Thursday, February 28, 2008

Afghanistan: Cpl. Ciara M. Durkin

The Department of Defense announced on October 1, 2007, the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Cpl. Ciara M. Durkin, 30, of Quincy, Mass., died Sept. 28 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident. She was assigned to the 726th Finance Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard, West Newton, Mass.



Read more about Ciara.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

IRAQ WAR: Eulogy to Army Spc. Luke S. Runyan, a Fallen Hero

(The Department of Defense announced on February 19, 2008, the deaths of Spc. Luke S. Runyan, 21, of Spring Grove, Pa., and Spc. Chad D. Groepper, 21, of Kingsley, Iowa. The two soldiers were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died February 17 in Diyala Province, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their dismounted patrol using small arms fire. They were assigned to 2nd Battalion 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.)

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

A eulogy to Luke S. Runyan, a local man who sacrificed his life for our country, was published in the York Daily Record [York, Pa.], February 25, 2008. It is reprinted here with permission.)

Army Spc. Luke Runyan lived life on his own terms and died doing it.

To all of those he left behind, Luke Runyan will forever be frozen in their memories.

They will recall the energetic child who was described as being more animated than the Cartoon Network. They will recall the thrill-seeker, the guy who liked to ride motorcycles, fast. The guy who loved to surf. The guy whose devotion to his nation and his comrades could not be measured.

To his daughter, 1-year-old Brynn, he will live only in the memories of others. Her father may not be physically present, but he will be there in spirit, handed down moments at a time to Brynn by those who loved Mr. Runyan.

His wife, Courtney, asked him once to write a letter to Brynn, something that could be put away should he not return from the war. Mr. Runyan told his wife not to worry about it, that wasn't going to happen. He was young and tough and smart and had that sense of invincibility that comes with youth and confidence.

He was a thrill-seeker. He put this quote in his high school yearbook: "If you want to be able to experience the ultimate thrill, you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price."

Prophetic words.

Mr. Runyan was doing what he wanted to do with his life when he was killed last Sunday in Iraq. His unit was ambushed in Diyala Province. Runyan and another soldier, Spc. Chad Groepper of Iowa, were killed. He was the 20th soldier with York County ties to die in the war.

Mr. Runyan was only 21.

His biography may be slim, only spending slightly more than two decades among the living, but he lived a lot of life in his time here. He loved life. He loved Courtney. He loved Brynn.

And he loved the guys he served with.

His brothers.

They had a special bond. They witnessed the horror first-hand. They witnessed the worst inhumanity you can imagine. They also witnessed the best humanity, evidenced by the story of Mr. Runyan saving the life of an Iraqi child.

When young men die at war, the word "hero" gets thrown around a lot.

Mr. Runyan was a hero, to be sure. He died so others could live. There is nothing more heroic.

But he was also just a man. A husband. A father. A son.

And no matter what you think about this war, its purpose or lack thereof, its execution or lack thereof, its conclusion or lack thereof, you have to respect Mr. Runyan's service and sacrifice.

"Now . . . it kind of leaves a hole in your heart," said his high school guidance counselor Margaret Mummert.

For now, and forever.


WORLD WAR I: Harley David Semple

(Harley David Semple, circa 1973)

Harley David Semple, known by family as "Dee Dee," was born in Bronson, Iowa, on January 6, 1901. He died on March 16, 1974, at 73, from a condition similar to Lou Gehrig's disease.

Harley was my grandfather; I was seven years old when he and my grandmother took me in permanently and raised me until my high school graduation at 17, so, of course, I'm slightly biased--and why I'm featuring him on this blog.

(Harley, Jennifer, and Olive Semple, circa 1954)

Dee Dee joined the Army when he was just 16 or 17; by the time he was 17 (in 1918), he was serving in France, just before Armistice, which effectively ended World War I. I'm not sure if he served in actual combat because he never talked about his war experiences, and I was too young to ask the right questions. At his passing, I was just 23, by then married and living away from Iowa and in Pennsylvania--besides, from my perspective, World War I was just a piece of history.

I would love to read his letters home to his family, but I'm not sure that they exist anymore. Dee Dee had not yet met my grandmother, so I suspect that most of his letters went to his mother in Bronson.

