Wednesday, May 23, 2007

David W. Behrle dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

TIPTON, Iowa — Memorial Day will have special meaning as the Tipton community begins to celebrate the life and dreams of Army Spc. David Behrle.

Visitation for the fallen soldier will be 3-7 p.m. Monday and funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, both at the Tipton Middle School gymnasium, 725 W. 7th St., Tipton. He will be buried in Woodbridge Cemetery, Tipton, after military graveside rites.

Behrle, 20, of Tipton, died Saturday after an improvised explosive device blew up right next to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was operating during a combat patrol near Baghdad. Five other members of his platoon, nicknamed “The Big Top,” also died in the explosion.

Behrle, called “Berr” by friends, joined the Army after his 2005 high school graduation, was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and deployed to Iraq in mid-October 2006. The infantryman was part of the 1st Platoon of Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

“Being in the Army was a dream of David’s that he knew he had to pursue. He enlisted before graduation, knowing full well he would be doing a tour in Iraq,” Behrle’s family wrote in a public statement released Wednesday.

“David was never one to back down from something that he believed in, even though he knew he might be giving the ultimate sacrifice. He was proud to take a stand and serve his country alongside his fellow comrades.

“He is ‘The Man,’ and our hero,” the family said.

Behrle’s family includes his parents, Dixie and Dennis Pelzer and Johnnie Behrle, all of Tipton; sisters Jill Chambliss of Tipton and Kellie Behrle of West Branch; brother Jonathan Behrle of Homestead; stepbrothers Anthony and Andrew Pelzer of Iowa City; and stepsister Adelena Pelzer of Chicago; and grandparents Kenneth and Twyla Jedlicka, Martha Behrle, and Richard and Theresa Pelzer, all of Tipton.

Memorials are designated to go to the bleacher repair fund at the Tipton schools.

Behrle befriended others when he was in high school — especially some of the more vulnerable students — and his influence changed lives.

Classmate Megan Wilmoth Kellerhals, 20, graduated this month from Arizona State University and launched her own business, a staffing agency in Phoenix.

Seven years ago, Kellerhals was a lonely, 300-pound foster child with a new home in Tipton.

“I had been hit by a truck the year before and was in wheelchair,” she said. “I was a real misfit by the time I got to Tipton, but he befriended me and stood up for me.”

Behrle would comfort Kellerhals when she was teased and tell the other kids to back off. He even helped her to become more physically fit by jogging with her after school.

“I’d tag along with him, and he’d say, ‘Push yourself, get moving,’ ” she said.

“His laid-back attitude and drama-free friendship were life lessons I took as an adult,” she said.

Kellerhals has lost 160 pounds, is married and has a 1-year-old son.

Danielle Conaway Gaeta, 20, of Forks, Wash., was going through a difficult family time when she transferred to Tipton as a high school sophomore.

“He was right there for me with a shoulder to cry on,” Gaeta recalled of the boy she had met in woodworking class. She described Behrle as trustworthy and kind.

Gaeta went on to graduate from Kirkwood Community College, marry into the military and now lives on the Northwest Peninsula with her husband, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Kellerhals and Gaeta had been in touch with Behrle recently by e-mail and his MySpace page on the Web. Both sent him messages to “stay safe,” as did dozens of his other friends.

“He’d e-mail me asking how things were going, and I’d usually get right back to him,” Kellerhals said, but last week was different.

“Last week I e-mailed him to say, ‘I’m sorry I missed you, I just got really busy.’ And then, I never heard back from him,” she said.

From the Quad City Times