Family members say two Arkansas soldiers were among the 12 U.S. soldiers killed when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed Saturday in Iraq.
Capt. Michael Taylor, 40, of North Little Rock was piloting the helicopter when it went down northeast of Baghdad. That word is from his father-in-law, Sandy Sanders.
Sanders says Taylor had been in Iraq for several months and was to return to Arkansas for a family visit in February.
Taylor, who was in the Army Reserves, also served in Desert Storm.
He and his wife, Wendy, have two children, ages 11 and 5. He worked in the computer business, and previously worked for the Veterans Administration.
Sanders said his son-in-law loved duck hunting and appreciated life.
Crew chief Gary Brown of Little Rock was on his first day of duty Saturday after returning Jan. 13 from a family visit in Arkansas. Brown's brother Phil Brown says his sibling grew up in Nashville, Ark., and was living with his wife and two stepdaughters in Little Rock.
Brown, who also served in Desert Storm, began his latest tour in April with training in the U.S. before going to Iraq in the late summer. His brother says Gary Brown worked for a tire supply company.
Brown and Taylor’s fellow soldiers say this is their unit's first losses since arriving in the Middle East last year.
The Department of Defense’s policy is not to announce the names of fallen soldiers until 24 hours after their next of kin have been notified. The DoD will not release the names of the 12 killed until 24 hours has passed since the last soldier’s family was notified. However, all the Arkansas soldiers’ next of kin have been notified.
In an e-mail Monday, one Guardsman told Today's THV that all of them fly that route dozens of times every day and say it could have been any one of them killed.
Meanwhile, an al-Qaida-linked coalition of Iraqi Sunni insurgents has claimed that its fighters shot down the helicopter.
The insurgent coalition posted the claim on an Islamic Web site, saying "the lions of Iraq's Islamic state" shot down a Black Hawk helicopter on Saturday.
The posting's authenticity hasn't been independently verified, but it appeared on a Web site used as a clearing house for militant statements. The coalition is believed to be the political wing of al-Qaida in Iraq.
A U.S. military spokesman says the cause of the crash hasn't been determined. But a senior U.S. military official said today that investigators have found debris near the crash scene that could belong to a shoulder-fired weapon.
(Copyright 2007 by THV & The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)