Saturday, February 03, 2007

Michael C. Mettille dies from heart attack

A veteran National Guardsman, husband and father of four from West St. Paul died in Iraq Thursday, reportedly of natural causes.

First Sgt. Michael Charles Mettille died on his second tour in Iraq while stationed at Camp Adder, military officials said. Mettille served with the 134th Brigade Support Battalion of the Minnesota Army National Guard's 1st of the 34th Brigade Combat Team, known as the "Desert Bulls."

Military officials said his death remained under investigation, though it was "not caused by hostile action," according to a written news release.

A note sent home with students of Somerset Elementary school in Mendota Heights signed by principal Mary Bowman stated Mettille "did not die in combat; at this time the cause of death is thought to be a heart attack or aneurysm."

Mettille's third-grade son attends Somerset Elementary and fifth-grade daughter is at Heritage Middle School in West St. Paul.

Bowman said Mettille had presented Somerset Elementary with a flag that had flown over his base while he was serving in Bosnia.

His family declined to comment Friday.

Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, the Adjutant General of Minnesota, noted in a press release that Mettille "served with distinction in the Minnesota National Guard for more than 26 years."

"He was a role model for all Soldiers and will be sorely missed," Shellito added.

Mettille was an organizer of Operation Uplink, working with the Veterans of Foreign Wars to provide overseas soldiers with phone cards so they are able to call home.

Mettille also wrote for the battalion's newsletter, the Wolverine Times Gazette. His wife, Pam, is listed as a contact for the battalion's local "family readiness group," which provides stateside support for the soldiers while they are away.

In the July edition of the Gazette, Mettille explained to members of his battalion his take on a military maxim known as the Soldiers Creed.

"The Soldier Creed is our statement to each other, our promise to never compromise our commitment to our fellow soldier or the American way of life," Mettille wrote before repeating part of the creed: "I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit."

At that time, Mettille's Brooklyn Park-based A Company was conducting convoy escort missions, routine patrols, rescue operations for stranded convoy trucks and "quick reaction force" missions to respond to sudden threats.

Heritage principal Christopher Hiti said he met Mettille one time in the year since his daughter attended the school and was impressed with the man.

"He was a great guy, very dedicated to his country. I'm just deeply saddened; it's very difficult," Hiti said.

From the Pioneer Press