FORT LEWIS - Stryker soldiers from Fort Lewis on Tuesday remembered three of their recently slain comrades as the kind of men their sons should aspire to become.
The 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division held another memorial ceremony for its soldiers killed in Iraq: Staff Sgt. Thomas M. McFall, Cpl. Junior Cedeno Sanchez and Cpl. William Jared Crouch.
"If my own son could harvest the leadership traits and the kindness of Tommy, and the dedication and warmth of Junior, and the professionalism and caring spirit of Jared," said Maj. Chad Sundem, the brigade's rear detachment commander, "I could never dare to ask for more."
McFall, 36, of Glendora, Calif., and Cedeno Sanchez, 20, of Miami, Fla., were killed in a bombing May 28 as they walked on patrol in Baghdad. They served with the brigade's 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment. Crouch, 21, of Zachary, La., was killed June 2 when a bomb exploded near the Stryker vehicle he was driving. He was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.
A standing-room-only crowd filled the Evergreen Chapel on post for the 40-minute ceremony. Members of McFall's and Crouch's families attended, as did Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., who took over Monday as the post's commanding general.
The brigade has lost 11 soldiers since it left Fort Lewis in April and began combat operations in Iraq in early May. The most recent, Sgt. Cory Endlich, 23, of Massillon, Ohio, was killed by small-arms fire Saturday in Taji.
McFall is survived by his wife, Emily, and their three children, Austin, 15, Elizabeth, 7, and Matthew, 3, of Fort Lewis.
McFall was described as a big brother to the younger soldiers in his unit, inviting them to his place on the holidays and on weekends. He was a devoted barbecue chef and appreciated a fine microbrew.
"After a long run, he was always saying he was getting too old for this infantry stuff," his friend, Staff Sgt. Daniel Ketron, told the gathering Tuesday. "But he never left it. He loved being a grunt."
Cedeno Sanchez was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Puerto Rico and then Florida as a youngster. His mother flew from Tampa, Fla., and his father from New York City for a memorial service Sunday at his birthplace.
Capt. Craig Butera, his battalion's rear detachment commander, said the infantryman aspired to attend Ranger school when he got back from Iraq.
"Had he had the chance, we all know he would have finished Ranger school and would have been a great example of all the character that is embodied in the Rangers," Butera said.
His friend, Spc. Michael Lind, said Cedeno Sanchez was tireless in training.
"He never quit," Lind said. "He charged hills like a billy goat."
Capt. Bruce Wells, the cavalry squadron's rear detachment commander, read from remarks delivered by Crouch's troop commander at a memorial ceremony in Iraq on Sunday.
He said Crouch was his troop commander's Stryker vehicle driver. One morning, when they were preparing to move from Taji to Baqouba, his sergeant told him to get down to the motor pool and make sure the vehicle was ready for the trip.
Fourteen hours passed, and at 9 o'clock that night, Crouch was still down there, finding things to work on.
"That was Cpl. Crouch," Wells said. "Quiet, reserved, uncomplaining, dedicated almost to a fault."
He is survived by his mother, four brothers, and his fiancee, Samantha Jacobsen of Fircrest.
Sundem, the rear detachment commander, encouraged other soldiers to draw strength from the example of the three men, "who unknowingly and positively shaped the character of this brigade indefinitely and immeasurably."