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Vermont Guardsman is 3d in unit to die in Iraq

MONTPELIER -- Vermont National Guard Sergeant Jamie Gray of East Montpelier was killed yesterday in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded south of Baghdad, striking a unit that lost two soldiers two weeks ago.

Gray, 29, was the third Vermont National Guardsman and the 10th serviceman with ties to Vermont to die in Iraq since the war began. An 11th Vermonter died of natural causes in Kuwait. Two other members of the Vermont National Guard were injured in yesterday's attack, which took place about 11 a.m. Iraqi time near Iskandariyah, about 25 miles south of the capital, the military said.

Gray's unit lost two soldiers two weeks ago: Sergeant Kevin Sheehan, 36, of Milton, and Sergeant Alan Bean Jr., 22, of Bridport, were buried last week. They were the first Vermont National Guard members killed by hostile fire since at least the Korean War.

All belonged to the First Battalion, 86th Field Artillery, which was mobilized in January and went to Iraq in March.

Yesterday, soldiers fired on suspects fleeing the scene, wounding some of them and taking them prisoner, the military said without specifying the numbers.

More than 800 US service members have died since President Bush launched the Iraq invasion in March 2003 to destroy Saddam Hussein's alleged stocks of weapons of mass destruction. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Sergeant Gray, and we ask that everyone keep the Gray family in their thoughts and prayers," Major General Martha Rainville, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, said in a statement.

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