Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

October 20, 2011

SW.Va guardsman dies in Iraq: Staff Sgt. James R. Leep Jr., passed away as a result of non-combat related injuries

SANDSTON, Va. —  A Buchanan County, Va., soldier died Monday as a result of non-combat related injuries he received while serving with the 1033rd Engineer Company at Babil Province, Iraq, according to a press release from the Virginia National Guard. The soldier’s death remains under investigation.

Staff Sgt. James R. Leep Jr., 44, of Davenport, Va., was serving as a combat engineer and construction equipment supervisor and was reassigned to Troop A as a truck commander for the unit’s convoy security mission and was commander for a convoy escort team according to the press release. The National Guard planned to hold a press conference at 1 p.m., on Wednesday at the National Guard Armory in Cedar Bluff, Va. Leep is survived by his wife, two adult children and a sister.

“It is very sad that this has happened and difficult to think of the appropriate words to say that would relieve the pain and suffering that this family feels,” Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia was quoted in the press release as stating. “Soldier and family care are very important and we intend to do everything we can to support his family and the men and women that deployed with him.

“We ask that his community and the rest of Virginia keep his family in their prayers during this time of Grief,” Long stated, according to the press release. “I have personally spoken with the unit’s commander in Iraq, and the unit is doing everything that can be done to support the members of the unit during this difficult time. Here in Virginia, we will make sure the family has all the resources we can provide to help them cope with their loss.”

Leep joined the National Guard in 1986, and with the exception of a little more than four months from August 1995 until January 1996, and has served continually in the guard ever since. He worked full time as a surface maintenance repair technician at the Virginia National Guard field maintenance shop in Richlands, Va., and was deployed to Bosnia from 2001-’02; Southwest border security in 2006; in Iraq with the 276th Engineer Battalion from 2003-’05; and in Afghanistan from 2008-’10, also with the 276th.

“My deepest sympathies are with the family of Staff Sergeant Leep,” U.S. Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., wrote in response to an e-mail requesting comment. “There are no adequate words to express the tremendous debt our country owes to James and his family.

“The freedoms cherished by every American are not free. Sadly, those freedoms are only possible through the sacrifices made by James and others who answer the call to duty in defense of our nation,” Griffith stated in the e-mail. “The family and friends of James are in our thoughts and prayers.”

“Our prayers and condolences go out to the Staff Sgt. Leep’s family, friends and the soldiers he served with,” Virginia State Senator Phillip P. Puckett, D-Russell said. “Here’s a guy who has been in the guard for several years, serving his country. That’s why you and I have the freedom to do what we do.

“I did not know him, but when something like this hits so close to home it really makes you think about someone making the supreme sacrifice for our freedom ... my freedom,” Puckett said. “It’s made me think about Lt. Ryan McGlothlin from here in Lebanon.” McGlothlin, A Marine, was killed in action in Iraq on Nov. 16, 2006. “He was one of the best and brightest, but he chose to serve his country,” Puckett said.

Leep was serving as part of Task Force 183 out of the 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment and began active duty on June 1, to conduct convoy security and base defense operations. The unit arrived in Iraq in late July.

The unit is scheduled to hold a memorial service for Leep at 4 p.m. (Iraq time) on Oct. 20.

—Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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