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Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes Spouses of soldiers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade added a personal touch by placing flowers to the berets, boots and rifles representing a memorial for Sgt. Joseph Minucci and Pfc. Jacob Fletcher in the Caserma Ederle chapel in Vicenza, Italy.

Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes Spouses of soldiers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade added a personal touch by placing flowers to the berets, boots and rifles representing a memorial for Sgt. Joseph Minucci and Pfc. Jacob Fletcher in the Caserma Ederle chapel in Vicenza, Italy. (Kent Harris / S&S)

VICENZA, Italy — Community members on Tuesday remembered the sixth and seventh soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade to be killed in action in Iraq.

But Sgt. Joseph Minucci and Pfc. Jacob Fletcher were far more than numbers to many of those gathered in the base chapel at Caserma Ederle. Their faces remain etched in the memories of those who knew them.

“Jacob Fletcher was my friend and I’ll miss him,” said Pfc. Jerry Allen, who gave tribute to the soldiers during the memorial service.

Both soldiers were members of Company C of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment and died when their bus was hit Nov. 14 by an improvised explosive device while returning from the military’s rest and recuperation program.

Allen said he grew closer to Fletcher while the two were downrange.

Fletcher, who died 11 days shy of his 29th birthday, was one of the older junior enlisted members in the company and tried to set an example.

Allen said Fletcher’s motto was “‘Don’t worry about your job, just do it.’”

Fletcher, from Bay Shore, N.Y., is survived by his mother, Dorinne Kenney; his father, Mo Fletcher; a sister and two brothers.

Minucci, from Richeyville, Pa., was serving in his second hostile action in the war on terrorism. He joined the Vicenza-based battalion after serving with the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan.

“When we were at war, he was all business,” Allen said. “Off work, he was a quiet man. He kept mostly to himself. Occasionally he’d show his dry western Pennsylvania humor by telling a bad joke.

“In a place like that, even bad jokes are funny.”

Allen said he remembered a comment Minucci made the night before the attack: “I’m not here to win any medals. I just want to bring my soldiers home safely.”

Minucci, 23, is survived by his parents, Terrence and Marcella Minucci.

Chaplain (Col.) Albert Franke said the two soldiers would be missed more than anyone present could say.

“Our greatest loss,” he said. “Is that we will never know what wonderful exploits they might have accomplished in the future.”

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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 almost 38 years.

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