Michael Oremus, Felled by a Sniper's Bullet
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
We're only halfway through, but October is shaping up to be one of the deadliest months for U.S. troops in Iraq. So far, more than 50 have died. One of them was Army Corporal Michael Oremus. He was killed by a sniper on October 2nd. He was 21 years old. Last week, his family and friends gathered in Highland, New York for the funeral.
Adam Allington reports.
ADAM ALLINGTON: Michael Oremus was the youngest of three children. He grew up in Highland, New York, a village of about 3,000 people on the banks of the Hudson River. In most small towns, people remember their own long after they leave, and the image of Michael Oremus that folks in Highland recall is of a lanky, grinning soccer player.
Mr. JAMAL LIS-SIMMONS (Soccer Coach, Highland High School): Mike loved soccer. I mean, with a passion - really loved the game of soccer.
ALLINGTON: Jamal Lis-Simmons played on the varsity soccer team with Mike. Now he coaches the team. Today, they're playing Up River rival Sogardies(ph).
(Soundbite of whistle)
Mr. LIS-SIMMONS: There's a good team picture of us from my senior year, after we won a big game at the end of the year. And it was a very happy time. And you can see it from, you know, the expressions on everyone's face. And for Mike, he was really always like that.
(Soundbite of whistle)
ALLINGTON: After graduating, Michael attended Dutchess Community College, then he enlisted in the Army in 2005. He joined a military police unit in preparation to one day become a civilian police officer. Mike Watts says he was a natural leader.
Mr. MIKE WATTS (Teacher, Highland Middle School): I feel bad because I don't feel like anything I could ever say about Mikey would do him justice.
ALLINGTON: Watts had Oremus as a student at Highland Middle School. He says that before the war, he never imagined his students going off to fight and die. Now, with Mike Oremus, the community has lost three of their own in Iraq.
Mr. WATTS: Well, we've asked ourselves many times, why? Why should we give so much? And, for me, it was always something that happened to someone else, and it was easy not to get tied into it. And now that it's come so close to home, you know, I think you understand what every other family's going through. And you grieve for them. And you sympathize with them. And you hope no one else ever has to go through it again.
ALLINGTON: Jimmy Ventriglia also played soccer with Michael. Now, standing on the sidelines watching Highland High School's current team, it all just reminds him of his friend Mikey.
Mr. JIMMY VENTRIGLIA: This is the field. Yeah, this is the field not only where we played together, this is the field where our brothers played where we were on the sidelines, playing in the grass right there - rolling down the hill. It's just - when something like this happens - I mean, well, for Mikey, especially. You know, for me personally - it's like a big piece of my past has been taken away.
ALLINGTON: Mike Oremus lost his father to cancer when he was just 11 years old. His remaining family, his mother and two older brothers, are so grief-stricken they declined to go on tape, saying only we loved him. We're proud of him. He was the perfect son.
For NPR News, I'm Adam Allington in the Hudson Valley.
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