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Sgt. Troy Ezernack in Iraq in May 2003. A memorial service was held Friday in Vicenza, Italy, for the popular sergeant, who was killed Oct. 9 in a skirmish with insurgents in Iraq.
Sgt. Troy Ezernack in Iraq in May 2003. A memorial service was held Friday in Vicenza, Italy, for the popular sergeant, who was killed Oct. 9 in a skirmish with insurgents in Iraq. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

Soldiers, family and friends remembered an Italy-based soldier killed in Afghanistan as a “man of great words” and “relentless devotion” Friday at a Vicenza memorial service.

Staff Sgt. Troy S. Ezernack was killed Oct. 9 during a skirmish with insurgents near Qalat. He and other members of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment had stormed a building and then been attacked with grenades.

At Friday’s memorial service, fellow soldiers eulogized him as a leader who “inspired and mentored countless soldiers.”

“His technical and tactical proficiency surpassed that of many of his peers,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Harding, a platoon mate of Ezernack’s. “Whenever I had a problem or a question about my job, I could always depend on him to give me the right answer.

“He always took care to look out for the well-being of his soldiers.”

Ezernack was a poet, writer and pastor, friends said. The 39-year-old had spent eight years as pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lancaster County, Pa., before enlisting in the Army. Last week, when news of his death reached the church, a special vigil was held.

“I didn’t really know God or the Bible before Troy taught me,” parishioner Kathy Balmer told the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. “He helped give my life a purpose, and his death is a horrible thing.”

During a 2003 deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq, Ezernack told Stars and Stripes he was proud of his mission, though for practical reasons as well as political.

“It’s good they’re electing officials. It’s democracy come true, but I’m also happy for selfish reasons,” he said. “I want to go home and the sooner they take control of their own city, the sooner I’m outta here.”

Ezernack is survived by his wife, Gail; mother Francis Harrison; and brother Paul Ezernack.

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