worry.

``He told me before he went, ’Mom, the terrorists have to be stopped. If they send me over there and anything happens to me ... I’m proud to die for my country,‴ Roseann Svitak said.

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