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Capt. Mike Kloepper, commander of Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, talks about the four company soldiers who were killed last week near Deh Chopan, Afghanistan. Hundreds of servicemembers honored the four during a memorial service Friday at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan.

Capt. Mike Kloepper, commander of Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, talks about the four company soldiers who were killed last week near Deh Chopan, Afghanistan. Hundreds of servicemembers honored the four during a memorial service Friday at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

Capt. Mike Kloepper, commander of Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, talks about the four company soldiers who were killed last week near Deh Chopan, Afghanistan. Hundreds of servicemembers honored the four during a memorial service Friday at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan.

Capt. Mike Kloepper, commander of Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, talks about the four company soldiers who were killed last week near Deh Chopan, Afghanistan. Hundreds of servicemembers honored the four during a memorial service Friday at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

Sgt. Christopher Holbrook puts his arm on the shoulder of Sgt. Timothy Smith after a memorial service for four soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airbrone), 503rd Infantry Regiment, killed last week by a roadside bomb.

Sgt. Christopher Holbrook puts his arm on the shoulder of Sgt. Timothy Smith after a memorial service for four soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airbrone), 503rd Infantry Regiment, killed last week by a roadside bomb. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan — The four Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment soldiers killed last week by a roadside bomb were nothing short of heroes, said Capt. Mike Kloepper.

They were “dedicated to a higher cause than themselves, absolutely selfless in their service to others, the epitome of our Army values and the best that America has to offer,” Kloepper, the company commander, said about 1st Lt. Joshua Hyland, Spc. Michael Lehmiller, Spc. Blake Hall and Pvt. Christopher Palmer, who were all killed while on patrol in Deh Chopan.

It was a sentiment that was silently reaffirmed by the presence of a few hundred military members attending Friday’s memorial service at the small base in Qalat, about 100 miles northeast of Kandahar.

Kloepper noted that the soldiers “could not have been more different than each other, each from a distinctly different walk of life,” he said.

“But as soldiers, as warriors and as Battle Company paratroopers, these men were absolutely … united in purpose, absolutely united in their dedication,” Kloepper continued, “building and sharing the bonds of brotherhood known only to those who have tasted battle together.”

Friends and fellow soldiers shared stories about what made each stand out as individuals, and what made each stand together as soldiers.

Third Platoon leader Hyland was remembered as a dedicated husband and father who “gave clear and concise guidance,” said battalion staff member Capt. Ryan Shipley. “It didn’t matter whether you were a private or a colonel, you know where he was coming from on any issue.”

Born in California, the 31-year-old former enlisted soldier gave up a successful business in Missoula, Mont., to rejoin the Army after Sept. 11, 2001.

“He never asked his soldiers to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself, and he was willing to face a challenge,” Shipley said about Hyland. “He leaves behind a legacy that lesser men will truly never understand.”

Hyland also leaves behind his wife, Lanie, and son, Dylan.

Hall, Lehmiller and Palmer were all single.

“Hall was a man who was defined by his morals and beliefs,” said Company B’s Cpl. Kyle Fredrixon. “His love for his family, his country and his fellow soldiers [is] what defined him most of all to us.”

An East Prairie, Mo., native, Hall enlisted in June 2003 and moved to Vicenza, Italy, where he joined the battalion staff as a driver and radio operator. After deploying to Afghanistan, Hall received his wish to be transferred to Battle Company, where he served as an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon gunner, scout and radio operator.

About a week before his death, he had re-enlisted for another four years.

“When I asked him why he re-enlisted, he said [it’s] because he loves his job and wants to make sure someday his [future] kids can grow up in the good old USA and not have to worry about places like this,” Fredrixon said about the 20-year-old Hall.

“Lehmiller was the kind of guy who was happy to be a friend with anyone,” said Company C’s Sgt. Timothy Smith about the 23-year-old Tampa, Fla., native. “I’ll never forget how happy he was when he came to Battle Company, and the entire time he was there.”

Enlisting in March 2001, Lehmiller served in 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division before transferring to Vicenza and Company C. It was only after the battalion’s deployment to Afghanistan that he transferred to Battle Company.

“Thanks for taking care of my friend, making him feel like part of the team, part of your family,” Smith said. “I’ll never forget our friendship. … I can’t even begin to share all the experiences we shared in Iraq.”

Pvt. Christopher Palmer was also an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

“He was without a doubt the most fierce and intense paratrooper I’ve met in my career,” explained 3rd Platoon’s Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Shuttlesworth.

“On August 12, the platoon … was ambushed,” he said. “When they came back I met them at the gate. The first thing they told me was ‘Sergeant, you should have seen Palmer behind that gun.’”

The 22-year-old Sacramento, Calif.-native remained at his weapon that day, exposed to enemy fire, as the platoon’s other soldiers maneuvered to counter the ambush.

“Brave, fierce, intense, a loyal friend and ruthless to the enemy,” Shuttlesworth said. “We have served with the best.”


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