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Placer County heroes live on in memory

A look back at local fallen soldiers
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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This week the Journal has profiled some of Placer County’s soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice — their lives during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in a project called Honoring Our Heroes. While the following soldiers have been profiled in past editions of the Journal any series attempting to honor local fallen heroes would be incomplete without once again highlighting their lives of valor. The following information on their lives was taken from articles in the Journal’s archives. To read full articles on each of the men, visit www.auburnjournal.com. If you’d like to elaborate or contribute anymore on the fallen soldiers featured below or know of any that we may not know about, please e-mail ajournal@goldcountrymedia.com. James Michael Christen U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James M. Christen, 29, a 2000 Del Oro High School graduate, died in Afghanistan on July 19, 2011 while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Christen was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and was on his third tour overseas. Christen, who was married, was killed by wounds suffered when his military vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device. Previously, he served two tours in Iraq. As a Del Oro senior, Christen received the Army College Fund Award. Christen’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart (both posthumous), Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Star, Iraq Campaign with Star, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Profession Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge and the Parachutist Badge. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. Art Brown, 26, of Roseville, served with Christen in 2006. “He was really a stand-up guy – an all-around good person. He was the nicest guy,” Brown said. “You respected him because he gave you respect. He wanted us to do well.” Joshua Mitchell Hardt Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt, 24, of Applegate, died on Oct. 9, 2009 while serving in Afghanistan with the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. He was one of eight soldiers killed that day supporting Operation Enduring Freedom when their outpost was attacked with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and indirect fire. The Placer High graduate was a Hillmen football player and earned several military honors including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, commendation medals, campaign medals and the NATO medal. Hardt is remembered for his love for the outdoors and aptitude for fishing. He was buried in a pair of Carhatt workclothes before family, friends and his wife Olivia at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon. He is survived by his older brother Sgt. John Hardt. “He was a wonderful, devoted husband,” Olivia Hardt said in a released statement. “He was an incredibly kind and generous man, and would have given me the world. He was not only my husband, he was my best friend. I’ve lost my best buddy.” Jesse Douglas Mizener PFC Jesse Mizener, 23, of Auburn, was killed January 7, 2004 when his post Logistical Base Seitz was attacked by mortar fire in Baghdad, Iraq. He saved a fellow soldier’s life when she was hit in the chest with mortar by covering her from further injury. The husband to wife, Nicole, and father to children Gia, Eve and Jesse Jr. is remembered by his family and friends as an outgoing and generous person. Prior to entering the Army, Mizener entered the California Conservation Corps, performed volunteer work for the Veteran’s Administration and met Nicole. He was awarded with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart from the Army for his service. In July, the Army named the new Mizener Wheel and Track Facility at Fort Benning, Ga. in his honor. The 43-acre site has six maintenance buildings and will employ 230 people. “I’d have to say that first of all I felt really blessed,” Nicole Mizener said. “If anybody deserved it, it would probably be him. He was a really great person. I think that this is the first mechanic that is being memorialized in this way in the history of the military. That is really important I think. The kids are really excited. They think it’s really neat. I love my husband very much, and I’m very proud of him and he’s missed everyday.” Sean Andrew Stokes Cpl. Sean A. Stokes, 24, of Lake of the Pines, was killed July 30, 2005 after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Al Anbar province on his third tour of duty in Iraq while assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force. The U.S. Marine attended Bear River High School, where he was a linebacker for the Bruins football team. His jersey No. 51 was retired in September of 2007. Stokes was laid to rest beside his grandfather Bobby Stokes, an Army veteran who fought in the Korean War. Military historian Patrick O’Donnell wrote about Stokes’ first tour in Iraq in his book, “We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder With the Marines Who Took Fallujah.” O’Donnell said Stokes was injured in the Battle of Fallujah when grenades were being thrown at Marines by insurgents, but he hid his wounds to stay with his fellow soldiers. Stokes was also the first person in the door looking for insurgents, while clearing houses in Fallujah. Sean is survived by his parents, Gary Stokes of Lake of the Pines and Rita Stokes of New York, stepmother Sue Stokes and brother Kevin Stokes. Sean was engaged to Sgt. Nicole Besier of the Marine Corps. “That’s the most courageous thing to do,” O’Donnell said. “Essentially, it’s playing Russian roulette.” “I’m surprised at the amount of support because people just hear the bad news. I didn’t know people cared this much,” Stokes told the Journal in 2005. “We’re just doing our job to keep bringing each other home.” David Lawrence Waters Pvt. David L. Waters, of Auburn, was killed on October 14, 2004, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division in the Army. He is survived by his sister. Waters grew up without a father and his mother was found slain in their hometown of Auburn shortly after he enlisted in the Army. During a ceremony to remember fallen comrades at New Auburn Cemetery, the Journal reported some sentimental items left at Waters’ gravesite including three flags, two balloons, four Rolling Rock beer caps and a coffee cup holding a note were placed at Waters' gravesite. The note was signed by Bob Stofleth on behalf of his family. "The smile on your face will always be remembered as you stood tall and proud in your uniform," the note read in part. "We miss you." Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.