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Final Stryker soldier killed in attack identified

The sixth Fort Lewis soldier killed Sunday in an ambush in Iraq was identified Wednesday as Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo, 23.

The Department of Defense officially released the identities of all six soldiers late Wednesday afternoon; family members already had identified them to media outlets.

The mood at the Army base was somber in the wake of the attacks, which occurred in Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad. Fort Lewis has had 105 service members killed in the Iraq War.

"Anytime we lose a soldier, it's keenly felt here, whether it's one soldier or several soldiers," Fort Lewis spokesman Joe Piek said. "It goes without saying, though, that losing six soldiers in one incident took many people back to December 2004."

Four days before Christmas that year, six soldiers assigned to the Army post died when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a mess tent near the Mosul airport.

Romeo was born in Calabria, Italy, and came to the United States with his family in 1986. His hometown was Lodi, N.J.

"Vincenzo was a kind and courageous person who brought joy and laughter to all around him," his family said in a statement released by Fort Monmouth in New Jersey. "As a family of Italian immigrants, we are especially proud of our hero Vincenzo for his patriotism, bravery and service to the United States."

Romeo graduated from Lodi High School in 2001 and attended Kean University, both in New Jersey, for one year before he enlisted in the Army in March 2003.

Several of the six soldiers killed have received posthumous promotions. The other five are:

- Cpl. Michael A. Pursel, 19, formerly of Lacey, more recently of Clinton, Utah, who attended Christian Life Church in Lacey before being sent to Iraq a month ago.

- Cpl. Matthew L. Alexander, 21, of Gretna, Neb., who had been married less than three months.

- Cpl. Anthony M. Bradshaw, 21, of San Antonio, who has a twin in the Army.

- Sgt. Jason R. Harkins, 25, of Clarkesville, Ga., who attended a church in Lakewood and planned to start a family.

- Sgt. Joel W. Lewis, 28, of Puyallup, who planned to marry his fiancee.

Like Harkins, Romeo - who received numerous awards, including the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal - was on his second deployment to Iraq.

Romeo is survived by his parents, Saverina and Antonio, brothers Bruno and Carmelo, and his fiancee, Amanda Anderson.

Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack, which killed Russian freelance photographer Dmitry Chebotayev.

The attack occurred when four Strykers were sent to cut off men reported to be planting a bomb on a road. The blast flipped the 37,000-pound vehicle and tore out its interior.

The soldiers were assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which is serving its second tour in Iraq. Recently, its soldiers learned that their deployment would be extended three months to October.

Memorial service

Fort Lewis plans a memorial service Tuesday for the six soldiers killed Sunday in Iraq.

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