Pair killed in Afghanistan recalled at service at JBLM
The News Tribune
Spc. Michael Demarsico’s platoon sergeant jokingly called him a “mine hound” because of his sharp eye spotting the enemy’s buried bombs.
Demarsico exercised that talent on the day of his death, protecting his fellow soldiers from a hidden mine they had missed on past patrols.
Sgt. Louis Torres matured as he rose through the Army’s ranks, growing from a “funny guy” to the kind of soldier others admired and sought for counsel.
His commander said Torres “was a leader of men” at the Special Operations base in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province where he last served.
Both fought under the banner of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and both were killed in separate insurgent bomb attacks last month in southern Afghanistan.
Soldiers and families gathered Wednesday at a memorial in Lewis-McChord’s chapel to pay respects to Demarsico and Torres. They were mourned the same day the Defense Department announced the deaths of three of their fellow 3rd Brigade soldiers in an insider attack last weekend.
Torres, 23, grew up in Ohio and joined the service in June 2008. He deployed with the 3rd Brigade to Iraq in 2009 and to Afghanistan in December.
He served in the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment – a roughly 700-man unit charged with assisting Special Forces at small bases all over Afghanistan this year.
Lt. Col. John Highfill, the 2nd Battalion’s commander, said Torres approached life as a “series of dedicated challenges,” becoming an exceptional soldier by learning all he could about his job.
“Sgt. Torres did this every day of his life, and he did this on the day of that last combat patrol in Kandahar Province,” Highfill wrote in remarks that were read aloud at the ceremony.
Down the ranks, younger soldiers appreciated Torres’ laugh-out-loud humor, his ability to lead by example and his willingness to hear them out on hard days.
“The guy was a riot,” remembered Pfc. James Alexander. “His storytelling ability made you feel like you were right in the room with him.
“He was a funny guy who transformed into a solid leader,” Alexander said.
Torres’ last patrol took place on Aug. 6 when he hit a mine. He died Aug. 22 at an Army hospital in San Antonio.
Highfill addressed his last remarks to Torres’ family, who sat in the Army chapel and later lingered before the fallen sergeant’s boots and dog tags.
“Thank you for sharing him with us,” Highfill told Torres’ family. “He made us better soldiers, and better people.”
Demarsico, 20, was a soldier who volunteered to lead foot patrols in Kandahar Province. He kept his eyes on the ground and hauled the latest mine-detecting equipment with his platoon behind him.
He grew up in Massachusetts and joined the Army in February 2011. He was serving on his first deployment.
On one patrol, Demarsico’s platoon came under attack. His follow soldiers returned fire while Demarsico dropped to his knees and crawled while seeking a safe path for the line of infantrymen behind him.
“He wanted to lead and clear a path for the platoon to ensure their safety even if it meant compromising his own,” said Staff Sgt. Mabon Briola, the top noncommissioned officer in Demarsico’s platoon.
Demarsico died Aug. 16 during a foot patrol when he spotted a bomb other soldiers had passed many times before.
He kept his fellow soldiers from approaching, but he struck a secondary bomb while the platoon waited for a team to take care of the first one.
“He will never be forgotten,” Platoon leader Lt. Charles Wallace wrote from Afghanistan.