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Special Remembrance

As Afghanistan Falls To Taliban, LBREPORT.com Recalls Long Beach Servicemembers Who Perished In That Fight



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(August 15, 2021) -- History will judge the record of US policy under four administrations -- Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden -- in U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and the ultimate fall of that country to the Taliban.

Regardless of one's views on that record, LBREPORT.com pauses to recall with respect the names of the Long Beach men who gave their lives in that involvement.

Of fifteen serviceembers who died in Afghanistan and Iraq, four died in Afghanistan.

23 year old Army Staff Sergeant Joshua R. Whitaker died May 15, 2007 in Qalat, Afghanistan. Whitaker was born March 10, 1984 and graduated from Millikan High School. Whitaker died a hero. When Taliban fighters ambushed his convoy, he fired a 50-caliber turret gun, killing five Taliban and saving nine of his comrades.

24 year old Army Sergeant Israel Garcia died July 13, 2008 in Wanat, Afghanistan. Garcia was born January 19, 1984 and graduated from Polytechnic High School. He married his high school sweetheart, Lesly. Garcia was killed when his outpost was attacked by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. He had hoped to become a Long Beach Police Department investigator.

26 year old Air Force Staff Sergeant Andrew W. Harvell died August 6, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan. Harvell was born September 26, 1984 and graduated from Millikan High School. He was among 30 U.S. military personnel killed when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade in Wardak province Afghanistan. He left behind a wife and two children.

Sgt. Thomas MacPherson, 26, of Long Beach perished on Oct. 12, 2012 while leading an assault on an enemy position. He'd previously served one deployment in Iraq; this was his fourth deployment to Afghanistan. A release issued by the US Army's Special Operations Command says Sgt. MacPherson -- a Long Beach native -- was killed in a heavy firefight with enemy forces while leading an assault against an enemy position in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan










During this period, then-5th district Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske arranged to display memorial banners and conducted ceremonies in Rosie the Riveter Park (Clark Ave. @ Conant St.) honoring servicemembers who perished in Afghanistan and Iraq. The ceremonies ended under successor Councilwoman Stacy Mungo; the banners remain visible. Annual Memorial Day events have continued organized by the independent non-profit Honoring Our Fallen (most recently covered by LBREPORT.com here.)

The names of the 15 LB servicemembers who perished in Afghanistan and Iraq are collectively displayed at this link

LBREPORT.con provides below portions of our archival coverage of the four LB servicemembers who gave their lives in Afghanistan.


(May 22, 2007) -- Family, friends and dignitaries attended the May 22 funeral of Staff Sgt. Joshua R. Whitaker, 23, a Special Forces (Green Beret) from LB who perished May 15 in Qalat, Afghanistan.

Photo credit: Nancy Foster

Staff Sgt. Whitaker was remembered in an emotional service at ELB's Parkcrest Christian Church attended by officials including LB Mayor Bob Foster and First Lady Nancy Foster, Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal and Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal.

A day earlier, Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske joined Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal at a viewing with family and friends.

The Long Beach City Council adjourned its May 22 meeting in Staff Sgt. Whitaker's honor. Mayor Foster acknowledged Staff Sgt. Whitaker's passing and gave the floor to Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal who made the motion.

"This hit a lot closer to home than is comfortable for any of us. This is the second child of Long Beach that came home to us this way recently," said Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, a reference to the May 2 death of Spc. Astor Sunsin-Pineda, 20, of LB who died when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq. His funeral took place May 19 in central LB.

Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal said of Staff Sgt. Whitaker, "For as young a man as he was, he accomplished quite a bit. He found his way through his service. His family raised a beautiful, beautiful boy and delivered to us a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice..."

Joining in the adjournment in memory motion, Councilwoman Schipske said, "I too would like to add my condolences to the family...Last night I was at the funeral home with Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal and got to meet Joshua's mother and it was an extremely touching, emotional evening and we certainly send our love and prayers to her and the family."

