Monday, February 21, 2005

Army Staff Sgt. David F. Day

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. David F. Day, 25, of Saint Louis Park, Minn.

SSgt Day was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, Montevideo, Minn.; killed Feb. 21, 2005 when an improvised explosive device detonated as he was assisting injured soldiers in his command in Baghdad. Also killed were Army 1st Lt. Jason G. Timmerman and Army Sgt. Jesse M. Lhotka.Day ‘found his way with duty, honor and courage’

Army Command Sergeant Major Erik Arnie talked about Staff Sgt. David F. Day at a flag-pole dedication ceremony in his honor on July 9 during Pioneer Prairie Days in Minnesota. — Ed.

The date of 21 February 2005 has been etched into the small communities of Western Minnesota, such as Appleton, Marshall and Morris, for all eternity. For it was on that day that the lives of three young, brave men from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery, were sacrificed for their country and their comrades half a world away.

On that morning 1st Lt. Jason Timmerman, Staff Sgt. David Day and Sgt. Jesse Lhotka were conducting what was supposed to be an ordinary mission. The mission turned out to be anything but ordinary.

First Lt. Timmerman, Staff Sgt. Day and Sgt. Lhotka were traveling in the 2nd Echelon of Charlie Company on mission. They had departed the company area at approximately 7 a.m. First Lt. Timmerman and Staff Sgt. Day were in the same Humvee with their driver. Sgt. Lhotka was in another Humvee, with his driver and gunner, that lost control somehow, left the road and began to roll, injuring two soldiers. The small convoy stopped and did what it was trained to do, provide security around the scene and begin assisting the injured. Staff Sgt. David Day, the squad leader of most of those on the scene, did exactly what he was trained to do, take care of his men. After a medevac was called in, the first injured soldier was carried to a helicopter. The second soldier was being carried on a stretcher by 1st Lt. Timmerman; Staff Sgt. Day, Sgt. Lhotka and a soldier from another unit who had also stopped to provide security. As they carried the soldier across the road towards the helicopter an explosion occurred within a few feet of the group. Three soldiers from Western Minnesota died that morning and two others were seriously wounded.

Many of you did not personally know Staff Sgt. David Day — but you did. You know of the boys who grew up from this area; playing ball in the park, riding bikes to the store with a buck from mowing and excitement on what awaited, swimming and fishing in the Pomme de Terre, playing cops and robbers throughout the neighborhood, chasing the fire trucks when they came flashing by, going to Scout camp; and pretending the enemies of America were in the backyard and he was an Army sergeant stopping them in their tracks.

You know of the young men, desiring to be their own man, going off to vocational school or college or joining the service or going to work in the elevator and eventually finding their own way. You know of the those men finding their sweethearts. Oh yes, you know Dave Day — but he was more.

Dave found that serving and protecting was his calling. Whether a police officer with the St. Louis Park Police Department, or a soldier in the Minnesota Army National Guard, or a son and a husband, Dave Day was dedicated to serving and giving back to those who had given to him. Staff Sgt. Day lived out his childhood imaginings and found his own way with duty, honor and courage.

Duty: an act or course of action required of one by position, custom, law or regulation. Moral obligation: the compulsion felt to meet such obligations. These are just a few of the definitions listed in most dictionaries.

On the morning of 21 February 2005, Staff Sgt. Day was performing his duty. More than just the duty that he swore to the day he pledged the oath to serve his president and country. He was doing the duties of a warrior. “I will always place the mission first.” He was out on a mission; helping to protect and secure the new state of Iraq. He did not hesitate to accept this mission when the Charlie Company commander issued it, therefore placing the mission ahead of himself. “I will never accept defeat.” He did not accept defeat; when one of his own teams lost a vehicle, he reacted quickly to recover his soldiers and vehicle and attempted to continue on with the assigned mission.

Honor: personal integrity maintained without legal or other obligations;

“I will never quit.” He certainly did not quit just because something had gone wrong — he obligated himself to carry on as did the rest of his squad from Company C to set up security around the perimeter of the scene and help his comrades.

Courage: Some say that courage is the lack of fear. I say courage is having fear, but knowing and understanding your fear — using it to motivate you and knowing how to put it aside when duty calls. Staff Sgt. Day certainly overcame any fears when he assessed the situation and reacted in a way to assist his men. “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

It is right that we pay tribute to Staff Sgt. David Day and place a memorial within his community — but not just as a reminder of a boy, a man, a son and a husband, but that of a servant with duty, honor and courage — to those he loved dearly and those he served bravely.

I am honored and proud to be a part of this event. And to Amy, David and Vickie — on behalf of the 1st Battalion 151st Field Artillery, the community of Morris, the state of Minnesota and the Army National Guard, the St. Louis Park Police and friends — thank you for letting all of us know Dave.

