Joseph Edgar Phaneuf II
Staff Sergeant, United States Army
RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 1290-06 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2006
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Staff Sergeant Joseph E. Phaneuf, 38, of Eastford, Connecticut, died December 15, 2006, in Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations.He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Brigade, Hartford, Connecticut.
For further information related to this release,
contact the Connecticut National Guard Public Affairs Office at (860) 524-4857.
American and state flags are flying at half staff today, honoring a soldier from Eastford who was killed in Afghanistan.
38-year-old Staff Sergeant Joseph Phaneuf II is being remembered as an honorable man.
The Town of Eastford has a smaller population than some Connecticut high schools.
The death of this National Guardsmen has left many heavy hearts in this corner of Connecticut.
The symbols of a fallen soldier are easy to see flags at half staff, black bunting.
"We look at him as a son of Eastford," says 1st Selectman Ray Torgeson.
Phaneuf was killed in action in Afghanistan when his armored vehicle struck a roadside bomb.
Phaneuf's wife is proud of his service.
Michelle Phaneuf says,"He went there to take care of these people and make thier lives better at his own risk and risk to himself - that, that's a hero."
Phaneuf lived in Eastford, a town of less than 2,000. It is a small community now coping with the cost of war.
Torgeson says,"I know Joe was committed to his mission of serving his country and I think he was equally committed to serving his country and his family as well."
Phaneuf was a real part of the Eastford family and volunteered for the fire department.
Many children knew Joe Phaneuf. They called him Coach. He volunteered as coach of the local basketball and little league teams.
Torgeson says,"We're neighbors. We're family a big family but neighbors none the less."
The bigger Eastford family looking to comfort the soldier's immediate family.
Dave Olsen, Commander VFW, says,"It's going to be a sad day today and for a long time, especially for his children and his wife."
Michelle says,"I can't let him down, I can't. I have to take care of the kids and I have my family and I go on from there."
Sadly one symbol will change, the Blue Star banner representing a local soldier in service will be replaced by a gold star banner marking a local soldier lost.
Torgeson says,"We're proud of the fact he was a person of high caliber and we're gonna miss him."
Phaneuf has a son in high school and two young
daughters. Funeral arrangements are still being made but family tell
us they'd like him to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
Staff Sergeant Joseph E Phaneuf Jr., 38, of Eastford, died Friday when his armored vehicle struck a roadside bomb. Officials say Phaneuf's wife, Michelle, and other family members were notified Saturday.
"It is very difficult to lose another great soldier who answered the call to duty," said Major General Thaddeus J. Martin, the adjutant general and commander of the Connecticut National Guard.
Phaneuf was a member of the New Haven-based First Battalion 102nd Infantry and was one of three soldiers in the vehicle when the explosion occurred.
He is the seventh Connecticut resident to die this year in fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq, and the 36th since fighting began in 2002.
Governor M. Jodi Rell on Monday ordered U.S. and state flags lowered to half-staff until Phaneuf's burial, which has not yet been scheduled.
"Joseph Phaneuf was a volunteer citizen-soldier who served his state and country in the truest sense," Rell said. "His example of service and sacrifice is as inspirational as his death is tragic."
Michelle Phaneuf said her husband served in the military in the 1990s and re-enlisted after the 2001 terrorist attacks. He served in Iraq and volunteered for the Afghanistan-bound unit because he felt strongly about the need to serve overseas again, she said.
"He was a soldier, a patriot through and through," she said.
Michelle said, he enjoyed working with the children and bringing them candy, ballpoint pens and other items they otherwise rarely could get. "He felt he was needed to go over there and do what he could do," she said.
Staff Sereant Joseph E Phaneuf last spoke with his wife by telephone on Wednesday. They have three children.
"We're going to have Christmas," she said. "That's what he would have wanted, and that's what we're going to do."
Funeral and burial arrangements are pending, but Michelle Phaneuf said her husband told her he wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Phaneuf's battalion was mobilized in January and left for Afghanistan in April. It is scheduled to return to Connecticut in spring 2007.
