Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom

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

Army Staff Sgt. Thomas E. Vitagliano

33, of New Haven, Connecticut.
Vitagliano died in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his position. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Casey, Korea. Died on January 17, 2005.

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"It's been a while, my friend. You are not for gotten: hands down, the best small unit leader I had the privilege of serving with- Semper Fi!"
Alec of Boulder, CO/USA

"I miss you Brother."
SSG Rogers of Cocoa Beach, Florida

"SSG Vito, thank you for paying the ultimate sacrifice my brother. Herman and several more lives where saved that day because of you! The ambush was not meant for our platoon but you took it upon your self to save many lives. We gave them hell my brother and took out 9. Rest easy my Brother the line has held."
Darren Irwin of Boise, Idaho

"10 years .... Miss you brother"
Joe Ronan of Orange Ct

"Tom, wanted to say one more thing, those nights on Onslow beach at Camp Lejuene N.C. sure were a lot of fun, oh yea and i will never forget u and all those other battalion recon marines diving off of the bridge leading onto the beach and u cutting your feet on all those oyster shells trying to climb outa there oh how i miss u Tom and everyone always will."
Sheri of Jacksonville, N.C.

"Tom, i cannot believe that i am just now finding out about your death. It has been almost 10 yrs now and i just found out last week. I will never forget falling in love with u, my first love, at good ole camp lejuene, N.C. I am so sorry tom u were one of the best people i ever met. I met many marines in this town, but none as great as you. I will never forget u as long as i live. Something made me think to google u and your fathers obituary came up instead and i will never forget seeing them say his "beloved son" thomas e. Vitagliano, i didnt really need to read any further but i did and it said thay u were killed in iraq in 2005, i am so sorry tom, i am a better person today simply because i knew u."
sheri of jacksonville, N.C.

"Vito, You will never be forgotten, you were larger than life, and you remain an inspiration. It was privilege serving with you, and a blast being your friend. Semper fi"
Mike of Danbury, CT

"It's hard to believe that it has been 8 years since you were killed in Iraq and not a day goes by that you aren't thought if by a lot of people who miss you . Thank you for everything you did .GID BLESS your brother in law joe"
Joe Ronan of Orange ct

"I never want to forget the sacrifices of so many young men and women. I am so proud it makes me cry. I understand in theory only that war is a part of human nature but so is love and caring. I wish I could take the families pain away but I can't. I am committed to loving ALL people, myself and our environment. I am committed to working on my happiness everyday because so many have died for my freedom to live my life. Thank you is not enough but it is all I have. All my love and respect. ogersteiner@yahoo.com
A hundred times a day, I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am receiving. - Albert Einstein"
Scott E. Steiner of Worthington, OH USA

"my uncle is the best in the world. i just wish i saw him again because he died the day he was surppose to come back home."
shelby ronan of orange ct

"my uncle is the best in the world. i just wish i saw him again and i also wish i saw him smile in one pitcher."
shelby ronan of orange ct

"January 11, 2009
To the family of Staff Sgt. Thomas E. Vitagliano:
Thomas 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

"My heart is heavy again today with sorrow... From all the members of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, Delta-6(Dirty6) our thoughts are with you again. Memorial Day (2008)our fallen brother...There are many times that your name is brought up amoung your "young brothers" remembering our times both good and bad as we entered, lived, learned, deployed and left the most elite teams the Marine Corps had to offer. From November 91 to May 95, myself and 19 other Marines served in the same platoon with "Vito". We were young men setting out to conquer and correct the world....We may have not acheived all, but we gained much in our pursuit. We all shared the same thoughts with the world's problems, and how we were going to correct them. Some of us left the military, and some stayed...Vito, you always went back for more. Vito you will always be remembered as our brother and a Warrior. I hope to see you again, one day in another place...May your name live on as strong as your spirit."
T.J. Vickers U.S.M.C. of Birmingham,Al

"Tom, its been 9 years almost to the day I met you. You were my first team leader in the scout platoon and the Army. You have left a lasting impact on my life and how I carry myself daily and raise my family. God Bless you soul and thank you for being a HERO and friend. Your brother!"
SGT. Douglas M. Woodward of Aiken, SC, USA


"Tom, itís hard to believe that 20 years have gone by since the day we met. We started out calling you "alphabet," then a nickname I probably shouldn't print. In the end though, it was hard to call you anything less than friend. I have many fond memories of my time at Hargrave. Rifle Team, Drill Team, Color Guard, B.S. sessions, and even Col Burke's Chemistry class. You were always there, right in the middle of it all. First to laugh, first to fight, and first to lend a helping hand.

