Two Naperville servicemen killed overseas

August 15, 2008 8:42:43 PM PDT
A Marine and a solider -- both from Naperville -- were reportedly killed overseas.Flags fly at half staff at two schools in Naperville as the town mourns the death of two heroes.

Army Corporal James Hale And Marine Lance Corporal Tony Mihalo were in high school at roughly the same time. Hale attended Naperville Central before moving away and Mihalo went to Naperville North.

Both did two tours of duty in Iraq. Hale was a military policeman helping to train Iraqi police. Mihalo had moved on to Afghanistan where he was leading fellow Marines less familiar with combat.

Both were victims of improvised explosive devices.

Tony Mihalo came home on leave last January. His family was there to meet him. After two tours in Iraq, Mihalo was keen to kick back a bit.

After two tours and three Purple Hearts in Iraq, Lance Corporal Tony Mihalo could have spent his last seven months of Marine duty stateside, but he chose to go where he felt he was most needed.

"He had volunteered for Afghanistan because they had a battalion requesting that was short on combat veterans. So he and about 40 other people, who had been in Iraq, said ok, we will take care of the people who don't know what it was like," said Bill Wolfe, Mihalo's father.

Earlier this week, Tony Mihalo was killed when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

On Friday at noon, as the Naperville carrillon played, Tony Mihalo's family, veterans and friends - many of them from operation support our troops - gathered for a prayer and to support each other.

"It is comforting to know that all these people are around here to support us," said Megan Allen, Mihalo's girlfriend.

"Tony had a great love, great pride and loyalty to his country and family," said Debbie Wolfe, Mihalo's mother.

Mihalo's family told ABC7 Friday that Tony would not like all the attention and was uncomfortable with it. He returned his three Purple Hearts because none of them resulted in a life threatening wound, and he didn't feel right about keeping them.

Some of those gathered in Naperville came also to pay tribute to James Hale, a soldier killed Wednesday in Iraq.

Hale grew up in Maywood and later moved to Naperville where he went to Central High before moving to Ohio in his senior year. Hale had three small children.

"It is a sad day for Naperville," said Mayor George Pradel of Naperville.

Hale's hope was to return to Chicago one day and become a police officer. He had been deployed to Iraq and never had the opportunity to meet his youngest child.

Pradel says that Hale and Mihalo are the seventh and eighth Naperville natives to fall in the 'war on terror.'

When Hale was in Afghanistan or Iraq, he would reach out overseas, calling his sister in Maywood. She says during their last call early this month, she felt compelled to speak her heart.

"'I don't know why I feel the way I feel, but I just want to tell you, I love you,' sister Jasmil Bowen said she told her brother. "He said, 'Oh, Sister, you're alright.' I said, 'I just feel like I have to tell you.'"

Bowen said she's grateful for that moment especially following Hale's death. He had a wife, a 6-week-old daughter he never met and two young sons.

"His son is getting ready to go to kindergarten. He's not going to be there. So I'm going to try my best to be there and hold his hand the first day he goes. And his little girl, I'm going to be there for her birthday," Bowen said.


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