Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Joshua E Steele

North Henderson, Illinois

June 17, 2007

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
26 Army Capt

1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Transition Team)

Fort Riley, Kansas

 Killed in Panjway, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle.

From The Register-Mail Online 06/26/07:

'Never going to stop missing you'

Fallen soldier from North Henderson recalled as an 'absolutely amazing person'

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The Register-Mail
MONMOUTH - A solemn funeral Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Monday morning sent Capt. Joshua E. Steele to his eternal rest.

The early morning fog had burned off by 10 a.m. and the sky was blue. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders stood in front of the church, U.S. flags proudly displayed.

"What a special and absolutely amazing person he was," Steele's older sister, Gina Steele, 38, of San Francisco, told family, friends and members of the military gathered inside the church.

Steele, 26, the son of R. Philip and Paula Steele of North Henderson, was killed along with two other soldiers June 17 when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Panjway, Afghanistan.

Steele was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army's 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, (Transition Team), Fort Riley, Kan. However, he spent much of his 4 1/2-year military career at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He was assigned to the 5th and later the 35th engineering battalion at Fort Leonard Wood and was deployed to Iraq in 2003 with the 5th Engineering Battalion. The pallbearers for Steele's funeral were from the 5th Engineering Battalion.

Steele is the sixth member of the military from this area to die in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ritual of the funeral mass lent a dignified air to the solemn occasion. The Rev. Christopher Haake, a friend of the family, said he didn't know Josh, but through what he called "some beautiful and remarkable writing" was able to learn about the young soldier's too-brief life.

Haake said he learned Steele, as a child, "enjoyed playing capture the flag. I did, too."

He reassured those grieving the loss of a son, brother, friend, by telling them of Steele's great faith and his place in heaven. Still, he admitted, "The loss of a friend or family member is hard, even with our great faith. ... Now, Josh had faith in his family and faith in our government and especially faith in the Army," Haake said. "He had faith in his friends and relationships but all built on that faith in Christ."

With the flag-draped casket sitting nearby, Haake said, "I can't pretend to know Josh, but I know about him. ... I know he tried and, in many ways, succeeded. ... His virtues are what we can imitate."

Josh Steele's brother, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Steele, 40, and his other sister, Army 1st Lt. Lucinda Piotrowski, read from the Scriptures.

Gina Steele's pride in her little brother was apparent. She talked of how he loved rocks and dinosaurs from the age of 5 and read books about both. As he grew older, he began to read J.R.R. Tolkien. Not just "The Hobbit," and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy but also other Tolkien books. Gina Steele remembered Josh convinced his mother to read some of those other works.

"And he would quiz her about them," she said. "I remember he was actually working his way through 'War and Peace' when he was 8."

She said he loved to read about military history.

Recalling his sense of humor made Gina Steele smile briefly on this saddest of days. She said when he was still fairly young, as he was eating some of his mother's lasagna, he leaned over and said to Lucinda, "This lasagna is missing something - taste."

She had one more memory to share, of when she went off to college; Josh was only 7. She asked if he would miss her. She said her brother was very honest about everything, even this.

'"Well, you know, Gina, I get busy, and when I'm busy, I don't think of you that much,'" she said Josh told her.

With emotion that would eventually overwhelm her creeping into her voice, Gina had a message for Josh.

"No matter how busy I ever get, I am never going to stop thinking about you," she said, "and I am never going to stop missing you, Joshua. ... I love you so much."

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said athletes and movie stars are sometimes considered heroes, but the word is often overused.

"Josh was a hero," Quinn said. "He loved his country more than self. ... We love Josh and we always will."

Capt. Steele was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Bishop Daniel Jenky also took part in Monday's service.

About 11:45 a.m., the funeral procession passed under a giant American flag between two fire department ladder trucks on North Main Street, at Archer Avenue. People holding flags gathered for blocks on Main Street to watch. The procession traveled on U.S. 34 to Galesburg, then west on I-74 to Woodhull. Josh Steele was laid to rest in St. John's Cemetery, near Woodhull.

About the Service

Funeral mass for Capt. Joshua E. Steele at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Monmouth

Partial list of songs before service: "This is my Country," "America the Beautiful," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "God Bless America."

