Monday, August 15, 2005

Army Specialist Joshua P. Dingler

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Joshua P. Dingler, 19, of Hiram, Georgia.

Spc Dingler died in Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq, when his HMMWV accidentally rolled over into a canal. He was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment, Calhoun, Georgia.

Karen Dingler sat on the edge of her son’s bed and hugged his dress green uniform to her chest. She buried her nose in it, breathing in hard.

“I’m so glad it smells like him,” she said Tuesday.

She had kept the uniform tucked away in his closet at their Paulding County home since he left for Iraq. She pulled it out this week and gently placed it on his bed. She figured the military would need it to bury her son, Spc. Joshua Dingler.

A military chaplain and a captain had visited her home Monday. They told her Joshua and two other soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment died in an accident early that day. A military press release said their vehicle overturned into a canal during a night mission.

Joshua Dingler, 19, of Hiram was fresh out of East Paulding High School. He died on the second anniversary of his enlistment. Two of his friends died beside him: Sgt. Thomas J. Strickland, 27, of Fairplay in Douglas County and Spc. Paul Saylor, 21, of Bremen, near the Alabama state line.

Karen Dingler, who was just starting as the unit’s family support group leader, was on the phone seeking advice on how to help families who lose loved ones in Iraq when the chaplain and casualty notification officer showed up.

“It turned out to be mine,” she said. “I just opened the door and swallowed hard.”

Dingler knew why the soldiers were there. She remembers repeating to herself, “I can do this,” as she let them into her home. They asked her where her husband, Tommy, was. He was at the gas station, so they waited to tell her why they were there, making small talk until he returned.

“I could feel the pain in those poor guys’ faces,” she said. “I was trying to be nice. I knew what they wanted.”

The military told her she could keep her son’s uniform. They would bury him in a new one.

Karen and her husband talked proudly about their son Tuesday as they sat in his tidy bedroom.

Several eagle figurines sat atop his chest of drawers. A poster of Osama bin Laden with a red target on his chest hung on his wall.

Joshua’s 16-year-old brother, Samuel, lay on his bed, sobbing.

On the door to Joshua’s closet is a picture of him and his high school sweetheart, Katelyn Wood, taken when they attended a military ball. She wore a black gown; he was in his ROTC dress uniform. It was their first date.

Before leaving for Iraq, he had asked her father for his blessing to marry her. He planned to go to Kennesaw State University, study history and then teach it in high school.

Tony Samples, Pickett’s Mill pastor, said to the hundreds of people gathered in the crowded church, “You have come to honor a fallen soldier, but Josh died doing what he loved to do.”

Samples told of Josh’s commitment to Christ and presented a video of Josh giving a FAITH testimony to the congregation at Picketts Mill. In the video Dingler testified, “I used my FAITH training to talk to one of my friends and led him to the Lord last night.”

One of the most touching moments of the service was when Samples read part of a letter Josh had given him to read to his fiancé, Katelyn Wood, in case he did not return from Iraq.

“If you are reading this, I haven’t made it home to you. Please don’t let my passing be the end of your life, too. Grief is fine, just don’t let it rule your life. That would be the real tragedy. You are a wonderful woman and God has something amazing planned for you. Just trust Him and your family and you’ll get through.”

Joshua Dingler believed he was fighting for a just cause and gave his life to preserve our freedom. At the funeral Pastor Samples reminded all of us of the words of Jesus when he said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That is what Joshua Dingler did, and he will not soon be forgotten.

Katelyn held a “just in case” letter he had written her on notebook paper. She couldn’t force herself to open it. But she peeked at the closing sentence: “Yours to the very end.”

Army Specialist Joshua P. Dingler was killed in action on 08/15/05.

1 comment:

dina30141 said...

God Bless you Josh and your beautiful family. I met you mother at our Memorial Service in Hiram, GA. You are remembered. You would be so proud. R.I.P.