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This link is for the men and women of Wisconsin that served in the military and died while in support of Operation Iraq Freedom. These people are not just a number, but people who dreamed, laughed, and loved while they were here with us on earth.
 
On December 1, 2005, SGT Andy Stevens, a 29-year-old Marine from Tomah, became the 51st member of the armed forces from Wisconsin killed in Iraq. Stevens died along with nine other Marines when a roadside bomb exploded as the soldiers were on nighttime foot patrol near Fallujah.
 
Andy is the 51st servicemember from Wisconsin to have have died while serving in Iraq. Please keep the family members and friends who grieve for them in your prayers.

 

Sgt.Andrew L. Bossert

24 Army Dead U.S.
Andrew Bossert wanted to build a house for his wife and planned to use his Army benefits to pay for college and study architecture. Bossert, 24, of Fountain City, Wis., was killed March 7 when a car exploded at a checkpoint in Iraq. He was based out of Camp Howze, Korea. His mother, Diane, said her motorcycle-loving son spent one semester at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, but could not get the classes required for architecture. So, he stored his bike at his parents home and joined the Army for the future college benefits. Known as Andy, Bossert met his wife, Olya, during his posting in Korea and the couple married in 2002. He was sent to Iraq last year, where he was part of a unit that searched for bombs and other explosives. The job was dangerous, but it suited Bossert because he was a night owl, said his mother. Searches were often done at night, when it was less dangerous to be out, she said.

Pfc.Rachel Bosveld

19 Army Dead U.S.
Pfc. Rachel K. Bosveld enlisted in the Army when she graduated from high school in June 2002, following in the footsteps of her father and brother. Her mother said she desperately tried to talk her daughter out of it. "She said, `I know, Mom, but I have to do this ... I want to keep up the family tradition.'" Mary Bosveld said. Bosveld, 19, of Waupun, Wis., died Oct. 26 in an attack at a police station near Baghdad. She was stationed with the military police in Germany. When she first got to Iraq, she was ready to "kick butt," said her father, Marvin Bosveld. But after eight months in the sands of Iraq, barely surviving a roadside ambush and patrolling anti-American riots, she had had enough. "More and more people want us to go home," she wrote to her father. "Believe me, we want to go home." Marvin Bosveld and his former wife, Mary, were foster parents to Rachel who came to them as a neglected baby. The couple adopted her. Craig Bosveld described his sister as an artist who loved to draw forest scenes, play her violin and act in her high school drama club. She hoped one day to become a graphic artist.

Pfc.Ryan J. Cantafio

22 Marines Dead U.S.
Ryan J. Cantafio understood the dangers of serving in Iraq. Two close friends had already died there. The week before his death, he e-mailed his family and said he'd had a close call. "The last we heard he was up for a Purple Heart because his troops had been ambushed and he had to shoot four Iraqis but he saved his troops," said his stepmother, Bobbie Jo Cantafio. The 22-year-old Marine reservist from Beaver Dam, Wis., was killed on Thanksgiving by a roadside bomb in Iraq's Anbar province. He was based in Chicago and is survived by his wife, Amanda. The Marine, who loved golf, had many friends and a dry sense of humor, his grandmother recalled. "He was also very caring, especially with older people," Rose Cantafio said. Eloise Cantafio agreed, calling her great-nephew a "good boy." "He was very dedicated to what he was doing," she said.

Staff Sgt.Todd R. Cornell

38 Army Dead U.S.
When Todd R. Cornell was assigned to train Iraqi soldiers for combat, he forged a personal connection with the men. "He made friends with them," Renee Cornell said of her son. "He told them about his life in America, and they told him about Iraq. He said he was learning a lot." The 38-year-old from West Bend, Wis., was killed Nov. 9 by small-arms fire in Fallujah, Iraq. He was based in Fraser, Mich. Relatives said Cornell, the father of two children, had expected to return soon from his service in Iraq. In a phone call days before his death, he told his mother he had one last mission to complete. "He told us not to worry," Renee Cornell said. "`Mom, I'll be all right,' he would tell me."

Staff Sgt.Todd R. Cornell

38 Army Dead U.S.

Sgt. 1st ClassTrevor J. Diesing

30 Army Dead U.S.
Reading about the war in the newspaper, Al Langer always worried about Trevor J. Diesing, the boy he watched grow up to become a man who wanted to serve his country. "He was one of those guys you always want on your side and always wish there was more of," said Langer, a neighbor. Diesing, 30, of Plum City, Wis., died Aug. 25 in a bomb blast in Husaybah. He was based at Fort Bragg. Paul Churchill, Diesing's high school basketball coach, said the young man's background helped form him: "He led by the work ethic he had developed on the farm." The day after he graduated from high school in 1993, the western Wisconsin farmboy who had enlisted in the Army Reserve while still a senior left for basic training. "He was always very committed. He was definitely very proud of what he was doing," said Langer, who hired Diesing to work for his construction company. "He was one of those you wish they would keep the mold for. He was a great guy." Said Diesing's mother, Debra: "For one of his birthdays, all he wanted was a flag." He also is survived his wife, Lori, and three children.

Sgt. 1st ClassDonald W. Eacho

38 Army Dead U.S.
When he called home from Iraq, Donald Eacho left long messages on the answering machine, taking care to pause so his 5-year-old son could talk back to it. The little boy didn't know the voice was recorded. Now Eacho's wife Bonnie plays the messages over and over to hear his voice again. "I loved being married to him," she said. "He was my best friend." Eacho, 38, who lived with his family in Watertown, N.Y., was killed March 4 in Ramadi, Iraq, with three other soldiers when an explosive detonated near their patrol. He was stationed at Fort Carson. He is survived by his wife and two sons. The 17-year Army veteran grew up in Wisconsin, listed his hometown as Black Creek, Wis., with the Army. He joined the National Guard in his senior year of high school and signed up for the Army not long after graduation. "It made him feel good doing something important," said his mother, Diane. In 2003, he was awarded the Soldier's Medal, an Army honor for heroism away from the battlefield, for rescuing a 4-year-old girl and her grandfather when they were trapped in an overturned car.

