Fallen soldier remembered

CURTIS OAKES

BY ROBERT L. BAKER

An American hero with roots in Susquehanna County was remembered Saturday for giving the ultimate sacrifice last month in Afghanistan.

Oakes, 29, died Nov. 29 at Combat Outpost Lonestar, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, when an insurgent attacked his unit with small arms fire, killing six U.S. Army soldiers.

Funeral services were held Dec. 11 in Athens, Ohio, for Oakes where his mother and stepfather reside.

A fallen soldier memorial to Curtis Oakes stands silent at the New Milford Readiness Center on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER

Around 300 persons gathered at the New Milford National Guard Readiness Center to pay respects to Oakes’ father, grandmother and other family.

Oakes was born in Montrose and spent his early years on a dairy farm in the Fairdale area and attended Lathrop Street Elementary School, before leaving for Ohio during third grade after his parents separated.

His dad, Allen Oakes, said Curtis would come back to his grandparents’ farm every summer until he turned 16 and that it is there he developed a fondness for the outdoors and learned how to shoot a BB gun.

Mr. Oakes noted, however, that his son’s expert marksmanship skills, however, were honed by the Army which he  joined in 2003.

Sgt. Oakes belonged to the 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division which was based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

He had served in Korea, Iraq and was on his second tour of Afghanistan.

His grandmother, Carol Oakes, said Saturday she had last seen him a year ago when he was back in the states between deployments.

She said her oldest grandchild “was a very special boy” and she made a point of keeping in touch with him even after he returned to Afghanistan.

She knew that he always faced the possibility of “some danger” and, in fact, a tank that he was riding in on the front lines came under attack at two different times, “but he always managed to get out okay.”

But not on Nov. 29, when a border policeman turned his gun on his American trainers as the group headed to shooting practice.

“He died doing what he grew to love,” Mr. Oakes said, “and we can hold our heads proud for him and soldiers like him who have believed in what they’re doing over there.”

Pastor Charles Bishop of the Elk Lake Community Church said in his memorial meditation that Currtis’ bravery hit very close to home as he served in Vietnam and two years ago he buried a nephew who lost his life Iraq.

“Some people think we have no business to be in that war,” Rev. Bishop said. “I have a different take. It’s because of soldiers like Curtis that we don’t have to live in fear in this great land of ours. That is a special gift.”

Rep. Sandra Major, R-Montrose, said that “to know Staff Sgt. Curtis Oakes gave his life for me and you and millions of people he never met in the defense of freedom is overwhelming.”

SFC Barry Wiseman of the New Milford Readiness Center who had served three tours of duty in Iraq, said that although he did not know Curtis personally, he considered him “family.”

“The Army is my family, and they’re my brothers who are paying the price every day,” Wiseman said.  “How do you say thank you enough for what he and others have given to all of us?”

Oakes is also survived by a wife, son and stepson in Georgia, and a daughter in Wisconsin. Memorials can be made to the Oakes’ Children College Fund, c/o Tammy Hill, Little & Nelson, Inc., 26 Public Ave., Montrose, PA 18801.

Tagged as: ,