He will be forever remembered!

Minnesota towns honor fallen soldier

MORRIS, Minn. — Two by two, a procession of 110 squad cars with lights flashing drove slowly and silently through this western Minnesota city.

A Blackhawk helicopter flew over the procession, flying low enough to create a stir of dust.

And when a white hearse carrying Staff Sgt. David Day drove by, people laid down pink, red and peach roses on the streets of Morris in tribute to a Minnesota soldier who laid down his life last week in Iraq.

Day, 25, a Morris native who was a St. Louis Park police officer, was one of three members of the same Minnesota National Guard unit who were killed Feb. 21 by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Separate funerals were held earlier in the week for 1st Lt. Jason Timmerman of Tracy, and Sgt. Jesse Lhotka of Alexandria. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and first lady Mary Pawlenty attended all of the funerals.

After the procession passed Thursday, the crowd dissipated, leaving a line of roses behind them.

“It kind of just overwhelms you, there’s so much support here,” said Carolyn Smith, who held an American flag.

Day, the youngest child of David and Vicki Day, was remembered as a hardworking, good-humored and courageous young man.

An estimated 1,000 people packed Assumption Catholic Church for Day’s funeral. Their ranks included more than 250 law enforcement members from 70 agencies, including 65 from the St. Louis Park Police Department, which swore in Day in February 2004, and the staffs of the Morris police and Stevens County sheriff’s departments. Day had also worked as a community service officer in Morris.

Seating and closed-circuit televisions were set up in the church basement and at St. Mary’s School to accommodate the large numbers.

The Rev. Alan Wielinski shared family stories about Day and reiterated that Day had “laid down his life for his friends.” The three soldiers were killed while coming to the aid of injured comrades.

“The selfless service of David, and countless other soldiers like him, gives witness to some of the very best of human qualities: courage, faithfulness, selflessness, steadfastness, loyalty and love unto death,” he said.

Stevens County Sheriff Randy Willis said Day was a “great kid.”

“A lot of people are liked. A lot of people are respected. But it’s hard to be both,” Willis said. “He pulled it off.”

Capt. Kirk DiLorenzo of the St. Louis Park Police Department worked with Day for two years. He stood on the church steps while Day’s coffin was brought in and out.

“All of the officers are heartbroken,” he said.

Day married his longtime girlfriend, Amy Gulbrandson, 12 days before his deployment in October. Sgt. 1st Class James Howe was Day’s first sergeant and knew Day for about five years.

“He’s not only a good soldier, but a good individual, a great person,” Howe said before the funeral. “The kind of guy you’d want your daughter to marry.”

Before the procession, Brian Brummond, of Morris, spoke of his “very hard emotions.” His son, Joshua, 23, is in Day’s unit — the Montevideo-based 151st Field Artillery — and was assigned to gather the personal belongings of Day, Timmerman and Lhotka to be sent back home.

“He said it was one of the hardest things he’s had to do,” Brummond said.

Army Staff Sgt. David F. Day was killed in action on 2/21/05.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Army Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore, 22, of Gresham, Ore.

Sgt. Plumondore was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.; killed Feb. 16, 2005 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Mosul, Iraq.

Big crowd honors a big man
Family and friends gather in Gresham to remember the life of Army Sgt. Adam Plumondore, killed in Iraq
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
GRESHAM -- Army Sgt. Adam Plumondore was big -- 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds -- and he lived as large as he was. He liked to wear wide-brimmed cowboy hats. He liked to shoot big guns and wield big chain saws. He liked the great outdoors and listening to country and western music.

When he and his buddies went out dancing, "we just had a blast watching his head bob around the floor -- it was all you could see," his uncle, Alan Birchfield, said Tuesday at the 22-year-old soldier's funeral service in Gresham.

About 500 people turned out at Greater Gresham Baptist Church to mourn the 2001 Gresham High School graduate, who died Feb. 16 in Mosul, Iraq, after an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. But sadness was mixed with laughter as loved ones shared story after story of a man they said had a huge appetite for life and rarely stopped smiling.

Chris Bartlett, a neighbor of the Plumondore family, recalled occasionally hearing someone peeling out in the street, then looking outside to see Plumondore on his motorcycle, driving wildly up and down the road and grinning.

"Bigger was always better with Adam," he said.

Big fisherman, too

Plumondore, an expert marksman and athlete, also was an avid hunter and fisherman, making frequent outings to woods and water with his father, Dan, and older brother, Ron. Celebratory photos suggest he caught more big fish in 22 years than many fishermen catch in a lifetime.