Sgt.Benjamin C. Edinger

24 Marines Dead U.S.
At 6-feet-4 and in tiptop shape, Benjamin Edinger had the imposing look of a true Marine. Those who knew him best, though, talk about his softer side. "He was absolutely sweet. You use the term gentle giant and that absolutely described Ben," his uncle James Downey said. Edinger, 24, of Green Bay, Wis., died Nov. 25 of wounds sustained in a Nov. 14 attack. He was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Edinger graduated from high school in 1999 and attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for a year but "felt he was wasting the money" because he was unsure what he wanted to do, his grandmother Barbara Downey said. While in the service, he decided to study to become a veterinarian. He planned to enroll at the University of Wisconsin next fall and hoped to be a walk-on football player. "That was the last e-mail I got from him, indicated that he wanted to go to Wisconsin and play football," his uncle said. He is survived by his father, Mont Edinger, and his mother and step-father, Rose and Randy Scannell.

Pfc.Nichole M. Frye

19 Army Dead U.S.
Pfc. Nichole M. Frye was slated to leave for Iraq just as her mother was recovering from major back surgery. Mother and daughter worked at the same restaurant, Nichole as a waitress and Lisa as a cook. "I think she had some fears of going over there," said her mother, Lisa Frye. "Actually she wanted to try and stay in the States because of my health." Nichole Frye, 19, died Feb. 16 in Baqouba, Iraq, when an explosive struck her convoy. She grew up in the tiny town of Lena, Wis., where she was a flutist in her high school band and a majorette, and had been in Iraq only two weeks when she died. An Army reservist, Frye sent her family an e-mail explaining some of her duties: "She was delivering supplies like water and food and books to the kids," her mother said. "She was really fun, a loving, outgoing person," her mother said. "She loved to help people. That's part of the reason she joined the Army."

Sgt. 1st ClassDan H. Gabrielson

39 Army Dead U.S.
"It is comforting to know there are so many people we have never met before who care and are grateful for the sacrifices of women and men like my father, so we can live in a country where we can proclaim liberty and justice for all," Vanessa Gabrielson, the oldest daughter of Sgt. Dan Gabrielson, said at his funeral. Sgt. Gabrielson was killed July 9 when his comvoy came under attack north of Baghdad. Gabrielson, a sergeant in the Army Reserves, was a member of the 652nd Engineer Co., which specializes in building bridges. Garbrielson repaired construction equipment and was riding in the last vehicle in the convoy during the attack.

Pfc.Andrew Halverson

19 Marines Dead U.S.
After Andrew Halverson graduated from Marine boot camp, he and his uncle went shopping for clothes on snazzy Hollywood Boulevard. Halverson, wearing his Marine uniform, walked with his head hung low. "He was unsure of himself and what he was," said Halverson's uncle, Rodney McFall. As they progressed down the street, Halverson began receiving salutes of "Semper Fi," the Marine motto, from men along the street. "He started walking proud," McFall recalled. "I was proud, proud of Andrew the man and Andrew the Marine." Halverson, 19, of Grant, Wis., died Oct. 9 _ a day shy of his 20th birthday _ in gunfire in Anbar province. He graduated from high school in 2003 and was stationed at Camp Pendleton. He is survived by his parents, Angela McFall and Joel Halverson. Friends Marine Lance Cpl. Chad Pauls and Army National Guard Pfc. Jacob Lundgren recalled good times with Halverson in the days before he left for Iraq. When asked what they would say to him today, Pauls said: "Thanks for going over there and fighting for us." Lundgren responded: "You did your job. Now it is our turn."

Sgt.Warren S. Hansen

36 Army Dead U.S.
Sgt. Warren S. Hansen earned a reputation for heroism even before his military service, receiving a medal for saving a man from drowning when he was just 15. "He's very handsome and very decorated. He has numerous awards," said the Rev. Vilas Mazemke, his pastor. "He was a very good troop, one of high morale." Hansen, 36, of Clintonville, Wis., died Nov. 15 when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Iraq. He was assigned to Fort Campbell, and is survived by his brother. The 17-year veteran had always wanted to serve in the military, following a family tradition. His father died while serving, and his stepfather was a Marine. "That's what he wanted to be ever since he was a little guy," Mazemke said. Hansen, who had served in Desert Storm and in Bosnia, wrote Mazemke an e-mail about the recent deaths of three friends in Iraq. "It's gotten personal, the one thing I hoped wouldn't happen," Mazemke recalled Hansen wrote.

Pfc.Bert E. Hoyer

23 Army Dead U.S.
When Spc. Bert E. Hoyer enlisted in the Army Reserves, he was looking for a way to pay for college. But he discovered he liked the reserves and talked about re-enlisting. "He was proud of what he was doing, and he knew why he was doing it," Larry Hoyer said of his son. Hoyer, 23, of Ellsworth, Wis., was killed March 10 when an explosive hit his convoy in Baqouba, Iraq. Hoyer had exchanged letters and e-mails with sixth-grade students in Ellsworth, and was preparing to return home when he was killed. "He was in the process of getting stuff ready to come back," his father said. The soldier, who was attending Vermillion Community College in Ely, Minn., was a semester away from graduating with a degree in wildlife management and forestry when he left for Iraq.

Pfc.Isaiah R. Hunt

20 Army Dead U.S.
Isaiah Hunt at first balked at the idea of joining the Army and didn't want to leave his new girlfriend to go to Iraq. But the military gave him a newfound maturity. "He grew up in a short period of time," said his father, Mike Hunt, a former football player for the Green Bay Packers. "He was proud but he was also scared. You could tell that from his e-mail." Hunt, 20, of Suamico, Wis., died Nov. 15 in the arms of his commander after he was thrown from a vehicle in an accident in Iraq. He was based at Fort Bragg, N.C. Hunt was always concerned about the well-being of other people, particularly his family. "He was a caregiver; he just wanted everything to be OK and everyone to be happy," said his mother, Pam Hunt. Mike Hunt said his son resisted the idea of joining the Army but reconsidered and joined up after graduating from high school. Pam Hunt said her son wasn't "philosophically motivated by patriotism" but wanted to better himself. "He was looking forward to making money going to college, getting a car _ pretty typical goals," she said.