When I heard you story, I wasn't surprised. Whatever the world event, you were destined to be in the middle of it! Our country owes a great debt of gratitude to people like you Tom. People who arenít afraid to be in the middle, doing whatís right.

I have a young son now. Not a day goes by that I donít fear for his safety and well being. He lives in a secure utopia that is only possible because soldiers like you risk their lives to make the world a better place. When I think he is ready, I am going to tell him about you. I want him to know that you paid the supreme sacrifice so that could have a better tomorrow.

I think of you often. I want your family to know that your legacy lives on. Not only in the hearts and minds of your friends, but in the eyes of a young boy. Rest in Peace Bro."
Herbert A. McKoy, III '89 of Atlanta, GA, USA

"Honoring your life and sacrafice this Memorial Day...5/27/07. Thank you for your service to our country."

"I must be the last person to find out about you Tom. I remember when we were stationed together in Korea, and even though I am "female soldier", you always said that I should be a Ranger. We had the best of times, and a few bad ones too.
Thanks for always taking up for me, and never letting me walk home alone in the dark, you know how I hated all that.
Tonight I will drink a Brastabul in your honor, and I will "pop the top twice!"
You was my hero way back when, and I will never forget you now."
Elaina Reitenour of Darmstadt, Germany

"To the family of Thomas "VITO" Vitagliano. My name is Clem Danish and "Vito" Thomas was my Ranger Buddy in class 05-00. The last time we saw each other was in passing in Iraq when his unit was relieving my unit. I am now an instructor at that same school where we met and butted heads for 70+ days, but it was worth it. We both made it through the course and kept each other on track. He "is" a leader even if he is not with us in the flesh, but through his leadership and compassion as crazy as it may have seemed has passed into all those that he has touched and led. He will always be a part of who I am and I will never forget what a great man he was. It was an honor to have met, served and to have had such an out-standing Ranger Buddy."
CPT Clement Danish of Eglin AFB, Florida

"Sgt. "Vito"
I have the honor and privilege to have served with you in the United States Marine Corps. I remember your leadership and commitment to the men in your squad. When I attended your funeral and listened to the actions that earned you the Bronze Star it came as no surprise. You sacrificed your life for the protection of a comrade. I will never forget your sacrifice, leadership, and duty to country. You are a patriot, and the definition of a warrior. Semper Fi!"
Michael Peckham USMC of Ledyard, CT

"I had the pleasure of attending Hargrave Military Academy in high school while Tom was a senior. I'm not sure he ever knew who I was but Tom was certainly one in whom the corps of cadets held in awe. I remember the final inspection we had his senior year - Tag's last inspection at Hargrave. The inspection was performed by the Army Rangers that day. When it was over and everyone was preparing to leave for the summer, a story went around the academy relating how upset he had been that the Rangers had ticked him on the inspection because he had a Marine Corp flag on his wall. I remember thinking at the time that I hoped he hadn't hurt the Rangers too badly...

That was my last memory of SSGT Vitagliano. He was an example of bravery and principled honor to me when I was a troubled teen in a military academy and while I am deeply saddened to hear of his death in Iraq, I am not surprised in the least to hear that he lived his life and met his end on this earth protecting his fellow soldiers, the people in Iraq hoping for freedom and peace Ė and protecting us and the freedoms we so gratefully enjoy here in America from those who have vowed to destroy us."
Thomas E. Fowler of Fort Worth, Texas

"Vito, I think about you everyday. I still can'tplay "My brother Sylveste" without smiling and thinking of you and me enjoying ourselves.Your memory lives on brother.....see ya' in valhalla."

