Soldier with local ties dies in Afghanistan

NORTH CREEK A New York Army National Guard soldier who spent more than a decade in Wevertown and North Creek died in an ambush June 26 in Afghanistan. National Guard Specialist Mark C. Palmateer, 38, of Wappinger Falls, who worked at Copperfield Inn in North Creek and lived in Wevertown through the mid-1990s, was killed along with two other U.S. soldiers when their Humvee was hit by an improvised explosive device, small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades, according to military officials. The three were part of a convoy operating near Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan, the Department of Defense reported this week. Palmateers daughter, Stephanie Palmateer, 21, lives in North Creek, and his brother Chris lives in Warrensburg. Mark Palmateers parents Charles and Marge Palmateer lived in Chestertown during the 1980s and 1990s, and Marks brother Mike lives in Glens Falls. Chris Palmateer remembered Monday how his brother Mark was fun-loving, generous and enjoyed life to the fullest. Mark had a great sense of humor, and he was the biggest-hearted guy in the world, Chris Palmateer recalled. Mark loved everybody and hed do anything for everybody. Stephanie Palmateer said Monday her father Mark was a really happy-go-lucky person. My dad was a really funny guy the life of the party and he made quite an impression on everyone he met, she said. He made friends wherever he went. She said she kept in touch with him nearly every day by chatting over the Internet. Although spending years apart, whether he was in Afghanistan or Wappinger Falls, he was close to her, she said. He was a very loving father, she said, noting he took her on trips to Disney World and the Caribbean islands. Stephanie Palmateer said she knew that both fellow soldiers and Afghan children were also charmed with his outgoing, positive attitude. She said her Dad asked stateside relatives to send over candy and school supplies, which he handed out to needy local children. My Dad always made the best of any situation, wherever he was, she said, recalling how many children in Wappinger Falls knew him as Uncle Mark. He always wanted to make things better for everyone. Mark Palmateer was always there for everybody, she added. Mark had worked hard for his family, and joined the New York Army National Guard in August, 2003 not out of financial necessity, but because of a sense of patriotism, Chris Palmateer said. Mark loved his country very much, he said. He wanted to serve his county. When Mark Palmateer visited in September, he took his niece Cheyenne, 14, and Chris stepdaughter Sara Bills on a spontaneous shopping spree, Chris recalled. Mark was so generous with people, and he really loved kids, Chris Palmateer said, recalling how his brother loved to recruit children and family members to play big volleyball games at family gatherings, or take a carload of children to race go-carts. Chris works as a town of Lake George employee at the town transfer station. Chris Palmateer said a funeral was planned for July 10 or 11, depending on when Marks body arrives from Afghanistan. Prior to his service in the National Guard, Mark had a job as a supervisor in a plant near Poughkeepsie that made film laminates for spacecraft and other technical applications, Chris Palmateer said. Mark and Chris parents, Charles and Marge Palmateer, lived in a house on Palmer Pond Road in Chestertown, having moved up here in the early 1980s and converting a barn into a home, Chris Palmateer said. State Sen. Betty Little couldnt be reached Tuesday morning, but her aide Dan McEntee said Littles thoughts and prayers were with the many members of Palmateers extended family. Betty and all the members of the state Legislature deeply appreciate the sacrifice that Mark Palmateer and the other soldiers made for our nation, he said. Monday, Gov. David Paterson directed that flags on state government buildings throughout New York be flown at half-staff July 3, in honor of Palmateer and Sgt. First Class Joseph A.McKay, who was also killed in the attack, and a Marine from New York State who was killed in action in Iraq the same week. Paterson said the statewide flag-lowering mandate was issued in appreciation of their heroic sacrifice. It is with deep regret that we acknowledge the death of these brave members of the New York Army National Guard and Marine Corps, Paterson said. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to express our sympathy to the families of Sergeant First Class McKay, Specialist Palmateer and Captain Dykeman. Their sacrifice will be honored and valued forever. Palmateer and McKay, 51, of Cambria Heights, Queens were killed shortly after 1 p.m. Afghan time. Both men were members of B Troop 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry (Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition) which is based in Jamestown, Chautauqua County. Their unit was assigned to Afghan Regional Security Integration Command- East, which is responsible for training the Afghan National Army in eastern Afghanistan. A third Soldier, belonging to the Michigan Army National Guard, Sergeant First Class Matthew Hilton, aged 37, was also killed in the attack. Palmateer's awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Combat Action Badge awarded posthumously; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the New York State Aid to Civil Authorities. He has been posthumously promoted to sergeant. More than 6,500 members of the New York Army National Guard have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. Twenty-six members of the New York Army National Guard have been killed in action since then, 23 in Iraq and three in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan Monday, a memorial ceremony was held to pay tribute to Palmateer, the two other U.S. soldiers killed in the attack, and one other, Christopher Strickland of Florida, who had been killed a day earlier. Commander Col. Brian Balfe honored their sacrifice in a ceremony attended by representatives of the Afghan, French and Romanian forces. They each pursued the accomplishment of mission despite the danger that lay in front of them, Balfe said of Palmateer and the other soldiers. Each spoke to us with their actions which for these four honorable men clearly speak louder than any words They truly cleared the way for all of us here today.

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