An Army Reserve soldier from Las Vegas was killed in Kuwait this week while changing a flat tire on a heavy transport truck, U.S. military officials said.
Staff Sgt. Cameron Bryan Sarno, 43, was killed Monday when another military vehicle crashed into his parked tractor-trailer in Kuwait City, crushing him as he was connecting a chain underneath the disabled vehicle. Officials declined to reveal details of the accident, which is under investigation.
Sarno, a member of the 257th Transportation Company, became the first member of the military service from Las Vegas to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is the third Nevada resident killed since the war in Iraq began March 20.
Two Marines, 1st Lt. Fred Pokorney of Tonopah and Lance Cpl. Donald "John" Cline of Sparks, were killed in action March 23 near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. Army Capt. Josh Byers, 29, a South Carolina native who graduated from Reed High School in Sparks, was killed July 23 when his convoy was ambushed near Ramadi.
Sarno, a native of Hawaii who was known as "Boodee" among family members, had lived in Las Vegas for the past five years. He worked as a concrete-mixer truck driver for Silver State Materials Corp., his aunt, Nancy Gurdison, said.
"He was gung-ho. He really believed he should do something for his country," Gurdison told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for Friday's editions.
Maj. Gen. Robert B. Ostenberg, commander of the 63rd Regional Readiness Command, said in a statement from Los Alamitos, Calif., that Sarno "paid the ultimate price for freedom."
"He died with great dignity, integrity and honor while serving a people's rights to basic freedoms and attempting to make the world a better place to live," Ostenberg said.
A memorial service was planned Sunday at the Armed Forces Reserve Center at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas.
"He always had a smile on his face," said Spc. Anthony Grimando, a member of the Army Reserve's 257th Transportation Company. "There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for anybody. He was selfless."
Sarno was born July 18, 1960, in Wahiawa, Hawaii. He joined the Army soon after graduating from high school, following in the footsteps of his late father, James Sarno Sr., who served in Germany during the mid-1950s.
Gurdison said her nephew was an energetic man who often would visit her Las Vegas home after work for conversations that would last into the night. Besides surfing, he loved spear-fishing in the Hawaiian Islands, she said.
Sarno had 19 years of combined active and Reserve duty in the Army and planned to retire next year, but not until after Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"He always said `If I didn't like it, I'd be out,'" Gurdison said.
Sarno's unit commander, Capt. Jonathan Cox, said in an e-mail from Camp Arifjan in Kuwait that Sarno "was a great soldier, squad leader and friend to us all."
More than 450 soldiers attended a memorial service Thursday in Kuwait.
"His death creates a void in the 257th that will be hard to fill," Cox said.
Sarno's son, a soldier deployed to Afghanistan, was flown to Hawaii on Thursday, where a funeral service for his father will be held next week, an Army Reserve spokesman said.
Sarno is survived by his son, Cameron Bryan "B.J." Takeuchi; his mother, Judy Sarno; sister, Jamie Lynn Gallarde; grandmother, Angeline Gallano, all of Waipahu, Hawaii; and his brother, James Sarno Jr. of Las Vegas.
Donations to the family in Sarno's name can be made to the Nevada Patriot Fund.
On the Net: Nevada Patriot Fund: http://nevadapatriotfund.nv.gov/