Capt.Benjamin D. Jansky

28 Army Dead U.S.

Pfc.Ryan M. Jerabek

18 Marines Dead U.S.
In high school, Ryan M. Jerabek ran track, was an honor student and enjoyed working on computers. He joined the Marines a month after graduation and dreamed of returning to the school to teach world history. "He believed in this country," said his father, Ken Jerabek. "He was a perfect, perfect young gentleman and a great Marine." Pfc. Jerabek, 18, of Oneida, Wis., was killed April 6 in a hostile attack in a battle with insurgents. He was based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Jerabek joined the Marines in July, a month after graduating from high school. He was following his father, who served in the Army in the Vietnam War.

Spc.Charles A. Kaufman

20 Army Dead U.S.
Charles A. Kaufman was born two weeks apart from his cousin, Kelly, and the two were like brothers. They were determined to go to Iraq together. Before they were deployed, Charles Kaufman fell 15 feet from a tree while hunting. He broke a few ribs, punctured a lung and lost his spleen. But after a month, he joined his unit in Iraq. "His injuries could have kept him safe at home, but Charles insisted on going with his cousin," his parents and sister said in a statement. Kaufman, 20, of Fairchild, Wis., was killed June 26 in Baghdad, Iraq, where an explosive detonated near his vehicle. He was stationed in Arcadia, Wis. The 2003 high school graduate loved anything he could drive: he didn't need training wheels on his first bike and rode the riding mower at age 7. He also loved driving trucks, tractors, boats, ATVs, motorcycles and was driving the Humvee when he died. He also enjoyed playing pool, fishing and hunting. He even quit a job once to hunt on opening day.

Staff Sgt.Charles A. Kiser

37 Army Dead U.S.

Capt.John F. Kurth

31 Army Dead U.S.
Capt. John F. "Hans" Kurth was a standout athlete in high school, and as a senior played on his Wisconsin high school's 1990 state championship football team. "Since he was a young man, he always lived his life surrounded with discipline," said Travis DeBussey, a high school friend. "He just loved the Army. ... He wouldn't regret one second of it." Kurth, 31, of Columbus, Wis., died March 13 when his patrol encountered an explosive in Tikrit, Iraq. He was based in Schweinfurt, Germany. Kurth graduated from West Point in 1995 and served in Kosovo twice. His parents had last seen their son at Christmas. "Hans was looking forward to going over there and hopefully making (the situation in Iraq) better," John Kurth said. He said his son was "definitely well liked. He got along with everyone." "He was a real dedicated student," Retta Kurth said, committing himself to whatever he set as his goals. Survivors include a son, John Aleksander Kurth.

Sgt.Mark A. Maida

22 Army Dead U.S.
In Iraq, Mark Maida kept a rosary, a baptismal ring, a pendant of heaven, a St. Christopher's medal _ more instruments of faith, a minister cracked, than Pope Benedict XVI. But Maida was no saint, his brother said. He recalled a childhood treehouse where his brother stashed cigarettes. "Mark liked to celebrate life," Chris Maida said. Mark Maida, 22, of Madison, Wis., was killed May 27 from injuries sustained in an explosion in Diyarah. He was based at Fort Irwin. The 2001 high school graduate was partial to Lynyrd Skynyrd and loved the outdoors, including hunting, fishing and sky diving. He hoped to marry his girlfriend, Elizabeth "Betsy" Jacobs. He had been scheduled for discharge last October and had registered for classes at Madison Area Technical College _ but the military extended his service under its stop-loss policy. He deployed to Iraq in January and adopted a puppy there named Maxine. His brother, a former reservist, said he tried to talk his brother out of enlisting. "He just laughed. He loved life and he wasn't afraid of anything," Chris Maida said. He is survived by his parents, Ray and Diane.

Staff Sgt.Stephen G. Martin

39 Army Dead U.S.
Stephen G. Martin may have been a law-and-order police officer, but he had a lighter side, too. Like the time he put a dead squirrel in Police Sgt. John Hirsch's squad car. "I'm sure Steve drove every street in the city to find the right squirrel," Hirsch said during a memorial service for Martin, 39, who died July 2 of wounds he received when a truck bomb exploded near his checkpoint in Mosul. A member of the Army Reserves, Martin served in a Military Police Detachment based in Sheboygan, Wis. At the ceremony in Rhinelander, Wis., Martin's 21-year-old son, Seth, played guitar and sang Eric Clapton's song "Tears in Heaven." Martin's father, the Rev. Jim Martin, said he sometimes considered his son strange as a child. "Hour after hour, he read the encyclopedia," the elder Martin said to quiet laughter. "Was he perfect? No. Was he honest? Yes. Was he straightforward? You better believe it. That was the person he was." Besides his son and father, Martin's survivors include his wife, two daughters and three stepdaughters.

Lance Cpl.John J. MattekJr.

24 Marines Dead U.S.
In a letter to his sister, Jill, John J. Mattek Jr. recalled going downhill skiing when he was 4 and discovering "the free spirited feeling." "When I felt that feeling, it never left," he wrote. "And doing things such as this keeps me free and nothing stops me." He left another letter for his family in case he died. It quoted William Wallace: "Every man dies, not every man really lives. I have lived." Mattek died June 13 at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland from injuries suffered in a June 8 explosion in Iraq's Anbar province. He was based at Camp Lejeune. Mattek, a farmer's son best known as "Johnny," played football and wrestled in high school, where coach Tom Weix called him "a go-getter, definitely a leader." Mattek was his high school's senior class president and went on to play football at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He enlisted in the Marines in 2003. In the letter to his sister, Mattek said, "We all see the same thing. We just look at it differently. Live hard, drive fast, take chances." He signed the letter, Johnny.

