Tuesday, June 05, 2007

David Kuehl laid to rest

Army Staff Sgt. David Kuehl was remembered on a rain-soaked day as a man who could brighten the days of his family, and his fellow soldiers.

"He touched literally thousands of lives," Maj. Gen. Timothy McHale said Saturday at Kuehl's funeral in the National Guard armory. "And people were better for knowing David."

Kuehl, 27, was killed May 22 when a roadside bomb detonated near his unit in Taji, Iraq. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a Stryker Brigade Combat Team based in Fort Lewis, Wash. He was only three weeks into his second tour of duty in Iraq, which was scheduled to last 15 months.

His wife, Amy, his parents and two daughters live in Wahpeton.

"He talked about you a lot over in Iraq," McHale told the family. "He truly loved his family."

The 90-minute funeral on Saturday included a half-hour video tribute to Kuehl, which showed family pictures accompanied by country-western music. The tribute closed with the words, "Forever in our hearts. We miss you David."

Red, white and blue ribbons with Kuehl's picture were handed out to those who attended the service. It was standing-room only inside the armory, and outside the building the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group held flags in the pouring rain. At one point in the service, the Rev. Mark Manning prayed for the rain to stop.

McHale said Kuehl's fellow soldiers described him as a calm, confident, positive and upbeat person. He said one of Kuehl's favorite sayings was, "I've got to take care of the boys."

During a cold night on one training mission, McHale said, Kuehl wrapped himself around a fellow soldier to keep him warm. The soldier "didn't like that much at first," McHale said, drawing laughs, but he said it showed what Kuehl would do to help his squad.

Kuehl liked fishing and Copenhagen chewing tobacco, McHale said, eliciting more chuckles from the audience.

Gov. John Hoeven said Kuehl's "whole life was about service."

"David put himself in harm's way and gave his life for something larger than himself," the governor said in remarks during the service.

Kuehl was the 16th person with strong North Dakota ties to be reported killed while on duty in Iraq. Four others have died in Afghanistan.

Kuehl's impact to the community was evidenced by "a great cloud of witnesses as David Kuehl came home from his journey," Manning said.

Kuehl's body arrived back in North Dakota on Thursday night and was brought by police escort from Fargo to Wahpeton. Residents lined the streets and waved signs and flags.

Military officials presented Kuehl's family with the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal. A private burial service was held Saturday afternoon.

Kuehl's family plans to travel to Fort Lewis in the coming week for a memorial service.

"To David, we say, 'Rest in peace, soldier, your job is done,'" Hoeven said.

From the Bellingham Herald

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David Kuehl remembered by family

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David C. Kuehl dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit'