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Capt. Pierre E. Piche
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Army Capt. Pierre E. Piche, 29, of Starksboro, Vt.; assigned to the 626th Forward Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Nov. 15 when two 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq.

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Capt. Pierre E. Piche Memorial Book

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Three Soldiers, Many Mourners

CBS, 60 Minutes: July 28, 2004
 
(CBS) Since the United States invaded Iraq close to a year and a half ago, more than 900 troops have lost their lives.

You've probably noticed those lists in the newspaper -- the lists of the dead. Some days, they just have a couple of names. Other days, more. They note the age, unit and hometown. But of course, there is so much more that's unsaid.

60 Minutes wondered who those Americans were, and wondered about the sacrifice and the people left behind. So last March, Correspondent Scott Pelley reported on three soldiers from that list....
 
... Another name on the list is Pierre Piche, 29, Army captain, Starksboro, Vt.

Years ago, his mother, Lisa Johnson, moved from New York to get away from it all and raise her only child.

“He enjoyed hiking in the woods and swimming. There are a lot of waterfalls and streams,” says Johnson.

At 18, Piche left for Carnegie Mellon University, and he surprised everyone by signing up for Army training — the ROTC. It was not part of the family tradition. “It broke my heart,” says Johnson.

What was it in him that led him to the Army? “I don’t understand completely,” says Johnson. “Except that he wanted to be a part of history. He wanted to do the right thing for his country.”

Piche fell in love with a woman named Cherish, and in military tradition, crossed under swords into married life.

“He was the ultimate romantic. I mean he was the husband that every wife dreams of having,” says Cherish, who is reminded by love notes that he left before being shipped out. “They were in drawers, in cabinets, in the dog food and in the laundry, and in my shoes and jacket pocket. I think there are over 50 or 60 of them.”

Cherish found the first note on the front door when she came in. It said: “I will walk through this door and see you again.”

She found the last two notes in the pockets of her winter coat. She was getting ready to go to her husband’s funeral in Vermont. “I put my hands in my pockets and I felt them. And I just closed my eyes for a minute, and I knew exactly what they were,” recalls Cherish. “I pulled them out. One said, ‘I will always love you.’ And the other one said, ‘We will always be together.’”

When Piche left for Iraq, Cherish says, she didn’t worry much because he was a maintenance officer. It was supposed to be a desk job. “He used to joke around with me and say that the only Purple Heart he was ever gonna get was probably because he would get carpal tunnel syndrome from typing too many memos.”

On Nov. 15, Piche was ordered on leave, a short vacation that he didn’t want to take. He was aboard one of two Black Hawk helicopters that collided above Mosul. Seventeen people were killed.

Johnson received a proclamation from the president, honoring the memory of Pierre Esprit Piche. The certificate is “awarded by a grateful nation.”

“I would like to believe that we are in fact a grateful nation,” says Johnson. “But I worry that many Americans don’t realize what the extent of the sacrifice of these soldiers is, and the sacrifice of their families.”

There is a walk in the woods outside Nashville, Tenn., that brings Pierre and Cherish Piche full circle. It’s a path that leads to the spot where he proposed. And it’s now the spot where he will be remembered.

“I sent him a picture of this place that he hung up in Iraq. And I sent a little note saying this is one of the many places that we’ll go when you come home,” says Cherish. “But he’s not coming home. So, that's why I wanted his ashes to be here … I miss you and I love you so much. And I am trying to be strong for you, but sometimes it’s really, really hard.”

Pierre Piche, 29, is among the names on the list of the honored dead -- now carried on currents of memory.

Complex soldier wanted to teach

Captain had `sense of purpose' in Iraq

By Bill Glauber
Tribune staff reporter

December 5, 2003
 
To his mother, Army Capt. Pierre Piche will always remain the studious little boy who asked serious questions about the existence of God and the nature of the universe, discussed Spinoza at the age of 6 and played Beethoven on the piano.

And through his life, he remained a romantic, his mother, Lisa Johnson, said.

That romantic spirit was evident in the hundreds of notes Piche left for his wife, Cherish, before going to war.

And the romance carried on even after his death when his widow pulled out a winter coat and discovered two of those notes that read: "I love you" and "We will always be together."

"This is someone who was a reader, a pianist, someone who was complex and very much in love," Johnson said.

Piche, 29, of Starksboro, Vt., was among 17 soldiers killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 15.

Piche, a member of the 101st Airborne Division, joinedthe ROTC to pay for college, graduating from Middle Tennessee State.

