Thursday, May 31, 2007

Joseph M. Weiglein dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during a dismounted patrol'

AUDUBON - In his last e-mail to best friend Mike Nolan, Staff Sgt. Joseph Michael Weiglein assured his friend that things were calming down in Iraq.

Weiglein, in Iraq since August, was stationed somewhere near an airport in Bagdad, where he and his unit had taken over a warehouse and made it into a barracks.

The e-mail came May 26. Three days later, Weiglein was killed, Nolan said.

Now, the close-knit community of Audubon is mourning the loss of one of its own.

Weiglein, 31, was killed Tuesday in Ilbu Falris, Iraq, by an improvised explosive device while on patrol, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. A second soldier, from Honolulu, was also killed.

Weiglein was with the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

Reached at home, in Audubon, Weiglein's mother said she was too upset to talk. Nolan said news of his friend's death is just sinking in for the family and that his wife was on her way to New Jersey to be with his parents and two sisters.

Teachers and administrators in the Audubon School District remember Weiglein as a well-like student who was responsible and respectful to others.

Weiglein was a 1994 graduate of Audubon High School. His mother was a long-time school board member, serving from 1981-1989.

"He was also very fun to be around," said Borden, who was his history teacher at Audubon High School. "He was the boy next door. He surely will be missed."

Haviland Elementary School, which Weiglein attended, adopted him last year at Nolan's suggestion. Mike Nolan's mother, Joan, is a secretary at the school.

Weiglein's unit received letters and a box of Tastycakes, beef jerky, Christmas ornaments, cards, etc., from the Haviland students.

"He makes what's going on in Iraq a much more personal thing," said Haviland principal Carleene Slowik.

In January, Weiglein visited the school while on leave, meeting the children and answering their questions.

Weiglein did not leave until every last question was answered, the principal said.

Slowik, who talked to Weiglein recently, said that he felt bad that the men had not been able to write to her students lately, but said they had been on assignment and unable to e-mail.

Slowik sent home a letter to her students' parents on Tuesday, notifying them of Weiglein's death and providing advice on helping their children grieve.

Haviland is planning a tribute in Weiglein's memory but is waiting for word from his wife as to what she would type of tribute she would like.

Mike Nolan said he and Weiglein have been friends since they were 2 years old, when the Weiglein family moved in across the street from his home.

They have been best friends ever since.

As kids, the two swam, played soccer and were members of the high school golf team. They were always together no matter what activity they were involved in, Nolan said..

When they graduated from high school, Nolan said they chose different paths: Nolan went off to college and Weiglein joined the military.

Weiglein was working as a military recruiter in Tennessee when he decided he was needed more on the battlefields than sitting behind a desk, Nolan said.

"He made a choice to be in Iraq," Nolan said.

Weiglein had been married for 4“ years. He and his wife, Jennifer, had no children, Nolan said.

Weiglein was a die-hard Eagles fan and when he came home for a three-week leave in January, Nolan, Weiglein and his wife attended the Eagles-Giants playoff game.

Nolan said they kept in touch mainly through e-mail, communicating three to four times a week when Weiglein was stateside.

In their last e-mail, Nolan expressed concern for his best friend's safety.

"He was a great friend and a great soldier," Nolan said. "He touched so many people's lives."

From the Courier Post