Slain U.S. soldier put life on hold..

19th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

Tuesday, 21 May 2002

Lisa Vance

the widow of 

Sgt. Gene Vance

 killed in action 

Sunday in Afghanistan


MORGANTOWN, W.Va., May 21 — Sgt. Gene Vance Jr. led what friends say were distinctly different lives. There was the smiling, devoted cyclist and perennial college student who lived on a quiet street with his new wife, Lisa. And there was the special forces soldier who spoke Farsi and disappeared frequently for military missions with few explanations.

“WE DIDN’T really know that part of his life,” Ed Evans said Monday of his longtime friend.
“There were two Genes,” he said, fighting a lump in his throat. “And we’ve lost both of them.”
Vance, a 10-year member of the West Virginia National Guard, died Sunday when suspected al-Qaida or Taliban forces engaged U.S. forces in a small arms battle. He was the first member of the state National Guard to die on active duty since World War II.
There were no other reports of coalition casualties in the firefight, said Capt. Steven O’Connor, a U.S. military spokesman at Bagram air base north of Kabul. It was unclear whether the opposing side had casualties.
“He was one straight-shooting guy,” said Evans, who had known Vance for more than a decade. “When he looked you in the eye and told you something, it was the gospel. ... But there was a part of him you just couldn’t read, too.” 
Vance, 38, had lived in Morgantown since at least the summer of 1991, when he enrolled at West Virginia University. He took classes off and on through 1995, including stints at New Mexico State and Davis & Elkins College in Elkins.
He had accumulated enough hours to be considered a senior when he enrolled at WVU for the fall 2001 semester, a school spokeswoman said. he withdrew after Sept. 11.
Vance, who married last fall, was put on alert with the rest of his 19th Special Forces Unit. He canceled his honeymoon, and in December, shipped out with his unit to Fort Campbell, Ky., before heading overseas.
“For the first time in his military career, he would have preferred not to go,” said Bruce Summers, owner of Whitetail Cycle & Fitness, a bicycle and kayak outfitters shop in Morgantown where Vance worked. 

Lisa Vance and Sgt. Gene Vance, in a family photo

“He had just gotten married. He was entering a new life,” Summers said. “He had to put his life on hold.”
Outside the modest ranch-style house that Vance and his wife shared, an American flag flew. A tattered yellow ribbon was tied to the handle of the front door.
Lisa Vance had been out of town Sunday night when told of her husband’s death. When she arrived at home, she glanced at a dozen waiting reporters and photographers, then ran sobbing into the house. 

 


Guard spokesmen had little information about Vance’s teen-age daughter, Amber, who is from his first marriage. Neighbors said she did not live with the couple.
An Army honor guard received Vance’s flag-draped coffin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear when he would be flown to the United States.
Gov. Bob Wise ordered all state flags to be flown at half staff until after the burial.
“Sergeant Vance’s selflessness and supreme sacrifice for his country in defense of our liberty on a battlefield half a world away brings honor to his family, the people of the state of West Virginia and his country,” Wise said. 

Special Forces Condolences Book

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Wife of slain U.S. soldier calls husband 'a hero' 


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (May 21, 2002 10:25 a.m. EDT)

By VICKI SMITH, Associated Press 


Sgt. Gene Vance Jr. wanted to go to Afghanistan, although he later confessed to his bride that he was scared.

Vance, a 10-year member of the West Virginia National Guard, died Sunday when suspected al-Qaida or Taliban forces engaged U.S. forces in a small arms battle. He was the first member of the state National Guard to die on active duty since World War II.

"He wanted to go," Lisa Vance said during a tearful interview Tuesday on NBC's "Today Show."

Vance recently told his wife during a satellite telephone call that "he was a bit scared about where he was," she said. "I was a nervous wreck."

The couple, who were married last fall, communicated by telephone and e-mail practically ever day, she said.

"He was a hero," she said. "He was a great husband. He's what Americans are."

Vance also is survived by a teenage daughter, Amber, from another marriage.

An Army honor guard received Vance's flag-draped coffin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Monday.

His body was taken from Ramstein to a nearby U.S. military hospital, the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. It wasn't immediately clear when he would be flown home to the United States.

The Vances were forced to cancel their honeymoon after his Kenova-based 19th Special Forces Unit was put on alert. In December, his unit was sent to Fort Campbell, Ky., before heading overseas.

Lisa Vance returned to the couple's Morgantown home on Monday after being out of town for the weekend.

Before leaving the house, she said, she picked up Vance's wedding band because she was afraid someone would break in and steal it. The house is on a dead-end street in a residential area.

Vance, 38, had lived in Morgantown since the summer of 1991, when he enrolled at West Virginia University. He took classes off and on through 1995, including stints at New Mexico State and Davis & Elkins College in Elkins.

He had accumulated enough hours to be considered a senior when he enrolled at WVU for the fall 2001 semester, a school spokeswoman said.

Then, after Sept. 11, he withdrew.

"We never thought it would happen," Lisa Vance said of her husband being sent overseas.

Vance neatly divided his life, friends say.

There was his newlywed side, a smiling, hardcore cyclist who listened to The Grateful Dead.

And there was the dark-eyed, stealthy Vance, who earned a Bronze Star, spoke Farsi and disappeared frequently for military missions with few explanations.

"We didn't really know that part of his life," Ed Evans said of his longtime best friend.

"There were two Genes," Evans said, fighting a lump in his throat. "And we've lost both of them."

Details of Vance's service record, including his Bronze Star, remained unavailable as his service record had been shipped to Fort Campbell, said Major Mike Cadle, a National Guard spokesman in Charleston. Cadle confirmed the commendation was awarded for valor but had no other details.

Reprint from AP Online 

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