Saturday, December 29, 2007

St. Johns' Soldier dies in Iraq on Christmas



This article touched close to home, as a Soldier. Thanks to Bill Samsonoff for sending it my way. Pray for SGT Tutten and his family.



Last modified 12/28/2007 - 5:21 am
Originally created 122807

St. Johns soldier dies in Iraq on Christmas

Sgt. Bryan Joseph Tutten, a St. Augustine native, leaves a wife and
two children behind.
By Jessie-Lynne Kerr, The Times-Union

Army Sgt. Bryan Joseph Tutten, 33, who was born and reared in St.
Augustine, was killed in Iraq on Christmas Day while serving his
second tour of duty there with the 82nd Airborne.

His high school sweetheart and wife of 10 years, Constandina Tutten,
and two young children were spending the holidays with her parents at
their St. Augustine home when the family was informed of his death Wednesday.

Gary Peterson, his father-in-law who retired as a lieutenant colonel
after 33 years in the Army National Guard, said the Army casualty
assistance officers told them he was killed Tuesday afternoon while
on operations in Tikrit and implied his death was caused by an
improvised explosive device.

Sgt. Tutten was a rifleman and squad leader of an infantry company,
Peterson said.

"He went out to clear out the insurgents," he said. "It was a very
dangerous job but he was very good at it."

Sgt. Tutten was the only child of Sylvia Smallwood of St. Johns and
the late Thomas Robert Tutten of Vilano Beach, who drowned in 2001
trying to retrieve a raft for some children he had rescued from the
surf. Tom Tutten was a popular artist and musician in St. Augustine.

Her son "was the bravest man I ever met and he was everything to me,"
Smallwood said Thursday. "He felt he was doing the right thing
fighting for our freedom and our country."

Smallwood said she hated that her grandchildren will grow up without
their father.

Arrangements for the funeral and burial have not been made but will
be in St. Augustine with a service at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

Sgt. Tutten attended St. Augustine High School and St. Johns River
Community College, Peterson said. He worked at various occupations,
including restaurant chef and landscaper, before joining the Army
five years ago and had recently re-enlisted. He was stationed at Fort
Bragg and his wife and children - daughter, Catherine, who will be 4
on New Year's Eve, and son, Gareth, 7 months old - were living in
Fayetteville, N.C.

Sgt. Tutten was expected home in about 45 days from his second tour
of duty in Iraq, which began in November 2006.

"When his son was born, Bryan was given emergency leave to come home
for two weeks," Peterson said. Sgt. Tutten had missed his daughter's
birth, he added.

The family last spoke with Sgt. Tutten on a video conference call for
a group of soldiers on Dec. 11, Peterson said. "He was one of my
heroes and he sacrificed his life for our safety," his father-in-law said.

The sergeant was an avid sportsman who loved to fish and cook.

"He was a very good family man who would spend hours playing with his
daughter," Peterson said. "My wife, Faye, and I were so attached to
Bryan that we thought of him as one of our sons and we have three of our own."

In addition to his wife, children and mother, Sgt. Tutten is survived
by a grandmother, Jeannette McSwain of Conyers, Ga.

According to the Iraqi Coalition Casualty Count Web site records,
Sgt. Tutten was the first serviceman from St. Johns County to die in
Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"He was so brave and he is going to be missed," his mother said.

jessie-lynne.kerr@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4374

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