Armed Forces Day
In honor of Armed Forces Day on May 17, The Times invites the Island community to join a grateful nation in remembering and thanking those who are serving in the military - on active duty, in the reserves, or in the National Guard. Friends and family members recently provided updates about Islanders in service.
Staff Sergeant Michael Blake, U.S. Army
Sergeant Blake started his third tour of 15 months in Iraq in February, assigned with an infantry division of the U.S. Army's 1st Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division in Baghdad. On March 25, he was traveling as a scout section sergeant in a convoy bound for port operations in Kuwait, and helped save a critically injured U.S. Army civilian contractor involved in a head-on collision on a main supply route in the Udairi Desert.
Sgt. Travis Bissey, U.S. Army
Sergeant Bissey of Vineyard Haven was deployed for a second tour in Iraq last month as a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, along with his long-time friend, Sgt. Jared Meader, also of Vineyard Haven. He and Sgt. Meader met while serving in the Marine Corps together and he moved to the Vineyard after getting out of the Marines. The two of them signed up for the Guard at the same time and were deployed to Iraq in 2004 for 14 months. Sergeant Bissey currently is training at Fort Bragg, N.C., before shipping out next month to Iraq, as is Sgt. Meader.
BM1 Jordan E. Baptiste, U.S. Coast Guard
Boatswain's Mate Baptiste is stationed in Pascagoula, Miss., as part of a pre-commissioning crew for the USCGC Bertholf, the Coast Guard's first national security cutter. The Coast Guard accepted delivery of the ship last week at Northrop Grumman Shipyard. The Bertholf is part of the Coast Guard's Deepwater modernization program, which ties into the Rescue 21 systems that utilizes radio towers such as the one that will be installed on Peaked Hill in Chilmark. After training and qualification, Boatswain's Mate Baptiste and the crew will deliver the Bertholf via the Panama Canal to its homeport of Alameda, Calif., for a commissioning ceremony on August 4. In addition to his Coast Guard duties, Boatswain's Mate Baptiste is taking classes through Columbia College to finish his B.S. in business administration, majoring in marketing. He grew up in Vineyard Haven and graduated from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS).
Lt. Mason Berry, U.S. Navy
Lieutenant Berry, a 2004 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is a Navy pilot stationed in Guam with HSC 25, a helicopter squadron recently deployed with the Kitty Hawk battle group in the Pacific. Lieutenant Berry flies the MH 60 Sierra Knighthawk. He completed one rescue mission out of Guam for a downed plane and found the pilots. In June, Lieutenant Berry will be deployed to Kuwait to fly medical evacuations out of Iraq, likely from the Basra area. He recently spent a month in desert tactical training in Kuwait before returning to Guam to await official deployment. The lieutenant is the son of Peyton and Andrew Berry of Vineyard Haven.
Specialist J.N. Christopher Brown, U. S. Army
Specialist Brown continues to serve in the Massachusetts National Guard, after completing an 18-month tour of duty last November in Kosovo on a peacekeeping mission with United Nations' forces. While serving in Kosovo as a Squad Automatic Weapon gunner, he received the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious achievement as a combat lifesaver for caring for and treating three Ukrainians severely injured in a vehicle rollover. A 2003 Martha's Vineyard Regional High School graduate, he resumed his studies at Westfield State University in January and finishes his spring semester this week. He will return to the Island for the summer to work as a Chilmark special police officer and to enjoy time with his parents, Deb and Jim, in Oak Bluffs.
Specialist Daniel Blake II, U.S. Army
Specialist Blake is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. In October 2007 while serving in Afghanistan with the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry, 82nd Airborne Division, he was injured when a rocket-propelled grenade struck a vehicle in a convoy he was riding in. After undergoing treatment in Texas, Specialist Blake recovered from his injuries. His brother Michael, whose update follows, also serves in the Army. The sons of Bertha and Daniel Blake, they grew up in Oak Bluffs, along with their other brother Aaron, and graduated from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.
Cpl. Christopher Leigh Clark, U.S. Marine Corps
Corporal Clark, the son of Richard Clark and Nancy Gardella of Vineyard Haven, returned safely to Camp Pendleton, Calif., last month after a seven-month tour in Iraq. He finished his five-year commitment to the Marine Corps at the end of April and is continuing to take college courses online. He and his wife, Librada "Lilly" Garza, and two young sons, Corbyn and Dominic, plan to live in Rockford, Ill., but will spend the summer on Martha's Vineyard with Ms. Gardella.
