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Staff Sgt. Joseph Garyantes
Staff Sgt. Joseph Garyantes ()

VILSECK, Germany — The Vilseck military community and several Germans filled the Rose Barracks chapel Tuesday to honor a 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment soldier who died May 18 in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Garyantes, 34, of Rehoboth, Del., was killed by sniper fire while on a combat patrol in Muqdadiyah, Iraq.

His longtime friend and neighbor, Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Merritt, gave a tearful tribute.

The two lived in neighboring rooms that shared a bathroom when stationed together several years ago at Hohenfels, Germany. More recently, the two — both married with two children — were next-door neighbors.

“Joe was a little skinny guy who could talk just about as much trash as I could,” Merritt said. “He was always there when I needed a coffee-drinking partner. We would all sit out back and talk.

“People like Joe are what made me want to stay in the Army,” he said. “The Army is lucky to have had someone who could perform at his level and be such a good friend.”

Capt. Jonathan Boggiano, who was Garyantes’ platoon leader before the Iraq deployment, spoke about Garyantes’ knack for training soldiers, especially one soldier who was on the verge of being kicked out of the Army.

“[The soldier] couldn’t even read, and came in the Army with a job-core waiver instead of a GED,” Boggiano said. “He was afraid of the tank, and on his very first gunnery he cut a round in half with the ammo door. No one wanted him.”

“Sergeant G took him on his tank,” he said. “He spent a ridiculous amount of time training him. Not only did the soldier overcome his fear of the tank and the main gun, but also that tank crew shot 985 out of 1,000 and took top tank [at the gunnery]. That gunnery was a testament to [Garyantes’] ability to train.”

Boggiano also read comments from Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Lindley, from the memorial service held in Iraq last week.

“Every day, I would spend at least two hours with him just talking, because he would cheer me up,” Lindley said. “Joe had a special glow around him; people wanted to be near him, and he was always there to cheer you up no matter the situation.

“Joe, I loved you like a brother, and you are truly missed and loved,” Lindley said. “I will carry on in your absence, as will everyone; it will just be that much harder without you.”

Garyantes is survived by his wife, Monica, and sons, Tevin and Ryan.

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