Monday, August 06, 2007

Charles T. Heinlein Jr. dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

Thomas Heinlein remembers one of his last conversations with his son, Pfc. Charles T. Heinlein Jr., who was stationed in Iraq with the U.S. Army.

"We talked on the Internet all the time, and he told me he was running out of the cough drops and things I'd send over," Thomas Heinlien said.

"But he told me, 'I'll survive. There's a guy here who never gets a package; send him one instead.'

"My son was a trouble-maker, he was someone who would always find ways to irritate people, but he also was the kind of guy who thought of others."

Charles Heinlein, who grew up in Hemlock and lived with his wife, Jessica, in Washington state, was one of three soldiers who died Tuesday when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad, the Department of Defense announced Friday night.

The 23-year-old died along with Spc. Zachariah J. Gonzalez, 23, of Indiana and Pfc. Alfred H. Jairala, 29, of Hialeah, Fla. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Educators in Merrill and Hemlock remember him as a "decent young man" who wanted to grow up his own way.

"He's a hero in my eyes today, no matter what," said Rudy Godefroidt, the Hemlock school superintendent who was the principal at the high school when Charles Heinlein attended.

"We had a few discussions when he was a student here - he wasn't involved in athletics or drama or music or anything like that, but he was always a decent young man. He's a hero now."

Thomas Heinlein said he'll miss the homecoming.

"We had a Christmas vacation planned, a marathon session watching our favorite TV shows, venison chops that he only knew how to cook right; dinner at the Outback restaurant, his favorite place to eat," he said. "I told him we'd need two leaves for everything he had planned."

Charles Heinlein was first scheduled to come home at the end of June, but the military extended his tour of duty by three months. He was tired of sand and tired of the food, his father said, but he never tired of doing his duty.

"Charlie would tell you that we needed to be in Iraq," Heinlein said. "He helped with a school there one time, and with a hospital another time. He always talked about the people he met, a lot of good people. You have to realize Charlie didn't have friends, he considered everyone family.

"He always said we would do a lot better out there if generals were running the war instead of politicians."

Heinlein will travel to Arlington, Va., this week for funeral services and burial Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.

So many people have called to ask what they can do, said Donna Lynch of Hemlock, Heinlein's grandmother.

"We were really close," she said. "When he got older, he didn't always agree with everything I said, but he always had a good heart."

From the Bay City Times