Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Army Sgt. Travis A. Van Zoest

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Travis A. Van Zoest, 21, of Larimore, N.D.

Sgt Van Zoest was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery, North Dakota Army National Guard, Grand Forks, N.D.; killed June 6 when his Humvee struck two anti-tank mines during combat operations in Khogyani, Afghanistan. Also killed was Spc. Curtis R. Mehrer.

BISMARCK – Two North Dakota National Guard soldiers killed in Afghanistan felt it was their duty to serve their country and fight terrorism, their families said.

Spc. Curtis Mehrer and Sgt. Travis Van Zoest, both 21 and from Bismarck, were killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday by a roadside bomb blast. They were the first North Dakota Guard soldiers to die in the country.

Families of both soldiers said they spoke to the men last weekend.

Van Zoest’s mother, Sheila Richter, of Bismarck, said her son made the decision to join the military when he was 16, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“This was something very, very important to him,” his mother said. “He said it was his job as an American.”

Mehrer joined the military, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, his family said.

“He was very patriotic – he felt it was his duty,” said Kevin Mehrer, his father. “In our mind, he’s a hero. He gave up his life for his country.”

The soldiers were members of the Security Forces of the 188th Air Defense Artillery, which is based in Grand Forks and has a battery in Bismarck. The unit has been in Afghanistan for about 2½ months.

The military said the soldiers were in a vehicle that was hit by a bomb or tank mine blast south of Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wicks, 39, was wounded. Guard spokesman Bill Prokopyk said Thursday that Wicks had been moved to a military hospital in Germany and was listed in stable condition. Prokopyk said no details were available about Wicks’ injuries, and he did not immediately know whether Wicks’ wife, Angela, would be traveling to Germany.

Funeral arrangements for Mehrer and Van Zoest were still pending Thursday.

Richter said her son and Mehrer had known each other since high school, and became friends in the military.

“They were battle buddies,” Richter said.

Mehrer graduated from Bismarck High in 2003, and Van Zoest from Century the same year.

Bismarck High Principal Ken Erickson said it was tough to see the loss of a former student.

“As a community and a school we’re very sad, and we certainly want to extend our heartfelt (sympathy) to the family,” he said.

Century counselor Kim Motis said Van Zoest will be missed by those who knew him.

“He was just always upbeat, respectful, kind,” she said. “He was just a good kid ... and someone you enjoyed being around, and with.”

Erickson and Motis said that since the high schools include only grades 10 through 12 and Mehrer and Van Zoest graduated three years ago, there are no current students who attended classes with the two.

Van Zoest is survived by his mother, and father Bernardus Van Zoest, of Dane, Wis., a stepfather, a brother and two stepbrothers. Van Zoest was engaged to be married to Keisia Austin, of Bismarck.

Army Sgt. Travis A. Van Zoest was killed in action on 06/06/06.

1 comment:

Peter van Zoest said...

Terrible to find out on the internet that somebody with the same familyname was killed in Afghanistan. Our Dutch soldiers are also active there. I wish the family strength!