Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Remembering the servicemembers who died in the service of their country.

Army Staff Sgt. Joe L. Dunigan, Jr.

37, of Belton, Texas.
Dunigan died in Fallujah, Iraq, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas. Died on March 11, 2004.

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"Miss you Brother! Hoisting a few adult beverages in your Honor ya damn Aggie."
JIF of Hunstville


"To the family of SSG Dunigan, he was a great man and I had the opportunity of serving with him at Fort Riley, KS and he was always a tough soldier. He was a great guy and had a great smile and was the epitome of a soldier. He is missed and I think of him often, I was sitting here at work and decided to look up some of the brothers we lost in Iraq and I sit here with tears in my eyes thinking of his family and how much they miss you brother. I think of all of our fallen brothers and sisters and it is an honor to have served with you."
Riley of Bismarck, ND

"12 years and it is just like yesterday that you left us. I miss you so very much and as always a very proud Mama. I love you son. Tell Mama and Daddy hello and you all continue on until we meet again."


"Still remember bro... 22 May, 2015"

"Today is the 11th anniversary of that tragic day. I miss you son, but am so proud of you and the sacrafice that you and Christopher made that day. There isn't a day goes by that I don't think of you. I hope that you and Grandad and Grandma have had a great reunion. Gone but never forgotten in our hearts and minds. RIP dear Son!!"
Your loving Mother, Dena of Benton, Ky. USA

"Happy #48 dear Son. Grandad has joined you this year and I know that you, Grandad and Grandma are having a great reunion in Heaven. I miss you so much Son and you are on my mind constantly.I am so proud of you and will never forget your sacrafice for all of us. God Bless!!!"
Mama Dena of Benton, Ky.

"God Joe I miss you my friend. Many a time in years past I wished it was me that died that day. I had no wife and little girl then. I have lost contact with Misty and the boys. I was so shocked the day Misty tracked me down and told me the news. I promise that my little girl Hannah Grace will know who Joe L. Dunigan is and your sacrifice you made for us. I have made a promise I will visit you grave and share a drink my friend. By the way Rex is in Heaven with you, look him up and take him fishing. Oh! The Aggies have had to great football seasons these last two years, Dad would appreciate someone to hang out on the ledge of Kyle Field and watch Saturday football with him."
Curtis B. McClaren of Alvin, Texas

"Joey, my Joey. Ten years have gone by and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think about you. I miss you so much and am so very proud of you!! You are my Hero. I know that you and Chris are keeping everyone in Heaven entertained. RIP Son. Gone, but NEVER forgotten!!"
Mama of Benton, Ky. USA

"It does not seem possible that 9 years have gone by since your ultimate sacrifice on March 11, 2004. This message is to remember you and how much you meant to us. We are forever grateful for your willingness to give your life to protect us all. We will always remember and love you. Love always, Steve and Cindy"
Steve and Cindy Rose of Benton, KY

"Joey: Another year has yet come and gone. Your face and laughter are etched in my brain forever. I love you and miss you dearly. I know that you and all the family and friends that have gone on before and after you are having a wonderful reunion. I am so very proud of you and what you stood for. God Bless You and Chris!!!"
Momma of Benton, Ky./USA

"Misty - my heart is always heavy when I think of our losses. It's been 8 years of tears. I know Your Joe & my Chris are together forever in heaven .....call me (805) 5583001 or email ahill92453@yahoo.com anytime to talk xo lovingly Chris Hill's mom Adrienne Hill in Calif."
Adrienne Hill of Moorpark,California

"Dear Son, it was 8 years ago today that you left this old earth. I remember the knock on the door as if it were yesterday. Just know that a day doesn't go by that I don't think about you in some way. I miss you so very much. Tell Grandma hello and that I miss her too. I know that you all have had a wonderful time. Gods' speed to you both. Love you sooooooo much."
Mama of Bennton, Ky. USA

"Today they announced the end of the war in Irag and I cannot but think about you Joe. I remember the day I got the call from Misty. We had lost contact with one another so it took some time for her reach me with the news. I have been a teacher for the past 8 years and for the past 7 years I make a point to commemerate Veterans Day and Memorial Day in my classroom. "Joe I miss those days we worked at McLane Wholesale and the time we served together in the Texas ARNG." "I will some day make my way to Ky. and visit you Joe and catch some bass in the great lake in heaven for me buddy.""
Curtis McClaren of Alvin, Texas

