Wednesday, January 03, 2007

David E. Dietrich slain by sniper

U.S. Army Pvt. David Eugene Dietrich of Marysville beheld the ocean for the first time just this past September. He was 21.

“It’s like wrestling with the waves, but they win,” he exclaimed on Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach seashore, remembers his long-time motherly role model, Jean Raisner.

The young man she and her husband, Craig Raisner, had grown to love as a son died Dec. 29 while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq, after being in the Army less than seven months and in Iraq less than two months.

“He was pretty much part of our family,” Jean Raisner says of the self-determined young man, who didn’t allow his homelessness to bring him down.

Craig Raisner said Dietrich’s girlfriend received notification Saturday from the military of his death. Her mother then called to notify the Raisners.

“I was shocked,” he says.

His wife says she was angry. “Two weeks ago he was filling sand bags and he was safe” where he was stationed at Camp Ramadi with the F Troop 1st Cavalry BRT, she says, adding they kept in touch with him through e-mail.

Then they heard he was out on patrol. “We took some fire and sent some fire. I’m OK,” he e-mailed.

That’s the last the Raisners heard from him.

The Department of Defense has not yet released information about how Dietrich was killed.

Rough life

The Raisners want to use their memories to honor Dietrich, who would have turned 22 in two weeks.

“David didn’t have a family and we didn’t want to let it go by unnoticed,” they say.

Dietrich had a difficult life after being thrown out of his grandfather’s home in Marysville at age 14 and was left to raise himself, the Raisners say.

The Sentinel was not able to reach Dietrich’s local family members, including his mother, Rose Dillman of Camp Hill; his sister, Stacy Dietrich of Mt. Holly Springs, and his grandfather, Charles Dietrich of Marysville.

The Raisners say none of them have telephones and Dietrich himself could not reach them when he tried to let them know he was joining the Army.

For Dietrich, family became his foster families and friends like the Raisners, they say.

After being kicked out of his grandfather’s house, Dietrich went through several foster homes, including the Newville home of Ed Gamble and his family, until he reached age 18.

He had a good home in Newville and commuted to Susquenita High School, but he kept wanting to return to Marysville, the Raisners says.

So he returned and he lived with the Raisners for a time and also with their daughter and her husband in an upstairs apartment in their home.

He paid them $25 a month “to teach him responsibility,” Craig Raisner says.

Other times, Dietrich slept over at the home of a retired Marine, Charles Nelson, and other friends’ homes around Marysville, the Raisners say. For a while, he stayed at the Marysville Pentecostal Church of God.

“David came to us in a snow storm,” Jean Raisner says of the first time she met Dietrich. “He relied on friends — the Nelsons, us, Marysville Pentocostal....”

‘Another child’

For all the challenges Dietrich endured, “he shouldn’t have been as nice as a boy as he was,” the Raisners say.

He was in the Boy Scouts until age 18 and achieved the rank of Life Scout, with Craig raisner as one of his scoutmasters. Dietrich played on the Susquenita High School football team and became an active member of the Marysville Fire Company at age 14. He also regularly attended the Church of God in Marysville.

He graduated in 2004.

“He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke,” Jean Raisner says. “He was an amazingly good kid.”

Her husband says Dietrich “had a sense of humor” and was “very kindhearted, good natured. He would come off with sarcastic wit — he knew a lot more than he let on.”

After graduating, he attended Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster to learn collision repair.

Dietrich graduated July 20 from the U. S. Army training center at Fort Knox, Ky., as a member of Foxtrot Troop, Fifth Squadron, 15th Cavalry Regiment. He was sent to Germany for about a month, then through Kuwait and into downtown Baghdad, the Raisners say.

During his high school years, the Raisners remember, Dietrich would come to their home sometimes after not having eaten a meal for a day or more.

“He would buy popcorn from the dollar store for dinner.”

When asked if he was hungry, he would say, “Well, I don’t know.” Then she would give him food and he “would devour everything he could see” because he didn’t know when he would get to eat again.

Dietrich “would walk wherever he had to go,” she says. If he couldn’t get a ride from someone, he’d walk from Marysville all the way to Susquenita High for football practice and then walk back.

