Saturday, June 02, 2007

David Behrle laid to rest

TIPTON -- Shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday, afternoon traffic in nearly every direction here came to a standstill as a procession of motorcyclists brandishing American flags and motor vehicles drove through town en route to the Tipton Middle School where they would pay their final respects to one of their own.

An hour later, nearly 1,200 people filed into the gym at the school to say farewell to Spc. David Behrle, 20, of Tipton, who died May 19 while serving in Iraq.

Temperatures and emotions were running high inside the school as friends, family and members of the community wiped sweat from their brow and tears from their eyes during the service.

Of those in attendance, some knew Behrle as a student and an athlete. Others knew him as a friend and a soldier. But everyone in the audience, no matter what connection they had to the 2005 Tipton High School graduate, recounted Behrle's penchant for hard work, dedication and his sly, infectious smile.

He was "someone who always had that smile on his face, who was about to do something he wasn't supposed to do," but never did, said Dick Grimoskas, Behrle's former principal at Tipton Elementary School and current superintendent for Tipton Community School District.

Behrle was killed during combat operations when an explosive device detonated next to the vehicle he was operating. Behrle enlisted in the Army in June 2005 and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. He was deployed to Iraq in October 2006.

Officiating over the services, the Rev. Eugene Benda of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Mechanicsville recalled Behrle's love of fishing and hunting and his Cadillac CTS. But mostly, Benda said Behrle will be remembered for his character and the sacrifice he made for his country.

"David Behrle was a special friend to so many," Benda said. "A very loyal and protective friend.

"Above all, David is a hero, a real hero, giving his life for the love of his country."

And although many 20-year-olds' lives are marked with indecision, Benda noted that Behrle never faltered in his decision to join the Army and was confident with his place in the service.

"While most young people are searching for a place in this world," Benda said, "God found a place for David in Heaven."

Although the mood was somber throughout the services, Behrle's former first-grade teacher Lori Foley still succeeded in bringing a smile to the faces of everyone in attendance as she told stories of the sly, yet respectful and disciplined boy she had in her classroom many years ago.

"David was a good boy," Foley said. "He was a good boy who wanted to please his teacher and do what he was told. He was disciplined and always did what he was told, an early sign of a good soldier."

He also had a sense of humor, she said, recalling a time during show and tell when Behrle forgot it was his turn, and despite having nothing to show, stood up proudly in front of his classmates and teacher, proclaimed he could sound like a parrot and proceeded to imitate the bird.

"I laughed so hard it brought tears to my eyes," Foley said. "I'm sure that many of you have stories to tell about David."

Behrle's eighth-grade social studies teacher and high school football coach, Mike Wehde, recounted how his student and athlete seemed to learn life's lessons at a young age.

"He had figured out the secret to success was hard work and dedication," Wehde said, "and he wasn't afraid of either one. He took pride in the things he accomplished both on and off the field."

Wehde and Grimoskas announced during the ceremony that Behrle's football number would be retired during a football game in the upcoming season. Also to be retired is the number worn by Aaron Sissel, another Tipton High School graduate who died in November 2003 from a rocket-propelled grenade in a fight with Iraqi insurgents.

Chad Rezac, Behrle's high school baseball coach and teacher, said he remembered Behrle as a student, athlete and friend, describing him as a "blue-collar worker" and someone dedicated to his team.

"He was someone you could count on," Rezac said.

Rezac could barely hold back his tears as he recounted for the audience the last time he spoke with Behrle, when the soldier was home in March.

"I want to remember the last conversation he had on March 27," Rezac said. "How he told me, this was it, 'I'll be home in nine to 11 months.' I just said, 'Come home safe.' Little did I know a higher power would be calling him home."

Finally, Vietnam veteran and journalist Bob Konrardy, who went to Iraq to document the lives of the soldiers to send photos, videos and articles home to their families recalled how another Iowan, with "the biggest grin I ever saw," made him feel at home in Iraq.

"Dave made me feel safe," Konrardy said, "being a fellow Iowan and Hawkeye fan."

Although most of those in attendance kept their emotions in check, many no longer contained their tears as the lights dimmed for a slideshow of photos of Behrle while "Proud to be an American" sounded over the gym's speakers. Despite the music, audible sounds of mourning could be heard through the gym as many expressed their emotions in the privacy of the darkness.

Following the services, Behrle was buried at Woodbridge Cemetery in Tipton. A David Behrle Memorial Fund has been established.

From the Press Citizen

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