HEIDELBERG, Germany — The chapel was overflowing with people gathered to remember the two close friends who’d been so full of life and died so young.

More than 200 people attended the memorial service Thursday afternoon for Spc. Latosha Vines and Pfc. Lena Karungi. The two V Corps soldiers were killed Oct. 14 in a train accident east of Heidelberg.

The women’s smiling photographs, placed on stands behind their boots and rifles, faced the Patrick Henry Village chapel pews, as Col. Arthur Bacon, V Corps rear detachment chaplain, told the mourners what he believed were the purposes of the service: to band together to survive the grief and unending sorrow of death, share the loss, and also to remember.

“It is the act of remembering Spc. Vines and Pfc. Karungi — their mercy, their kindness, their humility,” Bacon said. “Their dyings were not wasted. Don’t let the story of their deaths overshadow the story of their lives.”

Vines, 22, and Karungi, 21, were remembered by their first sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Danley, as professional soldiers whose work was unparalleled — and who both possessed a special charisma that made them a pleasure to be with.

“Tosha was full of life,” Danley said of Vines, who enjoyed a 98 percent accuracy rate on her work as a human resources specialist. “She went out of her way for her friends,” he said, got up petitions to improve barracks life for everyone and loved to travel. “She was happy,” Danley said.

Vines had spent six months at Camp Victory, Iraq, right after arriving as a personnel clerk for V Corps in September 2003. She was planning to leave the Army in March and return to her hometown, Camden, Ala.

Karungi, according to sentiments written by her friend Pfc. Precious Duncan but delivered by Danley, loved shopping, shoes, salsa music and watching wrestling, the TV comedy “Seinfeld” and scary movies. A legal clerk whose family moved from Uganda to Boston when she was a teenager, she had planned to become a paralegal.

Karungi had joined the Army to get money for college, and had become a U.S. citizen this summer. She had worked at V Corps for the past 15 months.

The two had left a party east of Heidelberg about 10 p.m. on Oct. 14 and headed with a friend to his car in the train station parking lot when they made what turned out to be a fatal error. They needed to go to the bathroom, the friend said, and decided to duck behind some bushes a few steps away — but right up against the tracks.

The two were hit by a regional train that one nearby witness said he neither saw nor heard. The train was traveling at about 62 mph when it hit the women, authorities said.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now