<b>CONTINGINCY OPERATING STATION KALSU, Iraq</b> - They gathered in the COS Kalsu chapel with heavy hearts in somber silence. The tiny chapel was filled to capacity, but the overwhelming stillness that filled the small building signaled the somberness of the event.

The memorial ceremony for Spc. Michael Snelgrove, on Feb. 12, was a bitter-sweet event that highlighted the life of an exceptional Soldier and attempted to give answers to a group trying to come to grips with the loss of a treasured member.

The Soldiers assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, pride themselves on being prepared. Soldiers at all levels in the battalion trained for a year for their current deployment.

In most respects, they are prepared for almost all the situations they have encountered in the Panther Battalion's operational environment.

Nothing could have prepared them for the unexpected death of Spc. Snelgrove, a combat medic in the company's mortar platoon.

Specialist Snelgrove unexpectedly passed away just a single day into his mid-tour leave. The loss of the single father rocked his fellow Soldiers half a world away at COS Kalsu.

"The loss of every Soldier is difficult, and it hurts us, but some are particularly painful," said Lt. Col. Robert Ashe, the commander of 2/69 Armor. "Some Soldiers have a personality or some qualities about them that seem to define the unit. Their peers gravitate toward them, and they exude a confidence and energy that touches everyone in the area they are around. Mike Snelgrove was that guy."

Sergeant Kenneth Jordan, Spc. Snelgrove's front line supervisor, said he was an exceptional medic who could accomplish any task that was given to him.

"He was all-around one of our better medics," said Sgt. Jordan. "He excelled at everything. He was great at (physical training), knew his job and knew everything a Soldier needed to know. He was great."

Specialist Snelgrove, who enlisted in the military with a nursing degree, was an enthusiastic presence who lifted the spirits of everyone around him, according to his platoon mate, Spc. James Jenner.

"He always seemed to be happy," said Spc. Jenner. "You never saw him without a smile on his face. He was one of those guys that would pick you up if you were having a bad day."

Everyone who spoke at Spc. Snelgrove's memorial ceremony mentioned what a committed father he was.

"My time with Mike taught me a lot about dedication to Family and friends," said Sgt. Jordan. "Unselfishness - he planned his life around his daughter Stella's future; while always providing for others before himself. Every decision he made was based around what was best for his daughter. You'll never meet a more dedicated father than him."

Lieutenant Colonel Ashe implored his Soldiers to use the example that Spc. Snelgrove set to move forward.

"For all the reasons stated and for all of things Mike brought to the team, I need those who worked around him to endeavor to be like him as we collectively try and fill that void," he said. "We should pay extra attention to that part of Mike that was a positive influence and was a friend lifting those around him."

Admittedly, this will be a tall task for Spc. Snelgrove's friends and associates, but many say they are ready to move forward with his spirit in the back of their minds.

"I will always feel his loss, but I know he is looking over us with a huge smile," said Sgt. Jordan.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16