Army Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV, 27, of Cottage Grove, Minn.
Spc. Wilcox was assigned to the 34th Military Police Company, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, Stillwater, Minn.; died July 16, 2009 in Basra, Iraq, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using indirect fire. Also killed were Spc. James D. Wertish and Spc. Daniel P. Drevnick.
Minnesota mourns guardsmen killed in Iraq
The Associated Press
STILLWATER, Minn. — Condolences poured in from across the state Saturday after three soldiers with the Minnesota National Guard were killed in Iraq.
The Pentagon on Saturday confirmed the slain soldiers were 22-year-old Spc. Daniel P. Drevnick, of Woodbury; 20-year-old Spc. James D. Wertish, of Olivia; and 27-year-old Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV, of Cottage Grove.
All three were assigned to Stillwater-based 34th Military Police Company, 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division.
“We mourn the loss of these three soldiers,” said Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, the Minnesota National Guard’s adjutant general, in a statement. “They were truly part of our National Guard family.”
The soldiers were killed Thursday evening when insurgents attacked their Basra position with mortars, rockets and artillery.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a statement Saturday that she was “deeply saddened” by the soldiers’ deaths.
“They made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, and for that we are forever grateful,” she said.
Funeral details were not immediately provided. But an organization that supports military families and troops returning from duty planned a silent vigil to honor the three soldiers and their families.
The Yellow Ribbon Network of Washington County said the vigil, to be held Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Stillwater Veterans Memorial, would also honor all deployed service members and their families.
Iraqi authorities said Saturday that they arrested a member of an Iranian-backed militia suspected in an attack that killed three U.S. soldiers in southern Iraq. It wasn’t immediately clear whether those three soldiers were the Minnesota guardsmen.
Maj. Gen. Adil Daham, chief of the Basra provincial police, said the militiaman confessed early Saturday to the attack on a U.S. base near the airport. The rocket attack was a rare assault on troops in the comparatively quiet south, the U.S. military said.
The last time three Minnesota soldiers were killed on the same day in Iraq was Feb. 21, 2005, when three National Guard troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.
Wilcox, who wanted to become a doctor, had been on his first deployment to Iraq since May, his mother told The Associated Press on Friday.
“He was a very proud young man, just very proud to serve his country,” said Charlene Wilcox.
Carlos Wilcox grew up in Minnesota and graduated from Tartan High School in Oakdale, his mother said. He studied at Arizona State University and in Granada, Spain. He then returned to Minnesota and graduated from Metropolitan State University with a biology degree.
Drevnick had hoped to become a state trooper, said his father, who recently retired from the Minnesota State Patrol.
Ken Drevnick remembered his son’s work ethic in the way he was restoring his muscle car after graduating from Woodbury High School. Dan Drevnick worked two jobs while attending school full time to help pay for the car.
“That’s what type of person he was,” his father said. “To get someplace, he knew he had to make it happen.”
Rev. George Schmit, the Wertish family’s pastor, told the West Central Tribune of Willmar that David and Kim Wertish were in mourning. Their son joined the Guard before graduating from Bold High School in 2007, Schmit said.
The pastor told the newspaper that James Wertish was a “friendly young man” who helped on the family farm. He enjoyed riding snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles in his spare time, Schmit said.
State Rep. Phil Sterner, DFL-Rosemount, where the Red Bull division has its headquarters, said in a statement that the three guardsmen “exemplify the best of our state and of public service.”
Medical school was in his future
The Associated Press
Carlos Wilcox had his sights on medicine. He earned a biology degree from Metro State University, returning to Minnesota after spending time studying at Arizona State University and in Granada, Spain.
Even when deployed to Iraq, he found time to study while helping his comrades as a health care specialist.
“He wanted to become a doctor,” said his mother, Charlene Wilcox. “I had just sent him books to study for the MCAT [entrance exam] so he could apply for medical school.”
Wilcox, 27, of Collage Grove, Minn., died July 16 along side two other Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers during an insurgent attack in Iraq. His mother said Wilcox was on his first deployment and had been in Iraq since May. His unit was based in Stillwater, Minn.
Comrades said they had fun joking around with Wilcox but were always a bit amazed by how professional and astute he was while deployed.
“Wilcox always took care of us,” one of his fellow soldiers said. “If anyone was hurting or had a medical issue, he took care of it.”
Wilcox grew up in Minnesota and graduated from Tartan High School in Oakdale. He enlisted in the National Guard in 2006, after a short break from service with the Army Reserve.
He is survived by his mother.
“He was a very proud young man, just very proud to serve his country,” she said.
Army Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV was killed in action on 7/16/09.