He was due to leave the military in January, his mother said, and planned to enroll in graduate school to fulfill a dream of becoming a college history professor.

Johnson said that Piche had a "sense of purpose" early in his tour of Iraq, helping the Iraqi people, discovering what life was like in a foreign land during war and its aftermath.

Johnson said her son expressed concern for his safety before his final helicopter flight. She said he was flying to Baghdad for three days of leave.

"He was as brave as the day is long," she said. "He did not want to get on that helicopter."

Natural musician: When it came to music, Army Sgt. Timothy L. Hayslett of Newville, Pa., was a natural. For his 10th birthday, he received a trumpet, took the instrument from the case and immediately played an impeccable version of "Happy Birthday."

"That knocked us all out of our seats," said his mother, Mary Hayslett. "Later, we used to laugh and say he was a 15-year-old with a 50-year-old brain. He liked old-time rock 'n' roll. He loved Bob Seger and ZZ Top."

And later, he grew to love country music, telling friends that he wanted the George Jones song "Choices" played at his funeral.

Timothy Hayslett, 26, a member of the 1st Armored Division, was killed Nov. 15 by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq.

"Timmy didn't have a mean bone in his body," his mother said. "He could take a bad situation and put comedy in it."

Hayslett dropped out of high school and became a cook, but found his calling in the military. After receiving his general equivalency diploma, he joined the military, following a path blazed by his brother, a Marine; father, a Vietnam veteran; and grandfather, a World War II veteran wounded in Germany.

At his funeral, the Jones song was played.

"I'm going to miss the long talks we had together," Capt. Joe Ruzicka told mourners, according to The Sentinel of Carlisle, Pa. "He wasn't one of my soldiers. He was one of my best friends."

Pupils at a nearby elementary school assembled and waved flags as the hearse bearing Hayslett's body passed.

"The whole town came out with flags and saluted," his mother said. "Even people who didn't know Timmy paid their respects as he went by in that hearse."

Honor to his regiment: Army Sgt. Jay Anthony Blessing, 23, of Tacoma, Wash., died Nov. 14 when the vehicle he was in struck a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's Kunar province.

Blessing, who enlisted in 1998, was a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Army Ranger Regiment.

According to a statement from the regiment, Blessing "traveled to all corners of the world in support of the global war on terrorism, had won numerous awards and fought valiantly to `uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps"' of his regiment.

Copyright 2003, Chicago Tribune

Vermont soldier home from the war

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

By WILSON RING, Associated Press


ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. - U.S. Army Capt. Pierre Piche returned to Vermont to stay Tuesday, nine days after he was killed in Iraq when the helicopter he was riding in went down near Mosul.

Piche, a 29-year-old Starksboro native who had planned to get out of the Army after returning from Iraq and becoming a teacher, was the fifth Vermonter to die in Iraq.

Once again a military honor guard fired its salute, another flag was presented to a grieving widow and family and friends mourned the loss of another American soldier who died before growing old.

"He gave of himself to his wife, his family, his friends and he gave the ultimate sacrifice to his country," Piche's mother, Lisa Johnson of Starksboro, said at the funeral.

"I am grateful that he was my son, and that he loved me. And I don't know how to end this," she said of her only child, her voice breaking. "I don't know how to face the fact that his life has ended. His story should go on for a very long time and I should not be here at the end to tell it."

Piche, a supply officer with the 101st Airborne Division, was one of 17 soldiers killed Nov. 15 when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in the air near Mosul, in northern Iraq. Investigators are still trying to determine if the helicopters went down due to enemy fire.

So far 54 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division and more than 400 service members have died in Iraq since the war began in March.

The cause of Piche's death wasn't talked about at his funeral.

Instead, people talked about their loss.

"He was proud to serve his country. He had a deep conviction to leave the world a better place," Johnson said.

Johnson also told of her son's love of animals and how he had started saving dogs in Iraq that needed homes and caring.

Piche attended the University of Vermont and graduated from Middle Tennessee State in 2000 with a degree in political science.

Piche's wife Cherish, a school teacher, told how her husband had been ready to give up a promising Army career so she could pursue her dream of becoming a school principal. He brought her flowers regularly and pasted their home with notes telling her he loved her.

There were notes in the sleeves of her coat that she didn't discover until she put it on when coming to Vermont.

Three days before he died, Piche called and sang the song, "I just called to say I love you" into the phone's answering machine.