A holiday update of Islanders in Service
Photo courtesy of Marie Baldwin
Many Islanders' family members in military service, whether on duty stateside or overseas, did not get home for the holidays.
In appreciation for their service to their country and to let them know they are remembered, The Times invited their families and friends to provide an update on their whereabouts for the community.
PVT2 Joseph Baldwin, USA
PVT2 Baldwin was deployed to FOB Warhorse, Iraq, in the Diyala Province on a one-year tour last July. He serves with the 66th Engineer Co., 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Stryker), 25th Infantry Division, from Schofield Barracks, Honolulu, Hawaii. His company is part of the Advise and Assist Brigade of Operation New Dawn, launched September 1 to train and assist the Iraqi military in preparation for U.S. troop withdrawal. PVT2 Baldwin participated in the Quick Reaction Force mission for five months to assist soldiers engaged in combat with the enemy, for which he and 12 others in his unit received a Combat Action Badge in October. He and his platoon also worked in explosive ordnance demolition with Navy personnel, finding and destroying explosives hidden by insurgents. PVT2 Baldwin is the son of Marie Baldwin of West Tisbury. He graduated from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) in 2006 and joined the Army in January 2010. His wife Raquel awaits his return in July 2011 in Hawaii.
Staff Sergeant Michael Blake, USA
SSG Michael Blake is on his fourth tour in Iraq, stationed in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq. He currently serves as Senior Scout in the 1st Platoon, Apache Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th United States Cavalry. SSG Blake and his platoon assist, train, and advise the 2nd Iraqi Army Division in reconnaissance, surveillance, and security techniques. He and his squadron are scheduled to return to Fort Hood, Texas, in September 2011. SSG Blake and his brother Michael, who also serves in the Army, are the sons of Bertha and Daniel Blake. They grew up in Oak Bluffs, along with their other brother Aaron, and graduated from MVRHS.
Sgt. J. N. Christopher (Chris) Brown, USA
Sgt. Brown is serving with the Army 181st Infantry at a forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan. He is midway through a one-year deployment as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Kunar province. He also previously served an 18-month tour of duty in Kosovo on a peacekeeping mission with United Nations' forces, for which he received the Army Commendation Medal in November 2007 for meritorious achievement as a combat lifesaver. Sgt. Brown attended Oak Bluffs School and graduated from MVRHS in 2003. He joined the Army National Guard and was called up for active duty the summer of 2006 while working as a Chilmark special police officer. He is the son of Jim and Deb Brown, an Oak Bluffs School teacher.
Lieutenant Jr. Grade Elise Chapdelaine, USN
LTJG Chapdelaine was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in mid-December for a six- to nine-month tour. She currently serves as an assistant company commander to a Naval Mobil Construction Battalion (Seabees) in Kandahar. Her parents, Joan and Harold Chapdelaine of Vineyard Haven, said that when their daughter learned that the battalion would not have access to hot meals for Christmas, she personally ordered a George Foreman grill that could operate off of a portable generator and mobilized her family to send enough pancake mix, syrup and sausage to provide Christmas breakfast for 50. LTJG Chapdelaine is a 2002 graduate of MVRHS and 2007 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Corey Alexander Tara Clark, USCG
AT2 Clark served in the U.S. Navy for 8 years as an aviation electrician and transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard about 4 years ago. He currently is stationed at the Federal Aviation Administration Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J. AT2 Clark works on avionics systems and as an operator/communications assistant on H-65 Dolphin helicopters that conduct search and rescue operations from southern Connecticut to Maryland. He also serves aboard aircraft deployed by the National Capital Region - Air Defense Force to protect the no-fly zone around the U.S. Capitol, the White House, and the Pentagon. AT2 Clark graduated with honors from MVRHS in 1994 as "Alex Tara." He is the father of Corinne Clark, age 9, and the son of Annette Sandrock, a teacher at MVRHS.