Hymns during service: "On Eagle's Wings," "Be Not Afraid."

Length of service: About 90 minutes

Number of people in attendance: 500 (estimated)

From The Register-Mail Online 06/22/07:

Capt. Joshua E. 'Josh' Steele

Friday, June 22, 2007


NORTH HENDERSON - Capt. Joshua Eric "Josh" Steele, 26, North Henderson, died Sunday (June 17, 2007) near Panjway, Afghanistan, when the Humvee in which he was a passenger detonated an improvised explosive device.

He was born July 8, 1980, in Galesburg, the son of R. Philip and Paula Weir Steele.

Surviving are his parents of North Henderson; a brother, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Stephen (and Christine) Steele of Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.; two sisters, Gina Steele, San Francisco, Calif., and Army 1st Lt. Lucinda (and Nicholas) Piotrowski, Fort Sill, Okla.; his grandparents, Harold and Madonna Steele, Sherwood, Ohio; and four nieces, Stephanie, Heather and Courtney Steele, and Abigail Piotrowski. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Paul and Dixie Weir, and a nephew, Jason Steele.

He was raised on a farm near North Henderson and attended Immaculate Conception Parochial School in Monmouth and Alexis High School. After graduating from high school at Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Mo., in 1998, he received his degree in geological engineering from the University of Missouri at Rolla magna cum laude in 2002 where he was a member of the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and the Society of Military Engineers.

He was commissioned in the Army in 2002 and was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., assigned to the 5th and later the 35th Engineering Battalion. He was previously deployed in Iraq and the Republic of Georgia before being sent to Afghanistan in January 2007.

He enjoyed geological pursuits as well as raising and showing swine, horseback riding, hunting and life on the farm.

He was of Catholic faith. He was a member of the 4-H and FFA in Alexis; Civil Air Patrol in Galesburg; and was vice president of his junior class in high school.

Service will be at 10 a.m. Monday in Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Monmouth, with the Rev. Christopher Haake officiating, assisted by Revs. Michael Monclova, John Thieryoung and Stanislaus Mutajwaha. Visitation will be 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the United North Fieldhouse, 101 North Holloway, Alexis, with Recitation of the rosary at 7:30 p.m. Burial will be in St. John's Catholic Cemetery, near Woodhull. Hurd-Hendricks Funeral Home and Crematory, Knoxville, is in charge of arrangements.

Memorials may be made to the Army Fisher Houses or the Bukoba Tanzania Diocese Education Initiative for the (Kwauso) Secondary School.

Online condolences may be made at www.hurd-hendricksfuneralhome.com.

From The Register-Mail Online 06/22/07:

Fallen soldier a farm boy

Siblings recall an intense, intelligent, and driven brother
Friday, June 22, 2007


The Register-Mail
NORTH HENDERSON - Capt. Joshua E. Steele, who died Sunday while serving in Afghanistan, is a hero to friends, as well as area residents who never met the young man. But to his family, he also was a son and a brother.

Steele was the son of R. Philip and Paula Steele of North Henderson. He had two sisters, Gina and Army 1st Lt. Lucinda Piotrowski, 25, stationed at Fort Sill, Okla., and a brother, Stephen. Gina, 38, and Stephen, 40, watched their little brother grow up on the farm, eventually becoming a bright teenager, then the young man who accomplished much in his 26 years.

Gina Steele of San Francisco, called her brother, "very intense, very goal-oriented, very smart," in a telephone interview Thursday.

"Josh was a special person."

Life on the farm

As a young boy, Josh Steele began a life-long love of studying rocks. That passion led to his bachelor of science degree in geological engineering in 2002 from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

"That started when he was about 5," said Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Steele of the Air Force. "When he was young, he was also very interested in dinosaurs."

Stephen Steele, who is in the process of moving from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, said his brother was in FFA.

"He won a soil contest," his brother said. "It was kind of funny, because I also won that award, but I don't know how. It was kind of a fluke."

Stephen Steele said his brother later explained to him what the soil identification contest was all about.

There were many things Josh Steele loved about life on the farm.

"He liked horses," Stephen said. "He adopted a mustang when he was 13."

