Baumholder service honors two soldiers killed in Afghanistan
April 13, 2011
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — A somber group of soldiers and civilians packed the pews of the chapel here Wednesday to remember two sergeants slain by an Afghan border policeman.
Staff Sgt. Michael S. Lammerts and Staff Sgt. Scott H. Burgess, both promoted posthumously, were providing security at a meeting between U.S. commanders and the Afghan border police on April 4 when an Afghan police officer opened fire, deliberately killing them.
Their deaths on a base in northern northern Faryab province left many at the memorial service in disbelief, a feeling shared by Lt. Col. John O’Grady, commanding officer of their unit, the 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“The questions of why and how this could happen still linger, and will perhaps forever,” O’Grady wrote in a eulogy read by Lt. Col. Steven Fandrich, the brigade’s rear detachment commander. “I’m not sure there will ever be a good answer.”
Both Burgess and Lammerts arrived at Baumholder shortly before the brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan in February, and they were soon squad leaders. During the ceremony, friends remembered them as diligent and resourceful soldiers.
Burgess of Franklin, Texas, joined the Army in October 2002. He had previously deployed to Iraq and, at age 32, was known to his unit as “old man.”
But being old — at least by his unit’s standards — came with certain gifts.
Pfc. Jared Weeks recalled how Burgess had guided him during his first days as a soldier in Baumholder.
“As a brand-new soldier, he could see that I was scared and nervous,” Weeks wrote in his eulogy. “He came up to me and said, ‘Hey hero, it seems like you need some help.’ ”
Weeks would eventually become part of Burgess’ squad. In addition to showing him the ropes as a new soldier, Weeks said Burgess taught him how to be a good father and husband. “After a long day of work, he told me to go home and make sure to give my wife and daughter a kiss, and tell them that I loved them,” Weeks said.
Burgess leaves behind his wife, Jennifer, as well as two daughters, Haley and Amy.
Whereas Burgess’ nickname stemmed from his age, Lammerts had been christened “Turbo” after his strange, fast gait.
“He would walk with an exaggerated forward lean, wide steps, with his arm swaying to and fro,” wrote Capt. Michael Angwin, platoon leader for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1-84 Field Artillery Regiment. Sgt. David Salazar recalled how every trip with Lammerts to the chow hall turned into a pseudo race.
“Lammerts was a guy who was always on the move,” Salazar wrote. “If we needed anything done, he’d do it in a heartbeat.”
Lammerts, 26, grew up in Tonawanda, N.Y., where he lived as a child with his mother, Kendra Speck. He joined the military in 2005, serving two tours in Iraq before his most recent deployment to Afghanistan. He was “passionate” about serving in the Army after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, his mother told the Tonawanda News.
“Michael was military through and through,” Speck said. “He was going to do his 20 (years) and retire, if not a little bit longer.”
Besides his parents, Lammerts is survived by his wife, Melissa, 3-year-old daughter Savannah and 18-month-old Michael Scott.
At the Baumholder chapel, sun streamed through the stained-glass windows as the service concluded with the congregation singing “Amazing Grace.” The names of Lammerts and Burgess were called three times, and “Taps” rang out amid echoes of muffled sobs.
When it was over, the soldiers said their goodbyes, each with one final salute.