Base in Germany honors two killed in Afghanistan
BAMBERG, Germany — Two more of the young and the bold were taken May 31.
A ceremony Thursday on Warner Barracks honored them.
After a year in which the Bamberg-based portion of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team suffered no fatalities, two paratroops were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
Spc. James Matthew Finley would have been 22 on Nov. 2.
Businesses closed Monday in his hometown of Lebanon, Mo.
The funeral procession was four miles long, Chaplain (Capt.) Matt Huisjen said during the service.
"He could always read you and knew when you were down … [and he] could bring you back up," Huisjen said, repeating remarks given by one of Finley’s buddies.
Entering the Army in February 2006, Finley had been in Germany less than a year before leaving for Afghanistan. Finley deployed as a proud patrolman for the Special Troops Battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company "Chaos" Military Police Platoon.
The oldest of five, with two brothers and two sisters, Finley was a natural born leader, Huisjen said.
In addition to his siblings, Finley is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Wayne Finley, of Lebanon.
Pfc. Andrew Jon Shields arrived in Germany on April 15, the last Sky Soldier to deploy from Bamberg.
July 11 would have been the 19-year-old’s first Army anniversary, and the last thing he did before deploying was write a letter to his fiancee, Loren E. Combs, whom he met during combat medic training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
He was proud he was a combat medic, proud he earned his airborne wings.
He was going to do the best job he could do, Shields wrote.
His buddies described Shields as always having a plan, and from a young age that plan was to follow in the footsteps of his father, Jon J. Shields, as a medic, Huisjen said.
"I hope to be half the man he is someday," Shields, who is also survived by his mother, Wendy Jo Campbell, had said of his father.
More than 1,000 people said farewell to Shields at a stateside funeral in Vancouver, Wash., near his hometown of Battle Ground.
Finley and Shields were both members of the brigade’s Special Troops Battalion, and their deaths are the 31st and 32nd the unit has suffered during the current deployment. On a 15-month tour, the 173rd’s "Sky Soldiers" are set to return to Bamberg; Schweinfurt, Germany; and Vicenza, Italy, in mid-summer.
A ceremony for Finley and Shields was held in Afghanistan on June 5.