Army Staff Sgt. John A. Reiners
Died February 13, 2010 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom
24, of Lakeland, Fla.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Feb. 13 of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Zhari province, Afghanistan. Also killed were Sgt. Jeremiah T. Wittman and Spc. Bobby J. Pagan.
(Taken from www2.tbo.com of Feb. 16, 2010) From his base in Afghanistan, John Reiners sent his wife Casey a bouquet for Valentine's Day.
But the bad news arrived before the flowers.
Reiners, 24, of Lake Hamilton in Polk County, was killed in Afghanistan on Friday by a suicide bomber.
His wife found out the next day, according to Reiners' father, Greg Reiners.
The last time Greg Reiners talked to his son was last Thursday.
Reiners, serving his country as a staff sergeant with the Army Airborne Rangers in Afghanistan, was bored.
"Nothing was going on," Reiners, 24, told his father.
The next day, John Reiners was killed in action.
His father received the horrific news Saturday from Casey, who had been married to John for three years. The couple has one son, whose name is Lex.
Despite losing a son, despite feeling "like somebody just ripped my heart out," Greg Reiners said he felt like he had to remain strong.
"She said he's gone," Greg Reiners said. "It registered with me right away, and it's why I said I'm remaining strong for my family members. I mean, I had to be strong for her. She didn't need dad boo-hooing big time on the phone."
Greg Reiners said he and his son had developed a close bond over time, after many years of turbulence. John's parents divorced when he was young and he suffered as a result, Greg said. He had happiness in his own family, said his dad.
"He was a loving family man," said Greg Reiners. "He loved his wife. He loved his son very much. He was missing being there for Valentine's Day."
So much so, that he sent Casey flowers. They arrived shortly after Army officials came to notify her of her husband's death, Greg Reiners said.
John Reiners was a cross country runner at Haines City High School. He served in the JROTC program there and enlisted in the Army right after graduating.
Athletic and extremely patriotic, he was "disappointed in boot camp because it was not hard. He said they were not in his face," Greg Reiners said.
That hard-edge attitude kept Reiners going, said his father.
This was his third deployment. He served twice before in Iraq, where he was wounded and received the Purple Heart on his first deployment. Then there were the minor injuries he sustained on the second deployment.
"You can't sugar-coat it," Greg Reiners said. "They live a dangerous life. It wasn't the only time he got hit over there."
John Reiners lost a friend last month, named Dion, said his father. It took a toll, but John never complained.
But he did wonder.
"The only thing he told me was 'Dad, I don't know what we're doing over here. They just keep killing each other,' " Greg Reiners said.
Mark Reiners remembers his brother as loving, strong and focused.
"He was a leader," said Mark Reiners. "He wasn't ever afraid to set a goal and step up to the plate."
John also had his lighter moments.
"He'd do his best to make anybody laugh," said Mark Reiners. "If you were having the worst day of your life, he would do something to give you a smile on your face."
He was the kind of man who made his family proud.
"My son's death was not in vain," Greg Reiners said. "He died for our country and another country."
Mark Reiners agreed.
"He knew what he was getting into," Mark Reiners said. "Every day he put the uniform on, he knew what he had to do. He was very aware of the danger, very aware of life ending as it has."