State News

N.C. Guard, families mourn deaths of four in Iraq

Posted July 3, 2009 5:17 p.m. EDT
Updated July 3, 2009 6:21 p.m. EDT

— This Fourth of July, a community that's no stranger to sacrifice is reminded again of the price of freedom. Four North Carolina National Guard soldiers were killed in Baghdad this week.

It was the North Carolina National Guard's largest single combat loss since World War II, said Maj. Matthew Handley, Guard spokesman.

Spc. Robert L. Bittiker, 39, from Jacksonville, served nearly 20 years in the Guard, joining in 1990. He served in Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq. Bittiker is survived by his wife and two children.

Sgt. 1st Class Edward C. Kramer, 39, of Wilmington, was a former Marine who served in Operations Desert Shield and Storm. He was also a firefighter in Wilmington. Kramer is survived by a wife and two daughters.

Sgt. Juan C. Baldeosingh, 30, of Newport, also served in the Marines. He joined the Guard in June of 2008. Baldeosingh is survived by his wife and three children.

Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., 36, of Jacksonville, another former Marine, joined the National Guard in 2006. Adams is survived by his wife and four children.

"He was just perfect, that sums it up,' his wife Teresa Adams said. "He was just so selfless everything he did was about everybody but himself."

"It was horrible when he left and he missed us so much and we missed him so much, but he had to go, it wasn't an option," she said.

The deaths bring to 15 the total number of North Carolina National Guard soldiers killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001.

In a statement released on Friday, North Carolina National Guard commander Maj. Gen. William E. Ingram Jr. said: "The North Carolina National Guard and the people of our state mourn today with the families of these fine soldiers. The Guard is a very close-knit organization, and the loss of these brave men will leave a lasting impact on us all."

The Department of Defense said an improvised explosive device detonated near the vehicle carrying the four men. They were members of North Carolina's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat team, headquartered in Clinton.

The 30th consists of 4,000 soldiers, mainly from North Carolina, with additional troops from West Virginia and Colorado. The 30th mobilized at the end of last year and left North Carolina in late April. It is expected to return from the deployment in early 2010.

Funeral arrangements for the four are incomplete, the National Guard said in statement.