The flags are at half staff again by governor's order for a Connecticut soldier killed in action in Iraq.
Pfc. Stephen K. Richardson, 22, was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb, which has been the deadliest weapon of the insurgency. The blast also killed Sgt. Wayne Cornell of Nebraska, who was a member of Richardson's Army unit, the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, 4th Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division.
Richardson was an active-duty soldier who grew up in Bridgeport, where his father, Cedric Richardson, still lives. The younger Richardson was living in Kansas with his wife and daughter before being deployed last month to Baghdad.
He went to Bassick High School in Bridgeport. Then he attended the University of Bridgeport before joining the Army. His unit was based at Fort Riley in Kansas.
In his semester at the university, he did "very well," said university President Neil Albert Salonen. "He was well thought of. It's a kick in the stomach. There's no easy way to take news like this."
Richardson made an impression on his academic adviser and literature professor, Ed Geist. "He was a serious young man," said Geist, who recalled an essay Richardson wrote as a student. "He talked about wanting to go back to Jamaica. He thought international business was a particularly good goal for him. He really wanted to have some sort of impact ... He seemed to have his head in the right place."
While Richardson was serving America, he had a strong connection to Jamaica, where relatives - including his mother - still live. Richardson was born in Jamaica and moved to Connecticut before his teen years, said Lt. Col. John Whitford of the Connecticut National Guard.
Geist had wondered what happened to Richardson, who had signed up for a second semester but hadn't attended. He learned Thursday that the student he taught about American playwrights had been killed in the war. "I feel terrible," Geist said.
According to a spokesman at Fort Riley, Richardson enlisted in the Army in 2005 and joined the unit last year. This was his first deployment.
Richardson's body was expected to arrive at Dover Air Force Base late Thursday, said Whitford. The Guard was providing casualty assistance services to Richardson's father in Bridgeport. Soldiers from Fort Riley are doing the same for Richardson's wife, Katana, and 10-month-old daughter, Iyanna. The family has not yet decided on arrangements for Richardson's burial.
The mission of the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, according to the Army, was to "assist Iraqi Security Forces to clear, control and retain key areas of the capital city in order to reduce violence and to set the conditions for a transition to full Iraqi control of security in the city." So the level of scrutiny on the actions of these and other soldiers in Baghdad has been high in recent weeks.
The last of the 3,100 soldiers of the brigade had arrived in Iraq less than three weeks ago.
Although Fort Riley is accustomed to such losses, having lost 87 soldiers in this war, Connecticut has lost fewer than 40 troops with local ties since 9/11.
Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi extended his city's sympathy to Richardson's family.
"Private Richardson served our country with courage and conviction," Fabrizi said. "Every time we lose a soldier in combat it's heartbreaking, but it is even more so when it's one of your own and when it is someone so young. Private Richardson has made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for that we are humbled and deeply grateful."
On Thursday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered the state's flags flown at half staff. In a statement, she said about Richardson's death: "Our gratitude runs deep, especially when such a young life is ended so soon. On behalf of all of Connecticut, I extend condolences and prayers for comfort to his family - here in Connecticut, his wife and daughter in Kansas and his relatives in Jamaica."
Contact Jesse Hamilton at email@example.com.