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Minnesota National Guard
Maple Grove Guardsman dies in Iraq

A Minnesota National Guard Soldier from Maple Grove died in a vehicle accident in Iraq, the military announced

Spc Nicholas Turcotte, 23, was in an armored vehicle escorting a logistics convoy with Soldiers from the West St Paul-based Company A, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry when it rolled over on a road near Nasiriyah on Monday, the Guard announced in a statement issued late Tuesday

The accident was not the result of enemy action and the cause remained under investigation No other Minnesota National Guard Soldiers were hurt in the accident, the Guard said

It was the second major blow to the Minnesota National Guard since Saturday, when two Soldiers were killed and two were injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq

Turcotte's death raised the number of people with strong Minnesota ties who have died in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to 48

"It is with a heavy heart that I once again ask the citizens of Minnesota to remember this Soldier and his family in their prayers,'' Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, Minnesota's adjutant general, said in the statement

One of the wounded solders, Sgt John Kriesel, 25, who lost both of his legs in Saturday's attack, was still unaware that the blast killed two of his best friends, his family said Tuesday

Kriesel was unconscious in stable but critical condition in a military hospital in Germany and did not know the severity of his injuries, said his parents, Diane and John Kriesel, of Vadnais Heights But they said learning he'd lost his buddies would come as a bitter blow to him

"He lost two of his best friends They did everything together He doesn't even know they're gone,'' Diane Kriesel said "He's going to grieve He's a fighter, but he has to get through this''

One big reason Kriesel re-enlisted in the National Guard two years ago was that he didn't want to leave his friends behind, his family said

Kriesel's legs were both amputated - one above and one below the knee His arms were both in casts because of fractures, part of his colon was removed, and he had tubes in his lungs, they said

"That's going to be horrendous for him He loves to play football, hockey, baseball, everything He's really athletic, a kid that loves life,'' Diane Kriesel said

Kriesel was wounded and Spc Bryan McDonough, 22, of Maplewood, and Spc Corey Rystad, 20, of Red Lake Falls, were killed when a bomb exploded near the Humvee they were riding in Saturday while on patrol near Fallujah The Guard said another Soldier was injured, but he was expected to return to duty

Kriesel, a graduate of White Bear Lake Area High School-South Campus, joined the Guard on his 17th birthday and went to Iraq in October 2005 He got married just before shipping out

"Wherever his country told him to go, that's where he went,'' his father said "He believed in everything and he was a good Soldier''

His wife, Catherine, was already in Germany because she wanted to be with him when he got the news of his friends' deaths, while his father was flying there Tuesday evening

The sergeant and his wife traveled to Florida with McDonough and Rystad shortly before they shipped out to Iraq, the family said The couple bought a house in Cottage Grove earlier this year

His mother said her "heart dropped'' when she got the phone call this weekend

"Someone called directly from Iraq, I think it was a captain, he said he was there when John was brought in and that they had taken what was left of his legs,'' she said

His father said that as soon as he saw his wife crying, he knew something was terribly wrong, and he went weak in the knees himself

"At least he's alive,'' he said "That's all I care about''

His sister, Amanda Kriesel, was wearing a set of her brother's dog tags close to her heart Tuesday She said she spoke to him two days before the attack and he was happy, but couldn't wait to get home

"No doubt in my mind he's going to get through this,'' she said "He's a strong kid''

Associated Press
Last update: December 06, 2006 " 5:07 AM

Source: http://www.startribune.com/462/story/857144.html

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