Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Army 1st Sgt. Tobias "Toby" C. Meister

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Sgt. Tobias C. Meister, 30, of Jenks, Okla.

Sgt Meister was assigned to the 321st Civil Affairs Brigade, Army Reserve, San Antonio; killed Dec. 28 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat patrol operations south of Asadabad, Afghanistan.

A northwest Iowa native who was described as a warm person, a patriotic soldier and "an All-American boy" has been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

First Sgt. Tobias Meister, 30, who enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard before graduating from Remsen Union High School, died Wednesday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat patrol operations south of Asadabad, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Meister, of Jenks, Okla., was assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve's 321st Civil Affairs Brigade and had been working to help rebuild the war-torn country. He left Iowa about 10 years ago to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he graduated with a business degree before joining an oil and natural gas firm in Tulsa, Okla.

He leaves behind his wife, Alicia, and a 1-year-old son, William.

Tom Letsche, mayor of Remsen, a town of 1,762 people in Plymouth County, said Friday that people were stunned and saddened at the news of Meister's death.

"He was always polite and kind to everybody and just a straight arrow. He was the All-American boy," Letsche said.

Meister's father, Dave, was a longtime Remsen businessman, and his mother, Judy, had been a home-economics teacher at the high school. The pair had moved to Oklahoma earlier this year to help their daughter-in-law and new grandson while their son was deployed overseas. Other survivors include a brother, T.J. Meister, 26, of Naples, Fla., paternal grandmother Dorothy Meister of Kingsley, and maternal grandmother June Corbin of Moville.

"He was a pretty incredible person. He was absolutely the most patriotic person you have ever met," said Debbie Rich of Tulsa, Meister's aunt.

Meister was honored nationally in 2002 when he was named "U.S. Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year." The Oklahoma Legislature subsequently passed a resolution in recognition of the award.

The Army said Meister was also a former middleweight Golden Gloves boxing champion in Dallas, and he had an undefeated career in kickboxing. He was a fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do. In winning the drill-sergeant competition, he finished first in the two-mile run and did 100 push-ups and 114 sit-ups.

Rich recalled an incident in which an office was vandalized at her family's oil and gas business, which employed Meister. The vandals stuck a water hose through a mail slot, flooding the office, and they unsuccessfully tried to burn an American flag, which particularly infuriated Meister, she said.

"He was so mad. He called all the news stations and the newspapers, and because of his diligence, they ended up catching the vandals," Rich said.

Steve Matgen, who operates a Remsen insurance agency, said Meister reminded him of Pat Tillman, a former Arizona Cardinals football player who quit a lucrative athletic career to join the Army and was killed in Afghanistan. He recalled Meister as a kid who would always greet him in a friendly manner and ask how his day was going.

"Toby loved what he was doing. He was a very selfless person," Matgen said. "What a tragedy for something like this to happen."

Meister was born in Kingsley, and his parents later moved to Remsen, where his father first operated a furniture business and more recently owned a carpet and floor-covering firm. He was inspired by his late grandfather, Bill Corbin of Moville, who fought in the battle of Okinawa in World War II, said Larry Manker of Sioux City, Meister's great-uncle.

Manker recalled that whenever he took Meister and his brother hunting, "You would tell him something once, and that is all you ever had to do. When you got back, you got thanked 100 times. He was the most polite and courteous kid you ever saw. He would do anything for you."

Meister was called to active duty in the Army Reserve last spring, and he was sent to Afghanistan in June. While deployed, he corresponded with members of an online support group, expressing thanks for their care packages while describing his amazement at the natural beauty of the mountains and streams in Afghanistan.

"Great place, less the bad guys," Meister wrote in an online letter.

Army 1st Sgt. Tobias C. Meister was killed in action on 12/28/05.

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