"Dear Son! Happy 45th Birthday! You are forever in my heart and mind. It still does not seem possible that you are no longer with us.I miss you soooo much. I know that you and Grandma are having a good time in Heaven and we will see you there. I love you. Mama"
Dena Bryant of Benton, Ky. USA

"To Misty and the boys: I am so sorry but I just found out about Joe's passing on the Mounted Color Guard's Facebook page. I remember Joe's goofy grin and raucus laugh like it was yesterday. He was a great guy with a heart of gold. I remember many a time trying to see who could break the other's saber first during demos. Please accept Nikki's and my deepest sympathy. Joe is missed."
SPC Aaron Rainey (ret) of Las Vegas, NV

"It has been SEVEN 7 years Mr. Evans! They gave their life on 3/11/2004 TRUST ME! I WAS THERE!!!"
Ian C. Ricci of Sioux Falls, SD

"i want to say SSG D its been 8 years since that day. i want u to know that i have never forgotten about u and will always remember u. The us army and american lost a great man, and i thank u for the opportunity to have u as a friends. we will meet up again.."
terrence evans of raleigh nc

"To the family of:Joe L. Dunigan
I am so sorry for the loss of your love one. My heart cries out for you in your grief and you have my thoughts and prayers. He died a hero defending freedom. May you have the peace and understanding that only comes from God. Prayerfully we will all meet in Heaven one day where we will rest in the arms of Jesus. If you need prayer or need someone to talk to, please call or write my pastor: Rev. John Pearrell 11677 Brown Bridge Rd., Covington, GA 30016. (770)787-1015.
Your friend in Jesus Christ, Polly Ballew Covington,Ga""


"6 Years Ssgt D
Cant believe it has been 6 years. Believe me when I tell you that things DO NOT get easier with the years. But I can assure you that you and Hill are not forgotten, EVER! God bless you and I cannot wait to stand side by side with you again..
Blue 2 REDCON 1....
Ian Ricci of Sioux Falls, SD

"”Honor and Remember” - “Project Compassion” We love our Soldiers! We love our country and we cannot express enough love and compassion to the families of our fallen heroes. War does not discriminate – It breaks our hearts to see the faces of the fallen. We want to give this gift to the hero’s Mother, Father and/or spouse. We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization! Over 1,800 portraits have been completed and shipped to the parents and or spouse - at no cost as this is a gift from one American to another!
This is a gift! We have some wonderful sponsors who help with the costs, and only want you know that we care.
Contact us directly at Projectcompassion@manti.com or go to www.heropaintings.com . If you have already had a portrait completed, we pray that you are enjoying the portrait and God Bless You.
Sincerely and Respectfully,
Project Compassion - Kenna of Manti, Utah USA

"Hey bubba....well it's Veteran's Day again and I just want you to know how proud I am of you and all you did to keep us free. I can't believe it has already been 5 years since you left us. I think of you every day and miss your big bolsterous laugh and when you would get mad at losing when we played Monopoly....you were always too competative. LOL. Thank you again for your sacrafice bubba!!!! I LOVE YOU ALWAYS!!!!!!!!!!! Your Sister"
Robin of Benton, KY

"I served with many of these other soldiers who have left their comments. I also served with SSG Dunigan. He was an inspiration and a beacon of light. Always willing to lend an ear for you to talk to. He was a good man, and a good father. Josh Martin knows this kindness as well. We went to his house for a Thanksgiving dinner because we were too far away from our families while stationed in Kansas.

