Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Army Cpl. Wade J. Oglesby

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Wade J. Oglesby, 27, of Grand Junction, Colo.

Cpl. Oglesby was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.; died April 18 in Taji, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations. Also killed was Cpl. Michael M. Rojas.

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel -- Wade Oglesby spent his life putting others before himself. When he was a sophomore at Grand Junction High School, he dropped out to take care of his ill mother full-time.

He didn’t learn to drive until he was 22 years old and delayed his education and career to look after his family, including his younger sister, Samantha.

On Wednesday, Oglesby was killed instantly when the Humvee he was driving rolled over an improvised explosive device north of Baghdad, according to his family.

At 6-foot-3, the 27-year-old U.S. Army corporal was tall and skinny. He was attached to the 2nd Infantry Division’s Fourth “Stryker” Brigade.

His mom, Linda, died in September 2003 of heart failure and, after taking care of her for nearly 10 years, he moved in with his stepparents Gary, whom Oglesby called dad, and Sheila Decocq.

“He was one of the most unbelievably nurturing men I’d ever met,” Sheila said. “I don’t think he ever once thought, ‘Well gee, I don’t get to do this, or I don’t get to do that.’ ”

Oglesby’s Humvee was leading a convoy on a road he had driven often. He told Sheila no one had been hit on that road.

“It’s just like driving back home here,” he told her.

The Associated Press reported Thursday two soldiers were killed in an explosion north of Baghdad on Wednesday, but the Department of Defense has yet to identify those soldiers.

Wade would be the second soldier from Grand Junction killed in Iraq and the 45th from Colorado, according to Associated Press Iraq casualty counts.

‘...I haven’t gotten a scratch’

Oglesby called home a week ago, and he and Sheila were afforded an hour to talk, which is unusual because there are usually other soldiers waiting to use the phone, she said.

“Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten a scratch,” he told her on Saturday. “We just get a slight concussion here and there.”

As she sat outside playing with her cats and enjoying the spring day, Sheila told Oglesby how much they loved him and how proud of him they were.

“His first questions were always, ‘How’s Gary, how’s grandpa, how’s everybody doing?’ ” Sheila said. “Wade’s first thoughts were always, ‘How’s everybody else doing?’ ”

Oglesby told her it was starting to get hot there, and he was ready to be out of Iraq and back on U.S. soil.

Sheila’s father, L.W. St. John, whom Wade called grandpa, was in the Navy serving in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Her brothers also served in the military. One made a career of the Navy, and the other served in the Army during Vietnam.

Wade’s stepbrother, Chris Walker, is also in the Army and returned in December from a year-long tour of Iraq. When Walker, who is stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, heard the news, he burst into tears, Sheila said.

Both Oglesby and Walker enlisted in the Army in 2004. The year between his mother dying and starting basic training was the first time in his life when Oglesby had time for himself, she said.

“We needed something to do,” said Walker, who came home on a two-week, emergency leave. “It seemed like a logical step.”

Spending most of his teenage years caring for his mother left Oglesby somewhat socially awkward. Sheila said he was painfully shy to the point where he wouldn’t look strangers in the eye when talking to them.

Gary said Oglesby finally decided to take a chance and choose a direction in his life after his mom died. They encouraged him to join the Air Force, but, after speaking with a recruiter, Oglesby joined the Army.

“He wanted to make a difference,” Gary said. “He wanted to get an education, and he had nothing going on here.”

Before he left for basic training in August 2004, the family had a going-away party for Walker and Oglesby, who was surprised they would throw a party for him.

“He never expected anybody to make a fuss,” Sheila said.

Walker remembers posing with Oglesby for a photo at the party with a cake in the shape of an American flag.

“Here he is, this tall, beanpole of a guy, and here I am, this short, little troll of a guy,” he said.

Oglesby called home as often as he could during basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., but eventually made friends and gained confidence in the Army, Sheila said.

“He really came into his own,” she said.

‘This is Wade’

The Decocqs said they received the bad news early Thursday morning from Oglesby’s older brother, Richard. Sheila, while grateful for the Army’s support, said the news was less harsh coming from family.

“My biggest fear with both of the boys being over there was watching a couple of military suits come down the walkway to the door,” she said.

Oglesby made many friends in the Army, and a lot of them have called the Decocqs from Iraq to offer condolences and tell them how nice and courageous Oglesby was.

Services are pending at Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

In 2001 Oglesby earned his GED with flying colors. The certificate now sits in a neat pile with his birth certificate, his mother’s death certificate and other documents.

“This is Wade,” Sheila said. “Everything’s right here where I need it.”

His family remembers Oglesby as always being upbeat and having a dry wit about him.

“He had a British sense of humor,” Walker said. “That kid would bend over backwards and go to the ends of the earth if you needed anything.”

Walker said he lost two of his teammates when an IED exploded underneath their Humvee on April 28, 2006. Before that, his team had encountered eight other IEDs while patrolling and escorting command officers in southern Baghdad.

Walker said he knew what to expect when he got the news about Oglesby, but it still was hard to take.

He said he was hoping to sit down with Oglesby when he returned stateside and “talk ... to each other and drink a beer.”

Walker’s sergeant major sent a coin with the 8-10 Cavalry logo to give to Gary and Sheila. Walker said being coined was a great honor in the Army, especially when a cavalry officer is awarding a member of the artillery staff.

Oglesby had been in Iraq since last summer and his tour had recently been extended until October. He was based out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

While he trained for artillery, he was assigned to infantry in Iraq. One of Oglesby’s first assignments was driving officials in Mosul, northern Iraq. He was able to jump curbs and run red lights during those missions.

“He got a kick out of legally disobeying traffic laws,” Sheila said.

She said he recently had been assigned to security details and had been conducting raids around Baghdad.

Gary said Oglesby wanted to become a cop after he was discharged from the Army. During his last leave he looked into some of the local police academies.

He had the patience of Job and was a kind, serene person, which would have made him a good cop, Sheila said.

“We were hoping to meet him at the airport,” she said. “I guess we still will, but in a different way.”

Army Cpl. Wade J. Oglesby was killed in action on 4/18/07.

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