Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sean McDonald laid to rest

Quiet by turns, Sean K. McDonald took pleasure in making his fellow soldiers laugh with a well-placed pun, and he earned such a strong reputation for his way with numbers that platoon members turned to him for financial advice.

McDonald was buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Monday, two weeks after a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad. The 21-year-old Army specialist was born in Burnsville and raised in Apple Valley until middle school, when his parents divorced and he relocated with his mother to the Netherlands.

McDonald, who had dual citizenship, had told his family he planned to move back to Minnesota after his military service to be near his 26-year-old sister in Rosemount and extended family.

His enlistment would have ended in spring 2008, his family said.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, first lady Mary Pawlenty and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., attended a private memorial service with McDonald's family at White Funeral Home in Apple Valley.

The service was followed by a 21-gun salute at Fort Snelling, attended by dozens of his friends and family, and about 30 members of the 88th Regional Readiness Command, based at Fort Snelling. On bended knee, Brig. Gen. Mark O'Neill presented McDonald's mother, father and sister with folded American flags as a symbol of the soldier's service, and a military bugler played taps.

Wearing black motorcycle jackets and carrying American flags, 55 members of the allvolunteer Patriot Guard, a veteran's group, flanked both services.
McDonald was the 48th of 49 members of the military from Minnesota to die in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003. He was followed by Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Olsen, 20, of Eagan, who was fatally shot April 2 while on patrol in Anbar province.

McDonald was assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, in Wiesbaden, Germany. He was scheduled to complete his Baghdad tour in May, but he recently told his family it would likely be extended to September.
After completing high school in the Netherlands, where his father had met his mother while stationed with the U.S. Air Force, McDonald decided to enlist. But he identified with America more than with the Dutch.

"His mother wanted him to go into the army over there, but he said. 'No, I want to go into the army in the U.S.,' " said McDonald's grandfather, Ronald McDonald, of Balsam Lake, Wis.

In e-mail messages to the Pioneer Press, soldiers from McDonald's unit remembered him as an upbeat person who had little interest in the war in Iraq but a talent with numbers and a deep love for his fellow troops.

Staff Sgt. Joseph "Ringo" Ringenoldus was in McDonald's vehicle when the bomb detonated. "He always had a way to make everyone smile and laugh," wrote Ringenoldus, 25, of Berlin, Wis., who survived the blast without serious injury.

"Spc. McDonald was an outstanding soldier, a person full of ideas and a person who was not afraid to express his feelings or thoughts," wrote Staff Sgt. Miguel Rojas, McDonald's 33-year-old squad leader.

Pfc. Robert Banaszak, of Milwaukee, said McDonald was part of his foursome of friends and the two were as close as brothers. McDonald had told Banaszak to keep a good sense of humor and focus on the positive.

"He didn't really care much about this Iraq deployment (he was getting out of the army once we got back anyways) but his goal was to get all of us back home," Banaszak wrote. "We'll never be the same without Micky."

From the Press

Related Link:
Sean McDonald honored by comrades

Related Link:
Sean K. McDonald dies of injuries from I.E.D.