Remembering American Heroes: New York, Baltimore, Simpson, Ill., Hardest Hit by Iraq Casualties

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT


(Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series of articles based on an extensive database on Operation Iraqi Freedom compiled by Cybercast News Service .)

(CNSNews.com) - Americans from communities all across the nation, from the North, South, West and Midwest, from the largest cities on the coasts and smallest towns in the heartland, have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to a Cybercast News Service analysis of Defense Department data.

In the five years of warfare -- measured between the war's start on Mar. 20, 2003 and Mar. 20, 2008 -- 3,993 U.S. soldiers died.

When measured by the men and women who have fallen while serving their country in that timeframe in Iraq, the all-volunteer U.S. military is a national force, representative of all regions of the country.

Servicemen and women from New York, the nation's largest city, suffered 58 combat and non-combat casualties, the largest total number for any community, while Baltimore, with 18 casualties, suffered the largest per capita for cities with a population of 500,000 or more.

A rural village in southern Illinois, where the main street is called Main Street, suffered the highest casualty rate per capita of any American community.

Several Texas cities also stood out among American communities where significant numbers of residents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Houston, San Antonio, and Fort Worth were among both the 10 U.S. cities whose residents suffered the most total casualties in Iraq and the 10 U.S. cities with a population of 500,000 or more whose residents suffered the most casualties per capita. El Paso, Texas, was also among the 10 U.S. cities that suffered the most casualties per capita. (Story continues below.)

Ten Cities Hardest Hit by Iraq Casualties

1. New York, N.Y.
Casualties: 58
Population: 8,214,426
2. Houston, Tex.

Casualties: 37
Population: 2,144,491
3. San Antonio, Texas
Casualties: 35
Population: 1,296,682
4. Los Angeles, Calif
.
Casualties: 23
Population: 3,849,378
5. Phoenix, Ariz.
Casualties: 21
Population: 1,512,986
6. Baltimore, Md
.
Casualties: 18
Population: 637,455
7. San Diego, Calif.
Casualties: 18
Population: 1,256,951
8. Fort Worth, Tex.
Casualties: 17
Population: 653,320
9. Miami, Fla.
Casualties: 16
Population: 404,048
10. Philadelphia, Pa.
Casualties: 15
Population: 1,448,394

(Source: Cybercast News Service analysis of U.S. Defense Department data.)


Ten Cities Hardest Hit by Iraq Casualties Per Capita
(Communities of 500,000 or more population)
1. Baltimore, Md.
Casualties: 18
Population: 637,455
Casualties per capita: 1/35,414
2. Las Vegas, Nev.
Casualties: 15
Population: 552,539
Casualties per capita: 1/36,836
3. San Antonio, Texas
Casualties: 35
Population: 1,296,682
Casualties per capita: 1/37,048
4. Fort Worth, Texas
Casualties: 17
Population: 653,320
Casualties per capita: 1/38,431
5. Tucson, Ariz.
Casualties: 13
Population: 518,956
Casualties per capita: 1/39,920
6. El Paso, Texas
Casualties: 12
Population: 609,415
Casualties per capita: 1/50,785
7. Portland, Ore.
Casualties: 10
Population: 537,081
Casualties per capita: 1/53,708
8. Oklahoma City, Okla.
Casualties: 10
Population: 537,734
Casualties per capita: 1/53,773
9. Albuquerque, N.M.
Casualties: 9
Population: 504,949
Casualties per capita: 1/56,105
10. Houston, Texas
Casualties: 37
Population: 2,144,491
Casualties per capita: 1/57,959

( Residents of these U.S. cities of 500,000 or more suffered the largest number of casualties per capita in the first five years of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Source: Cybercast News Service analysis based on data from the U.S. Defense Department and U.S. Census Bureau.)

Major cities in every region of the country ranked high among those whose residents, while serving in the all-volunteer U.S. military, gave their lives for their country in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As the data above show, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Miami, and Philadelphia were among the 10 U.S. cities that have suffered the most casualties in the Iraq war. Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque were among the 10 U.S. cities that suffered the most casualties per capita.

Two rural Midwestern communities-Simpson, Ill., (population 58), and Imogene, Iowa (population 60)--had the highest per capita casualty rates among American towns of all sizes. Each had one resident who died serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Army Spec. Brian Romines of Simpson was 20 years old when he was killed by an IED that exploded near his Humvee in Baghdad on June 6, 2005, according to the Defense Department.

Shortly after the incident, Romines's father, Randy, told the Associated Press that his son had volunteered and had told him, /ldblquote Dad, if something happens over there it was just my time to go."

