ALAMOGORDO, NM, USA U.S. Army SGT, COMPANY B, 1ST BATTALION, 21ST INFANTRY, 2 BCT, SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, HI TAJI, IRAQ 02/08/2008
A soldier with ties to Tucson was killed in Iraq earlier this month by a roadside bomb, officials confirmed on Monday.
Army Sergeant Gary D. Willett, 34, whose parents live in Tucson, died on Feb. 8 along with three other soldiers when the roadside bomb struck their Stryker combat vehicle, said Lt. Daniel O’Connor, a member of Willett’s unit.
Several other soldiers were injured in the blast, which occurred in Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad. Willett was a member of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
When Defense Department officials identified Willett last week, they listed his hometown as Alamogordo, N.M. Willett’s former wife and his son live in Alamogordo, according to a report in the Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News.
New Mexico was his home, though he often used leave time to visit his parents in Tucson, where they moved in 2002, O’Connor said. Family members declined an interview request through O’Connor, who is in Tucson this week to help with Willett’s memorial services.
Willett served as a squad leader assigned to 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, in the unit. He was a dedicated soldier who looked out for the troops he commanded, O’Connor said.
“The example he set for other soldiers was second to none,” O’Connor said. “He loved the Army, and he loved his job. He died doing what he loved.”
Willett enlisted in the Army in 1995 and was serving his second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom when he was killed, O’Connor said.