"4th of July wasnt the same as it was last year without you around SSG. V. I guess now that everyones out of 1st platoon, this is my time for leaving too. Thanks SSG. V. if only I could tell you in person. Still wont forget the time in Korea during July before we left for Iraq. You took me to every bar/club. "Force Hydration"

Alpha Team, 1st Sqd, 1st Plt, C Co., 503 INF REGT"
Spc. Herrman of Ft. Carson, Colorado

"I had the pleasure of going to Hargrave with Tom. It has been a number of years since I had seen him, but every year at alumni time he was one of the main people I looked for. Tom made an impact not only on my life but in the lives of every soldure and cadet he came across!"
Kraus of Charlottesville ,Va

"You are in my thoughts and prayers this Memorial Day, 2006. We will never forget."
Bela Beaupre of Woodbury, CT

"To the family of: Thomas E. Vitagliano I am so sorry for the loss of your love one. He died a hero defending freedom. May you have the peace and understanding that only comes from God. Prayerfully, we will 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, Gateway Community Church, 11677 Brown Bridge Rd., Covington, GA 30016. (770)787-1015. Your friend in Jesus Christ,"
Polly Ballew of Covington,Ga

"SSG V. was my squad leader. I remember when i came to his squad as a team leader, all i could think was 'I hope i don't let him down' SSG V. was the most imporpant person in your life, if you wanted him to be or not. He was ultimatly in control. He's taught me more than anyone in my life ever has. I hope I can pass some of that onto other soldiers. Often I say to myself "What would SSG V. say if was looking at me now?" and he gives me strength to push on harder. We all miss you SSG V. we'll never forget you."
sgt. joel klein of ft. carson, co

"I'm writing this even though I never knew Thomas E. Vitagliano. I want to honor and say "THANK YOU" to such a fine man for bravery in the face of danger, in the face of evil. This resulted in the ultimate sacrifice. Words are never enough. I send my sincere sympathy to the family and friends of such a hero."
Pamela Newlin of Bethesda, MD

"I knew Tom in military school. He was tough to the core. I always new his spirit was in the service. His sacrafice was made for us. His unwavering dedication to our country is obvious. God bless Tom and his family."
Chris Couch HMA 89 of Pennsylvania/USA


I didn't want to know it was you. Still remember you being larger than life in the recon plt in korea back when I was a rifle pl. Heard about you here and there through the years, always something great. Still don't want to believe it. Will always remember your name brother. Rest in Peace.
Who Dares, Wins"
C. Szeto of Potomac MD

"Vitagliano was truly an indomitable spirit. I can remember this one time in Florida phase of Ranger school, nobody had slept for like 3 days, and we were all moping around. From across the entire perimeter, we could all hear Vitagliano joking around. I walked over to him, and we smoked a cigerette in complete violation of all noise and light discipline. He was a good man, you just couldn't keep him down."
John Marking of Burlington VT

"I went to North Georgia College with Tom. I vividly remember the arguements he and Captain Beatty would have every class period. I also remember that he was a heck of a soldier. It angers me that the enemy did not have the guts to fight Tom man to man. Tom would have won that battle. God bless Tom and his family."
Rob Lively NGC '94 of Dalton, GA USA

"I'll be looking for your name each and every time I travel Route 34. Thinking of you....8/31/05"
Bela of Woodbury, CT

"SSG. V. was my sqd. leader of 1/503 Air Assault in S.Korea and Iraq. He was one of the best Squad leaders I've ever had considering he was from 2nd Ranger Bat. He was an NCO all infantrymen wanted to have, "RANGER SQUAD FOREVER"."
Spc Garcia of Ft. Carson, Colorado

"I was one of Staff Sgt Vitagliano's teamleaders in Iraq. When he first came to my PLT he hated me, I hated him also. Then I came to his SQD, what can I say I hated life. By the time we got to Iraq we began to understand eachother and throughout missions had a bond like no other. I wish I would have respected the man more when he "was" rather then when he was gone. I thank him for everything that he taught me and hope that he'll look down on me once and awhile to straighten me out. I'll remember you SSG V."
SGT Russell S. Himmelberger of Lebanon, PA.

