BAGHDAD - The three Soldiers were from diverse backgrounds and from different parts of the country, but they came together for their Army, their country, and for the idea of making Iraq a better place.
Army Reserve Maj. Jason George, North Carolina National Guardsman 1st Lt. Leevi Barnard, and Missouri National Guardsman Sgt. Paul Brooks were remembered during a memorial service at Forward Operating Base Falcon on the southern edge of Baghdad, May 29.
The Soldiers, with the 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, were killed by an improvised explosive device in the city's Rasheed district, May 21.
George was the battalion's civil-military officer, Barnard was his assistant, and Brooks was the team's medic. The team serves as a liaison between Army and Iraqi officials for ongoing and future reconstruction projects in the battalion's operating area.
"They joined together in a common purpose," said Lt. Col. Dean Davis, commander, 252nd Bn., to the hundreds of Soldiers gathered for the service. "This future will allow the population to raise their families with a better life and in a safe community environment."
George, 38, from Tehachapi, Calif., was a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He was recalled from individual ready reserve status to deploy with the brigade.
Brooks, 34, a father of eight from Joplin, Mo., volunteered for this, his second tour in Iraq, as a medic. He was with the battalion less than week before his death.
Barnard, 28, of Ararat, Va., was a former enlisted National Guardsman who earned his commission through the University of North Carolina's Reserve Officer Training Corps program in Charlotte.
"I know more than most how wonderful these Soldiers were," said Capt. Jeffrey Cashion, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander. "Not often in our short lives on earth do we have the opportunity to walk beside truly great men.
"By any measure, or definition you choose, Jason George, Leevi Barnard, and Paul Brooks were truly great men that blessed our country, our Army, and each of us with their presence," Cashion said.
George was the battalion's civil-military officer, Barnard was his assistant, and Brooks was the team's medic. The team serves as a liaison between Army and Iraqi officials for reconstruction projects in the battalion's operating area.
The three were killed, along with a number of Iraqi civilians, as they made their way to a meeting with local officials.
"Sgt. Brooks was always first to volunteer for a mission," said fellow medic Spc. Jose Perez. "His love of the military was so evident that even in civilian life he chose to serve as a paramedic at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo."
Barnard was remembered as a Soldier's Soldier: he rose from the enlisted ranks to earn his commission as an artillery officer.
"It was a privilege to have Leevi as a friend," recalled Sgt. 1st Class Michael Street. "All the things that made him a good officer made him an even better friend.
"Whatever we did together was a healthy competition and an opportunity for us to bond," Street said. "The truth of the matter (is) he was the best spades partner I ever had and the best damn lieutenant I ever had."
George was remembered as someone who believed he could change the world, one small piece at a time.
"He wanted to improve the present in order to impact history," said Capt. Kyle Carone. "He was successfully able to adapt to any environment. He had the uncanny ability to discuss, understand and develop actionable items to enhance the economic, political and sociological issues impacting Iraq."
Each Soldier was posthumously presented with the Army's Combat Action Badge, a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
"Although we are saying goodbye to our Soldiers today, I know we will not forget them, because one day, we will see them again," Cashion said. "Today, although I am sad, I am also proud to have been a part of their lives. These Soldiers are, and always will be, heroes."