SGT. Gene Arden Vance Jr., Age
38 of Morgantown, W.Va.,
was a 10-year (98G MI, SF SOT-A) veteran of the
2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
West Virginia National Guard
Vance was recently married and had canceled his honeymoon plans when he was called up to serve in Afghanistan
He is survived by his wife Lisa, daughter
Amber, mother June, brother David and sister Jamie.
Staff Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr.'s widow,
and mother, June,
at memorial service.
(Photo Franka Bruns, Post-Gazette)
w/ Lisa Vance
Gene's daughter, Amber
and brother, David Vance
Amber receives a
West Virginia flag from
Gov. Bob Wise at Memorial Service. .
(Photo Franka Bruns, Post-Gazette)
Vance was Killed
in Action of a gunshot wound Sunday afternoon, 19 May 2002
while taking part in Operation Mountain Lion, designed to locate, isolate and destroy al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan
when his unit, The 19th Special Forces Group, came under heavy fire, he was shot in a mountainous Shkin area in the east.
An Afghan soldier fighting alongside Vance was wounded in the firefight,
which also left an attacker dead.
Vance had been stationed in the Middle East for five
Special Forces Condolences Book
The firefight started when suspected al-Qaida or Taliban fighters in a mountainous area fired on U.S. forces at about 5 p.m. local time Sunday, said Maj. Bryan Hilferty, a U.S. military spokesman.
“We returned fire, killing one enemy,” Hilferty said at a briefing Monday in Bagram, the main coalition base in Afghanistan.
He did not say how Vance was killed.
“One casualty does not deter us,” Hilferty said. “It certainly makes us realize and understand mortality more, but we’re determined to see this mission out to the end.”
The U.S.-led coalition believes Taliban and al-Qaida fighters trying to regroup have been hiding out for months in the mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan near the cities of Khost and Gardez.
British Royal Marines continued to search the area Monday, Hilferty said.
Small teams of U.S. special forces soldiers are operating throughout eastern Afghanistan, monitoring potential movements by al-Qaida.
“We’re out patrolling and doing reconnaissance,” a Department of Defense official
said “As we’re doing that, if we come across al-Qaida we will capture or kill them, but at the same time, we can be vulnerable to attack when we’re out there like that.”
SEARCH FOR FIGHTERS
On Saturday, hundreds of coalition soldiers, backed by U.S. warplanes, scoured the rugged mountainous region of Khost-Paktia in eastern Afghanistan for suspected Islamic militants who had fired upon coalition forces.
But the Pentagon declined to comment on whether the dead U.S. service member was directly connected to this mission, known as Operation Condor.
Last week an Australian patrol came under heavy fire there for five hours, until calling in strikes by American A130 gunships, which killed 10 people who the coalition said were Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.
Lt. Col. Ben Curry, a British military spokesman, said Sunday morning that coalition troops had searched half the area targeted by Operation Condor.
“We have not yet completed the sweep of the area, we are hunting for al-Qaida and Taliban, we are approximately halfway into our task,” Curry said.
A small amount of ammunition was found, including two 120 mm rockets and a few cases of 12.7 mm ammunition, Curry said at Bagram base north of Kabul.
UPDATE: 21 May 2002
U.S. Troops Raid Afghan Compound
U.S. Special Forces Raid Afghan Compound in Search for Attackers Who Killed American Soldier
BAGRAM, Afghanistan May 21 — As many as 100 U.S. Special Forces troops raided a compound in eastern Afghanistan in an unsuccessful search for attackers who killed an American soldier in an ambush, a U.S. military spokesman said Tuesday.
No shots were fired in the raid near the village of Shkin, but "intelligence items" were seized, Maj. Bryan Hilferty said at the main allied air base at Bagram.
Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr., 38, of Morgantown, W.Va., was killed Sunday when a coalition patrol was ambushed in Shkin by 50 unidentified attackers, Hilferty said. His body was flown Monday to a U.S. military base in Germany.
An Afghan soldier fighting alongside Vance was shot in the leg during a firefight sparked by the ambush and is "doing fine." One of the attackers was killed, but the rest fled the scene.
"We just had intelligence on where we think that the people who ambushed our soldiers the other night were so we conducted a raid in that location," Hilferty said. "We tracked them to this particular place, but they weren't there when we got there."
Coalition forces have been scouring eastern Afghanistan in search of al-Qaida or Taliban holdouts but have repeatedly returned empty-handed.
Another large-scale sweep involving 1,000 mostly British troops was launched Friday, a day after Australian special forces said they came under fire by suspected al-Qaida or Taliban fighters about 12 miles north of the volatile eastern city of Khost.
Coalition forces say an AC-130 gunship killed 10 of the attackers and another was shot by an Australian soldier.
