YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Two more 2nd Infantry Division soldiers have been killed in Iraq, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 44 since the unit’s deployment last fall.

According to a Department of Defense news release, Staff Sgt. Alexander B. Crackel was killed Feb. 24 in Al Anbar province by enemy small-arms fire. Pfc. Chassan S. Henry was killed the next day in Ramadi by an explosion.

Both soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, which deployed with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team to Iraq from Camp Hovey, South Korea, late last August.

Soldiers from 2nd Brigade reportedly have been involved with Operation River Blitz, a series of raids and offensive operations in towns along the Euphrates River. Ramadi, a restive Sunni town west of Baghdad, is the center of 2nd Brigade’s area of operations.

For most of their deployment, the 1-9 Infantry soldiers have been operating in a large area surrounding the city. That area is a mix of urban and rural land.

Operation River Blitz is meant to “ensure the safety of the populace by controlling access into the city” of Ramadi, a Central Command news release stated last week. The operations include enforcing an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and other measures, officials have said.

Friends and family remembered Crackel, 31, as a man who “had the military in his blood,” with both his father and brother having served.

Family members recalled how Crackel joined the Army at age 24, after having moved to England, where he lived for several years with his wife and young daughter, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“I think he liked the challenge of the military. He looked at the military as being another family,” his father, Clint, told the Tribune.

“It’s a heartbreak. It’s tough for anybody. We pride ourselves on being a military family.”

Henry, a 20-year-old from West Palm Beach, Fla., was remembered as a rambunctious young man who enlisted in the Army after a stint in Job Corps.

“He tried so hard. He struggled to be such a good child, and the end result is just awful. It’s unfair,” Henry’s mother, Hydie Henry, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Friends and family recalled Chassan Henry as a young man who loved music, basketball and computers.

“I prayed every day. I was concerned. I watched the news every day and worried,” Hydie Henry said.

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