Seaman Apprentice Johnathon Goeckel, USCG
SA Goeckel joined the Coast Guard last July and graduated from boot camp at Cape May, N.J., in September. He is currently serving as a Seaman Apprentice on the buoy tender Marcus Hannah, based in South Portland, Me. The Marcus Hannah regularly sails the waters from Boston up to the Maine coast. SA Goeckel grew up on Martha's Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS in 2005. He is the son of Hans Goeckel and Judith Pfeiffer of Edgartown.
Col. Michael Halt, USMC
Col. Halt was deployed to Afghanistan for a 15-month tour last January and took a leave of absence from his job as principal of West Tisbury School. He currently is stationed in Kabul as the Senior Marine Liaison Officer, where he works closely with the NATO staff at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command (IJC). At IJC Col. Halt represents Lt. Gen. Richard Mills and the 19,000 Marines who are conducting counter-insurgency operations in the Helmand Province. He expects to return home and to his civilian duties in April.
Corporal Benjamin J. Lapierre, USMC
Cpl. Lapierre serves as a rifle marksmanship and weapons instructor stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Born on Martha's Vineyard, he attended Island schools and graduated from MVRHS in 2007. Cpl. Lapierre headed into the Marine Corps shortly after graduation and earned distinction as an "expert shooter" with a pistol and rifle upon graduation from recruit training at Parris Island, S.C. As a long-time participant in the Big Brothers program on Martha's Vineyard, he continues to keep in touch with his "little brother" of more than 15 years. Cpl. Lapierre's family includes his mom, Teri Culletto of Tisbury, who works at Martha's Vineyard Hospital, and brothers Camden, Jake, and Gordon.
Specialist Wender S. Ramos, USA
SPC Ramos is stationed in Germany on a three-year tour of duty as a mechanic whose specialty is the service and repair of Chinook helicopters used in Afghanistan and Iraq. SPC Ramos attended grade 8 at Edgartown School and graduated from MVRHS in 1999. He earned a B.S. degree in aviation sciences from Bridgewater State College in 2006. SPC Ramos is the son of Geralda Silva of Oak Bluffs, who works at Martha's Vineyard Hospital, and the brother of Viviane.
Machinery Technician 3rd class Ryan D. Rossi, USCG
MK3 Rossi is currently stationed at Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet, N.C. He previously served aboard the USCGC Greenbriar, a 95-foot cutter used to monitor and maintain aids to navigation along 630 miles of the lower Mississippi River, based out of Natchez, Miss. MK3 Rossi is the son of West Tisbury Police Chief Daniel Rossi and his wife Jane. He graduated from MVRHS in 2005 and attended UMass-Dartmouth for one year before joining the Coast Guard.
Pvt. Tim Silvia, USA
Pvt. Silvia is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., with the 82nd Airborne, with military occupation specialties in artillery and airborne. He recently participated in a "best of the best" field artillery competition at Fort Bragg with his section, 1/319 AFAR, which won the highest Army physical fitness test score average. Pvt. Silvia is a 2002 graduate of MVRHS and the son of Cindy and TM Silvia III of Vineyard Haven.
Major Sean M. Smith, USA
Maj. Smith completed a tour of duty at Bagram Airbase as the senior representative in Afghanistan for the U.S. Army Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors Program. After assignment to Fort Monmouth, N.J., and duty at the Pentagon with the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, Maj. Smith was selected to be the executive officer for the commanding general, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Maj. Smith is the son of Mike and Lucie Smith of Edgartown.
Sgt. Christopher L. Willis, USA
Sgt. Willis currently is deployed on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan with the C Co., 1-181 Infantry, in the Paktika Province. He also served two tours in Iraq. Sgt. Willis grew up in Oak Bluffs and graduated from MVRHS in 1998. He joined the Massachusetts Army National Guard before enrolling in college, and was called up in 2002 to serve as an MP in Afghanistan for a year. In July 2007 he was deployed to Iraq with an Army National Guard unit out of Cambridge. As a military police officer with the 772nd Military Police Company, a Taunton-based Massachusetts Army National Guard company, Sgt. Willis trained Iraqi police officers and security personnel on his second tour in Iraq.
