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Army Staff Sgt. Lance J. Koenig

Died September 22, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom


33, of Fargo, N.D.; assigned to the 141st Engineer Battalion, North Dakota Army National Guard, Jamestown, N.D.; killed Sept. 22 when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was conducting a dismounted patrol in Tikrit, Iraq.

North Dakota Guard soldier laid to rest

Associated Press

CARRINGTON, N.D. — Tears mixed with laughter at pleasant memories as family and friends remembered the sixth North Dakota National Guard soldier to die in Iraq and laid him to rest in his hometown on Sept. 30.

“The only words we can say are the only ones Lance wanted to hear,” said Michael Page, a close friend of Staff Sgt. Lance Koenig. “We love you, Lance.”

Koenig, 33, of Fargo, died Sept. 22 while serving with the 141st Combat Engineer Battalion in the Middle East. He was hit by a roadside bomb near the Iraqi city of Tikrit, about 100 miles north of Baghdad.

He was a 1989 graduate of Carrington High School and a former All-American wrestler at North Dakota State.

Koenig never sought praise or recognition, but would want to be remembered for things such as his calm demeanor, Page said. Most of all, he would want to be remembered as a man who loved his wife and children, Page said.

Koenig is survived by his wife, Angie, and their two daughters, Alexandra, 12, and Brooklynn, 2.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral service at Trinity Lutheran Church. Koenig was buried in Carrington Cemetery. School children lined the street to wave flags as the funeral procession passed.

The Rev. Les Koenig, Lance Koenig’s brother, helped officiate the service. His message to members of the 141st, still serving in Iraq, was that his brother respected them and was honored to serve with them.

“I will constantly be thinking of you,” he said. “I will constantly be praying for you as you serve.”

A total of eight U.S. service members from North Dakota or serving with North Dakota military units have been killed while on duty in Iraq. Koenig is the third member of the 141st to be killed in action.

Les Koenig said Lance accepted his responsibility, and loved to give of himself.

“Lance wanted to be in the game,” he said. “Lance was not the type of person to sit on the sidelines.”

At the end of the service, Lance Koenig was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and North Dakota Legion of Merit by Gov. John Hoeven and Maj. Gen. Michael Haugen, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard.


N. Dakota guardsman killed by bomb in Iraq

BISMARCK, N.D. — A former North Dakota college wrestling star killed while on duty in Iraq enlisted in the National Guard while in high school, following in his father’s footsteps, military officials said.

Lance Koenig, 33, of Fargo, a former All-American wrestler for North Dakota State University, was killed by a bomb while on Guard patrol Sept. 22, Guard officials said.

Koenig enlisted in the Guard in 1988, as a high school student, and was assigned to Company B of the North Dakota Guard’s 141st Engineer Combat Battalion, Guard officials said. His father, Robert, also was a member of the unit until he retired, the Guard said.

Guard spokesman Rob Keller said Koenig died near the city of Tikrit, about 100 miles north of Baghdad, while investigating a suspicious object that turned out to be a bomb.

Les Koenig, of Aberdeen, S.D., told WDAY-TV that his brother “understood his responsibility as far as why he was over there.”

Guard officials said Koenig also volunteered for flood duty in Grand Forks in 1997. He was a 1989 graduate of Carrington High School.

A memorial service for Koenig is scheduled in Iraq for members of his battalion next week, the Guard said.

NDSU wrestling coach Bucky Maughan said former Bison wrestlers called him from around the country after hearing the news of Koenig’s death.

“Everybody liked Lance,” Maughan said. “He was just one of those nice, easygoing guys.”

Koenig finished second in the NCAA Division II national wrestling tournament as a sophomore and sixth as a junior.

Maughan said Koenig joined the National Guard to help pay for college expenses. The school did not offer full scholarships to wrestlers.

The NDSU coach talked with Koenig while he was home on leave in July.

“He was all excited that he got to come home,” Maughan said. “He said it’s the worst place in the world you could be ... desolate and hot. He was dreading the thought of going back.”

Koenig is survived by his wife, Angela, and two daughters, ages 12, and 2, Guard officials said.

“He was completely devoted to his family,” Maughan said. “Those two little girls meant the world to him.”

Koenig, a three-sport standout at Carrington High School, was a gifted athlete who didn’t take himself seriously, said former NDSU teammate Joel Vettel.

“That was part of his appeal,” Vettel said. “He wasn’t very flamboyant or outgoing. He would rather sit at home and play Nintendo games than go out.”

Koenig’s death brings to six the number of North Dakota National Guardsmen killed in Iraq.

About 475 members of the 141st are stationed there. The started arriving in Kuwait on Feb. 15 and were expected to serve about a year.

The soldiers are in three primary locations — near Balad and Baqubah, which are just north of Baghdad, and near Tikrit, the home town of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Two other members of the unit were killed in May. They were Spc. Philip Brown, 21, of Jamestown, and Spc. James Holmes, 28, of East Grand Forks, Minn. About 19 have been wounded.

— Associated Press


Best friend remembers slain Fargo guardsman

FARGO, N.D. — Michael Page says he gained a son and lost a brother on the same day.

The Carrington doctor, who returned home from Iraq on Sept. 22, was driving to Jamestown for the birth of his fifth child when he got a call saying his best friend had been killed.

A few hours later, Page’s wife Kristi gave birth to their son, Luke.

“It turned out to be a hard day to celebrate,” Page said. “I never had a friend as close to me as Lance — and I probably never will.”

Staff Sgt. Lance Koenig, 33, of Fargo, died early Sept. 22 when a bomb exploded along a road near Tikrit, Iraq. He was serving with the North Dakota National Guard’s 141st Combat Engineer Battalion.

Page, a North Dakota National Guard field physician from Carrington, had been providing medical services for a unit from Washington state in Baghdad. Before he was deployed in June, Page got some advice from Koenig, who had been serving in northern Iraq for several months.

“He kind of laughed and told me to keep my head down,” Page said. “None of us were over there to be heroes, and the most important thing was to come home.”

Their friendship began in the first grade. Page was the new kid in class, and Koenig volunteered to show him around.

The bond lasted through high school, when the friends stayed at each other’s homes several nights a week.

“My father thinks of Lance as a son and is taking it pretty hard that Lance is gone,” Page said.

Koenig is survived by his wife, Angie, and their two daughters, Alexandra, 12, and Brooklynn, 2. He often boasted about the girls to Page during the pair’s regular hunting and fishing trips.

Koenig also talked about having another child, a son with whom he could share his love of wrestling, Page said.

“Most of the things he did in his life were to better his family,” Page said.

The men had not seen each other since Christmas, when Koenig left for the Middle East. Their paths never crossed in Iraq, but they shared e-mails and spoke on the phone regularly.

“Lance is a very quiet, shy person,” Page said. “He’s somebody who leads by example, not words. Even if he was struggling inside, he wouldn’t tell you that.”

A memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 27 at Hope Lutheran South Campus Church in Fargo. Funeral services are planned in Carrington, but a date has not been announced.

“He’s a hero in everybody’s eyes — certainly in Carrington and this state,” Page said.

— Associated Press

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