I can't imagine Dee Dee engaged in combat, but war is funny that way; war yanks ordinary young people, mostly boys, who still have one foot in childhood, from their normal lives and asks them to make life and death decisions. War demands that young men carry arms and kill other people--how can that not inform someone's future life?

I don't know if Dee Dee ever killed anyone in the war--he never said. Even if he had been asked, he probably would have dodged the question. I always had the feeling that he would have rather forgotten that war.

I don't know what Dee Dee did directly after the war; he probably went back to Bronson and tried picking up the thread of his youth. According to a Bronson Town History, Dee Dee, in 1916, was one of the first Boy Scout members in a new troop founded by a Mr. Erkman, a list which noted,

"Harry Oertel, Ray Johnson, Allan Talbott, Harley Semple, Roy Johnson, and Ernest Johnson. When Mr. Erkman left, in 1918, the troop was forgotten..."

--Possibly because of the war?

Imagine: in two years, from Boy Scout to soldier.

But how can one return home and pick up the youthful thread of his life after experiencing a soldier's life in a foreign field?

Harley spent most of his adult life in Sioux City, Iowa; in 1924, he married Katherine Olive ("Mo Mo") Quirk, and they raised four children: Richard, George, Mary Lou (my mother), and Colleen.

And one grandchild: Jennifer.

This is what I remember about Harley Semple: he was a quiet and gentle man who loved to tell stories. I, a troubled child, often sat at his knee to listen to his "Old Sport" stories. Old Sport, a mongrel with a curly tail, thought he was a person and acted accordingly, such as wanting to attend school and sleeping in Jennifer's bed. These corny tales offered an obvious moral (and I knew it even back then), but I didn't care; I still loved them because Dee Dee made them exciting and fun.

Although I don't have any of Harley's war letters, I do have two of his "Old Sport" letters, written just before I moved to Iowa to finish out my childhood, and I would like to share them here:

Thursday [1958]

Dear Angel Kisser:

I haven’t seen you for a long time. Maybe you and Mo can come home soon. I looked all over the neighborhood for Old Sport and can’t find hide nor hair of him. Maybe he doesn’t live here anymore. The other day, I saw a spalpeeny dog around Otoe St. with a round ball on his nose and a curly tail. He was jacking around and following a little girl. He was acting like Old Sport but his feet were dirty and his hair wasn’t combed and he hadn’t washed his teeth so I knew it wasn’t old Sport. I asked the little girl to tell me his name. She said it was Old Ortspay and that he was always following her. She said he followed her to school and wanted to sit in a seat just like Old Sport and pretend to read and the teacher hit him on the bare rudy and run him out. She said she didn’t want an old dirty dog like that in her school. Then he went all over the neighborhood and tried to get in the houses and nobody would let him in. He was cold and wet and hungry but he was such a spalpeen nobody cared. Then he saw a little dirty girl who lives in a dirty house and her name is Efferjay and he followed her home. What do you think? Her mamma let the dirty old thing in out of the cold and fed him some Pard out of a dirty dish and gave the old jerk a dirty pillow with the name “Ortspay” on it to sleep on. And do you know what? The old spalpeen liked it. I was glad the dirty old thing found a place to live. But I’m kind of mad at him for pretending he was “Old Sport.”

Colleen has a dog named Speenart. He is big as a mule but you will like him. And when you come home you can visit them. Saw Timmy the other day–he had a cowboy hat on. It is warmer here now. It has been awful cold. Not much snow. The streets are all dry. See you soon.


Dee Dee


(Harley and Jennifer, circa 1955)

Saturday Nite [1958]

Dear Angel Kisser

I looked all over and I couldn’t find Old Sport anywhere. Maybe he went away to school. I’m getting the house nice and warm and clean for you and Mo so all you have to do is move in. There is some snow out side and is snowing a little now. The weather is nice and fresh. Tell Mo that I finally went to work. I made a door hood to-day and Monday I have to make 10 awnings. Your bed is still here–it didn’t run away. Why don’t you have Mo tell you about the bed that ran away?