As previously reported by LBReport.com, the office of CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement in Staff Sgt. Whitaker's honor:

"Protecting this nation is a dangerous yet noble cause. Staff Sergeant Whitaker willingly put his life on the line and made the ultimate sacrifice while bravely serving our country abroad. Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joshua's family, friends and fellow soldiers for their painful loss. His will be remembered for his perseverance and dedication."

Veterans from the Patriot Guard Riders (who travel on motorcycles to the funerals of servicemembers) came to pay their respects.

Staff Sgt. Whitaker is survived by family including his mother, Catherine Whitaker, and uncle Robb Whitaker, who is General Manager of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California.


(July 22, 2008) -- The flag draped casket of Sgt. Israel Garcia was brought to Long Beach at midday July 22, 2008.
Sgt. Ira Garcia, July 22/08

Sgt. Ira Garcia, July 22/08
Photo via an attendee

That evening, the Long Beach City Council adjourned its meeting in memory of Sgt. Garcia. Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who was present at LB Airport as Sgt. Garcia's flag draped coffin was returned, told the Council:

Councilwoman Schipske: Thank you for closing the meeting in memory of Sgt. Garcia. I want us to please keep his family in your prayers. I was asked to go today by the Patriot Guard...and they actually gave me a copy of Sgt. Garcia's dogtags.

Sgt. Ira Garcia, July 22/08
Long Beach City Council telecast

When you see something like this. The family is absolutely devastated and they need our prayers. They need our support. I have to tell you, it was one of the most difficult things I've ever done was to be there and to watch that family grieve as that casket was pulled out. I know we'll remember him today...[S]ince I've been on Council, this is the third young man from Long Beach that we have lost in the line of duty and I would hope that we continue to remember all three.


...Sgt. Garcia was brought to his rest at All Souls Cemetery in LB, with full military honors on July 25; hundreds attended, far overflowing a tent for family and friends.

Garcia burial, July 25/08

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and First Lady Nancy Foster both attended...and Mayor Foster presented Mrs. Garcia with the City Flag and conveyed his wishes on behalf of the people of the City of Long Beach.

Brigadier General John McMahon commenced military honors, announcing that he was present on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army. He expressed the nation's gratitude to Sgt. Garcia, praising him as "a soldier's soldier"...and presented Sgt. Garcia with The Purple Heart (America's oldest military medal) and the Bronze Star for valor in battle.

After reading the medal citations, Brig. General McMahon brought them to family members...delivering them on bended knee.

Garcia burial, July 25/08

He also presented the family with Gold Stars, the Congressionally declared honoring symbol since WWII for those who've lost a loved one in military service...


(May 26, 2012) -- As Memorial Day approaches, U.S. Army Sgt. Israel Garcia, a Long Beach hometown hero who perished in Afghanistan in 2008, was memorialized at his alma mater, LB Polytechnic High School on May 25 as a Memorial Bench was dedicated in his honor. LBReport.com provides video of salient portions of the eloquent and heartfelt ceremony.

To launch the video, click here...

Among those delivering touching words was Sgt. Garcia's wife, Lesly (in photo immediately below), as well as Sgt. Garcia's mother (all heard in full on the video above).




Also attending and speaking was Long Beach Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske (the only Long Beach elected official present)...

Councilwoman Schipske told the crowd that the emotionally searing experience moved her to take a number of actions. They included establishing a Long Beach city policy of lowering all city flags to half-staff when a LB resident gave their life in service to the country...and creating the Hometown Heroes banner project at Rosie the Riveter Park, a military memorial that she envisioned and brought to fruition in East Long Beach...


(Oct. 14. 2012) -- LBReport.com is deeply saddened to report the death in combat of Sgt, Thomas R. MacPherson, 26, of Long Beach -- a U.S. Army Ranger who previously served one deployment in Iraq and was on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.


