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SWEETWATER (AP) — Two Tennessee National Guard soldiers were killed Monday in Iraq, their family members said Tuesday.
Spc. Joseph "Joey" Hunt, 27, of Sweetwater, and Sgt. Victoir P. Lieurance, 34, of Seymour, were members of the 278th Regimental Combat Team. Two other members of the unit on the same combat patrol were injured Monday afternoon southwest of Samarra when an improvised explosive device exploded near their vehicle, ejecting at least one soldier.
The Hunt family issued a statement saying they did not know many details of the incident and asked to be allowed to grieve in private.
"Joey was a true East Tennessean who was proud of his family, hometown, state, and country. He enjoyed being involved in the many outdoors activities available in Sweetwater, and he always did so with a beaming smile on his face," the family said.
Hunt visited with his family while on leave in June.
"During that time he shared many stories and photos during his service there. He summed up his feeling during his break that it wasn't easy being there, but that he and his fellow soldiers were proud of their service to their country," his relatives said.
Hunt had two sons — 5-year-old Caleb and 3-year-old Josh.
"They don't have any idea what's going on," Hunt's aunt, Pat Thomas, told WATE-TV. "They went to be with their grandmother, Joey's mom, and she was just holding both of them in her arms. And they kept saying, 'Why are you crying, Mamaw? Why are you sad?'"
Lieurance leaves behind his wife, Penny, and four children, two sons and daughters.
Both his parents said their son's death makes their once-wavering opinions about the war in Iraq much more clear.
Andre Lieurance referred to Cindy Sheehan, the California mother of a slain soldier, who recently camped out in front of President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, in opposition to the war.
"She didn't speak for me. Now she does," the father told The Knoxville News Sentinel on Tuesday. "I'm with her. I believe we were lied to. (My son) did what he was supposed to. Bush didn't."
"It's a bad war; it's a stupid war," said his mother, Karen Lieurance. "I questioned it from Day One. I think it's a lot easier to support the president when you don't have a family member over there."
Three other members of the Knoxville-based 278th were killed last week, bringing to nine the number in the unit who have died while serving in Iraq. About 4,000 members of the 278th deployed last November.