Joe, you are an amazing person. I'll catch up with you at the gates."
SGT(p) J. Pera of Boise, ID

"I first met Joe in Korea back in 1994. I was a brand new PVT straight out BCT. Joe taught me alot! We PCS'd together to Ft riley where he was on the Mounted Color Guide. I remember he was so happy to be on that team, the country boy that he was..is..and always will be! I then PCS'd to Carson but, later reunited with each other at good ol Ft Riley...once again! We deployed together with 1/16 but with different companies. I ended up having to leave Iraq for a medical emergency and heard about this tragic incident about 2 months of being back. I was deeply sadened and a true friend was lost. I'll NEVER forget you brother...NEVER EVER! I think about you ALWAYS..thus why I am writing this now...5 years later. I think about you always and will continue to think of you and forever will you be in my thoughts. To the family of Joe, I'm very sorry for your loss and you will, also, be in my thoughts and prayers forever! I know without a doubt he is watching over you all and will continue to do so till you meet up again."
SFC Mattingly, Matthew of Philadelphia, PA

"I miss you Sergeant Dunigan....... You were a great squad leader. Hey remember in Korea when I put on Staff Sergeant rank and you caught me and you had my tail.(Good times) But hey Sergeant I will see you again."
Spc. Joshua Martin of Iowa

"I miss you Sergeant Dunigan....... You were a great squad leader. Hey remember in Korea when I put on Staff Sergeant rank and you caught me and you had my tail.(Good times) But hey Sergeant I will see you again."
Spc. Joshua Martin of Iowa

"SSG Dunigan,
Was an amazing man, I was his Executive Officer during that time. He used to laugh and most of the soldiers in the company would just laugh because he was laughing. SSG Dunigan was a big UK fan and SPC Hill was a carbon copy of him. The two were (2) country boys and had great pride being 2 country boys. I think about SSG Dunigan, SPC Hill, and SGT Ram all the time. I miss all of them. They were some great americans. Rest easy Iron Rongers


Claude Cole"
Claude Cole of McKinney, Texas/USA

"thank you so much. You are truely missed thank you for all your help when I was in high school your a friend not just a recuiter"
Jacquine Siders of Hendersonville,Tn 37075

"Joe, Chris .. You both inspire me to live out my life to the fullest.. As I was severely wounded on a following mission.. I remembered you two and the incidences that occurred that fateful day..Me and my family will always hold you guys in our hearts, Thank You for being a wonderful Squad leader Joe, and an great teammate Chris.."
Spc. Martin Moxley (ret) of Glennallen ,Ak

"SSG Dunigan, You were the absolutely one of the funniest guys I've ever known! I still remember your loud laugh that carried sooo far. I only wish I was there that day of the convoy so I could've had a chance to take aim on the bastard that triggered that I.E.D. Your driver Ricci who lived that day, came back to our Unit after recovery. He and I spoke about you and Hill alot during the rest of our deployment. We always agreed you were truly amongst the greatest NCOs to ever have served in the US ARMY. I miss you SSG. Dunigan. May God bless your family."
John Radle 806-702-4088 of Lubbock, Texas/USA

"Well even four years after this is hard to do. No i didn't serve with Joe in the Army but he was like a big brother to me. He was the one who was there when i needed a friend. I still sit and think about him all the time. If the world was full of Joe's then it would be heaven on earth. Joe and Misty have always been like family to me so for any that dont believe God puts angels on this earth i say to you ask someone about Joe and you'll see that it is true."
John McAlister john13usi@yahoo.com of Osyka,Ms

"June 2, 2008
To the family of Staff Sgt. Joe L. Dunigan, Jr.:
Joe gave the ultimate sacrifice and will be held in the hearts of Americans forever. I cannot and will not let our fallen heroes be forgotten. My deepest sympathy to you. "Some gave all."
Peggy Childers
"Don't Let The Memory Of Them Drift Away"
Peggy Childers of Carson City, NV

"Four years have passed and my heart still aches as it did the first day I recieved the news that my high school buddy was gone. I was lucky enough for Joey to find me on classmates.com just before he "went back into the bush" (as he put it) I sometimes wonder if that was God's way of reuniting us just to say goodbye one last time. That phone conversation lasted forever it seems. I found things out about Joey that I never knew and now regret that I did not pay more attention to what he was trying to tell me so many years ago..I miss him every single day. I thank God for that phone call. That is something that I will always cherrish. I am so proud of what Joey accomplished in his life... his beautiful wife, and sons. I hope his sons will know someday how truly special their dad is. I miss your wonderful smile Joey! I will always love you."
Jeannie Allen of Paducah Kentcuky/USA

