South Dakota loses three soldiers within daysby Cara Hetland, Minnesota Public Radio
Three South Dakota soldiers died this week from injuries suffered while serving in Iraq. So far, 19 soldiers from South Dakota have died in Iraq, along with a civilian working there. The father of one of South Dakota's fallen soldiers supported his son -- but not the war.
Sioux Falls, S.D. — Bill Herried learned late Monday night that his son Patrick was killed in Iraq. He's angry and bitter that a war he doesn't agree with took his son.
"When I found out my son was dead I looked on the TV, and George Bush was doing the jitterbug," says Herried. "Even a clock that is broken is right twice a day. These people can't even be right twice. Everything they said is a lie, is wrong. We should not be in that war. We have no business being there."
Patrick Herried, 29, was killed Monday when an improvised explosive device blew up near his Stryker vehicle. Another soldier was seriously injured in the blast.
A news release from the Department of Defense says the soldiers were conducting patrol operations. Patrick Herried was assigned to the Army's 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Herried's father, Bill Herried lives in rural Bemidji. He says his son grew up in Sioux Falls with his mother and graduated from Roosevelt High School. Patrick spent summers in Bemidji with his father and stepmother.
Bill Herried says his son enjoyed skateboarding and the band Metallica when he was younger, and as he grew he became interested in weight training and bicycling.
After high school, Patrick worked in a Sioux Falls warehouse. Bill Herried says his son was searching for more.
"He was working as a warehouseman and it just wasn't what he wanted to do. His exact words were, 'I want to make something of myself.' And I encouraged him. I thought it was a good choice," says Herried. "And that's something I'll have to live with."
Herried thought the war in Iraq would be over by the time Patrick finished basic training. The Bemidji Pioneer printed an excerpt from an e-mail Patrick sent his father two months before being deployed. It showed he had mixed feelings about going to war.
"I want to go to experience war, but I don't want to go because of the whole dying thing," Patrick Herried wrote.
Bill Herried says his son wasn't afraid.
"If he was, he didn't admit it. And it's my understanding that he felt what he was doing was worthwhile. And I guess he gave all he had to give," says Herried.
Army Sgt. Jeremiah Boehmer, 22, of Parkston, South Dakota, died Sunday after a roadside bomb exploded near him. And Spc. Allen Kokesh Jr., 21, of Yankton died Tuesday at a hospital in Texas. He was a member of the 147th Field Artillery and was injured Dec. 4 2005, when a pair of roadside bombs went off. Two other members of his unit were killed.
South Dakota ranks eighth in the nation when it comes to sending troops to fight the war on terror. Maj. Orson Ward, a public affairs officer with the South Dakota National Guard, says 84 percent of the Army National Guard troops and two-thirds of the Air Guard have been deployed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Ward says there's no way to count the number of active military personnel who come from South Dakota. He says there is a tradition of service.
"Despite the obvious sacrifice that is made, and unfortunately comes home to our community-based organizations and our communities throughout South Dakota and the surrounding states, people still want to serve. They still want to participate in it," says Ward. "Within the Guard it's very different, because you're not just serving your country ... a lot of times they think of serving just their own small town, their hometown."
But that honor and spirit of serving country and community isn't easy to take when your own child has been killed. Bill Herried of Bemidji says his son joined the Army to better himself, and it was his dream to get a college degree.
Bill Herried says his son's body is expected to arrive in Dover, Delaware on Tuesday.
Funeral arrangements for the other two South Dakota soldiers who died this week are pending.
- All Things Considered, 02/09/2006, 5:20 p.m.