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Pa. soldier remembered as 'one of a kind'

April 19, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

McCONNELLSBURG, PA. - Phones rang without pause Wednesday at McConnellsburg High School, where teachers and staff said they hope to honor a 2003 graduate who died Monday from injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated in Baghdad.

Pfc. Aaron M. Genevie, who entered the U.S. Army in July 2005, was in his first deployment when his Humvee struck the IED, according to a military news release.

Described as polite and considerate, the 22-year-old transferred to the small Fulton County, Pa., school in his junior year. The school of approximately 300 was buzzing with talk about Genevie when the news broke, according to guidance counselor Shelly McMullen.

"We're very close-knit," she said.

Biology teacher Craig Elbin remembered Genevie as being quiet and respectful, saying Genevie quickly made friends when he transferred. Elbin and Genevie exchanged e-mails after graduation when Genevie was living in Chambersburg.

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"I remember that he was excited to finally be able to start his life on his own and was eagerly awaiting the start of his college career," Elbin said.

Assigned to Troop B, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Genevie maintained a MySpace page that became an informal memorial this week.

Several friends wrote that they know Genevie is watching Troop B from heaven.

"I'm just thankful that I was able to be home and see him before he shipped out. I gave him a hug and told him I loved him. He said, 'I love you too, bro,'" friend Zach Runk said.

Robin Shurley, whose husband was one of Genevie's close friends, fondly described the soldier's role at weekly parties, serving as the center of attention and regaling others with games and card tricks.

"He was outgoing," Shurley said. "He was one of a kind."

She said Genevie's time in Iraq had been primarily uneventful, and her husband, Pfc. Josh Shurley, joined him last week. The woman considered Genevie to be a younger brother and recently shipped two dozen cookies to him in a package that will never reach its intended recipient.

"It's really hard to let him go," Shurley said.

Classmate Jenny Yankie called the U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday and is unsure if her latest letter reached Genevie.

"We all get caught up in what we're doing and never take time to appreciate people until it's too late," Yankie said.

Genevie had a Superman tattoo on his chest and listed the character as a hero on his MySpace page.

"He was always Superman, and I never thought Superman wouldn't be around," Yankie said.

Stephanie Eisch described Genevie, the best man at her wedding, as "easy-going and very genuine."

Her husband, Pfc. Glenn Eisch, befriended Genevie while on base in Kansas and was with him in Iraq.

"Every time I talked to my husband, he was with him," Eisch said. "This just killed my husband."

Genevie's last comments on the MySpace page dealt with his belief in "fighting for the right causes."

"Three hundred million people in the United States, and there's no way that people shouldn't do all they can to help people," he wrote.

"He was doing this for his country," Pfc. Robert DeVitto said.

The pair worked together at Milky Way Restaurant in Fort Loudon, Pa., and joined the Army around the same time. Genevie encouraged DeVitto to become a cavalry scout.

"When we worked together, he would always talk about his Mom and how he loved her so," said Runk, who befriended Genevie while working at Milky Way Restaurant.

Runk described Genevie's tendency to say "yes ma'am" or "yes, sir" when speaking to his elders.

"We want to mourn in private," said a man who answered the door at the Genevie home Tuesday. He and a woman at the house declined to be interviewed.

An Army spokesman said friends, comrades and family will be given the opportunity to mourn at a service later this week or early next week in Fort Riley, Kan.

"We do it for all the Fort Riley soldiers. We do have memorials here," said Master Sgt. Cameron Porter, who did not know when the body would be returned to the United States.

Genevie is the second soldier from Franklin County killed while serving in Iraq. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward W. "Eddie" Shaffer, 23, of Mont Alto, Pa., was fatally wounded by an IED in late 2006, the Department of Defense said. Staff Sgt. Christopher E. Cutchall and Lance Cpl. Steven W. Szwydek from Fulton County were killed since fighting began in 2003, according to military records.

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