Fallen JBLM soldier would say, 'Dust it off, dust it off'
TACOMA, Wash.— Pfc. Markie Sims clicked with Pfc. William Newton as soon as they met at Joint Base Lewis-McChord last year. They trained for war together, goofed off together and made a pledge to each other when they left for Afghanistan two months ago.
“No matter what happens, we’re going to bring each other home,” Newton said.
The two friends were in the same Stryker infantry carrier Dec. 29 when it rolled over a buried mine in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. The explosion flipped the eight-wheeled, 30-ton vehicle and threw it onto a second mine.
That second blast took Sims’ life barely eight weeks into his first overseas tour. It also wounded Newton and another soldier from Lewis-McChord’s 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Sims, 20, was trained as a combat engineer.
“I couldn’t keep my promise to him,” said Newton, 21, who suffered a head injury and an injury to one of his legs. “But I know what he’d say. He’d say ‘I know you didn’t choose this. Dust it off, dust it off.’”
Soldiers gathered Wednesday at Lewis-McChord to remember Sims. He is survived by his wife, Shakeli Boone, his parents and four siblings. Sims and Boone were expecting a child when the soldier was killed.
Newton made a pledge to Sims’ family. “I’m going to be there, no question,” he said.
Sims grew up in Citra, Fla. and joined the Army shortly after graduating from Marion Technical Institute in 2011. The Ocala Star-Banner reported that one of his brothers, Demarrio, is planning to follow him in the service.
Newton described Sims as an uplifting friend, one who “took from himself to give to everyone else.”
“He was silly,” Newton said. “No matter what … he’d find a way to make you laugh.”
Sometimes, Newton said, he’d get frustrated with long days at his forward base in Afghanistan. He’d want to vent and take a smoke break, but Sims would interrupt and they’d hit the gym.
The 4th Brigade is expected to be the last Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade to fight in the Afghanistan war. It deployed in November and should return this summer. Four of its soldiers have died on this tour.
Sims served in the brigade’s 38th Engineer Company, a relatively small unit composed of soldiers who are experts in finding and clearing enemy bombs. Another soldier from the company, Staff Sgt. Rayvon Battle, died in an accident just after the unit arrived in Kandahar.
Sims was killed during a mission to destroy an enemy weapons cache, his commander wrote in remarks that were read at Sims’ memorial.
The Stryker soldiers hit their target in Kandahar’s volatile Panjwai district, eliminating a site that insurgents used to attack NATO and Afghan government forces all summer. The commander wrote that it was full of rockets and bomb-making materials.
“He did not die in vain,” wrote Lt. Col. James Dooghan, commander of the brigade’s 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646