Skip to comments.Gene Vance gets medals, second bronze star - more details
Posted on 05/22/2002 6:20:02 AM PDT by FreeInWV
Guard gives Vance three more medals
First details of firefight in Afghanistan emerge
BY JAKE STUMP
The Dominion Post
Even though funeral arrangements for Sgt. Gene Vance Jr. remain uncertain, friends and community members are planning ways to honor the Morgantown soldier, who was killed Sunday in eastern Afghanistan.
Adjutant Gen. Allen E. Tackett, the leader of the W.Va. National Guard, said Vance, a soldier in the 2nd Battalion of the 19th Special Forces Unit, will be awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit for his efforts in America's war against terror.
Vance, 38, had already won a Bronze Star for valor in 1993.
More details have been released on the circumstances of Vance's death.
According to The New York Times, Vance, a 10-year member of the W.Va. National Guard, was on a reconnaissance mission with allied Afghan troops near the border with Pakistan when bullets were fired into their vehicle.
A report on the ABC News Web site said a man with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder slowly walked toward the vehicle and fired at Vance.
Vance's attacker was immediately shot and killed and a small firefight then broke out, according to the Web site.
In response to the attacks, 100 U.S. Special Forces troops raided a compound near the village of Shkin, in eastern Afghanistan, in search of the enemy.
"The general public looks at the National Guard and sometimes doesn't realize how integrated they are with active duty overseas," Tackett said. "It hits home. They can be side-by-side fighting wars, rooting out al-Qaida and the Taliban."
Vance's flag-draped coffin remains at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
It isn't certain when he will be flown home.
Tackett said Davidson-Mancinelli Funeral Home will be in charge of arrangements.
Vance's widow, Lisa Selmon Vance, made her first public statement Tuesday morning on a round of network TV news programs.
On a WBOY-TV 12 newscast, she said the couple had planned to start a family after he returned from Afghanistan.
The couple got married in August 2001 and had to cancel their honeymoon because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"He and I shared everything," Lisa Vance said during the newscast. "We shared the same passions. We had the same plans for the future. We were so delighted to have found each other."
In another interview with NBC's "Today Show," she told host Matt Lauer that her husband wanted to fight America's battle, though he confessed he was scared.
"He was a hero," she said. "He was a great husband. He's what Americans are."
MSNBC also conducted an interview with Lisa Vance during its Tuesday morning newscast.
A call made to the Vance home Tuesday night was answered by a friend who said Lisa was not accepting phone calls.
Vance also is survived by an 18-year-old daughter, Amber, from his first marriage. Vance's best friend, Ed Evans, said she lives in Florida.
A friend's grief
Evans, former owner of Whitetail Cycle & Fitness in Morgantown, said he felt more distraught Tuesday over the death of his best friend, an avid outdoorsman and extreme-sports athlete.
"Today (Tuesday) has just been sick," said Evans, while hanging out at Archie's in Sabraton, his spirit dampened. "It's been a horrible day. Every time I see that damn picture or turn on the radio, I start shaking and get sweaty palms."
Evans remembered Vance making fun of him because Evans kept his Harley-Davidson in his house.
"There was Gene the action figure," Evans said. "He was not a well-coordinated athlete, but he was strong and had lots of stamina. I can tell so many snowboarding stories. He even wanted to start an eco-challenge."
Evans went on to compare Vance to Billy Bob Thornton's reserved character, Ed Crane, in "The Man Who Wasn't There." He was sometimes straightforward and quiet.
Evans said Vance's death has changed his life; the Reedsville resident wants to veer from the business side of life and start enjoying the outdoors more.
Rock 'n' roll fan
Surf guitar legend Dick Dale heard of Vance's death through a phone call from Evans.
While on tour, Dale said he knew a U.S. soldier had died in Afghanistan, but didn't know it was Vance, a huge fan of Dale who attended his shows in the Morgantown area.
Regarded as the creator of the surf music sound, Dale called Vance a "grass-roots" person who loved his guitar playing.
"He wasn't one of these people at my shows who jumped around and screamed 'yay,'" Dale said. "He was a quiet guy, an unpretentious person who loved the music and loved the sound. His eyes lit up when he shook my hand. He said he never felt anything like he did when he listened to my music.
"I'm happy for that moment. But not for the news I received. It proves that an innocent person died because the government did not do what they were supposed to do."
Dale served in the Crash Crew in the Air National Guard in the 146th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. His job included rescuing pilots and crews from downed aircraft before they perished in the flames.
Dale said the government has a responsibility for comforting and catering to the families of soldiers.
Tackett said National Guard members are providing support for Lisa Vance.
"It's like giving your liver to somebody," Dale said. "You have to leave your loved ones to go into battle. What's going to happen to his wife, parents and child? They can go, 'Oh, we feel sorry he died.' But no words can take away the pain of the loss of loved ones."
Dale will dedicate his June 3 show at 123 Pleasant Street to his biggest fan.
Details of what Vance did to earn his 1993 Bronze Star remained unavailable Tuesday. His service record has been shipped to Fort Campbell, Ky.
A spokeswoman at Fort Campbell said the base could not release any information on Vance's service record.
Vance's closest friends, including Evans, did not know Vance earned the Bronze Star until reading about it in Monday's newspaper.
"He lived with me around the time he won the award," Evans said. "It probably happened during one of those times he disappeared."
Just another reminder that the military and intelligence community are out there laying their ass on the line, in war and peace, whether you read about it in the New York Times or not. Their failures are often public, while their successes are almost always unspoken...
Thank God for men like SGT Vance.
What in Hades does that mean?
Sergeant Gene Vance has earned the respect and admiration of all his fellow citizens, may he rest in peace. My condolences to Mrs Vance on her loss, from a fellow American and retired soldier.