Local News

Iraq Action Claims 2 N.C. Guardsmen

Posted March 24, 2008 6:28 p.m. EDT
Updated March 25, 2008 6:08 a.m. EDT

— Two North Carolina Army National Guard soldiers died in Iraq over the weekend, officials announced Monday.

Sgt. Thomas C. Ray, 40, of Weaverville, and Sgt. David Blake Williams, 26, of Tarboro, both members of the 1132nd Military Police Company, were killed near Baghdad when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device while on patrol on Saturday, officials said.

Spc. David S. Stelmat, 27, of Littleton, N.H., a member of the New Hampshire Army National Guard assigned to the company, also was killed in the incident, officials said.

The 1132nd Military Police Company is based in Rocky Mount.

Williams joined the National Guard in July 2003 and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq – the first was with the N.C. Army National Guard's 105th Military Police Battalion, which operated a large detention facility in southern Iraq.

Williams is survived by his mother and sister, who spent Monday remembering his commitment to military service.

His sister recalled that the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd prompted him to join the National Guard.

"He felt like he had a calling to serve," Mary Beth Williams said.

Coming from a family rich in military service, "He wanted to follow in his brother's footsteps," she added.

Williams' late brother, John (Chris) Williams, served in the Army for four years.

According to his sister, Williams had initial apprehension about returning to Iraq.

"After he met some of the people over there this time, he knew he needed to be there, he was making a difference," she said.

Ray was born in Asheville and joined the Navy in 1985, serving three years on active duty as a Navy medical specialist.

His mother remembered when he wanted to join the Navy, "He begged me to sign the early enlistment waiver."

Ray joined the National Guard in May 2006.

"I'm incredibility proud of my son," she said. "He gave his life doing what he wanted to do, and I can live with that."

Ray was married with one teenage daughter. His wife said he went to Iraq hoping to make a difference.

"He wanted to save lives and bring back the younger guys," Linda Ray said. "He's a loving husband and father who is irreplaceable and will be greatly missed."

The 1132nd Military Police Company deployed last June, with about 120 soldiers, and is scheduled to return to North Carolina this fall.

Seven N.C. National Guard soldiers have been killed in Iraq.