At Schofield Barracks yesterday, 1st Lt. David Morgan and Sgt. Christopher Bolwell talked about their friend, Spc. Joseph F. Herndon II, who was shot and killed Thursday while on patrol in Iraq.

Comrades eulogize
Schofield soldier

Army Spc. Joseph F. Herndon II was remembered yesterday as both "a big teddy bear" and as the type of soldier who refused to quit fighting even after being wounded in a 10-hour battle in Iraq.

Herndon, who was shot and killed Thursday on patrol in Hawija, was memorialized yesterday at a standing-room-only private prayer service at Schofield Barrack's 250-seat main chapel. Afterward, some of his fellow soldiers talked to the media and provided glimpses into the personality of a 21-year-old warrior who received two Purple Hearts but still returned to battle.

First Lt. David Morgan, Herndon's platoon leader for a year, recounted a 10-hour firefight in Hawija on April 7. Morgan said Herndon and three other members of his squad "were caught in a crossfire. Fragments from an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) hit Joe in the chest, but his body armor protected him. His squad leader ordered him to get on the truck so he could be evacuated with the three other injured men, but he refused.

"We tried, tried to get, even gave him direct orders to get on the truck, and he refused and wanted to continue the fight. That really gave me an understanding of how Joe cared about his job and about the men he fought with and walked side by side every day with."

Morgan, 32, said Herndon stayed with his platoon until it cleared out the city. "Then we went back to the FOB (forward operating base) and sought medical attention."

Herndon, who suffered two broken ribs in the attack, later received the first of his three Purple Hearts.

Among those at yesterday's service were his widow, Melanie Herndon, and her parents, Ray and Elaine Long, from Herndon's hometown of Derby in south-central Kansas.

The prayer service was conducted by members of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, of the 25th Infantry Division. Herndon was killed while on patrol with members of Alpha Company in Hawija, east of Kirkuk. He was the sixth soldier from the 25th Infantry to be killed in Iraq.

Sgt. Christopher Bolwell, who served in the same platoon as Herndon for two years, said he had memorized his eulogy. "But when I came to deliver it, my mind went blank and I had to read it," Bolwell said.

Bolwell said he talked about things he and Herndon did while they were in Iraq. Bolwell said he last saw Herndon about a month ago.

He told reporters that "Joe liked everything. He was a happy guy."

Bolwell said he will miss "his big smile. He's a big teddy bear. He's a big strong guy. He's kind of scary to look at. He looks tough but he's just a big mush."

Morgan described Herndon as "one of my best soldiers" and "well liked," adding, "He had a lot of knowledge in his job and loved his job as well." Morgan added that Herndon was in line to be promoted to team leader. Instead, Herndon was promoted posthumously to corporal and awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart with two devices to indicate that he was wounded in combat two other times.

Herndon was wounded the second time on June 25 while on patrol. The vehicle in which he was a passenger was attacked with an improvised bomb.

On Thursday, Herndon was on patrol again about 1 p.m. in an area where there had been insurgents the night before.

"The platoon heard a single shot, and they found that Joe had been wounded," said Morgan, who commanded the 36 soldiers for five months before he was wounded April 7.

When asked why he thought Herndon insisted on staying in Iraq after being wounded twice, Morgan said, "it's just like any other infantry soldier down there -- when the rounds start coming downrange, you're there for the man to your left and right.

"That's how Joe felt. ... I know we always think about our families. But when you're downrange, the guys walking next to you, they are your family."

Herndon will be buried in Derby next to his father.



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