Thursday, June 19, 2003

Ohioan killed in Iraq laid to rest

By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Va. - An Army officer killed in a crash in Iraq was remembered as a team player, friend and doting family member as he was buried Wednesday with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

Lt. Col. Dominic "Rocky" Baragona, 42, died May 19 near Safwan, Iraq, when a tractor-trailer jackknifed and collided with Baragona's Humvee while he was traveling in a convoy to Kuwait.

Baragona, one of at least seven Ohio soldiers killed in Iraq, had been the commanding officer of the 19th Maintenance Battalion at Fort Sill, Okla.

He grew up in the Youngstown suburb of Niles and attended John F. Kennedy High School in nearby Warren. Baragona graduated from West Point in 1982.

A horse-drawn carriage brought his flag-draped, silver casket to the southern part of the cemetery where 22 other soldiers killed during the Iraq war already have been buried. The U.S. Army Band played "Holy, Holy, Holy" as eight servicemen carried the casket to the grave site. About 60 family members and friends followed behind.

"Rocky was a man of tremendous passion and of tremendous integrity. It was those qualities that set him apart," said Brig. Gen. Brian Gehan, a friend of Baragona's who commands the Army's I Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Brig. Gen. Richard P. Formica, who was Baragona's commanding officer at Fort Sill, said he could always count on Baragona for seasoned, mature and candid advice.

"Some times it wasn't the advice that I wanted to hear, but that I needed to hear," Formica said, adding that it was because of Baragona's expertise that his soldiers were ready for war.

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, told Baragona's parents, Dominic and Vilma, that he honored Baragona both as a soldier and as a father who has lost a child. DeWine's 22-year-old daughter, Becky, died in a car crash in 1993.

"I have learned over time as a parent that it really isn't possible to understand the meaning of a child's death. I struggle with it every day," DeWine told Baragona's parents.

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