Two young Stryker soldiers remembered

Fort Lewis paused Thursday to remember two more soldiers to die in Iraq, a pair of young infantrymen who'd arrived there only in the past month.

Cpl. Jonathan V. Hamm, 20, of Baltimore and Cpl. Aaron D. Gautier, 19, of Hampton, Va., were members of the same company but were killed in separate incidents May 17 in Baghdad.

The Strykers from the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division were promoted posthumously from the rank of private first class.

Hamm had endured much pain in his life, losing his father at age 13 and then his mother to breast cancer in February. His aunts and uncle told reporters he struggled but got through high school and joined the Army in November 2004 rather than succumb to the tough streets of his hometown.

"He took it upon himself to change his life," his aunt, Leah Hamm, told the Baltimore Sun. "He seemed happy."

Gautier likewise was growing in responsibility and maturity. Before deploying, he married Lindsey Kozma of Lakewood and looked forward to starting a family, his father, Dan, told The Washington Post.

"He was growing into a fine young man and wonderful husband," his father told the newspaper.

Hamm was killed in a mortar attack on his base, while Gautier died after his patrol was attacked with small-arms fire and roadside bombs, the Department of Defense reported.

The two soldiers were from separate platoons in B Company of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment.

Pfc. Jose Dominguez said at Thursday's ceremony that he and Hamm became friends at Fort Lewis. Dominguez took him home with him to El Paso one time, where his family took in the visitor like another son and the two took a trip to Mexico.

"He had the time of his life," Dominguez recalled.