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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 8, 2006

Schofield mourns loss of five more soldiers

Share your condolences and read what others posted
 •  Read stories of other fallen servicemembers: A Salute to the Fallen

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Army Sgt. Joshua Barrett Madden, 21, of Webster Parrish, La., was one of five Schofield soldiers killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb near Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

Madden family photo via (Shreveport, La.) Times

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Madden served with the 25th Infantry Division. At left is Madden's wife, Dani. He is holding their 3-month-old son, Jaxon. The photograph was taken during Madden's home visit in November.

Madden family photo via (Shreveport, La.) Times

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A roadside bomb attack, the signature killer of the Iraq war, claimed five Schofield Barracks soldiers on Wednesday in the single greatest combat loss for the post since the Vietnam War.

Among them was Sgt. Joshua Madden, 21, of Minden, La., who saw his 3-month-old son for the first time while on leave over Thanksgiving, his family said. Madden left to go back to Iraq one week ago.

Jerry Madden told The Advertiser his son, Josh, "just was a good guy."

Also killed was Jesse Castro, 22, of Guam, according to the Pacific Daily News. Castro was known as a mixed martial arts fighter on Guam.

The Pentagon had not officially released any of the names by last night. Schofield Barracks released a statement saying the thoughts and prayers of the post are with the families.

"Learning that someone you love isn't coming home is the most difficult news to hear, and this incident speaks to the incredible sacrifice borne not only by our soldiers but by families across our nation," said Col. Tim Ryan, the rear detachment commander.

The soldiers "made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation, and the somber news of their death is especially difficult at this time of year when our thoughts move toward families and loved ones during the holidays," Ryan said.

With the latest deaths, at least 10 Schofield Barracks soldiers have been killed in or around Hawija, in the northern tip of the Sunni Triangle. More than 7,000 Hawai'i soldiers deployed in July and August to northern Iraq.

LOSSES MOUNT

The 25th Division has lost 14 soldiers in this deployment, already one more than the total for a more than yearlong deployment by 5,200 Hawai'i soldiers to Iraq in 2004.

The losses to Hawai'i-based troops also include 17 Marines killed in Iraq since the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines deployed to western Iraq in September.

Other major losses for Hawai'i-based troops include the Jan. 26, 2005, crash of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter in a sandstorm in western Iraq that claimed 31 lives. Of the total, 26 Marines and a Navy corpsman were from Kane'ohe Bay.

The same Hawai'i unit also lost eight Marines in a suicide car bombing on Oct. 30, 2004, and more would die in house-to-house fighting in Fallujah in the following months.

Also, six soldiers were killed and 11 others injured in one of the worst Army training accidents in the state's history on Feb. 12, 2001, when two Black Hawk helicopters collided during nighttime training in Kahuku.

Yesterday, Josh Madden's father said his son didn't think the war was winnable and planned to get out of the Army next June. Josh Madden was a two-time Iraq veteran who served more than a year in Iraq in 2004 with the 25th Infantry Division.

"(But) he believed that no matter who's in the White House, no matter who's running the Pentagon, no matter who's calling the shots, he raised his right hand to do a job, and that's what he did," Jerry Madden said.

The father was told by the Army that the roadside bomb that hit his son's Humvee in Hawija, a Sunni Arab stronghold southwest of Kirkuk, was so big the vehicle "disintegrated."

"It exploded and they never knew what hit them, it was so big," Jerry Madden said by phone. "It took out all of them."

Roadside bombs have become more powerful and snipers more accurate as attacks have increased on U.S. troops in Sunni Arab regions of western and northern Iraq, where the once favored and ruling class under Saddam Hussein now feels disenfranchised under a Shiite-led government and Shiite-dominated army.

Family friend Therese Golatz said Josh's mom, Cindy, and his wife, Aimee Danielle "Dani" Smock Madden, are taking the loss very hard. The couple's son, Jaxon Levi Madden, was born on Sept. 1.

"They are both so young, they are only 21 and have a brand-new baby," Golatz said.

"(Josh) was the only person who made me laugh or be happy," Smock Madden told The Times at Shreveport, La. "I won't be happy, or laugh, for a long time."