And over the years, lots of photos were taken of Plumondore; many were displayed Tuesday in a series of video memorials spanning infancy to adulthood. In one, "Plumbob" appeared as a rather large adult laughing while sitting on the lap of his mother, Elfriede. In another, he was a small boy sitting behind the wheel of the family truck, steering with the help of his father, Dan.

Plumondore, a sniper, enlisted in the Army in 2001 and was based at Fort Lewis, Wash. At the time of his death, he had been stationed in Iraq for about four months, deployed there just days before he expected to be discharged from the military.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski, one of several speakers on Tuesday, said Plumondore believed in what he was fighting for as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and died stepping into the shoes of another soldier who was supposed to be on patrol that day. At the time of the explosion, he was positioned in a weapons hatch that left parts of his body exposed.

"No one can replace, and time cannot dim, the memory of Adam Plumondore," Kulongoski said. "He's as fixed in our hearts as God is in our prayers."

A patriot's dream

When dedication leads to the death of a patriot who dreamed of a career as a police officer, the governor added, "then Oregon has lost a valuable, irreplaceable part of its future."

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michael A. Dunn said Plumondore, assigned to the 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, was a respected senior member of a reconnaissance platoon who showed fierce bravery during battle.

Military officials also fondly remembered Plumondore as a "walking uniform violation," often failing to buckle his chin strap or keep his sleeves rolled down.

"I think it's pretty clear the uniform regulations were advisory to him" Dunn said, drawing laughter.

Birchfield, Plumondore's uncle, read a message from a lieutenant colonel in Iraq that described several heroic actions by his nephew, including an incident in which he helped rescue injured soldiers from a burning vehicle after it was hit in a suicide car bombing.

" 'He jumped out of his vehicle with fire extinguishers in his hands,' " Birchfield read.

Birchfield then presented his late nephew with his own badge from the Wasco County Sheriff's Office, saying he had dreamed of working with Plumondore and Plumondore's brother one day.

"It may not be as important as his Bronze Star or his Purple Heart, but it means something to me," Birchfield said. "I know it would have meant something to him."

Medals at cemetery

Plumondore was posthumously awarded both of those medals at a ceremony later Tuesday at the Willamette National Cemetery, where he was buried following a rifle salute and the playing of "Taps."

In life, country singer George Strait was Plumondore's favorite, and Strait's warm voice crooned over the church's sound system as hundreds of mourners assembled. A few toes couldn't resist tapping to the upbeat tempo, but the words told the real story.

"Am I blue? Yes I'm blue. It started the day I lost you. . . . Am I blue. . . ."

Army Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore was killed in action on 2/16/05.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Staff Sgt. Zachary Ryan Wobler

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Zachary Ryan Wobler, 24, of Ottowa, Ohio

SSG Zachary Ryan Wobler, is a 1998 graduate of Ottawa-Glandorf High School. A member of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., he was shot several times after emerging from a warehouse in search of support troops.

After graduating from Ottawa-Glandorf, SSG Wobler joined the Ohio National Guard in Bowling Green and took courses at Owens Community College to become a peace officer.

He completed Army basic training in Missouri and later won numerous honors, including being named Paratrooper of the Year at Fort Bragg in 2002. Sgt. Wobler is survived by his wife and 3 yr old daughter.

Zach Wobler was a soldier, who died for his country, doing a job he loved for the land he loved. His efforts will not be forgotten.

Army Staff Sgt. Zachary Ryan Wobler was killed in action 02/06/05

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Marine Lance Cpl. Travis M. Wichlacz

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Travis M. Wichlacz, 22, of West Bend, Wisconsin.

Lance Cpl Wichlacz died as a result of hostile action in Babil Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve's 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Wichlacz, a 2002 graduate of West Bend West High School, was in a convoy on routine patrol when the bomb exploded. Several other Marines were injured in the attack, said Sgt. Cecil Goodloe, a spokesman for Wichlacz's unit.

Before Jan. 30, Wichlacz and the Marines he was serving with in the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment "helped support getting the region stabilized for elections," Goodloe said. Wichlacz was a member of the Milwaukee-based Fox Company and is the fifth Wisconsin Marine from that company to die in action in Iraq.

Wichlacz was remembered as a competitive three-sport athlete in high school who was extremely proud to be a U.S. Marine.

"He always tried so hard to make everyone proud of him," said his father, Dennis. "He was nothing but good. He just tried so hard to follow the rules."

His son loved being a Marine and had considered a military career, he said.

"He was pretty excited about going over to Iraq," said Bob Kopecky, Travis Wichlacz's high school wrestling coach. "He was pretty proud of it. He took his job pretty seriously over there.

"He was a pretty tough person. He was competitive. He wasn't afraid of anyone."

Marine Lance Cpl Travis M. Wichlacz was killed in action on 02/05/05.