U.S. Army released photo

A release issued by the US Army's Special Operations Command says Sgt. MacPherson -- a Long Beach native -- was killed in a heavy firefight with enemy forces while leading an assault against an enemy position in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan

[US Army Special Operations Command release text] A U.S. Army Ranger was killed in action Oct. 12, 2012 during combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. Thomas R. MacPherson, 26, was assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

MacPherson was killed by direct fire from enemy forces during a heavy firefight while conducting combat operations in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.

A native of Long Beach, Calif., he enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 2007. For more than four years, MacPherson served as a mortarman and a Ranger Team Leader with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

The 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed to Afghanistan since October 2001.

"Sgt. Tom MacPherson lost his life courageously leading his Rangers into a close quarters fight with the enemy," said Lt. Col. Gregory Anderson, Commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. "Tommy MacPherson never backed away from the dangers of combat, and his warrior spirit, personal example, and zeal for life continue to inspire all who knew him. We will honor his service to our Nation and the heroic example he set for all Rangers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the MacPherson Family."

MacPherson previously served one deployment to Iraq and this was his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.

"Sgt. Thomas MacPherson personified the traits of the consummate Ranger: commitment and courage," said Col. Mark W. Odom, Commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. "He deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq multiple times and always seemed to be at the critical points on the battlefield."

MacPherson is survived by his wife, Claudia MacPherson, and their son, Brayden, of Tacoma, Wash., and his parents, Troy and Diona MacPherson of Long Beach, Calif.

In further information, the U.S. Army Command states:

[Sgt. MacPherson] was leading an assault against an enemy position when he was mortally wounded by small arms fire.

MacPherson was a team leader assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He previously served one deployment to Iraq and this was his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.

MacPherson was born July 20, 1986 in Long Beach, Calif. and graduated from Los Alamitos High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 2007 and completed One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Ga., as an infantryman. After graduating from the Basic Airborne Course there, he was assigned to the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program also at Fort Benning. MacPherson graduated from the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program and was then assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment in December 2007, where he served as a mortarman. After three years, he was assigned to Company D where he served as a Fire Team Leader.

His military education includes the Basic Airborne Course, Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, U.S. Army Ranger School, Infantry Mortar Leaderís Course, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course (SERE), and the Warrior Leader Course.

His awards and decorations include the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantrymanís Badge, the Expert Infantrymanís Badge, the Parachutist Badge, and the U.S. Army Expert Rifle Marksmanship Qualification Badge.

MacPherson has also been awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the NATO Medal.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service and Purple Heart...

As a Ranger, Sgt. Thomas R. MacPherson selflessly lived his life for others and distinguished himself as a member of the Armyís premier direct action raid force and fought valiantly as he served his fellow Rangers and our great Nation. -As of 13 October 2012

A release issued by the US Army's Special Operations Command says Sgt. MacPherson -- a Long Beach native -- was killed in a heavy firefight with enemy forces while leading an assault against an enemy position in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan

[US Army Special Operations Command release text] A U.S. Army Ranger was killed in action Oct. 12, 2012 during combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. Thomas R. MacPherson, 26, was assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

MacPherson was killed by direct fire from enemy forces during a heavy firefight while conducting combat operations in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.

A native of Long Beach, Calif., he enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 2007. For more than four years, MacPherson served as a mortarman and a Ranger Team Leader with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

The 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed to Afghanistan since October 2001.

"Sgt. Tom MacPherson lost his life courageously leading his Rangers into a close quarters fight with the enemy," said Lt. Col. Gregory Anderson, Commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. "Tommy MacPherson never backed away from the dangers of combat, and his warrior spirit, personal example, and zeal for life continue to inspire all who knew him. We will honor his service to our Nation and the heroic example he set for all Rangers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the MacPherson Family."

MacPherson previously served one deployment to Iraq and this was his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.

"Sgt. Thomas MacPherson personified the traits of the consummate Ranger: commitment and courage," said Col. Mark W. Odom, Commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. "He deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq multiple times and always seemed to be at the critical points on the battlefield."

