Soldier’s mother: ‘He was proud of his country’: The Examiner

November 1, 2007 at 7:51 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

US Army Staff Sergeant Joseph F. Curreri.

BALTIMORE – When Army Staff Seargent Joseph Curreri realized his Saint Christopher’s medal had slipped from his neck during a scuba-training mission on Siet (Lake Seit) Lake near Panamao (town in Sulu province) in the southern Philippines, he jumped back into the water, anxious to retrieve the pendant.

But the former champion swimmer apparently misjudged the water’s depth, blacked out and drowned last Friday while trying to return to the surface.

“This was so unexpected,” said Keith Schertle, coach of the Loyola Blakefield High water polo team, which Curreri founded as a senior. “I have known Joe since he was 10, and he could do anything in the water.”

Curreri, 27, and a native of Towson, had been deployed to the Philippines as part of the war on terrorism and was on his first overseas mission. St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers.

“He was very proud of his country,” said his mother, Karen Mittemeyer of Redondo Beach, Calif., who added that her son had earned the Army’s Special Operations Scuba Diver badge. “He was intelligent, religious and extremely adventurous.”

Mittemeyer said her son was anxious to return to Los Angeles, where he lived with his wife, Athena, to further his education.

“Joe had so much integrity and such a desire to succeed,” said Jenn Lohse of Towson, who swam with Curreri at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. “He was happy to be involved in the Army.”

Curreri, who started swimming for the NBAC when he was 9, graduated from Loyola High.

He swam for the University of Southern California, where he captained the team his senior year. In the Army, he was a Special Forces communications sergeant assigned to Fort Lewis, Wash.

“Joe enjoyed camaraderie and hard work,” said Murray Stephens, the NBAC’s founder and director. “He demonstrated leadership by being a team captain.”

“I remember looking at Joe’s [Army] photo and recalling his determination,” Schertle said. “Whenever Joe put his mind to something, he accomplished it.”

(Laura Duffy/


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