Ohio Native Among Latest U.S. Military Casualties In Afghanistan

By RON WORD, Associated Press Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Sgt. Bradley Crose, one of seven U.S. soldiers who died in the bloodiest operation of the war in Afghanistan, was a deeply religious and patriotic young man who believed it was his duty to serve his country, his father said.

"He was a fine Christian and he was a warrior," said Ricky Crose, who wants his 22-year-old son buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

"He deserves that honor. He was the most treasured thing I could give my country," Crose said Tuesday, his voice breaking. "I want people to know the sacrifices he made."

Crose, Spc. Marc A. Anderson, 30, of Brandon, Fla., and Pfc. Matthew A. Commons, 21, of Boulder City, Nev., were members of the 1st Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga.

"I'm proud of him," said Anderson's mother, Judith Anderson, who lives in Jacksonville. "He is a hero."

His girlfriend, Amy Pritchett, said that Anderson (pictured, above) graduated from Alliance (Ohio) High School.

He studied mechanical engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland for two years before leaving for Florida State University, where he majored in math.

Anderson planned to become a teacher, but joined the Army to help pay off his student loans, Pritchett said.

Pritchett, who has dated Anderson for about a year, called him "athletic, strong, tall ... amazing."

"Everything he did, he did great," she said Tuesday from his parents' home.

At Alliance, about 50 miles southeast of Cleveland, he was in the National Honor Society, competed in football and was a standout in wrestling and the shot put.

People looked up to him, said Dick Murray, the former Alliance High School athletic director. "I was just proud as a peacock to watch this kid. He did what had to be done," Murray said.

Commons was "a good example of what's right about kids in America," said Lynn Stewart, a government teacher at Boulder City High School, about 30 miles away from Las Vegas.

Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, 26, of Camarillo, Calif., was stationed at Moody Air Force Base near Valdosta, Ga., where he had a wife and two young daughters, said Lito D'Castro, Cunningham's father-in-law.

D'Castro said he heard the news when his daughter called Tuesday. "She was hysterical. She talked to her mom and said, 'Jason is dead.'"

At least three others died and 11 were wounded during intense fighting Monday as two troop-carrying helicopters came under attack. Military officials said the al-Qaida and Taliban fighters used machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

A two-helicopter team was ferrying in reconnaissance troops south of the town of Gardez when one was hit by enemy fire, said Brig Gen. John W. Rosa Jr., deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A Pentagon official said Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, 32, fell out of the helicopter, but died from a bullet wound. He was apparently shot after surviving the fall, said Marine Maj. Ralph Mills, speaking for the U.S. Central Command.

"He was a real nice kid -- kind of a tough kid who didn't let things bother him," said Jeff Sheline, a high school wood shop teacher who taught Roberts.

The other soldiers died during another two-helicopter mission to bring special forces into the battle area, Rosa said. Once on the ground, those forces got into a firefight.

Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, 36, of Windsor Locks, Conn., was remembered by his older sister Lori McQueeney as a good athlete and "a cutup ... a card."

"He's the life of the party," McQueeney said.

The father of Army Sgt. Philip J. Svitak called his son "the best kid in the world."

Svitak, 31, of Joplin, Mo., was assigned as an aircraft repairman to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He learned in October that he might have to go to Afghanistan and told his mother not to worry.

The remains of the seven servicemen killed in the battle were returned to the United States early Wednesday, said Staff Sgt. Tom Hernan.

They were flown from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where a base mortuary will prepare the remains and give them to family members for burial.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)