Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Llythaniele Fender laid to rest

ONAWA, Iowa -- The town known for having the widest Main Street in America showed a wide patriotic streak Thursday, honoring one of its own as funeral services were held for Cpl. Llythaniele Fender, 21.

Fender, the son of Ellen and Tom Fender, died June 10 in Karbula, Iraq, from wounds suffered from a vehicle-based improvised explosive device. The 2004 West Monona High School graduate deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom four months ago.

Fender is the first Monona County soldier to be killed in action in the current war, the 15th from Siouxland.

Seventy members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcycle riders, escorted Fender's remains from Pearson Funeral Home to West Monona High School, where the funeral service was held. Five cyclists preceded the hearse, riding in formation to symbolize the lost soldier, as the funeral procession left the high school and made its way through town toward Onawa Cemetery.

"Anytime it happens, it's too bad," said Herold Meyer of Onawa, a veteran who served with the U.S. Army during peacetime. "The whole situation is unfortunate."

A school official said Fender attended West Monona for two of his four years in high school, splitting time between here and Colorado. One of his local teachers remembered him as a quiet student.

"I was his government teacher my first year here," said Jeremy Brayden, who worked with football players on the high school track Thursday morning. "Llythaniele was a quiet kid, very well mannered. He was very well put together in the way he carried himself.

"He didn't seem like the type who would actually go into the military, but looking back on it in hindsight, it fits him very well, actually, that he would go and do for others what they may or may not be able to do," Brayden added.

Other friends declined to comment about Fender, saying they wanted to honor the bereaved family's wishes for privacy.

On Iowa Avenue, staff members poured out from such workplaces as the Monona County Courthouse, Hardware Hank and the Onawa Cafe before the funeral procession moved by. Dora Miller, a longtime server at the Onawa Cafe, cleared the eatery, asking customers to pay their respects by lining the street and waving flags shortly before 2 p.m.

"We need to do this," said Miller, whose family cafe displays photos of her three grandchildren currently serving with various military branches. One grandson, Jensen Miller, served a tour in Iraq and has re-enlisted. His photo stands beside a candle that reads, "Freedom ... the last, best hope on earth."

Residents along the street waved and nodded to passengers in vehicles as the procession moved past, many wiping tears as a thunderstorm brought needed moisture to the area. Semis hauling grain into town pulled to the highway shoulder as the caravan turned south and headed toward a giant U.S. flag suspended by ladder trucks from fire departments in Onawa and Denison, Iowa. The flag greeted mourners entering Onawa Cemetery.

Life returned to its small-town summer norm following the military rites. A boy raked a baseball diamond at Liberty Park while children jumped from the diving boards at the Onawa Aquatic Center. Fred Wunder, a retired newspaper publisher and U.S. Air Force veteran, opened the Monona County Veterans Memorial Museum for a visitor from Shelby County.

Wunder examined the Killed In Action monument in the center of the museum, the only one of its kind in Iowa. A gun supporting a soldier's helmet tops the monument, as do a U.S. flag and several red roses.

Names of fallen soldiers from the county are listed by war. It shows eight died in World War I; 88 perished in World War II; seven were killed in Korea and 10 died in action in Vietnam. Space will now be dedicated for this war and its local casualty.

Under one rose atop the monument was a magazine with a cover story titled "Fallen in Iraq."

In the adjacent room, Wunder found a roster assembled by his son William Wunder. It shows the names of 112 Monona County men and women who have served or are serving in the current War on Terror. One name this day was highlighted: Llythaniele Fender.

Fred Wunder found the name and paused, seeing symbols for the Purple Heart and the Gold Star next to the listing for Fender.

"William has updated the list," he said.

From the Sioux City Journal

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