Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Gary A Eckert Jr

Toledo, Ohio

May 8, 2005

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
24 Army Sgt

Army Reserve's 983rd Engineer Battalion

Monclova, Ohio

 Died in Balad, Iraq, from injuries sustained earlier that day in Samarra, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV. 

Gary A Eckert Jr - www.IraqWarHeroes.org

From CBS News cbsnews.com 02/28/14:

BySTEVE HARTMANCBS NEWSFebruary 28, 2014, 7:46 PM
Ohio 8-year-old turns $20 into priceless gift
TOLEDO, Ohio -- At the Ohio Air National Guard base near Toledo, Lt. Col. Frank Dailey still can't believe the honor recently bestowed upon him.
"It's incredible being recognized in such a manner," he says.
It happened at a Cracker Barrel, of all places. As the security camera shows, Dailey entered the restaurant on Feb. 7 for an early lunch. At about the same time, 8-year-old Myles Eckert came in with his family.

Myles was very excited. He'd just found a $20 bill in the parking lot. He'd started thinking of what he could spend it on.

"I kind of wanted to get a video game, but then I decided not to," Myles says.
He changed his mind when he saw the guy in uniform.
"Because he was a soldier, and soldiers remind me of my dad," Myles explains.

And so, with his dad in mind, Myles wrapped the $20 in a note that read, "Dear Soldier -- my dad was a soldier. He's in heaven now. I found this 20 dollars in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It's your lucky day! Thank you for your service. Myles Eckert, a gold star kid."
Army Sgt. Andy Eckert was killed in Iraq, just five weeks after Myles was born. All the kid has ever had are pictures and dog tags, other people's memories and his own imagination.
"I imagine him as a really nice person and somebody that would be really fun," Myles says.

The dad he imagines must also love a good story. Because after lunch that day, Myles asked his mom, Tiffany, to make one more stop.

"He wanted to go see his dad," Tiffany says. "And he wanted to go by himself that day."
She took a photo from the car. Follow the footsteps and you'll see Myles standing there behind the flag, presumably telling his dad all about it. And whether heaven heard him or not, his good deed continues to impress here on earth.
"I look at it every day," Dailey says of the note Myles gave him.

It turns out Myles gave him a bigger gift than $20.

"A lifetime direction, for sure," Dailey says.

Dailey says he's already given away that $20 and plans to do much more. He also hopes that little green Post-It will inspire other people across the country to give -- to give as sincerely and dutifully as that father and son.

Army Sgt. Gary A. Eckert Jr., 24, of Toledo, Ohio; assigned to the 983rd Engineer Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, Monclova, Ohio. Andy died May 8 in Balad, Iraq, of injuries sustained earlier that day when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee in Samarra, Iraq. He married Tiphany Anne (Miramontes) February 28, 2003, in Toledo, OH. She survives along with children, Marlee Freedom, and Myles Manning; mother, Deborah Cieslak; father, Gary (Cathy) Eckert; father-in-law, David Miramontes; mother-in-law, Angela Miramontes; grandparents, Sherman and Veda Eckert and Mahlin and Beverly Carroll; brother, Ryan; sisters, Denise, Crystal, Jessica, Stephanie, and Alexandria, and special friends, Bret and Gwen Howland, Travis and Aubrey Repass, Redus and Jessica Thomas, Theresa Martin, Kris Howland, and Paul Matney. He was preceded in death by his great-grandparents, Donald and Florence Keys. 
Sgt. Gary A. Eckert 
While in Iraq, Gary "Andy" Eckert Jr. asked female soldiers to show him how to braid hair so he would be able to handle his daughter's when he returned home. "We're never going to let his children forget who their daddy was," said Bret Howland, who said he thought of Eckert as a son. "That's the goal from now on: to keep the spirit alive of Andy Eckert." Eckert, 24, of Toledo, Ohio, was killed May 8 after an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Samarra. The reservist was based in Monclova, Ohio. He is survived by his wife, Tiphany, daughter, Marlee, almost 2, and newborn son, Miles. Eckert grew up in Whitehouse, Ohio, and graduated from high school there. Although he was a huge University of Michigan fan, he spent afternoons cheering for the Ohio State Buckeyes with his friends. In his first tour in Iraq, Eckert sustained injuries for which he received the Purple Heart. "Andy didn't have to go back to war. He came back a Purple Heart recipient," said Brig. Gen. Michael Beasley. "He was someone who taught us a whole lot about wearing a uniform, about being a father, about being a husband, and about being an American."
Published online on May 11, 2005
From The Blade toledoblade.com 05/05/08:

2 fallen Army reservists honored in Monclova Township
Tiphany Eckert clutched her 4-year-old daughter, Marlee, yesterday near a covered plaque that would be unveiled moments later.

"You see that room in there? It's going to be named after Daddy in Heaven," Mrs. Eckert, 26, told Marlee.

Sgt. Gary "Andy" Eckert, Jr., of Whitehouse, died in Iraq in May, 2005, after a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Samarra. He was 24.

"Bubby, you want to pull this side like a present," Mrs. Eckert instructed their son, Myles, during the unveiling ceremony. Relatives say the sandy-haired 3-year-old is the spitting image of his father.

