Local soldier killed in Iraq

February 23, 2009 3:50:23 PM PST
A local guardsman was killed in Iraq over the weekend.Staff Sgt. Mark C. Baum, 32, of Telford, was a member of the PA Army National Guard's Detachment 1, Company B, 1st Battalion 111th Infantry Regiment.

Officials with the National Guard say Baum was severely wounded by gunfire while responding to an attack using improvised explosive devices at about 5 a.m. Saturday in Mushada, Iraq. He was flown to Baghdad for treatment but died about 5 hours later.

He was a member of the 56th Stryker Brigade, which arrived in Iraq just last month.

Family and friends of Staff Sgt. Mark Baum are crushed over news of his death. They say he was a good family man and a good soldier.

"He died a hero. He gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country... his life," said Mary Miller, Baum's mother-in-law. "He died saving an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old, and now his children are fatherless. He died saving two young men. He pushed them out of the way, he took a bullet for them."

SSgt. Baum leaves behind his wife of 10 years, Heather, 7-month-old son C.J., 3-year-old daughter Kaley and daughter Alexis. The family was celebrating Alexis' 6th birthday when news came of her father's death.

"He loved his children. He lived for his wife and his children. They meant the world to him," Miller said.

In civilian life, SSgt. Baum was a Bucks County Corrections Officer. Before joining the Guard in 2005, he was a former active duty combat veteran, serving tours in Iraq, Kosovo and the Sinai.

"A man who loved his family, a man who loved the Army, loved his country and served well," said First Sgt. Mark Kelly of the U.S. Army.

"This is truly a sad day for both the family of Staff Sgt. Baum and members of the Pennsylvania National Guard," said Maj. Gen. Jessica L. Wright, commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard. "His bravery and dedication serve as a reminder of all of the sacrifices that are made each day to ensure that freedom and democracy prevail. There are no words for the loss we feel."

Bucks County Commissioners ordered the Bucks County flag to be lowered to half-staff at all county facilities.

The PA State and American flags are also to be lowered, by order of the Governor.

Mark Baum was promoted to Staff Sergeant posthumously. He also received the Purple Heart.

SSgt. Baum is the first 56th Stryker Brigade soldier killed in combat. In all, 33 members of the Pa. National Guard have died in Iraq. However, a U.S. commander says violent attacks are at their lowest levels since August 2003, noticeably improved since the "surge" of 2007.

No funeral arrangements have been made yet.

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