Lt. Col. Ben Curry, British military spokesman at Bagram, said two 120-man companies were still sweeping the hills. He said the operation had netted two 82 mm mortar tubes and two boxes of ammunition, along with several artillery rounds and anti-personnel mines.
Hilferty said Vance's death would not deter future operations.
"Sgt. Vance's death as well as his dedicated service strengthens our resolve in pursuit of the terrorists, the terrorist networks and those who harbor them," Hilferty said.
Elsewhere, a U.S. defense official said Monday that American intelligence has received new reports that Osama bin Laden received a kidney transplant in late February, but it's unclear whether the reports are true. Officials have received persistent reports that the al-Qaida leader has severe kidney problems, but none has been verified to the satisfaction of U.S. intelligence officials.
Always Remember... Never Forget!
Why We Call It "Memorial Day"
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)
As we go about our business enjoying a holiday weekend, let us not forget what this is ALL about... that great men and women of unquestionable courage, character and patriotism don a uniform and prepare to defend all we love and care for. Most times, thank God, they come home to a grateful nation safe and sound. Other times, a horrible price is paid for what we are privileged to celebrate this weekend. God Bless All those called to serve and who answer that call with Courage.
Army Chaplain (Capt.) Terry Jarvis
blesses fallen soldier
Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr.,
of the West Virginia
Army National Guard’s
19th Special Forces Group,
aboard a C-17 Globemaster on May 20 prior to the fallen soldier ceremony here. Vance was killed while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (Heartbreaking Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert)
Monday, May 27, 2002
W. Va. honors guardsman, casualty of Afghan fighting
|05/27/2002 - Honored Guardsmen
West Virginia Sgt. Gene Vance Jr. was honored for his service to his country during Memorial Day weekend after becoming the second Army National Guard soldier to be killed in Afghanistan.
By Steve Twedt, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- On a weekend when all of America honors its war dead, the people of West Virginia gathered to pay tribute to the latest fallen hero, Staff Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr., 38, of Morgantown.
In a somber, dignified memorial service on the West Virginia University campus, Vance's widow, Lisa, his daughter from a previous marriage, Amber, 18, and other relatives and friends sat in the front rows as dignitaries, including U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller and West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, gratefully acknowledged the Vance family's sacrifice.
"He is truly our hero," Rockefeller proclaimed. "God bless you, Sgt. Vance."
About 750 people, including dozens of military personnel, attended the 75-minute service then proceeded outside to Oglebay Plaza where the bell from the USS West Virginia, dedicated to West Virginians who died in the service of their country, was rung 21 times in Vance's honor.
For his valor, Vance yesterday was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant and awarded the Legion of Merit, a second Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the West Virginia Distinguished Service Medal. Adjutant General Allen Tackett, Wise and Rockefeller each formally presented Lisa with the medals.
But they could not provide what she wanted most -- the husband to pin them on.
The two had been married just a few months -- and had to postpone their planned honeymoon trip to California -- when he was called to active duty in December. Yesterday, the visibly shaken widow had to be supported at each arm by Sgt. Major Patrick St. Clair and Lt. Col. Mick Galusky of the West Virginia National Guard as she entered and left the service.
Vance, a member of the 2nd Battalion of the 19th Special Forces Unit of Kenova, W. Va., died a week earlier in Afghanistan when al Qaida or Taliban fighters, or both, opened fire while he was riding in a vehicle near Khost in eastern Afghanistan. His colleagues returned fire, reportedly killing Vance's assailant.
He is the first West Virginia National Guardsman to die on active duty since World War II and the 22nd service member killed in action since fighting began last fall.
Vance was described as "a private, modest man," an avid biker and outdoorsman, and a music lover. He represented "a potent combination of the ordinary and extraordinary," said WVU President David Hardesty Jr., who bestowed upon Vance an honorary diploma.
Vance had taken classes at various colleges over the years, including WVU from 1991-95, so he was considered a senior when he re-enrolled at WVU last fall. He withdrew following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and was called up three months later. At the time of his death, Vance reportedly was serving in a reconnaissance operation along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Vance was born in Frankfurt, Germany. He'd served in the National Guard for 10 years, developing special skills in deciphering communications in foreign languages such as Farsi.
As for yesterday's ceremony, "he probably would have recognized it's an important thing for the public, but he probably wouldn't like it," said Sgt. First Class Richard Vanhoose, who served in the same battalion.
A private funeral service for Vance will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow with full military rites. Burial will be at East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown. Donations to the Sgt. Gene A. Vance, Jr. Memorial Fund at Wesbanco-Sabraton branch, 1350 Earl Core Road, Morgantown, WV, 26505.
w/ Lisa Vance
Information from SFAHQ.com,
ABC, AP Wire and US Air Force News....