The deaths in Iraq of two New Jersey soldiers, including one from Brigantine, were announced yesterday by the Defense Department.
Army Sgt. Sameer A.M. Rateb, 22, who listed his father's Brigantine address as his official place of residence when he enlisted in the Army three years ago, died Sunday of noncombat-related causes at Forward Operating Base Summerall in Bayji, Iraq, according to the Defense Department.
Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo, 23, a 2001 graduate of Lodi High School, died Saturday. He was killed in Diyala Province when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an improvised explosive device.
The Defense Department said the Army is still investigating Rateb's death and would provide no further information on its cause yesterday.
Rateb, who was assigned to the First Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Third Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division, had been based at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Rateb joined the Army in March 2004 and served in Afghanistan later that year. He was on his second deployment to Iraq.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Sameer Rateb, who bravely served his country," said U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "Too often, we here in America forget that our freedoms are courageously protected by those men and women who serve in uniform. Our nation owes them, and in particular Army Sergeant Rateb, a debt of gratitude for their commitment and selfless sacrifice."
LoBiondo spoke with Rateb's family yesterday to offer his condolences, a spokesman said.
Rateb is survived by his wife, Tiffany Brooke Rateb, of Ladson, S.C.; a stepson, Jason; his father, Mohamed Rateb of Brigantine; and his mother, Erzsebet Howell, of Summerville, S.C.
Romeo, of Lodi, Bergen County, was assigned to Company A, Fifth Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Third Brigade, Second Infantry Division, also known as the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, in Fort Lewis, Wash.
"Vincenzo was a kind and courageous person who brought joy and laughter to all around him," his family said in a statement released by the Fort Monmouth Public Affairs Office.
"As a family of Italian immigrants, we are especially proud of our hero Vincenzo for his patriotism, bravery, and service to the United States," the statement read.
The family said Romeo was born in Calabria, Italy, and immigrated to the United States with them in 1986. After graduating from high school in Lodi, he attended Kean University for a year and then decided to enlist in the Army in March 2003.
Romeo received numerous awards during his military career, including the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was on his second deployment to Iraq.
Romeo is survived by his parents, Saverina and Antonio Romeo; brothers Bruno and Carmelo; and his fiancee, Amanda Anderson.