Fallen CID agent remembered as funny, hard-working
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — With just weeks left in his six-month deployment to Afghanistan, Special Agent Joe Peters was thinking about the future.
In calls and notes home to friends and family, he was making plans for Thanksgiving, talking about his next job assignment and, perhaps most importantly, plotting his homecoming.
He’d asked one of his closest buddies, Special Agent Justin Link, to pick him up a six-pack of Samuel Adams’ Oktoberfest. When Link finally tracked down the brew in Ramstein, Germany, he bought a case.
Link still has the beer. He plans to drink it with some of Peters’ closest friends and colleagues. But Peters, who was supposed to return from the war this weekend, won’t be there.
“Joe never made it to 25,” Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Kellenberger said at a memorial service Friday for the fallen agent at the Vogelweh chapel, “never made it back to his family, and he never saw his son grow up.
“We will miss him as a partner and as a brother.”
Peters was among four U.S. soldiers killed Oct. 6 during a raid to capture an insurgent leader in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. Also killed in the operation were Army Rangers Pfc. Cody Patterson, 24, and Sgt. Patrick Hawkins, 25, and 1st. Lt. Jennifer Moreno, a 25-year-old Army nurse.
Friends and colleagues of Peters said his death was devastating, in part because it was so unexpected.
Every day, Army Criminal Investigation Command agents put on their gun and their badge, “and they know it’s a dangerous job,” Lt. Col. Sarah Albrycht, commander of the 5th Military Police Battalion, said after the ceremony.
Agents always know that something can happen, she said, but Peters was the first to die in combat since 1971 when the Criminal Investigation Command was established as a major Army command.
That fact has put a spotlight on the usually enigmatic role of special agents, admitted Chief Warrant Officer Martin Eaves, the battalion’s operations officer.
But Peters’ death isn’t about media or politics, he said; “It’s simply about a family that lost its father and husband.”
Peters left behind a wife, Ashley, and 20-month-old son Gabriel, who cried during much of the ceremony and toddled around the chapel grounds when it was over.
Staff Sgt. Brian Mason mentored Peters through his first year as an agent, and remembered him as being shy, even timid, when he joined the 286th Military Police Detachment (CID) in Vicenza, Italy. He’d been the same way at his previous duty station in Texas, Peters’ former colleagues told Mason.
In Vicenza, though, “he broke out of his shell and he became very comical,” Mason said. Peters was always professional when it was called for, but he liked to have fun.
At a staff Christmas party, Mason recalled, they were supposed to have a secret Santa gift exchange. Peters thought it would be clever to buy Mason a personal gift and make him open it in front of everyone.
“And the gift was herpes cream,” Mason said, chuckling.
But the gift he’ll most remember from Peters is one he sent from the war.
Peters had taken an American flag with him on a mission in Afghanistan, and boxed it up and mailed it to Mason. Peters, still in Afghanistan, pleaded with Mason to open it.
“No, man, I’ll wait for you to come back so you can give it to me, so you can give it to everyone else,” Mason told him.
Mason now regrets that decision, he said.
“I never told him thank you for it, because I didn’t open it right away,” he said, choking back tears.
A week after Peters’ death, Mason opened the box.
Inside, along with an unfolded flag, was a hand-written note. Referring to Mason by a word best left out of a newspaper story, Peters told his old mentor he had to fold the flag himself.
“Like I said, he’s very comical. He had a great sense of humor.”