Spc.Michael A. McGlothin

21 Army Dead U.S.
Growing up, Michael A. McGlothin was the skinny kid with big glasses who always worked hard at school. "That kid couldn't cast a shadow," his uncle, Kenneth McGlothin, said. "He's built like a shoelace." Spc. McGlothin, 21, of Milwaukee, died April 17 when an explosive went off near his patrol in Baghdad. He was based at Fort Hood, Texas. The skinny kid grew into an energetic teenager who loved music. He played the guitar in a garage band and was learning how to play the banjo, an instrument his grandfather played. He wanted to go to college after his military service to become a producer in the record industry. He decided to join the Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and went on active duty in January 2002 after serving in the Army Reserve. Michael McGlothin was born in Hartford and raised in Friess Lake and Milwaukee.

Lance Cpl.Shane K. O'Donnell

24 Marines Dead U.S.
Shane O'Donnell sang for four years in his high school choir and had a smile that could lift people's spirits when they were down. "Nice voice and a great smile _ the type of kid you just wanted to look at 24/7 because he always made you feel better, no matter how you felt," said Linda Meier, O'Donnell's former choir teacher. O'Donnell, 24, of DeForest, Wis., was killed in an attack Nov. 8 in Iraq. O'Donnell, a construction worker, had recently attended a local technical college, said Sgt. Michael Reiland, who served with O'Donnell. "He was a hard charger. He was always motivated and was always willing to do what was necessary to get the mission accomplished," Reiland said. He was "just an upbeat, happy-go-lucky guy." Gary Andrewjeski, O'Donnell's former football coach, said O'Donnell was a likeable student . "He just always wanted to be a part of something. You would treat him like your own son."

Staff Sgt.Todd D. Olson

36 Army Dead U.S.
Todd D. Olson was an agricultural loan officer who took his job to heart. Even after he was deployed, he asked bank employees to keep him in the loop with his customers. "That tells you the depth of his commitment, they were always on his mind," said Al Nystrom, president of the Marshfield group of M&I Bank. "He had a high sense of loyalty to his clients." Olson, 36, of Loyal, Wis., died Dec. 27 after his patrol was hit by a bomb in Samarra. He was based in Neillsville, Wis. Dan Gluch, who knew Olson since they were in kindergarten and was his roommate at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said his main worry before his unit shipped out was about the younger soldiers. "He said, `You know, Dan, I've lived a good life. I'm a lucky man... I have four kids at home, a wife I love, and a job I love and a community I'm part of, but then it hit me that those kids haven't lived.'" Olson worked as a vice president and an agricultural loan officer at M&I Bank at the Loyal and Neillsville branches. He often worked with dairy farmers. He is survived by his wife, Nancy; three sons and a daughter.

Spc.Eric J. Poelman

21 Army Dead U.S.
As a young boy, Eric Poelman used to play a game with his brothers where they tried to hit each other with apples. He excelled. "He was a marksman when he was 11," said his brother, Greg. Poelman, 21, of Racine, Wis., was killed June 5 when a bomb exploded near his vehicle in Baghdad. He was based at Fort Carson. Poelman, who enjoyed football and paintball, smiled all the time, but his brother said the family never saw him happier than when he married Renate Klema. "He was with his true love, his only love," Andy Poelman said. Poelman was home-schooled in high school and joined the Army to serve his country and get more experience operating big equipment like bulldozers and cranes. It was his second tour of duty in Iraq. He always told his brothers to finish strong in sports and in life. "Eric, I'm so proud of you because you finished strong," Andy Poelman said.

Cpl.Brian P. Prening

24 Marines Dead U.S.
Brian Prening and his twin brother, Bill Jr., played football and fished together as kids and hunted and drank beers together when they grew up. After Brian's death, Bill wore his brother's camouflage shirt with the name "Prening" sewn above the right pocket. "It feels like half of me died," Bill Jr. said. "He's irreplaceable." Brian Prening, 24, of Sheboygan, Wis., died Nov. 12 as a result of hostile action in Babil province, Iraq. He was based in Chicago. Brian Prening played football, ran track and wrestled in high school. He got an associates degree from Lake Shore Technical College and worked at Kohler Co. until he was called to active duty. He leaves behind a new wife, Amy, and a son, Alex. His wife is pregnant with the couple's first child, due in May. "He was a really good all-around person," said his mother, Debbie. "A lot of people depended on him. He was a real go-getter, really happy-go-lucky kind of guy."

Pfc.Sean M. Schneider

22 Army Dead U.S.
Pfc. Sean M. Schneider had no doubts about his work with the Army, but he wanted to make sure his family understood the risk that came with the job he loved. "He said, 'You know, Mom, I may not be coming back.' He told us that so many times. He was preparing us for the worst-case scenario," Kim Schneider said. The 22-year-old from Janesville, Wis., was killed March 29 when an explosive caused his vehicle to run off the road near Baghdad, Iraq. He was based at Fort Hood, Texas. The mechanic left an impression on teachers when he graduated from high school in 2000. "He was probably one of the most caring individuals I've had in 27 years of teaching," said Sam Loizzo, who taught the soldier in a humanities class. "He was the kind of kid you'd like to have in class, the kind you'd like as an employee, the kind of kid you'd want as a friend." Kim Schneider said her son planned a military career, and his position as a mechanic suited him. "He was always tinkering with vehicles and motorcycles. He liked to run, hunt and canoe, do the guy thing," she said. Survivors include his wife.

Maj.Mathew E. Schram

36 Army Dead U.S.
Maj. Mathew E. Schram, the fifth of six children of Earl and Sarah Schram, always wanted to be a soldier, said his older sister, Susan Kuske. He joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater before joining the Army in 1989. "He made it his career and loved it," Kuske said. "He rose in the ranks and worked hard to get there." Schram, 36, of Brookfield, Wis., was killed May 26 near the town of Hadithah, about 120 miles north of Baghdad, when gunmen ambushed a military convoy on a resupply mission. Schram was assigned to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, Colo. "He felt he was doing the right thing," said Susan Kuske. "We all felt the same way."

