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‘A Soldier's Soldier': Remembering an Eastford Father Killed in Afghanistan

Joseph Phaneuf was killed in 2006 when a roadside bomb struck the armored vehicle he was driving in Afghanistan.

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Those who knew Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Phaneuf of Eastford, Connecticut say he had a great sense of humor, a larger than life personality, and a deep sense of commitment. He was committed to his family, his community and his country.

"Joe was a soldier's soldier," said Paul Tarbox, who lives in Orange and served under Phaneuf while in Iraq. "Joe was a volunteer coach, a firefighter."

In 2004, Phaneuf was deployed to Iraq with the Connecticut Guard's 118th Medical Battalion. After a year of service, he returned home but redeployed shortly after to Afghanistan.

Phaneuf died in 2006 when a roadside bomb struck the armored vehicle he was driving.

“Joe literally gave up everything: his family life, his future career in order to serve our nation and that’s pretty special," said Tarbox.

Phaneuf's widow, Michele Nolet, said the time since Phaneuf's death has been difficult for her and their three children, but they enjoy honoring his memory and legacy. They hope everybody stops to remember the fallen this Memorial Day.

“It’s bigger than Joe. He’s our world, so it is big for us. I can’t even tell you what it means to us to have him be honored and remembered like this," said Nolet. "Just a quick second. Don’t be sad all day. He would hate that. Just reflect for a quick second and then have a good time because that’s what he would love.”

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