Nation & World

Bragg soldier killed on patrol in Baghdad

A soldier based in North Carolina was killed in a gunbattle in Iraq on Monday, according to the Department of Defense.

Sgt. Joseph M. Vanek, 22, of Elmhurst, Ill., died from small-arms fire after his unit was attacked on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq.

Vanek was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.

The tour was Vanek's third in Iraq, said his father, Frank Vanek.

His unit conducted night patrols of Baghdad neighborhoods, Frank Vanek said.

Vanek enlisted out of high school in July 2003 and had completed his four-year enlistment but was kept in the Army as part of the Army's stop-loss program, Frank Vanek said. He joined the 82nd in March 2004.

After the Army, Joseph Vanek had planned to enroll in college and study international relations with hopes of joining the CIA.

"He wasn't one to sit behind a desk," Frank Vanek said. "He was the kind of kid that had to be active all of the time."

Vanek's decorations included the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

"Sgt. Vanek took care of his soldiers on and off duty," said Spc. Antonio Garcia, a friend and member of Vanek's unit. "We were his boys."

Vanek's unit will hold a memorial service for him in Iraq.

Vanek's death follows a two-month drop in military casualties that ended in October.

According to The Associated Press, 39 troops died in October, down from 65 in September.

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