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Military deaths

Army Staff Sgt. Frank Gasper, 25, Merced

Soldier dies in bombing on 4th tour of Iraq

June 22, 2008|Steve Chawkins | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer



For The Record

Los Angeles Times Friday, June 27, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction

Gasper obituary: An obituary of Army Staff Sgt. Frank J. Gasper in the June 22 California section said he was a member of the Special Forces. He was a member of a Special Forces support unit.


Army Staff Sgt. Frank Gasper loved what he did so much that a fellow soldier gave him a nickname that stuck: "Gaspartacus."

"That was in his last tour," his mother, Anita Richards, recalled. "He said it meant that only the strong can call themselves warriors."

Gasper, 25, was killed May 25 when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Najaf, Iraq, south of Baghdad.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group at Ft. Carson, Colo.

A career soldier, the Merced native was killed months after volunteering for his fourth tour in Iraq. A member of the Special Forces, he aimed to join the elite Green Berets.

"He'd always write, saying, 'I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing. I wouldn't be anywhere else,' " his mother said.

Gasper grew up in Snelling, in Merced County, near the dairies where his father worked as a ranch hand.

In his teen years, Gasper avidly followed NASCAR racing and fell in love with a "muscle car," a 1970 Chevrolet Nova. Piloting his special ride, he won a "rubber-burning" contest at the Merced County fairgrounds, peeling out with more style than any of his competitors.

"That was the highlight," Richards said, chuckling. "He won himself a new set of tires."

Following the example of many family members, he enlisted in the Army after high school.

"He just wanted to do his four years, get some experience, get out and become a cop," said his wife, Breanna Gasper, who married him just after he graduated from boot camp. "He figured his military experience would help him with that."

But military life grabbed him in a way he never expected.

During basic training, Gasper sent his mother a poem he wrote titled "Warriors" -- one reflection of just how deeply he felt about his new calling.

"He felt he was actually making a difference," said Breanna Gasper, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., near Ft. Carson. "On missions, he'd bring bags of candy to hand to little kids. It was a sense of accomplishment."

A specialist in maintaining field radios, Gasper kept in frequent touch with his family from Iraq.

"He'd say 'I'm at the beach' or 'I'm at the sand hole,' " Richards recalled. "He was quite a jokester."

Worried about buddies who never received mail, he gave their names to his mother. A caseworker for the Merced County Health Department, she recruited fellow employees to send them messages and small gifts.

"I'd always try to see him before he deployed," she said. "I'd say, 'Frank, are you ready?' And he'd say, 'I'm always ready, Mom. Just pray for me.' "

Gasper was buried at Merced District Cemetery.

In addition to his wife, mother and stepfather Joel Richards, Gasper is survived by a sister, Victoria Beuerlein. Her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Beuerlein, is a member of Gasper's unit and served with him in Iraq.


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