Soldier who died in Iraq remembered as 'ridiculously selfless'
KIRKUK AIRFIELD, Iraq – Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade gathered late Monday afternoon for a service in memory of a 25-year-old sergeant who died over the weekend in an apparent shooting accident.
Sgt. Sean C. Reynolds, of the 74th Long Range Surveillance Detachment, died at around 4 p.m. Saturday from a single gunshot wound to the head, said Lt. Col. Randy George, the deputy brigade commander.
A U.S. Central Command statement issued Sunday said the soldier died after an apparent accident involving his weapon.
The incident is under investigation, but Capt. Tom McNally, Reynolds’ unit commander, said the weapon involved was a 9 mm pistol.
At the time of the shooting, Reynolds and other soldiers were about 10 miles west of Kirkuk airfield, where the brigade is based, George said. The soldiers were securing a gas and oil separation plant in or near the village of Khabbaz.
George didn’t know all the details, but he mentioned that a ladder and an elevated perch, or nest, might have been part of the deadly equation.
Army criminal investigators and safety officers at Kirkuk are investigating.
Two soldiers, who knew Reynolds well but were not at the scene of the shooting, immediately quashed any suggestion the incident was intentional.
Suicide “would be at the bottom of the list” of causes, said Sgt. Andrew Moore.
Moore, 26, and Sgt. Lucas Donahue, 23, have known Reynolds for at least three years, though the Michigan native was new to the unit. The three served together in Afghanistan as members of Company A, 75th Ranger Regiment, 3rd Ranger Battalion.
“He’d have your back in any situation,” said Donahue, who knew Reynolds slightly longer than Moore did.
Donahue, Moore and McNally spoke about Reynolds in the brigade’s tactical operations center shortly before a 5 p.m. memorial service. As they reflected on their fallen comrade, other soldiers in an adjacent room were busy briefing Lt. Gen. William Wallace, the V Corps commander, about operations in their area.
McNally sat quietly, respectfully letting the other two talk about their friend. The unit commander did say Reynolds arrived in Vicenza, Italy, in January, and “was excited about what he was doing.”
He was so good, McNally said, that his superiors immediately noticed his potential. Within two months, he was chosen as an assistant team leader, which is unusually fast, McNally said.
Moore described Reynolds as “ridiculously selfless,” someone who was quiet, reliable and deeply spiritual.
He said Reynolds’ plan was to cross over from the infantry to the medical field, possibly as an Air Force para-jumper, or PJ. That position involves training in special tactics to, among other things, retrieve downed pilots.
“I’d go to sleep at night just knowing he was a better person than me,” Moore said. “He was always there for you.”
Moore and Donahue rose from their chairs and braced themselves for a difficult memorial service, and then a return to duty.
That was the way, they said, Reynolds would have preferred it.