Military News

Loved ones mourn loss of soldiers (with photos)

Army Reserve Pfc. Raymond M. Werner, 21
Army Reserve Pfc. Raymond M. Werner, 21

Lacey Werner has a strong voice when she talks about her husband, Army Reserve Pfc. Raymond M. Werner.

That is, until she talks about the future they would have had if he had not been killed along with two other Idaho soldiers in a roadside bomb blast Thursday in Iraq.

"We wanted to buy a house and have lots of babies," she said, her voice cracking.

Then, much softer, with sobs: "He would have been the best dad ever."

The couple got married on June 28. Less than a month later, he was deployed to Iraq. They talked on the phone or via e-mail every day, she said.

Along with Lacey Werner, family and friends across Idaho spent the weekend remembering their lives with Werner, 21, Sgt. James Holtom, 22, and Spec. Ross A. Clevenger, 22.

All three members of the Boise-based 321st Engineer Battalion were remembered as caring men who were hard workers and proud to be soldiers.

Two other 321st members were injured in a a separate attack: Staff Sgt. George G. Nickel, 37, and Sgt. John J. Green, 45, both of Boise. Nickel was seriously injured and Green slightly injured.

Family members said Sunday night they were still waiting to hear from the Army regarding the arrival of the three men's bodies so they can plan funeral services. In the meantime, they are focusing on their faith and their memories.

Pfc. Raymond M. Werner

Werner, who loved video games and pizzas, is described as "charismatic" by his friend Joey Howell and "outgoing" by friend Garrett Yocum.

Howell said Werner had a calling about going to Iraq.

"He wanted to do his part for his country," Howell said. "And he wanted to go over so some other people could come back home."

"He was so unselfish."

Howell met Werner at Boise State University, got him a job at Lone Star Steakhouse where Howell worked and, ultimately, introduced him to Lacey.

"We were all friends," Howell said. "We were basically at Lacey's house the whole year (before Werner deployed)."

Yocum, who was Werner's best man at his wedding, remembers times at Cole Valley Christian High School.

"When we went to state, he grew out an afro, wore long blue and white socks, painted his face, and he ran up and down the sidelines," said Yocum. "He didn't care what people thought. He was amazing; he was my inspiration."

Werner's 17-year-old brother, Roger Spencer, said he looked up to him like a father figure. He summed him up this way: "He had a good heart."

Sgt. James Holtom

Melissa Sewell of Nampa remembers taking her boyfriend to make an Army bear at "Build-A-Bear."

Holtom "wasn't cool with the idea at first," she said. "But then he was helping dress it and everything."

Now, the camouflaged teddy is one place she finds comfort. "It has a voice recording of him. It says, ‘I'll love you forever.' "

Sewell, who was in Rexburg Sunday spending time with Holtom's family, said the two were planning to get engaged in May and get married next winter.

She calmly talked about how they met at church and how they communicated by e-mail or phone at least twice a week from Iraq.

"We spent all of our time talking," Sewell said. "We had already started planning our (wedding) colors."

Guin Carson of Nampa, a family friend, describes Holtom as "honorable." "We're extremely blessed to have been his friend."

Carson's husband, Joe, had hired Holtom to work for his contracting firm.

"He was one of a kind," Carson said. "He knew exactly what God wanted him to do, and he knew it was going over there."

For now, Holtom's family members are tired and just want to work through the details, Sewell said. "There's time when I just want to wake up," she said, her voice yielding to sobs. "I think once the funeral is done ... that will probably confirm that it actually happened."

Holtom and Sewell both were baptized at Treasure Valley Baptist Church.

"We both believe Christ is our savior," she said. "So I know I'm going to see him again. But it's hard; I was already waiting for him."

Spec. Ross A. Clevenger

Clevenger's family did not want to talk in public and worked with Capt. John Vogt, battalion rear detachment officer for the 321st Engineering Battalion, to write down their thoughts about their son and brother. They wrote:

"He was an entrepreneur, selling coffee in the morning to his fellow soldiers in Iraq. Family members bought him an espresso machine and other coffee-making equipment and he started a business out of his room. ... He remarked to his family that it was beginning to feel like work."

His mother, Abby Bradshaw, was quoted as remembering him selling toys to fellow students. Being an entrepreneur "just came naturally to him," she said.

He grew up in Washington state and in Melba, graduating from Melba High School.

Clevenger joined the Army because of education benefits, his family said, adding that he liked the training and Army life.

"He was proud to be a soldier and kept a positive attitude with his time stateside and his time overseas," wrote his stepfather, Reese Bradshaw.

Contact Vickie D. Ashwill at vashwill@idahostatesman.com or 373-6691.

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