Sunday, July 13, 2008

Army Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Mo.

Cpl. Zwilling was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy; died of wounds sustained when his outpost was attacked by small-arms fire and rocket propelled grenades from enemy forces in Wanat, Afghanistan, on July 13, 2008. Also killed were 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey and Pfc. Sergio S. Abad.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- O'FALLON, MO. — When Army Spc. Gunnar Zwilling phoned his father from a war zone in Afghanistan last week to describe his next mission, the 20-year-old soldier feared it might be his last.

"He said, 'Dad, I don't want to go because I know it's going to be a bloodbath. But I'll go because that's my job,'" said Kurt Zwilling, 53, of O'Fallon. "He knew there was going to be an ambush."

The soldier serving in the 173rd Airborne Brigade was among nine American soldiers killed and 15 wounded Sunday in an attack on an American outpost in eastern Afghanistan, relatives said Tuesday.

The attack was along the Pakistan border at a remote base in the Kunar Province in northeastern Afghanistan. More than 100 militants showered the base with machine gun fire, rocket propelled grenades and mortar shells.

Kurt Zwilling said his son told him his company had received orders to build a new base for a fresh crop of replacement soldiers heading to the region to replace the airborne unit. Zwilling was scheduled to return home to his base in Italy in about a week, his father said.

Zwilling enlisted in the Army after graduating from Hazelwood West High School in 2005. He grew up in Huntington Beach, Calif., and lived in Nashville, Tenn., for several years before moving to Florissant. He was not married. His mother died in November of

respiratory failure, and his father is in remission from throat cancer.

"He was a dedicated military man," said his aunt, Lisa Zwilling, 47, of O'Fallon. "He loved every minute of it."

She described him as a "wild man" who loved to play the guitar. She said her nephew decided to join the military for the opportunity to serve the nation and travel the world.

"He wanted to be free," she said. "He wanted to serve our country. He thought it was the right thing to do."

Zwilling had planned to make a career in the military, but changed his mind after fatally shooting a 16-year-old boy who ignored orders to stop at a military checkpoint in Afghanistan, his father said.

"He had enough killing," Kurt Zwilling said. "That changed his outlook on re-enlisting."

Zwilling instead decided to apply to a commercial pilot school in Florida, his father said.

Funeral arrangements were pending Tuesday. Zwilling's brother Alex, 22, who serves in the Air Force, is returning from Iraq to escort his brother's body home for burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

Kurt Zwilling said the grief over the loss of his son is "absolutely unimaginable."

"I prayed every day while he was gone for God to take me instead of him, but that didn't happen," he said. "I have two sons. One is gone, and now I have to bury him."

Army Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling was killed in action on 7/13/08.


Lori said...

RIP Gunnar.

Rob, said...

Your a hero Gunnar, Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice. You will not be forgotten ! God Bless You...

Jessica said...

Our hearts and prayers are still with you and your family. I know the pain never really goes away, I am so sorry for your loss.