Thursday, April 26, 2007

Kevin J. Gaspers dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his location'

Three weeks ago, Kevin Gaspers touched base with college buddy Karl Ingram over dinner at the Steak House in Lincoln.

On Tuesday, at the end of first period at St. Cecilia High School in Hastings, Mass was dedicated to Gaspers' memory.

Gaspers, who grew up in Hastings and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln two years ago, died Monday in Iraq at the age of 26.

Although the Army had not yet released details of his death, Gaspers apparently was one of nine 82nd Airborne Division soldiers killed by a suicide bomber northeast of Baghdad.

He was “a great, great guy,” said a shaken Ingram, who was a freshman when he met Gaspers, a student leader in the ROTC program.

“We stayed in touch, and we were catching back up. If someone ever needed help, he'd drop everything to help.”

Ingram, an ROTC student who hails from the Panhandle community of Harrisburg and is majoring in history, said Gaspers was a model in his life.

“Just a super kid,” said Betty Hunt, who taught Gaspers at St. Cecilia.

“One of my prayers every night was for Kevin. He was a wonderful kid who was doing what he wanted to do. I'm just devastated.”

Ryan Brand, his high school math teacher and wrestling coach, said he thought immediately of Gaspers when he heard nine soldiers had been killed.

“I wondered if he was back over there,” Brand said.

Just two weeks ago, Gaspers had been in Hastings on leave from Iraq.

Gaspers, who played football and wrestled at St. Cecilia, was described by Principal Marie Butler as a good student.

“We enjoyed having him here,” she said, “and I looked forward to having him come back.”

Gaspers majored in accounting at UNL and graduated in May 2005. At the same time, he was commissioned as an Army lieutenant through the ROTC program.

“I didn't get to see him when he was here a couple weeks ago,” Hunt said. “I'm glad he got to come home to see his family.”

His parents, John and Pam Gaspers, live in Hastings along with his sister Audrey, 15, a freshman at St. Cecilia. Another sister, Katie, 23, lives in Omaha.

Brand said Gaspers helped him start a wrestling program at St. Cecilia.

“The great thing about him was he had no wrestling experience, but he was the hardest-working kid out there and a great team leader.”

Gaspers was a linebacker on the football team and “a solid B student” in Brand's math class.

Hunt, now retired, taught Gaspers in business and accounting classes.

When Gaspers was a student at UNL, she said, he took time to visit her at Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center when she was recovering from back surgery four years ago.

“That was something special,” she said.

From the Columbus Telegram