His brother said an article about Josh adopting a wild mustang through the Bureau of Land Management was initially printed in the Aledo Times-Record, then in Western Horseman magazine.

"He loved to raise pigs," Gina said. "He would go to the fence post and talk to them."

She remembered he had the grand champion one year at North Henderson's Happy Days festival.

He also loved hunting.

Reaching his goals

Joshua Steele began grade school in Alexis, then transferred to Immaculate Conception School in Monmouth. He attended Alexis High School during his freshman through junior years, then transferred to Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Mo. He graduated from MMA in 1998. Josh's brother and sister said he thought attending MMA would help him reach his goals.

"He played football for Alexis for a couple of years," Stephen said, and also played at the military academy in Missouri.

Josh attended the University of Missouri-Rolla on a four-year Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship. He graduated magna cum laude and was active in Phi Kappa Phi and the Catholic Newman Center on campus.

For relaxation, "He loved the Tolkien books," Gina said.

In addition to becoming a captain at age 26, after only 4 1/2 years in the Army, Stephen Steele said his brother won the Commandant's Award when he went on active duty.

Capt. Steele was commissioned in 2002 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He was assigned to the 5th and later the 35th engineering battalion. This was his second deployment to the Iraq-Afghanistan war. He also served in the country of Georgia. He was deployed to Afghanistan in January 2007.

In a statement issued Thursday through Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn's office, his family said Josh decided on a military career at a very early age. In fact, going so far as to say as a teen, "he was willing to give his life for his country," said his mother, Paula Steele, in the news release.

What if?

Asked in the phone interview if his brother still planned to make the military his career, Stephen said, "I never really got the chance to talk with him about that."

"I think he was going for it," Gina said.

Stephen agreed that Josh, who wanted to earn his master's degree, initially wanted a military career, but he said that later, "He was not sure. He was in a stage in his career where he had fulfilled his initial obligation. He wasn't sure what he would do when he got back - in or get out."

His father, an attorney in Alpha, said in the prepared release, "Josh was incredibly intelligent and always stood up for the things he believed in. He was protective of everything he cared about, including his country, his family and especially his little sister. While Josh was often quiet, when he spoke, everyone remembered what he said. He was quick witted, straightforward and very honest. Because of his passion, hard work, creativity, intensity and perfectionism, he was able to accomplish anything he set his mind to do."

Stephen Steele will head to the East Coast and Saturday morning will escort his brother's body back to Quad City International Airport in Moline.

Arrangements for Capt. Joshua Steele

<0xE0E4> Visitation: 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at former Alexis High School

<0xE0E4> Funeral Mass: 10 a.m. Monday, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Monmouth

<0xE0E4> Burial: St. John's Cemetery, near Woodhull

<0xE0E4> Hurd-Hendricks Funeral Home, Knoxville, is in charge of arrangements.

Note: The body of United States Army Capt. Joshua E. Steele is currently scheduled to be arriving at the Quad City International Airport at 10:58 a.m. Saturday. A "Hero's Welcome" procession will follow. The procession route from the airport in Moline to the funeral home in Knoxville, was published in Thursday's edition of The Register-Mail. One small addition to the route is when the procession continues into North Henderson, it will now circle the ball diamond. Up-to-date, real-time locations of the procession will be broadcast on WAAG-FM 94.9 and WGIL-AM 1400.

From The Register-Mail Online 06/19/07:

UPDATE: Local soldier killed in Afghanistan
Joshua E. Steele was a captain in U.S. Army

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The Register-Mail
NORTH HENDERSON - A soldier from North Henderson is the sixth area man to be killed in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Capt. Joshua E. Steele, North Henderson and a member of the U.S. Army, died Sunday during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, according to a family friend. This was Capt. Steele's second tour of duty in the region, having previously been deployed to Iraq.

The Department of Defense had not yet officially confirmed the report of Steele's death by about 12:30 p.m. today. Further details were not immediately available.

Steele is the son of Phil and Paula Steele, North Henderson,

Joy Morland of Alpha, said she has talked with Steele's mother on the phone once since the attack. Paula Steele told Morland her son was killed by a roadside bomb.

