Four soldiers honored at Vicenza memorial service
August 2, 2012
VICENZA, Italy — Spcs. Justin Louis Horsley and Brenden Neal Salazar grew up 35 miles apart in Florida, processed into the Army through the same center in Tampa within a few months of each other and each reported to Vicenza for his first assignment.
The two soldiers from Attack Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment died together July 22 in Pul-E Alam, Afghanistan, when their patrol encountered an improvised explosive device.
“It’s like these guys were destined to be together right until the end,” said Capt. Bradley Benjamin, the battalion’s rear detachment commander, said during a memorial ceremony Thursday on Caserma Ederle.
Horsley and Salazar were two of four members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team killed in Afghanistan who were remembered during the ceremony, the first held on base since the Sky Soldiers began their fourth deployment to Afghanistan in June.
Spc. Theodore Matthew Glende, another member of “First Rock,” and Pfc. Adam C. Ross of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, also were remembered.
Spc. Jason Mommany said Salazar, a member of his platoon, was “a true soldier, a model Wombat.”
“He was different from most of us. He wasn’t a killer. He was a defender. He never started a fight and did his best to stop them.”
Salazar, 20, was born in Fort Bragg, N.C., and grew up in Chuluota, Fla., according to information provided by the brigade. He is survived by his parents, James and Jovanna Nelson, and his sister, Hannah.
Spc. Mark Fragoso was a member of Horsley’s platoon and his roommate.
“He always had a content look on his face, no matter what the circumstances,” Fragoso said. “He scheduled and planned everything he did and it kept me in awe.”
Horsley, 21, was born in Seoul and grew up in Cocoa, Fla. Fragoso said that Horsley had to become an adult quickly after his father passed away. He is survived by his mother, Songmi Kietzmann, and two brothers, John and Ben Horsley.
Glende died from small arms fire July 27 in Kharwar, Afghanistan, while rendering aid to a fellow Sky Soldier, according to Spc. Gregory Hedlund.
Glende was “easily among the brightest people I’ve ever met in four years in the Army,” Hedlund said. “He had an encyclopedic-like brain.”
“It was obvious to the people who knew him that he could have done anything he wanted to in his life, yet he chose to be a paratrooper.”
Glende, 23, was born and raised in Rochester, N.Y., and completed the ROTC program at Niagara University, according to the brigade. But he wasn’t assigned to the infantry and decided to enlist in the infantry instead. He is survived by his wife, Alexandra; his parents, Theodore and Avamaria; and a brother, Eric.
Ross, 19, died July 24 from small arms fire while on patrol in Wardak province. Sgt. Paul Bates said Ross had just earned his combat badge in a previous firefight a few days earlier.
He said during training deployments and on base Ross “always volunteered, always stepped forward, always gave his all.”
Capt. Chris Gasperini, the battalion’s rear detachment commander, said Ross grew up in a military family — his father serves in the South Carolina National Guard and brother Jonathon is assigned to Korea — and wanted to be a paratrooper since he was 2 years old.
Ross, who grew up in Lyman, S.C., is survived by his parents, George and Amanda, and brothers Jacob and Jonathon.
The chapel was filled to capacity for the service, with most of those attending in military uniform, including two of the senior Army leaders in Europe: Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Maj. Gen. David Hogg, who relinquishes command of the Vicenza-based U.S. Army Africa on Friday.