first Iraq fatality
A West Virginia native, 21,
dies after a Humvee accident
A Schofield Barracks soldier died in a U.S. military hospital in Germany yesterday after being injured in a Humvee accident in Iraq last week, according to a family member.
Pfc. Ernest Sutphin, 21, was one of seven soldiers riding in a Humvee on a night patrol March 11 when the vehicle slid into a canal north of Al Hawija. All of the seven soldiers were members of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Sutphin was taken off life support at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, said his aunt, Faye Pennell of the Greensboro, N.C., area.
Sutphin, a West Virginia native, is the first fatality among the 4,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers who were sent to Iraq last month.
His mother and father were at the hospital with him when he died, Pennell told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.
An Army spokesman said the Army does not confirm deaths until at least 24 hours after the family has been notified.
Maj. Neil O'Brien, Army spokesman, last night confirmed that Sutphin was sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Also still hospitalized in Germany was another Schofield Barracks soldier injured in the same accident.
O'Brien said the five other soldiers have since been returned to their unit.
Pennell said that Sutphin hoped to earn money for college, where he planned to major in either psychiatry or law.
"He joined the Army because he wanted to make something of his life," she said. "He wanted a career."
"He was such a wonderful role model," she said. "All his cousins and his sister looked up to him."
Sutphin, who was single, grew up in Parkersburg, W.Va., and graduated from Parkersburg High School in 2001. His family later relocated to North Carolina, where he planned to live after getting out of the service, his aunt said.
He was a fan of "Star Wars," "Star Trek" and comic books, but was first and foremost a soldier, she said.
"He was straight military. When he came home from boot camp we didn't know what to say. He was very aggressive and hardheaded. But he was definitely softhearted on the inside. He'd do anything for anybody."
"We all loved him and he was our hero. We're going to miss him a lot."
Sutphin signed up with the Parkersburg recruiting office about two years ago, said Sgt. James Grady, who recruited him.
"He was a good guy," Grady said. "He was looking at taking advantage of some of our travel opportunities and the education."
Star-Bulletin reporter Gregg K. Kakesako and the Associated Press contributed to this report.