Friday, November 05, 2010

Army Spc. Blake D. Whipple

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Blake D. Whipple, 21, of Williamsville, N.Y.

Spc. Whipple was assigned to 7th Engineer Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Nov. 5, 2010 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

AMHERST, NY (WKBW) -- 21 year old specialist Blake Whipple of Amherst...died Friday in Afghanistan. Whipple was a combat engineer assigned to the 7th Engineering Battalion based at Fort Drum in upstate New York.

Sean Whipple, Blake's brother, says that the army has told them little about his brothers death. "As far as we know...all they have told us really is that it was an IED. The blast went off...he was rushed to a hospital. Shortly after that, he died in route. Other members of his unit were there as well. From what we know they have suffered concussions essentially...but, have all been returned to either active or limited duty."

This was his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. "He deployed last May. He was home for about a two week period in September for his 21st birthday actually." Sean Whipple stated.

Sean Whipple says that his brother had an infectious personality. "He was kind of a trouble maker, but he could light up a room like you wouldn't believe. My dad always said that if you put him in a room with one hundred an hour he would have 99 good friends."

Family members say that Blake Whipple was proud to serve in the military. His brother wants people to understand how deeply Blake was committed to his fellow soldiers. "He formed a brotherhood with his soldiers. When he was home, he said that he was anxious to get back...Not because he necessarily wanted to be there...but, because when you leave...your brothers in the military have to pick up your slack. He didn't want anyone else picking up his slack."

Whipple was a 2007 graduate of Williamsville East High School.

His father, David Whipple, told” 2 On Your Side” reporters that his son was home on leave back in September, just one day after his birthday.

"He was anxious to get back because, as he explained it, someone else has to pick up the slack, and I need to get back because those guys are picking up my slack right now."

Whenever he got the chance, Army Spc. Blake D. Whipple would use the Internet device known as Skype to talk to his parents in Amherst about his war experiences in Afghanistan. He tried not to upset them, but his parents knew their 21-year-old son was a combat engineer who spent much of his time clearing the roads of improvised explosive devices, also known as IEDs.

It was just such a device -- a roadside bomb planted by insurgents -- that killed Whipple on Friday.

"We knew Blake had a very dangerous job [but] he always kind of downplayed the danger, probably because he didn't want us to worry," the soldier's father, David Whipple, told The Buffalo News Saturday night. "We were a little worried about something he said during his last Skype conversation with us on Tuesday."

His father said Blake usually tried to stay bright and cheerful during chats with the parents, but at one point on

Tuesday, he said: "It's getting a little dicey around here."

"Basically, he told us that there was a lot more activity in the area with IEDs," David Whipple said. "Blake was a very brave young man. ... His job was to clear IEDs away from roads, and an IED is what killed him."

Friday afternoon, an Army chaplain and two uniformed soldiers arrived to tell David Whipple and his wife, Kimberly, that their son was dead.

Family members were still trying to come to grips with their loss Saturday. They were also preparing to travel to Dover, Del., today to pick up Blake's body.

His father said Blake had spent time as a student at St. Bonaventure University, Erie Community College and Buffalo State College before joining the Army early last year.

The news that he was joining the military came as a surprise, the family said.

"He came home one day and suddenly told us, 'I'm going to talk to a recruiter, and I think I'm going to join the military,'" the father said. "He wanted to do something more immediate in his life, and wanted to help his country.

"It would not have been our first choice for what we wanted him to do, but it was his choice, and we supported our son. From the look in his eye, I could tell he was dead serious about doing this."

Blake Whipple shipped out to Afghanistan in May. When his mother asked him how he felt about going there, "Blake just looked at her and said, 'It's my job,'" David Whipple recalled.

He said his family had been told that he was out on a patrol with five other soldiers when the IED blast occurred. The other five survived.

David Whipple said his son was born in Detroit, and that the family moved to Amherst in 1995 because of an employment opportunity for him. They moved to Baltimore in 2000, and back to Buffalo in 2006.

Considered fun-loving and with a great sense of humor, Blake enjoyed playing baseball, football, hockey and video games. He also loved rock music and especially enjoyed having his own rock show on St. Bonaventure's student-run radio station during his one semester there, his father said.

His parents are thankful that Blake was able to come home for a two-week visit from Afghanistan in September.

"He was really happy to spend time with us and reconnect with old friends," David Whipple said.

In addition to his parents, the soldier is survived by two older brothers, Sean Whipple and Brian Clyburn.

His father said Army officials have been "tremendously compassionate and attentive" to the family in the past two days.

And the family was overwhelmed on Saturday with all the reporters who wanted to talk to them about their son.

"At first, I didn't know if I wanted to talk with the media," said David Whipple, a soft-spoken man who repeatedly fought back tears as he talked. "But then I thought, I want people to know about our heroic young son, a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

"I want people to know we are very proud of our son."

Army Spc. Blake D. Whipple was killed in action on 11/05/10.

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