Patriot Brigade honored two of its fallen heroes in separate ceremonies on two combat outposts in Afghanistan earlier this month.


Patriot Brigade honored two of its fallen heroes in separate ceremonies on two combat outposts in Afghanistan earlier this month.
Pfc. Jonathan M. Villanueva's leaders and comrades gathered to honor their fallen 19-year-old infantry brother's service and sacrifice on Combat Outpost Sultan Khel in Wardak Province.
Villanueva was an infantryman from Jacksonville, Fla. assigned to 4th Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division's Task Force Warrior. He died from wounds suffered from small-arms fire during an enemy engagement while providing security at a traffic control point in Wardak Province April 27.
Lt. Col. Thomas Rickard, TF Warrior commander, said Villanueva came from a strong, patriotic family – a family whose only two sons served in the nation's Army during a time of war. Villanueva's brother, Spc. Diego Villanueva, is deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, explained Rickard before asking, "How many families could suffer such a loss and have the faith to make the following statements earlier this week:
"'Becoming a soldier was a dream of his when he was younger. Jonathan left this world doing what he loved. His death, along with the other service men and women who have lost their lives since the Sept. 11 tragedy, were not in vain,'" read Rickard from a Villanueva family
statement. "'Their efforts, combined, helped put an end to the evil of Bin Laden. 
We were always very proud of Jonathan for his accomplishments, and we will continue to be very proud. Jonathan loved his job, uniform and country. He loved his family and friends. He lives within our hearts, and we will never forget the joy he has brought us. He will always be
remembered as a true friend, a great son, a loyal brother and a hero to all.'"
Rickard said Villanueva's leaders and comrades are blessed to have served with such a man and are grateful for families like the Villanueva's. His family's unyielding support motivates the unit's soldiers to remember Villanueva by continuing with their mission.
"We can learn much from the example of the Villanueva family, who believe strongly in our cause as they endure the pain of losing their son," said Rickard.
"We who serve today are part of the most powerful family on this planet, as soldiers in the greatest Army the world has ever seen. We respect every soldier in harm's way who knows well the risks of our profession, the complexities of conducting counter-insurgency warfare and the frustration of fighting an enemy who tests us by attacking our moral obligations, from which he is unrestrained."
Capt. James Gallagher, Company D commander, said TF Warrior honors Villanueva's wartime service to the nation, respects his bravery during multiple enemy engagements and remembers him for being a wonderful human being.
"Jonathan was everything a company commander could want from a soldier," said Gallagher. "He was tough, motivated and selfless; he was a fine professional and a dedicated warrior.
"Losing 'Villa,' as we call him, has been tough on all of us, and we will always keep him in our memory for who he was and how he died -- serving his country during war," continued Gallagher. "We will always remember Jonathan was a good man, a role model to his fellow soldiers and a good friend."
Pfc. Andrew Marcum, Villanueva's Co D brother in arms, said they were very good friends. They experienced basic combat training and airborne school together and often socialized together after work hours, he said. 
"'V' was a pretty laid back guy, and you would usually catch him sleeping, eating or just watching something on his laptop; but as most of our platoon knows, mostly he would just sleep," joked Marcum.  
Marcum said Villanueva planned to re-enlist to attend Ranger school and go on to an assignment at a Ranger battalion. Had Villanueva been able to pursue his plans, he most likely would have successfully fulfilled his dreams, said Marcum.
"There is no doubt in my mind that he would be able to make it through anything put in front of him, but that is just the guy he was," said Marcum. "He wasn't just a good soldier though; he was also a very good friend. Anytime someone needed something, if he had it, he would help us out.
"Anytime someone had a problem he would be there for us," continued Marcum. "He was just the kind of guy you were always able to count on - no matter what - when you needed him."
Marcum and Villanueva used to tell each other they are "Brothers for life, in this life or the next," said Marcum. "That will always stand true; and even though he may be gone, he will never be forgotten by any of us."
Gallagher said Villanueva was an "ideal American" who was young, idealistic, brave and willing to risk his life every day for the safety of the United States, just like so many of his comrades who gathered to honor and pay respects to Villanueva that day.
