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Tonight we remember three soldiers killed in Afghanistan.  One was a father to a one year old son, one had a rough childhood and was a bone cancer survivor and one came from hardworking parents and excelled in school and the Army to become a Staff Sergeant by age 26.   All three are greatly missed by their family, their community and our nation.  

Since 2001, there have been 2258 American troops killed in Operation Enduring Freedom. Since 2010, there have been 66 casualties in Operation New Dawn.

Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service members chronicled here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.

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DoD Announces Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died Aug. 11, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with indirect fire. The soldiers were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Octavio Herrera, 26, of Caldwell, Idaho,

Sgt. Jamar A. Hicks, 22, of Little Rock, Ark., and

Spc. Keith E. Grace Jr., 26, of Baytown, Texas.

Herrera and Grace died in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, while Hicks was evacuated to Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost, Afghanistan, and later died.

IGTNT, 101st Airborne Division
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Staff Sgt. Octavio Herrera was only 26 when he was killed in Afghanistan.  He had always wanted to be a soldier and had served three tours of duty in Afghanistan.  Herrera was a bright, hard-working, kind young man. His grief-stricken family put out a news release in honor of their son and brother.  From the Idaho Statesman:

First of all, we want the world to know that Octavio loved – and was deeply loved by – his family. His family has always been his priority, and it was clear to all of us that he took so much pleasure from being with us. That included play-wrestling with his nephews, nieces, his brothers and sister and even his father. He was the youngest but strongest son, and we thought of him as our ‘big little brother.’ He loved having fun! Octavio’s smile lit up any room he was in, and we will never forget that smile.

He was so generous - Octavio spoiled his younger sister by giving her anything he could give her, and he was planning to take us all to Disneyland when he returned from this, his third deployment to Afghanistan.

But there was so much more to Octavio. He was hard working, he was very bright and he loved a good challenge. While he worked in the fields with his mother and father as he grew up, he wanted much more from life. He took advanced placement courses in high school, and when he entered college he found he had his first year’s worth of courses already done. He loved a good challenge, and actually built a computer himself when he was in high school. We laugh when we say it and we mean it with great affection - but he was a nerd in the finest tradition of that word.

From the time he was young, Octavio told us he knew he wanted to join the Army. It seemed his calling was for a life of public service, and he told us he wanted to continue his public service after he left the military, perhaps as a police officer. We feel this calling was a noble thing.

From the time he was young, Octavio told us he knew he wanted to join the Army. It seemed his calling was for a life of public service, and he told us he wanted to continue his public service after he left the military, perhaps as a police officer. We feel this calling was a noble thing.
Octavio was seen as a leader and brother to so many who served with him. His friendship, loyalty, and kind spirit will be carried in the hearts of many.

He was a caring husband and best friend to his wife. He greeted each of their days together with one of his famous smiles. His wife was truly blessed to find her soul mate, and he will forever be the love of her life.

Octavio leaves behind his wife Courtney, his father, mother, grandmother and grandfather, two brothers, a sister, 2 nephews and 2 nieces, a sister-in-law, his mother and father-in-law, and a brother-in-law. His extended family is in Oregon, Nevada, Chicago and Mexico.

He graduated Caldwell High School in 2005. Before he entered the U.S. Army in 2007, Octavio attended college in Phoenix, Arizona and Boise State University. While in Phoenix, he worked for UPS. Octavio also held jobs at Orphan Annie’s in Caldwell, Lowe’s in Nampa and at the Crookham Seed Company.”

Staff Sgt. Herrera joined the Army in 2007.  He was stationed at Fort Bragg and served two tours in Afghanistan before arriving at Fort Campbell in September 2012.  

Staff Sgt. Herrera earned the following awards and decorations:  two Army Commendation Medals, one Army Achievement Medal, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, one Army Good Conduct Medal, one National Defense Service Medal, one Afghanistan Campaign Medal (Third Campaign Phase), one Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, one Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, one Army Service Ribbon, one Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral 2 Device, two NATO Medals, one Combat Action Badge, one Parachute Badge, and one Air Assault Badge.

Staff Sgt. Octavio Herrera
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Sgt. Jamar Hicks joined the Army in November 2009.  He was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was killed in an attack.  

Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas issued the following statement:  

It’s with a heavy heart that we honor the life of a fallen America hero, Sergeant Jamar A. Hicks, who was killed while serving our nation in Afghanistan. I join all Arkansans in sending our deepest condolences and prayers to his family and loved ones. We will be forever grateful for his sacrifice and service.
Sgt. Hicks earned the following awards and decorations: one Army Commendation Medal, one Meritorious Unit Commendation, one Army Good Conduct Medal, one National Defense Service Medal, one Afghanistan Campaign Medal (Second Campaign Phase), one Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, one Army Service Ribbon, one Overseas Ribbon, one NATO Medal, one Combat Action Badge, one Air Assault Badge, and one Driver and Mechanic Badge with Driver-Wheeled Vehicle Bar.

Sgt. Hicks is survived by his wife, Debra Evans, his one year old son Jamar Hicks; and his parents.  

Sgt. Jamar Hicks
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Spc. Keith Grace overcame and survived many hardships throughout his life.  After he was born, he was placed for adoption.  As a young child, he fought and survived bone cancer.  At age 12, his adoptive mother died.  His friend, Garland Davis, told the Houston Chronicle:

"He shouldn't have made it, but he pulled through it and survived 100 percent," said longtime friend, Garland Davis, who said he regarded Grace as a brother, though there was no legal or blood connection.
Garland and his family would become a family for Grace.  Michael Davis, the surrogate dad, told the Chronicle:
"We were his family because he chose us," Davis said. "He's been through hell and back with his family, but he always has had a smile on his face. He never picked fights, never tried to create a problem. He was stuck in a bad position and he tried to better himself. He ended up falling in love with the Army, and he loved this country. He paid the ultimate sacrifice, but joining the military was truly the best thing for him."
Spc. Keith Grace joined the Army in April 2012.  His awards and decorations include one National Defense Service Medal, one Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and one Army Service Ribbon.  

Along with his friends and surrogate family, Spc. Grace is survived by his parents, Keith Grace and Sheryl Scott.  

Spc. Keith Grace
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Sources:  

In Flanders Fields
by Lt. Col. John McRae, MD,  (1872-1918)

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved,
and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

I Got the News Today is a diary series intended to honor, respect and remind.  Its title is a reminder that almost every day a military family gets the terrible news about a loved one. Diaries about the fallen usually appear two days after their names are officially released, which allows time for the IGTNT team to find and tell their stories.

All of the U.S. fatalities can be seen here and here.  They all had loved ones, families and friends.  The DoD news releases are here.  I Got the News Today is intended to honor, respect and remind.  Click the IGTNT tags below for previous diaries.

Click the IGTNT tags  to see the series, which was begun by i dunno, and which is maintained by  i dunno, Monkeybiz, Noweasels, Blue Jersey Mom, Chacounne, twilight falling, SisTwo, Spam Nunn,  True Blue Majority, CalNM, Wide Awake in Kentucky, Maggie Jean, Jax Dem, The Fat Lady Sings, Ekaterina, Joy of Fishes,  and me, Sandy on Signal.

Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service members chronicled here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.

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Originally posted to Sandy on Signal on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 04:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by IGTNT.

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