"He was a really good kid," Randy Romines told the AP. "He was an easy son to raise. Everybody always liked him.""

Ten Small Towns Hardest Hit By Iraq Casualties Per Capita
(Communities of any size population)

One resident from each of these small towns became a casualty in the first five years of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

1. Simpson, Illinois
Population: 58
2. Imogene, Iowa
Population: 60
3. Hooper, Colo.
Population: 125
4. Cherry Fork, Ohio
Population: 135
5. Washington, Ark.
Population: 140
6. Cordova, S.C.
Population: 145
7. Ekron, Ky .
Population: 172
8. Clifton, Ohio
Population: 173
9. New Castle, Va.
Population: 174
10. Kettle River, Minn.
Population: 175


Baltimore not only had the highest number of casualties per capita of all cities with a population over 500,000, it also was among the 10 U.S. cities with the largest overall number of casualties.

Defense Department records show that the New Yorkers who gave their lives for their country serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom were a diverse group. They came from all five boroughs of the city, including 19 from Brooklyn, 19 from Queens, 10 from Manhattan, 9 from the Bronx, and one from Staten Island.

They ranged in age from 19 to 47. Nineteen were 30 years or older, including seven who were in their forties. Ten were 21 or younger, including two who were still in their teens, an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old.

Four New Yorkers who died in the first five years of Operation Iraqi Freedom were women.

One of the youngest New Yorkers killed in Iraq was 20-year-old Marine Cpl. Ramona Valdez, a field radio operator who was given a temporary assignment to work at a checkpoint outside Fallujah.

"When killed in action, Valdez was temporarily assigned to an entry control point in the city of Fallujah just a few kilometers west of here," said an article published on the Marines Web site about a memorial service that was held for her in Ramadi, Iraq, in July 2005. "Her job was to search Iraqi women and female children who entered the city in support of an effort to secure the area of weapons threats."

She was killed, according to the article, "when a suicide car bomber struck the 7-ton truck she was on."

In 2007, the Marines honored Valdez by dedicating the Communications Training Center at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in her name. Valdez, according to an article about the dedication published on the Marine Corps Web site, "joined the Marine Corps in 2002 to help support her mother ...."

One of the older New York casualties was Sgt. Christian Engeldrum, 39, a New York City firefighter who had worked at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. After he was killed in Iraq, the National Guard issued a statement written by Spc. Erin E. Robicheaux that described some remarkable aspects of his life.

"Some may say Sgt. Christian Engeldrum had the most significant job following the attacks of September 11, 2001. In the famous picture of New York City firemen hanging a United States flag on a pole rising from the rubble, Engeldrum was the burly man holding the ladder," wrote Robicheaux. "He was steadying the way for his colleagues of Ladder 61, Co-op City, to follow him to the gates of freedom. Four years later, Sgt. Engeldrum once again led the way, this time for three of his fellow soldiers. Only this time, he's holding the ladder to the gates of heaven."

"Sgt. Christian Engeldrum was loved by everyone who crossed his path," wrote Robicheaux. "He was a loving father and devoted husband. As a firefighter, he lived for life in Ladder 61, Co-op City. He was a key player in the recovery of New York City following the terrorist attacks and believed in the cause so deeply, that he took the fight to Iraq."

In the National Guard, Engeldrum belonged to the New York City-based Fighting 69th Infantry Regiment. He was killed when an IED exploded near his Humvee outside Taji, Iraq. Six of the other New York City residents who died in Iraq were also members of the 69th . (Five of those soldiers were killed by IEDs and one was killed in a vehicle accident that is still under investigation.)

"IEDs are the weapon of choice for the enemy," Lt. Col Richard Goldenberg, a member of the New York National Guard who was deployed to Iraq in 2005, told Cybercast News Service. "They are easy to manufacture and deploy."

Over the past decade the National Guard has transitioned from being a "strategic reserve unit" into an "operational reserve" that is now fully engaged "side by side" with the active Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said Goldenberg.

Since 9/11 there has been a "heightened awareness" among National Guard members that they will be called upon to fulfill their federal mission with greater frequency, he said.

This has been true in the case of the Fighting 69th , which was deployed to Taji, located just north of Baghdad, and which was also responsible for securing the stretch of highway leading to the Baghdad Airport called "Route Irish."

Engeldrum, Goldenberg said, was the first combat casualty in Iraq connected with the New York City Fire Department. However, the first casualty from the 69th actually occurred on 9/11 when Gerard Baptiste, a firefighter from Ladder 9 in the East Village died at the World Trade Center, he said.

