May 9-13
2003



May 9

Lance Cpl. Cedric E. Bruns, USMC

The Department of Defense announced today (May 12) that Lance Cpl. Cedric E. Bruns, 22, of Vancouver, Wash., was killed May 9 in a non-hostile vehicle accident in Kuwait. Bruns was driving a pick-up truck that was struck on the driver side by a logistics vehicle system. He was a reservist assigned to the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group, Eugene, Ore.

Associated Press: A Marine reservist based in Eugene, Ore., was killed late last week in a traffic accident in Kuwait, the Department of Defense said Monday.

Lance Cpl. Cedric E. Bruns, 22, of Vancouver, Wash., was killed May 9 when his pick-up truck was struck on the driver's side by a logistics support vehicle, which resembles a flatbed truck, said 1st Sgt. Thomas Thomas of the 6th Engineer Support Battalion in Portland.

Bruns, who was assigned to the 6th Engineer Support Battalion's 4th Force Service Support Group, had been in Kuwait since January, Thomas said. It was his first tour of duty overseas, he said.

He was a combat engineer in a unit trained to do "anything from demolition to building," said Gunnery Sgt. Rick Nelson.

May 10

Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Smith, USMC

The Department of Defense announced on May 12 that Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Smith, 20, of Anderson, Ind., was killed May 10 in a non-hostile vehicle accident in Kuwait. Smith was driving a HMMWV as part of a convoy to Camp Coyote in Kuwait when his vehicle struck a parked trailer. He was a reservist assigned to Detachment 1, Communications Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group, Peru, Indiana. The incident is under investigation.


ANDERSON, Ind. -- A 20-year-old Marine from Anderson was killed in a traffic accident Saturday in Kuwait.

Matthew R. Smith, a reservist with the 4th Force Service Support Group based in Peru, died instantly when his Humvee struck a parked trailer while he was driving in a military convoy. Chief Warrant Officer Suzanne Handshoe said another Marine in the vehicle was injured and remains in critical condition.

Smith's body has arrived at Dover (Del.) Air Force Base, which was of some consolation to his father, David.

"They were saying it might take three weeks for him to come home," he said. "But we'll be blessed to have some closure in one week."

Even though President Bush declared the war in Iraq over nearly a week ago, David Smith knew his son was far from safe.

"Last week me and my wife talked about the dangers out there and the number of people getting killed in helicopter accidents and wrecks," Smith said. "And Matthew won't be the last, but we hope he is for all the other parents and families out there."

Matthew Smith stood about 5 feet 8 inches and weighed 140 pounds, but friends and family said he never let his small stature keep him from big accomplishments. His aunt Vicki Buck called him "a runt who didn't know it."

Handshoe, who was his commanding officer in a training trip last summer to the Mojave Desert, remembered Smith as an overachiever.

"He was a small guy, but he was an extremely hard-working, can-do Marine," she said. Smith, the younger of two children, attended Indiana University. In the Marine Reserve, he served as a radio operator and was deployed to Kuwait in February. He traveled all the way to Baghdad during the war and had since been working on supply convoys. Handshoe broke the news to his family Saturday.

"Any time you see that car pull up and two Marines get out, you already know what happened," David Smith said. "It's just like the movies. I couldn't believe it." The day his son died, David Smith received the first letter from his son since his deployment. In it, Matthew Smith wrote how proud he was to be overseas fighting for his country's freedom.

"He said that he was certain that's what he wanted to do -- be a Marine," David Smith said. "How many people on this Earth die doing the job they know they were put here to do?"

Added his aunt: "He died doing what he believed in."

May 12

The Department of Defense announced on May 14 that two First Marine Expeditionary Force Marines were killed May 12 in Iraq when unexploded ordnance they were handling detonated. Killed were: Lance Cpl. Jakub Henryk Kowalik and Pfc. Jose Franci Gonzalez Rodriguez. The incident is under investigation.

Lance Cpl. Jakub Henryk Kowalik, USMC

Lance Cpl. Jakub Henryk Kowalik, 21, of Schaumburg, Ill. He was assigned to the 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

SignOnSanDiego.com -- Before he entered the Marines in 2001, Jakub H. Kowalik was a fairly typical teenager. He whiled away the time on video games, fishing, football and parties. But after boot camp, he returned home to suburban Chicago standing straighter. His easy manner was now disciplined. He had a new focus, people who knew him said. "He came back with a totally different aspect," said Teresa Ostrow, his high school girlfriend. "He was a lot more serious on life and what he wanted." Kowalik's school counselor saw the same transformation. "He was really pulling things together," said John Tyler, counselor at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Ill. Kowalik's life was cut short May 12 in Iraq when ordnance he was handling exploded. Kowalik had deployed to the Persian Gulf with his Camp Pendleton unit, the 1st Maintenance Battalion of the 1st Force Service Support Group, where he worked as an amphibious assault vehicle mechanic. He leaves behind an older brother, Paul, and his mother, to whom he was especially close. She almost never called him by his given name, instead using the Polish word for "baby." The family emigrated from Poland for better opportunities in the early 1990s. His father died a few years later. Despite not being a citizen, Kowalik was an all-American boy, Ostrow said. A warm, outgoing personality made him popular at school. He was a guy who didn't care if a person was short, tall, skinny or fat; he was ready to be a friend, she said. "He's the type of person you didn't even have to tell who you were, and he just became your friend, automatically," said Ostrow, who was a year behind him in school. "He was known for that. He'd talk to you whether you had something in common or not." Kowalik also wanted to serve his adopted country and hoped to become a citizen. He talked of changing his first name to the traditional English spelling. "He wanted to serve America, because even though he was from Poland, he considered himself an American," Ostrow said.

Pfc. Jose Franci Gonzalez, USMC

Pfc. Jose Franci Gonzalez Rodriguez, 19, of Norwalk, Calif. He was assigned to the 1st Supply Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

May 13

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Brian Kleiboeker, USMC

The Department of Defense announced today that Lance Cpl. Nicholas Brian Kleiboeker, 19, of Irvington, Ill., was killed May 13 near Al Hillah, Iraq, when the munitions bunker he was working in caught fire and exploded. He was assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.



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