Lieutenant Mason Berry, USN
Lt. Berry is currently a flight instructor at Naval Air Station Coronado in San Diego. After a three-year stint in Guam that included two deployments to the South Pacific fleet and one deployment to Iraq/Kuwait as a medical evacuation pilot, he was assigned to San Diego for three years. He flies the MH-60 Sierra Nighthawk helicopter and has flown ship-to-ship missions as well as missions in the desert. Lt. Berry, a 2004 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was recently recommended for early promotion to Lieutenant Commander. He is the son of Peyton and Andrew Berry of Vineyard Haven.
Specialist Daniel Blake II, USA
SPC Blake returned to the States in July after a 12-month tour in Iraq with the 14th Military Intelligence Battalion from Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Tex. His brother Michael also serves in the Army. Their parents are Bertha and Daniel Blake. They grew up in Oak Bluffs, along with their other brother Aaron, and graduated from MVRHS.
Special Agent Jason S. Canha, USAF
Special Agent Canha is assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Patrick Air Force Base. Last May he received a Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service in Afghanistan, while engaged in ground operations at Bagram Airfield from April to October 2009. Special Agent Canha graduated from MVRHS in 1992 and has served in the U.S. Air Force for 17 years. He lives in Satellite Beach, Fl., with his wife Kimberly, son Dominick, and daughter Krista. He is the son of Brenda and Mike Canha of Oak Bluffs, who own DP Canha Appliance Repair.
Sgt. 1st Class Kevin M. Devine, USA
Sgt. Devine is stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., as an instructor at the U.S. Army Ranger School. He and his wife, Tabitha, have four children and two grandsons. Sgt. Devine grew up on Martha's Vineyard and began his 18-year military career after graduating from MVRHS. Island family members include his sister, Stephanie Devine, mother, Wendy Oliver, and aunt, Janet King. His dad, Herbie Devine, lives in Randolph.
Seaman Alan Fortes, USCG
SN Fortes is a first-class fireman stationed at a small boat station in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. He grew up in Tisbury and graduated from MVRHS in 2007. Before joining the Coast Guard in 2008, SN Fortes attended Springfield College for a year, during which time he also served as a volunteer fire fighter in Tisbury. He is the son of Barbara and Alan Fortes of Tisbury and the brother of Elise, Janelle, and Lisa.
Bethany Grenier, USN
Ms. Grenier (rank not provided) is a gunnery specialist in the Navy who has won awards for marksmanship. She is stationed in Japan. Ms. Grenier has long ties to the Vineyard, where she spent many visits in childhood with her grandmother Shirley Wilbur, her cousins, aunt and uncle. She also lived on the Vineyard with her grandmother for two years after she graduated from high school in Vermont.
Lt. Col. Andre L. Mercier, USMC
Lt. Col. Mercier currently serves as the chief test pilot of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 (VX-31) at the Naval Air Weapons Station in China Lake, Calif. He is slated for promotion to colonel and to assume command of the squadron in June 2011. He was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal in 2009 for distinguished service on a project to build the Joint Strike Fighter for the Marines, Navy, and Air Force.
The son of Larry and Doris Mercier of Edgartown, Lt. Col. Mercier graduated from MVRHS in 1985. He joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Trained as a navigator, Lt. Col. Mercier flew in the EA-6B "Prowler," and his tours of duty included service in Afghanistan and Bosnia.
Lance Cpl. Dennis Vogel Jr., USMC
LCpl. Vogel completed a seven-month tour in Iraq in March 2009 and is stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, in San Diego, Calif. In addition to charting missions, he is a physical fitness trainer for his squadron. LCpl. Vogel joined the Marine Corps after graduating from MVRHS in 2007. He is the son of Sheila Sennott of Vineyard Haven and Dennis Vogel of Oak Bluffs.
For mailing addresses for Islanders in service, call Jo Ann Murphy, Dukes County Director of Veterans Services, at 508-693-6887.