2 Fort Lewis soldiers, new dads die in Iraq

Two Fort Lewis soldiers were killed in Iraq on Sunday.

The Department of Defense announced Tuesday that Spc. Chad D. Groepper and Spc. Luke S. Runyan, both 21 and new fathers, died in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad from injuries "suffered when enemy forces attacked their dismounted patrol using small arms fire."

Both soldiers were assigned to the headquarters company of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team).

The brigade is scheduled to return home from a 15-month deployment sometime this summer.

Groepper of Kingsley, Iowa, transferred to Fort Lewis in May 2005, four months after reporting for basic training.

He and his wife, Stephanie, recently become parents. Their 4-month-old daughter, Clarissa, was born a month before Chad Groepper returned home on leave last year, according to the D es Moines Register newspaper .

"We had just been counting the days until he came home," his mother, Darcy Groepper, told the newspaper Monday.

Runyan of Spring Grove, Pa., reported for basic training in September 2004 and came to Fort Lewis six months later.

Runyan and his wife, Courtney, had a daughter, Brynn, not yet a year old.

He had ambitions to be an Army Ranger and helped save the life of an Iraqi child who was caught in a crossfire and hit by a bullet, his father, Marc, told the Evening Sun newspaper.

He recently had been promoted to squad leader and was committed to his men and the Army; he had re-enlisted for another three years, Marc Runyan told the newspaper.

"His war buddies were his family," he said.