“Jean and I gave him support,” her husband says. “He was almost like another child.”

Thrived in structure

“I was so worried about him going to Iraq,” Jean Raisner says. But she remembers him saying, “Jean, my destiny is not to die in Iraq, my destiny is to die an old man in Marysville.”

“We were in favor of David being in the structure of the Army,” her husband says. “He thrived in that kind of environment — with structure, you could count on him.”

She says she was especially concerned because he enlisted as a “cavalry scout,” meaning he would go out in the front.

Dietrich was “proud he completed one of the hardest basic trainings you can do,” Her husband says, adding he also knew being a cavalry scout would enable him to receive an extra $10,000 from the Army.

“That’s a fortune for a homeless boy and he bit it,” Jean Raisner says, her voice cracking.

Memorable photos

The Raisners have been spending time looking at a collection of Boy Scout photographs, remembering Dietrich.

In one photo, he’s learning to raise a flag, in another, he’s in a horseback riding experience at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. In another, he’s in a Klondike Derby and another shows him on a canoe trip down the Susquehanna River.

The last photographs they have are from a going-away party Sept. 9 at Duke’s Riverside restaurant in Wormleysburg. He wore his military uniform, his eyes and face glowing with pride after having completed his basic training.

“He was very proud of being in the Army — when you see his picture, you can see his pride all over,” Raisner said looking at the photo.

In a written statement, the Raisners say: “David will be remembered by the Marysville community for his kind heart and good nature, and most importantly, for his ability to persevere in the face of adversity. We pray God has given him a home in heaven that he didn’t have here on earth.”

From the Sentinel

Remembered as friend

MARYSVILLE - Jamie Wolf's best friend, Army Pvt. David E. Dietrich, promised to be her "maid of honor" if she ever got married.

He said he'd even wear a pink tuxedo.

"When you have a man like that in your life as a friend, that's willing to do that, you know he's a great man," said Wolf, 22, of Marysville. "But unfortunately, he got out of it."

Dietrich, 21, of Marysville, died Friday when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq. He was a 2004 graduate of Susquenita High School.

Dietrich, who had been in Iraq less than two months, was a scout at Camp Ramadi with F Troop of the Army's 1st Cavalry Brigade.

His childhood pointed to someone who could have ended up on drugs or in prison instead of the military, said J. Craig Raisner, a Marysville Borough Council member and Boy Scout leader.

"David's is an inspiring story," Raisner said. "Where he lacked family support, he had the community behind him."

Abandoned by his parents at 10, Dietrich lived with his grandparents, Raisner said. At 14, he was placed in foster care.

Raisner said Dietrich was placed in good homes in and around Perry County but always returned to Marysville, where he lived with friends, including Raisner, and classmates.

Dietrich would leave each home after a few weeks when he felt he was imposing, though he never was, Raisner said.

After graduation, Dietrich lived for a time in his white Chevy Blazer parked in Marysville.

"Kids would say, 'Let's go over to David's and go for a ride,'" said Mary Ellen Kocher, whose children knew Dietrich well. "You just knew he was destined for more."

Annette McCord, 21, of Marysville, said Dietrich used his makeshift home to help her move furniture for her apartment.

"He was the kindest person I've ever known," McCord said. "He didn't have much, but if you needed something, he was there for you."

Before enlisting, Dietrich worked two jobs, at the Kmart in East Pennsboro Twp. and at the Wal-Mart in Silver Spring Twp. He also was a volunteer firefighter.

"We can all name stories about kids like David whose lives went very wrong," Raisner said. "There was something in him that knew to be a good, moral person. Something in him chose a different path."

Sara Griffie, 19, of Marysville, said she never heard Dietrich complain.

"You could tell from his e-mails that he was scared, but he was ready for whatever came at him," she said. His goal when he joined the military was to gain training for a career as a mechanic, she said.

Wolf said she is left with memories of the friend who liked the Backstreet Boys' music, hated horror movies and loved to talk all night.

"I'll miss talking to him the most," she said. "It's going to be difficult knowing that will never happen again."

From the Patriot News