"My heart is saddened by the news of one of America's finest. I served with "Vito" at 2nd Reconnaissance Co., Camp Lejeune. A true hero doing what he loved to do. God bless those serving the famlies of those who provide the support.
Semper Fi"
(Sgt.) Patrick Monahan of San Diego, CA

"SSG. Vitagliano was my sqd. leader. He was too hardcore and treated us like *, but I always knew why just didnt want to admit the fact he was right about it. Must be a Ranger thing. I was supposively his favorite of all the guys in the platoon, ask anyone in C. Company. I dont know why, I guess it was cus I gave everyone else crap in the platoon and he would back me up on it cus he did the same. There are some times I wish he was here now cus he always kept me on my toes ready for anything. Now its just like... its just fallen apart. I was in the same explosion with SSG. Vitagliano and I remember what happened before we got blown up. After we got dropped off somewhere near Market street in the slums of Ar Ramadi. We ran like 3 miles climbing walls, jumping walls, etc to get to our sector. We took a detour around so the enemy wouldnt know where we were going. When we finally got to our sector we pulled 360 security. The crazy thing about our area was that we were on the worst part where all hell breaks loose. It was an intersection of Market Street and Easy Street. I dont know why but in a way I knew something bad was going to happen that day. If not to us, it was going to happen to someone else. We had Alpha team on roof and Bravo team on ground pulling security. We had to of been there for like 4 hours atleast if not longer. By then the enemy already knew where we were or should of. I would say by the time it was time to leave, I remember SSG. V. saying something about getting ready to pull out. The only down fall was he said we are waiting for some poogs to hurry up with a tea party with the the people of Ramadi to show respect to them or something. First thing that came to my mind was this is bull *. Like 1 minute later after he said that I see him running to the gate of the courtyard at a sprint pace. I didnt know what was really going on. Geer ran up right behind him and Harden was laying in front of the gate door. I ran right up behind Harden and SSG. V. and Geer were probably about 5 feet past the gate. Then out of no where I remember staring up at the sky with dust all over the place. I think I came unconsious for a couple of minutes and woke up and was laying on my back cus I was still staring up at the sky. I rolled over on my stomache and I felt kind of weird like I was tired. I looked around and didnt see SSG. V. or any of the guys around. I didnt know what to think at the time. Only thing going through my mind was what the hell was that all about. Last thing on my mind was SSG. V. was dead but I noticed a dead body laying next to me. There was a hand sticking out of the rubble from the courtyard wall laying on top of us. Then and there I realized what just happened. I tried to get up to see where everyone was at but I couldnt. I screamed SSG. V.s name a couple times and no reply. Finally I gave up. I dont know what was wrong with me but I felt as if I was getting sleepy or fadeing away or something. Must be what it feels like to die. Finally SGT. Himmelberger came down from the roof to help me up. I remember him trying to help me up but after that I cant remember what happened. I thought I ran back to the Humvees but the people at Walter Reed Hospital said that never happened and wasnt possible in my condition at the time. I talked to SGT. Himmelberger about what happened and he said they dragged the wounded out to the Humvees while under fire. I dont remember that. My head injury was so bad I had leaky blood in my head from a concushion which is why I have memory problems after that. But I will admit it. Its not the same without SSG. Vitagliano around. No matter how wrong I was about doing things he would back me up on doing it anyways. And I would eventually learn the hard way why it was wrong. In a way he was like a father to all of us. And I was his favorite son.

My prayers go out to his family and friends.

