They gathered in the Contingency Operating Station Kalsu chapel with heavy hearts and 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 of Spc. Mike Snelgrove Feb. 12, 2010 was a bitter-sweet event that highlighted the life of an exceptional Soldier and attempted to give answers to a group grasping for a way to deal with the loss of a treasured comrade.

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.

Yet, nothing could have prepared them for the unexpected death of Spc. Mike Snelgrove, a combat medic in the company's mortar platoon. 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 2nd Bn., 69th AR, "Some Soldiers have a personality or some qualities about them that seem to define the unit. Their peers gravitate towards them and they exude a confidence and energy that touches everyone in the area they are around. Mike Snelgrove was that guy."

Sgt. Kenneth Jordan, 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 Jordan. "He excelled at everything. He was great at P.T. [physical training], knew his job, and knew everything a Soldier needed to know. He was great."

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

"He always seemed to be happy," Jenner said. "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 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 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."

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

"For all the reasons stated and for all of the 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 in the coming days for Snelgrove's friends and associates, but many say they are ready to move forward with Snelgrove's 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," Jordan said.

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