MacPherson is survived by his wife, Claudia MacPherson, and their son, Brayden, of Tacoma, Wash., and his parents, Troy and Diona MacPherson of Long Beach, Calif.

In further information, the U.S. Army Command states:

[Sgt. MacPherson] was leading an assault against an enemy position when he was mortally wounded by small arms fire.

MacPherson was a team leader assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He previously served one deployment to Iraq and this was his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.

MacPherson was born July 20, 1986 in Long Beach, Calif. and graduated from Los Alamitos High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 2007 and completed One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Ga., as an infantryman. After graduating from the Basic Airborne Course there, he was assigned to the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program also at Fort Benning. MacPherson graduated from the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program and was then assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment in December 2007, where he served as a mortarman. After three years, he was assigned to Company D where he served as a Fire Team Leader.

His military education includes the Basic Airborne Course, Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, U.S. Army Ranger School, Infantry Mortar Leaderís Course, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course (SERE), and the Warrior Leader Course.

His awards and decorations include the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantrymanís Badge, the Expert Infantrymanís Badge, the Parachutist Badge, and the U.S. Army Expert Rifle Marksmanship Qualification Badge.

MacPherson has also been awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the NATO Medal.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service and Purple Heart...

As a Ranger, Sgt. Thomas R. MacPherson selflessly lived his life for others and distinguished himself as a member of the Armyís premier direct action raid force and fought valiantly as he served his fellow Rangers and our great Nation. -As of 13 October 2012


(Oct. 26, 2012) -- In a somber ceremony yesterday (Oct. 25), Sgt. MacPherson was returned to the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base airfield. Dignitaries, including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, representatives of multiple Fire agencies including LBFD Fire Chief Mike DuRee and Deputy Fire Chief Richard Brandt, and multiple Police and Sheriff agencies, along with a contingent of the motorcycle-riding Patriot Guard and a large crowd of civilians.



The event took place in stark silence, broken only by orders/commands to assembled military personnel. Familymembers were escorted to a chartered aircraft carrying the casket and allowed a period at planeside. The casket was then taken by military pallbearers to a waiting hearse which traveled in a procession escorted by Fire and Police units to Forest Lawn in Cypress...






(December 16, 2012, updated with photos Dec. 17) -- In an event coordinated with nationwide Wreaths Across America events (including Arlington National Cemetery and military memorials across the country), Christmas Wreaths were placed at Long Beach's Rosie the Riveter Park/Interpretive Center (Clark Ave. @ Conant St)


Photo by Dan Halverson

The event, organized by Long Beach's Hometown Heroes project, honored the fifteen servicemembers from Long Beach who gave their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, now including a banner honoring Sgt. Thomas R. MacPherson who perished in October in Afghanistan...

Presiding was Long Beach Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who brought the Rosie the Riveter Park/Interpretive Center and Hometown Heroes projects to fruition using privately raised/sponsored funds.






(May 28, 2018, 5:55 p.m.) -- ...[T]he names of all 6,904 service members who gave their lives since the 9/11 attacks were aloud at Rosie the Riveter Park (Clark @ Conant in ELB) in an event presented by Honoring Our Fallen. Rosie the Riveter Park was a project built without using taxpayer fund under former 5th dist. Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske. The Wall of Remembrance displaying the engraved names of each of post 9/11 fallen servicemembers was built by Honoring Our Fallen, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides support for families of fallen military members as they're returned home for burial.


Gold Star Mother Jane Maher, whose sons -- USAF Staff Sgt. Andrew Harvell and USAF Technical Sgt. Sean Harvell have names engraved on the Wall of Remembrance -- was among those reading names of the fallen.


Along with other Long Beach Hometown Heroes, the Harvell brothers have Flags of Honor posted 24/7/365 at the Park.


And in a nearby local link, Lt. Cmdr. Jonas Kelsall, the son of the then-Pres/CEO of the Greater Lakewood Chamber of Commerce, was among the Navy SEALS who perished aboard a downed helicopter in Aug. 2011.


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