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Uniform at door breaks hearts of loved ones

©Associated Press
March 24, 2003

LA MESA, Calif. -- The war in Iraq has repeatedly hit home in the San Diego area, where several of the first Americans killed during the conflict were stationed or had lived.

Pete Micklish and his wife, Dianne, answered their door here Saturday to the knocking of Navy chaplains looking for their neighbors. The couple would later pass along the news: that their neighbors' 27-year-old son, Navy Lt. Thomas Mullen Adams, had been killed in a helicopter collision over the Persian Gulf.

Dianne Micklish reached Adams' parents in Germany, where they were visiting a daughter.

It was "the worst news anybody could ever share," she said.

"How do you tell somebody their only son, one they're so proud of . . ." she said, her voice trailing off. "They were so proud of his accomplishments, and they were so scared when they knew he was going to go over there. How do you do that?"

Adams had been assigned as an exchange officer with the Royal Navy's 849 Squadron since October. Six British troops aboard the Royal Navy helicopters also died in the crash Saturday.

Neighbor Mary Frasure remembered Adams as "an adorable boy. Just darling."

Another Californian, identified by the Defense Department as Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, 22, of Los Angeles, was among the first to die in combat.

He and 2nd Lt. Therrel S. Childers, both with the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, were killed Friday during fighting in southern Iraq. One died leading his infantry platoon in a firefight to secure an oil pumping station, U.S. Central Command said. The other died in fighting near the port of Umm Qasr.

Gutierrez was born in Guatemala and moved to the United States as a child with his parents, said Fernando Castillo, the Guatemalan consul general in Los Angeles. Castillo said he was in contact with the Marine Corps but had no further information about Gutierrez or his family.

Childers, 30, came from a military family and grew up in Harrison County, Miss. On Friday, his parents were in Texas visiting their daughter, Sandy Brown, and son-in-law Richard Brown at Fort Hood when Marines delivered the news of his death. "When a group of Marines dressed in their Class A's walked to the door, I knew," Sandy Brown said. "I just escorted my kids to the back of the house and gave my parents privacy."

"My brother died doing what he wanted to do," she said. "He always wanted to be a Marine."

Another U.S. soldier, Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., was killed Saturday when a grenade was thrown into a military tent in Kuwait.

Seifert grew up in rural Williams Township, Pa.He met his wife of four years, Theresa Flowers, at nearby Moravian College. About four months ago, they had their first child, Benjamin.

"You hope for the best when you know someone so well that goes into any type of combat," said family friend Ann Keeney said. "But if something happens to him, you expect him to die in some type of battle. You don't expect a man from the unit to do something like this. I think that makes it so much harder. Not that it's not hard enough."

-- Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

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