Thursday, April 26, 2007

Kenneth E. Locker dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his location'

OMAHA - A 28-year-old Burwell man died Monday in Iraq, possibly in the same attack that killed a Hastings man, family members said Wednesday.

Ken Locker Sr. of Burwell said members of the Nebraska National Guard came to his workplace in Norfolk Tuesday to tell him his son, Sgt. Ken Locker Jr., was killed in an attack.

Locker was a soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division, the same division 26-year-old 1st Lt. Kevin Gaspers served with. Gaspers' family was told Tuesday that he was killed Monday in a suicide bombing.

Ken Locker Sr. said he had worried about his son since he heard news of a deadly suicide truck bombing Monday that killed nine soldiers, the single deadliest attack for the 82nd Airborne Division in nearly 40 years.

“I've had the feeling over the last week that something drastic was going to happen,” Locker said Wednesday. “Three days in a row, I've had really bad feelings.”

Military officials have not yet confirmed either soldier's death. Both families said they could not confirm whether the two were among the nine soldiers killed in that attack.

Both were stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C., before they were deployed to Iraq last August.

Locker graduated from Burwell High School in 1997, enlisting in the Army while he was still in high school, his father said.

“I was rather happy, because his grades were low until he enlisted in the Army, and then his grades shot up,” Ken Locker Sr. said.

Locker spent three years in the Army, then more than two years with the National Guard before re-enlisting in the Army, his father said.

The soldier was back in January to visit, and asked his father if he knew why he was serving.

“He said, ‘Dad, do you know why I'm over there?”' Ken Locker Sr. said. “‘I'm over there for the children, that they might have a safer world to live in.”'

Ken Locker Sr. described his son as an outdoorsman who loved hunting, fishing and his family.

Locker's mother died in 1999, and a half sister died in 2005. He was divorced, and had three young sons, one with his ex-wife and two with a Lincoln woman, his father said. He also is survived by two sisters, a half sister and a half brother.

Locker was injured in Iraq last fall by a land mine, his father said, and was awarded a Purple Heart. The soldier had two or three pieces of shrapnel in his neck, and his hearing was damaged in the attack. He was transferred to desk duty for a month, his father said.

“I wish they would have left him out for the whole tour,” Ken Locker Sr. said.

From the Columbus Telegram