Monday, November 05, 2007

Army Pfc. Adam J. Muller

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Adam J. Muller, 21, of Underhill, Vt.

Pfc. Muller was assigned to the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Nov. 5, 2007 in Tal Al-Dahab, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Carletta S. Davis, Staff Sgt. John D. Linde and Sgt. Derek T. Stenroos.

Burlington Free Press -- RICHMOND -- A 21-year-old soldier from the Jonesville section of Richmond was killed Monday during a roadside bomb attack near Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

The death of Pfc. Adam J. Muller, one of six servicemen who died in Iraq on Monday, pushed the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq for the year to 853, making 2007 the deadliest year for the United States in Iraq. The previous high was 850 in 2004.

"He was always glad to serve his country," Michelle Muller, his wife of 11 months, said as she sobbed during an interview at her parents' Jonesville home Tuesday. "If he could make one little kid say, 'Remember when the Army was here andhow good they were to us?' He wanted to show that we're not all out for money." Army officials said Muller, a gunner, and three other soldiers were killed when the Humvee they were riding in was destroyed by an improvised explosive device on a road near Kirkuk. The Humvee was at the back end of a convoy of military vehicles when the explosion occurred.

Muller, a 2004 graduate of Mount Mansfield Union High School, joined the Army last year and had only been in Iraq for two months. He is the 32nd person with ties to Vermont to die in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since March 2003 and the first since April.

Muller's family was informed of his death late Monday afternoon when they were visited by a Vermont National Guard member and a chaplain. Muller's father, James Muller, was assembling a "care package" for his son when he learned what had happened.

Neither of Muller's parents, who are divorced, made themselves available for an interview Tuesday. Susan Wells, speaking on behalf of Muller's mother, Katherine Muller, said the family was taking the news hard.

"He was trained to do security work and two weeks before he went over, they told him he was going to be deployed as a gunner," Wells said of Adam Muller. "His mother is quite angry about that."

Michelle Muller, however, said her husband was also trained to be a gunner and did not object to his assignment. Being a gunner, which involves riding on patrols through hostile areas, is regarded as one of the riskier assignments for a soldier.

"I'm mad because he's gone, but I'm not mad at anybody," she said. "I know that he doesn't blame anybody. Nobody forced him to join. Nobody lied to him about the risk involved."

Michael Muller, who is married to James Muller, said her stepson accepted his assignment and viewed it as "paying his dues" so he could some day attain the rank of MP, or military policeman, the position his father held when he was in the military.

"It was a tougher position than he had hoped for," Michael Muller said of Adam Muller's gunner assignment. "But he wanted very much to join the military."

As news of Muller's death spread through Richmond on Tuesday, flags were lowered to half mast staff and people recalled a young man who nearly everyone called a "sweet guy."

"Everybody liked him," said Michelle Hall, working the counter at the Richmond Corner Market. "His mom was in here this morning buying coffee. She'd been up all night crying. I couldn't believe it was him. It shouldn't happen to anybody, but especially him."

Hall, 22, of Jericho said she attended Mount Mansfield Union High School with Muller and that he used to sit right in front of her in a history class. "He was very funny," she said. "Nothing you could say about him could be bad."

Conor Leland, 15, lived several doors down Blue Rock Road, a rustic dirt road in Jonesville where Muller grew up. His older brother, Caleb, was a close friend of Muller's. Conor Muller Leland said despite the age difference Muller always stuck up for him during neighborhood snowball fights.

"He was my hero," Conor Leland said. "He was always there, always someone I looked up to."

Jennifer Botzojorns, principal at Mount Mansfield Union, said although most of the students who knew Muller have graduated, his death is still being keenly felt at school because Muller's mother-in-law, Danielle Nelson, works in the kitchen at the high school.

"You wrap your arms around each other, love each other and move forward," Botzojorns said. "Our whole faculty's and staff's hearts go out to the family. It's just so sad to lose such a wonderful, vibrant young man."

Botzojorns said when Muller was a senior, he decided on a whim to join the school's chorale group because he wanted to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody," the signature hit by the rock group Queen. She said in memory of Muller, the chorale group will stage an encore performance of the song at an upcoming the spring concert and dedicate it to Muller.

Michelle Muller, 20, described her husband as someone who always looked out for her and his friends, generously sharing the snacks she sent him, always asking her how she was doing, always willing to tell her he loved her, though she said his Army buddies ribbed him for it.

"He always knew what to say to me to make me feel better," she said.

She said they played on the same soccer team as first-graders and rode the same school bus. Their first date was to the Mount Mansfield Union High cabaret when she was in 10th grade, he in 11th. They were together ever since and weregot married last Nov. 18.

She said the last time they spoke was Sunday. During the conversation about their upcoming anniversary and what to get family members for Christmas, Muller told her he was about to go out on a 10-day road trip.

She said it occurred to her at the time that a road trip was more dangerous than staying on the base.

"I prayed for him more," she said. "I just told him to be careful. He always says 'I promise I will.'"

Army Pfc. Adam J. Muller was killed in action on 11/05/07.

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