Three Iowa National Guard soldiers have died this month while serving in Afghanistan. Two of the soldiers were buried this weekend and services are pending for the third. Iowa Guard spokesman, Colonel Greg Hapgood, says the guard provides support for the families of the fallen soldiers as long as they need it.
Hapgood says each family that loses a soldier is assigned a casualty assistance officer, and that officer works with them from the first time they are notified of the loss of a loved one “until every single task is completed.” Hapgood says the support continues well after the funeral and other ceremonies are over.
Hapgood says it’s not unusual for a casualty assistance officer to work with the family even years after the death of the service member. “You are talking about a very strong bond when someone works for that family at one of the very most difficult times in their lives, and families certainly treasure that one-on-one commitment that we have to them,” Hapgood says.
The soldiers that served alongside the fallen soldier have to return to their duty. Hapgood says they are able to do that because of their training, and because they are committed to what they are doing. “I think what you would find if you asked Iowa National Guardmembers about what it is that they value most, I think that they would say doing something that they feel is making even a little difference for somebody else,” Hapgood says.
Thirty-one-year old Sergeant Brent Maher of Honey Creek was buried in Council Bluffs Friday following his funeral at Council Bluffs High School. Twenty-one-year-old Specialist Donald Nichols of Shell Rock was buried in Cedar Falls after his funeral Saturday at Waverly-Shell Rock High School.
Services are still pending for 32-year-old Staff Sergeant James Justice of Grimes who died in Afghanistan Saturday while on a mission to rescue two other soldiers.