"We owe it to his family and our fellow Americans back home to always honor his memory," said Gallagher. "We owe it to tell our countrymen about his sacrifice and about who he was as a man. He was soft spoken, kind, tenacious in battle and a personal example of what makes our country great."
Villanueva's awards and decorations include the following: Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghan Campaign Medal, with one campaign star; Global War on Terror Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Overseas Service Ribbon; and Combat Infantryman Badge.
Leaders and comrades of Staff Sgt. Matthew D. Hermanson gathered to honor the fallen infantry non-commissioned officer, remembered as a patriotic and determined leader, on Combat Outpost Jaghato, May 7.
Hermanson was a 22-year-old infantry NCO from Appleton, Wis. assigned to 1st Platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division's Task Force Warrior. Posthumously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant, he died as the result of wounds suffered from small-arms fire during an enemy
engagement while on a patrol to secure friendly forces and the Jaghato district center in Wardak Province April 28.
"The brotherhood of those who have fought together is one of the strongest bonds we may ever know. It transcends race, creed and even nationality," said Capt. Keith Kacmar, TF Warrior's Company A commander. "When it comes down to it, the most important thing that we fight for is each other."
Kacmar said Hermanson was one of the finest NCOs with whom he has ever had the pleasure of serving. Hermanson voluntarily extended his military service to stay in the Army so he could deploy and fight next to his brothers, he said.
"He stayed so that he could serve his men as their squad leader. He always took the time to train and educate his men, and he motivated them to better themselves every day," said Kacmar. "His service is an example of what makes our Army and our nation great."
Hermanson was everything a commander could want in an NCO -- a true professional who was an expert in his weapons systems and employing his squad, said Kacmar. Co A NCOs such as Hermanson and his comrades are the backbone of the company who affect the lives and welfare of dozens of men for the better and play key roles in mission success, he said.
There was more to Hermanson than being a great NCO and soldier, said Kacmar. Family and friends meant a lot to him too.
"Matthew was also a devoted husband who loved his wife, Rachel, deeply and a friend to everyone who knew him," said Kacmar. "His bright personality could lighten any mood, and he cared for his soldiers. Matt made the ultimate sacrifice for his brothers in arms, and we will never forget how much we owe him."
Staff Sgt. Zachary Pryor, Company A, called Hermanson an all-around great guy to know. All of his soldiers liked and respected Hermanson, who really enjoyed his profession, he said.
"His squad's well-being was one of the most important things to him," said Pryor. "And, you could tell that he enjoyed being around them as much as they enjoyed having him as a leader."
When Hermanson talked about leaving the Army, Pryor said he tried everything he could to convince him to stay, telling Hermanson he was much too good of a leader to get out.
Pryor said he had the pleasure of working with Hermanson -- one of the hardest workers he has ever known -- while deployed to Iraq in 2008. 
"Some of my favorite memories of Sergeant Hermanson were the times that he would come into my room in the middle of the night and wake me up while in Iraq," said Pryor. "I would sit up on my bed and ask what is wrong. He would just look at me and say, 'I just wanted you to know I am going to Tower One to go on guard.'
"I would ask if that is all he woke me up for," continued Pryor. "He would look at me, give me that Sergeant Hermanson smile, say, 'Yep' and walk out."
Pryor relayed a story about Hermanson taping a Fisher Price toy flashlight to a squad leader's M4 rifle just before a mission. Pryor recalled how everyone in the squad thought it was so funny, except for the squad leader, of course.
"I remember there was so much tape that it took him 20 minutes just to get the tape off, that is after going on the mission with it like that," said Pryor.
Pryor said Hermanson was a huge Green Bay Packers fans, just as he is. The Packers Super Bowl victory this year was very exciting for them, and they talked about the game for weeks before and a week after the event, he said.
Knowing him as a leader, soldier and, most importantly, as a friend, Pryor said working with Hermanson was one of the greatest honors he has ever had. Hermanson was the kind of man who would do anything for anyone, he said.
"You will always be our brother in arms and one of the greatest soldiers and leaders we have ever had the honor to work with," said Pryor. "I will see you again someday; and when I do, I promise to show up wearing a 'Cheese Hat' just for you."
Hermanson's awards and decorations include the following: Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghan Campaign Medal, with one campaign star; Global War on Terror Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Overseas Service Ribbon; and Combat Infantryman Badge.