Saturday, January 29, 2011

Army Spc. Shawn A. Muhr

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Shawn A. Muhr, 26, of Coon Rapids, Iowa

Spc. Muhr was assigned to the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Jan. 29, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Spc. Joshua R. Campbell.

COON RAPIDS — The awful news itself came last weekend. The media, TV, print and radio, arrived Monday at the Coon Rapids home of David Muhr, a Purple-Hearted Vietnam War veteran who just lost a son in Afghanistan.

David Muhr should have been celebrating his birthday Monday. He turned 63. But he was mourning a son, sitting at a kitchen table on Fifth Avenue in Coon Rapids, fielding call after call, listening to the good intentions and condolences from well-wishers and answering the same questions, over and over, from reporters.

No words, he despaired, could change the cold truth.

“We found out Saturday evening at 6:30,” said Shawn’s brother Aaron Muhr, 37, a Coon Rapids resident who works in the wood shop at Pella Corp. in Carroll.

A day before, at David Muhr’s Coon Rapids house, a digital photo rotator displayed on a coffee table broke, eerily locking in on a photo of Shawn Muhr taken after he completed his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. It’s still there, that photo, with a younger Muhr, an Army-chiseled physique apparent, staring out into the living room at his family and gathered visitors.

“We are a really close-knit family,” Aaron Muhr said. “We are all binding together with open arms and open hearts.”

Nicknamed “Ox” for a physical strength at which his siblings and high school coaches marveled, Shawn Muhr had been in the Army since 2004, having followed a family tradition of service in the military.

“Our whole family, every member, has served in the military,” Aaron Muhr said. “He was there to serve his country and help out. He loved to help out other people.”

Aaron is a former National Guardsman. Shawn’s grandfathers — Russell Boston and William Muhr, both of the Coon Rapids area — served in World War II. His uncles Mike Willenborg of Carroll and William Muhr of Coon Rapids were in the Reserves. An aunt, Christine Mickels, now living in Delaware, served in the Air Force, and another uncle, James Boston of Coon Rapids, was in the Army.

David Muhr still has shrapnel in his body from a grenade in Vietnam. Some of its in his heel. Some more in his feet. The 1966 Kuemper Catholic High School graduate has owned Coon Rapids Repair for 29 years. The business deals with engines of many sizes, from the ones that power cars and trucks to those in lawnmowers.

Shawn Muhr loved that business, Aaron said.

And he was mechanically inclined — which got him into some fantastically amusing trouble with law enforcement in his early teen years.

Shawn Muhr may be the only person in Coon Rapids history to get a speeding ticket on a lawnmower — for doing somewhere around 35 mph in a 25 zone, joked his brother.

“He had gotten a hold of a lawnmower and souped up the engine,” Aaron Muhr said.

As entertaining as that is, Aaron quickly moved to another anecdote. He remembers his brother carrying a dishwasher across a yard to a pickup, single-handedly.

“He wasn’t afraid to show off his strength,” Aaron said. “That was like nothing for him.”

Muhr’s first nickname was “Pugz,” said his sister, Erica Muhr-Burris who lives in Scranton and works at Anderson Shoe Store in Carroll.

Shawn and Erica exchanged voice-mails on Jan. 12, the day he left Coon Rapids to return to service.

“Hey, I love you, goodbye, can’t wait for you to come back home,” Erica told her brother.

They couldn’t part in person, she said.

“We’re so close we can’t say ‘goodbye’ to each other,” Erica said. “That’s always been a routine. That’s what we did.”

Shawn Muhr was a 2003 graduate of Coon Rapids-Bayard High School, where he was known as a top-notch wrestler and a football player. He placed sixth in his weight class in the 2003 Iowa State High School wrestling tournament and he held a school record for recording 30 pins in one wrestling season. He joined the Army six years ago after spending about a year-and-a-half working in a meat packing plant in Council Bluffs.

Word of the Iowa soldier's death spread quickly through this western Iowa community of 1,300 over the weekend after military casualty representatives visited the Muhr home about 6 p.m. Saturday. News of the soldier's death was announced at Sunday worship services here.

The U.S. Army has not officially confirmed Muhr’s death, but word spread quickly through this western Iowa community of 1,300 people after military casualty officials visited the Muhr home at about 6 p.m. Saturday. News of the soldier’s death was announced at worship services here on Sunday.

“He had found his niche in the military. He was really happy about being in the military and serving his country,” said Bill Orlano, a guidance counselor at Coon Rapids-Bayard High School.

Family members recalled Muhr today as a warm, friendly young man who was generous to a fault. He had returned home on leave from Afghanistan just after Christmas and returned to the combat zone on Jan. 12.

Muhr’s sister, Erica Muhr-Burris, of Scranton, who is 30, described the fallen soldier as “My biggest little brother….He was the happiest kid you will ever meet. He was my protector.”

The Muhr family has a tradition of military service; David Muhr is a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War who is a leader of the American Legion post here, and his brother, Aaron, served in the Iowa National Guard.

Army Spc. Shawn A. Muhr was killed in action on 1/29/11.

No comments: