Oregonian August 22, 2006
Former Portland resident, soldier killed in fighting in Afghanistan
Ambush - Joseph Robert Blake, on his first deployment, enlisted in the military at age 34
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Joseph Robert Blake had lived in Portland only a few weeks when, in January 2005, he made a commitment he'd toyed with much of his life. He joined the U.S. Army.
At 34, according to his adoptive father, Douglas Blake of Livonia, Mich., Pvt. Joseph Blake was the oldest guy in his basic training class. Many of his classmates, still teenagers, used to kid around and call him the "old man."
The Department of Defense announced Joseph Blake's death Monday. He died Thursday in Tor Kalay, Afghanistan, of injuries when his platoon encountered small arms fire, the military said.
"They were ambushed," his father said during a telephone interview.
Born and raised in the Detroit area, Blake spent most of his life there. In 2003, his father said, he moved to Florida to live with his birth family and to find a job. He had trouble finding work in Michigan, and found the same economic problems in Florida.
"He and a buddy went to Portland looking for work," Douglas Blake said.
Looking over some of their son's grade school papers, Douglas and Joann Blake discovered the military was on the top of his list of potential careers for several years.
"He said he had thought about it for many years, and if he didn't do it now, he wouldn't be able to because of his age," his father said.
Although he was older than his comrades, Joseph Blake was proud he could keep up with them. He worked hard to stay in shape, his father said.
Blake was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y. In March, the unit was shipped to Afghanistan -- his first deployment, his father said.
"He was very proud of what he had achieved in the military," Douglas Blake said. "He was proud of his uniform. He felt very good about what he was doing."
On a mid-July home leave, Blake told his parents some things about his duties overseas but was guarded about the dangerous details.
"He didn't want us to worry about what might happen," his father said.
"We're very proud of him," he said. "We're very proud of what he achieved, and we're very proud of his willingness to fight."
Researcher Lynne Palombo contributed to the story. Mark Larabee: 503-294-7664;