"You are yet another that I have not met but feel that I have known. Every year this day comes and I see the hurt in my husbands eyes of missing two great people. My husband Ian Ricci never forgets you, Hill or that day and neither do I. I await the day we will meet and the sadness will turn to happiness. You are never forgotten and will never be. This day is always a day of rememberance in our family. RIP and know you are never forgotten."
Lexie Ricci of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

"I met Joe in 2001, where he was a recruiter at my high school. He helped me through alot of time back then and always looked at us as his kids. He helped to inspire me to join the Army, which i finally did in 2003. I have also been to Iraq twice and i recieved the news about him when i got home in 2004. I have never met an NCO that could hold a candle to this man, father, husband, son, and Soldier. I miss him daily and the world is a lesser place without him and the rest of my friend whom i have lost to this God Forsaken War on Terror"
SPC Jimmy Cardwell of Ft. Campbell, KY

"I had the honor of serving with Joe in '87-'88 at Ft.Hood,Texas. We were both assigned to Delta Co.,2/5 Cav, 1st Cavalry Division. He was a Bradley driver, gunner and ASL in 3rd Plt. and I was in the maintenance squad. When we had to work on a track, whether it was his, another in the Plt. or sometimes one from 1st or 2nd Plt., Joe would show up with the key. He might not have been too happy at first but man it didn't take very long for that grin to appear and his laugh to be heard throughout the Trackpark! He ETS'd in '88 and I never saw him again. When I read that he was Killed In Action I was not suprised at all that he had reenlisted. The first thing I thought about was that grin...it's too bad more people don't smile and laugh as much as Joe did! To me he was an outstanding soldier, a helluva grunt but most importantly a great human being. RIP Brother..."
Hugh C. Thayer of Livonia, NY USA

"I served with SSG Dunigan at Fort Riley,KS I got out of the Army July 14, 2003 just before the deployment. I lived in the Barricks with SSG Dunigan I am sorry for your loss. SSG Dunigan was a great man. He always made me laugh with the way he talk and crack jokes I will forever remember him."
Jay Dugan of Grand Forks ND

"I am CPT Robin L. Ochoa, I was with 313th Signal Company from Ft. Hood Texas at the time of this great loss. I just want SSG Dunigans family know that I was there on the 11th of March. I was the convoy commander who called in the MEDEVAC for his convoy. I have thought about that day every day since that incident. He is always in my thoughts and his family is always in my prayers. I hope that one day I will get to express my deepest sympathy for their loss. There is not a passing day that I don't think of him and SPC Hill as well as SPC Ricci. I know how difficult it must be for SPC Ricci to be here without his comerades. I feel his pain because I only wish my convoy would have gotten there a couple of minutes earlier. I can always ask what if but I know I did my best to try to save their lives. The one thing that came out of that was that SPC Ricci is still there to tell of their heroism. I wish to meet SPC Ricci one day to let him know that there are people who have not forgotten what they all went through. I relive it every day. So, to Joe's family, I wish you nothing more than God's good graces and know that I think of you all often.
With Love, Robin"
Robin Ochoa of Iraq via Hawaii


"I first met Joe in the summer of 2001, he was a recruiter in Nashville. I was a brand new Private just out of Basic Training and stationed away from my family and friends. Joe offered to take me into his home to be his adopted son. There are not enough words to explain the kind of man Joe was. One thing that I think anyone who knew Joe would agree that he loved his two sons Dustin and Jessie."
SPC Heath Cox of Clarksville, TN

"Dunnigan Family

I want to continue to express my deepest sympathy for your loss. I was Joe's Company Commander at the time of his death. A day that I never want to relive. Joe died a hero. This weekend as I attended Memorial Services, I thought of SSG Dunnigan, SPC Hill, SGT Ramirez, and all the Iron Rangers that we lost.

I want you to know that Joe died a hero in all our eyes. He always treated his soldiers with respect, kindness, and a firm but calm attitude.