Spc. Justin P. Cusick, U.S. Army
Specialist Cusick will complete a one-year tour in Kuwait as a member of a transportation terminal battalion and return to Fort Bragg, N.C., in June. While in Kuwait, his unit planned and implemented the transportation and unloading of military equipment including tanks, vehicles, and other supplies from large freighters. Specialist Cusick has served as his commander's driver and also tracked the unloading of military materials by computer. His sister, Dukes County executive assistant Jennifer Randolph, said he is looking forward to visiting the Island, where he is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head-(Aquinnah). He recently became engaged to his girlfriend, Kacey Reed, who also serves in his unit.
Staff Sgt. Randy Dull, U.S. Army
Sergeant Dull grew up on the Island and graduated from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in 2000. After serving a tour in Kosovo, he is now on his second tour of duty in Iraq serving in an Army infantry branch. His sister Jeanette Andrews said he has been managing the shipment of cargo going to Iraq and training new soldiers to take over their posts. Although injured twice in wartime service, once in a Hummer hit by a roadside bomb, he made a good recovery. Ms. Andrews said he hopes to be home for a visit to the Island in September.
1st Lt. James Hagerty, U.S. Marine Corps
1st Lt James M.C. Hagerty, USMC, Infantry Platoon Commander, returned home to the States after a 10-month tour of Iraq and is stationed at Camp Lejeuene, N.C. Lieutenant Hagerty, a 2001 Martha's Vineyard Regional High School graduate, grew up in Edgartown. He is the son of Barry Nevin of Edgartown and Robert Hagerty of Vineyard Haven.
Capt. Ron MacLaren, U.S. Naval Reserves
Captain MacLaren returns to Norfolk, Va., this weekend after serving in Kuwait since last November as the Commander of the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Forward GOLF, assisting the U.S. Army in a shore-type mission to provide customs and cargo handling. Captain MacLaren has to out-process more than 700 crew members before heading back to the Island on May 25 and returning to his job as the Wampanoag health director.
Sgt. Daniel E. Dunlap, U.S. Army
Sergeant Dunlap of Oak Bluffs is serving with a military police company attached to the New Hampshire National Guard on a one-year tour in Baghdad that ends in June. As a military police officer, he is helping the Iraqi police force train its officers, and has spent many missions patrolling the streets in Baghdad. His military police company has lost five men in the past three months. Annette Anthony of Vineyard Haven relayed his message that he is doing okay and sends thanks and gratitude to Islanders for all their support with cards, letters, emails, supplies, and prayers. He looks forward to returning home to his 15-year-old son, Luke, and his wife, Luane.
Sgt. 1st Class Gilbert (Pete) Forend, U.S. Army
Sergeant Forend, the Oak Bluffs Fire Chief, continues to serve in the Army National Guard, after completing a 15-month tour in Kuwait in 2006 as the fire chief to the 3rd-126th Aviation, Blackhawk helicopter unit, out of Camp Edwards on Cape Cod. He left that unit and joined the Camp Edwards Range Control, where he now is in charge of range maintenance. The new job is more flexible, allowing Sergeant Forend to set his once-a-month Guard weekend drill schedule around his fire chief duties and his job at Bruno's. Although he could retire at any time from the Guard, he says he still enjoys serving and could stay in for up to 10 more years.
He and his wife Terrie, who live in Oak Bluffs, have two sons who also serve in the military. Brian Hawes is an Aviation Boatswain's Mate assigned to the USS Enterprise, a nuclear aircraft carrier based in Norfolk. He has been deployed to the Gulf twice aboard the Enterprise, the last time coinciding with Captain MacLaren's tour. Although they did not meet up, Captain MacLaren could see his son's ship as he went in and out of the harbor. Son Brett MacLaren is a Navy Ensign attending nuclear submarine school in South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Jared A. Meader, U.S. Army
Sergeant Meader of Vineyard Haven left for a second tour to Iraq last month, deployed as a member of the Massachusetts National Guard along with his friend, Sergeant Bissey. They currently are in training at Fort Bragg, N.C., and will ship out next month to Iraq. During Sergeant Meader's first 14-month deployment starting in March 2003, he served in a water purification unit in Iraq in Ramadi for nine months, then went to Habinyah where he was in charge of a site. This time, Sergeant Meader is assigned to a support battalion as part of a military transition team to help train Iraqi soldiers. As a civilian, he works as a Deputy Sheriff with the rank of sergeant in the Dukes County Jail and House of Correction.
