First Lt. Michael A. Cerrone
On Sunday November 12th, 2006, First Lt. Michael A. Cerrone was riding in the lead Humvee of a convoy patrolling near Samarra, Iraq. He left his Humvee to inspect a suspicious vehicle. As he approached an IED exploded. There are conflicting accounts on whether a suicide bomber exited the car, or the vehicle itself contained the bomb. Later that day, First Lt. Michael A. Cerrone died of his injuries. His turret gunner, Pfc. Harry A. Winkler III, also died in the blast. Winkler left behind a wife, Charity, and one son, Owen. Both were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
First Lt. Michael A. Cerrone was 24 years old. He was posthumously promoted to captain. Michael was single and lived in Clarksville, TN. Michael grew up in the Worcester, MA and graduated from St. John’s High School and Assumption College. He spent much of his life at Fort Bragg, where his father, Army Brig. Gen. James A. Cerrone, was a special assistant to the commander of Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 18th Airborne Corps.
Michael was buried in Worcester, where his grandparents Anthony and Janet still live. A memorial ceremony was held in honor of Cerrone and Winkler on Nov. 16, 2006, at Forward Operating Base Brassfield-Mora near Samarra, Iraq. The Fayetteville Observer reported that his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald H. Berryhill, said Cerrone was more than a leader, but a friend and “little brother.” “I am truly blessed to have known him and to serve under his leadership…..He will never be forgotten. I will carry him with me always and I will always watch over his platoon. We will make him proud of his boys.”
His mother Betty and her husband, Brig. Gen. Jim Cerrone, moved to Lawton, Oklahoma after Jim’s retirement and the death of their son Michael.
The Gold Star lapel pin is presented to surviving spouses, parents and immediate family members of armed forces members killed in combat. The observance goes back to World War I and became more widespread during World War II. Family members would put a Blue Star banner in the window of their homes signify a loved one was serving overseas. They would put a Gold Star banner in the window, signifying they had lost a family member in battle. The most common displays now, are the Gold Star lapel pins worn by surviving spouses, parents and family members.