- NATO Kosovo Force
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
- Operation Inherent Resolve
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Operation Odyssey Lightning
- Operation Spartan Shield
- U.S. Africa Command Operations
- U.S. Central Command operations
- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Army Sgt. Robert M. Weinger
Died March 15, 2009 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom
24, of Round Lake Beach, Ill.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Woodstock, Ill.; died March 15 in Jalabad, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained in Kot, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Sgt. Christopher P. Abeyta and Spc. Normal L. Cain III.
3 Illinois soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack
By David Mercer
The Associated Press
Four service members, including three Illinois National Guard soldiers, died after a weekend roadside bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan, increasing to 11 the number of the state’s guard members killed in that increasingly violent country since October, officials said Tuesday.
Spc. Norman Cain III, 22, of Mount Morris in suburban Chicago died at the scene of the attack in Kot, Afghanistan, on Sunday, according to the National Guard.
Twenty-three-year-old Sgt. Christopher Abeyta of the Chicago suburb of Midlothian and 24-year-old Sgt. Robert Weinger of Round Lake Beach both died later that day at a base in Jalalabad. Round Lake Beach is about 50 miles north of Chicago.
An airman, 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Timothy L. Bowles of Tucson, Ariz., also died Sunday in the attack.
“Facing the loss of three more Illinois National Guard Soldiers is devastating,” Maj. Gen. William Enyart, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, said in a news release. “While this is a sad day for the Illinois National Guard, we will remember these soldiers by their bravery and the sacrifice they made for us all.”
Neither the National Guard nor the U.S. Defense Department provide many details about the attack, only that the Americans were in a vehicle when the bomb exploded.
Abeyta, Cain and Weinger were part of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, an Urbana-based National Guard unit with about 3,000 members in Afghanistan helping train local police and the Afghan army.
The brigade has been in Afghanistan since October and is expected to come home at the end of the summer or in early fall, but has already had three more soldiers die than the New York-based brigade it replaced lost in its nine-month deployment.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates paid his respects to the four during a visit Monday night to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to the Defense Department. A spokesman called it a “personal visit” by Gates.
Cain was a married father of a son and a stepdaughter on his first deployment, while Abeyta and Weinger were single, according to the National Guard. Weinger was in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, while Abeyta was deployed from October 2003 through early 2005 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Cain, on his page at the MySpace social networking Web site, called himself a redneck and a family man.
“I am devoted to my family and damn proud of it,” he wrote. “I am a country boy. Love working on cars and being outdoors. Avid bowhunter. Yes — I’m a redneck.”
Friends wrote condolence messages to all three men on the pages they maintained.
Weinger’s grandmother told the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald that her grandson loved a good practical joke.
“He was also a devoted soldier,” Mary Weinger said. “It’s just a shame he won’t be here any more.”
Abeyta was a 2003 graduate of Bremen High School in Midlothian, while Weinger graduated from Round Lake High School in 2002. Cain graduated from Freeport High School in Freeport, Ill., in 2006.
The war in Afghanistan has become increasingly costly for the United States, particularly since the beginning of the year. Thirty-five American soldiers have died in Afghanistan since Jan. 1, compared to 16 in the first three months of 2008.
Eight of the Illinois guard deaths have come since the first of the year.
Military officials attribute much of the increase in violence to the presence of more U.S. troops, leading to more contact with Taliban and other fighters, particularly in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The U.S. has about 38,000 troops in Afghanistan, roughly 10,000 more than a year ago.
The 33rd Brigade’s commander told The Associated Press earlier this month that his troops often don’t know the identity of their enemy — Taliban, al-Qaida or other local forces. But all the casualties have come as a result of roadside bombs or suicide bombings, something he said the unit has been trained to handle and take precautions against, but can’t entirely stop.
“That’s a fact of life over here, especially on the IEDs,” Col. Scott Thoele said. “It’s an easy method for the enemy to fight us with.”
Dedication, energy of fallen soldier remembered
The Associated Press
Sgt. Robert M. Weinger was a high-energy guy who lived on Monster energy drinks and would keep cases of the beverage stashed with his belongings, said 1st Sgt. Andrew Fowles.
“He’s the guy we turned to train our younger soldiers,” Fowles said. “A lot of younger guys looked up to him.”
Weinger, 24, of Round Lake Beach, Ill., was killed March 15 by a roadside bomb in Kot. He was a 2002 high school graduate and was assigned to Woodstock, Ill.
He had been deployed in Iraq and was one of the soldiers chosen to guard Saddam Hussein until Hussein was turned over to the Iraqi government. After returning from Iraq, Weinger volunteered to deploy with an infantry unit to Afghanistan.
“Robert was an energetic, very excellent soldier,” said Capt. Matthew Garrison, who served with Weinger in Iraq in 2007. “He was an extremely loyal soldier, very dedicated to his mission.”
Weinger is survived by his father, Howard, and mother Sue.
“He was always nice and always was willing to put other people before himself,” said longtime friend Heather Simmons. “He would do anything for anyone he knew.”