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Minnesota National Guard
West St. Paul Guardsman dies in Iraq

A National Guard member from West St Paul has died in Iraq, apparently of a heart attack First Sgt Michael Mettille, 44, had been deployed with 2,600 other Minnesota Guard members last March No details were available from the Minnesota National Guard on the circumstances of his death

The career Soldier's wife, Pam Mettille, was not available for comment Friday evening The mother of two of his four children, she has been active in helping families of Guard members deployed to Iraq

On Thursday, Guard officials also visited Ames, Iowa, where Mettille's two other children live, and delivered the grim news On Wednesday, Mettille failed to report for duty, and he was found in his room in his barracks, said daughter Elizabeth Mettille of Ames, Iowa

Mettille was an avid organizer for Operation Uplink, which worked with the Veterans of Foreign Wars to provide phone cards for Soldiers to call home

One of his latest messages came just before Christmas, in an Internet letter to families of Guard members he supervised in Alpha Company, 134th Brigade Support Battalion of the US Army's 34th Infantry The unit is based in Brooklyn Park

No matter what duty the day held for each Guard member, he wrote, "know that our thoughts are on you at home We will be thinking about how you are spending the holidays and taking comfort in knowing that you hold us in your hearts"

'Role model for all Soldiers'

Mettille had served 26 years in the National Guard and previously lived in Winona, Stillwater and Rosemount, Minn

"He was a role model for all Soldiers and will be sorely missed," said Maj Gen Larry Shellito, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard "I ask the citizens of Minnesota to keep his family in their thoughts and prayers"

Mettille was born to a family of eight in Winona One brother serves full time in the Navy When he was 17, Mettille joined the National Guard, serving weekends, and later enlisted full time He married Penny Rosenthal after working with her at a restaurant in Winona while both were attending Winona State University

They had two children, Michael (Scott) Mettille, 18, and Elizabeth Mettille, 21, both of Ames, Iowa They divorced in 1989 and he married Pam (Christy) Mettille They have two children, Tom, 9, and Mary, 11

In December, while home on a brief leave, Mettille talked with Elizabeth about how much he loved being a Soldier They were celebrating an early Christmas at his mother's home in Winona

"I was really proud of him, and I enjoyed hearing about all the good things he did for people," Elizabeth Mettille said Friday from Ames "He was in charge of a lot of people's lives and well-being, and it was heart-warming to hear him helping other people and doing what he could to make people feel that there was someone there for them"

Stress was wearing on him

She never worried about her father being killed in combat, but she worried about his mental health, she said, because he took on so many other people's problems in Iraq, counseling Soldiers on issues ranging from the traumas of war to career paths but rarely talking about his own problems In December he looked exhausted, as though stress was wearing on him, Elizabeth said

After returning to Iraq, he wrote of the "great pride" he and others take in serving:

"Our many accomplishments have brought us a great deal of satisfaction We have delivered thousands of semi loads of food, equipment and fuel We have re-supplied small bases located on our main supply routes We have patrolled our local area, making a positive impact on the local community"

Joy Powell • 612-673-7750 • jpowell@startribune.com
Star Tribune
February 02, 2007 – 10:16 PM

Source: http://www.startribune.com/462/story/977996.html

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