About 200 Army reservists, family, and others gathered yesterday to honor Sergeant Eckert and a suburban Detroit soldier killed in Iraq, Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick, as structures were dedicated in their names at the headquarters of the Army Reserve's 983rd Engineer Battalion in Monclova Township.

An assembly room was dedicated to Sergeant Eckert, and the adjacent machine shop was dedicated to Sergeant Frederick.

Sergeant Frederick, a native of Trinidad who lived in Mary-land until moving to Michigan for the military, was killed by a roadside bomb near Tikrit in October, 2005. He was 21.

His family lives in Maryland and did not attend the ceremony yesterday.

He was killed while traveling back from Camp Anaconda near Baghdad, after being fingerprinted there to complete his application for citizenship, the late sergeant's squad leader, Staff Sgt. Edward Villareal, said.

He was granted citizenship after his death, and his mother, Michelle Murphy, has lobbied Congress to simplify the citizenship process for military.

The Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act is awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.

Sergeant Eckert was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, into a military family. His mother, Deborah Cieslak, said she was surprised he chose to join the reserves after high school even though his father, Gary Eckert, was an Army platoon sergeant.

But the son once scolded for losing his helmet before a training weekend became a dedicated warrior, his father said.

"I saw a hard charger that had learned something out there, and I was proud," Mr. Eckert told the crowd. "Somebody had guided my son better than I could have."

Sergeant Eckert's widow described their love as "the kind you find on the silver screen." Before his last tour of Iraq, he told her, "This is our last goodbye. I will never see you again," she said.

"How he held me in those moments, it sustains me, even now," she told the crowd.

The dedication ceremony yesterday felt like a sort of closure, Mrs. Eckert said. She said she is writing a book about coping with her husband's death and is preparing to enroll in a college program in creative writing this fall.

She hopes others will find strength in her story because coping with her husband's death and living as a single mother have ultimately forced her to grow stronger, she said.

"I've also found there is no such thing as a broken heart," Mrs. Eckert told the crowd. "How can something work if it is broken? Maybe collapsed, like a deflated balloon, but not broken. My deflated heart has been renewed because of Marlee and Myles."

From Toledo News Now toledonewsnow.com   :

Toledo Soldier Killed in Iraq
TOLEDO -- The mother of an Army soldier killed in Iraq will speak to reporters later this morning. The family confirmed on Monday that Sergeant Gary "Andy" Eckert was killed in action over the weekend in Iraq. The Army says a roadside bomb exploded while his convoy was on a mission to recover a vehicle that had been damaged in an earlier raid. The incident is under investigation by the Army.

"He loved his family. Anyone who knew him, knew that," said Bill Geddes, spokesman for the 88th Regional Readiness Command in Minnesota. "He always said he could never love anyone more than his wife, but when little Myles was born six weeks ago, after seeing his son, he knew he could love some one even more."

Eckert's death was part of a bloody and dangerous weekend in Iraq. The military says at least 8 service people were killed in attacks and bombings in Iraq on Saturday and Sunday, and three of them were from Ohio.

Eckert graduated from Anthony Wayne High School in 2000 where he played basketball on the freshmen and sophomore teams. "He really enjoyed basketball when he participated and I think he missed it a little bit when he didn't," said Robert Slykhuis, the Anthony Wayne principal. He studied horticulture at Penta Career Center, and studied history at Owens Community College before going into the Army.

Eckert left for Iraq in 2003 and served 15 months there before being hit by shrapnel from a roadside bomb in Tikrit, Saddam's home town. The wounds in his neck, face and arm healed, and he received the Army's medal for those wounded in battle, the Order of the Purple Heart.

Eckert then volunteered for service again and was deployed in Fall 2004. "Andy was the perfect soldier. He did what you asked. He always had a smile on his face. He was never in a bad mood. Always there to help everybody. He got me through some rough days over there," said Sgt. 1st Class Jams Gyori, who was Andy's platoon sergeant for 18 months.

He is survived by his 23-year-old wife Tiffany, his 22-month-old daughter Marlee Freedom Eckert and six-week-old Myles Manning Eckert. He has a large extended family, including foster parents, a brother and four half-sisters. Eckert lived on Douglas Road with his family.

Eckert was one of three Ohioans killed this weekend in Iraq. Marine Cpl. Dustin Derga, 24, of Columbus, died on Sunday when he was caught in enemy small arms fire during combat near Ubaydi, Iraq, according to a Pentagon news release. Derga was assigned to the Marine Reserve's 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, 4th Division in Columbus.

Army Pfc. Nick Messmer also died in Iraq on Sunday, said his brother Joe Messmer, 23. The family was notified Sunday. Nick Messmer, 20, joined the Army in August 2003, the summer after he graduated from Gahanna Lincoln High School in suburban Columbus, his brother said. "He was an awesome person. He was the nicest, friendliest, happiest kid you could ever know. He wouldn't hurt a fly. He just went over there to defend his country and the Iraqis got him," Joe Messmer said.

Nick Messmer was scheduled to return home in July for his birthday.

At least 1,600 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to a Department of Defense count. More than 12,000 Americans have been wounded.

Posted by AEB Sources: WTOL News 11 Staff Reports, The Associated Press

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