Task force honors two killed in Iraq
May 4, 2007
SCHWEINFURT, Germany — Two fallen members of Task Force Vanguard were remembered Thursday in a service at Ledward Barracks Chapel.
Sgt. Mario Kawika De Leon, 26, and Spc. Lucas Vincent Starcevich, 25, were killed in separate incidents April 16 in Baghdad — De Leon by small-arms fire and Starcevich from a roadside bomb. Both were members of 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment. De Leon was from Company A, Starcevich, Company C.
Both men previously had served in combat — De Leon with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan in 2002 and Starcevich in Tikrit, Iraq, with the 4th Infantry Division during the first portion of the conflict there.
Sgt. Timothy S. O’Brian stood at the chapel’s podium and read words spoken by one of De Leon’s friends at a memorial in Iraq.
“[He] will be the subject of tales told in smoky bars and barracks rooms that only grow taller in the telling. That is our duty to him now.
“Our occupation is the occupation of heroes. ... It’s important to remember that Mario De Leon was one of our best,” O’Brian read.
Remembered by all for his infectious smile, and as a member of the Company A family, De Leon, of San Francisco, is survived by his wife, Erika; 2-year-old son, Keoni; mother, Barbara; and older brothers Gabe and Bruce.
Members of Starcevich’s unit downrange grieved for the man known as “Star.”
Always playing music, always prepared, always willing to do anything.
“If he went out, he would bring his headphones. He didn’t want to listen to the music the club was playing. That’s just the way he was,” said Pfc. Stanley A. Via, reading the words of one of Starcevich’s friends.
Starcevich’s mother told Lt. Col. Robert Whittle, rear detachment commander in Schweinfurt, that when he was little he had a military outfit someone had given him.
“He loved it so much I had to wait until he was asleep in order to wash it.”
Ava Tomson always knew her boy would grow up to be a soldier.
“The infantry is gritty, grimy ... but I love it,” Starcevich would tell his family and friends.
In addition to his mother, he is survived by his father, Bradley, a former Air Force officer; and stepmother, Glenda, of St. Charles, Ill.; and stepfather, Richard Tomson, of Tolono, Ill.; brother, Trenton; and sister, Ariana Starcevich-Reyes.
De Leon and Starcevich were the eighth and ninth members of 1-18 to die during the present deployment.
Second “Dagger” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, of which the battalion is a part, has lost 31 soldiers since leaving for Iraq in August and September.