Thursday, June 14, 2007

Llythaniele Fender dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'

The war in Iraq has brought more tears to Iowa.

An Army soldier from Onawa who was remembered for his magnetic personality was killed Sunday in a roadside bombing in Karbala, Iraq.

Cpl. Llythaniele Fender, 21, had enlisted in the Army several months after graduating from West Monona High School in 2004.

He was assigned to Battery B of the 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, which is based at Fort Lewis, Wash. He had been living in Medical Lake, Wash., before his unit left for Iraq in February.

Before the Fender family moved to Onawa in 2002, Llythaniele and a younger sister attended Julesburg High School in Julesburg, Colo.

The shock of his death resonated throughout the northeastern Colorado city of 1,500 people, with residents remembering Fender as a practical joker who occasionally engaged in good-natured bickering with his sister, said Fender's former Julesburg principal and superintendent, Shawn Ehnes.

"The community was deeply saddened; there's a lot of sorrow," Ehnes said. "Teachers and students alike took it very hard to know such a fine young person like himself had sacrificed his life."

Fender is the 57th person with ties to Iowa to die in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the second soldier from Fort Lewis with Iowa ties to die in Iraq. In March 2005, Staff Sgt. Donald Griffith Jr., 29, of Mechanicsville was killed in Tal Afar, Iraq.

Fender died Sunday from the wounds he suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated along a road, the military reported. Two other members of his unit, Spc. Adam Herold, 23, of Omaha, and Cpl. Meresebang Ngiraked, 21, of Koror, Palau, also died in the attack.

Fender's mother, Ellen, said in a statement released by Fort Lewis, "He was a wonderful son and brother with a huge heart who served his country with great pride, and we send our hearts out to the men and women who have served and are serving this great country, both stateside and overseas."

Harold Groves, an industrial technology teacher and athletic director at West Monona High School, said, "He was really a quiet kid. He kept to himself."

Shannon Paseka graduated with Fender in 2004, and said their "familyish" class of 40 was slowly passing word of Fender's death.

"He was never a negative person," Paseka said.

Fender would offer encouragement to fellow students in art class, Paseka said, especially on difficult murals, and was always willing to lend a hand when it was time to clean up.

In Julesburg, Fender was known and respected, Ehnes said.

"Everyone I've talked to has a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for the young people that have that kind of courage to go over there and do that, and I guess nobody was surprised that he would be involved in that," Ehnes said.

Ehnes paused and added, "Anytime you have a person that great as a kid, you can only imagine as an adult on a battlefield that he was doing great things."

Karen Shultz of Onawa, a family friend, said Fender's parents asked her and other family friends to refrain from commenting about him until the parents return to Onawa from Washington state, where they now live.

Shultz said the funeral will be held in Onawa at a time to be determined.

Fender's parents posted this statement on their son's MySpace page: "To anyone who knew Llythaniele, he was killed in Iraq on June 10, 2007. It's a sad day for anyone who knew him. He had so much heart! He will be missed by his family and friends. To his fellow soldiers serving in Iraq and afar, we love you all and support you. To quote him 'Rock on to the end!' We are so proud of you, our son."

Spc. Matthew Weyant left this remembrance on Fender's MySpace page:

"What can I say, you were more than a fellow soldier to me, and more than a friend, you were my brother. I was always thinking about you since the last time I saw you in Kuwait. Now I will think of you for the rest of my life. I will miss you more than words can say."

And Patricia, a classmate from Onawa, wrote: "We will miss you so much here. ... You have done a great thing serving for our country, and growing up across the street from you was awesome. ... You will be missed by so many!"

From the Des Moines Register