Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tyler J. Kritz dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

Almost six months ago, 21-year-old Army soldier Tyler Kritz wrote on his MySpace page that his greatest fear was "not coming back from Iraq."

Sunday, that fear became reality for the northern Wisconsin native.

Kritz, of Eagle River, was one of four soldiers killed in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq, according to a statement from Army officials at Fort Lewis, Wash. Kritz deployed to Iraq in June 2006 with a field artillery unit and was promoted to sergeant posthumously, the statement said.

Kritz was a 2003 graduate of Northland Pines High School, where his intentions of serving in the military were well-known.

"Most of senior year, that was his plan," said Pat Sullivan, the school's principal. "We're very proud of the fact that he served his country."

Jason Foster, who taught Kritz during his senior year, said he was aware of his plans to enlist from the very first time he met Kritz. He said Kritz contacted recruiters throughout his senior year and enlisted just after graduation.

At Northland Pines, Kritz played on the football team and is remembered for his humility and drive.

"He got along with everybody, was very kind and didn't demand attention," Foster said.

Known by teachers and peers as polite and soft-spoken person, Kritz was always eager to share a joke or smile.

"He was shy usually, but not to the ones he grew up with," said Michelle Bazzanella of Eagle River, who grew up with Kritz.

Kristy Pokrandt, who attended high school with Kritz, said he was part of a close-knit group of friends and demonstrated care for everyone he came in contact with.

"He was a genuinely nice guy to everyone," Pokrandt said.

She said Kritz felt at home on the NPHS Eagles football field, even though he was smaller than some of the other players.

"This was a really good outlet for him to grow and really find a niche for himself," she said.

By Tuesday afternoon, an online memorial group for Kritz had accumulated more than 45 friends and former peers at

"He was a really nice kid - the 'strong, silent type,' " wrote one former classmate on the group message board. "Please pray for his family. . . . They were very close," wrote another classmate.

Kritz's parents, also of Eagle River, could not be reached Wednesday.

There are no funeral arrangements yet, but they will be handled by Gaffney-Busha Funeral Home in Eagle River, said Joe Busha of the funeral home. Kritz's body is expected to be returned to Wisconsin next week.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel