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St. Croix Soldier Killed in Vehicle Accident in Iraq

Sept. 13, 2007 — A U.S. Army staff sergeant from St. Croix was killed in a non-combat incident when the vehicle he and other soldiers were riding in rolled over in Baghdad, according to a release Thursday from the Department of Defense.
Staff Sgt. Gregory Rivera-Santiago, 26, of St. Croix and six other soldiers died from injuries sustained in the accident. CNN first reported the incident Monday stating "officials do not believe any hostile fire was involved. The exact location and the unit were not available as officials attempted to notify next of kin in the United States."
The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Killed were:
Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, 26, of Ismay, Mont.
Staff Sgt. Gregory Rivera-Santiago, 26, of St. Croix, Virgin Islands.
Sgt. Michael C. Hardegree, 21, of Villa Rica, Ga.
Sgt. Omar L. Mora, 28, of Texas City, Texas.
Sgt. Nicholas J. Patterson, 24, of Rochester, Ind.
Spc. Ari D. Brown-Weeks, 23, of Abingdon, Md.
Spc. Steven R. Elrod, 20, of Hope Mills, N.C.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation, the release stated.
Rivera-Santiago joined the Army in August 1999. He arrived to the 82nd Airborne Division in August 2002. Rivera-Santiago was first deployed was in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, from February 2003 to February 2004. His second deployment was from July 2005 to November 2005.
Rivera-Santiago's awards and decorations include: the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal with two loops, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Valorous Unit Award, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, and the Parachutist's Badge.
He is survived by his wife, Brooke Rivera; son, Gregory Rivera IV; daughter, Xiomara; stepdaughter, Ayani Bowling, of Fayetteville, N.C.; his mother, Carmen Santiago, of St. Croix, and his father, Gregory Rivera of Puerto Rico.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen expressed her condolences to the family of Santiago-Rivera in a statement released Thursday.
“Our men and women in uniform serve us all by performing difficult, dangerous tasks aimed at keeping us free and safe,” said Christensen. “Far too many of them make the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. My prayers go out to his wife and children, his mother and father, and his circle of family and friends who now bear this painful loss,” she said.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. spoke with Rivera's wife and mother Thursday to offer his sympathies. In a press release from Government House, deJongh said Rivera-Santiago, a 1999 St. Croix Educational Complex graduate, was described by relatives as a quiet and shy young man who surprised his family when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after his high school graduation.
"On behalf of my family and the people of the Virgin Islands, I offer sincerest condolences to Sgt. Rivera's wife, his three children and his parents on their tragic loss," deJongh said.
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