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Old 01-24-2004, 19:15   #1
The Reaper
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Vance, Gene A., SSG, MI

Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr. was honored in his hometown Sunday, May 26, at a public memorial service at West Virginia University’s Mountainlair Ballrooms on the Downtown Morgantown Campus. Vance, 38, was killed May 19, 2002 in eastern Afghanistan near Shkin, when his unit came under fire from suspected al-Qaeda or Taliban forces. He served in the 2nd Battalion of the 19th Special Forces Unit based in Kenova, W.Va.

Vance was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant (E-6) and awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his role in the war on terrorism. He had already earned a Bronze Star for previous service.

Vance’s widow, Lisa, received the West Virginia state flag from Gov. Bob Wise, and WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. presented her with an honorary diploma for a Regents Bachelor of Arts degree posthumously.

Hardesty said WVU was proud and honored to participate in this memorial service. "Sgt. Gene Vance was one of ours. He attended WVU from 1991-1995 and had re-enrolled last fall but was called to active duty after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. While I did not know him then, I feel as though I know him now. I have learned that he was a proud and dedicated soldier, a devoted husband to Lisa, a dedicated father to Amber and a wonderful son, brother and friend. He gave his life for America and for that we thank him, but we will miss him."

Vance was the first member of the West Virginia National Guard to die while on active duty since World War II. His unit, which has deployed 236 troops to the Middle East, is the nation’s highest-rated group of its kind.

The McDowell County native graduated from Oceana High School in Wyoming County in 1981. He served in the Army before returning to West Virginia to attend WVU in the early 1990s. He later joined the National Guard and also worked at the Whitetail Bicycle and Fitness Center in Morgantown.

An avid outdoorsman, he enjoyed mountain biking, backpacking and whitewater paddling. He also loved live music performances, especially the music of Dick Dale.

Approximately 1,000 people attended the Sunday service, including the Vance family and state and national military and government officials. A memorial fund has been established at Wesbanco - Sabraton branch, 1350 Earl Core Road, Morgantown, WV 26505. Donations may be directed to the Sgt. Gene A. Vance, Jr. Memorial Fund.
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