19 December 2006:
Joe Phaneuf's wife, Michele, and his siblings are standing on the front porch Monday telling great stories about him, laughing and teasing one another in that take-no-prisoners Phaneuf way. The kids are in school as they would be any other day. No one is moping, and the only sign of tears comes when the subject turns to his sense of mission, as a soldier and a human being.
Like when he re-upped with the National Guard after 9/11.
"He had to, to protect our country. He had to find those terrorists," Holly Grube of Eastford said of her brother's decision at the time.
Staff Sergeant Joseph E. Phaneuf II died Friday when the armored vehicle he was driving struck a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Two other soldiers who were in the vehicle survived.
On Monday, Governor M. Jodi Rell ordered U.S. and Connecticut flags to be lowered to half-staff until Phaneuf's burial.
"Joseph Phaneuf was a volunteer citizen-soldier who served his state and country in the truest sense," Rell said. "His example of service and sacrifice is as inspirational as his death is tragic. We need to always remember that fine men and women like Joseph Phaneuf step forward to protect us, regardless of the risk and danger to themselves."
The Phaneufs are full of such examples.
All four brothers have been in the service. Rob Phaneuf of Putnam, and Dennis Phaneuf of Medford, Massachusetts, were Marines, like their father, Peter Phaneuf of Killingly, who did two stints in Vietnam. Tony Phaneuf of Danielson, served in the Army, notably in Bosnia and Somalia. Joe's birthday was even military: He turned 38 on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day.
The brothers are tight. They traveled in a pack at parties, bandying their brand of humor and putting girlfriends and wives through the ropes (although Joe was always more sensitive, and an uncontested heartthrob, Rob's wife, Kim, recalls). All four of them eloped when they married. They even have crossed paths in the service - Joe and Tony at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and again when both were stationed in Germany; Rob and Dennis at Camp Pendleton, California.
But it's that orneriness that hangs in the air, the memory of their brother present on the porch of the rambling white farmhouse Monday.
Joe photographed a desert sunset in Ghazni, Afghanistan, and created a postcard. After he was moved to a less-attractive spot, he wrote on the card to Rob, "This is where I was staying. But if you want to see where I'm staying now, just pop the lid on your septic tank and take a peek inside."
His 13 nieces and nephews were nuts about him. He sent them desert hats and gifts, issuing all of them ranks, but never higher than his own. He loved to give the kids in Afghanistan coveted ballpoint pens and candy.
He'd slip in a few Fireballs, "just to see their little faces," Michele said. "He wasn't perfect."
And there was the time Joe and some other fathers built the playscape at Eastford Elementary. They embedded a dime in the pavement, imagining the future generations of kids trying to pick it up. That was Joe.
Besides his military service, he was an emergency medical technician and firefighter. He and Michele, also an EMT, took turns answering calls when the kids were small. They met in high school but started dating when they met again while Michele was getting EMT training.
As the porch conversation lulls, the family members look at their feet. "It's all so wrong," Rob says. "Surreal," Michele finishes. "Yeah, surreal," Tony agrees.
"You drive down the road and it's all the same," Michele said. "Santa is coming. If I didn't have three kids, I'd be a ball in that bed right now."
Ryan is 15, and the girls, Danielle and Jordan, are 11 and 9.
They hadn't seen their dad since August, when he was home for a break. He left for Afghanistan in April with the 102nd Infantry Battalion of New Haven, due back in spring 2007.
He served in Iraq from February 2004 to 2005.
"Here we are waiting for him to come home," Rob said.
Funeral arrangements won't be made for a few days, as the family awaits the return of Phaneuf's body in a week or 10 days, Michele said. Her husband was clear that he wished to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
"I told him I love him," Rob told the family about his last phone conversation with his brother in October.
"The first time he went to Iraq, I told him. He got awkward and kind of said, `Love you, too.' But the second time, you could see stuff heating back up in Afghanistan. He didn't hesitate: `I love you, too,'" he told Rob.
The casket of Staff Sergeant Joseph Phaneuf II is carried down the steps of St. Patrick Cathedral in Norwich after his funeral
Photo Courtesy of Holly, March 2007
Photo Courtesy of Holly, January 2007