The Mess => Foreign Militaries => Topic started by: bossi on March 24, 2004, 19:09:00

Title: Putting faces to names of fallen
Post by: bossi on March 24, 2004, 19:09:00
(this story just tugged at me)

Two soldiers helped others

By Henry Cuningham, Military editor
Published on: 2004-03-24

Maj. Mark D. Taylor and Spc. Matthew J. Sandri, who died Saturday in Iraq, were remembered Tuesday as people quick to reach out and respond to the needs of others.

Taylor, a 41-year-old general surgeon from California, was one of the key leaders in developing a surgical program for weight loss at Fort Bragg‘s Womack Army Medical Center. There is a demand for bariatric surgery among military dependents, said Maj. Brian Burlingame, chief of general surgery.

‘‘It takes a physician that is willing to do it and handle patients who have a variety of health-care problems underlying obesity,‘‘ Burlingame said. Taylor could handle the simplest office procedures to the most complex surgical cases, he said.

Sandri, a 24-year-old combat medic from Pennsylvania, always wanted to include people in activities, said Spc. Corey Miller, his roommate.

‘‘If anybody was down, whether he knew you or not, if it was a three-day weekend, he‘d say, ‘We‘ve got a couple of guys together, do you want to join us?‘‘‘ said Miller, a 24-year-old combat medic from Virginia. ‘‘He never wanted to leave anybody out, pretty much.‘‘

Taylor and Sandri died in Fallujah when their compound came under a rocket attack. The major was assigned to the 782nd Main Support Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division. The specialist was in the 82nd Forward Support Battalion.

Taylor ‘‘had a joy for life,‘‘ Burlingame said. ‘‘He always had a smile on his face.‘‘

The reaction at Womack to Taylor‘s death was ‘‘shock,‘‘ he said.

Patients have called and sent flowers, Burlingame said.

‘‘He had a bond with his patients unlike many other surgeons,‘‘ Burlingame said.

‘‘Mark was what I would call the consummate general surgeon. He always had time for his patients, after hours, on the weekends.‘‘

Taylor arrived at Womack in 2001.

‘‘He immediately volunteered to be assigned to the 82nd Forward Surgical Team,‘‘ Burlingame said.

‘‘He was a very good soldier,‘‘ Burlingame said. ‘‘He looked every bit the part of an 82nd Airborne Division soldier. He was conscientious about his duty at the 82nd and at Womack.‘‘

Taylor juggled his responsibilities between the hospital and the division and treated his patients with compassion, Burlingame said.

‘‘He provided a standard of care that I think is above and beyond what you see in the civilian and military medical community,‘‘ Burlingame said.

Taylor had been looking forward to spending time with his 6-year-old son, Connor, Burlingame said. Taylor was divorced, and his son lived in California with his mother.

‘‘He was three things in this world,‘‘ Burlingame said. ‘‘He was a father, an officer and general surgeon.‘‘

Miller said he and his friends still find it hard to comprehend that Sandri is dead.

‘‘He was going to be back soon, and we were all going to be partying again,‘‘ Miller said. ‘‘It‘s a big hit to the heart. He has always been like the life of the party.‘‘

Spc. Christopher Bush, a 20-year-old combat medic from Arizona, said Sandri was part of a close-knit group of soldiers whose families lived in distant states.

‘‘He was one of those kind of people in the unit who everybody loved.‘‘ Bush said. ‘‘No one was ever mad at him. I‘ve never been upset at him.

‘‘He was like the surrogate older brother. When I needed somebody to talk to, he was there. It‘s a strange feeling not to have him around any more.‘‘

Sandri was one of the few people in their group of junior enlisted soldiers who had a car, Bush said.

‘‘People always asked for rides,‘‘ Bush said. ‘‘He would always oblige. He was always there for us.‘‘

In Iraq, rocket attacks came several times a month, said Chance Pagel, a 19-year-old combat medic from Nebraska.

‘‘I guess we never took any injury from it before,‘‘ he said. ‘‘After a while, you just wish they would stop so you could get some sleep.‘‘

In the back of their minds, the soldiers realized the attacks could be deadly.

‘‘Over there, anything is a possibility,‘‘ Pagel said. ‘‘You always think it will never be one of your friends.‘‘

Military editor Henry Cuningham can be reached at or 486-3585.