Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Dear Family & Friends,
It is with great sorrow that I want to inform you of the deaths in combat of two of our great team members, Master Sergeant Scott Ball and Sergeant Jan Argonish during a patrol in Kunar Province yesterday.
MSG Ball is survived by his wife, Leslie, his son, Tyler (10 years old), and daughter, Allie (6 years old). He was constantly thinking about them. When we were at Fort Riley, the guys called him "Clark Griswold" after the character in the "Vacation" movies because he was always walking around taking pictures to send home. Since arriving in Afghanistan, he also must have doubled the business at the Camp Darulaman bazaar with all the things he bought to send back to his family.
Scott was very proud to be a motorcycle trooper in the State Police, but his ambition was to earn his pilot's license so that he could fly for the force after we got back. Despite urging from people like me that the Guard needed great leaders like him, Scott was going to retire from the military upon our return to focus on his family and flying career. He had certainly done his duty to our country, having previously served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division during DESERT STORM and a deployment with the PA Guard to Europe to provide force protection for US facilities immediately after 9/11.
SGT Argonish is survived by his young son, Jakub (8 years old), his parents and a loving family. Argo will also be deeply missed by Talia, whom he was very much in love with. He would proudly let us listen to Talia's music on his iPod while showing us pictures of Jakub and his "monster" pickup truck. While he was a very dedicated and skilled Soldier, Argo was also quite the subtle clown too. For instance, in the warren of bunks and wall lockers that we lived in at Fort Riley, the guys would start games of "Argo Polo" with him and he always played along. He loved to make people laugh as much as Scott loved to laugh.
Although a traditional Guardsman, this was Argo's second deployment since he was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom-II. During that mission, he put his skills as a Federal Prison Guard to good use when he was part of the company from the 28th Infantry Division that guarded Saddam Hussein and his fellow war criminals. Sadly, Argo had made a deal with his son that this was going to be his last deployment, and he was looking forward to working on his pickup, fishing with his son, and spending more time with his loved ones.
Both were outstanding in their roles as mentors, and had been making a big difference over here. We used to joke with MSG Ball about all the improvements that he had made to Camp Faez, that we should start calling it "Ball-istan." SGT Argo had been learning Pashto while training the ANA mechanics.
Both also strongly believed in what they were doing. This is a truly war of good versus evil, and Scott and Jan were most assuredly two of the best good guys. I am convinced that we will be victorious in this struggle due to the service, courage and sacrifice of men like them. They remain an inspiration to us who remain, we are very proud to have served with them.
At this point, their families have been informed and the Casualty Assistance process and their mourning have started. Please keep them in your thoughts and intentions, but please give them some time for now. An announcement regarding the fallen will be made by the Pennsylvania National Guard later today.
Because they were so loved, everyone here is in mourning—US, ANA and even the interpreters—so I ask you to lend your support and prayers to your Soldier and the rest of the Pennsylvanians as we carry on. Despite our pain, everyone recognizes that the job is still not done until the rest of us are safely home with you. We plan on holding a memorial service for our heroic comrades this Friday at Camp Faez.
...edited to exclude phone numbers....
GEORGE M. SCHWARTZ
Team Leader/Senior Mentor
1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)