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MILITARY DEATHS

Garrett A. Fant dies at 21; Army specialist from American Canyon

Garrett A. Fant was killed when he stepped on a homemade land mine in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, on the Pakistani border.

December 18, 2011|By Ari Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times
  • Garrett A. Fant had always wanted to be in the Army, family members say. He joined the Army in March 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan in February as an indirect fire infantryman.
Garrett A. Fant had always wanted to be in the Army, family members say. He… (Army )

You can't have an infantry without F-A-N-T.

Family members say Spc. Garrett A. Fant, 21, enjoyed the play on his name, telling them and his fellow soldiers that it proved he was always meant to be in the Army.

Fant's older sister, Shanna Askins, said he played with G.I. Joe action figures from the age of 3. When he was 4, he wore an Army outfit and practiced saluting, and later dressed as a soldier at Halloween.

Fant was killed Sept. 26 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, on the Pakistani border. He was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, Kan.

On Veterans Day, Askins wrote on The Times' California War Dead database that her brother had "ALWAYS wanted to be in the Army, and so life has it … you died in the Army. It is so confusing to be so devastated yet so proud."

Born in Vallejo, northeast of San Francisco, Fant grew up in the Napa County community of American Canyon and in South Lake Tahoe.

Family members said he often could be found playing video games, musing over poetry and reading books that included Harry Potter and military history.

He went to Valley Oak High School in Napa and to South Tahoe High School, but found the classes unchallenging and left early to get his general education degree and join the service.

A tall, caring and sometimes introverted man, Fant hoped eventually to become a high school history teacher, Askins said.

"He wanted to make an impression on someone's life," she said.

Military officials said Fant joined the Army in March 2009 and went to basic training at Ft. Benning, Ga. He deployed to Afghanistan in February as an indirect fire infantryman, officials said.

Askins and other family members say they still don't know the full circumstances of Fant's death. Military officials said it appears he was on routine patrol about 6:20 a.m. when he stepped on a homemade pressure-plate land mine. He was evacuated to a hospital at Kandahar Airfield, but died a short time later.

Fant was buried in October at Happy Homestead Cemetery in South Lake Tahoe, the city to which family members said he had planned to return. The phrase "always loved and forever missed" was engraved on his tombstone, they said.

In addition to his sister, of Placerville, Fant's survivors include his mother, Julia Farrell of South Lake Tahoe; his father, John Fant of American Canyon; a brother, James Keough, who is in the Navy and recently deployed to the Persian Gulf; his grandmother, Beverly Towle; and his grandfather, Robert Fant.

ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

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