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1st Sgt. Mark E. Porrett reflects on the loss of a fellow soldier he described as "a true patriot and warrior" during Wednesday's tribute in Hanau, Germany, to Spc. Thai Vue, a mechanic with the 127th Military Police Company who died in Iraq last week.
1st Sgt. Mark E. Porrett reflects on the loss of a fellow soldier he described as "a true patriot and warrior" during Wednesday's tribute in Hanau, Germany, to Spc. Thai Vue, a mechanic with the 127th Military Police Company who died in Iraq last week. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)
1st Sgt. Mark E. Porrett reflects on the loss of a fellow soldier he described as "a true patriot and warrior" during Wednesday's tribute in Hanau, Germany, to Spc. Thai Vue, a mechanic with the 127th Military Police Company who died in Iraq last week.
1st Sgt. Mark E. Porrett reflects on the loss of a fellow soldier he described as "a true patriot and warrior" during Wednesday's tribute in Hanau, Germany, to Spc. Thai Vue, a mechanic with the 127th Military Police Company who died in Iraq last week. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)
Spc. Thai Vue
Spc. Thai Vue ()

HANAU, Germany — Two months into its deployment, the 127th Military Police Company lost its first soldier in combat last week.

The fallen soldier wasn’t a cop on patrol in some tempestuous Iraqi town. And he wasn’t killed while pulling guard duty in a volatile neighborhood.

No, Spc. Thai Vue was a mechanic who crawled under a Humvee to fix it and never got the chance to tighten the last bolt. On Friday, while Vue was on his back, Iraqi insurgents fired several mortar rounds at a base camp occupied by his company. One round landed near Vue, killing him.

“He was always doing his duty,” said Pfc. Andre Gonzales, a 23-year-old military policeman who knew Vue. “He never asked for much.”

Perhaps that’s because Vue didn’t have much to begin with, having been born in a Vietnamese refugee camp somewhere in the Philippines. What he did have, Gonzales and others said, were parents determined to do whatever they had to do to give their six children a better life. Vue was third oldest.

Vue, whose family settled in California, “was a quiet professional,” said 1st Sgt. Mark E. Porrett, the company’s ranking noncommissioned officer. “He never wanted the limelight. It always found him.”

Asked to explain, Porrett said Vue often wound up taking or getting the toughest jobs — and then he would shine and get noticed, again.

Mechanics “are our guardian angels,” Gonzales said outside the chapel after the service concluded, “because they keep our vehicles mission ready.”

That may not sound like a big deal, but in Iraq, lives count on it. Like an aircraft mechanic, Vue and others in his profession take great pride in keeping “their” machines functioning as flawlessly as they can.

“Every job matters,” Chaplain (Capt.) Stanton Trotter said at the service.

The turnout at Vue’s memorial service Wednesday showed he mattered a whole lot, too. The chapel on Fliegerhorst Casern was filled with MPs and members of the community, many standing shoulder-to-shoulder as Trotter, Gonzales and Spc. Randall Love spoke of Vue.

Vue, 22, was one of six mechanics sent to Iraq to support the 150-member contingent.

“Tell the stories [about Vue],” Trotter said. “His life doesn’t have to completely end right now.”

After the service, Gonzales spun a story or two about his friend. A popular one involved a huge wrench Vue used to sometimes walk around with.

“As far as I know,” Gonzales said, “nobody knew what it was for. But he was the go-to guy. He was definitely held in high regard.”

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