Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Army Spc. Jakob J. Roelli

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Jakob J. Roelli, 24, of Darlington, Wis.

Spc Roelli was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Sept. 21, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

It wasn't enough for Jakob Roelli to join the Army, putting college and dreams of law school on hold. He wanted to be in the Special Forces, whose members undergo the most grueling training and carry out some of the most dangerous missions.

"When Jake decided to join the Army, he fully embraced all aspects of what it meant to be a soldier," said his former girlfriend, Amy Siegenthaler, a UW-Madison senior. "His summer before basic training, you could find him running around Darlington in his Army boots and a backpack full of rocks or bricks.

"When he found out his scores were high enough for him to be in Special Forces, he was beyond happy. He wanted to be right in the middle of all the action. He was a fearless man who would take on any challenge."

Earlier this week, that dream ended when the 24-year-old Army specialist was killed in Afghanistan. His father and brother traveled Thursday to Dover Air Force Base to bring Roelli's remains home to Wisconsin. An Army spokeswoman said details of his death were not yet being released.

Jakob Roelli grew up on a farm outside of Darlington and graduated from Darlington High School in 2006. He played football, ran cross country, wrestled, was on the forensics team, acted in school plays and musicals, including Beauty and the Beast and The Sting, and enjoyed pastimes including sliding down the moss-covered dam at Ludden Lake in Mineral Point.

"He was a young man who was not afraid to try new things," Principal Doug McArthur

Family members were notified Wednesday that Army Spc. Jakob Roelli of Darlington, died while serving in Afghanistan. His father, Richard Roelli, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his 24-year-old son was “the best of the best” and was in the Army Special Forces for two years.

His uncle, Greg Roelli, said his nephew was a “fine young man” who was always there to lend a hand to his acquaintances.

His aunt, Kathy Roelli, said he grew up on a farm, graduated from Darlington High School in 2006 and attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh before joining the military. She said he was active in his Baptist church.

The Roelli family traveled Thursday to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive his remains.

Darlington had not lost a resident in combat since the Vietnam War. His name is expected to be added to a new veterans memorial the town hopes to install by 2013.

“We've been very fortunate to avoid some of that grief but it fell on us yesterday,” Darlington High School Principal Doug McArthur told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Roelli was remembered at his school as someone who would try just about anything. He played football two years and was active in theater.

McArthur said Roelli sang and danced in “Beauty and the Beast” and starred in “The Sting,” acting the part played by Paul Newman in the film.

“He was a good singer, good actor, just a fun-loving kid,” McArthur said. “Obviously a person that wasn't afraid to try something new.”

The principal said Roelli studied business and pre-law at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh but joined the Army after a year of college.

“I believe his desire was to move up in ranking in the military and I heard he asked to be deployed to Afghanistan with the special forces,” McArthur said.

Army Spc. Jakob J. Roelli was killed in action on 9/21/11.

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