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Published: Saturday, 12/20/2003

Father of fallen soldier struggles to accept death

Staff Sgt. Aaron Todd Reese Staff Sgt. Aaron Todd Reese

Ed Reese offered his first public comments about the death of Staff Sgt. Aaron Todd Reese at Chamberlin-Huckeriede Funeral Home in Lima, where the funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Monday.

“It's been hard, and there has been nothing that's been a comfort at all,” he said after reading a brief statement.

Sergeant Reese, 31, an Elida native who most recently lived in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, died Dec. 10 after he fell from his patrol boat. His body was later recovered. A second soldier, Spec. Todd Bates, 20, jumped in after his squad leader. He never surfaced.

Mr. Reese, who appeared alone at the funeral home, called Specialist Bates “a hero” and expressed sympathy for his grandmother, who raised the soldier in Bellaire, Ohio.

The service for Sergeant Reese will include a detachment from his son's unit, the 135th Military Police Company. Burial will be in Allentown Cemetery, outside Lima.

“Our family wishes to thank the Army for all their efforts in returning our son home,” Mr. Reese said in his initial remarks at the funeral home. “Todd loved his country ... proud to be a soldier and he loved his family.”

Sergeant Reese left his hometown of Elida, about 80 miles south of Toledo, shortly after graduating from Elida High School in 1990 and joined the Army. He served for seven years as a military policeman and attained the rank of specialist before joining the Ohio National Guard as an MP.

Details about the Tigris River incident remain sketchy. Mr. Reese said it was night when his son fell from the boat. Specialist Bates removed some of his gear before jumping in the river after Sergeant Reese.

James Sims, a spokesman for the Ohio National Guard in Columbus, said yesterday that the status of Specialist Bates hasn't changed. The military has classified Specialist Bates as “duty status whereabouts unknown.”

“Our hearts and prayers go out to Todd Bates' grandmother and family,” Mr. Reese said. “Todd Bates was a hero, though his effort to rescue our son was in vain.”

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