Chief Warrant OfficerJoshua Michael Scott

28 Army Dead U.S.
Sherri Scott knew a good man when she saw one. "The night I met Josh I told my girlfriends, 'I'm going to marry that man,'" she said. "They all laughed. Three years later we were married." Joshua Michael Scott, 28, of Sun Prairie, Wis., died May 26 when the helicopter he was flying came under attack and crashed in Buhriz. He was based at Fort Bragg. Scott graduated from high school in 1995 and a few years later he took a troubled boy under his wing. Scott became the boy's legal guardian five years ago, and the child lives with Scott's wife and children. "He had the ability to be tough as nails at work, and when he came home he was a marshmallow dad," said Chief Warrant Officer Mike Rutledge, who attended flight school with him. "He loved his family more than he loved his work." First Sgt. Randall Pierce said Scott was "a leader's dream" who had a passion that inspired others to follow his example. "People just gleaned confidence from him," Pierce said. "He was a rare breed. A very rare breed."

Staff Sgt.Chad J. Simon

32 Marines Dead U.S.
Chad J. Simon was a man who was always willing to lend a tool, help others fix their cars, who loved practical jokes, who enjoyed jumping out of a darkened room to scare someone _ often, his wife _ and learning professional wrestling moves. "He was a very nice young man, I can tell you," said his grandmother, Eileen Simon. Simon, 32, of Madison, Wis., died Aug. 4 of wounds suffered in an explosion Nov. 8, 2004. "There was a sense of relief that he didn't have to suffer any more but still a profound sense of sadness because he is gone," the Rev. Jeff Mannel said after his funeral ceremony. Simon enlisted in the Marines in 1989, several months before graduating from high school. He married Regina Collins in 1997, and the couple have a 5-year-old son, Dylan. Simon owned a painting business, Badger Painting, that he started only a short time before he was called to active duty. Simon loved children, playing sports, hunting and playing pranks. He was a big fan of the Green Bay Packers, liked to visit beaches and marveled at the Sunshine Skyway bridge, sometimes driving over it just to get a closer look.

Cpl.Adrian V. Soltau

21 Marines Dead U.S.
Adrian V. Soltau more than looked up to his older brother Andre. If Andre brought home an A on his report card, Adrian worked for two. When Andre made the honor roll, Adrian studied to get there too. Both played on the football team. The older brother took the sibling competition in stride, but Andre initially objected when Adrian announced that he planned to follow his path into the Marines. "I was telling him, 'Make sure this is what you want to do,'" Andre Soltau said. "'I know you follow me into everything else, but this one is a bit different.' Initially I was disagreeing with him, but he's hardheaded and he did it." Soltau, 21, of Milwaukee, died Sept. 13 from injuries caused by an explosion in Anbar province. He was based at Camp Pendleton. Moving to the United States from Jamaica at 10, Adrian dreamed of becoming an engineer. He joined the Marines in August 2001 after graduating high school. He also is survived by his father and mother, Andrew and Desiree Soltau. "It's a great chunk of our lives that's been taken away from us, but we still have him in our hearts," Andrew Soltau said.

Maj.Christopher J. Splinter

43 Army Dead U.S.
In a Christmas letter to his parents, Maj. Christopher J. Splinter said he believed the U.S. efforts in Iraq were progressing slowly, but in a positive direction. "We will be successful, but must dig in our heals for the long term," Splinter wrote. "Ten years from now, Iraq will be the show state in the Middle East. This is dependent on America not losing hope and forcing the army to depart early." Splinter, 43, of Platteville, Wis., died Dec. 24 near Samarra, Iraq, when the vehicle he was in hit a homemade bomb. He was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Fort Leonard Wood's Col. Paul Kelly visited Splinter's 5th Engineer Battalion in Iraq about two months before Splinter died, and the men talked with pride about rebuilding six schools and repairing other infrastructure ripped apart by the war. "I remember sitting down with Maj. Splinter and discussing the operation," Kelly said. "We talked about his family. He also expressed pride in being able to serve his country." Splinter joined the ROTC program at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 1986. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1990 and went on active duty as an engineer. He is survived by his wife, Penny _ who had been his high school sweetheart _ and their children, 13-year-old Mitchell and 10-year-old Rachel.

Sgt.Kirk Allen Straseskie

23 Marines Dead U.S.
Sgt. Kirk Straseskie, 23, of Beaver Dam, Wis., was a third-generation military son who promised to make his father proud. Straseskie drowned May 19 after he jumped into an Iraqi canal to try to rescue victims of a helicopter crash. Four Marines on the Sea-Knight helicopter were killed when it crashed into the Shat al-Hillah canal about 60 miles south of Baghdad. Mark Kirst, principal at Beaver Dam High School, said it was totally within Straseskie's character to try to rescue the crew. "He was always looking to help someone out. He was not a guy who would wait around for somebody else to do it. He was a doer." Straseskie graduated in 1998 from Beaver Dam High School, where he played football, wrestled and ran the 400 meters in track. He wanted to make the military a career but he met and fell in love with a woman from Juneau and was reconsidering that decision, said his father, John Straseskie. "He thought about going into law enforcement," his father said. The elder Straseskie said both he and his father served in the Army. Another son, Ryan, is with the Wisconsin National Guard.

Spc.Paul J. Sturino

21 Army Dead U.S.
For years, older brother Alonzo Sturino led and younger brother Paul Sturino followed _ from high school wrestling to joining the Army to going to Iraq. The two were having a friendly race to see who would be the first promoted to sergeant, said their uncle, Duane Sturino of Kenosha, Wis. Now, "Alonzo said he is even more motivated now because of Paul's death," Duane Sturino said. Spc. Paul J. Sturino, 21, died Sept. 22 in Iraq after another soldier's firearm accidentally discharged. He grew up in Rice Lake, Wis., and was based at Fort Campbell. Family members reminisced at his funeral about the happy boy who often spent summers in Kenosha, where the Sturino family is widely known and well-loved. He also spent three summers on the Barracuda Swim Team in Kenosha. "He was a fun-loving, well-liked young man," Duane Sturino said.

