A soldier from Vancouver, Wash., was one of eight Fort Lewis soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan this week.
The Defense Department said Thursday that Pfc. Christopher Ian Walz, 25, was one of a group of seven Fort Lewis soldiers killed Tuesday when their Stryker vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Arghandab Valley, Afghanistan. The seven identified Thursday were all from the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade based at Fort Lewis.
The name of an eighth Fort Lewis soldier, who died in a separate attack Tuesday, had not been officially released as of late Thursday. But family members identified him to news organizations as Pfc. Brian Bates, 20, who grew up in the New Orleans area.
In addition to Walz, the soldiers whose names were released Thursday are:
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• Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y.
• Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas
• Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind.
• Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo.
• Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La.
• Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill.
The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver said that Walz’s family was among those who were offered condolences by President Barack Obama early Thursday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Obama flew to Dover around midnight Wednesday to observe the return of 18 fallen Americans, including the eight soldiers from Fort Lewis. He watched in darkness as cases carrying the remains came off a C-17 cargo plane one by one. Obama then met with relatives of the dead at a chapel.
Obama said Thursday that the casualties of war are “something that I think about each and every day.”
Walz was on his first deployment, after enlisting in the Army last year and receiving infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga. He reported to Fort Lewis in January. While the Army identified Walz by his given first name of Christopher, family members and friends told the Columbian that he more often went by Ian.
Walz played football at Hudson’s Bay High School and graduated from Clark College. Friends and family said he had hoped to continue his studies and earn a four-year degree in political science by using Army education benefits.
Madeline DaMore, who identified herself as Walz’s fiancée, told The Columbian that Walz liked to watch CNN and read history. She said he was an Obama supporter and that he had always wanted to meet the president.
Gonzalez was the squad leader of the men of the 1-17 who were killed Tuesday. He joined the Army in 2002, deployed to Iraq twice and reported to Fort Lewis to join the 5th Brigade in August 2008.
Delarosa was the Stryker vehicle commander and had completed two tours of duty in Iraq. He was assigned to Fort Lewis in July 2007.
The Brownsville, Texas, Herald quoted Delarosa’s Facebook page describing his recent experiences as “a crazy couple of months … some bad things, but we’re all helping each other through them.”
The paper said he had a wife and two sons in Washington state.
Griffin, who enlisted in the Army in 2005, was on his first combat deployment. He reported to Fort Lewis in January 2007. An Associated Press report described him as the son of a Mormon bishop, a champion wrestler and a college student struggling to find his way in the world when he turned to the military.
“He wanted to be part of an organization that was taking care of things,” said Steve Joseph, his high school wrestling coach.
Griffin’s family was the only one to grant permission for news media coverage at Dover early Thursday.
Jackson was a radio-telephone operator and grenadier on his second deployment to Afghanistan. He joined the Army in April 2004, and arrived at Fort Lewis in July.
Williamson was on his first deployment. He enlisted in August 2006, reported to Fort Benning for infantry and airborne training, and reported to Fort Lewis in January 2007.
Stanker was also fighting overseas for the first time when he was killed, just weeks after his 22nd birthday. He got his infantry training at Fort Benning, and reported to Fort Lewis in March 2007.
The recent attacks made Tuesday the deadliest day for Fort Lewis troops since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The 5th Brigade has lost a reported 26 soldiers since deploying in July to southern Afghanistan.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635
News Tribune staff writer Matt Misterek and The Associated Press contributed to this report.