Sunday, April 08, 2007

Shane Becker remembered

A Helena Valley man remembered his oldest son Friday as a patriot, a proud father, and a good soldier who believed he was making Iraq a better place and America safer for his daughters.

"Shane was the kind of kid every father dreams of having," said Joe Becker, speaking of his oldest son, who was killed Tuesday in Iraq. "He grew up to be a fine young man."

Staff Sgt. Shane Becker, a soldier with the Army's 25th Infantry Division, was killed by small arms fire near Baghdad on April 3.

He had just returned to Iraq after a brief visit with his family in Alaska, where he witnessed the birth of his new daughter, Cheyenna.

Shane, who joined the service out of Helena in the early 1990s, was on his second combat tour in Iraq. His commendations included the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, among others.

Mr. Becker described the family's military heritage. Shane's grandfather served in Montana's 163rd Infantry Regiment in World War II. His grandmother, who was also at the house Friday, served in the Coast Guard.

Mr. Becker himself fought in Vietnam, and his brother served in the Air Force. Mr. Becker flies the American flag off his front porch and keeps a scrapbook recounting his tour in Vietnam.

Despite the family's participation in past American wars, Shane was the first Becker to fall in the line of duty.

"We come from a family that firmly belives in protecting the U.S. and what it stands for," Mr. Becker said. "Shane believed in what he was doing. He loved his country and he felt he was doing the job he was meant to do."

"He believed he was making his country safer for his girls," added Gina Becker, Shane's grandmother. "I never thought this would happen. It's still unreal to me."

Mr. Becker, who spread photos of his family upon the kitchen table, said his son, joined by his wife Crystal and his 7-year-old daughter Sierra, drove from Texas to Alaska in October 2005. On the way to Shane's new duty station at Fort Richardson, they stopped in Helena to visit.

"I was hoping he'd stay long enough to go hunting with us," Mr. Becker said. "I treasured our visit. He stayed longer than he planned."

That week at the family's home in the Pleasant Valley Subdivision, Shane joked with his brothers Christopher and Adam. Christopher lives in Missoula and Adam is a student at the Helena College of Technology. His sister, Nicole, was also there. She attends college at the University of Montana.

"They sat at this table looking at old pictures and laughing their heads off while smoking cigars," said Jean Becker, Shane's stepmom. "He said they were doing a lot of good over there."

Shane, who graduated high school in Colorado, is the fourth soldier who called Helena home to die in Iraq. Capt. Michael McKinnon was killed on Oct. 27, 2005; Cpl. Phillip Baucus on July 29, 2006; and Sgt. Scott Dykman on Dec. 20, 2006.

Shane's wife called Mr. Becker on Tuesday to tell him that his son had been killed in combat. She said she didn't want strangers breaking the news to him. When two Army casualty notification officers knocked on his door, he knew what they had come to say.

"I already knew why there were here," Mr. Becker said. "They said he died a hero. They had lots of understanding and compassion. I wouldn't wish their job on anyone. My son was a really good man."

From the Independent Record

Related Link:
Shane R. Becker killed by small arms fire