"I lost my son there. I lost one of the best friends I ever had," Jerry Madden said yesterday. "He was doing what he thought was right, and he died to prove it. It's kind of like hindsight, but I believe a gradual withdrawal would be in order (from Iraq). They (the Iraqis) are going to fight. I don't care what you do, they've been (fighting) for 2,000 years."

BALLROOM DANCER

Josh Madden was on the military honor guard at Minden High School and graduated in 2003. His father said his son was an actor and dancer, and appeared in plays including "Hello, Dolly!"

"He loved ballroom dancing," Jerry Madden said. His son and a girl who was a year older in high school took up ballroom dancing at the same time as his parents.

"He didn't tell his Army guys" about ballroom dancing, the father said.

Josh Madden always wanted to be in the military.

"He just loved it. He loved everything about it. He loved the discipline. He also loved the uniform and he loved being a leader."

The family tried to get Josh to go to college first and become a lieutenant.

"He wouldn't do it. I said, 'Why?' " Jerry Madden said. "He said, 'I'm going in on the bottom because if I do go to college, and I do become a lieutenant, I've been there, I've been in the trenches and they'll respect me more."

A NEW APPROACH

President Bush, admitting that "it's bad in Iraq," acknowledged yesterday that the United States needs a new approach in the unpopular war and promised to unveil details in an upcoming speech.

Bush said he was disappointed in the progress in Iraq, but continued to oppose direct U.S. talks with Iran or Syria and remained steadfastly committed to spreading democracy across the Middle East.

The Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, had issued a stinging report, saying the Bush policies in Iraq had failed and a major course correction was needed, including beginning to withdraw combat troops.

'EACH DEATH IS HARD'

Reacting to the Schofield deaths yesterday, Kate Fuller, whose husband, Capt. Jeff Fuller, is in Iraq, said, "Personally, I think each death is hard it doesn't matter if it's one or 27 each one is going to be hard, but we do seem to have a pretty good family support system within the Army."

When soldiers are killed, "we know we're supported, we know we have someone to turn to help us through it," she said.

"I think one of the things that people struggle with is that we've been at peace for so long (before Iraq and Afghanistan), it makes war so much harder."

History also is replete with greater losses.

"Iwo Jima had thousands of men die a day," Fuller said.

• • •

SPEAKING FROM THE HEART

Five Schofield soldiers died in Iraq yesterday. Since Oct. 1, 25 Hawai'i-based troops have been killed. What do you think of that news?

"Obviously regretful. No one wants to see soldiers die. Are they dying for a cause? Yes. My nephew's among them. ... Unfortunately, that's the price of freedom."

Scott Duffner | California

"My husband's in the Air Force, so I'm very unhappy. And they need a solution quickly. ... Get those (Iraqis) trained so we can get out of there and bring our people home. And not in body bags."

Cathey Morris | 'Aiea


ISLANDERS REACT TO THE TRAGEDY

Five Schofield Barracks soldiers were killed in Iraq yesterday. Since the beginning of October, 25 Hawai'i-based troops from Schofield Barracks and Marine Corps Base Hawai'i have been killed in Iraq. What do you think of that news?

"It makes me feel sad. It's like family to me because I'm an ex-serviceman. Those guys were in the same unit I was in."

Cesar Ribac | Mililani resident who works in delivery

"I feel it's wrong. I think we should pull out. We stabilized the government; we did everything we can on our side. And if they can't take care of themselves, then I don't think we should be risking our troops to take care of others' matters. We can't police the whole world. What we should do is take care of our internal problems first. We have enough of those."

Randon Ho | Mo'ili'ili resident, insurance sales representative

"I guess we got to do what we got to do. But there should have
been a better plan."

Taylor Maddisson | Kapahulu resident, clerical worker

"We've been hearing about it constantly every day. I'm just thinking, when is it going to end? It's been going on for too long. I'm not that sure we've accomplished whatever the president's goals were. To see people die every day for wasted reasons — a lot of these people are my age, my peers. I had a couple friends come back last year. I'm glad they're back safely, but there's a lot of people still there fighting for something a lot of them don't believe in now. It's sad because you hear it so often. You read it every day and it doesn't have the same effect."

Gavan Abe
Kane'ohe resident, state social group worker

— Compiled by Advertiser staff writer Robbie Dingeman in Kaka'ako



The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.