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Minnesota National Guard
Family pays tribute to hometown hero Greg Riewer

A lone flag was lowered to half-staff outside the home of Dick and Jan Riewer this past weekend in honor of Minnesota National Guardsman Greg Riewer, who was killed in Iraq March 23

The message paid quiet tribute to one of the Riewers' children, Sgt Greg Ninerd Riewer, 28, who was killed while on patrol Friday in Habbaniyah, Iraq with Soldiers from the Bemidji-based Alpha Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry, 34th Infantry Division

Riewer's Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb Three other Minnesota National Guard Soldiers, including Ryan Puttbrese of Frazee (see sidebar) were injured in the incident

As news of the death spread, an entire community began to mourn

In the Frazee area, there are few people who have not attended school with or gotten to know one of the Riewers' 13 children-Jon, Phil, Ame, Nick, Matt, Megan, Greg, Andy, Melissa, Ryan, Molly, Emily and Brady-or who have not dealt with Dick or Jan in their working lives or on community projects

Numerous friends and family members offered their condolences at the Riewer home Many throughout the community found ways to spread their heartfelt wishes

Yellow ribbons were hung on light poles throughout town, and local residents offered fond memories of Greg An anonymous friend placed a vase of yellow roses at the end of the family's driveway with a thank you note to Greg

The community's support, said the Riewers' oldest son, Jon, is appreciated "Nobody knows what to say Sometimes the outreach means just a small pat on one's back You just know you've got a lot of support Some of the most understated things mean the most to you"

Jan and Dick and other family members gathered around the kitchen table Monday, after a weekend of grief and funeral planning, to try to express the impact that Greg had on all their lives

Most essentially, said the Riewers, Greg loved the camaraderie and brotherhood of the military He enlisted in the Army National Guard in August 1997 shortly after his graduation from Frazee High School He received his basic training and advance individual training at Fort Benning, Ga

He attended Moorhead State Community and Technical College, where he studied computer science He worked as a landscaper at Superior Lakeside Landscaping and Yards & More, Inc until his deployment to Bosnia in April 2003 He returned from that tour of duty in 2004

In October 2005, Greg volunteered to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom He spent six months at Camp Shelby, Miss, and then served one year at Camp Al Taquddum, Iraq

Greg's brother Andy joined the National Guard in February 1997 and served in the same unit alongside Greg Andy said that Greg was proud to serve his country because, "He did what was right"

"He was always there when you needed him," added his brother Ryan

There was a bit of legacy involved in the decision, too Dick had been in the military, and Greg's older brother Matt was in the National Guard with his cousins Brett and Ben Riewer, and friends Ryan Roforth and Tim Trieglaff

"They treated us really well," Andy said of his brother's friends

Matt said that the service was a good fit for Greg because he always enjoyed hunting and outdoor ventures "I think the closeness between Andy and Greg was what made (being in the Guard together) work well," he added

"He was very proud," said Dick, regarding his son's service to his country

"He surely had a sense of pride," Matt agreed

"He loved his family unit," added Jan, referring to the people Greg served with

"He called them all brothers," Dick said

Greg also loved his family back home, as well as any opportunity to play a game of catch with whoever was around the yard He liked baseball and football so much he was a ball boy for the local high school teams when he was too young to play On more formal playing fields, he was a high school varsity and Legion baseball pitcher, played with the Frazee Flames, and was a big fan of the Minnesota Twins

His sports career didn't exactly begin with baseball and football, though, said Dick

"When he was 3 years old, he could hit 300 golf balls without missing one," Dick recalled The club was so long in comparison to the toddler that he tucked the high end way up behind his elbow

The balls he hit didn't just dribble a few yards, either He got strong practice sessions at the family's driving range and could easily send a ball out over 100 yards when he was quite young, his older brothers and sisters recalled

Growing up with neighbors and his brothers' friends as playmates, "Greg fit right in with everybody," Matt said "He kind of had a knack to be older than he actually was"

Greg would play sports at the Riewer home against kids twice his age Fitting in, at times, might have been a challenge

Andy recalled how entertainment took a bizarre route on days when his brothers' friends would come over, and he and Greg would put on about five layers of sweatshirts and strap on garbage can lids for a bird cherry slingshot battle

The younger pair also earned a variety of nicknames, including "Chuck" (Greg) and "Ralph" (Andy), as they were dubbed by their neighbors, the Lamont boys

Around the Riewer house, Greg never complained when there were chores to be done, said Dick

"When there was lawn to be mowed, he was always the first one to do it," Matt said That was no small feat with 13 acres to be covered

Out in the community, Greg and Andy's jobs included paper routes

"I'd always get done first because the ladies would always invite him in for milk and cookies," Andy laughed

Greg was a man of few words, but his actions spoke loudly

"He was a very rare person, in that he never had anything negative to say," Dick recalled

"Greg spoke well of the people in his squad in Iraq He told me many times in our phone conversations that you don't get any better guys than these," Jan said

"They just loved Greg," said Andy, referring to their fellow Soldiers Andy was able to return home late Sunday night to be with his family

Funeral arrangements are pending for Greg, and services are expected to be conducted sometime during the first week of April, with visitation at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the funeral service at Frazee High School

"It's a bittersweet deal," Jon said of the experience of meeting friends of his family members who come to express their condolences to the family

Even people who do not know anyone in the Riewer family are moved to speak-or write-words of comfort

At the website patriotguardorg, for example, members of the Patriot Guard Riders check the site for Greg's information so they can provide a motorcycle escort upon his arrival in the area

They leave behind them messages such as this one: "Sgt Riewer, you have served your country with honor, bravery, dignity and ultimately your life For this I cannot thank you enough May God's Peace embrace your family and friends at this time of great loss Rest easy Soldier, your mission is complete"

Greg himself would have been eager to ride his own motorcycle upon his safe return home

If they had that last chance to talk to him, his family members know what they'd say

"Greg had a smile that was so full of love and would melt your heart It saddens me to think he will miss out on our family gatherings, but he will be with us in our hearts forever We love him so much," said Ame

"We love him, and we're going to miss him and we'll never forget him," said Missy

"And we'd thank him for his courage, and what he did for his country, family and friends-he made us very proud," said Dick

"He was a wonderful son, and he was well aware of how much I loved him I will miss hugging and holding my son," said Jan

Summing things up with a story which reflects both Greg's outlook and the Riewer family's strength, Andy said that after they both returned from Bosnia, the brothers were together at a military reception in Detroit Lakes

"A General came up to us, and he noticed we were brothers," Andy said "He asked Greg, 'Who's tougher?'"

Greg told the General without hesitation, "I don't know-we're a team"

by Lori Fischer Thorp
Article source

Sgt Greg Riewer's page

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