JACKSONVILLE - Family and friends are still mourning the loss of four soldiers from eastern North Carolina who died in Iraq earlier this week.
An improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee in Baghdad on Monday, killing the four soldiers assigned to the 120th Combined Arms Battalion in Wilmington, according to the Department of Defense.
Officials identified Spc. Robert L. Bittiker, 39, of Jacksonville; Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., 36, of Jacksonville; Sgt. Juan C. Baldeosingh, 30, of Newport; and Sgt. 1st Class Edward C. Kramer, 39, of Wilmington.
Baldeosingh, Kramer and Adams were former Marines.
Bittiker enlisted in the National Guard in 1990. He previously served in Bosnia and Iraq.
The family last talked to him on Father’s Day, said Mary Wheat, Bittiker’s mother.
Bittiker leaves behind his wife Tami, and two sons Cameron, 14, and Ronnie, 18, who just graduated from Southwest High School, Brian Wheat, Bittiker’s stepfather said.
Wheat described his stepson as a hard worker and sportsman who loved fishing.
“He loved his sons very much - followed them through all their sports,” Wheat said.
Adams served as a Marine infantryman for 13 years before joining the National Guard in 2006. As a Marine he completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He leaves behind a wife and four sons.
“I lost the love of my life, the boys lost their dad,” said Teresa Adams, his wife. “We were his world. His sons were his passion. He was the most selfless person I ever knew or ever will know.”
His family describes Adams as selfless and family oriented.
Adams was EMT certified and worked with the Half Moon Volunteer Fire Department. His wife became a volunteer fire fighter and they answered his last call before deployment together.
The family said they are bolstered by the love and support shown by extended family, adding that “our faith helps us to function.”
Baldeosingh worked as a security sergeant and Spanish translator at Carteret General Hospital. He joined the National Guard in June 2008.
His family described Baldeosingh as funny, kind, thoughtful, and a family-oriented man who loved to watch his three daughters dance and make arts and crafts with them.
He met his wife Rebecca while stationed at Camp Lejeune.
“Carlos was my best friend, my husband, and father to our three girls,” she said. “He is truly an American Hero. I am so proud of him for fighting for our country. He did what he wanted to do, and that was to be in the military. I loved him so very much.”
Kramer, a Wilmington firefighter, previously served in Bosnia and Iraq.
He is survived by his wife Vicki and two daughters, 9-year-old Erica and 7-year-old Megan.
“He loved us very much and he did this for his children so they wouldn’t have to,” Vicki Kramer said in a statement released through the National Guard.
Kramer’s family described him as a family man who put his family first and believed in serving his country.
“He was a devoted husband and father,” said Angel McIntyre, a family friend. “He loved serving his country and believed in what he was doing with his band of brothers.”
Fellow firefighter Kevin Fitzgerald described Kramer as “a great friend.” Other family friends said Kramer loved being a firefighter, motorcycles and fishing.
The four deaths bring the total number of North Carolina National Guard soldiers killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001, to 15, said Maj. Matthew Handley a spokesman for the N.C. National Guard.
The 120th Combined Arms Battalion is part of North Carolina’s 30th Heavy Brigade Combat team, headquartered in Clinton. The 30th consists of 4,000 soldiers, mainly from North Carolina, with additional troops from West Virginia and Colorado. The 30th mobilized at the end of last year and left North Carolina in late April. It is expected to return from the deployment in early 2010.