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Publication: THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS PubDate: 9/14/2004 Head: In Iraq, Arkansas guardsmen feel one anothers pain

Byline: ED TIMMS Credit: Staff Writer Section: NEWS Zone: DALLAS Edition: SECOND Page Number: 12A Word Count: 1121 Dateline: BAGHDAD, Iraq BAGHDAD, Iraq - Friends, neighbors and family have gone to war. Many of the soldiers trained together for years. Some have known one another since grade school. Back home, they run into one another all the time. Now, the soldiers of the Arkansas National Guards C Company, 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment are fighting and bleeding in Iraq. Many times, theyve walked the narrow streets of al-Sheik Maruf, a treacherous Baghdad neighborhood that is home to areas sardonically labeled Purple Heart Lane and Grenade Alley. The soldiers, mostly from small towns in the western part of Arkansas, already have earned more than 20 Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat. One of their own, Sgt. 1st Class Troy Leon Miranda, 44, of Little Rock, Ark., was killed by an improvised bomb that also destroyed part of the right leg of another soldier, Spc. Henry Austin Phillips, 27, of Gravette, Ark. A grenade attack in al-Sheik Maruf cost Spc. Kevin Pannell, 26, of Glenwood, Ark., portions of both legs. Such losses are difficult for any unit. For C Company soldiers, it hits very close to home. Second Lt. Cole DeRosa said the community ties help make the unit amazingly cohesive. The only downfall to that, he said, is when there are casualties. He commands Company Cs 2nd Platoon, which started out with 38 men, including Sgt. Miranda. Two other soldiers were wounded so severely that they wont be returning to Iraq. Soldiers in the platoon have been awarded more than a dozen Purple Hearts. Because of that, youre affecting a neighborhood or a city, said Lt. DeRosa, whos originally from Dallas. Everybody knows each other. Sgt. Gregory Parker, 43, of Dierks, Ark., coached Spc. Pannell in peewee ball when he was a youngster. The two served together with C Company in Iraq. Sgt. Parkers younger brother is serving with the Arkansas National Guard in another part of Baghdad. A son-in-law serves in his squad.

Were all family, said Sgt. Parker, who, in civilian life works maintenance for Tyson Foods during the week and for the Mineral Springs Police Department on weekends. Weve all been together for several years. ... Ive seen a lot of them since they were little babies. Sgt. Parker, a father of three with six grandchildren, has the unenviable distinction of earning three Purple Hearts while in Iraq. He was wounded the first time when a young Iraqi threw a grenade over a fence, the second time when his patrol was working its way down an alley and someone threw a grenade over the top of a house, and the third time while bringing up the rear of a patrol on yet another mission. Most of the time, Sgt. Parker said, soldiers dont see who throws the grenades in al-Sheik Maruf, or, at best, they get only a glimpse. Its not called Wild, Wild West for nothing, Pvt. Robert Scoggins, 19, of Mina, Ark., said of al-Sheik Maruf. He described the combat environment as 3-D. Youve got to look everywhere - rooftops, windows, he said. You dont know where theyre going to hit you, but theyll hit you. Its just like playing a big ol video game. But theres no reset button out here. Sgt. Ricky Hendricks, 37, of De Queen, Ark., a volunteer fireman who works for Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., was hurt in the same attack that left Spc. Pannell grievously wounded. The attackers, he said, ran past ... and threw three grenades down the alley at us. Capt. T.J. Foley, C Companys commander, doesnt think its a coincidence that poorer Baghdad neighborhoods are more prone to violence. Outsiders, he said, come into the neighborhoods and hire people to attack U.S. forces. Daylight and dark For Sgt. Ronnie Loyd of De Queen, Ark., one of the harder aspects of the Iraq mission is that a threat can materialize in an instant. Weve got parts of Baghdad that we can walk through where people are just as friendly as they can be - theyll shake your hand and say ..., Peace be with you, said Sgt. Loyd, a general contractor back home. Then you turn the corner to go into another alley, and its like the difference between daylight and dark. C Company has continued to patrol and probe the al-Sheik Maruf neighborhood. Sgt. Loyd said it remains a dangerous place; so far, hes always emerged unscathed. Ive been lucky, he acknowledged. I find corners to hide behind

real quick. Losing a friend Some of his friends and colleagues havent been so fortunate. He was one of Spc. Pannells team leaders, and Sgt. Miranda was his squad leader, a man he described as a great guy - probably the best C Company has ever seen. Sgt. Loyd and Sgt. 1st Class Sol Wagoner, 49, also of De Queen, had served with Sgt. 1st Class Miranda in Company C for nine years. His death came on May 19, when insurgents repeatedly attacked C Company troops on patrol in al-Sheik Maruf. Capt. Foley said that as soldiers walked through the area, an Iraqi national guard soldier was shot three times in the neck and face. As troops began searching a nearby high-rise apartment complex, believing that a grenade had been thrown from it, a huge bomb detonated across the street. C Company soldiers moved in to investigate that explosion. Somebody had placed a 155mm [artillery] round in the ground and covered it up with cobblestones, Capt. Foley said. As I walked past, it blew. The blast wounded Capt. Foleys radio operator in front of him, took the leg off my personal security man, killed my interpreter, killed Sgt. Miranda, and it wounded the soldier behind him. By chance, Capt. Foley was near a wall, he said, and the deadly blast went right past me - but it still had enough force to knock him across an alley. That was a rough night, Capt. Foley said. Sticking together The soldiers of C Company have relied on one another under fire throughout the time theyve been separated from loved ones. Theres a kinship you develop being in combat and being deployed, Sgt. Hendricks said. Thats not likely to change once theyre back home. The soldiers have already talked about checking up on Spc. Pannell, and anyone else whos disabled. Weve let him know that once we get home, well be there, Sgt. Loyd said. Whatever he needs, he knows he can get hold of us. He knows hes got some real close friends and brothers right here that he can count on for the rest of his life. E-mail etimms@dallasnews.com