|From Everett Washington Daily Herald heraldnet.com
Army reservist from Marysville killed in training accident
By Jackson Holtz
EVERETT — Ever since Joseph M. Cerfus was a little boy, he wanted to serve his country.
At 17, Cerfus joined the Navy and completed two tours in Iraq.
Then, he joined the Army Reserve and in 2007 became a custody officer for the Snohomish County Department of Corrections.
On Monday, while participating as as a Reserve in military training in Alberta, Canada, Cerfus, 25, was killed in a heavy equipment exercise.
“He had a big heart, cared about his friends. He was just an overall good kid,” said his father, Michael Cerfus, 49, of Marysville. “I’m just really proud of him.”
The accident occurred while a Chinook helicopter unit was training as part of the Maple Guardian Exercise, a joint training effort involving United States and Canadian forces.
Cerfus was injured while working with a ground crew slinging an item to an airborne helicopter, said Pam Garrison, an Army Reserve spokeswoman. No one else was hurt. The mishap is being investigated by US and Canadian officials.
Cerfus was one of about 200 soldiers in A Company, 5-159 Aviation Regiment, based at Gray Army Airfield, Fort Lewis.
“Our hearts go out to the family. It’s a big tragedy whenever you lose a soldier,” Garrison said.
With so many soldiers facing combat in Iraq, deaths closer to home are more surprising, she said.
“It brings home how dangerous the job is for these guys and gals,” she said.
At the Snohomish County Jail, where Cerfus worked, friends were still learning of the death, said Jim Harms, a corrections spokesman.
“This is a very emotional time for his colleagues and his coworkers,” Harms said. “We have expressed our deepest sympathy and condolences to his family and (his fiancee).”
Family is planning a funeral service in the Phoenix area, where Cerfus grew up, and a local memorial service is likely, Harms said.
Cerfus moved to Marysville to be closer to his dad in 2004 after his brother, Michael Ourso, died in a car accident.
Cerfus had many tattoos, including one his brother had designed before his death, his father said.
“Joey” or “Joe Joe” was a sometimes goofy guy who loved to be outdoors, shoot target practice and go off-roading in four-wheel drive pickup trucks, said Balta Rojas, 23, a close friend who considered Cerfus his brother.
Cerfus has just bought a Ford F-350 he loved, Rojas said.
He was a great guy to be around, he said.
“Every time he came around, he put a smile on peoples' faces,” he said.
Cerfus was engaged to be married in August to a woman with whom he worked at the county jail, his father said.
He’s survived by his mother and stepfather, Susan and Mark Harr, of Phoenix; his father and step mother, Michael and Linda Cerfus, of Marysville; sisters, Sarah and Amanda, of Phoenix, and Kalyn, of Marysville; a niece, Angelica, of Phoenix; and close friends Balta and Katie Rojas and their daughter, Kaylin, of Marysville; and many others.
Cerfus also is survived by a little girl whom he helped care for, Rojas said.
“I couldn’t ask for a better person in my life,” Rojas said. “He’ll be truly and dearly missed.”
Rojas said Cerfus came back from Iraq without a scratch. His love of service drove him to re-enlist with the reserves.
“He loved the fact that he was able to keep us Americans free and he loved to fight for our rights,” Rojas said.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA