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Soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team stand at attention in Vicenza, Italy, Tuesday after firing off volleys as a salute to three fellow Sky Soldiers who died in recent weeks in Afghanistan. Mourners were gathered at the nearby Caserma Ederle chapel to remember Spc. Russell E. Madden and Sgts. Matthew R. Hennigan and Louis R. Fastuca.
Soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team stand at attention in Vicenza, Italy, Tuesday after firing off volleys as a salute to three fellow Sky Soldiers who died in recent weeks in Afghanistan. Mourners were gathered at the nearby Caserma Ederle chapel to remember Spc. Russell E. Madden and Sgts. Matthew R. Hennigan and Louis R. Fastuca. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team stand at attention in Vicenza, Italy, Tuesday after firing off volleys as a salute to three fellow Sky Soldiers who died in recent weeks in Afghanistan. Mourners were gathered at the nearby Caserma Ederle chapel to remember Spc. Russell E. Madden and Sgts. Matthew R. Hennigan and Louis R. Fastuca.
Soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team stand at attention in Vicenza, Italy, Tuesday after firing off volleys as a salute to three fellow Sky Soldiers who died in recent weeks in Afghanistan. Mourners were gathered at the nearby Caserma Ederle chapel to remember Spc. Russell E. Madden and Sgts. Matthew R. Hennigan and Louis R. Fastuca. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
A floral representation of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team's patch was used in a ceremony Tuesday at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, to remember three fallen Sky Soldiers.
A floral representation of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team's patch was used in a ceremony Tuesday at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, to remember three fallen Sky Soldiers. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Spc. Louis R. Fastuca, 24, of West Chester, Pa., died of wounds after the vehicle he was in struck a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on July 5. A memorial service was held for Fastuca in Vicenza, Italy, on Tuesday. He was a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
Spc. Louis R. Fastuca, 24, of West Chester, Pa., died of wounds after the vehicle he was in struck a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on July 5. A memorial service was held for Fastuca in Vicenza, Italy, on Tuesday. He was a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)

VICENZA, Italy — It was a few weeks before the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment deployed to Afghanistan late last year and Pfc. Darrell Pillow and Spc. Louis R. Fastuca got hungry.

They decided to leave Caserma Ederle and chow down on kebabs “because that’s what you eat when you’re hungry,” Pillow recalled in a letter read Tuesday by Staff Sgt. Joseph Parfitt.

On the way there, though, they passed by the base chapel. Discovering the door was open, the 24-year-old Fastuca vowed he was going to show his friend that he could indeed play the piano.

Pillow had his doubts. He knew Fastuca, who had recently joined the battalion, played poker and Madden football well. But the piano ... He just didn’t seem the type.

Pillow soon learned otherwise.

“He could play the piano like nothing I have ever seen,” Pillow wrote from Afghanistan.

Mourners gathered Tuesday to remember Fastuca in the same chapel. He was killed July 5 in Wardak province in Afghanistan, where Pillow and the rest of the battalion, part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, are still conducting operations. Spc. Russell E. Madden and Sgt. Matthew R. Hennigan were also remembered in the ceremony. Madden was recently remembered at his home base in Schweinfurt, Germany, and Hennigan will be honored Thursday in Bamberg.

Fastuca, who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, completed more than 125 missions in Afghanistan, according to the battalion.

Capt. Matthew Bailey, reading a letter from Fastuca’s company commander, Capt. Daniel Panian, remembered Fastuca the soldier. Relatively new to the unit himself, Fastuca was eager to welcome newcomers to Company D’s 2nd Platoon.

Panian said he was “quick with a smile and fatherly to new soldiers.”

He also called him “a beacon of light and life… The world is a little less bright with his loss.”

Pillow wrote he regrets he never got a chance to see his friend play hockey.

“We will see you again one day, brother,” he wrote. “But until then, watch over us.”

harrisk@estripes.osd.mil

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