Did Mo ever tell you about the lazy cat she had when she was a little girl? When Mo was a little girl she had a pretty cat but it was lazy. The other cats all went out to the field to catch mice and caught themselves a nice mouse but Mo’s cat was just too lazy. She just laid around in the sun and was hungry all the time and she kept getting thinner and thinner and skinny but she wouldn’t go out to catch a mouse. Mo tried every way to her to go out and work for her dinner but she was so lazy she would rather be hungry. Finally she got so skinny and weak she couldn’t even catch a mouse if she tried. So do you know what Mo did? She went out to the field herself early in the morning and worked all day and finally caught enough mice for a nice mouse dinner and brought them in to the lazy old thing and her cat gobbled them up. Just like Old Sport with his Pard. And every day for a long time Mo went out and caught a nice mouse dinner for the lazy old thing and finally the cat got big and strong and fat and healthy and Mo said, “Now look here, cat, you are strong again and if you want to eat from now on you will have to catch your own mice.” After that she went out every day and hunted mice with the rest of the cats. She had learned her lesson. Ask Mo she will tell you all about her lazy cat.

Hurry up and come home and you can meet Colleen’s dog–his name is Speenart.

Love Dee Dee



You bet.

But this is how I prefer to remember this man who was so important in my life. I adored him. We had our issues, of course. The late 1960's intervened, and I rebelled in a rather spectacular manner. The double generation gap drove a wedge between us.

(Jennifer and Harley, circa 1965)

I now understand how the psychedelic 1960's might have bewildered and saddened him; he came of age during a time when mores were set in stone and good folks behaved in certain prescribed ways; the late 1960's turned that truism on its ear when my generation questioned the values of Harley's generation.

Just before he died, we came together again and put our differences behind us--for that, I am grateful.

Journalist Tom Brokaw refers to the World War II generation as "The Greatest Generation," but I believe that that honor should go to the World War I generation.

In terms of technological advancement, Harley and Olive's generation might have well spanned 500 years. This generation was forced to accept tremendous technological adjustments in a relatively short time. In 1901, automobiles were in their infancy, certainly out of reach for Iowa farm families. The Wright brothers were two years away from their first historic flight at Kitty Hawk. Radios were not in every home. TV was just a fantasy.

By the time Harley died, just about everyone had a car, ordinary people were jetting across the country, radio was practically passe, and television was nearly 30 years old. He missed the internet (although Olive, who died in 1987, did know about Apple Computers, PC's, and Bill Gates). All that advancement must have made Harley's head spin, but he seemed to take it all in stride; we owned all the major gadgets of the day. Still, it must have been a major adjustment for a child born into an agrarian society, who grew into a boy who had trudged through the fields of France, and the man who tried to make sense of a troubled world on the edge.

The older I get, the more I marvel at the accomplishments of the World War I generation, who set the groundwork for what we enjoy today. My sitting in front of this computer and blogging about my grandfather so that the world can know him and, perhaps, others like him is possible because his generation accepted and even embraced technological advancement and change.

(Olive and Harley Semple, circa 1972)

Perhaps if some Semple family members read this post, they can fill in the gaps, and I will update this entry.

If you knew Harley David Semple, please post something in the comment section of this post or email me, and I'll post any additional information and memories about our Dee Dee.

Friday, February 8, 2008

WORLD WAR I: William Henry Bonser Lamin, a blog

I saw a story about this WWI blog on the nightly news; I'm offering a link to WW1: Experiences of an English Soldier because I'd like to see war blogs like these to continue surviving on the web, long after we're gone.

According to the blogmeister, Mr. Lamin's grandson, the blog "is made up of transcripts of Harry Lamin's letters from the first World War. The letters will be posted exactly 90 years after they were written. To find out Harry's fate, follow the blog!"

The blog is comprised of scanned letters along with the transcribed text as written by Mr. Lamin from the front to his family.

William Henry Bonser Lamin's profile: "He was born in August 1887 in Awsworth Notts, to Henry and Sarah Lamin. Elder Sisters Catherine (Kate) and Agnes (Annie) and Elder brother John (Jack). Educated at Awsworth Board School, just outside Ilkeston, Derbyshire, England."

My own grandfather, Harley David Semple, was born in 1901 and served in France in 1918--just a lad of 17. He never talked about his war experiences (at least to me), and if any letters exist, I don't know of them. He was so young that he had not met my grandmother yet; I suspect that any letters went to his mother and siblings.

I often wonder how the war affected him, but he was not one to ruminate much about such events.

He was a quiet man who loved to tell stories.

And I miss him.

