Military News

On Memorial Day, Coast remembers those lost

SUN HERALD/FILE 
 Maj. Gen. Harold Cross salutes the coffin of Sgt. 1st Class Michael Sean Cooley as military personnel, friends, family and members of the Benndale community in George County attended Cooley's graveside funeral services. A Mississippi National Guard soldier, Sgt. Cooley was killed in Iraq.
SUN HERALD/FILE Maj. Gen. Harold Cross salutes the coffin of Sgt. 1st Class Michael Sean Cooley as military personnel, friends, family and members of the Benndale community in George County attended Cooley's graveside funeral services. A Mississippi National Guard soldier, Sgt. Cooley was killed in Iraq. SUN HERALD

More than 70 Mississippians have died in combat since 2001, including at least 14 from the Coast.

They were children and parents, some fresh out of school and some with plenty of life experience.

As the Coast celebrated a long weekend with concerts and barbecues, Mississippians also paused to remember those lost in the most recent war and in the battles that came before.

Marine Master Sgt. Scott E. Pruitt, 38, of Gautier, was killed in Afghanistan on April 28, 2012. He was a Pascagoula High School grad and assigned to the First Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group at Camp Pendleton in California. As a master sergeant, Pruitt was not required to go back overseas. When he was asked to choose four Marines for duty in Afghanistan, he included himself. Pruitt was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Marine 1st Lt. William J. Donnelly IV, 27, of Picayune, died in Afghanistan on Nov. 25, 2010 -- Thanksgiving Day. The infantry officer's awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal and Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Johnny R. Polk, 39, of

Gulfport, died July 25, 2009, after being wounded when an anti-tank grenade struck his vehicle in Kirkuk, Iraq. He played football at Harrison Central High School and worked as a volunteer firefighter in Gulfport before joining the Army in 1992. Polk was married and had a son.

Army Sgt. Lerando J. Brown, of Gulfport, died on March 15, 2008, in Iraq. Brown attended Harrison Central High School and could play piano by ear, often performing in church. He once sent 25 Christmas letters from Iraq to first-graders at his wife's school, and the pair had two children.

Marine Sgt. Donnie F. Levens, 25, of Long Beach, was killed in a helicopter crash in Djibouti on Feb. 17, 2006. He was on his second tour with the Marines and was killed on his mother's birthday. Levens used to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for crew members on missions and loved his black Pontiac Trans Am and his German Shepherd.

Marine Lance Cpl. Roger W. Deeds, 24, of Biloxi, was one of five Marines killed in Ubaydi, Iraq on Nov. 16, 2005. He was a 2000 graduate of Biloxi High School and is survived by his wife and two children. Deeds was killed during his second tour in Iraq. He earned a Purple Heart during the first tour.

Army 1st Lt. Robert C. Oneto-Sikorsky, 33, of Bay St. Louis, was killed by a roadside bomb west of Baghdad on Oct. 31, 2005. The Mississippi National Guard soldier was a mechanical engineer at what was then Northrop Grumman Ship Systems' Ingalls Operations in Pascagoula. The Hancock High School and University of South Alabama graduate was the first officer from his unit to be killed in action, and he left behind three children.

Army Sgt. Larry R. Arnold Sr., 46, of Carriere, and Spc. Terrence Lee, 25, of Moss Point, were killed June 11, 2005, when a bomb exploded outside the vehicle they were riding in. Arnold was a skilled mechanic who loved cars and family and planned to help his son restore a 1949 Chrysler when the pair returned home. Spc. Bobby Arnold, his son, arrived for leave in Carriere one day before his father was killed. Lee was a 1999 graduate of Moss Point High School and a full-time welder at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. He entered the Navy just as his father was wrapping up a 14-year career with the National Guard and Army. The younger Lee eventually joined the National Guard. He left behind a wife who was expecting their first child.

Army Spc. Bryan Barron, 27, and Sgt. Daniel Ryan Varnado, both of Gulfport, along with two other Mississippi soldiers, were killed May 23, 2005, in Iraq. Barron had met his newborn daughter for the first and last time during leave from basic training the previous Christmas. He also had another daughter.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean M. Cooley, 35, of Ocean Springs, was killed Feb. 3, 2005, in Iraq. He was an emergency room nurse at Singing River Hospital, and after his death, co-workers posted a tribute to him in the ER hallway. He enjoyed fishing and worked well with children and very sick patients.

Army Sgt. Clint D. Ferrin, 31, of Picayune, was killed March 13, 2004, in Baghdad when a military vehicle he was in hit an explosive device. Ferrin grew up in Utah before moving to Picayune for his senior year of high school and served 12 years in the military. Ferrin kept to himself and was quiet, but his family, including a wife and two children, said they would remember him as a hero. Ferrin posthumously received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Marine 2nd Lt. Therrel S. Childers, 30, a Harrison Central High School grad, was killed March 21, 2003 -- one of the first two American combat casualties in Iraq. Childers, whose father was a Navy Seabee, attended The Citadel, where he was a French major and was on the dean's list. He was a 1991 Gulf War veteran and was posthumously promoted to first lieutenant. Those who knew him said Childers was a born leader, serious and focused.

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