The Department of Defense announced the death of two soldiers, who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 8, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near their HMMWV. Both soldiers were assigned to the Army Reserve's 405th Civil Affairs Battalion, Fort Bragg, N.C. Killed were: Sgt. 1st Class Merideth L. Howard, 52, of Alameda, California and Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul, 43, of The Dalles, Oregon.
As Oregonians, we take the death of each of our soldiers quite personally. As we bid farewell to another, it is important to remember the man he was and the family he left behind.
Staff Sgt Robert J Paul, an Army Reservist, was assigned to the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade, HHC, based in Portland, Oregon. These units serve as the main liaison between the military and the civilian populations of the country where the military is operating.
SSG Paul was originally from Hammond, Indiana. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya from 1987-1989. He earned a Master's Degree in Urban Planning and Economic Development in 1995 from the University of Maryland. He joined the Army Reserve in April 1997. In 1998, He began working for the City of The Dalles, Oregon as an associate planner and became the senior planner. In 2001, he joined the Wasco County Planning Department as the senior land-use planner.
SSG Paul was a great lover of the wilderness and an avid kayaker. "Bob loved this area so much. He moved out here because he loved the west, he loved Oregon, and he loved the gorge (the Columbia River Gorge). He was very much into hiking and trailrunning and whitewater kayaking, all the outdoor experience," said Todd Cornett, Planning director.
In early 2004, SSG Paul was called to active duty and sent to Iraq to help build infrastructure, focusing on urban planning. He was deployed to Afghanistan in Spring of 2006. While in Iraq, he wrote, "It was pretty obvious what was broken and rundown. Saddam did absolutely no maintenance to his cities. Everything was broken or about to break. I had expected to do a lot of repair from military actions. Not at all. Those buildings were, for the most part, destroyed. I was performing maintenance and repair on systems that were not maintained for decades. They were also poorly designed. Naturally, I worked with community groups and the like to get projects aimed at what civilians wanted most rather than what I thought they should want most."
In a statement released by the Army, his family said, "Bob was the kind of guy, who if called for duty, would serve. he never turned down an opportunity because he always wanted to make a difference in everything he did -- the Peace Corps, the Army, his civilian job and, most importantly, his family and friends."
SSG Robert Paul is survived by his daughter, Ilena; mother and father, Esther and Sheldon; and sisters, Monica and Debra.
As we say farewell and God Speed to SSG Robert Paul, we value what he sacrificed for us and what he gave to so many while he was here.
For more information:
The Dalles Chronicle
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Staff Sargent Robert J. Paul