Thursday, March 18, 2010

Army Spc. Robert M. Rieckhoff

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Robert M. Rieckhoff, 26, of Kenosha, Wis.

Spc Rieckhoff was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.
, died March 18, 2010 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenade fire.

A soldier from Kenosha, Wisconsin was killed in Iraq last week.

The Department of Defense confirmed Monday that Army Spc. Robert M. Rieckhoff, 26, died March 18th of wounds he suffered after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the watchtower where he was on duty in Baghdad.

Rieckhoff was a assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) of Fort Drum, NY.

Bubba Rieckhoff's family told The Associated Press he graduated from Tremper High School in 2002 and has completed three previous tours of duty in Kuwait and Iraq.

KENOSHA, Wis. -- Department of Defense agents said a rocket propelled grenade struck a watch tower while Spc. Robert Rieckhoff, 26, was on guard duty.

12 News spoke with the family members about Robert Rieckhoff and their loss.

To his family, he'll always be Bubba, the kid who played in the kitchen while his grandma cooked supper, the young man who sidestepped trouble by joining the military.

"You couldn't ask for a better man," said his stepfather, Roland Garwood. "He could make you laugh, no matter what."

But Saturday, there were only tears as the family gathered in the kitchen where U.S. Army Spc. Robert Rieckhoff once played.

His grandmother, Judith Nelsen, offered a visitor a cup of coffee. She sat at the kitchen table and smiled at the memory of her grandson playing in the kitchen, all those years ago.

"I'd be cooking supper and he would be getting into the cupboards," she said. "He'd play with all my canned goods. He could never do wrong in my eyes."

"He wanted people to be proud of him," said his mother, Barbara Garwood. "His friends were getting in trouble. He didn't want that."

While in the Reserves, he worked at a Pizza Hut in Kenosha. But he wanted something more, and saw the military as a career, his mother said.

"He was very responsible, very mature," she said. "He thought of everyone else."

In January, "Bubba" Rieckhoff came home on leave from Iraq and "showed everyone a good time," his mother said. "He was never able to do that before."

He gave gifts to his extended family, including his nieces, Alexis and Jasmine Sartorius, and took everyone out for dinners.

"I couldn't ask for a better son," Barbara Garwood said. "He listened."

Two days before his death, Rieckhoff told his family he had just purchased an automobile via the Internet, a 2008 Dodge Charger. He wanted to make sure a car was waiting for him near a military base in Fort Drum, N.Y., when his current tour in Iraq ended.

"He was strong as an ox," said Anderson, his uncle. "He shouldn't be dead. He should be around."

Robert Rieckhoff would have turned 27 on June 6.

"He is going to be home on his birthday now," his uncle said.

The family is now planning a funeral.

Rieckhoff's grandmother, Judy Nelson, said that Spc. Rieckhoff got her a snowman figurine for Christmas that she's going to keep out at all times to treasure his memory.

"He said, 'Grandma, all these years, I never could buy a lot of gifts, but now I can,'" Nelsen said. "He was an absolute sweetheart. He is the best kid and I'm so proud of him."

Nelsen said she helped raise Bubba Rieckhoff with her son, Bruce Anderson. "We took him everywhere. Everywhere we went, the kids were with us. They were always a part of our lives," Anderson said.

Spc. Rieckhoff served two tours of duty in Iraq and one tour in Kuwait.

Nelsen said she always worried for his safety, so she asked him to e-mail her daily so she knew he was alright. She said she knew something was wrong Thursday because she didn't hear from him.

"I don't care if you say hello, goodbye, whatever, just get on it that way I know you are OK. Then when they came to the door and I said, 'Please tell me that you want a donation,' and then I saw the cross on the chaplain," Nelsen said.

The family said its finding comfort knowing he died doing something he believed and in their memories of the man they loved.

"I made sure every time I saw him I said how proud I was of him; how proud of the man he'd become and how much I loved him," Anderson said.
Rieckhoff is survived by a son and daughter who live in Tennessee with their mother.

Reckhoff recently re-enlisted as part of Battery Bravo Second Battalion of the 15th Field Artillery Unit out of New York. He began talking about joining the military in high school, said his mother, Barbara Garwood of Kenosha.

MILWAUKEE (AP) ― A Kenosha soldier was killed in Iraq after a rocket-propelled grenade hit the watchtower where he was on guard duty, the soldier's family said Saturday.

"They told us it happened at 9:11 (a.m.) local time," his grandmother, Judith Nelsen, told The Associated Press. "Of all the times, it was 9:11."

He began talking about joining the military in high school, said his mother, Barbara Garwood of Kenosha.

"I told him whatever he decided, I was behind him 100 percent," she said.

Rieckhoff graduated from Tremper High School in 2002 and served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Kuwait.

He knew how much his family worried so he e-mailed them almost every day to let them know he was safe, his grandmother said. The morning he died, Nelsen asked Garwood whether she checked for an e-mail that day.

"She said she'd check as soon as she finished her coffee," Nelsen said. "Before she finished, there was the military at the back door."

Nelsen paused, then added, "She didn't get the e-mail that day."

Robert Rieckhoff wasn't rich, but he was more interesting in spending his military salary on his family than on himself, his mother said. One of the last gifts he gave her was an expensive Christmas tree, she said.

"Another time he took me to a local casino," Garwood said, chuckling softly. "He said he learned his lesson, that he's never going to do that again."

His grandmother said she cherishes a costly decoration he gave her, a snowman that plays music.

"I cried and his mother cried," she said, her voice cracking. "He said, 'God, guys, it's just a snowman.' I said, 'Robert, this costs too much.' He said, 'Grandma, these are the things I always wanted to buy for you, but I never had the money.' That's the kind of person he was. He'd give you the shirt off his back, the last dollar to his name."

It was hard not to worry about him, even with his regular e-mails, his family said. When he decided to re-enlist it was because he wanted to make sure his kids had health benefits and access to good education, Nelsen said, but he still called his relatives to get their opinions.

"He called and said, 'What do you think?'" his grandmother said. "I said, 'Son, do whatever you want to do.' He said, 'I want you to be proud.' We said, 'We are proud, pal, we couldn't be more proud.'"

Spc. Rieckhoff died one day before the seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He was the 92nd Wisconsin resident to die in the conflict, according to an AP count. Twelve others have died in Afghanistan since 2004.

His grandmother said Americans shouldn't be dying over there, and the U.S. should bring its troops home now.

"If they (Iraqis) want to fight, let them fight amongst themselves," Nelsen said. "Our boys go over there and lose their lives. I think they should bring those boys home. All of them."

"He has two beautiful children who'll be without a father now." Roland Garwood told station WTMJ-TV.

Spc. Rieckhoff is survived by his two children - Tyler 8, and Katrina 4, of Tennessee, his mom and step dad Barbara and Roland Garwood of AZ, his grand parents who helped raise him Greg and Judy Nelson of Wisconsin, sisters Sheila Sartorius of Tennessee, Kaszaray Rieckhoff of Iowa, Jolene Garwood of Kenosha and Cathy Garwood of Kenosha and brothers Roland Garwood III of Kentucky and Bobby Garwood of Tennessee.

Army Spc. Robert M. Rieckhoff was killed in action on 3/18/10.

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