"There you have two sides of the coin, where a citizen soldier died in the line of duty with his fellow firefighters, then a few years later a fireman serving with his fellow soldiers dies in the line of duty overseas," Goldenberg said. "There is this underlying thread of contributing to something that's greater than oneself and I think that is what draws certain people. There is a general character and sense of obligation to others that brings in our volunteers."

Marine Cpl. Valdez was not the only New Yorker to die in Fallujah, a city in the Anbar Province where insurgents and terrorists once held sway. In August 2006, two Brooklyn men, Marine Capt. John McKenna and Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Glover, were both killed by small-arms fire while on patrol in Fallujah.

Like the New Yorkers, the Baltimoreans who gave their lives serving their country in Iraq spanned a broad range of ages, from 20 to 45. Seven were 30 or older. Five were 21 or younger. None were teens.

The oldest was Command Sergeant Major Cornell Gilmore, 45, killed in November 2003 when the Black Hawk helicopter he was riding in was shot down over Tikrit. According to news reports, he had been the top enlisted man in the Judge Advocate General Corps.

Another Baltimore hero was 28-year-old Marine Staff Sgt. Dwayne E. Williams, who served three tours in Iraq. An article published August 3, 2006 on the Marine Corps Web site profiled the "explosive ordnance disposal" unit that Williams led, noting that the group had "responded to more than 250 possible IEDs since arriving in April."

"(Disarming IEDs is) a job that needs to be done," Williams said in the article. "It's an honor to be out here, doing what we do."

Three weeks later, he was killed trying to dismantle an IED.

At a memorial service held for Williams at the Marine base in Okinawa, according to another article published on the Marines Web site, someone read a letter written by Williams' mother.

"I'm not saying goodbye," she said, "I'm saying I'll see you later."

The database this report is based on was constructed by Cybercast News Service using Defense Department press statements that include the name, rank, military branch, hometown, date and means of death for each casualty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other Defense Department records were also consulted, as well as published news reports. The hometowns listed for each casualty in the database reflect the hometown reported in the Defense Department records.

Those listed as casualties include both those who died from enemy action and those who died by non-combat related causes while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Casualties connected with Operation Iraq Freedom, according to the Defense Department, include not only those that have occurred in Iraq itself since March 19, 2003, but also those that have occurred on the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea, as well as in Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The casualties accounted for in this report occurred in the first five years of Operation Iraqi Freedom, from March 19, 2003 to March 19, 2008.

New York Casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom

These 58 residents of New York City gave their lives serving their country in the first five years of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Marine Lance Cpl. William White, 24
Casualty Date:
March 29, 2003
White drowned in a non-combat accident in southern Iraq.

Marine Staff Sgt. Riayan Tejeda, 26
Casualty Date:
April 11, 2003
Tejeda died during combat against enemy forces in Baghdad, Iraq.

Navy Commander Joseph Acevedo, 46
Casualty Date:
April 13, 2003
Acevedo died of a heart attack in Bahrain while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Army Spc. Rasheed Sahib, 22
Casualty Date:
May 18, 2003
Sahib died as a result of an accidental weapons discharge in Balad, Iraq.

Army Pfc. Rayshawn Johnson, 20
Casualty Date:
Nov. 3, 2003
Johnson died when his vehicle hit a landmine in Tikrit, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Linda Jimenez, 39 (female)
Casualty Date:
Nov. 8, 2003
Jimenez died as a result of a non-combat accident in Iraq.

Army Capt. George Wood, 33
Casualty Date:
Nov. 20, 2003
Wood died when his vehicle collided with an IED in Baqubah, Iraq.

Army Pfc. Luis Moreno, 19
Casualty Date:
Jan. 29, 2004
Moreno was shot while guarding a gas station in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Spc. Roger Ling, 20
Casualty Date:
Feb. 19, 2004
Ling died when his unit was attacked by an IED and small arms in Khalidiyah, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Manny Hornedo, 27
Casualty Date:
June 28, 2004
Hornedo died when his vehicle collided with an IED in Tikrit, Iraq.

Army Cpl. Joseph Behnke, 45
Casualty Date:
Oct. 4, 2004
Behnke died as a result of a non-combat vehicle accident in Fallujah, Iraq.

Army Pfc. James Prevete, 22
Casualty Date:
Oct. 10, 2004
Prevete died as a result of a non-combat vehicle accident in Habbaniya, Iraq.

