A memorial to U.S. Army Pfc. Gregory P. Huxley Jr. at Adirondack High School in Boonville included, of all items, a roll of duct tape.
A native of Forestport, Huxley was known for making frequent use of duct tape. Principal Frederick Morgan said Huxley told others that virtually anything could be fixed with the adhesive. Erica Merlo, who attended the senior prom with Huxley, said he did not own a pair of shoes that didn’t have duct tape on them.
Huxley enlisted in the U.S. Army in the summer of 2002. He visited his family for the last time that Thanksgiving.
He died April 6, 2003, in Iraq at the age of 19.
U.S. Navy Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon Kent of Pine Planes graduated from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.; she was a recipient of two Joint Service Commendation Medals, the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, an Army Commendation Medal, and a Joint Service Achievement Medal. She also held an Iraq Campaign Medal and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
She died Jan. 19, 2019, in Syria at the age of 35.
Beth Friedrich said her son, former Hammond resident U.S. Army Agt. David Travis Friedrich, joined the military to help pay for graduate school. He graduated from Gouverneur High School in 1995 before majoring in criminal justice and chemistry at SUNY Brockport, graduating in 1999. He was working on a master’s degree in forensic science at the University of New Haven, Conn.
He died Sept. 20, 2003, in Iraq at the age of 26.
U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Timothy Toney of Manhattan loved making himself useful. He coached a Marine Corps basketball team as well as children’s baseball, basketball and softball teams.
He died March 27, 2004, in Kuwait at the age of 37.
The new building of the Potsdam Humane Society, constructed in 2019, was dedicated to Army Spc. Chad C. Fuller. The Potsdam native and Fort Drum soldier volunteered his time at the organization. Fuller was a star athlete for the Potsdam High School football team, graduating in 1998.
He died Aug. 31, 2003, in Afghanistan at the age of 23 along with Army Pfc. Adam L. Thomas, 21, of Missouri, also from Fort Drum. Fuller and Thomas were the first two combat deaths suffered by the 10th Mountain Division since deploying to Afghanistan in 2001.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexandria M. Morrow of Dansville earned the nickname Mother Alex by members of her deployed unit due to her caring nature. She was selected to brief the commander of U.S. Central Command on weapons loading operations when he visited Southwest Asia.
She died March 22, 2017, in Jordan at the age of 25.
New York Army National Guard Spc. Michael L. Williams of Buffalo re-enlisted in the military following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — that was his 44th birthday. A cousin said there was no way anyone was going to talk him out of going back. Williams worked for the Inspector General’s Office of the New York State Department of Correctional Services.
He died Oct. 17, 2003, in Iraq at the age of 46.
Army Sgt. Michael J. Esposito Jr., who had previously served in Kuwait, also re-enlisted following 9/11. The Long Island resident was stationed at Fort Drum before being deployed to Afghanistan.
He died March 18, 2004, in Afghanistan at the age of 22.
Navy Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class (SW) Michael J. Pernaselli of Monroe and his brother, Army Capt. John Pernaselli, loved kidding each other about their respective choices for a career in the armed forces. Michael J. Pernaselli adored speaking with his two daughters whenever he could.
He died April 24, 2004, in the northern Persian Gulf at the age of 27.
These stories reflect the accounts of different individuals from different parts of the state serving in different branches of the military at different stages of their lives. But they had one thing in common.
They devoted themselves to protecting our country during the War on Terror. Some U.S. troops died in combat; others were killed in accidents.
Then there are the numerous wounded military personnel, some of whom have overcome incredible obstacles to carry on with their lives. One horrific factor has been the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder. The dreadful trend of suicide among active-duty troops and veterans is something we need to confront and reverse.
Those of us in Northern New York know all too well the toll of combat. Members of the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum were some of the most deployed troops over the past 20 years: 180 soldiers from the post were among the 2,465 Americans who died in Afghanistan while 132 Fort Drum personnel were among the 4,586 U.S. troops killed in Iraq.
Unlike other periods of conflict in our nation’s history, many people throughout the country don’t know anyone who served in the armed forces over the past two decades. The all-volunteer military is the most well-trained and best equipped we’ve ever had.
Yet far too few Americans have a stake in war these days. It’s different here in the north country. The men and women who have served us abroad are our family members, our neighbors, our friends and co-workers. We’ve celebrated joyous occasions with them when the time was right.
We’ve also attended their funerals when tragedy took their lives. The sacrifice that their loved ones endure is our loss as well.
As the United States closes one chapter of combat in its history, we must continue to embrace the warriors among us and care for the survivors left behind. The liberties we enjoy come at a steep price. We owe it to the troops who’ve died to live up to the principles that our military personnel so nobly defend.