I once again apologize for your loss, and hope that you accept my deepest heartfelt sympathy. Joe forever lives in my memories."
CPT. Michael Messer of California

"SSG Dunigan well the first time I met you was when I was stationed at FT Carson CO I came down to FT Riley to be EIB Cadre and and you were the NCOIC of are station it was just me and you and I have never forgoten your southern accent and your loud and joyus laugh. Well I came back to Fort Riley and I was stationed in B co 1-16 the january before you left us after returning to riley from korea I shipped off to iraq and it was to late to see you again you had left it was may when I got there and there is one phrase that you had said that stuck in my mind and it was " BLESS YOUR BIG OLD HEART" so bless your big old heart good freind and I wish you were here."
SSG Frankenstein of Fort Riley KS

"SSG Dunigan, i dont know where to begin. people ask me all the time. arent you the only that lived out of the attack. sometimes i wish i was not. but than i remember all that you and Hill tought me about the military and life. you were (ARE) a great man and my life will forever be changed by the events in iraq. no crew will ever be as proficent as we were. SSG D i miss you so damn much, i have yet to meet an NCO that will treat me as good as you did. thank you for taking me under your wing and teaching me the things i needed to know. the scars i have will always remind me of how the two of you saved my life.
Blue2 RedCon1............Goodbye....."
Spc. Ian Ricci of Ft.Riley,Kansas. U.S.

"i was with joe and hill at the end has was the closet thing alot of us had to a father and always called us his kids and wached out for us like we were for those of us that were lucky enugh to know him we are better men/soldiers becouse of him i cant count the the times he has helped me not only at work but in life with advice and a swift kick in the a$$ when needed if you need any thing write me @ matthew.j.hammer@us.army.mil"
spc. matthew hammer of ft.riley ks

"I used to live across the road from Joey when we were kids. I have many fond memories of Joey, especially the Cub Scout times. When my aunt called to tell me that Joey had been killed on my birthday I was devastated. Like Joey, I have served our great country, first in the Army and now the Air Force. Dena and Robin, I am sorry I was unable to make it home for Joey's funeral. I want you to know how proud I am to have been one of Joey's many friends."
Tony Bussey of formerly of Benton, KY (currently stationed in San Antonio, TX)

"He is in a better place now and watching over his wife and children until they all meet again in Gods time....with love, your friend in Clarksville TN"
Yvette of Clarksville Tennessee USA

"I will always remember Joe for his laughter, his kindness, and his love for his family and his soldiers. When his soldiers had no where to go for the holidays, he made sure they had a home to go to. His dedication to the people he cared for will never end. God bless you Joe, you'll never be forgotten."
Lisa of Ft. Riley, KS

"I just went to the Memorial Day service in which Joey was honored; You see I graduated with Joey and was in band with him, and I am grateful for the sacrifice made for our country-to Dena, my mother taught you in school, and you were so good to my grandmother at Britthaven; you are in my prayers-and Joey, we will see you in heaven my friend"
Todd M. Watkins of Benton KY

"Joey, Your friendship will always be cherrished and I hope if you look down on us that you know we love you and are proud of you......You gave us "all" and that will never be forgoten."
SSG John, Catrina, Shelby and Skyler Brinkley of Benton, Kentucky

"To Joe's Family and Friends:

On behalf of the Blanco-Caldas family, we send our sincerest condolences. We share the same loss ... the same pain. Our prayers are with you in this most difficult time and we thank you for his bravery and sacrifice.


The Family of Capt. Ernesto M. Blanco-Caldas, 82nd Airborne, KIA Iraq 12/28/2003.

Gloria Caldas (his mom) of San Antonio, TX

"Sergeant Dunigan, goodbye soldier and thank you. You are my hero."
Bill of Houston, Texas

"Hi, I am Spec. Christopher Hill's sister-in-law. As you all know Chris was with Mr. Dunigan when they departed and went to heaven. I want the family to know that my family and I pray for you all everyday. We feel your pain. There are no words to describe the pain or hurt of March 11,2004. There is no words to make it better. From my family to yours we send our condolences and hope that everyone can find the strength to move forward like Joe and Chris would have us do. Please remember to keep Cheryl (wife) and Cierra (14 month old daughter) in your prayers. Cierra will never know her daddy but she WILL know what a hero her daddy and the rest of the fallen soldiers are. God bless you!"
Tamitha Corley of Charlotte, NC