Army Spc. Segun Akintade, 34
Casualty Date:
Oct. 28, 2004
Died when enemy attacked with an IED and small arms fire in Abd Allah, Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Lam, 22
Casualty Date:
Nov. 8, 2004
Died as a result of a non-combat vehicle accident in the Anbar Province, Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Dimitrios Gavriel, 29
Casualty Date:
Nov. 19, 2004
Gavriel as a result of enemy action in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Christian Engeldrum, 39
Casualty Date:
Nov. 29, 2004
Engeldrum died when his vehicle collided with an IED in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Pablo Calderon, 26
Casualty Date:
Nov. 30, 2004
Calderon died when his vehicle collided with an IED in Fallujah, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Henry Irizarry, 38 Casualty Date: Dec. 3, 2004
Irizarry died when is vehicle struck an IED in Taji, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Yevgeniy Ryndych, 24
Casualty Date:
Dec. 6, 2004
Ryndych died when an IED detonated near his unit in Ramadi, Iraq.

Army Staff Sgt. Julian Melo, 47
Casualty Date:
Dec. 21, 2004
Melo died as a result of an enemy attack in Mosul, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Nathaniel Swindell, 24
Casualty Date:
Jan. 15, 2005.
Swindell died of a non-combat injury in Mosul, Iraq.

Army Pfc. Francis Obaji, 21
Casualty Date:
Jan. 17, 2005
Obaji died from a non-combat vehicle accident in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Spc. Azhar Ali, 27
Casualty Date:
March 2, 2005
Ali died when his vehicle collided with an IED in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Angelo Lozada, 36
Casualty Date:
April 16, 2005
Lozada died as a result of combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq.

Marine Cpl. Michael Postal, 21
Casualty Date:
May 7, 2005
Postal died from an explosion in Anbar, Iraq.

Army Spec. Wai Lwin, 27
Casualty Date:
March 2, 2005
Lwin died when an IED exploded near his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Cpl. Ramona Valdez, 20 (female)
Casualty Date:
June 23, 2005
Valdez died when a suicide car bomber attacked her convoy in Fallujah, Iraq.

Army Pfc. Hernando Rios, 29
Casualty Date:
Aug. 7, 2005
Rios died when enemy attacked with an IED and small arms in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Regilio Nelom, 45
Casualty Date:
Sept. 17, 2005
Nelom died when an IED detonated near his vehicle in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Army Spc. Marlon Bustamante, 25
Casualty Date:
Feb. 1, 2006
Bustamante died when an IED detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Spc. Sergio Saez, 23
Casualty Date:
Feb. 5, 2006
Saez died in non-combat vehicle accident in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Spc. Sergio Mercedes, 23
Casualty Date:
Feb. 5, 2006
Mercedes died in non-combat vehicle accident in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Staff Sgt. Dwayne Lewis, 26
Casualty Date:
Feb. 27, 2006
Lewis died as a result of small arms fire in combat in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Bobby Menendez, 38
Casualty Date: April 27, 2006
Menendez died when an IED exploded near his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Jose Velez, 35
Casualty Date:
June 9, 2006
Velez died when his vehicle collided with an IED in Kirkuk, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Jeannettee Dunn, 44 (female)
Casualty Date:
June 9, 2006
Dunn died of a non-combat injury in Taji, Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Whyte, 21
Casualty Date:
June 21, 2006
Whyte died as a result of combat operations in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Army Spc. Collin Mason, 20 Casualty Date: July 2, 2006
Mason died from indirect fire in Taji, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Irving Hernandez, 28
Casualty Date:
July 12, 2006
Hernandez died as a result of small arms fire in Mosul, Iraq.

Marine Cpl. Julian Ramon, 22
Casualty Date:
July 20, 2006
Ramon died as a result of combat operations in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Army Spc. Hai Ming Hsia, 37
Casualty Date: Aug. 1, 2006
Hsia died as a result of combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Glover, 28
Casualty Date:
Aug. 16, 2006
Glover died during combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq.

Marine Capt. John McKenna, 30
Casualty Date:
Aug. 16, 2006
McKenna died during combat operation in Fallujah, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Mario Nelson, 26
Casualty Date:
Oct. 1, 2006
Nelson died from a rocket propelled grenade in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Denise Lannaman, 46 (female)
Casualty Date:
Oct. 1, 2006
Died from a non-combat incident in Kuwait.

Army First Sgt. Schuyler Haynes, 40
Casualty Date: Nov. 15 2006
Haynes died from IED explosion in Baqubah, Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Angel Ramirez, 28
Casualty Date:
Feb. 21, 2007
Ramirez died from non-combat incident in Al Qaim, Iraq.

