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Army 1st Sgt. Ernest E. Utt

Died June 27, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

38, of Hammond, Ill.; assigned to Battery B, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; killed June 27 when two 122 mm rockets were fired into his forward operating base in Baghdad.

Illinois native killed in Iraq rocket attack

Associated Press

HAMMOND, Ill. — Before 1st Sgt. Ernest E. Utt was deployed from Texas to Iraq four months ago, he longed to first go back to his boyhood home in central Illinois to see his dad. He never got that chance. Utt was killed Sunday in a rocket attack in Baghdad.

“He was so sad he didn’t have time to travel to Illinois before he left,” said his wife, Denise Utt, speaking by telephone Monday night from their home in Texas. “He told his father over the phone before he went, ‘Dad, you will be the fist person I visit when I come back.”

The rocket attack that killed Utt, 38, is under investigation, the Defense Department said Monday.

Utt grew up in Hammond, a small village about 20 miles east of Decatur, and he left there to join the military when he was about 18, his wife said. Utt’s father still lives in the area.

Utt, a 21-year Army veteran, could have retired and gotten out of the service instead of going to Iraq, but he had a strong sense of duty to some 80 soldiers under his command, Denise Utt said.

“He didn’t want his soldiers to go to Iraq alone,” she said. “He was like a father figure to them. My husband is a hero. He was an honorable man.”

She said her husband of 10 years rarely spoke about what he saw in Iraq, only to tell her that poverty in the nation was rampant. And he never spoke about whether he thought the United States was right to have invaded the country.

“He felt uncomfortable talking about it and I never really got into whether he felt what he was doing was right,” she said. “Once you are there, you just do what you have to do. But he was so looking forward to coming home.”

His wife said Utt graduated in 1983 from Atwood-Hammond High School in Illinois, where he played football and was on the track team.

Since 2001, Utt was based at Fort Hood, Texas, assigned to Battery B, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division. He had previously served at bases in Germany, California, North Carolina and Texas.

He is survived by his wife and their five children from previous marriages.


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