|From Starzone8 10/10/04:
Rome native Sgt. Michael Uvanni was killed by sniper fire Friday in Samarra, Iraq -- the city that U.S. and Iraqi forces last week took control of from insurgents, Department of Defense officials confirmed Monday.
While the Uvanni family grieved in private, soldiers who knew the New York Army National Guardsman gathered at the National Guard Armory in Utica Monday evening to hear the details of his death and honor the former Marine.
"He led by example," said Sgt. Francis Gonyea, who worked alongside Uvanni from January until he left Utica in late August. "He wouldn't make anyone do anything that he wouldn't do first. That's how he earned respect."
Uvanni, a 1996 Rome Free Academy graduate and all-league football player, had been in Iraq less than a month.
After serving five years as a mortarman in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserves, Uvanni joined the National Guard Headquarters Company 2nd Batallion 108th Infantry -- based in Utica -- in January, Col. Paul Fanning said.
Since Sept. 9, he had served as a replacement with Bravo Company in Iraq.
Uvanni was killed in combat when he was shot in the upper torso by a sniper, Fanning said.
"The New York Army National Guard is deeply saddened by this loss," said Maj. Stephen Mueller in a statement given at the Utica Armory Monday evening. "He was an outstanding soldier.
Uvanni's Marine Corps experience and extensive knowledge of "basic soldiery" made him a leader among Guardsmen, 1st Sgt. Thomas Williams said.
"It's tough to earn the respect of a first sergeant, but somehow he did," Williams said. "His professionalism and ethics were second to none."
Uvanni, 27, was an enthusiastic soldier who always had a smile on his face, even when being made to do push-ups, and showed as much enthusiasm for hard military work as he did for the motorcycle or snowmobile he rode in his free time, Gonyea said.
"He was always up about everything," he said.
Bouquets, candles and cards in memory of Uvanni have been clustered in the entrance of El Chico's, the family restaurant on Martin Street in Rome, since Saturday, the day after Uvanni's family was notified of his death.