3 Fort Lewis soldiers killed; post’s toll rises to 19 for May

Three Fort Lewis soldiers are the post’s latest casualties in Iraq, the Pentagon announced Wednesday, as the death toll for the month for soldiers assigned to the post rose to an unprecedented 19.

The highest previous death toll in Iraq for Fort Lewis soldiers was nine in December 2004.

Staff Sgt. Thomas M. McFall, 36, of Glendora, Calif., and Pfc. Junior Cedeno Sanchez, 20, of Miami, died Monday when an improvised explosive device went off near them during a foot patrol in Baghdad, the Pentagon said.

Pfc. Charles B. Hester, 23, of Cataldo, Idaho, died two days earlier in Baghdad when the vehicle he was riding in struck another IED, the Pentagon said.

McFall and Sanchez were infantrymen assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team).

Hester was an infantryman assigned to the other Fort Lewis-based Stryker brigade serving in and around Baghdad, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

The two brigades represent about 8,000 soldiers serving in and around Baghdad who, along with other Army combat units and Iraqi security forces, are trying to rid the region of insurgents and quell sectarian violence.

Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Williams, who is serving on an interim basis as the post’s senior noncommissioned officer, said losing a soldier never is easy, and the Army post grieves with news of each death. The soldiers’ commitment to continue the fight hasn’t wavered and morale remains high, he added.

“We stand together with each other to make a difference every day,” Williams said.

McFall joined the Army in October 1994 and served tours in South Korea and Afghanistan. He reported to Fort Lewis for a second time in September 2005.

His wife, Emily, said her husband loved listening to classic rock and cooking ribs on the grill. He would tell peers leaving the military that the Army was the easiest job in the world, she said.

“He loved the brotherhood and his heart beat red, white and blue; there was only one exit,” Emily McFall said.

Hester and Sanchez were serving in their first combat deployments.

Hester enlisted in May 2004 and arrived at Fort Lewis that September, and Sanchez joined Nov. 9, 2005, and came to the Army post in June 2006.

Family members for both soldiers couldn’t be reached for comment.

Today, Fort Lewis will hold a memorial service for Sgt. Iosiwo Uruo, a 27-year-old native of Guam, who died May 24 when his unit came under enemy fire.

His will be among the final individual memorial services for soldiers at Fort Lewis. In a May 22 memo obtained by United for Peace Pierce County, Brig. Gen. William Troy, Fort Lewis’ acting commanding general, wrote that the number of fallen soldiers prevents post officials from conducting individual services.

He directed the post’s senior chaplain to draft a policy set to take effect next month. Fort Lewis plans to hold a memorial service once a month for its fallen soldiers.

“The details are still being worked out,” Fort Lewis spokesman Joe Piek said.

He noted that four services typically are held to honor a fallen soldier. The soldier’s unit holds one in theater; a second at the Army post for the greater community that family members sometimes attend; the third organized by family in the soldier’s hometown; and the fourth a burial with military honors.

Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or