Any questions email nicolai.herrman@us.army.mil"
Pfc. Herrman of Ft.Carson Colorado

"Remembering you this July 4th, 2005. I fly my United States flag with pride. May your family and friends seek comfort and peace in the Lord. Love never ends. It lives on in our hearts forever."
Bela of Woodbury, CT

"Tom was a freshman buddy of mine at North Ga College in 1989. Tom was tougher than nails, with a humorous personality that would make your stomach hurt. Tom was the type of guy that would jump in front of a train to save a friend. I will miss him dearly."
Maj Bo Longgrear of Savannah, Ga

"The Family and Friends of
Thomas Vitaliano, While no one can truly know all that you feel Please know how deeply we care. May the sadness in your hearts be healed by your loving memories of Tom. Our son is in the 503 and has told us what a wonderful person he was. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. With sincere sympathy."
The Hallett Family of Nantucket, MA

"I miss you buddy.. we served together in the 503rd... You were one of the best soldiers I ever known"
SGT Brian Gibens DIS. VET of Grandview, Tx

"To the family of staff Sgt. Thomas Vitagliano:
Our Family shares your grief for your loss and we are deeply saddened with you.....
Tommy was a hero and we express our gratitude for his sacrifices...Our prayers are with you thru and thru..
Thank You Thomas!!!!!"
The Sharfman and Cardinale family of Nanuet, New York

"tommy you always served proudly and did your job you gave your life on 1-17-05 and saved another you will be missed very much by a lot of people you were a friend, brother in law and a brother to me god bless and i know you are in a better place now and some day we will all be together again"
joe ronan of orange ct u.s.a.

""I donít believe that we understand all that you gave, or how your sacrifice will affect the future for our sons or daughters. I believe you confronted the evil that has enslaved mankind throughout history, the same evil that many American soldiers have confronted in many battles.

I will teach my son and daughter of your sacrifice and your heroism.

Proud Family of Pfc. Kohler serving in Ar Ramadi, Iraq""
Anderson Family of Montana

"My son is in the same unit. My heart goes out to you and your family. You are in my prayers and I honor your son for his willingness to serve his country and make the ultimate sacrifice.""
MilitaryMama1503 of Salisbury,NC

"My name is Melvin Morales Disabled veteran ( Sergeant First Class/E-7. I was the U.S. Army Recruiter of Thomas. The first time I met him he told me one thing " I want to be an Airborne/Ranger. He was in The Marines for 4 years active then a sergeant in The Marines Reserves and very proud of his father a former marine I was told. He used to tell me great things about his father and family. We both bonded to each other because my father was also a Soldier in the U.S.Army. He had a great sense of humor and caring, definately a leader of soldiers. Even he finished college all he wanted to do was to serve his country. He was very proud of it as well as I was very proud him. I have lost soldiers before under my leadership but now that I am not a leader anymore, a former soldier and disabled veteran. It hurts seeing my soldiers dying because in one way or another they are my troops. My deepest gratitude to one of best Marine and a Soldier I have ever met. Second to none. To the family of Staff Sergeant Thomas Vitagliano my deepest condolences. Last letter I received from Thomas was from Korea. I asked him how was the training?, he replied, "The best training came from my father" For as long as I live You will never be forgotten.


Melvin Morales
Disabled Veteran
(203) 732-4078
Email: melmmcs_tech@adelphia.net"
Melvin Morales of New Haven, CT

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

"Dear Vitagliano Family, please know that we share your loss and grieve with you. Rest assured that Thomas will always be remembered as a man who cared deeply for our country. He is a true, brave, soldier and hero. Thank you Thomas for everything you have done for us. May God grant you eternal peace in His kingdom and may He comfort this family. God bless you all."
Bela of Woodbury, CT

"Sgt. Vitagliano, thank you for so bravely defending our Nation and its people. You are our hero and we will not forget what you did for us. God Bless you soldier and may He grant your loved ones peace. From a very grateful American family."
The Shaw family of Pasadena, Maryland

"To Tommy Vitagliano:

I'm told by family back in Connecticut that your son was the best and the brightest among those of us who carry the Vitagliano name. While I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I mourn his loss and send you, your wife, your kind mother and entire family my deepest condolences."
Gerald Vitagliano, son of Gennaro Vitagliano and Palmina Vitagliano Noble, of Los Angeles, CA

"To Thomas' Family:
There are no words to express the sorrow we feel for your loss. May God bless you and help you through this time."
Dan and Meg Manninen of San Antonio, Texas

"Thank you Thomas Vitagliano, 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. Thomas Vitagliano:
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 Thomas 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. Thomas Vitagliano:
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 Thomas, 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