European edition, Sunday, July 15, 2007

One of the soldiers was known for his large bags of Gummi Bears, his prowess on a skateboard and his penchant for being “on point all the time.”

The other soldier was a Miracle — by name, that is. He was both a “true professional” and a cutup — reserved one moment, jocular the next.

On Friday, members of the military community in Vicenza, Italy, paid their respects to Spc. Christopher Honaker and Pfc. Joseph Miracle.

The two 173rd Airborne Brigade soldiers died July 5 on foot patrol in the Watapor Valley of central Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan. According to the Defense Department, Honaker and Miracle, members of Company A, 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, died of wounds sustained from small-arms and indirect fire.

Both men are being nominated for Bronze Star medals for their service, though not for a specific incident, an Army spokesman in Europe said Friday evening.

During training for the deployment, Honaker “developed a reputation for being a hard worker and quick learner,” Capt. Matthew Heimerle said at Friday’s service.

Despite his junior rank, the 23-year-old son of a Marine “acted as both coach and mentor to his peers. Specialist Honaker was the type of soldier that led by example and was the type of soldier that leaders want under their command.”

Pfc. Ryan Normandin, a member of Honaker’s squad, also spoke of the North Carolina native at the service, noting that members of the unit referred to his fallen battle buddy as “Hardcore.”

“Honaker was on point all the time,” Normandin said. “You could count on him to have your back, or sometimes pick up your slack if you goofed up.”

Miracle, 22, of Ortonville, Mich., was no goofball, though he sure had a knack for keeping the mood light, upbeat.

Sgt. Clayton Grigsby recalled at the service that Miracle was good at making barnyard noises, but even better at soldiering.

“Miracle had found his place in life and you could tell that he woke up every morning eagerly awaiting his days to start,” Grigsby said.

“He was always the first to volunteer and never complained. When the guys were down, he was the one you counted on to cheer them up by telling a joke or one of his famous stories.”

You could count on him as a soldier, too.

“Despite his good sense of humor,” Heimerle said, “Pfc. Miracle personified the true quiet professional. “He never griped. He took his orders and he executed whatever mission was given to him.”

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