"I just wanted to take this time to say "Thank You." Joey, we have no idea what you have gone through for us, but we are not only greatful, but so honored that you gave for us. We have always been proud of your dedication-but, we did not know what proud meant until March 11, 2004. Thank you so much-We love and miss you so much-You will NEVER be forgotten."
Proud Cousin, Jeremy Rose of Benton, Kentucky

Juanita DUNIGAN-BEGNAUD of Denver, Colorado, USA

"Joey was my oldest Son who always wanted to be a Soldier. His ultimate goal was to protect His family and His Country. He served His Country Well and He is our HERO that is going to be sadly missed. He is always in our hearts and minds. I wish the world could have known this wonderful man. He is with God now and all the family that He loved so dearly that went on before Him. I know they are having a wonderful time and that He is happy. He has left behind a broken-hearted, but very PROUD FAMILY!!!!!!"
Dena Bryant of Benton, Kentucky

"Joe "Joey" Dunigan was my first cousin. I am so very honored to be related to him and I will miss him dearly. Joey always greeted me and everyone else with a great big bear hug. I will miss that the most. Joey was a loving husband, father, and soldier. The song "American Soldier" by Toby Keith describes Joey perfectly. I slept every night and prayed for his safety knowing he was on the front line for me and our family and the USA. Joey wanted nothing more than to be a great soldier. He was always that but he truly proved that the day he gave his life for our country. I will miss Joey so very much and I want the world to know what a wonderful hero he truly is. Joey will never be forgotten. God Bless all of our soldiers for keeping our freedom for us no matter what the cost."
Cheri Woodruff of Benton, KY

"Joey is my brother-inlaw. I would like to say Thank You for all that you have done. I will always remember, what you have done for the U.S. Whth Love Forever."
Billy Colley of Benton, Ky.

"Joe "Joey" is my brother. I just want to say that I am very PROUD and HONORED at what my brother did for this country. This has been very difficult but if I could tell him anything now, I would tell me how much I love him, how PROUD I am, and how HONORED I am to have a brother who sacrificed himself. I LOVE YOU JOEY....you WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN. Love you so much, sis."
Robin Colley of Benton, Kentucky

"Joe "Joey" is my nephew. We are so very proud of his service to our country. He gave his life for our freedom. We will always remember his smiling face and love for life. He loved his wife, 2 sons and family. We will forever be grateful for his supreme sacrifice for all of our nation. God called him home and we will see him again someday."
Steve & Cindy Rose of Benton, KY USA

Please KNOW so many people share your sadness, and we are remembering your family in your loss and your deep grief. Your HERO, JOE will be remembered by name. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. God Bless you. Pat & Sandi Breckenridge from Montana "

"To Joe's Family:
There are no words that can express our deep sorrow for your loss. May God bless you and your family as Joe watches over you all."
Dan and Meg Manninen of San Antonio, Texas

"God's Blessing to the Family and Friends of Joe.
A true hero and the ultimate sacrifice for our country's freedom. I am deeply saddened. His memory will live on."
Candy Knutson of Poynette, WI

"Thank you Joe Dunigan, Jr., you will not be forgotten. Your bravery goes beyond words. I want to express my deepest gratitude for your sacrifice. To the family and friends, my prayers and deep condolences in your loss. May God strengthen you from knowing that fellow Americans and people around the world care about you and grieve with you in your loss. God bless you all. A very appreciative fellow American,"
Leo Titus of Grayslake, Illinios

"To the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Joe Dunigan, Jr.:
May God's grace be with you during your time of grief. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and we feel your loss and share in your sorrow. Bless Joe for the sacrifice he has made to make a better life for the rest of us."
The Ford Family of Wells, Nevada

"To the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Joe Dunigan, Jr.:
I am saddened by the loss of your loved one. He will always be remembered as a hero for fighting for freedom. I hope that this website will be a source of comfort and encouragement for you during this difficult time, and in the future as you recall the memories of Joe, who continues to live on in your heart."
Tim Rivera of Powder Springs, Georgia

Honor them by remembering... Freedom - is their gift to us But his soul goes marching on