Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kew Gardens Man Killed in Afghanistan

Leaves Behind Wife, Three Children

By Conor Greene

A Kew Gardens man serving in Afghanistan with the New York Army National Guard was killed when his vehicle rolled over last week.

Specialist Jason von Zerneck died on October 2 in Qara Bagh Karze while taking part in a logistical convoy, according to the Department of Defense.The 33-year-old leaves behind a wife and three children and is also survived by his parents.

Von Zerneck was assigned to B Troop, 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry based in Jamestown. The unit was responsible for training the Afghan National Army in eastern Afghanistan.

“All members of the of the New York National Guard will morn the loss of this solider who died defending his country and seeking to help the people of Afghanistan,” said Major General Joseph Taluto. Von Zerneck was promoted to Specialist posthumously.

His father told NY1 news that his son died doing what he felt was the right thing. “He came to love his brothers, his comrades, the fighting 69th,” said Richard von Zerneck. “He spoke with such glowing terms of them. The e-mails we got from him in Afghanistan, he sounded happy. He sounded that he felt he was doing the right thing.”

His mother, Barbara, told the Daily News that she fell to the floor when she saw Army officers come to her door on Monday. “I knew what it was,” she said. “He loved his family… He was hopeful that he would be coming home in January.”

The die-hard Yankees and Rangers fan was a graduate of Bronx Science High School and served with the New York National Guard since 2006. He was a compliance officer with Bank of America. Before his unit shipped out in January,Von Zerneck told the New York Times that the hardest part of the deployment was leaving behind his family.

“My wife is going to be a single mother for a whole year,” he said, adding that many New Yorkers don’t realize how many city residents are serving overseas. “Some of the soldiers in this unit come from the poorest neighborhoods. These are the people who are putting their lives on the line for the city and the country and sometimes that is forgotten.”

The family has requested a private funeral.

“We mourn this loss with his family and we will do everything possible to help them through this tragedy,” said Major General Taluto. “We are united, though, in our admiration for Specialist von Zerneck’s dedication to his mission, to his brothers and sisters in arms, and to the people of New York and the United States of America.”

Von Zerneck is the seventh member of the New York Army National Guard to die in Afghanistan since the 27th Brigade Combat Team deployed there in April. He is also the third member of the 1st Battalion 69th Infantry to die in Afghanistan. There are currently 1,500 members of the New York Army National Guard serving in Afghanistan and about 500 in Iraq.

Sergeant Andrew Seabrooks of South Ozone Park was killed on June 21 when his Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device near Kandahar. First Lt. Daniel Farkas, a police officer assigned to the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills, died on July 4 at Camp Phoenix in a non-hostile incident that is still under investigation.

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