Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Brigade Honors Fallen Soldier



Staff Sgt. Jeffery Hartley had traveled from his combat outpost to Forward Operating Base Rustimiyah to mourn a fellow soldier, killed days earlier by a roadside bomb.

Such is not uncommon for the soldiers of the close-knit 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

Many of those who attended the memorial service for Sgt. Darren Dhanoolal did not know him personally.

But he was a member of the Sledgehammer Brigade.

Enough said.

Hartley, a staff sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, was leading his platoon back to Combat Outpost Salie following the memorial service when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

Hartley, one of three soldiers in his vehicle, was killed.

News of Hartley's April 8 death was made public a couple of days later. But the details surrounding the trip to the memorial service were not released until much later.

Hartley, of Eagle Lake, Texas, was no stranger to Fort Benning. He had served three deployments with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment before joining the 1-10 and deploying twice more in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the "Rock Support" battalion.

"He simply was one of the finest leaders I have ever known," said Capt. Drew Staples, commander of Headquarters Battery. "He combined a sense of mission with a human touch that will be hard-pressed to ever be duplicated."

At Hartley's memorial service at FOB Hammer, Staples spoke of a few fond memories he had of the fallen noncommissioned officer.

"It's hard to limit this to only a few memories, as I have many great ones of Staff Sergeant Hartley," he told the crowd. "Everything about this young man was special and I feel very lucky to have been able to share this time on Earth with him."

Two of Hartley's closest friends introduced him to those who may not have known him well, and they remembered him with those who did.

"Some saw him as a goofball, which he was at times," said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wing. "But when it was time for business, you knew you could count on him to accomplish any task. He was a no-nonsense professional, focused and mission- oriented."

Sgt. Brian Loza also eulogized Hartley. "As a friend, he was definitely one person I knew I could rely and depend on. If there was ever a time or place that either one of us had to be there for one another, there was never any doubt in either of our minds that we would be there for each other."

At the service, 1-10 commander Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan had final words for the NCO he considered a "confidant."

"You can stand down, son," he said. "Your mission is complete. Rest in peace."

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