Cpl. Duncan MacMullen, U.S. Marine Corps
Corporal MacMullen is stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he serves as a mechanic in a maintenance battalion. Last September he returned from a seven-month tour In Iraq at Camp Al Taqaddum, located approximately 46 miles west of Baghdad. A 2004 Martha's Vineyard Regional High School graduate, he is the son of Nancy MacMullen, who owns the Cobbler Shop in Oak Bluffs.
Staff Sgt. Richard Monaco, U.S. Army
Sergeant Monaco, a reservist for more than 27 years, is currently stationed at Forward Operating Base Falcon in Iraq. In April he was riding in a three-truck convoy hit by a bomb known as an "EFP" (explosively formed penetrator) and sustained a shoulder injury from shrapnel. His driver and another soldier in the vehicle were killed. Sergeant Monaco also spent a year in Iraq from 2005 to 2006 with a Massachusetts-based reserve unit in a transportation company stationed at Balad Airbase, and Al Asad Airbase. "From 2005 to July 2008, I have only been home to support my family for nine months," he wrote in a recent email, adding, "I have the best wife in the world." He credited Muriel, who works at Martha's Vineyard Hospital, with keeping their family together, and taking good care of their daughter Felicia, as well as the family's many animals. As a civilian, Sergeant Monaco works for Tisbury's department of public works.
FN Ryan D. Rossi, U.S. Coast Guard
Fireman (FN) Ryan Rossi is serving aboard the USCGC Morganthau, a 378-foot high endurance cutter based out of Alameda, Calif. The Morganthau departed from California on April 28 on a six-month deployment to Southeast Asia. The 179-member crew will participate in international training exercises, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training and South East Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism. The host countries will be Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. FN Rossi is the son of Daniel and Jane Rossi of West Tisbury. After graduating from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in 2005, he attending UMass-Dartmouth for one year and then joined the Coast Guard.
Lance Cpl. Anthony M. Sullo, U.S. Marine Corps
Corporal Sullo is heading back to the States this week to Camp Lejeune, N.C., after finishing a seven-month tour in Kuwait where he was deployed to patrol along the Iraq/Syrian border. Corporal Sullo, a 2006 graduate of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, plans to return to the Island on May 23 for a three-week visit, arriving just in time for his sister Gabrielle's graduation party. In February 2009 he will be deployed to Afghanistan.
EOCN Craig Sylvia, U.S. Navy
EOCN Sylvia of Oak Bluffs is currently serving a six-month tour of duty with his construction battalion in Ramadi, Iraq and expects to return to Port Hueneme, Calif., in October. He will be returning to the Island on leave for Christmas, according to his sister, Ariel Thomas.
AMAN Leigh D. Sylvia, U.S. Navy
AMAN Sylvia, Craig's and Ariel's brother, is currently stationed in Brunswick, Maine, working as an aircraft structural mechanic.
Cpl. Craig Torres, U.S. Marines Corps
Corporal Torres returned to San Diego last month where he is repairing computers in jet fighters, after serving a tour in Djibouti, Africa, on border patrol. An Island summer resident for many years, he plans to visit Martha's Vineyard while on leave next month and catch up with his aunt and uncle, Maribeth and Bob Priore of Vineyard Haven, who have not seen him since 2004.
PFC Jack Vanbourgondien, U.S. Marine Corps
PFC Vanbourgondien is stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He was born on Martha's Vineyard and is the son of Roma Jean Marshall of Hyannis and Jack Vanbourgondien, who lives in Colorado. He lived with his grandmother Clara Marshall and uncle Daniel Marshall while growing up in Oak Bluffs, and graduated in 2007 from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.
Lt. Col. Andre L. Mercier, U.S. Marine Corps
Colonel Mercier grew up in Edgartown and graduated from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in 1985. He joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He has served for 18 years as a navigator and flew in the EA-6B, the "Prowler." His tours of duty included service in Afghanistan and Bosnia. Currently Colonel Mercier is working in Crystal City, Va., on a multi-service project to build the Joint Strike Fighter for the Marines, Navy, and Air Force.
Due to security concerns, the Department of Defense asks that the addresses of military personnel, especially those who are deployed overseas, not be published. For contact information, call Dukes County Veterans Agent Jo Ann Murphy at 508-693-6887.