VICENZA, Italy — Americans and Italians gathered by the hundreds at Caserma Ederle on Monday to remember two soldiers killed in the first days of the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s mission to Afghanistan.

In fact, the chapel was filled to capacity — and beyond — as people paid their respects to Spc. Jacob Lowell and Pfc. Timothy Vimoto. Some people had to stand outside the chapel, while hundreds more stood in the aisles. At least 500 attended.

“Know that we praise these men as patriots, as heroes to their country,” said Lt. Col. Stevan Horning, the brigade rear detachment’s chaplain.

Lowell, who hailed from Illinois, was killed June 2 when his convoy was ambushed near Gowardesh. Vimoto, born in Hawaii, died June 5 while on a foot patrol in the Korengal Valley. Both soldiers were killed by small-arms fire. Both have been nominated for Bronze Star medals with valor for their actions.

Lowell, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, was praised by two soldiers from his battalion: Sgt. Joshua Geis and 1st Lt. Alexander Furlong.

Geis recalled that Lowell was one of only three soldiers in his platoon to earn his expert infantry badge in testing before the battalion deployed. He made it on his first attempt. Lowell had that kind of motivation and success in his military career.

“To be a team leader at the rank of Pfc. is quite an accomplishment,” he said. Lowell was posthumously promoted to specialist.

He said Lowell showed gallantry in the ambush when he was killed.

“In spite of being shot, Specialist Lowell continued firing on enemy positions until he was fatally wounded,” Geis said.

“Many people don’t understand the sacrifice that Specialist Lowell made,” said Furlong, the battalion’s rear detachment commander. “We understand. We will remember.”

Lowell is survived by his parents, Raymond and Bernardine; sister, Jennifer; and brother, Joseph.

Vimoto, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, was remembered by Sgt. Andy Short and Capt. Matthew Heimerle.

Short remembered assigning Vimoto a simple task shortly after he arrived on post. The task wasn’t as simple as it first appeared, but Vimoto accomplished it and did so quickly and well.

“No matter what Vimoto was doing, he had a smile on his face,” Short said.

Vimoto was the oldest son of the brigade’s top enlisted soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia Vimoto. His father attended the service along with his mother, Misimua; sisters, Sabrina and Ariel; and brothers, Isaia Jr. and Nephi.

“Throughout his childhood, he watched his father train, deploy re-deploy and develop into one of the strongest leaders in the Army,” said Heimerle, the battalion’s rear detachment commander.

Short said a fellow noncommissioned officer saw Vimoto progress in only a few weeks during the deployment.

“He saw the transformation from being a son to being a soldier,” he said.

More than 3,400 soldiers from the 173rd, based in Bamberg and Schweinfurt in Germany as well as Vicenza, are serving for more than a year in Afghanistan.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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