A 24-year-old soldier from Cheektowaga, remembered by a former teacher as having one of the world's great smiles, was one of five servicemen killed last week when a roadside bomb destroyed their military vehicle in Iraq.
Army Pfc. Travis C. Krege was identified by the Defense Department on Saturday as a victim of an explosion in Hawijah, near the city of Kirkuk.
Authorities said the soldiers, members of the 25th Infantry Division headquartered in Hawaii, were killed by an improvised explosive device on Wednesday.
Krege's parents, Michael and Sandra Krege of Santin Drive, were unavailable to talk about their son late Saturday.
"At this point, the family would like to grieve in private and not make any comment," a family member told The Buffalo News.
Krege is at least the 26th soldier with Western New York roots to be killed in combat since 2002.
A 2000 graduate of Maryvale High School, Krege is believed to be the first Iraq War casualty from Maryvale.
"The kids at the school are very, very upset," said Kathleen Jacques, who had Krege in her global studies class. "Most of the students knew his younger sister, Shauna."
"He had the greatest smile," Jacques said. "I can still see his smile; he was the nicest boy."
Joyce Cougevan, who taught Krege in her English class, agreed.
"He was a very kind young man, very polite," she said.
Krege and the other soldiers who died were part of Task Force Lightning, an operation responsible for the training of Iraqi troops, according to Kendrick Washington, a spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division in Oahu, Hawaii.
"Our soldiers were not there in a capacity of looking to actively engage the enemy, or to look for insurgents," Washington said. "They are over there training the Iraqi forces to take over when they leave. They have been training the regular Iraq army on such things as how to shoot, how to patrol, guard duty and how to set up a perimeter."
The Honolulu Advertiser newspaper reported that a "massive bomb tore apart" a Humvee that Krege and four other soldiers were riding in.
The other soldiers killed with Krege were from Conover, N.C.; Sibley, La.; Pflugerville, Texas; and American Samoa, the Defense Department said. Krege was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
e-mail: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org