Community remembers 2 mechanics killed in Afghanistan
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Soldiers and family members gathered Wednesday to remember two 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade mechanics who were killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan earlier this month.
Sgt. Matthew Harmon, 29, and Spc. Joseph VanDreumel, 32, both with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, Task Force 3-66, were killed by a secondary explosion as they tried to remove a Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicle that was damaged by an initial explosion.
“These two soldiers were what I always envisioned in a mechanic,” Company A commander Capt. Mark Gerasimas said in comments read by Capt. Chris Champlin, head of 3-66 Armored’s Company D.
The mechanics were killed Aug. 14 in Paktika province. VanDreumel was on his first deployment; Harmon had twice before deployed to Iraq.
Harmon, an expert in the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, was well-read and eager to discuss life’s weightier issues, from quantum mechanics to the mechanics of a potential zombie apocalypse, speakers recalled.
“His goal was to always make me smile,” recalled Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Skinner, a fellow Company D mechanic. “Sometimes, he’d just walk up and say, ‘You won’t believe what’s broken now.’ ”
VanDreumel, posthumously promoted to corporal, earned a reputation as a handyman while downrange. He once scavenged empty fuel containers to jerry-rig a fuel reserve system for the outpost, Gerasimas remembered in his comments.
Spc. Richard Stover said his friend was a confident leader who looked out for him and other soldiers.
“He always tried to get people out of the barracks to experience Germany, such as the Black Forest and other areas,” Stover recalled.
VanDreumel is survived by his wife and two children. Harmon is survived by his wife and three children. Both men were posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart, among other commendations.
The 172nd began its 12-month deployment in Paktika in July. Harmon’s wife, Nicole, said she still looked forward to the unit’s eventual return and the reunions of soldiers with their families.
“Mine will just be in the future, instead of when everyone else comes home,” she said.