Best, Jennifer

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Fallen Soldier: Kristofor T. Stonesifer

“Stonesifer, Kristofer T.” [was] listed incorrectly on your site. The correct spelling of Kris' first name is “Kristofor”; Ruth Stonesifer’s, (Kris’ mother) web site is

I knew Kris and he long ago gave up worrying about how either of his names were spelled but I thought that now that he's gone we could at least try to get it right.

I noticed from your Blog that you're in York, PA. Kris was from PA also (Doylestown) and his mom was responsible for the PA Hometown Heroes program in Harrisburg that displayed a banner for many of the PA casualties on the light poles. It ran through the summer of last year. She also got the legislation passed for a Gold Star Family license plate here in PA.

Your comments that there are far too many names and the difficulties of assembling such a "sad roll" are so true. All those now in the services certainly knew what they were getting into and yet they still volunteered. We're lucky to have such men and women. Since Kris' mom lost her son (she has another still in the army) I've accompanied her to some of the Ranger events and met many of these young men. They are the polar opposite of those you see on the nightly news. Highly trained and competent and getting self confidence and leadership skills that will make them very good citizens when they get out. I was impressed and I think the country will be better having them.

The above photo is Ruth's favorite, taken of Kris only 3 months before he was killed.

The actual link for the PA Hometown Heroes site is:

The one for the Gold Star Family license plate is:

As for spelling names correctly - even the army got Kris' name wrong on his purple heart certificate.

Thanks for your efforts to keep the memory of these young men and women alive. That's what Kris' mom has adopted as her "mission."

Submitted by H. Davis

(NOTE: If you have a story, memory, or poem about a fallen loved one and would like to see it posted here, feel free to email it to me.)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

VIETNAM WAR: Eulogy for a Stranger (a Poem)

(Apologies to Captain John W. Consolvo, Jr.)

Dear John,

My vision:

You were not an only love.

After mourning, She

Dug a hole

And loaded herself

With another man's seed.

Now another man's fruit

Joins ROTC.


That year:

My war raged with a love-

Child, conceived

On the tail of Purple Haze.

We rolled nickels

All through the fight;

Your blood arced,


You were not real then,

Just a nameless G.I.,

Wasted in the jungle:



We were conned into thinking

The War would be solved by Christmas.

Oh, you never knew, of course;

You would never know.

But the steel part of me

Tells me all I need to know:



Your name



(NOTE: I have worn Captain Consolvo’s MIA bracelet since 1991. I never knew him in life, but he lives in my heart.)

Captain John W. Consolvo, Jr. Links:

A Tribute to Capt. John W. Consolvo, USMC

Arlington National Cemetery Website

Consolvo, John Wadsworth, Jr. "Jack"

Capt. Consolvo's Mother Speaks of Hope

WORLD WAR II: Seaman 1st Class General P. Douglas, Sailor Missing from WWII, is Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced [January 3, 2008] that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from World War II, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Seaman 1st Class General P. Douglas, U.S. Navy, of Newcomb, Tenn. He will be buried Jan. 26 in Sneedville, Tenn.

On July 6, 1943, the light cruiser "USS Helena" was struck by torpedoes fired by Japanese destroyers off the coast of Kolombangara Island, Solomon Islands, in what would become known as the Battle of the Kula Gulf. More than 700 servicemen were rescued, but Douglas was one of more than 150 servicemen who were missing as the ship sunk.

In June 2006, a resident of Ranongga Island, Solomon Islands, notified U.S. officials that he exhumed human remains and Douglas’ dog tag that he found eroding out of the ground near a trail by his village. The officials contacted the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) who subsequently traveled to Ranongga Island to examine the burial location where they verified that no additional remains were present.

Among dental records, other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA in the identification of the remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at or call (703) 699-1169.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Saturday, February 2, 2008

ROLL CALL FOR JANUARY 2008: Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Casualties

Sgt. Shawn F. Hill, January 2, 2008


Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Maseth, January 2, 2008


Spc. Joshua R. Anderson, January 2, 2008


Maj. Andrew J. Olmsted, January 3, 2008
Cpt. Thomas J. Casey, January 3, 2008


Cpl. Jason F. Lemke, January 5, 2008


Petty Officer Second Class Menelek M. Brown, January 4, 2008


Cpl. James D. Gudridge, January 6, 2008


Pfc. Timothy R. Hanson, January 7, 2008


Maj. Michael L. Green, January 7, 2008
Sgt. James K. Healy, January 7, 2008


Sgt. David J. Hart, January 8, 2008
Pfc. Ivan E. Merlo, January 8, 2008
Pfc. Phillip J. Pannier, January 8, 2008


