October 7, 2009
The final two names of Fort Carson soldiers killed in a weekend battle in Afghanistan have joined those of six other comrades who died in the remote highlands of Nuristan Province.
Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos and Sgt. Joshua Hardt died when as many as 200 insurgents attacked their outpost near the Pakistan border, The Army announced. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk, Sgt. Michael P. Scusa, Spc. Christopher T. Griffin, Spc. Stephan L. Mace and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson.
All eight were assigned to Fort Carson’s 4th Brigade Combat Team and died in the deadliest attack seen by Fort Carson troops since Vietnam. The deaths bring the human toll at the post to 278 killed at war since 2001.
Here is more about the two who were identified Wednesday:
• Justin T. Gallegos
An online memorial for Gallegos, 27 of Tucson, Ariz., was quickly convened on the Web site www.facebook.comas friends learned of his death.
The Tucson, Ariz., native drew 90 people to the haphazard Internet gathering to express their grief at his passing.
“He was a man of excitement, courage, leadership and kindness,” one friend wrote.
Pictures on the site show Gallegos smiling at parties. That same smile is seen in every picture of him in uniform.
A television station in Tucson reported that Gallegos leaves behind a 5-year-old son.
“He was strong. He was strong-willed. He was a go-getter. He was a self-starter,” family friend Bessie Guadiana-Hoffman told the station, KVOA television.
• Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt
Hardt, 24, was an outgoing, athletic man who grew up in Applegate, Calif. He graduated from Placer High School in 2004 and was such a talented football player that his helmet was retired said James Bell, his former stepfather who helped raise him.
“He was a typical, all-around good kid,” Bell said.
Hardt married his California sweetheart Olivia and they moved to Colorado together when he got stationed at Fort Carson. Bell said that Hardt followed his older brother into the Army.
“He saw how prospects for the future had gotten better for his brother,” Bell said.
Reporters Tom Roeder and Maria St. Louis-Sanchez contributed to this report