The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

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October 21, 2008

Local man killed in Iraq

Frankston grad believed first area soldier to die in Iraq

PALESTINE — Friends and family members are mourning the loss of a 21-year-old soldier from Brushy Creek who was killed in Iraq last Thursday.

Pfc. Heath Pickard, 21, was killed when his unit was hit by mortar fire and rocket-fired grenades while still inside the perimeter during a pre-mission briefing at Forward Operating Base Warhorse at Baquba Airfield, approximately 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, on Thursday, according to friends of the family.

He is thought to be the first casualty in either Iraq or Afghanistan from Anderson County.

Pickard had been in Iraq as part of forces supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom for about a month and was a member of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division after being transferred to the Middle East from Alaska. He was a 2006 graduate of Frankston High School, where he played varsity football and was a member of the Indian Marching Band.

He and his wife Sara had recently become first-time parents with the birth of their son, Ethan, in June.

Funeral services are pending at Herrington/Land of Memory Funeral Home in Palestine.

Word of his death hit friends, former classmates, teachers and administrators hard.

School officials flew the American flag at half-staff Monday and announced Pickard’s passing on the school marquee. The football team planned to dedicate Friday night’s home game with Arp to the memory of Pickard, who wore jersey number 2 while on the football team and friends left their condolences on his MySpace page.

For Jacob Whitehurst, who graduated a year after Pickard, news of Pickard’s death brought him to tears.

“I’ve known him since I was 5 years old. He and his brother Chance rode the same bus and he was the first person to talk to me when I started school,” Whitehurst said. “He was just a good guy. It really bothers me that this would happen to him. It really hurts.”

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