War claims 4 more Fort Lewis troops
Five more Fort Lewis-based soldiers have died in Iraq from bomb and small-arms attacks, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday. That brings the number...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Five more Fort Lewis-based soldiers have died in Iraq from bomb and small-arms attacks, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.
That brings the number of Fort Lewis soldiers killed in the first six days of this month to seven, after 20 were killed in May. The post averaged fewer than three deaths a month for the first four years of the war.
Four of the soldiers died Sunday in Thania, Iraq, according to a news release sent Wednesday afternoon. They were assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, also known as the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based out of Fort Lewis.
The soldiers were identified as Staff Sgt. Greg Gagarin, 38, of Los Angeles; Sgt. James Akin, 23, of Albuquerque, N.M.; Sgt. Tyler Kritz, 21, of Eagle River, Wis.; and Sgt. Robert Surber, 24, of Inverness, Fla.
The death of a fifth soldier was announced late Wednesday. Sgt. Andrews Higgins, 28, of Hayward, Calif., died Tuesday from small-arms fire while on patrol in Baqouba, Iraq.
Families of the soldiers grieved Wednesday and planned memorials.
A friend of Akin's, who lived in Albuquerque with his wife, said the sergeant had planned to become president someday — and serving in Iraq was part of that plan.
"When you met James Akin he would say, 'Hi, My name is James, I'm going to one day be president of the United States,' " Victor Raigoza said Wednesday. "This is an individual that is so gregarious and so charming, and intelligent, that indeed one day he may have been president of the United States."
Raigoza said he met Akin in 2004 when he hired the young man as his campaign manager for a state-senate bid. The pair lost that election, but they had plans to try again and eventually make their way to higher office.
Akin joined the service after that election and was deployed to Iraq in June 2006, his friend said. He was to have returned for a brief leave in two weeks and his tour was to have ended in September.
"I think the people of New Mexico and the people of the United States have lost a great potential leader," Raigoza said.
Akin leaves behind his wife, Syreeta Akin, and his father, James W. Akin, Raigoza said.
Families for the other soldiers killed declined to comment or could not be reached for comment, but Fort Lewis released information about each of the soldiers.
Gagarin enlisted in the armed forces in 1988 and was in the Army National Guard in 1996 when he reported for active duty in Korea. He was on his second tour in Iraq, first deploying in November 2003.
Surber enlisted in 2002 and was on his first deployment. He was posthumously promoted to sergeant from the rank of corporal.
Kritz enlisted in 2003 and was on his first deployment. He also was promoted to corporal after his death.
Higgins enlisted in March 1996 and came to Fort Lewis in 2000. This was his first deployment.
Brian Alexander: 206-464-2026 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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