Cpl.Jesse L. Thiry

23 Marines Dead U.S.
The Marines had assigned Cpl. Jesse Thiry the safety of a stateside training assignment. He volunteered to go to Iraq, his family said. "He wanted to serve his country and protect his country," said Sue Thiry, his stepmother. "He wanted to fight for his country, so he asked for a transfer." Thiry, 23, of Casco, Wis., was killed April 5 in combat in Fallujah, Iraq. He was one of eight children. Thiry was set to leave the Marine Corps in November. He and Johnson, who had dated for nearly five years, became engaged last August.

Spc.John O. Tollefson

22 Army Dead U.S.

Spc.Eugene A. UhlIII

21 Army Dead U.S.
Spc. Eugene Uhl followed his father and grandfather into the military. His father fought in Vietnam, and his grandfather served in World War II and the Korean War. "He was proud to be there (in Iraq), proud to be defending the country," his mother, Joan Uhl said. The 21-year-old soldier from Amherst, Wis., was among 17 killed when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Iraq on Nov. 15. He was based at Fort Campbell, and was engaged to be married in June. "He was serious, but yet he was very outgoing," his mother said. "He was sometimes a prankster, very caring and full of life." His mother said Uhl wrote a letter recently that only his father was allowed to read. "It was just he had a bad feeling about what was going to happen," his mother said.

Pfc.Brent T. Vroman

21 Marines Dead U.S.
The day after Brent T. Vroman died, heads were bowed around a high school wrestling meet. An announcement about Vroman's death sparked an immediate silence. "You all knew Brent Vroman was one of our own," the announcer said. Vroman, 21, of Oshkosh, Wis., died Dec. 13 during an attack in Babil province. He was stationed in Chicago. Before he joined the Marines, Brent Vroman followed in his older brother's footsteps as an outstanding wrestler. Brent won conference and regional titles during his career and won letters in football, baseball and track. He graduated in 2001 and worked as a corrections officer at the New Lisbon Correctional Institution before enlisting in the Marine Reserves in October 2002. "His enthusiasm for anything _ from wrestling to hunting and fishing, just sheer life _ it was beyond anybody else's expectation. He took everything with the most passion and enthusiasm you could possibly have," said Jeff McGee, a friend. He is survived by his parents, Pam DeGroot and Bob Vroman.

Sgt.Andrew P. Wallace

25 Army Dead U.S.
Everyone who knew Andrew P. Wallace talked about his upbeat attitude, his love for his family and his passion for teaching. "If there would ever be a poster that needed to depict a soldier, Sgt. Wallace's photo would be on it," said Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls. "His attitude, personality and constant smile were reminders of how much he loved life and doing what he was doing." Wallace, 25, of Oshkosh, Wis., was killed Sept. 26 by a roadside bomb in Shaibah. He was assigned to Fond du Lac. Wallace, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, was a teacher at Emmeline Cook Elementary School and a physical education teacher and coach at Oshkosh North High School. "He was never in a bad mood and always smiling and had positive things to say," said Gary Westerman, a former wrestling coach. "He was an all-around great guy and a great friend." Wallace kept in contact with school staff via a Web site and posted photos so the kids could see war. When he was preparing to leave overseas, students at Emmeline placed their footprints on a banner that read, "Wherever you go, we will follow."

Lance Cpl.Richard D. Warner

22 Marines Dead U.S.
Richard D. Warner embraced life without hesitation and embodied the slogan "No Fear," his stepfather said. "The greater the challenge, the more that Rich would throw himself into it," Pat Donahue said. Warner, 22, of Waukesha, Wis., was killed by a bomb Dec. 13 while on a foot patrol. His Marine Reserve unit was headquartered in Milwaukee. His high school principal, Mary Schwartz, remembered Warner as an energetic student who dreamed of being a Marine and enlisted even before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Warner was the nephew of O.J. Simpson's famous houseguest, Brian "Kato" Kaelin. In an interview on a morning radio talk show in Milwaukee, Kaelin called Warner "the best kid in the world." "The greatest guy in the world, 22, and he was taken away," he said.

Cpl.Robert P. WarnsII

23 Marines Dead U.S.
Robert Warns once helped a bunch of friends into a sold-out rock concert by using his artistic skills to scrawl fake passes on their hands. "Such a rascal," said his sister, Katie Riesch. Warns, 23, of Waukesha, Wis., was killed in an attack on Nov. 8. His unit was based in Madison, Wis. There was never any doubt that he would join the military, and he enlisted in the Marine Reserve with a year still to go in high school. He was entering his senior year as a business student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee when he was called to active duty in June. His girlfriend, Erin Nielsen, is pregnant and said she is certain he will watch over his son or daughter from beyond. "He was so excited," Nielsen said. "He had something to look forward to when he came home."

Spc.Michael J. Wending

20 Army Dead U.S.
Michael J. Wendling liked to eat. He wasn't fat, so sometimes his friends wondered where he put all the food. One day, he and the golf team stopped at a Burger King. Wendling ordered a Whopper Value Meal with fries and a drink. Then he went back for four more Whoppers and ate them all _ to the astonishment of everyone watching him. "Mike was a personality, I guess you would say. He had a great sense of humor. He was a kid who liked to have fun, and kids liked to be around Mike because he was so much fun," said Stu Strook, who coached Wendling in football and golf. Wendling, 20, Mayville, Wis., was killed Sept. 26 by a roadside bomb in Shaibah. He was assigned to Fond du Lac. Wendling was on the dean's list at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee when his unit was activated. During a school trip to New York, his group took in the sights, visited Madison Square Garden and saw "The Lion King" on Broadway. They also visited ground zero. "He was close enough to 9/11 to embrace its importance," said former teacher Rod McSorley.

