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Army Pvt. Richard Jr. DeGracia Naputi of Talofofo, Guam, was killed Tuesday in Taji, Iraq, while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, Defense Department officials announced Friday.

Family members reportedly said Naputi was planning to return to the island in January when his tour of duty was over.

Naputi, 24, was with another soldier when an improvised bomb detonated near their Humvee during combat operations, according to the DOD release. Also killed was 1st Lt. Michael J. Cleary, 24, of Dallas, Pa.

Both soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

Naputi was the 11th servicemember from the Micronesia region to be killed in Iraq, according to a spokesman for Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo.

Bordallo released a statement Thursday extending her sympathies to Naputi’s wife, Brianne, his parents Richard and Elaine Naputi, and his extended family and friends.

“While his loss is painful for our entire island and our nation, he now joins that solemn fraternity of heroes who have put their country before themselves and made the greatest sacrifice,” Bordallo was quoted in the statement as saying. “To these men and women, we owe a debt of gratitude that is simply unpayable.”

Naputi was planning to separate from the Army in January, when his commitment was up, the Pacific Daily News reported Friday, citing Richard Aguon Naputi Sr. The soldier’s father said his son wanted to come back to Guam to start a family and was interested in joining the Guam National Guard and Guam Police Department, the newspaper reported.

Military officials told Naputi’s wife her husband died instantly, that he didn’t suffer, according to the report.

The fallen

The 11 servicemembers from Micronesia who have died in the war in Iraq are:

Army Spc. Christopher Jude Rivera Wesley.Army 1st Lt. Michael Aguon Vega.Army Sgt. Yihjyh Lang Chen.Marine Cpl. JayGee Meluat.Army Sgt. Skipper Soram.Ferdinand Ibabao (no rank available).Army Spc. Jonathan Pangelinan Santos.Army Staff Sgt. Steven Bayow.Army Spc. Derence Jack.Army Sgt.Wilgene Lieto.Army Pvt. Richard Jr. DeGracia Naputi.Source: Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo’s office


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