Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kevin Landeck laid to rest

The 3,093rd U.S. death in Iraq was not a number, but a name for the several hundred people who sat in St. Daniel the Prophet Catholic Church on Monday morning.

They were there to honor a young Wheaton native whose contribution to Operation Iraqi Freedom ended 11 days ago with the ultimate sacrifice - his life.

Kevin Landeck served in Iraq for six months as an infantry platoon leader. Last week, the 26-year-old was posthumously promoted from first lieutenant to captain after he was killed instantly in an IED explosion.

Two columns of flag-bearing Patriot Guard Riders lined the sidewalk as servicemen carried a flag-draped casket bearing Landeck's body out of the church, bound for a donated burial plot awaiting at St. Michael's Cemetery.

Attendees circled the Wheaton burial site, surrounded by the plumes of red, white and blue that fluttered in the wind, bringing color to the white snow that blanketed the graveyard. Landeck's young wife, Bethany, kept her eyes fixed on the casket before her as a lone trumpeter played taps and several soldiers fired shots.

She sobbed as the notes punctured the hushed winter air, but composed herself when Maj. Gen. Jerome Johnson handed her a folded flag and whispered his condolences. Johnson also handed a flag to Landeck's mother, Vicki.

Bethany had met Landeck when they were both students at Purdue University. Born in Wheaton, Landeck had attended Whittier Elementary, Edison Middle School and Wheaton Warrenville South. He graduated from Purdue in 2004, was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., and married Bethany last May.

While Bethany is still stationed at Fort Drum as a second lieutenant in the National Guard, Landeck was sent to Iraq six months ago for a year-long tour. Early on the morning of Feb. 2, he spoke with Rich, his father, and Jennifer, his sister, online, telling them how he looked forward to the time when he could return home.

Later that day, he was headed with two other soldiers to Baghdad from a small town south of the city where they were based. He was killed instantly when an IED exploded near the Humvee in which he was riding.

As he delivered the funeral's eulogy, the Rev. Thomas Sularz said Landeck became a "man for others" as he led his troops.

"Kevin took his responsibilities to heart and his primary objective was to bring his men back unharmed," Sularz said.

Johnson, a commanding general at the Army garrison at Rock Island Arsenal, recalled some phrases used to describe Landeck by those he commanded, including "angel on earth."

"His soldiers were put on a very, very tough mission of teaching the Iraqis how to live in a free country," Johnson said. "Kevin laid the way for that, he made it real for those young Iraqis."

From the Sun

Related Link:
Kevin Landeck remembered

Related Link:
Kevin C. Landeck dies of injuries from I.E.D.