Lance Cpl.Travis M. Wichlacz

22 Marines Dead U.S.
When he was a Boy Scout, Travis M. Wichlacz was nearly unbeatable at one test of strength and guile: the greased watermelon contest, which he won four years in a row. "They would throw the greased watermelon out into the water and the boys were supposed to bring it back in," said his stepmother, Virginia Wichlacz. "When they were all tired of swimming and wrestling with it, when it was almost back to shore, Travis would just grab it out of their arms and bring it up to the shore." Wichlacz, 22, of West Bend, Wis., was killed Feb. 5 by a roadside bomb in Babil province. He was stationed at Milwaukee. A high school track, wrestling and football star who graduated in 2002, Wichlacz impressed teachers with his leadership skills and his ability to cooperate with teammates and other students. "He was a committed, loyal and hardworking man," said high school Principal Pat Gardon. "He always had this radiant smile and this twinkle in his eye that would light up any room he walked into." His death comes barely nine months after he was married to Angela Coakley, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Spc.Michelle M. Witmer

20 Army Dead U.S.
When Michelle M. Witmer was 10 years old, she told her two sisters she wanted to be a hero. "Seriously, I could push someone off a bridge and save them," the little girl told her identical twin Charity and older sister Rachel as they talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up. All three sisters have served in Iraq with the National Guard. Spc. Michelle Witmer, 20, of New Berlin, Wis., died April 9 when her Humvee was attacked in Baghdad. In e-mails home, she said she was working night shifts and rarely got a day off but said she enjoyed volunteering at an orphanage. "It was when I was holding one of these children that I realized I have so much to be thankful for," she wrote. Witmer was trying to return fire when she was hit, said Brig. Gen. Kerry Denson, commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, quoting an e-mail from Sgt. Nate Olson, who was in the Humvee with Witmer. Charity said her twin got her childhood wish. "She was a hero when she died," she said.

2nd Lt.Jeremy L. Wolfe

27 Army Dead U.S.
2nd Lt. Jeremy L. Wolfe wanted to go to Iraq to support his fellow troops, despite the escalating violence there. "He wanted to get over there to be with his friends and comrades," said his father, David Wolfe. The 27-year-old from Menomonie, Wis., was killed Nov. 15 when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq. He was based at Fort Campbell, Ky. "My son was an officer and a gentleman. He believed in what he was doing and believed in his country. He will be missed dearly," David Wolfe said. Wolfe, who joined the Army in 1996, also enjoyed his work. "He really liked to fly helicopters," Kevin Wolfe said of his cousin. Survivors include his wife, Christine Tadeo.

Lance Cpl.Daniel R. Wyatt

22 Marines Dead U.S.

Laura Watson will never forget the day Daniel Wyatt proposed. It was March 9 _ the same day he was called up for active duty that would eventually take him to Iraq. "He proposed to me at 8 o'clock in the morning, and at 8 at night, 12 hours later, he got the call," she said. The prospect of her fiance going to war made Watson bawl, but she said Wyatt's response was even. "`I've been training for three years,'" he told her. "'This is the time people need me to help.'" Wyatt, 22, of Calendonia, Wis., died Oct. 12 in Babil province, southwest of Baghdad. An honors student who loved music, history and sports, Wyatt joined the Marine Reserves out of a desire to serve the country and went to boot camp right after high school. He was based in Chicago. "Some people are born to serve," said his stepmother, Kathy Sullivan. After boot camp, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee but later went to Milwaukee Area Technical College where he was studying to become a police officer. He is survived by his father, David Wyatt. His mother died when he was a boy.

 

 Spec. Benjamin Smith, 21, Hudson, Wisconsin            U.S. Army

"Thank you all for supporting Ben and the job he has done. He is my nephew and, sad to say, I got to know him better after he had passed. What a brave and direct young man. I will always miss him. Please send thoughts of strength for his parents (Lenore & Jim) and his brother (Orion) as they do their best to go on. These words are written with heartache and love for you and Benjamin."
Heather (Ben's Aunt) of La Salle, MI USA

 
Sgt. Andy A. Stevens

SGT Andy A. Stevens, 29, Tomah, Wi    U.S. Marines

When the national anthem was played prior to the start of the Tomah High School boys basketball game Friday night, the words likely held a little more meaning.
 
Before the anthem was played, there was a moment of silence after it was announced Sgt. Andy A. Stevens, a 1995 THS graduate, was killed on Dec. 1 in Fallujah, Iraq.

Stevens is the son of Al Stevens, a former longtime THS teacher, who still lives in Tomah. His mother, Kaye Olson, lives in Maryland Heights, Mo., according to a Marine Corps spokesperson.

Stevens was one of 10 United States Marines killed from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations in Fallujah.

Stevens, who joined the Marines in June 1995 and was serving as a scout sniper, deployed to Iraq with his unit in July, the Marine Corps said.

The U.S. military said last Friday that the group was on a foot patrol near Fallujah. Of the 11 Marines who were injured, seven later returned to duty, it said. The military said the rest of the team was conducting “counterinsurgency operations throughout Fallujah and the surrounding area” to improve security for the Dec. 15 elections.

Sandy Murray was the principal of Tomah High School when Stevens was a student there and remembers him as confidant and determined.
“He knew what he wanted to do — and he did it,” she said.

Murray, now Tomah Elementary School principal, reminisced Saturday evening with Karen Riggs, a Tomah High School social studies teacher who was a guidance counselor then.

She remembered Stevens as a pole vaulter on the track team and a choir member,

“He was such a hard worker and so much fun,” Riggs said. “He had such commitment.”

  



PFC Anthony Gaunky, 19, Sparta, Wi     U.S. Army

He climbed up several feet, but fear brought him back down. He tried again, climbing a little higher, came back down and tried several more times, reaching a greater height each time, his father, David Gaunky, recalled Friday.

"He kept trying until he finally made it to the top, and pretty soon was trying the harder sections of wall," David Gaunky said in a telephone interview.

"He never let fear keep him from doing something that he wanted to do."

"He never let fear keep him from doing something that he wanted to do."

