Two 173rd NCOs remembered at Schweinfurt memorial
Stars and Stripes October 23, 2012
SCHWEINFURT, Germany — One was a doting father, the other an enthusiast for the art and history that surrounded him in Europe.
Both were noncommissioned officers in 3rd Platoon, A Troop, and both were killed in Afghanistan in September.
Soldiers and family members in Schweinfurt on Tuesday remembered Staff Sgt. Orion N. Sparks and Sgt. Jonathan A. “Nathan” Gollnitz, assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. An insurgent detonated a suicide vest near the soldiers’ patrol in Pul-e-Alam, some 60 miles south of Kabul in Logar province on Sept. 26, according to the Defense Department.
“Know that they were among brothers,” said Capt. Jakob C. Bradfield of the brigade rear detachment as he delivered a eulogy originally given by the two soldiers’ company commander in Afghanistan, Capt. Andrew Partin of A Troop. “Every soldier in Anvil (troop) was privileged to serve with them.”
Sparks, 29, joined the Army in 2003, and served as a section sergeant and platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon during the deployment. Gollnitz, 28, was a dismount who joined the Army in 2008 after a stint in the Navy and served as a team leader in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Miguel S. Leon recalled meeting Sparks on Leon’s first day with the unit. Headed for the dining facility alone, Leon was detoured when Sparks introduced himself and suggested they grab food somewhere else.
“And that night I met the most genuine and sincere guy of my life and my military career,” Leon said.
He “was not your typical soldier,” Leon continued, noting that Sparks enjoyed art, history and travel. “I didn’t get to travel with Orion as much as I would have liked to.”
Staff Sgt. Leslie D. Yates described Gollnitz as a quiet man who liked to fish, liked to travel and loved his 4-year-old son, Conrad. Gollnitz may have even saved Yates’ life, the latter recalled, when he performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking Yates.
The 173rd cased its colors in June for a nine-month deployment to Logar and Wardak provinces in Afghanistan, the brigade’s fourth mission to Afghanistan in six years. Twelve soldiers from the brigade have died during the deployment.