"He was a very conscientious son and a caring friend to everyone around him," Morland said.

Phil Steele's law office is in Alpha.

"He was a quality young man," said retired Alexis educator John Elder. He attends St. Theresa Catholic Church, Alexis, as does the Steele family. "They're a nice family."

From The Register-Mail Online 06/25/07:

'He was a great leader'

Capt. Joshua Steele remembered by comrades in arms

Monday, June 25, 2007
The Register-Mail
ALEXIS - Capt. Joshua E. Steele led from the front.

During a six-month period starting in late 2003, when he and his soldiers went on patrol in Iraq to find the roadside bombs that were killing so many of their colleagues, Steele was on the point.

"He was a great soldier," said Capt. James Smith, who served with Steele in the 5th Engineer Battalion near the unfriendly city of Samara, about one hour north of Baghdad. "He was a great leader. He was admired by his soldiers."

Smith quietly remembered his friend Sunday afternoon while hundreds of people paid respects to the fallen soldier during visitation at the fieldhouse in the old Alexis High School, which Steele attended until transferring his senior year to the Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Mo.

The casket holding Steele, who was killed in Afghanistan one week earlier, was beneath the west basket of the basketball court. Above him, the scoreboard, which announced that this was Red Storm country, also promised Steele's "service to our country will never be forgotten."

J.R. Lafferty and son-in-law Trent McKeown assist in removing flags Sunday evening near Main and Broadway streets in Alexis. American flags were placed along Main Street early Saturday morning by the Alexis Volunteer Fire Department. A sign stands in a store front, one of several momentos around town commemorating the late Capt. Joshua E. Steele.

Well before the announced start time of 4 p.m., many people had joined the queue outside. For more than one hour, the line grew at a steady rate, friends coming to offer condolences to the 26-year old's family members.

Smith was there as a friend and a comrade in arms, but also as the military's casualty assistance officer. It was a job he asked for after news of Steele's death reached him at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

"The very next day, I volunteered," he said.

With him were others from Fort Leonard Wood who knew Steele, the farm boy who dreamed of being a soldier, and volunteered to help with services.

Members of the Alexis Volunteer Fire Department and community residents watch as the procession for the late Capt. Joshua E. Steele leaves the former Alexis High School on Sunday night following the visitation.

Capt. Matthew Woods remembered when he and Steele, who was his roommate at Fort Leonard Wood, were given orders in 2003 for duty in South Korea. They both wanted to go to Iraq, but their requests for new orders were rejected.

Later, they were able to switch with two platoon leaders who were destined for Iraq.

"We traded our slots for Korea to those guys," Woods said.

They were separated in Iraq, but reunited in Missouri upon their return. They were separated again before Steele deployed to Afghanistan.

Woods said it was hard to believe when he heard of Steele's death. Dying is part of being a soldier, he said, and deaths are announced nearly every day.

Still, he said, "It's hard when you can put it with a face."

One man who saw in Steele the makings of a good soldier is Capt. Chad Pense, who taught Steele during his Reserve Officer Training Corps days at the University of Missouri-Rolla, where Steele earned a degree in geological engineering in 2002. Pense, too, was at the fieldhouse in uniform, honoring someone he knew as quiet, smart and disciplined.

"He didn't need a lot of guidance," he remembered. "Anytime we told him to do something, he did it."

Pense was surprised when he heard of Steele's death. He thought the first of any former cadet he knew to die in combat would be someone from a more traditional combat unit, like the infantry or armor, not a soldier with an engineer battalion.

"I didn't think it'd be Josh," he said.

Smith said times were hard around Samara during the six months he and Steele were there. The insurgency now so ingrained in the conflict was in its terrible infancy.

Roadside bombs, known in military parlance as IEDS, or improvised explosive devices, were new weapons of war, puzzling and dangerous, hidden along the roadside beneath rocks, within a pile of litter or even inside a dead animal.

"It was extremely violent," Smith said of that time. "Josh and his crew were finding in the neighborhood of four to five IEDs a week. Sometimes, they'd find four or five a day."

And each time they found one, the same type of weapon which eventually killed him, Steele was where he thought a leader should be. He was at the front.

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