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Army Sgt. Jakob J. Roelli

Died September 21, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

24, of Darlington, Wis.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Sept. 21 in Jakar, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

Soldier killed in Afghanistan remembered as 'the best of the best'

The Associated Press

DARLINGTON, Wis. (AP) - A Wisconsin soldier who died in Afghanistan was remembered Thursday as a young man who wasn't afraid to try new things.

Family members were notified Wednesday that Army Spc. Jakob Roelli of Darlington, died while serving in Afghanistan. His father, Richard Roelli, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his 24-year-old son was “the best of the best” and was in the Army Special Forces for two years.

His uncle, Greg Roelli, said his nephew was a “fine young man” who was always there to lend a hand to his acquaintances.

His aunt, Kathy Roelli, said he grew up on a farm, graduated from Darlington High School in 2006 and attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh before joining the military. She said he was active in his Baptist church.

The Roelli family traveled Thursday to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive his remains.

Darlington had not lost a resident in combat since the Vietnam War. His name is expected to be added to a new veterans memorial the town hopes to install by 2013.

“We've been very fortunate to avoid some of that grief but it fell on us yesterday,” Darlington High School Principal Doug McArthur told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Roelli was remembered at his school as someone who would try just about anything. He played football two years and was active in theater.

McArthur said Roelli sang and danced in “Beauty and the Beast” and starred in “The Sting,” acting the part played by Paul Newman in the film.

“He was a good singer, good actor, just a fun-loving kid,” McArthur said. “Obviously a person that wasn't afraid to try something new.”

The principal said Roelli studied business and pre-law at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh but joined the Army after a year of college.

“I believe his desire was to move up in ranking in the military and I heard he asked to be deployed to Afghanistan with the special forces,” McArthur said.

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