Monday, April 14, 2008

Marine Lance Cpl. Dean D. Opicka

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Dean D. Opicka, 29, of Waukesha, Wis.

LCpl Opicka was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Milwaukee; died April 14, 2008 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq. Also killed was Cpl. Richard J. Nelson.

2 Marines killed, 1 wounded in Iraq bombing
The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Two Wisconsin Marines were killed and a third wounded in Iraq on Monday. All three belonged to Milwaukee-based Fox Company.

Staff Sgt. Cliff Turley, public affairs officer for the Marine Reserve unit, said a single roadside bomb killed 23-year-old Cpl. Richard Nelson of Kenosha and 29-year-old Lance Cpl. Dean Opicka, a Casco native and graduate of Carroll College in Waukesha. The Pentagon listed Opicka’s address as Waukesha.

Turley said the explosion also wounded 21-year-old Lance Cpl. David Doyle of Racine, but Doyle was expected to stay in Iraq and return to duty.

The deaths were the first during Fox Company’s second tour in Iraq. Five members were killed during a deployment in 2004-2005.

Nelson’s mother, Susan Nelson, said she was informed that her son was killed by an improvised bomb in Anbar province, and military officials offered no other details.

He was the second youngest of her seven children, she said. Survivors include five brothers and a sister.

He served in Iraq before but had gotten married a year ago Monday and wasn’t looking forward to going back for this tour, his mother said.

“He knew what was waiting for him there,” she said.

Nelson loved to hunt and fish and watch Green Bay Packer games, she said. He idolized Packers quarterback Brett Favre and even called home the day Favre retired last month.

“He told me, ‘Mom, tell me the news isn’t true. Tell me Brett Favre hasn’t retired.’ He wanted to hold onto the memories he left.”

He and his wife, Kristen, planned to start their own family when he got home, Susan Nelson said. He also planned to go to college and become an elementary school teacher.

“He just loved kids,” she said.

The last time they’d seen him in person was Christmas, when the whole family was together, she said. Her husband, Lennie, a Vietnam veteran, was taking the news of his son’s death “terrible,” she said.

But she wasn’t angry with President Bush, insisting Bush doesn’t want to see men die and the public doesn’t have all the information about what’s going on in Iraq.

“When you send a child off to war ... things happen,” she said. “Nothing goes by God without him giving permission. I believe something good is going to come from it. I don’t know what that is yet, but my husband and I have faith. I’ll understand it someday, just not now.”

Opicka graduated from Luxemburg-Casco High School in 1997 and is the third graduate of the school to die in the Iraq war. He played quarterback for the football team and point guard for the basketball team.

At Carroll College, he played baseball and graduated in May 2002 with a double major in psychology and history, said college spokeswoman Claire Beglinger.

He later returned to Carroll, completing a teaching certification in spring of 2005, and taught in the Milwaukee area before being deployed to Iraq.

Steve Okoniewski, principal at Luxemburg-Casco, said he met with Opicka before his deployment and the two discussed the possibility of his teaching at his old high school.

“He got called up and knew he wouldn’t be back until August,” Okoniewski said. “I would have loved to have had him back. Then his dad told me that he wouldn’t be back until November.”

Eighty-eight members of the military from Wisconsin have died in the Iraq war.

Marine Lance Cpl. Dean D. Opicka remembered
The Associated Press

Dean D. Opicka was “the most organized packrat — ever,” according to his brother Darren.

He was “so meticulous that he sent himself letters from Iraq with receipts in them and he kept these organized forever. I don’t understand how he did it, but he did,” he said.

“I know when Dean finally made it to heaven and he met God, he continued exactly where left off. When God got to him, he said, ‘Dean, here’s your receipt.’”

Opicka, 29, of Waukesha, Wis., was killed April 14 during combat in Anbar province. He was assigned to Milwaukee.

He graduated from Carroll College in 2002 with a double major in psychology and history. He was a teacher at a Milwaukee-area charter school, working with agencies assisting those with disabilities.

Opicka was a three-sport athlete — some of his baseball records still stand — and he performed in school musicals. He was a senior class representative and had a 3.8 grade-point average.

“He was involved in a ton of stuff,” said his former principal, Steve Okoniewski. “He was just a likable kid.”

He was engaged to be married to Katy Bonkoski in June 2009.

Marine Lance Cpl. Dean D. Opicka was killed in action on 4/14/08.

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