Sgt. David J. Drakulich, January 9, 2008


Cpl. Todd E. Davis, January 9, 2008
Staff Sgt. Jonathan K. Dozier, January 9, 2008
Staff Sgt. Sean M. Gaul, January 9, 2008
Sgt. Zachary W. McBride, January 9, 2008
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Pionk, January 9, 2008
Sgt. Christopher A. Sanders, January 9, 2008


Lt. Col. Richard J. Berrettini, January 11, 2008


Pfc. Keith E. Lloyd, January 12, 2008

Lance Cpl. Curtis A. Christensen Jr., January 11, 2008


Pfc. Danny L. Kimme, January 16, 2008
Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, January 16, 2008
John P. Sigsbee, January 16, 2008


Staff Sgt. Justin R. Whiting, January 19, 2008


Spc. Jon M. Schoolcraft, III, January 19, 2008


Spc. Richard B. Burress, January 19, 2008


Lance Cpl. James M. Gluff, January 19, 2008

Sgt. Michael R. Sturdivant, January 22, 2008

Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, January 25, 2008


Sgt. Tracy R. Birkman, January 25, 2008


Cpl. Duncan C. Crookston, January 25, 2008


Sgt. 1st Class Matthew R. Kahler, January 26, 2008


Staff Sgt. Robert J. Wilson, January 26, 2008


Maj. Alan G. Rogers, January 27, 2008


Sgt. Mikeal W. Miller, January 27, 2008


Sgt. James E. Craig, January 28, 2008
Staff Sgt. Gary W. Jeffries, January 28, 2008
Cpl. Evan A. Marshall, January 28, 2008
Spc. Brandon A. Meyer, January 28, 2008
Pfc. Joshua A. R. Young, January 28, 2008


1st Lt. David E. Schultz, January 31, 2008


Cpt. Michael A. Norman, January 31, 2008


If your loved one appears on this list and you would like to post a comment about him or her here, please feel free to do so, or email me.

This list was compiled using the U.S. Department of Defense Archive.

To the best of my knowledge, this list is complete, but I'm human and sometimes make mistakes. If your loved one should be on this list and isn't, please let me know.

ROLL CALL FOR DECEMBER 2007: Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Casualties


Spc. Matthew K. Reece, December 1, 2007


Sgt. Kyle Dayton, December 3, 2007


Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, December 4, 2007
Pvt. Dewayne L. White, December 4, 2007
Capt. Adam P. Snyder, December 5, 2007


Spc. Randy W. Pickering, December 9, 2007


Cpl. Tanner J. O’Leary, December 9, 2007


Cpl. Johnathan A. Lahmann, December 10, 2007


Staff Sgt. Gregory L. Elam, December 11, 2007


Chief Petty Officer Mark T. Carter, December 11, 2007


Staff Sgt. Michael J. Gabel, December 12, 2007
Sgt. Joshua C. Blaney, December 12, 2007


Spc. Brynn J. Naylor, December 13, 2007


Sgt. Samuel E. Kelsey, December 13, 2007


Pvt. Daren A. Smith, December 13, 2007


Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan A. Lowery, December 14, 2007


Sgt. Austin D. Pratt, December 15, 2007


Pfc. Juctin R. P. McDaniel, December 17, 2007


1st Lt. Jeremy E. Ray, December 20, 2007


Pfc. George J. Howell, December 21, 2007


Senior Airman Nicholas D. Eischen, December 24, 2007


Sgt. Peter C. Neesley, December 25, 2007


Sgt. Bryan J. Tutten, December 25, 2007


Capt. Rowdy J. Inman, December 26, 2007
Sgt. Benjamin B. Portell, December 26, 2007


Pfc. Joseph R. Berlin Jr., December 30, 2007


Petty Officer 1st Class Victor W. Jeffries, December 31, 2007


Pfc. Brian L. Gorham, December 31, 2007


Sgt. Reno S. Lacerna, December 31, 2007


If your loved one appears on this list and you would like to post a comment about him or her here, please feel free to do so, or email me.

This list was compiled using the U.S. Department of Defense Archive.

To the best of my knowledge, this list is complete, but I'm human and sometimes make mistakes. If your loved one should be on this list and isn't, please let me know.