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Army 1st Lt. Brian D. Slavenas

Died November 2, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

30, of Genoa, Ill.; assigned to F Company, 106th Aviation Battalion, Army National Guard, Peoria, Ill.; killed Nov. 2 in an attack on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter near Fallujah, Iraq.

At 6-foot-5, 1st Lt. Brian Slavenas stood out in a crowd, even though blending in was more comfortable. And Ronald Slavenas says his son probably wouldn't have been crazy about the word "hero" being used to describe his death. "He would say, 'No big deal.' He wouldn't want any kind of adulation," the father said. Brian Slavenas, 30, was the pilot of a Chinook helicopter shot down Nov. 2. Friends and family in Genoa, Ill., described Slavenas as a "gentle giant," a nonviolent man who felt a duty to his country. "He wasn't one of those gung-ho, want-to-go-to-war-type guys. He was there to do a job," said his brother, Eric Slavenas, who served in Grenada with the Army. Like his paratrooper father and two older brothers, Slavenas followed a path to the military. The Lithuanian-born Ronald Slavenas, who immigrated to the United States in his teens after fleeing to West Germany as a boy, instilled in his sons a sense of commitment to the country that had taken in his family. "I thought as an immigrant when you come to this country, you put your shoulder to the wheel," he said. Brian Slavenas's high school yearbook lists activities as varied as marching band, National Honor Society, chess club, intramural basketball and track. After high school, he became an Army paratrooper, then joined the National Guard, then went to officer school and decided to become a helicopter pilot. He earned an engineering degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

— The Associated Press

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