Army Spc. Michael Rivera, 22
Casualty Date:
March 7, 2007
Rivera died when an IED detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad.

Army Spc. Brian Ritzberg, 24
Casualty Date:
April 2, 2007
Ritzberg died from an IED explosion in Kirkuk, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Kimel Watt, 21
Casualty Date: June 3, 2007
Watt died when an IED detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Alphonso Montenegro, 22
Casualty Date:
June 21, 2007
Montenegro died when IED detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Pfc. Le Ron Wilson, 18
Casualty Date:
July 6, 2007
Wilson died when an IED exploded near his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq.

Navy Petty Officer Joseph Alomar, 22
Casualty Date:
July 17, 2007
Alomar died as a result of non-combat incident in Camp Bucca, Iraq.

Army Cpl. Juan Alcantra, 22
Casualty Date:
Aug. 6, 2007
Alcantra died as result of an IED explosion in Baqubah, Iraq.

Army Cpl. Jonathan Rivadeneira, 22
Casualty Date:
Sept. 14, 2007
Rivadeneira died as a result of an IED explosion in Mugdadiyah, Iraq.

Army Sgt. Chirasak Vidhyarkorn, 32
Casualty Date:
Sept. 29, 2007
Vidhyarkorn died of non-combat injuries in Diwanihay, Iraq.

Army Sgt. John Linde, 30
Casualty Date:
Nov. 5, 2007
Linde died after an IED exploded near his vehicle in Tal Al-Dahab, Iraq.

Army Pvt. Issac Cortes, 26
Casualty Date:
Nov. 27, 2007
Cortes died when an IED exploded near his vehicle in Amerli, Iraq.


Baltimore Casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom

These 18 residents of Baltimore gave their lives serving their country in the first five years of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Marine Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Watersbey, 29
Casualty Date:
March 20, 2003
Watersbey died aboard a helicopter that crashed in Kuwait.


Seaman Jakia Sheree Cannon, 20
Casualty Date:
Oct. 25, 2003
Cannon died of non-combat natural causes aboard U.S.S. Enterprise in the Arabian Sea.


Command Sgt. Maj. Cornell Gilmore, 45
Casualty Date:
Nov. 7, 2003
Died when his helicopter was shot down in Tikrit, Iraq.


Army Staff Sgt. James Pettaway, 37
Casualty Date:
Oct. 3 2004
Pettaway died from a motor vehicle accident in Fallujah, Iraq .


Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick Adle, 21
Casualty Date:
June 29, 2004
Adle died from roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq.


Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Starr, 21
Casualty Date:
Jan. 26, 2005
Starr died as a result of a helicopter crash in Rutbah, Iraq.


Army First Sgt. Neil Prince, 35
Casualty Date:
June 11, 2005
Prince died when an IED exploded near this vehicle in Taqqadum, Iraq.

Army Spc. Brian Conner, 36
Casualty Date:
Oct. 14, 2005
Conner died when a convoy accident caused ammunition to detonate in Taji, Iraq.

Army Cpl. Bernard Ceo, 23
Casualty Date:
Oct. 14, 2005
Ceo died when a convoy accident caused ammunition to detonate in Taji, Iraq .


Army Staff Sgt. Marion Flint, 29
Casualty Date:
May 15, 2006
Flint died when an IED exploded near his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq .


Army Spc. Michael Potocki, 21
Casualty Date:
June 26, 2006
Potocki died after his unit came into contact with small arms fire in Al Asad, Iraq .


Army Staff Sgt. Marlon Harper, 34
Casualty Date:
April 21, 2007
Harper was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms attack in Baghdad, Iraq .


Army Staff Sgt. Jay Martin, 29
Casualty Date:
April 29, 2007
Martin died when an IED exploded near his unit in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Pfc. Jonathan Hamm, 20
Casualty Date:
May 17, 2007
Hamm was hit with "indirect enemy fire" in Baghdad, Iraq.

Army Spc. Casey Nash, 22
Casualty Date:
May 18, 2007
Nash was killed by an IED explosion in Tahrir, Iraq.

Army First Sgt. Robert Dunham, 36
Casualty Date:
May 24, 2007
Dunham died when his vehicle struck an IED near Baghdad, Iraq.

Marine Staff Sgt. Dwayne Williams, 28
Casualty Date:
Aug. 24 2006
Williams was killed by an IED explosion in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Army Staff. Sgt. Christopher Moudry, 31
Casualty Date:
Oct. 4, 2006
Moudry died from small arms fire in Taji, Iraq.




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