Monday, May 28, 2007

Army 1st Lt. Keith N. Heidtman

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Keith N. Heidtman, 24, of Norwich, Conn.

1st Lt. Heidtman was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died May 28, 2007 in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, of wounds sustained when his OH-58D Kiowa helicopter crashed after receiving heavy enemy fire during combat operations. Also killed was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Theodore U. Church.

Norwich soldier dies in helicopter crash in Iraq
The Associated Press

NORWICH, Conn. — A helicopter crash in Iraq on Memorial Day claimed the life of a Norwich soldier, the governor’s office said May 29.

Army 1st Lt. Keith Heidtman, 24, was the 37th military member with Connecticut ties to die since the war began in 2002. Two Connecticut civilians have also been killed. Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered all state and U.S. flags lowered to half staff in Heidtman’s honor.

“Lt. Heidtman made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us, and he did so to protect the freedom that we so often take for granted,” Rell said in a statement. “To have given his life on Memorial Day is especially poignant.”

Heidtman was one of 10 U.S. soldiers who died in roadside bombings and the helicopter crash May 28, the military reported, making May the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq.

The American deaths raised the number of U.S. forces killed this month to at least 112, according to an Associated Press count assembled from U.S. military statements.

Eight of the soldiers were from Task Force Lightning — six killed when explosions hit near their vehicles and two in a helicopter crash. The military did not say if the helicopter was shot down or had mechanical problems.

Heidtman was a 2001 graduate of Norwich Free Academy and a graduate of the University of Connecticut.

His parents were notified May 29. He was the son of Kerry Heidtman and Maureen Robidoux. His stepfather is Art Robidoux. A phone message from The Associated Press was left at his family’s home.

“If you had to pick your son, this is who you would pick. He was handsome, he was bright,” Kerry Heidtman told The Day of New London.

Heidtman arrived in Iraq in December and was scheduled to come home for leave in July.

“We’re sending our finest, and we’re losing them,” Kerry Heidtman said.

Protesters a no-show at soldier’s funeral
The Associated Press

NORWICH, Conn. — Protesters who had threatened to disrupt the funeral of a Norwich soldier killed in Iraq were a no-show June 8.

Army 1st Lt. Keith Heidtman died May 28 when his helicopter was shot down. His funeral was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“In his 24 years, Keith accomplished more, gave more, made a greater impact on our world, than most do in many decades of life,” Connecticut Army National Guard State Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kevin P. Cavanaugh said at the church. “Keith made a difference.”

A solemn ceremony at his grave featured a rifle salute, a flyover by two Connecticut National Guard Blackhawk helicopters and a flag-bearing tribute by dozens of supporters.

The threat of protests by a Kansas group called Westboro Baptist Church prompted legislators and Gov. M. Jodi Rell to work together this week to fast-track a bill limiting such demonstrations.

The same group from Kansas protested at an East Lyme military funeral last December. The group held signs that read “Thank God for IEDs” — improvised explosive devices — and “God is America’s Terror.” They claim that the deaths of American soldiers are punishment from God for the country’s tolerance of homosexuals.

Legislators passed the bill this week before the legislative session ended. Rell signed it June 6.

The Legislature had already passed a similar bill earlier in the session, but the law wouldn’t have taken effect until Oct. 1.

The legislation bars anyone from willfully making or assisting in making a noise or diversion that’s not part of any funeral, or intending to disturb the peace at any funeral, within the property line of a cemetery or house of worship, or within 150 feet of the intersection of the boundary and a roadway.

Though there were no Westboro protesters at the funeral, a group called the Patriot Guard Riders, members of the Waterford High School Drama Club and several other groups were on hand to support the troops.

John Coffindaffer, president of the Sikorsky Veterans Association, came from Oxford.

“We’re just here to offer our support for the lieutenant and his family,” said Coffindaffer, a retired Air Force helicopter pilot.

Heidtman was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Rell and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney were among the dignitaries who attended.

Army 1st Lt. Keith N. Heidtman was killed in action on 5/28/07.

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