Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Katie Soenksen remembered at memorials

The first time he saw her, dancing at a nightclub, Ben Rowella knew he had to meet Katie Soenksen.

She reminded him of actress Jessica Biel.

And, oh, that smile.

“In my 30 years, I’ve been all over the world, seen lots of places, met lots of people,” Rowella said. “There was just something that hit me when I saw her.”

Rowella proposed to her that night. They married two weeks later, on June 23.

Soenksen, 19 and a private first class in the Army, was deployed to Iraq six days after that. Rowella, 30, and a specialist in the Army, was deployed for his second tour in Iraq during October.

They worked in the same area of the country, Rowella said. He last saw her April 30.

Then, on May 2, he heard her battle roster number called out on his radio, followed by an order for a MedEvac.

“I knew something was wrong,” he said today.

Soenksen died that day of injuries resulting from a roadside bomb explosion in west Baghdad. She is the 11th female member of the U.S. military under the age of 20 to die in Iraq.

Tonight, Rowella stood in the auditorium at Davenport North High School, greeting hundreds of people he had never met before, people who came to offer their sympathy.

He stood next to Katie’s parents, Ron and Mary Ann Soenksen, her sister, her brother and a host of other family members.

Outside the auditorium stood Tim McCoy.

He and his wife, Chris, came from Lansing, Mich., to honor Pfc. Soenksen.

Roadside bomb

Tim McCoy’s son was a member of the same military police company as Katie Soenksen.

Staff Sgt. Greg McCoy was 26 years old when he and another soldier were killed by a roadside bomb in November.

Soenksen was in a truck right behind him.

“She was there for my son’s service in Iraq,” Tim McCoy said. “We made the trip to honor her for my son. Something pulled me here. Maybe my son was pushing me here.”

McCoy stood outside the visitation, holding a large American flag for most of the afternoon. He was one of about two dozen fellow Patriot Guard Riders who stood guard.

The Riders escorted Staff Sgt. McCoy’s remains to his final resting place on their motorcycles. They will do the same today for Pfc. Soenksen.

The last time Soenksen came home, in February, she brought a video of McCoy’s memorial service in Iraq, a recording the McCoys have not seen.

Soenksen’s mom still has the video, the McCoys learned at the visitation Wednesday.

Memorial in Iraq

The memorial for Soenksen in Iraq was held Tuesday.

Pfc. James Alaimo was there. He was one of her friends in Iraq.

She was a joker, he said.

She used to set his leg hairs on fire with a lighter. She helped him party with water on his 21st birthday. Soldiers are not allowed to consume alcohol in Iraq.

“I know she’d kick me in the butt if she knew how sad I am right now, but I can’t help it,” Alaimo wrote in an e-mail. “It’s like she’s taken a piece of my heart with her, but it’s okay, ’cause mine is so much bigger for knowing her.”

Glancing sporadically at the pictures of Katie’s childhood flashing on a screen on the auditorium stage at Davenport North, Ben Rowella talked about how he enlisted in the Marines for four years.

He then spent four years managing a Taco Bell. Late at night, after closing time, he would go to eat at a café and watch the war in Iraq rage on CNN. He decided to join the Army.

Rowella will return to Fort Hood after he buries his wife today. He plans to return to Iraq eventually. His unit’s stay has been extended to January 2008.

“It’s my job. It’s my career,” he said.

Then, before going outside to take a break from the crowd, he said he will never marry again.

“She was that one special person everyone needs in their life.”

From the Quad City Times

Related Link:
Katie M. Soenksen dies of injuries from I.E.D.