That persistent attitude drove Alex Gaunky to enlist in the Army fresh out of high school after the Navy turned him down because of a food allergy about a year and a half ago, said his father, who learned Friday morning of his son's death in Iraq.

The 19-year-old private first class from Sparta was a combat engineer with the Army's 101st Airborne Division. He was injured when the Humvee he was riding in was struck by a vehicle that came across a road and crashed into his convoy, his father said.

The soldier, who had been in Iraq for about 2 1/2 months, died Friday morning while being airlifted to Germany, his father said.

His family requested that any viable organs be harvested for donation.

"It's in a sense a way for him to live on and, in a way, save other people's lives," David Gaunky said.

Two of Alex's brothers are serving their second tours with the military in the Middle East. Adam Gaunky, 24, is a petty officer with the Navy aboard the USS Tarawa. Don Gaunky, 22, is a sergeant with military intelligence in Iraq, attached to the 18th Airborne Corps.

Don's twin brother, Bob, recently got out of the Navy and also served in Iraq, David Gaunky said.

"He always looked up to his older brothers," Alex's father recalled.

Born Anthony Alexander Gaunky, he was known simply as "Alex," a happy teen with an infectious smile, his father said. He was a 2004 graduate of Sparta High School, where he played French horn in the school band, managed the Spartans football team and was voted the best dancer in his graduating class.

"Alex was a real happy kid. He always had a grin on his face," his father said. "It was kind of infectious. You couldn't be around him without feeling kind of good."

He enjoyed bicycling with his father and brothers on the Elroy-Sparta and La Crosse River trails, eating pizza at Slice of Chicago in Sparta, and catching trout and bluegills in Stillwell Lake at Fort McCoy, his father said.

In high school he played the role of Sir Dinadan in a production of "Camelot."

He also loved horseback riding on his birthday on the Red Rock Trail and was an avid fan of the books and movies of the Star Wars and Monty Python series, his father recalled, adding, "He could quote and swap Monty Python lines all day."

His son even named one of his father's chickens after a Monty Python character, "The Vicious Chicken of Bristol," David Gaunky said.

During their last telephone conversation about a week ago, Alex told his father he had just picked up a box set of Monty Python DVDs with all of the skits.

"Somehow he managed to find a Monty Python box set out there," David Gaunky said.

After high school, the Navy turned Alex Gaunky down because of an allergy to potatoes, so he immediately enlisted in the Army, his father recalled.

"He was a very determined person," his father said. "He would not accept 'no' for an answer when it came to getting into the military.

"If the Navy didn't take him, he knew he would find someone who would."

Alex Gaunky is also survived by his mother, Lori Friske.

He is the 50th member of the Armed Forces from Wisconsin to be killed in Iraq.

SFC Matthew R. Kading, 32, Madison, Wi     U.S. Army

From the Capital Times:

She raised him as a pacifist, said Karla Kading, whose soldier son Matt died Monday of injuries sustained in Iraq.

"He went into the Army as a way to keep the United States safe," Kading said. "Most of the missions he went on ended up being ones of rebuilding and not of tearing down."

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew R. Kading, 32, of Madison, died at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. He was injured near Tikrit Oct. 19 when an explosive detonated near his convoy vehicle.

He and fiancee Lindsay Sayles would have been married two weeks ago in Madison, but had to postpone the wedding due to his deployment, Sayles said.

Kading is the second soldier from Madison to die in the Iraq conflict. The first was Mark Maida, who was killed May 27. Kading's death brings the number of Wisconsin service personnel killed in the war to 47.

Kading joined the Army 14 years ago, shortly after graduating from East High School. He served in the active military for seven years and was assigned to the Army Reserve's 983rd Engineer Battalion, based in Monclova, Ohio.

Born in Fayetteville, N.C., where his father was in the 82nd airborne, Kading's mother said her son talked to his father before joining the military. Kading attended college for 1 years, during some of his time off, she said. He also spent time as an electrical apprentice at MATC.

Kading's family held a short press conference Wednesday, near the U.S. Army Reserve Center, not far from where they live. Before they spoke, Army Reserve spokesman Bill Geddes said the family would not answer any political or philosophical questions about the war in Iraq.

"They want to just focus on their son and not just what a loss this is only to them, but to the community," Geddes said.

Ron Kading, the soldier's father, walked away from the press conference shortly after it began. Karla Kading and Rick Roeth, the soldier's best friend of 20 years, fielded most of the questions. Kading's sister Melissa Kading and cousin Amanda Lauck offered support but did not speak.

Kading was deployed for 16 months to Guantanamo, Cuba, where he worked as an electrician. He had three months off before being deployed to Iraq, his mother said. He was stationed at Camp Speicher in Tikrit.

"I had raised him as a pacifist and he was kind of lost after high school. He decided (to join the Army) after trying a little bit of college and getting tired of the slow pace of teachers," she said with a little laugh.

Kading's mother said she and her son had a "very special relationship." They e-mailed more than they spoke, she said.

"We talked as much as Matt wanted," she said. "Matt was a very independent man and it was not very often that we spoke. ... He was a man of peace and very few words."

Kading's friend Roeth said that Kading bowled frequently - averaging 200 to 220 - and that he was "obsessed with baseball." Kading was able to manage a fantasy baseball team while stationed in Cuba. The Roberto Clemente APBA Fantasy Baseball League has already been renamed the Matt Kading Memorial APBA Baseball League.

Most of Kading's missions were humanitarian, Roeth stressed.

Roeth said his friend wasn't free to talk much about his deployment, but did discuss "his longing for home and his friends - his wishes to be home with us."

Kading was in Panama when hurricanes hit and was deployed to Honduras to rebuild hospitals, his mother said.

"Most of his missions were that way, including the ones in Iraq," she said. "He was building posts and bases in Iraq that will eventually be taken over by the Iraqi police or the Iraqi army. In that way he was helping rebuild the nation of Iraq. I'm proud of him in doing that, in helping those people, in building a peaceful nation."

Where ever you may go, may peace be.