Marvin Ross Sprayberry III
Sergeant, United States Army
May 06, 2004
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs - (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry Contact: (703) 428-0711
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of four soldiers supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died May 3, 2004, in Balad, Iraq, when their military vehicle left the road and flipped over in a canal. All soldiers were assigned to the 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Vilseck, Germany. Killed were:
First Lieutenant Christopher
J. Kenny, 32, of Miami, Florida
The incident is under investigation.
For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs
at (703) 692-2000.
The family, friends and community of 24-year-old Sgt. Marvin Sprayberry III, killed in a military vehicle accident in the line of duty on May 3 in Balad, Iraq, mourn the loss of their son, brother, husband and friend.
According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Defense, the accident that killed the 1997 Tehachapi High School graduate and three other soldiers is currently under investigation. A spokesperson for the family said Sprayberry's vehicle had stopped to give aid to the vehicle behind them when the road collapsed and the Humvee carrying the young soldiers tumbled into a canal.
The outpouring of condolences has taken the family by surprise.
"You just don't know how many people care," said stepmom Lynn Sprayberry. "It's just been overwhelming."
Despite the media attention, the low-key Sprayberry family have come to realize that the extended community feels the loss of their heroic son, as well.
Three days after his death, Sprayberry was remembered during a number of National Day of Prayer events including one in Bakersfield attended by his sister Johnna, a Bakersfield police officer. A moment of silence was held in his honor at the National Day of Prayer breakfast in Tehachapi.
On the other side of the world, Sprayberry is remembered by his wife, Nadja, and her family of Vilseck, Germany.
To his family, his love of life and good humor will remain.
"He was a kid with an attitude," Lynn said, adding that his name was well known around Tehachapi High School. "He never met a person who didn't like him."
Long-time neighbor Margy Young remembered Sprayberry during his childhood as an "awesome individual" who was always looking out for the other kids.
"He always had a huge smile on his face and a great sense of humor. All the kids in the neighborhood looked up to him," she said. "He will be missed by many, many, many people."
After his high school graduation, Sprayberry enlisted in the Army, graduating from basic training at Ft. Sill, Okla., in August of 1997. He was stationed next in at Ft. Knox, Ky., in the 1-81st Armor Division before heading to Vilseck, Germany. It was there that he met and married his wife of about three years.
In December of 1999 and again in June of 2000, Sprayberry spent two six-month tours in Kosovo before serving as a Bradley tank mechanic for Operation Iraqi Freedom, Task Force 2-2 INF, Camp FOB War Horse.
Recently, he had arranged to be the contact point to receive shipments of items from home to share with his fellow soldiers, including toothbrushes and toothpaste, candy and writing paper. His family and friends immediately set up a collection point at the Red Caboose Saloon and invited the community to donate what they could to provide a small taste of home to the troops in Iraq. According to family friends, the response was more than successful.
The packages, due for mailing this week, will now be sent to Sprayberry's best friend in the unit for dispersal. According to family friend Orion Sanders, the packages will also include original bandannas created in memory of Sprayberry for each member of his unit.
"Marvin had many friends who loved him and are very proud of his sacrifice," Sanders said.
A memorial fund has been set up, in lieu of
flowers, at the Bank of the West, 758 Tucker Road. Anyone wishing to contribute
can make checks payable to the Sgt. Marvin Sprayberry Fund. Proceeds will
help with the family's expenses to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington
D.C. where he will be laid to rest on May 14, 2004.
Marvin R. Sprayberry Jr. replays the news of his son's death in his mind over and over again, trying to absorb it.
"He just keeps saying, 'I want my son back home. I want him back home,' " said Orion Sanders, 41, of Tehachapi, California, a friend of Sprayberry's. "It just hasn't sunk in."
Yesterday, Sprayberry watched as his son, Army Sergeant Marvin R. Sprayberry III, 24, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. His wood coffin was placed at the end of a growing row of Operation Iraqi Freedom casualties, marking the 61st such burial in Arlington's lush green hills.
On May 3, 2004, Sprayberry, a Bradley fighting vehicle mechanic, drowned in a canal north of Baghdad. Sprayberry and his crew -- part of the 1st Infantry Division's 4th Cavalry Regiment, based in Vilseck, Germany -- were leading a convoy of Humvees in Balad, Iraq, when one of the vehicles trailing behind them stalled.
"They were going to turn around and check . . . and see what was wrong," said Martha Schmidt of Bakersfield, Calif., the soldier's 91-year-old great-grandmother.
They never made it.
Sprayberry and his crew veered off a road, and the ground beneath them collapsed, sending their Humvee tumbling into the canal. Three men riding with him, First Lieutenant Christopher J. Kenny, 32, of Miami; Sergeant Gregory L. Wahl, 30, of Salisbury, North Carolina; and Private First Class Lyndon A. Marcus Jr., 21, of Long Beach, California, also died in the accident.
Yesterday, a haze hung in the air as six soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry, "the Old Guard," carried Sprayberry's casket from a silver hearse to a sunny patch at the cemetery's southeastern end.
In the front row of velvet green chairs sat Sprayberry's wife, Nadja; her mother, Elvira Uselman; his mother, Caryn Funkhouser; his stepmother, Lynn Sprayberry; and his father.
The family members sat quietly, wiping their faces with tissues, as Psalm 23 could be heard through the breeze. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . .
In keeping with traditional military honors, a seven-member firing party fired three rounds into the warm, muggy air. A lone bugler, standing in the shade of a pin oak, performed taps.
A grieving Marvin Sprayberry Jr. shuddered after Brigadier General Louis W. Weber leaned over to present him with a folded American flag. His son was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for valor.
Family friends in Tehachapi, a city of 6,200 perched high in the mountains above the Mojave desert, said the community was ravaged by the news of the young man's death.
"I can tell you from this end there's been a huge outpouring of people interested and showing their support," Sanders said. "We're real proud of him and everyone in his unit."
Sprayberry was bright, witty and loving and had a strong presence, said Margy Young, 53, a neighbor and close friend.
"We always called him 'Marvelous Marvin,' " Young said. "He was the type of kid . . . you could have 15 kids in the house, but when he got there, it was, 'Marvin's here.' "
Sprayberry was 5 feet 6 inches tall "on a good day," Young joked. "He was little but mighty."
He joined the Army after graduating from Tehachapi High School in 1997. The next year, he was sent to Germany, where he met his wife, said Schmidt, his great-grandmother.
Sprayberry had said that he wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Young said.
Although his father might have preferred to have buried him closer to home, he honored his son's wish, Young said.
"His father loved him in life and in death and wanted to be there for his kid," she said.
SPRAYBERRY, MARVIN ROSS III
SSG US ARMY
VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 05/03/2000 - 05/03/2004
DATE OF BIRTH: 08/16/1979
DATE OF DEATH: 05/03/2004
DATE OF INTERMENT: 05/14/2004
BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 7980 - Arlington National Cemetery
Posted: 12 May 2004 Updated: 15 May 2004 Updated: 21 June 2004 Updated: 4 December 2004 Updated: 21 August 2005 Updated: 14 May 2008 Updated: 10 October 2008
Photo By Michael Robert Patterson, May 2008
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 2 December 2004