TOP STORY>> Soldiers who fell in Iraq praised
By BRIAN RODRIGUEZ
Leader staff writer
A Jacksonville soldier, remembered as a quiet man who just did his job, was killed Saturday in Mosul, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his security position.
Army Spec. Phillip Nick Sayles, 26, of Jacksonville was killed when a roadside bomb was detonated near where he was helping check for weapons in three cars that American troops had stopped. The explosion killed Sayles and wounded 13 other soldiers and eight Iraqi civilians. Three of the civilians were children under 10 years of age.
Sayles attended North Pulaski High School and was active in the Jacksonville High School ROTC program through a PCSSD agreement that allowed students to participate in programs on other campuses that were not available at their own schools.
“I got some really good students through the agreement, and of course Nick was one of those,” said retired Maj. Bob Jones, who taught at JHS. “Nick was a quiet young man. He simply got the job done that he was tasked to do. He was a good kid. He knew what he wanted to do and he did it.”
Jones said Sayles was a very effective member of the cadet program, a scholastic simulation of military life.
“It’s a hands-on program where you don’t sit in the class and spout theory,” Jones said.
Sayles was responsible for teaching younger cadets under the guidance of ROTC instructors before his senior year, when he transferred to Cabot High School.
“It was a good program, and Nick was definitely a good asset to that program,” Jones said.
Sayles graduated from Cabot High School in 1997 and joined the Army. He was assigned to the Army’s 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash., before he was sent overseas to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“He was a credit, not only to my program, but to his family,” Jones said. “I’m very grateful to Nick’s family for letting me borrow him for that time. My heart absolutely grieves with his family, and my prayers are with his family.”
Jones said Sayles gave his life for freedom, a concept so intangible that most people don’t appreciate it, and he hopes that his family realizes what his contribution means.
“Hopefully one day,” he said, “when the grief is not so heavy on them, they’ll understand that too.”
Sayles is the 35th serviceman with Arkansas ties to die in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the second soldier killed with Jacksonville ties within a week.
Army Spec. Tyler Loren Creamean, 21, of Jacksonville, died May 22 in Mosul after an improvised explosive device went off near his Humvee.
According to reports, he and 1st Lt. Aaron N. Seesan, 25, of Massillon, Ohio, who also died in the explosion, kept telling medical personnel to see to each other and to a third soldier in the Humvee who survived.
“That didn’t surprise me at all. That does not surprise me,” said Mary Coop, an oral communications teacher at Jacksonville High School. “He turned into a great young man, a wonderful young man.”
People who knew him did not see his role searching for roadside bombs as a surprise either.
“I could see him being out there and doing that,” said Jessica Jensen, who knew Creamean since he was about 14. “Tyler likes to be where the action is and where the excitement is.”
“I know he was responsible and whatever he signed up for he would do that job responsibly,” Coop said, “whatever it took.”
Jensen said she met Creamean one summer when she was working as a lifeguard at the recreation center in Jacksonville.
He spent half the summer in “time out” under her chair for causing mischief, she said.
“He would do something and you’d want to get mad at him, but you’d just want to laugh,” she said. “He ended up being one of my dearest and closest friends.”
Creamean joined her the next summer as a lifeguard. Jensen said it was odd to see the size difference between him and the people he dove in to save, but said she had full confidence in him.
“He was so skinny, so little…Whenever he would make a save it was just comical,” she said. “He did it right. He was a great lifeguard and a great person.”
Coop said he was also a mischievous student, but never got into any trouble.
“He was the type of student who each teacher would wish it was legal to tie him to his chair and tape his mouth shut,” Coop said jokingly.
“He did not have a mean bone in his body, he was just the type of student who drove you crazy.”
She would get frustrated with his antics, she said, but she couldn’t stay mad at him because he would do something funny.
“He just knew how to make people feel at ease, and if something needed to have a laugh, he would provide it,” she said. “I’m really gonna miss him.”
“He just always wanted to make light of every situation,” Jensen said, “and sometimes school wasn’t that way.”
Creamean left Jacksonville High School after his sophomore year and joined the Youth Challenge, a 22-week program sponsored by the Arkansas National Guard.
He graduated from the program and earned the spirit award before joining the Army in April 2003.
He was stationed at Fort Lewis in August, was sent to Mosul on Nov. 1, and earned his first purple heart in mid-December.
He returned to the United States on leave for his birthday on Feb. 24 and married his girlfriend, KaMisha Hickman, that day.
He earned his second purple heart for a head injury on March 3, the day he returned to active duty. Creamean, who had conducted more than 600 patrols, will receive a third purple heart posthumously for the explosion that took his life.