Sunday, June 10, 2007

Shawn D. Gajdos dies 'of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by insurgents using improvised explosive devices and small arms fire'

It was determination that got Shawn Gajdos into the military. It was fate that put him on the street in Baghdad this week.

And now, the heartbreak of war has hit another West Michigan family.

Pfc. Shawn Gajdos died Wednesday on patrol in Baghdad when a roadside bomb detonated and a small arms firefight followed. It's unclear if the bomb or the follow-up ambush by insurgents killed Gajdos.

"He knew where he would be," said his sister, Tammy DenBoer. "He knew there was a war."

She said her brother's lifelong dream was to wear a US military uniform.

"He tried a couple of times. They had rejected him for different reasons. He just said that's not going to stop me."

In August of last year, Gajdos finally realized his dream and shipped out to Iraq in February.

"I don't have a whole lot of opinion on the war itself," his mom Brenda Richards told 24 Hour News 8. "I'm just very proud of my son, doing what he felt he wanted to do."

DenBoer said her brother had been assigned as a driver for military commanders. But two weeks ago, a buddy, who Gajdos trained with as a gunner, was injured. She said her brother felt it was his duty to volunteer to replace that buddy.

A decision that put him on that Baghdad street early Wednesday.

"Shawn saw a need and he filled that need."

As the family prepares for his final homecoming, Brenda Richards found some comfort in the fact that her son had, in fact, realized his dream of becoming a soldier.

"Even though I worried about him and wasn't sure I wanted him to go in this time. I'm very proud," she said. "Nothing can take that away."

From WOOD 8